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Part I: Skeptics, Mentalists and Tarot Readers

mind-readingFor purposes of this article let us assume that there is no paranormal or spiritual aspect to tarot readings. Let’s pretend, for the moment, that all tarot readings have a rational basis in easily explained normal human skills.

Skeptics and mentalists reduce tarot reading to just this level. Mentalists utilize skills to make money in public performances, while skeptics denounce any tarot or psychic readings that don’t acknowledge they are merely mental tricks.  They claim “pseudo-psychics” exploit human weaknesses and take advantage of the desire to easily gain benefit from something. Pseudo-psychic readings are seen as “too-good-to-be-true” and as giving false hope just to make money. Skeptics claim that psychic and tarot readings can be explained by techniques gathered under the terms Cold and Hot Readings. We will ignore hot readings (that fraudulently use information obtained ahead of time) as our purpose is to examine readings where nothing prior is known about the client. Read the rest of this entry »

The New York Times reporter Ruth La Ferla has written an article, “Love, Jobs & 401(k)s” about the popularity of psychics (including tarot readers) in the economic downturn. It seems that business is booming in this profession. La Ferla quotes one stock trader as saying, ““When conditions are this volatile, consulting a psychic can be as good a strategy as any other.” To which she responds that when the Treasury secretary changes his mind weekly “a good set of tarot cards might come in handy.” Read the rest of this entry »

Scholarly-oriented readers will appreciate a paper on Tarot by Inna Semetsky called “Simplifying Complexity: Know Thyself…and Others” in Complicity: An International Journal of Complexity and Education, 2008, Vol. 5, No. 1 (click on the title and it will download as a pdf). Dr. Semetsky is a Research Academic with the Institute of Advanced Study for Humanity, University of Newcastle, Australia who has been writing scholarly papers on tarot for many years. Drawing on semiotics, systems theory, and ideas about meaning and synchronicity (among others), she posits that Tarot “can be considered an education tool contributing to our learning and, respectively, the evolution of the human mind situation in the larger, both cultural and natural, context.”

In relation to my earlier post on Arcana in the Adytum, I found Semetsky’s description of arcanum to be especially interesting:

Arcanum (or arcana, plural) . . . is the ever present potential catalyst . . . that, when actualized and brought to consciousness, elicits transformations at the levels of thoughts, affects, and actions so that an individual becomes fruitful and creative in his/her possible endeavours. If and when discovered – that is, made manifest at the level of conscious awareness – it becomes a powerful motivational force to facilitate a change for the better at the emotional, cognitive, and/or behavioral levels and thus to accomplish important educational and ethical objectives.

Semetsky also talks about reading tarot as pattern-recognition and the identifying of probabilities of what is likely to happen rather than making fixed predictions. You can read her academic profile here, find more of her publications here and listen to her talk about tarot on La Trobe Philosophy Radio show here.

The discerning reader will want to compare this paper with a response by James Anthony Whitson (same link above) who appeals to Wittgenstein to determine whether it is even seemly to be “effing . . . the ineffable.” (Love that technical jargon!)

Thanks to Jean-Michel David and the latest issue of the Association for Tarot Studies (ATS) Journal for drawing attention this article.

Is prediction what tarot reading is all about? What if it is not to learn that a particular thing is going to happen but, rather, to explore later what those cards can teach us about what does happen? What if the reading is simply to make us spiritually or psychologically aware of what’s really important and significant in life events—to wake us up to how the outer and the inner reflect each other in a meaningful way?

As an example, I’ll describe a very powerful experience a group of us had in one of my classes (permission granted to tell this story). I had proposed an experiment in prediction. Each member of the class was to draw a Major Arcana card to signify the most significant archetype that would be functioning over the following week. They were then to draw two Minor Arcana cards that would describe the situation that archetype would function within—giving us the particular circumstances and literal details. As a group we made predictions that would be evaluated the following week. (Without reading any further you may want to look at the three cards below and think what prediction you would make.)

The cards Heidi drew from the RWS deck were Judgment, Three of Swords, and Knight of Pentacles. Knowing that Heidi’s father had recently died, we predicted that her feelings of grief for her father would be strongly triggered but would result in some kind of awakening or acceptance of her loss. She told us she would be going to his home three hours away to tie up his financial affairs and we warned that going through his papers would probably be very difficult.

