Tarot: Parlour Game, Con or Bona Fide Resource?
Tarot decks have long been used as a harmless and fun activity. One person looks at the cards or images and makes some interpretations or projections based on how well they know the person they are reading for. Neither takes it too seriously.
Others believe it to be a form of hocus-pocus used by unscrupulous people to prise money out of trusting, or desperate people. As with any field of expertise, it is true that some practitioners are exploitative. The combination of a few bad apples and a reverence for rationalism sees many people throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
Genuine Esoteric Tool
A third option is that it is used in a bona fide way. It is worth nothing that Western Psychology, or the scientific study of the mind, is a relatively new field. Freud is often dubbed as the father of Psychology. His ideas are only a century old.
The sacred approach, common to tribal and ancient cultures, is much older. It sees people receiving their greatest learning from intuition, dreams and story. Carl Jung was a student of Freud’s who moved beyond his ideas, which were very ego oriented. Jung possessed more balance in terms of masculine and feminine approaches. One could say he was more soul oriented or holistic.
Beyond the Conscious Mind
Like Freud, Jung concluded that we each have our own Personal Conscious that holds all our memories and knowledge. Less than 10% of an icebergs volume is viewable from the surface. Psychology suggests that our Personal Conscious is just the minority of our real makeup.
Our Personal Unconscious holds memories we have forgotten or repressed. Not only is it harder to access, we’re generally unaware of it. Despite our ignorance, it still makes an impact and reveals itself as imbalances or neuroses in an individual. Psychology has often employed hypnosis to access these memories for therapeutic reasons. Just as hypnosis can bypass ones subconscious gatekeeper, so can the Tarot reveal repressions through their imagery.
Jung argued that there was another Unconscious realm, that of the Collective Unconscious. It is not personal to particular individuals; but connects and belongs to us all. It is made up of Symbols and Archetypes. Jung described it as, “The transcendental wisdom that guides mankind, a universal library of knowledge that is innate, rather than acquired by education or conscious effort.”
An Archetype is a pattern of behaviour that repeats itself over and over again. Every situation in life has an Archetype or Archetypal Behaviour associated with it. Films, books and other forms of culture are replete with them. Take a popular Archetype, like the Hero.
Ready to Move Forward?
Many people are drawn to the Tarot in the same way people are drawn to comfort food, empty television or other escapes. They dearly want to be told that their life is going to be wonderful and everything will work out in their favor without any effort on their part.
Instead of engaging with the empowering theme of the Hero Archetype, they opt for the Orphan Archetype, which retreats into victimhood or fantasy thinking that requires no personal participation in an outcome. Lacking love, it’s easy to dream of being rescued by a prince (codependency), or lacking money, imagining a lottery win is more rewarding than dealing with the fact that one fails to practice discipline, forward planning or delayed gratification.
Carl Jung once pointed out that, “Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” Becoming aware of your Unconscious mind and its messages for you is very valuable. But it is only when we act on things that our circumstances change.
Take a common, real world example. Let’s say a spread reveals a theme of having a manipulative, narcissistic partner in your life. This may service with The Queen of Swords whose shadow side is that of a master game player, liar, manipulator who believes their own delusions. The symbolism is shared with a client who then goes on to talk about having a controlling or abusive partner. Maybe they knew that very clearly before they came.