Friday, 4 December 2015

How does tarot work?

How does tarot work? Well, nobody knows for a fact. Thousands of tarot readers around the globe simply know it does work, based on their everyday experience with the cards. But, there are a few theories floating around.

Subconscious knowledge

In essence and in the most practical possible view, tarot is nothing more than looking at pretty pictures and analysing or interpreting what they could mean.

This theory assumes that we all know much  more than we realise in our subconscious, the hidden realm of the intuitive thoughts. Tarot is a framework that helps our conscious to focus on matters the subconscious already knows, and bring them to surface in an organised manner. Sort of aided dream interpretation, or structured Roschach (ink stain) testing.

A standard tarot deck contains 22 "Major Arcana" cards and 56 "Minor Arcana" cards, meaning 78 cards in total of stereotypical human life events, emotions, situations and actions. This provides enough variables for one's subconscious to be able to pick up a meaningful message from any combination of cards that come up. Such as...

Do you suspect your partner is cheating? You might get the 3 Swords card, a heartbreak. Yes, it's very possible that there is turmoil in the relationship. But not necessarily because of cheating, but because of mistrust and miscommunication. Are you in high spirits? If you get the 10 Cups, the "happily ever after" card, you'll feel elated and convinced that your utterly positive mood is predestined and here to stay.

But... how about the fact that sometimes - actually, almost always - the cards lay out the truth about matters we have no way of knowing? Like matters concerning other people, or matters about to happen in the future, i.e. predictions? I've been one of the strongest advocates of puristic, scientific and fact-based world view and here I am now, doing remote readings for people and somehow mystically and magically getting them right. What could that be about?

Multi-dimensional universe and/or spirit world

Another theory purports that tarot cards have an access to knowledge that is not accessible via regular human senses. This knowledge perhaps comes from another dimension (check out the Multidimensional Man for a very intriguing account on where meditation can lead a person and what can be glimpsed via a mind's eye). Or, it comes from the spirit world or from a divine source; the other dimension and this divine force not necessarily being mutually exclusive.

In any case, this theory presumes that the cards simply show what is a fact in this other dimension, the world of thought or world of intentions. Cards can somehow capture the most accurate symbols for what is going on in the mental plane - the same plane where thoughts and dreams reside - instead of our everyday physical plane, and translate it into a material manifestation in the form of these pre-structured pictures.


The third theory is that cards are simply magic. They deliver meaningful, useful and insightful messages, yet nobody knows how. So, it must be magic. But, what is magic exactly? Simply something that defies our everyday understanding of how things should work. Maybe there is no such thing as inexplicable or supernatural, there are only things that we haven't figured out yet.

Unfortunately the scientific community is notoriously apprehensive towards any topic even remotely psychic and has not yet conducted any published studies on tarot or its possible mechanisms.

I personally think that the measure of true science is to approach any topic without bias or prejudice. So I'm hopeful that tarot will one day be seriously studied, in the same manner as out-of-body-experiences, telepathy etc. are nowadays being scientifically examined.

Before that happens, we'll have these three theories (at least) to pick from or to combine together, and keep exploring the world of tarot on our own.

Let the journey begin!

Time to plant seeds and learn new skills - with tarot. Photo:

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