Enlightened Folly?

More musings on “how tarot works,” with a new twist or two (but I will spare you a few of my overused personal aphorisms and axiomatic bromides).

I’ve long believed that the Age of Enlightenment (aka the Age of Reason) that arose out of Renaissance “humanism” between the 17th and early 19th Centuries did more damage to the credibility of divination than any other philosophical and cultural development short of religious fundamentalism, leading as it did to modern scientific materialism and its denial of the existence of anything that can’t be detected by the five senses (the pinnacle of hubris, as I see it). As a thinking person and serious student of the occult, I’m unwilling to dismiss something out-of-hand simply because I can’t see, hear, smell, touch or taste it. Visible effects without apparent causes fall into the broad category of unexplained phenomena that presently remain outside the reach of the scientific method. Attempts to “prove” them empirically have failed simply because the cause-and-effect metrics and the (perhaps psychosomatic) devices to record and analyze their mechanics are still too crude, inevitably yielding prima facie repudiation.

I recently encountered the comment – it may have been in the Enrique Enriquez documentary Tarology – that divination is fundamentally an irrational act, relying as it does on assumptions that do not proceed directly from observable and measurable facts (although it ideally produces them when a prediction is accurately resolved). I have no real quarrel with this opinion (actually, I prefer the term “extra-rational”), although I do think that our frame-of-reference has been skewed and clouded by narrow-minded rationalism to the point that we as a species can’t admit that there may be more to reality than we can literally “put a finger on.”  I once characterized my response to this lamentable situation as “the Hamlet Defense,” alluding to his admonishment of Horatio. (I should add that religion is viewed as similarly indefensible by the materialists.)

On that last point I must side with the metaphysical naysayers, not that I deny the presence of an overarching (or, if you prefer, immanent) spiritual realm but that I reject what has been done to the concept by religious orthodoxy, itself an attempt to filter and denature direct mystical experience in order to make it easily (that is, unthinkingly) digestible by the trusting but credulous masses – in other words, a form of populist mind-control. In a broader sense, I personally believe that the art of divination isn’t rooted in the purported “Divine” at all, but rather in a kind of subtle and pervasive “mental matrix” or attenuated, psychogenic energy field of which both the Collective Unconscious and the personal subconscious partake (in fact, one of the principal tenets of Hermeticism is “The Universe is Mental”). In addition to harboring the Collective Unconscious, this numinous data-source has variously been called the Astral Plane, the Akashic Record, Plato’s “Soul of the World” or anima mundi, racial memory and the “hive mind,” among other things, and the diviner’s skills and tools are intended to tap into it. Our main challenge as practitioners is that our “sixth sense” may not be developed to the point that we can reliably discern truth from illusion in our contacts with the supernatural.

There is a cliche that “the cards are always right but the diviner may not have the wisdom or sensitivity to read them correctly.” However, I’m not convinced that the cards aren’t as vulnerable to picking up dubious hints from the “cosmic memory-bank” as the diviner is to misinterpreting them. (What, “heresy,” you say?) I realize that such skepticism comes down to hair-splitting, but it’s the key deterrent to making statements of an unequivocal nature when offering predictions. This speaks to the other platitude that strikes me as an inarguable truism: “Nothing is carved in stone.” This caveat applies not only to the querent’s handling of the information received, but equally to the diviner’s formulation of it. It’s not so much a matter of downplaying the assumed infallibility of our pronouncements, but rather of embracing the humility to accept that we may be imperfect conduits for that which passes through us. “Reader’s bias” is always a risk when we let our own opinions and experiences intrude into the sitter’s private communion with the cards, complicating rather than clarifying the communication as we try to translate it for them. If we “just read the cards” instead of trying to provide context-specific advice or counsel for what we see, that liability can be minimized. In addition, this is why I always operate under the strategy of “dialogue, not monologue;” the sitter is more subconsciously aware of his or her personal reality than we as readers can ever hope to be, and just needs to be encouraged and empowered to share it during the reading.

For a thorough explanation of the “root of all evil” as it pertains to the decline of the diviner’s art (although it never mentions esoteric pursuits), here is an excellent wiki article:


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