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How does it work?
by Judith Laura

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How does Tarot work? The most honest answer is: We don’t know, but we have lots of theories. This is also true of many things in science, from physics to medicine.

Despite the many theories, Tarot readers do agree on this: it does work. This means many Tarot readers are pragmatists: They want to use Tarot to help themselves and others, with or without an explanation that satisfies the modern rationalist mind.

Some explanations of "how it works" involve references to Jungian archetypes or to Qabalah, or to consistency with elemental dignities, or to other similarities with astrological symbolism.

To me these may be interesting contexts in which to view Tarot and may (or may not) enrich our experience of it. But they don’t explain the core experience of a Tarot reading: receiving information that is not available to us on a rational level.

Some people explain this experience by saying it involves contact with the "universal unconscious," or the "universal mind," or the "higher self" or some type of "synchronicity" between the questions or life situation and the cards drawn.

My feeling is that these terms are presently acceptable ways of almost saying what is, to many people schooled in skepticism and linear thinking, intellectually unacceptable to say. It is this unacceptable, radical notion that I will be Fool enough to express here.

I too am a skeptic. I too have been schooled in linear, analytical thinking, and some people think I’m quite good at it. But my experience has led me to other explanations for certain phenomena.

I experience Tarot as
  a spiritual intuitive—
even psychic—tool.

I experience Tarot as a spiritual intuitive—even psychic—tool. This does not mean it cannot be used for meditation and for psychological self-understanding. It is excellent for these. But for me, its value goes further.

I believe Tarot helps us contact the spiritual dimension of the Universe. And beyond that—and I feel this is the most important part—Tarot gives us a common language with which to communicate with that dimension.

By this I do not mean that it enables or causes us to channel specific entities such as those a Medium channels, but rather that Tarot gives us a way to receive information from a dimension unavailable to us through our everyday consciousness. You may choose to call this dimension the universal unconscious, higher self, deeper self, Goddess, Spirit, etc. This "dimension" is NOT something "spooky" or "supernatural."

Tarot helps us contact the spiritual dimension of the Universe....
Tarot gives us a common language with which to communicate with that dimension.

Rather, it is as natural as the air we breathe; we swim in it like water.

I have come to this conclusion after developing my psychic/intuitive skills apart from Tarot or any other divinatory tool. When I began doing this, the sensation was the "Look, Ma, no hands!" of a child perhaps recklessly riding a bicycle.

I came to this type of psychic work after having read Tarot for a number of years. At first it felt like reading Tarot without the cards. The non-Tarot symbols seemed to be arising spontaneously in my "mind," or consciousness.

Experienced psychics told me that messages from "Spirit" frequently arise or appear in symbolic language. When first developing psychic skills, a person needs to learn to understand, and then interpret, this symbolic language.

messages from "Spirit" frequently arise or appear in
symbolic language

From this explanation, it makes sense to me that when we use Tarot we are saying to the spiritual dimension: "This is the language in which I wish to communicate," just as you might tell a person that you’d like to speak with them in English or Spanish, or some other language.

When you use no psychic tool, then in a way you are saying to spirit, "I’ll use whatever language you want to speak to me in." This usually means a steeper learning curve. It may also, however, mean more extensive potential for message content. For we are not limited to the symbolic language of the Tarot, or of the Runes, or other divination tools.

For me this explanation of how Tarot works is most helpful. I don’t mean it to be THE explanation that everyone must accept, but rather offer it to people who may be interested in my underlying assumptions in my approach to Tarot.

To me, understanding Tarot as a language through which we communicate with the spiritual dimension of the universe helps explain phenomena such as how the symbolic art of modern decks (such as Wheel of Change, Shining Tribe, Daughters of the Moon, PoMo)—which may differ greatly from that of long established decks (such as Marseille, Waite-Smith, Thoth)--still "work." The new decks work, I believe, for the same reason that the established decks work: they give us a symbolic language with which to communicate with spirit.

The spiritual dimension is not biased towards Waite-Smith or Thoth. It is not biased towards using Jungian archetypes or Qabalah with your Tarot. As long as the deck is consistent within its own framework and I believe to a certain extent inspired, it will work. But even more importantly, spirit will work with whatever speaks to you most vividly. When you find the deck(s) that suit you best, you find the clearest language to share with spirit.

Copyright 2000 by Judith Laura. All Rights Reserved.

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