When we gathered the following week Heidi told us that the reading had referred to a very specific dangerous and traumatic event. Given that the assignment was prediction, she wondered (as did we all) why no one had been able to warn her so she could have avoided it.

She had gone to the bank to close her father’s accounts when a man with a gun came in to rob the bank. As the robber waved his gun around, Heidi dropped to the floor in fear for her life. The robber even stepped on her shoulder when he took money from that cashier’s window. To add to it all, he had taken a bank deposit box withdrawal slip containing the address of her father’s house.

When a customer stupidly ran after the robber, Heidi had held and comforted his young daughter, assuring her that her father would be all right (although she couldn’t know that) and that the robber wouldn’t return.

She felt that Judgment referred to her fear for her life. Heidi had faced the thought that she might be meeting her maker. The Three of Swords was her terror and anguish, and the Knight of Pentacles was the robber (jumping in a getaway car with the money), as well as herself (traveling to the bank to deal with money issues). He might even have been the “hero” who tried to stop the robber from getting away. And, of course, it was her father leaving her.

The archetypal images in the Judgment card include a guardian angel, a “wake up call,” emergence from some kind of “boxed” thinking, and a child and parents. Something about being a child to a parent appeared to be breaking into consciousness. Having just lost her father, plenty of early childhood issues were being triggered in Heidi. She was able to be both guardian angel to a terrified child and the child herself.

Heidi also noted that, like in the movie Roshamon, everyone’s judgment varied. Each person at the scene described the robber differently (the three swords crossing each other). And, while most people turned in only a few lines of written description to the police, she had written at least a page and a half, even while realizing that her own judgments might be coloring what she said. Judgment would never mean the same thing to her again!

The strangest thing Heidi found was that she was left with a tremendous fear of revolving glass doors leading outside, and she remembers having had this fear when she was younger—although we didn’t have time in class to explore that. The revolving metal holding the glass was like the metal of the three crossed swords. Of course, death itself is a painful doorway—especially to those left behind on the other side. In essence, Heidi had been robbed of her father, but she ended up assuring a little girl (as well as the child within herself) that both her father and she would be all right. Would it have served her as well to have avoided the situation all together?

Everyone in class agreed that they could never have predicted a bank robbery from the cards Heidi had drawn. However, looking back on the incident, we saw how perfectly they describe the robbery. Much more importantly, they indicate how Heidi was affected and point to unconscious complexes that were triggered by the events. An experience she’ll never forget also became a rich vein of personal alchemical gold that Heidi will be able to mine for years, using the cards in the reading as guides to layers of healing.

So, is tarot best at prediction (since it is too often a hit-or-miss proposition), or is it more ideal for reliably exploring the deeper significance of whatever does happen?

You’ve probably heard the phrase “Tarot is a Mirror of the Soul.” Certainly any reading can be examined from this perspective, giving you an ever-changing kalidescopic view of the self and your concerns. Here, though, is a fun way to make the Major Arcana your own. This personal process (it’s not a spread as you’d normally think of it) provides a way to view a deep reflection of your Soul-Self that probably won’t change much until (or unless) you do.

Take out your favorite Major Arcana deck—the one that speaks most expressively to you. Arrange the Major Arcana in order from the card you like and admire the most to the one you find the scariest and most fearful. Take one card which fits the least into your personal sequence and put it aside.

Next, keeping the cards in the order you’ve just determined, lay your Major Arcana out in three rows of seven cards as shown in the diagram below. Put the one card that “fits least” in the single position at the top.

Now comes the fun part. Examine each three-card column such that the top card in a column indicates your Ideals, the bottom card is its Shadow, and the middle card Mediates between these two. The mediating card can be seen as that which makes it possible for the Ideal and Shadow to relate to each other.

For instance, if you have the Sun as your Ideal and the Tower as its Shadow with Justice mediating, then Justice helps each to see that the other is necessary for a just balance. On the other hand, if Temperance is the Ideal and Death its Shadow, and the Wheel of Fortune mediates, then the Wheel reminds you that Temperance’s mixture of elements has to include the season of Death as part of its cycle.

Look at these cards in terms of how you handle and respond to situations. When you are striving for an Ideal, how can you integrate its Shadow? When you are annoyed or afraid, how can you call on your positive Ideal? Use the mediating card as a practical key to this integrative process.

How does the card you placed at the very top, the one that “didn’t fit,” seem to comment on all the others or, perhaps, lend an overall theme to the whole?

