Not long ago an on-line friend told me that he saw no reason to use the Tarot in divination; in fact, he felt that no one should use them for divination as this was a profane use of the cards. He preferred to use the cards solely for contemplation.
At the time I did not feel inclined to respond to this narrow view, but after a night of thinking about it, I was prompted to write the following in defense of Tarot Divination (and I don't mean fortune telling!)
- The art or practice that seeks to foresee or foretell future events or discover hidden knowledge usually by means of augury (divination from omens) or by the aid of supernatural powers
- Unusual insight or intuitive perception (these definitions from Webster's)
According to the Brotherhood of Light there are four main uses for the Tarot:
- Science of Vibration
- Divination by cards
- Divination by number
- Spiritual Science (the method of putting the rest together to develop a philosophy)
Is it wrong to USE the cards?
- Playing cards is fun! Without such use perhaps Tarot would long ago have died as other games have faded from use. Chess may be considered to be a child's game or a highly developed intellectual discipline. The same is true of using the Tarot card's.
- Have you ever played Taroc? It is a very interesting game like bridge using the Major Arcana as Trumps...in profane decks the court cards and majors may have two heads (to be read either up or down.) Some versions of the game have certain mystical aspects.
- In studying the history of the Tarot you will see that the decks (except those belonging to aristocrats who had hand-painted decks made for them by great artists) used long ago were very primitive and made from wood cuts. We have come far from those crude representations...but the ideas expressed in the Tarot remain the same - they are still there in those early decks.
- Where did the Tarot come from? We have only theory and conjecture:
- Ancient Egyptians
- They always have existed but have been revived from time to time
- Gift of Divine Origin
It's validity and usefulness are what count
- it works when used
- it contains Universal symbology and archetypes found elsewhere
- it is numerically correct and corresponds with ancient systems of wisdom (especially to the Qabala)
10 = sephiroth (ace through 10 in the Minor Arcana)
22 = paths (22 Major Arcana cards)
4 = elements (four suits)
The Tarot is MUCH MORE than mere pictures on pasteboard. The pictures on the Tarot cards are physical symbols for spiritual concepts. One definition I use for the Tarot is as follows:
A symbolic representation of Archetypal Forces and/or Beings which have always existed and have been identified and passed on to us by ancient initiates and which provide a focus for us to use in self-initiation, spiritual development, and the perception of hidden wisdom.
A few notes regarding the above...
1) Jung says of Archetypes that they exist for us at birth...they emanate from the collective unconscious...they are NOT self-created or generated.
2) Aleister Crowley says in his book the Book of Thoth:
"Each card is, in a sense, a living being." "It is for the student to build these living stones into his living Temple."
"...the cards of the Tarot are living individuals..."
"How is he to blend their life with his? The ideal way is that of contemplation. But this involves initiation of such high degree that it is impossible to describe the method in this place. Nor is it attractive or suitable to most people. The practical everyday commonplace way is divination."
3) In Magick without Tears he says:
"...the Tarot itself as a whole is an universal Pantacle...Each card, especially this is true of the Trumps, is a Talisman;...It is evidently an Idea far too vast for any human mind to comprehend in its entirety. For it is 'the Wisdom whereby He (God) created the worlds.' "
As regards these Lively Forces:
- These Forces can communicate with us...or rather we can interpret their currents through our subconscious intuitive minds...this is one use of divination (and contemplation). This is the level, as Jung says, at which we are all connected.
- These Forces can be directed by us Magically if we are so trained. First we must master divination; then direction.
- The Tarot is a Magickal Weapon In the hands of a trained initiate the mere placement of one card between two others can alter the forces involved and affect physical (and ethereal) reality.
- The Tarot is a philosophy as well, with an Ancient Message about the Soul's journey.
- Yes, the Tarot is useful to study and contemplate...the colors and symbols are specifically designed and arranged to stimulate things within us (forces, archetypes, subconscious).
- The Major Arcana are especially sacred to us because they represent the Paths, Steps, Forces which are necessary for us to rejoin the Godhead and attain enlightenment.
I maintain that the best way to understand that the Tarot cards are ALIVE and ACTIVE FORCES is to USE/HANDLE/EXPERIENCE them and so Divine (and perceive) what they are all about. The cards are a focus for our minds upon forces which are ever-changing and evolving (even as humankind is evolving).
We are fortunate that modern printing is so good and that the Tarot decks and books which we have today are easily available to us. This was not always the case for our brothers and sisters in times past. Today one can afford to smile and say: "I only need to contemplate the cards to understand them." But there is more to the use of the cards in Divination than many have been taught; for it is a mysterious process.
Just as one must study and practice upon a musical instrument to become a virtuoso, so too the Tarot takes many years of study and practice to use correctly. One must be well developed spiritually, emotionally, and intuitively, or (as in music) naturally gifted to make full and accurate use of the cards in divination. In the hands of a gifted Diviner or Initiate the Tarot is a formidable weapon. It can even talk and spell out sentences! Hence the Hebrew letters correspondence to the Major Arcana. However, since we do not all learn in the same ways...the Tarot may not be the DIVINATORY METHOD for everyone...although everyone can learn from it and should study it.
Other methods which may suit:
- I Ching
As humankind evolves spiritually (and in other ways) so too the Tarot evolves. Take for example the reconstruction of The Chariot (Arcanum VII) and The Devil (Arcanum XV) cards by Levi. He gave them a new presentation based upon his advanced knowledge at the time. Also, note how The Lovers (Arcanum VI) has changed from earlier decks. It still has the same basic meaning, but the symbols have changed. No longer are there two women...one good one bad...with the man in between...now it is two people with an Angel above them. New Tarot decks continue to be made as our knowledge and understanding evolves.
