Shadowscapes Tarot Deck by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law
Is tarot reading nonsense or b.s.? In my experience, absolutely not! But some people think so; even those who have been avid tarot readers in the past. As someone who has worked with the cards for about 20 years, I have my theories about why some people come to the mistaken belief that tarot readings are bull. I discuss my thoughts along with examples below.
The other day on I saw a post about tarot reading on social media by a teacher of spirituality. She used to use oracle cards and some tarot cards to support her intuition.
Now she says she no longer feels that she wants to use them and even suggested that they may be detrimental to intuitive understanding.
Now, who am I to say what tools she does or doesn’t want to use? I don’t care about that. It’s none of my business. I’m using her post in order to make a point; because I’ve heard these kinds of statements many times over the years by all kinds of people.
A day or two later ( a vaster and deeper Intelligence must be trying to get my attention on this!) I happened upon a post by a neuroscientist.
He said something along the lines that sex workers deserve much more respect than tarot readers, mystics, astrologers and the like. "Bah, humbug!" said he.
First of all, why would any human being ( a temporary and particular expression of The All) deserve any more or less respect than any other? I don’t mean in relative human terms, but within the context of Infinity.
Yes, there are lots of zombies and nasties in the world. This is a fact that we all need to learn to face and deal with in one way or another. But in the larger context of the "warp and woof" we're all individual expressions of the One Light.
And we all make silly statements at times. So perhaps he just said something without putting much thought behind it. I’m simply illustrating a point here. But we could take that limited viewpoint further and say that someone who drives a BMW, has a Rolex or the title of neuroscientist deserves more respect than someone who does not currently have those objects as part of their experience.
Does that ring true to you?
In everday language of course, we know what he means. He means to say that anyone who practices astrology, tarot or divination is the “lowest of the low.” He’s saying that tarot reading, divination and anything mystical is nonsense. Bunk. Hooey. Malarkey. Poppycock. And anyone who practices it is of suspicious character.
I want to challenge these sentiments as I feel they are rooted in ignorance. By ignorance I don't mean the way we now use that word in everyday language. I mean the original meaning as in a lack of deeper understanding about something.
The funny thing is that these beliefs although mistaken, are also somewhat justified. I’ll explore what I mean by that as well.
Ignorance About Tarot and Divination
Question: How would ignorance arise in the first case of the spiritual teacher who stopped using tarot cards?
Wouldn’t they know and understand how tarot works?
Tarot and oracle cards are part of a booming market in “new age” and alternative spirituality. You can find tarot cards everywhere these days. And there are as many flavours available as you could imagine.
Anyone can buy a deck of cards along with a book on how to use them and presto! They are a reader.
I see many examples of people like this on social media. And there is nothing wrong with this as everyone needs to start somewhere.
Anyone interested in becoming a tarot reader needs to practice...
But having a deck of cards and a book with meanings is like someone using a language dictionary in a foreign country while on holiday. This is not the case with someone who has mastered tarot. They would not only be quite fluent in the foreign language, but they would also be able to translate back and forth from their mother tongue.
One of the main reasons people get involved in reading Tarot cards ( or runes, i-ching, astrology, etc.) is that they want support with making difficult decisions in their own lives. And perhaps even being able to “see a bit further ‘round the corner” with new situations.
So most people will do tarot readings for themselves as part of their practice. This is normal, healthy and one of the powerful uses Tarot brings. It comes with a major obstacle though.
Unfortunately, this obstacle is a factor whether you do a reading for yourself, or you go to a professional tarot reader.
The Main Obstacles To Reading Tarot Cards
One of the main obstacles to reading tarot cards accurately is greed. Or to use a description from a bygone era, lust for an outcome. In other words, the self deception created by the desperation to have a certain situation work out in the way you want it to.
When we're coming from a place of wanting to control the outcome, we lack perspective; we suffer from tunnel vision.
The cards are then no longer a helpful tool. They have now become a Trickster.
Our minds become muddled and our hearts grow weary as we ask the cards (or reader) the same questions over and over again.