Do it once, save the results somewhere where you will “stumble” upon them in 6 months or a year. Re-order the Major Arcana of the same deck again (from the ones you like most to the ones you find most scary and disturbing) and see where your sequence has stayed the same as last time and where it’s changed.

Let me know how this works for you.

What I’m after isn’t flexible bodies, but flexible brains. What I’m after is to restore each person to their human dignity.”

Moshe Feldenkrais wrote a book called The Potent Self: A Study of Spontaneity and Compulsion. In his “Awareness through Movement” classes (the Feldenkrais Method) you can discover where you body has become inhibited and thus lacks a full range of movement. Using Feldenkrais’ techniques you can eventually regain most or all of that potential. For instance, if you ever broke a leg, your body compensated for the injury. After healing, your body may have become unconsciously habituated to some of that compensation, limiting your range of motion. In his book, Feldenkrais draws parallels with how the same thing occurs in our minds and attitudes. If you were told to always be polite, then you no longer have a full range of possible responses, so it may be difficult to say no. If you feel inhibited asking for what you really want, then your potency is compromised.

Use this spread, which is based on recommendations in The Potent Self, to explore inhibitions and impotencies of which you may not be fully aware. Be playful when interpreting the cards, looking for literal clues as well as puns and metaphors in the cards you draw. This is a wonderful spread to use with the Osho Zen Tarot, though any deck will work. Read all cards as if they were upright but explore a full range of the card’s possibilities. For instance, the Sun ranges from joy to burn out.

Shuffle the deck making sure you will obtain reversed cards. Cut and restack in a new order. Turn over cards from the top until you get to the first reversed card. Put this in Position 1.

Card 1: Where am I feeling impotent or inhibited? This describes the situation or issue where your full potential is restricted.

Briefly shuffle all cards except that in Position 1. Spread them face down in a fan on the table. Use your intuition to select cards for the remaining positions from anywhere in the fan.

Card 2: What is inhibiting the proper function and thus causing the impotency? Note: this may have been an appropriate response in the past but is now merely a compensatory habit.

Card 3: What will come from becoming more potent? Brainstorm as many possibilities as you can, including difficult ones.

Card 4: What will come from not becoming more potent, that is, staying the same or getting worse? Include the absolutely worst case scenario suggested by this card.

Card 5: What action is needed? What kinds of things does this card suggest that you do? Pick one and do it.

As an update to my earlier post on Carl Jung and Tarot, I just received a paper from the Jung Institute library in New York. It contains brief notes Hanni Binder took of Jung’s descriptions, in German, when he spoke to her about the Tarot cards. A friend of hers made a literal translation into English, typing it onto large file cards. What follows is Jung’s verbal description of the Major Arcana. They are based on cards from the Grimaud Tarot de Marseille, which he felt most closely contained properties he recognized from his reading of alchemical texts. I have corrected obvious errors in language, but kept these changes to a minimum. My own comments are in brackets [ ].

If you are familiar with Jung’s core concepts you’ll find several of them referred to directly or indirectly: Self, Shadow, extraversion, intraversion, conscious, unconscious, fate, center, inflation, compensation, sacrifice, etc. Notice also his interest in what’s held in the right and left hands as indications of masculine/active or feminine/passive (I prefer ‘receptive’) energies. These notes are simplistic but were obviously only meant to be a starting place for further exploration.

ADDED: Japanese tarotist, Kenji, discovered that Jung’s descriptive text comes almost directly from Papus’ Tarot of the Bohemians (thank you, Kenji). However, Jung seems to have added several keywords from his own psychological lexicon as I noted above. Comparing these two texts will clarify what ideas Jung added.

1 The Magician

The Magician has, in the right hand, a golden ball, in the left a stick [wand]. The hat makes an eight [infinity sign]. The bearing of the hand shows right activity, left passivity. Sign of force, stability, self. He has all the symbols before him.

2 The High Priestess

Sitting Priestess. She wears a veil. On her knees is a book. This book is open. She stands in connection with the moon. Occult wisdom. Passive, eternal woman.

3 The Empress

Empress with wings. In the right hand she has an eagle, in the left a scepter. She has a crown with 12 stones. Eagle as a symbol of soul and life. Feminine activity. Fruitfulness, goddess.

4 The Emperor

Emperor sitting in profile. In the right hand he is holding the scepter. He wears a helmet with 12 stones. The legs are crossed. Will, force, reality, duty, brightness.