A note on The Book of Thoth, Aleister Crowley's Tarot deck, is as seen by him from the Astral Plane. This is why it is so different from many decks; why it is so striking; and, why the energy felt has such strong effects upon many people.
Some cards come and go...there are more cards on the astral plane than we have on the physical...between the cards, above and below the cards are others...as with the Quaballa.
When working with the Tarot if one is in a Magickal State (Asana, etc.) and reads the cards it is a Magickal or Divine (hence the term divination) operation. I take the forces into myself when using the cards thus they affect me and I them.
Because of this knowledge, I respect the Tarot as a Living Thing/Force and I do not bother it with profane questions. I treat it as a Magickal Weapon and thus with care and respect. Fortune telling, while not wrong, is the profane use of the cards.
Contemplation of the cards is useful; without Divination, however, one could not experience the forces within them in the same way. Also, there are hidden uses for the Tarot. The Tarot is indeed a Teacher. It is also a door, a gateway, an entryway into other realms which is partly how it was used in Egyptian Initiation Rites. We may use it in some of the ways listed below:
- Ritual (invocation and evocation)
- Talisman use/focus
Some of the goals of initiates (after perfecting divination and the Tarot's philosophy) are 1) to read with a blank deck and to use a spread with no set meanings, and 2) to develop one's own Astral Deck.
Magick (in Theory and Practice), Crowley's famous book, calls Divination an important branch of Magick, and defines it thusly:
- "We postulate the existence of intelligence's, either within or without the diviner, of which he is not immediately conscious. (It does not matter to the theory whether the communicating spirit so-called is an objective entity or a concealed portion of the diviner's mind.) We assume that such intelligence's are able to reply correctly - within limits- to the questions asked."
- "We postulate that it is possible to construct a compendium of hieroglyphs sufficiently elastic in meaning to include every possible idea, and that one or more of these may always be taken to represent any idea. We assume that any of these hieroglyphs will be understood by the intelligence's with whom we wish to communicate in the same sense as it is by ourselves. We have therefore a sort of language..."
- "We postulate that the intelligence's whom we wish to consult are willing, or may be compelled, to answer us truthfully."
He goes on to discuss divination as shown in some of the quotes below:
"In a system of divination each symbol stands for a definite idea."
"As regards the Holy Quaballa, based as it is on pure number, (it) evidently possesses an infinite number of symbols. Its scope is conterminous with existence itself; and it lacks nothing in precision, purity, or indeed any other perfection. But it cannot be taught, each man must select for himself the materials for the main structure of his system."
"It is always essential for the diviner to obtain absolute magical control over the intelligence's of the system which he adopts."
"Experience is the only teacher. One acquires what one may almost call a new sense. One feels in one's self whether one is right or not. The diviner must develop this sense."
"In order to divine without error, one ought to be a Master of the Temple. The faintest breath of personal preference will deflect the needle from the pole of truth in the answer."
"One must prepare oneself by general purification and consecration devised with the object of detaching oneself from one's personality and increasing the sensitiveness of one's faculties."
"The muscles with which he manipulates the apparatus of divination must be entirely independent of any volition of his. He must lend them for the moment to the intelligence whom he is consulting."
(note: one of the first steps in divination is the invoking of the Angel HRU)
"He must have succeeded in destroying the tendency of the ego to interfere with the object of thought. He must be able to conceive of a thing out of all relation with anything else."
"He should allow the question entire freedom to make for itself its own proper links with the intelligence directing the answer."
"He must sink his personality in that of the intelligence hearing the question propounded by a stranger to whom he is indifferent, but whom it is his business to serve faithfully."
"He should exhaust the intellectual sources of information at his disposal, and form from them his judgment. But having done this, he should detach his mind from what it has just formulated, and proceed to concentrate it on the figure as a whole, almost as if it were the object of his meditation."
"The concluding operation is therefore to obtain a judgment of the figure, independent of all intellectual or moral restraint. One must endeavor to apprehend it as a thing absolute in itself."
"Divination is in one sense an art entirely separate from that of Magick; yet it interpenetrates Magick at every point. The fundamental laws of both are identical. The right use of divination has already been explained: but it must be added that proficiency therein, tremendous as is its importance in furnishing the Magician with the information necessary to his strategic and tactical plans, in no wise enables him to accomplish the impossible. It is not within the scope of divination to predict the future with the certainty of an astronomer in calculating the return of a comet. There is always much virtue in divination."
"One must not assume that the oracle is omniscient."
"The Magician ought therefore to make himself master of several methods of divination; using one or the other as the purpose of the moment dictates. He should make a point of organizing a staff of such spirits to suit various occasions. These should be 'familiar' spirits, in the strict sense; members of his family."
"Divination of any kind is improper in matters directly concerning the Great Work itself. In the Knowledge and Conversation of his Holy Guardian Angel, the adept is possessed of all he can possibly need. To consult any other is to insult one's Angel."
"Although the adept is in daily communication with his Angel, he ought to be careful to consult Him only on questions proper to the dignity of the relation. One should not consult one's Angel on too many details, or indeed on any matters which come within the office of one's familiar spirits. One does not go to the King about petty personal trifles. The romance and rapture of the ineffable union which constitutes Adeptship must not be profaned by the introduction of commonplace cares."
Thus we may use Divination for those worthy questions which we need answered but cannot find out in any other way...either through our own research or by the contacting of one's Holy Guardian Angel. If we can attain the necessary magickal states discussed above and if we complete the necessary study and work which he suggests, we can become masters of Tarot Divination.