The universe we live in is a reflective one, which we are continually ‘casting’ our intentions upon. Let me explain that in another way: everything we see or experience is reflective of what we are thinking or feeling at that moment. If you are thinking about someone you love, you are more likely to see signs of that person in the exterior world (think on the cliché of seeing your lover in the clouds). If you are trying to think about a certain idea for an essay you are writing, you are more likely to see currents of it manifest in various encounters or in books you read. I think of this as a theme; each day or week has a theme and an organic rhythm. Growth happens upon a continuum, in a cyclical manner. Likewise, certain themes breed other themes, much like vegetation in a garden.
However, intention is a powerful tool we can use in order to mould this passive looking into something more deliberate: concise, decisive action. When you begin a yoga practice, for example, you always define your intention at the start of your practice. It can be: I want to be present. I want to open my heart. I want to clear the negativity in my life. Your intention is a call to the universe: this is how I want to grow. Likewise, when you start any type of creative act, be it yoga, art, or writing, you have a certain overarching expression you are trying to articulate. That is a form of intention.
Tarot, likewise, is just a system that uses a combination of symbols (each with their own special mythology and story) in order reflect your inner state of mind through the casting of intention (ie. “What is the theme for today?” or “Can I have insight into x or y situation?”). It reveals the underlying currents of what drives your actions; in other words, your subconscious inclinations.
Personally speaking, I consider Tarot to be a self-reflective tool, a system that makes use of the reflectivity in the universe to analyze one’s own motives and thoughts. In a way, everything can be Tarot, as many things can be defined as a “system that uses a combination of symbols in order to deliver a meaning”. Any book you flip open can be Tarot (words are a figurative language that express meaning: a symbol); so can the radio, or even the Bible (see: bibliomancy). If you put forth a question out into the universe, you will receive an answer of some kind; this answer is what gives you the ability to see another perspective on a situation. There is no ‘magic’ to it, really. No channeling of entities other than yourself (and yes, you can use Tarot to communicate with entities, but you could also use the Bible for the same purpose). Think of this as journaling: when you put pen to paper, you reflect upon your reality from a detached point-of-view. Similarly, when you flip open the Bible to find a passage that gives insight into a question you have, this is also Tarot.
But what are the origins of Tarot, you ask? Doesn’t it have occult roots? Isn’t it used as a way to see into the future? To ‘fortune tell’?
Firstly, I want to establish this fact: I do not really believe in fortune telling nor do I see the utility of fortune telling. Each of us has a certain set of life path potentialities and possible outcomes. It is impossible to tell the future, as the future is contingent upon each and every thought and action you make in the present. The future is a malleable substance that is altered by the present; you could even say it is an illusion. Yes, it is possible to ‘see the future’, but what you see is also dependent on the person’s decision to stay on that path and that fact can change at any moment if the person chooses to take a completely different decision: this is the nature of a free will universe. Anyhow, what is the use of telling the future? Our attention should always be on the present, or we risk the tendency to escape into past or future while neglecting those around us that need our immediate presence.
As for Tarot’s supposed occult background, it actually originated as a card game that European courts played in the mid-15th century like poker or blackjack. It was not used as a divination tool till the 18th century, from which it was adopted as a tool by some for insight into the past, present and future (see: Tarotology). I want to emphasize the word insight because having insight is different from defining the future. As I mentioned before, the future (and the past, too: science shows that memory changes with each recollection) is not set in stone.
I regard Tarot not as a divination medium, but as a psychological tool that provides insight into the collective subconscious forces that drive our actions. Emotions, thoughts, behavioural patterns: these are all examples of interior non-conscious forces. They are invisible forces, yes, but they are far from mystical or esoteric. I argue that creating art, journaling, and other such self-reflexive processes that force one to reflect upon one’s reality accomplish a similar function in our lives. One does not need to Tarot to gather insight, but the system of metaphors and stories that come with the images of Tarot lend themselves easier for the brain to make sense of abstract realities. That is, personally, why I enjoy using Tarot: symbols and metaphor are a simpler way for me to make sense of the complexity of reality than stark fact. For we only “see through a glass, darkly” (Corinthians 13:12) and elements of story assist greatly in uncovering the invisible forces that propel us.
Note: If you would like read a discussion about the relationship between Christianity and Tarot, this forum thread presents a variety of interesting perspectives. The Pope was also shown using Tarot as a meditation tool.
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