5 The Hierophant

The Hierophant leans on a three fax[sic – triple?] cross. The two columns are standing on the right as law, on the left liberty. Two men are kneeling before him: one is red, the other black. Will, religion, fate [faith?], Self, center.

6 The Lovers

The young man stands in a corner where two streets come together. The woman on the right has a golden garland on her head. The woman on the left is wreathed with a vine. Beauty, cross-road, way inward or outward.

7 The Chariot

Conqueror with coronet. He has three angle [right angles on his cuirass]. In his hand is a scepter. Arrow and weapon arm [right hand?]. Actively going toward his fate. He has a goal, achieving victory. Activity, extraversion. Inflation.

8 Justice

Sitting woman with a coronet. In the right hand she has a sword, in the left, a balance [scales]. Compensation between nature and the force of a man. Justice, compensation. Conflict with the law.

9 The Hermit

An old man walks with a stick [staff]. Wisdom as symbolized by the lamp. Protection with the overcoat. Cleverness, love, introversion. Wisdom.

10 Wheel of Fortune

Sphinx holding a sword. Wheel symbolizing endlessness. Finger as a sign of command. Human being as ball [circumference?] of the wheel of fortune. Luck/misfortune.

11 Strength

A young girl opens the mouth of a lion. The girl has the sign of vitality on her hat. Liberty, strength.

12 The Hanged Man

The hands of this man on in back. The eyes are open. The right leg is crossed. On the right and left a trunk of a tree. Turning back [enantiodromia?], powerless, sacrifice, test, proof. Face against the sky.

13 Death

A skeleton in a field with heads and fingers. Death and regeneration. The Ego should not take [the] place, the Self has to take [the] place. New standpoint, liberation, end.

14 Temperance

Young girl pours water from one jug in the other. The sun gives the liquid of life from a golden in[to] a silver jug. Movement, consciousness, natural growth.

15 The Devil

The right hand of the Devil is raised to the sky, the left points to the earth. Two persons are under him. He holds the torch as a sign of black magic. Fate, Shadow, emotion.

16 The Tower

Burning tower. Hospital, prison, struck by lightning. Sacrifice.

17 The Star

A naked woman spills water from two jugs. Around the girl are seven stars. The Self shines, stars of fate, night, dreams. Hope. The Self is born in the stars. Union with the eternal.

18 The Moon

In the middle of a field is a dog and a wolf. A crayfish comes out of the water. It is night. The door to the unconscious is open. The crayfish likes to go the shore. The light is indirect.

19 The Sun

Two naked girls. The sun shines on the children. Drops of gold fall on the earth. The Self is ruling the situation. Consciousness. Enlightenment.

20 Judgement

An angel with fiery wings, an open grave in the earth. Birth of the Self. Inspiration, liberation.

21 The World

Naked woman, her legs are crossed. In the four corners we have the angel, the lion, the bull and the eagle. Completion, finishing. In the world but not from the world.

0 The Fool

A man who doesn’t take care on his way. Beginning and end. The fool has no home in this world; the home is in heaven. Dreamer, mystic side.

Masculine cards:

Wands = Libido [sexual drive]
Swords = Spiritual force

Feminine cards:

Pentacles = Material
Cups = Feeling

Added note on the Four Suits: Jung obviously failed to link the four suits to his four psychological types or functions, based on the quaternity of elements and humors. However, with the “Feminine” suits he came close, calling Cups Feeling, while Pentacles as Material is close to Sensation. Most people link Intuition with Wands and Thinking with Swords.  Jung’s most succinct explanation of his psychological types can be found in Man and His Symbols (highly recommended reading for anyone interested in a Jungian approach to tarot):

  • Sensation tells you that something exists (through the senses).
  • Thinking tells you what it is (its definition).
  • Feeling tells you whether it is agreeable or not (its value).
  • Intuition tells you whence it comes and where it is going (its possibilities).


Although many tarot practitioners apply a Jungian psychological approach to their tarot work, there’s been a question as to whether Jung himself knew anything about tarot. In fact he did, and he would have liked to explore it more deeply but for a lack of hours in the day. Here are some of his references to the cards, although his tarot knowledge, especially of its history, was sorely lacking. Update: I’ve added brief notes by Jung on the Major Arcana here, and on “clouds of cognition” at the end of this article. carljung1.jpg

On 16 September 1930, Jung wrote to a Mrs. Eckstein:

“Yes, I know of the Tarot. It is, as far as I know, the pack of cards originally used by the Spanish gypsies, the oldest cards historically known. They are still used for divinatory purposes.”

