While rereading Robert Wang’s The Qabalistic Tarot, I came across the following statement that got me thinking about my own assumptions regarding the proper use of tarot for divination:
“The Tarot is best used for divination about mundane matters. It is not particularly well-suited for furnishing answers of an important spiritual nature because it is rooted in Yetzirah, although one brings down insight from higher worlds in interpretation.”
Yetzirah, the “Formative Word,” is the third lowest of the four planes on the Tree of Life and the most closely linked to physical reality (Assiah), lying above and behind it as a kind of “blueprint” and engine of manifestation. Anything that emerges in material form – whether bodily or as a directed action – has its antecedent or foreshadowing in Yetzirah. Inspiration, the “in-spiriting” of concrete phenomena, is channeled through Yetzirah from the subtler levels of emanation, percolating downward from the fount of spiritual illumination to the quiescent stratum of elemental substance. While the essence of Yetzirah is still formless and entirely plastic, it functions as a figurative projector or mold through which conceptual existence is particularized into unique forms. Think of it as a kind of metaphysical “extrusion machine” that evolves discrete objects and engenders sensible programs and routines to connect those objects in “real time.” It reminds me of Plato’s Cave, in which perceived reality is merely a “shadow play” cast on the cave walls by a central “fire” that lies behind the outward-looking inhabitants; in Qabalistic terms, that fire would be the Sun in Tiphareth pouring its creative influence directly down the Middle Pillar into the sphere of Yesod (Foundation), which holds the pattern or framework for all tangible expression.
I have long held the related opinion that tarot is “not particularly well-suited” for any divination involving psychological matters, which have their origin in the mental domain – the “Creative World” – of Briah, twice-removed from the realm of the senses. I had forgotten Wang’s explanation of the philosophical reasons for this and merely felt that trying to predict via the cards what someone else is thinking or feeling is entirely speculative and too much like mind-reading for my taste, a psychic “fishing expedition” involving intuitive guesswork rather than a legitimate form of cartomantic prognostication. I’ve called reading the cards in this way “psychism with props,” and I see no reason to change my mind; not that this is an ignoble pursuit in its own right, but let’s call it what it is. We may “All be One” at some abstract level of mental synergism but by the time Spirit devolves into Yetzirah we are at least theoretically beginning to differentiate into individualized entities with a personal Akashic script and private agenda. What Wang has provided is a rationale for my assumption that tarot is ideal for action-and-even-oriented prediction that provides situational awareness and developmental insights – the “mundane matters” of the above quote – and that its putative Jungian psychological ramifications are best indulged during the autonomous quest for self-awareness and self-development rather than being forcibly grafted onto the practice of divination.