Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Why Tarot Isn't Fortune Telling (at least not for me anyway)

I'm away at a retreat this week (which explains why you're getting your weekly Writer's Tarot so late). Instead of doing a reading this week, I decided to reshare an older post explaining my own tarot philosophy. So perhaps you will get where I'm coming from in these weekly posts.

Back to the Writerly Tarot next week!


When I explain my tarot philosophy, one of the first things I tell people is that I don't practice fortune-telling. Perhaps this deserves a little more explanation.

When I use the phrase "fortune-telling," what I mean is that I don't use the cards to predict your future. Reading the cards isn't like pulling a piece of paper from a cookie. The "future" isn't a concrete static phenomena—-it isn't even singular. It is multiple. Our every action and reaction spins new universes into being—-and extinguishes others—-by the choices that we make. And there are so many universes to choose from, right at our fingertips!

This is what free will is-—the ability to choose. What tarot does is give you information about those choices-—what factors are influencing them, what consequences might lie ahead—-so that you can make decisions consciously, with smarts and awareness. So that you can create your future, not have it delivered to you at the end of your meal.

Tarot does this by providing a channel of communication for your brain, a pipeline between your rational conscious and intuitive subconscious minds. You know the kind of knowing that doesn't seem logical, the kind that comes from somewhere in your middle, the kind we often call "gut instinct?" That's your intuition. It knows stuff. Like a magpie, it collects facts and emotions and cause-and-effect situations and then in a non-linear and often mysterious fashion, delivers this knowledge to you.

That makes it hard to understand sometimes. Think of your subconscious as a vast library--lots of information on the shelves, more coming in every day, but unless you have a way to find what you need when you need it, pretty overwhelming. Tarot is like a very smart, very friendly librarian who brings you exactly what you ask for-—what you do with that information, however, is up to you.

By acting as a container for your inner wisdom, tarot allows you to distance yourself from your own knowing, which is the first step in being able to objectively look at any decision you must make. As your own responses to the images in the deck bubble up, you can examine your feelings, try out different scenarios, look at situations from a different perspective. The cards are symbols made tangible, the deeps of the human psyche literally right at our fingertips.

Some people accuse tarot of being woo-woo, spooky, supernatural. It's not—-brain science and psychology reveal its mechanisms in all their neurological transparency. All divination systems, including tarot, work perfectly well this way, as a scientifically explainable phenomena, as a clever hat trick forged by centuries of human evolution.

But does tarot also tap something mystical? Is it ever true divination in that it participates with an infinite universal knowing? Is tarot a way to connect with the Divine?

That's a personal decision between you and your spiritual conscience. Tarot works whether or not you invest it with any spiritual significance. Like any object—-cups and incense, water and wine—-it can be either sacred and mundane.

Of course, it can be also both. That's the land where I live. But you get to choose for yourself.

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