[Jung was not always right: Current historical research does not support an original use of the cards by gypsies, nor were tarot cards the oldest known. The ordinary playing card deck (with many variations) preceded tarot by approximately 50 to 75 years. Tarot appeared first in Northern Italy roughly around 1440.]

On 1 March 1933, Carl Jung spoke about the Tarot during a seminar he was conducting on active imagination, demonstrating that he was a little more familiar with these images than we would have thought from just the preceding letter. This is a transcript of his actual spoken words:

“Another strange field of occult experience in which the hermaphrodite appears is the Tarot. That is a set of playing cards, such as were originally used by the gypsies. There are Spanish specimens, if I remember rightly, as old as the fifteenth century. These cards are really the origin of our pack of cards, in which the red and the black symbolize the opposites, and the division of four—clubs, spades, diamonds, and hearts—also belongs to the individuation symbolism. They are psychological images, symbols with which one plays, as the unconscious seems to play with its contents. They combine in certain ways, and the different combinations correspond to the playful development of events in the history of mankind. The original cards of the Tarot consist of the ordinary cards, the king, the queen, the knight, the ace, etc.,—only the figures are somewhat different—and besides, there are twenty-one cards upon which are symbols, or pictures of symbolical situations. For example, the symbol of the sun, or the symbol of the man hung up by the feet, or the tower struck by lightning, or the wheel of fortune, and so on. Those are sort of archetypal ideas, of a differentiated nature, which mingle with the ordinary constituents of the flow of the unconscious, and therefore it is applicable for an intuitive method that has the purpose of understanding the flow of life, possibly even predicting future events, at all events lending itself to the reading of the conditions of the present moment. It is in that way analogous to the I Ching, the Chinese divination method that allows at least a reading of the present condition. You see, man always felt the need of finding an access through the unconscious to the meaning of an actual condition, because there is a sort of correspondence or a likeness between the prevailing condition and15-xv-diable.jpg the condition of the collective unconscious.
“Now in the Tarot there is a hermaphroditic figure called the diable [the Devil card]. That would be in alchemy the gold. In other words, such an attempt as the union of opposites appears to the Christian mentality as devilish, something evil which is not allowed, something belonging to black magic.”

[from Visions: Notes of the Seminar given in 1930-1934 by C. G. Jung, edited by Claire Douglas. Vol. 2. (Princeton NJ, Princeton University Press, Bollingen Series XCIX, 1997), p. 923.]

In The Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious (CW, Vol. 9:1, para 81), Jung wrote:

“If one wants to form a picture of the symbolic process, the series of pictures found in alchemy are good examples. . . . It also seems as if the set of pictures in the Tarot cards were distantly descended from the archetypes of transformation, a view that has been confirmed for me in a very enlightening lecture by professor [Rudolph] Bernoulli. The symbolic process is an experience in images and of images. Its development usually shows an enantiodromian* structure like the text of the I Ching, and so presents a rhythm of negative and positive, loss and gain, dark and light.” [*a Greek term used by Jung to mean ‘things turning over into their own opposite.’]

Dierdre Bair recounts in Jung: A Biography (Little, Brown, 2003, p. 549) that in 1950 Jung assigned to each of the four members of his Psychology Club an ‘intuitive, synchronistic method’ to explore. Hanni Binder was to research the Tarot and teach him how to read the cards. They determined that Grimaud’s Ancien Tarot de Marseille “was the only deck that possessed the properties and fulfilled the requirements of metaphor that he gleaned from within the alchemical texts.” Hanni Binder’s work amounted to very little as can be seen from her report preserved at the Jung Institute in New York. The group disbanded around 1954.

What was behind Jung’s attempt to gather all this material? Marie-Louise von Franz recounts in Psyche and Matter (1988) that toward the end of his life:

vonfranz.jpg“Jung suggested investigating cases where it could be supposed that the archetypal layer of the unconscious is constellated*—following a serious accident, for instance, or in the midst of a conflict or divorce situation—by having people engage in a divinatory procedure: throwing the I Ching, laying the Tarot cards, consulting the Mexican divination calendar, having a transit horoscope or a geomantic reading done. If Jung’s hypothesis is accurate, the results of all these procedures should converge. . . . [*a Jungian term meaning ‘the coming together of elements in the unconscious so that they form a consciously recognizable pattern of relationships.’ Christine Houde adds, “The constellated material is activated in the psyche of the individual where it attempts to erupt into the field of experience.”]

