“Two Roads Diverged . . .”
. . . and, like poet Robert Frost, I chose the one that impressed me as “less traveled by,” at least in the annals of 21st Century tarot. There is an increasingly contentious “fork in the road” regarding the proper use of the tarot cards for individual edification and enlightenment. There are the very vocal “spiritual growth”advocates who insist that the only legitimate goal in exploring the tarot is lofty self-analysis for the purpose of continuous self-improvement, a destination that is nirvana for the slightly addled (in my not-so-humble opinion, of course) “New-Age retreads” who still champion the co-opting of Jung’s psychology for metaphysical (and sometimes tarot-informed therapeutic) purposes. Then there are the less-strident “diviners” (a dignified name for “fortune tellers”) who pursue more prosaic ends; I count myself among this contingent for the most part. I spent several decades in “navel-gazing” with the cards (as well as with psychological astrology) and now believe that, at my advanced (I daresay “august”) age, I’ve exhausted their usefulness in that regard. Since my “conversion,” I seek more pragmatic avenues for their application while fastidiously avoiding the pitfalls of charlatanry.
I like to think of what I do as “combing my phrenic fingers through the ‘warp-and-woof’ of Universal Consciousness,” striving to tease out any recondite threads of revelation or, less ecstatically, looking to get “under the skin” of objective reality in search of hidden caches of insight that can reasonably be construed as “truth.” If kept in perspective and not burdened with too much “woo-woo” mystical enthusiasm (disregard what I said above), the tarot excels at this objective. As far as I’m concerned, its more profound non-visual language is all channeled through the personal subconscious, although I doubt it originates there. The purpose of divining with the tarot is ideally to link us with extrapersonal (cosmic? collective? divine?) sources of knowledge, regardless of what we choose to call it. The fact that these connections can be tenuous and theoretically distorted by psychic “static” make it imperative that we don’t take their testimony at face value without correlating it with what we’ve derived from a more “studied” approach. “Shooting from the hip” can get you “shot in the foot” in short order.
The only real quarrel I have with purely intuitive observations when applied to the tarot is that they shouldn’t be called “card reading” when they are just as likely to be founded on the practitioner’s experience-based hunches than on any nebulous external link, and almost certainly not on the direct evidence in the cards (which are used more as “props” on which to hang the interpreter’s declamatory devices, or perhaps as a “showpiece” for the querent’s benefit — after all, they expect a “reading,” not a seance). The intentions may be noble but the execution seems suspect. Except to the extent that it is based on “free-association” from the images (a legitimate adjunct and parallel to knowledge-based interpretation), I don’t buy it any more than I buy the pronouncements of anointed religious elders who claim to have a “hotline to God” that they can dial up on our behalf every Sunday, just as long as we show up. In either case, it seems too “pat” to be entirely credible.
But enough bombastic rhetoric. There is still a robust cohort of “fortune tellers” out there who go about their business of attempting to unravel the future for willing clients, and most of them acknowledge that what they offer in the way of advice isn’t immutably “carved in stone,” but rather approximates a series of projected way-points by which to navigate a proposed course of action under one’s own power. We are always free to choose a different path, but at least we will have our eyes open to alternate possibilities and potential risks, and can prepare for any eventuality. To me, that is the principal advantage of working with the tarot; it may not be as mystically seductive as psychological self-examination, but it’s definitely honest.
Originally published at http://parsifalswheeldivination.wordpress.com on December 19, 2021.