This is a lesson. It's a steep part of the learning curve for anyone who is serious about understanding themselves and their relationship to Life. Everyone who has studied Tarot seriously, has been through this at some point. Anyone who has ever lived their Life earnestly has been through this.
My feeling is that some people don’t get past it and simply write Tarot off as not helpful at this point.
Instead of going deeper into the contemplative side of Tarot, or taking a look at associated mystical models such as Qabalah or numerology, they give up and decide that tarot is bs.
That said, Tarot is not for everyone anymore than any other tool of self discovery is. Or any field of human endeavour for that matter.
The spiritual teacher I mentioned above is probably finding a different way through the layers of resistance to Life that we all have. And that’s wonderful.
But I'm also saying that she may not have the depth of understanding with Tarot that would allow for a more positive and helpful experience.
I actually have great respect for her current decision. We all have to find our own way in this day and age. I'm definitely not here to say she's "wrong." But I know that these kinds of beliefs about Tarot are quite commonly held. When I saw it on social media, it inspired me to address it with my own thoughts. Tarot rocks, people!
Tarot Requires Deep Contemplation, Study and Practice
In my own experience, Tarot has required many years of study. Not only from Tarot books, but books and teachings on related disciplines.
But more than anything, it's taken me many years of experimenting by doing readings for myself and journalling them. And then observing my life situations and seeing through my own experience what those cards were speaking. The philosophy I've developed is still a work in progress, of course.
It changes as my perspectives and depth of understanding shifts.
I’ve also done thousands of readings for others and have definitely learned much about the cards in those situations as well. Even though I don’t always know how things pan out as I do with my own readings, many people return later to give me an update.
My theory is that my understanding of how tarot works is directly related to the depth of my understanding about life. But also that my wisdom increases by practicing the art of tarot reading!
It’s in those times I’m in a hurry to get an answer that I don’t get helpful answers — because I’m not receptive.
I've played guitar - including performing and teaching professionally - for over 40 years now. I'm also fairly accomplished on the piano and as a singer. Music is my past life now, although I still play regularly for my own enjoyment. My point is, that I would make the claim that learning Tarot is akin to learning to play a musical instrument. It takes more than a few weeks. It takes more than a year. Probably more along the lines of 5 to 10 years to really start to understand it deeply.
I hope this doesn't discourage anyone who is interested in learning. Start now. The time will still pass whether you begin or not.
So...Are Tarot Readers Really the Lowest of the Low?
Now on to the comment made where the neuroscientist slammed anyone who reads Tarot for a living.
I can understand his statement. It is frustrating for me at times to see people get taken advantage of by the many sharks in this field.
And if they aren’t sharks, they are “dabblers” who aren’t really all that knowledgeable or serious about tarot — or even life for that matter.
But this ties back in with what I said about whenever we're desperate, greedy or vulnerable.
For example, if someone is desperate that a certain person love them in return, then they are easy prey for someone who is a predator.
They will often pay for more readings than they can afford just so they can hear what they want to hear. They will get reading after reading and even go to different tarot readers hoping to hear the answer they want.
And even when they get that answer, they aren’t convinced. Why? Because they aren’t receptive.
Even worse, they will get involved in spells. I’ve had more than a few people come to me for readings over the years who were tempted to work with someone offering spells as a solution.
I always say something along the lines of “even if the spell worked, would you truly want this person to love you because of a spell? Wouldn’t you want them to love you simply because they did? Wouldn’t you prefer the truth?”
There is a soulful wisdom and that's hiding somewhere in all humans. My question about the possibility of these types of love spells being a manipulation, usually helps that wisdom to be heard.
I'm using the term soul here in the same way the Emerson uses it in his famous essay The Oversoul.
Note: I’m not talking about spells or affirmative prayer that support clearing subconscious doubts and open you to having love in your life. In this case you work with your desired outcome and your imagination — but then surrender the outcome. This is healthy and creative.