“[This investigation would consist of] studying an incident (accident) by the convergence . . . of a multitude of methods, with the help of which we could try to find out what the Self “thought” of this particular accident. . . . The generally rather vague formulations of divinatory techniques resemble these “clouds of cognition” that, according to Jung, constitute “absolute knowledge.”

Von Franz further explains that Jung’s “clouds of cognition” represents an awareness on the part of our conscious intelligence of a far vaster field of information, an “absolute knowledge,” within the collective unconscious. These images, on the part of a “more or less conscious ego,” lack precise focus and detail. Thus, the realization of meaning has to be “a living experience that touches the heart just as much as the mind.” She continues:

“Archetypal dream images and the images of the great myths and religions still have about them a little of the “cloudy” nature of absolute knowledge in that they always seem to contain more than we can assimilate consciously, even by means of elaborate interpretations. They always retain an ineffable and mysterious quality that seems to reveal to us more than we can really know.”*

On 9 February 1960, about a year before he died, Jung wrote Mr. A. D. Cornell about the disappointing end to his grand experiment:

“Under certain conditions it is possible to experiment with archetypes, as my ‘astrological experiment’ has shown. As a matter of fact we had begun such experiments at the C. G. Jung Institute in Zurich, using the historically known intuitive, i.e., synchronistic methods (astrology, geomancy, Tarot cards, and the I Ching). But we had too few co-workers and too little means, so we could not go on and had to stop.”

The experiment proposed by Jung is discussed in the Journal of Parapsychology (March 1998): in an article titled: “The Rhine-Jung letters: distinguishing parapsychological from synchronistic events – J.B. Rhine; Carl Jung” by Victor Mansfield, Sally Rhine-Feather, James Hall. The authors conclude:

“Such an experiment fits our description of not being forced, controlling, or manipulating, but it presents its own difficulties. How, for example, can we convincingly show that the divinatory procedures in fact converge, that appropriate subjects were chosen when an archetype was actually constellated, that the data was taken without biasing the interpretation, and that other extraneous factors are not distorting the outcome? These problems are not insurmountable, but to do more than “preach to the converted,” this experiment or any other must be done with sufficient rigor that the larger scientific community would be satisfied with all aspects of the data taking, analysis of the data, and so forth.”

rosengarten.jpg

In 1984, Art Rosengarten (here shown with Tarot author, Eden Gray), as research for his doctoral dissertation, conducted an experiment very similar to the one described by Jung, in which he compared the tarot, TAT and dream interpretation. You can read about this experiment in his book, Tarot and Psychology: Spectrums of Possibility. I think Jung would have been pleased.

So what are we to make of all this?

Though not a direct focus of his energies, Carl Jung, nevertheless, recognized tarot as depicting archetypes of transformation like those he had found in myths, dreams and alchemy, and as having divinatory characteristics similar to the I-Ching and astrology. Most of all, Jung believed a person could use “an intuitive method” to understand—through tarot’s reflecting the collective unconscious into a “cloud of cognition”—the meaning in a present, prevailing condition.

See Jung’s own comments on the Major Arcana here.

ADDED: Here’s another statement by Jung on “clouds of cognition,” from the chapter, “On Life after Death,” in Memories Dream, Reflections, p 308. He states that in the “space-timelessness” surrounding an archetype there exists a diffuse cloud of cognition that contains “primorial images with many aspects” or “a “diffuse omniscience” but no discrete contents (that is, subjectless). For cognition to happen these potentialities [my word] have to be brought into space-time coordinates. Reading this entire chapter is absolutely essential to getting at what Jung saw as the source material for divinations.

“As I see it the three-dimensional world in time and space is like a system of co-ordinates, what is here separated into ordinates and abscissae may appear “there,” in space-timelessness, as a primordial image with many aspects, perhaps as a diffuse cloud of cognition surrounding an archetype. Yet a system of co-ordinates is necessary if any distinction of discrete contents is to be possible. Any such operation seems to us unthinkable in a state of diffuse omniscience, or, as the case may be, of subjectless consciousness, with no spatio-temporal demarcations. Cognition, like generation, presupposes an opposition, a here and there, an above and below, a before and after.”

