Tarot Worldview: A Matter of Perspective

AUTHOR’S NOTE: The Germans have a precise but rather fierce-sounding word for it: weltanschauung. As an esoteric thinker with Germanic roots and a decidedly rational (as well as curmudgeonly) approach to tarot matters, I’ve always had reservations about the metaphysical worldview that assumes everything in existence is mystically entwined in a matrix of perfect congruence, one that belies any false “illusions of separateness” (some impressionable naifs say boundless “Universal Love;” take your pick). Diviners with this holistic outlook suppose that the Universe will automatically respond with unequivocal accuracy to the most open-ended and least-structured of intuitive supplication. (“Knock and the door will be opened to you” sounds like wishful thinking to me; if George Carlin had been an occultist he would have said “Gimme a break here.”)

It seems that the “we-are-all-one” mindset brooks no categorical binning that might favor a more scrupulous approach to divination. It’s like a big pot of stew we expect to dip our prognosticator’s ladle into and dredge up “all beef, no filler.” We cast our net and pull in our answer with no more than a vague idea where it’s coming from, but we tell ourselves “If our intentions are pure it must be the truth.” Call me a cynic (“O ye of little faith,” right?), but I’m not swallowing that notion whole. I have no quarrel with the Hermetic tenet that “The Universe is mental; the All is mind,” I just don’t think flawless comprehension of what it’s thinking is ours simply for the asking (not to mention that we may unknowingly be chatting up the wrong “astral feed” anyway, and risk being misled). That blind optimism sounds too much like the “Law of Attraction” to me: if I want it badly enough, I will get it. (For the record, I tried that all through my horny teenage years to no avail.) But I’ve never been convinced the world works that way; there are too many competing desires and conflicting agendas for everyone to get what they want all the time.

Another viewpoint proposes that the source of the knowledge we derive from the cards presents itself through the seeker’s subconscious awareness of the situation and its likely outcome. That’s not to say that it doesn’t originate someplace exalted like the “mind of God,” just that it is channeled through the act of concentration and “imprinted” on the reading via the shuffle-and-cut. This process of “filtering” imparts the subjective spin that personalizes the narrative. I have little patience with the idea that everything knowable is floating around in the aethyr and anyone can tap into it at any time with little experience and no particular skill, confident they won’t go astray. Those who have run afoul of the Ouija board know that this isn’t necessarily so, often to their sorrow. We may get information but its authors might not have our best interests at heart.

To be honest, my own take on the mechanics of “how tarot works” is more Jungian than clairvoyant. This is why I hesitate to shuffle the cards on behalf of the person for whom I’m reading. My life-path is not theirs; injecting my subconscious bias into the mix can result in the cards telling my story, not the querent’s, and I can’t trust the “Cosmic Scorekeepers” to sort it out for me. This is immediately apparent when nothing “clicks” with the individual, but in my opinion it is best not to tempt the “tarot gods” in the first place so I prefer to stick the subject squarely in the middle of the undertaking by handing them the deck. I tell them “It’s your reading, not mine.” This obviously doesn’t play well in on-line reading scenarios, but I’m no great fan of those anyway. They may work after a fashion as long as unverifiable generalities can be tolerated, but I don’t like to operate that way when face-to-face validation is so much more satisfying.

I realize that digital exchange is the current way of the world, but in my estimation it tends to neuter the tarot experience regardless of how much its practitioners tout its reliability. About all I will say is that not having to think on our feet in a “live” session promotes a more thorough and thoughtful exposition of the “story in the cards,” but – lacking direct involvement of the querent – it’s entirely possible that this is only the reader’s private fantasy and not a word of it has anything to do with the seeker’s personal life-experience.

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