Thursday, 3 March 2016

Is tarot simply wishful thinking?

Is tarot only wishful thinking or a self-fulfilling prophecy? Is it all made up?

Well, this depends on how you think of the questions.

Wishful thinking implies that we see what we want to see on the cards. Or, we conveniently forget what we saw when time passes, and start to believe that the unfolding positive events were predicted by the cards: "surely that one happy card showed that I would meet you, the love of my life!".

It is certainly a possibility that this happens from time to time. However, forgetfulness is easily cured by recording the readings: take notes or take a photo, and refer back to it. That is an easy way to keep track whether or not the things that happened came up in a reading or not.

Tarot also has a strange but remarkable tendency to show repeat cards when a deeply meaningful event is about to occur or a deep emotion is felt. Why do they pop up? Scientifically, there is no explanation. For people who believe in meaningful coincidences - synchronities - it makes a lot of sense. Something in our energy or vibrational field must be drawing those specific symbols.

Wishful thinking doesn't explain why tarot appears so consistent. If we stubbornly see something good in any cards and it doesn't actually happen, wishful thinking would soon fade away and lead to losing faith. What would be the point in believing in any messages if more often than not the positive events won't manifest?

Curiously, positive events shown in the cards seem to take place in a surprising accuracy - but so do the negatives. And this poses a question - can seeing negative outcomes be a form of wishful thinking? Why would anyone wish for negative outcomes?

How about self-fulfilling prophecies?

Is it likely that if we see something positive in the cards, say, getting a dream job, we are bound to put in more effort in the application because the positive outcome seems within our grasp? And consequently, through our own effort, actually win the job? Or reversely, if the cards show "nope, you won't get it", will we drop the ball too early and not put enough effort in trying, thus bringing the negative outcome upon us with our own pretty little hands?

This, again, certainly is a possibility and one reason why a good reader always seeks for an action-oriented reading instead of a destiny-based "this will happen, no matter what".

I believe that we can always change something for better in any situation. If nothing else, at least our own viewpoint and attitude. Hence, asking for most beneficial actions to take is not only empowering, it can actually lead to a better outcome instead of fretting about the inevitable future.

Is tarot a self-fulfilling prophecy is at the same time a very valid and very silly question to ask.

Life is fluid, our circumstances are fluid, other people affect our decisions and lives all the time and we influence theirs. Every thought, action and decision will have an impact on our future. Tarot is a mirror for emotions and thoughts so asking if tarot is a self-fulfilling prophecy is the same as asking: is my plan to lose weight a self-fulling positive prediction if I have strongly decided to stick with it - or, reversely, is it negative, if I doubt myself from the beginning?

I'm personally not worried about this self-fulfilling stuff, because I think that whatever helps us to become better people and make better informed, clearer, conscious choices and decisions, is a good thing.

So if tarot cards show a happy ending for an undertaking, and that encourages us to achieve it with more self-confidence, it's nothing but great. And if negative cards encourage us to take precautions, check and tweak our plans, actions and thoughts, again, that's great! That's what tarot is supposed to be used for in my opinion. Is it then self-fulfilling or self-development?

However, I do understand the risk that a negative outcome will manifest due to the lack of action or being paralysed by fear if negative cards pop up and cause this.

If, for example, I believe that my partner will cheat on me and it's inevitable (if I believe  my cards showed it), I'm bound to become more cynical, pessimistic, withdrawing and possibly nagging and hysteric than I would normally be - and that type of a relationship simply is not very fulfilling, loving, supportive or warm to either one of us. If my partner then makes a mistake to cheat, was there any element of self-fulfilling prophecy to blame? Probably. This highlights the necessity to ask action-oriented questions: what can I do to achieve this goal, or what can I do to solve this problem?

Steering back to wishful thinking. Do we retrospectively impose meanings on the cards that turn out to be true: say, a month ago you got 2 Cups, a card of mutual, affectionate feelings: today you meet someone very promising for a romance. The card knew it! Now, how do we verify that the card that appeared month ago really meant this day, and wasn't just a random coincidence out of 78 possible cards in the deck?

That's the thing: I don't think there is a way to prove it. If there was, science would have already proven how tarot works, if it works (as a system current natural sciences can understand).

But then again, human mind is incredibly agile and prone to seek and understand symbols.

If you think of it, we actually are very mental, emotional and symbolic creatures living a life in an "animal" body, i.e. navigating the tug-o-war of mind and body, bombarded by the physical, biological and instinctive feelings and responses.

But we are mainly driven by symbols: language, writing and pictures are symbols. Plenty of our thoughts and dreams are symbols. Many of our actions are symbols (playing any game, for example, is a symbolic act: it's not meant for any life sustaining purposes such as finding food).

Furthermore, humans have always sought for and tried to interpret signs: the weather patterns, the behaviour of animals, synchronities (meaningful, as if "destined to happen"coincidences), signs from the deities...

My point is that we interpret the world based on symbols all the time. We seek to understand what other people think and what they mean by communicating via symbols. Being a human is somewhat impossible without symbols. Tarot as a symbol system adds to that experience of finding meaning; and it offers something for the mind to focus on for guidance. Is it wishful? Is it self-fulfilling? I think it is, but only as much as any other thought or action we do in life anyway.

Life is a ride, let's enjoy it as much as we can! Photo by Anu Saskia.

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