For a different take, here is a bit of an interview with Jung on alchemy and predicting the future: “We can predict the future when we know how the present moment has evolved out of the past.”


psychictarotreader2.jpgDo a Google search on the words ‘psychic + tarot’ and you’ll come up with 370,000 entries, the majority of which are professional readers advertising their skills. One person offers an “intuitive, psychic tarot reading.” Others list themselves as an “empathic, intuitive, psychic tarot reader,” a “gifted psychic reader,” and a “psychic medium who uses the tarot”. The claims are sometimes outrageous—“99% accurate psychic predictions,” “only the truth,” “world renown,” “specializing in reuniting loved ones,” and “love and money spells” to remove curses—all indicators that you should beware of what you’re getting into. One characteristic of a psychic tarot reading, it seems, is that you won’t find interpretations that come out of a book; instead these are “cosmic insights,” “channeled wisdom,” or clairvoyance. (I bought this statue when Tarot for Your Self first came out—to celebrate the day.)

Search on ‘intuition or intuitive + tarot’ and there are 385,000 entries. There are an additional 216,000 listings for ‘Tarot Reader’ that do not use the terms psychic, intuitive or intuition. And, 225,000 listings for either a ‘tarot consultant or counselor’ with all previous words eliminated. By contrast, a search on Tarot alone results in thirty-two and a half million entries.

Intuitive tarot, when the word ‘psychic’ has been eliminated, emphasizes listings for decks, books, articles and courses, but there are still plenty of ads for readings. These readers are somewhat more likely to advertise themselves as spiritual counselors or consultants (who might also practice Reiki or coaching or “down-to-earth guidance”). But descriptions still feature an aversion to interpretations found in books: “An intuitive approach to tarot reading places the power within,” while a book meaning “denies the power within.” Intuitive tarot involves “that gut feeling or first instinct that comes to you when you look at a card. . . . It is a gut reading more so than regurgitation of memorized definitions.”

Self-styled ‘tarot counselors’ (when eliminating the intuitive and psychic words) seem to have an altogether different vibe. They use tarot “as a therapeutic method and means for self-realization,” “for drawing out information lying deep inside,” and “for helping someone to clearly see a particular present situation.” Sessions are “designed to bring personal fulfillment . . . to assist and guide, to empower and uplift.” Book meanings are sometimes acknowledged as helpful for their depth, wisdom and guidance.

‘Therapeutic tarot’ or ‘tarot therapy’ seems to focus on healing modalities including massage and Reiki in addition to such counseling skills as “assisting you in reaching your goals [and to] gain clarity.” The querent’s projections (ascribing one’s own feelings, thoughts, attitudes or situation to another person or thing) are often described as a major method for determining the significance of the cards.

A search on ‘tarot + projection’ turned up an interesting report from Quirk’s Marketing Research Review called “Heart Maps and Tarot Cards” by Steven Richardson. It describes how tarot cards have been used to help medical doctors talk about the influence of marketing in their disease treatment decision-making processes:

“Tarot cards serve as unique picture-sort stimuli for images and archetypes (but are not used as actual tarot cards for readings, just for the symbolism). In this technique, ask physicians to thumb through the cards quickly and come up with ones that describe or dramatize how they personally feel about being a doctor in the practice of medicine as it relates to a particular disease state. . . . In another study conducted by [Myra] Summers, the tarot card technique was helpful in understanding doctors’ attitudes towards treating terminally ill patients (though Summers also does not use the cards as they are used in tarot readings). The technique revealed meaningful insight into the emotional distress a number of oncologists experience every day.”*

Notice how quick the author is to disassociate this use of cards from tarot readings. Yet, how many tarot readers would claim that such insights are precisely what they turn to the cards for?

I plan on writing much more on this topic, but will leave it for now. I encourage you to write in comments on your own thoughts on this subject.

*You can see a Power Point Presentation (ppt) by Pat Sabena and Nicole Sabena Feagin on their landmark research study using tarot, called “Getting Doctors to Spill their Guts” – here.

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Mary K. Greer has made tarot her life work. Check here for reports of goings-on in the world of tarot and cartomancy, articles on the history and practice of tarot, and materials on other cartomancy decks. Sorry, I no longer write reviews. Contact me HERE.

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