Tarot Helps Us To Face Truth If We're Willing
And this is precisely my point. We need to be willing to face the truth. Even when I see cards I don’t like (Death, The Tower, The Devil, 5 of Swords, etc.) I allow myself to sit with them. Grudgingly at times, I admit. But working through the initial resistance is part of the process.
I allow the meaning to come to me throughout the day or next several days as I gently contemplate their possibilities in the back of my mind.
I want to learn the truth. I don’t want to stay in a mind made illusion— no matter how comfortable.
So I can understand this gentleman’s scorn for Tarot readers and the like. He has possibly been exposed to sharks at some point — or known someone who has been.
And sometimes even a good reader with solid ethics and honest intentions can be wrong. There is a lot going on in a tarot reading.
The reader needs to connect the symbols coming through the cards with the collective unconscious and deeper dimensions of mind with meanings that connect with the questioner's life situation.
It’s not like a reading is meant to tell you that are going to meet this specific person at this exact restaurant on this exact day. It’s more like a cosmic fingerprint in the formative world. The patterns in the shrouded mists before they solidify into physical experience.
A good tarot reader is interpreting the symbols in the cards into language that connects with a more expansive view than our usual habitual perspective.
Perhaps the Neuroscientist Is A Believer?
Without giving his statement the benefit of any doubt, it could be that he is a believer.
A believer in a materialist and reductionistic life that is mechanical and quantifiable with no mystery, inherent virtue or ground of being.
This is just the same as a fundamentalist who believes that anyone who doesn’t believe as they do is going straight to hell in a handbasket.
An atheist or materialist is the flip side of a traditional believer. They are both fundamentalists at the end of the day. They are both seeking security in their beliefs and rationalizations. They both bow to an external authority that has been built up through time.
Of course, I’m totally speculating here as to how the neuroscientist may have come up with his statement. I truly don’t know how he did. I am not interested in defining him. I'm interested in looking a bit deeper into his statement that so many others have also thought. So let us give him the benefit of the doubt. I’ve certainly put my foot in my mouth a few times in my life. Opinions can always change.
What I do know is that he obviously has no real understanding of what Tarot or astrology actually are. Or how they can be used for the benefit of mental, emotional and spiritual health.
"The Fundamentalist" is also an archetype that is expressed quite well by The Hierophant card in Tarot.
We all have this tendency — some more obvious — but we can observe it in ourselves and in our relationships with others. We are snobs to everyone at times, are we not? Anyone who is “not me” is a threat on some level.
This is beyond animal instinct although it may in fact have it’s psychological roots there. But that’s not important.
What is important is to see this activity in your own mind. When you do, you automatically rise higher than this activity of the psychological past within you. It then loses it’s power to act through you. You are free from the past/instincts and are again reborn in the eternal present.
Summary: Is Tarot Unhelpful Or Even Just Plain Bunk?
In my view, it’s important to be a true skeptic with things. How can you accept that something’s true on someone else’s say so? If you do, it’s only second hand knowledge and not very meaningful.
But in these examples a true skepticism was not really operating. Both examples come across as more of a close minded judgement made from a reaction to something.
A true skeptic still has an open mind. They take things for the testing and prove them out.
In the first case I feel a lack of depth and follow through with real education about tarot was the cause.
In the second case it really seems as if the person had a closed mind to anything mysterious or unable to be explained in hard scientific terms.
Tarot Is Not A Crutch...
All that said, tarot is not meant to be a crutch. And you’ll know when you’re relying on it too much. How? The cards will stop making sense. As simple as that.
Used wisely, tarot is a powerful tool like the i-ching or any other divination tool. And it takes a lifetime to master.
So if you’re fascinated by it, but not ready to commit to a lifetime of exploration, you can still develop your own intuition with it.
Just remember to be receptive when you do a reading. Let go of grasping a specific outcome so tightly. Be willing to relax your grip a bit. And face the truth as best you can. This is the real practice.
The same goes if you go to a professional tarot reader.
Interested in tarot? I have a FREE Tarot 101 crash course that can be completed about 45 minutes! Learn more here.