Byzant MysticalTarotSymbolsKabbalahBiographyAstrologyScriptorium

Divination and the Tarot

Tarot cards have been used for divination pretty much throughout their known history, and this is still their main application today. It is by no means their only use, however. Their esoteric links, particularly with the Kabbalah, can enrich spiritual study and meditation, and they also have psychological applications, all of which makes them a valuable tool in the vital search for self-knowledge.

The fact remains, though, that most people are interested in the Tarot for the purpose of divination, of seeing what the future has to hold. This raises a number of important questions.

Do the cards really show the future?

Some believe the cards mirror a future set in stone, others that they show likely future trends and problems that can be worked with or avoided, and still others that the cards fall by chance and that reading any meaning into this is empty superstition. The truth is that we don't really know. Subjectively, the cards often do seem to mirror reality surprisingly well, but the human mind does tend to hold on to the hits and mitigate the misses in its search for meaning.

One thing that is undoubtedly true is that serious use of the Tarot enables a person to consider their life, actions, problems and opportunities with an approach that is both systematic and insightful: a very powerful combination. The cards allow a greater appreciation of the past and how it has molded the present, as well as showing some possibilities and alternatives of the future. Even if the cards speak in a merely random way of the future, the value and effect of serious Tarot use is still immense because of the perceptive exploratory processes involved in the interpretation of a reading.

Is what the cards say bound to come true?

If you choose to believe that the cards do foretell future events, the obvious follow-up question is whether events suggested by the cards are set in stone, or whether they can be avoided. This applies equally to positive predictions as to negative ones, because if it were possible to avoid some foretold disaster, then it may be equally possible to miss out on some predicted windfall or opportunity.

If the cards mapped out a fixed future then there would be little value in consulting them. The most positive approach to a reading is that the cards show trends and potentials: what is likely to happen if you do nothing consciously to change the course of events. Most readings deal with the current situation and events leading up to it precisely so that the cards can suggest how the questioner has arrived where they are, which is usually important in working out the best way forward. If the cards suggest future problems, they will also suggest the causes of these difficulties and how they can be avoided. If they suggest pleasurable future events, then they will also suggest how to make sure that these come to pass, and how to avoid wasting the positive phase approaching.

How does the Tarot work?

If you are of the school of thought that there is nothing mystical or presaging about the seemingly random selection of cards, then the Tarot works by providing a framework for the reader to analyze a given problem or situation and explore future options by reconsidering the past that has created the present. Applying the meaning of a card in a given position to the question in hand means that the mind has to look for meanings and links that it would not ordinarily consider, and in this way fresh insights are found.

Those who believe that cards specifically foreshadow future events need to look beyond present-day science for an explanation. The mechanism by which the cards work may be looked at as an instance of the ancient mystical maxim, "As above, So below," where the seemingly trivial fall of cards somehow mirrors the greater machinations of the heavens, and the future is glimpsed. Others may turn to theories such as synchronicity, theorized by Carl Jung. Synchronicity is the coincidence of events that appear to be meaningfully related but cannot be explained by accepted mechanisms of cause and effect. The random selection of cards detailing future events would be a very good example of this.

Can computer readings really work?

Again, this depends on what you expect of the Tarot. As far as predicting the future is concerned, if there is nothing presaging about the Tarot, then there is clearly no difference, at least in terms of selecting the cards, between an automatic or a human reading. If the Tarot does cast light on the future, then it does so by an unknown mechanism in which the random selection of cards foreshadows future events, and a computer is just as capable of choosing cards at random as a person. This "unknown mechanism" is obviously not constrained by scientific concepts of time and space, so it should not matter whether the cards are selected in sight of the questioner or at the other side of the world, or by a person, a computer or a kookaburra. The art and skill of a good Tarot reading lies in the interpretation, and this depends on both the reader and the questioner.

In a reading performed by a person, the reader is able to interpret the random fall of the cards in relation to the questioner's concerns. With automatic readings, this responsibility falls on the questioner. For example, our Free On-line and Regular Tarot Readings have full positional interpretations for every card, every spread and every position in each spread, but they are necessarily general readings, so it is up to the questioner to apply the interpretation to their particular situation. Such readings can be very accurate and powerful if treated thoughtfully by the recipient. The true art of Tarot interpretation lies not only in the cards chosen, but where they fall, how they are grouped and related, and how all this fits in with the questioner's concerns and the reader's experience, and this does require a gifted, human reader. With a little effort, application and a pinch of inspiration, good automatic readings help you yourself to become that gifted human reader.