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Alternative Culture Articles

July 16, 2000

The Psychology of Divination
by Royce Carlson

Some years ago I was involved with a group in the study of tarot as it related to astrology and the Kabballah. Each day for a whole year we meditated on the energies of each of the cards in relation to the sun sign at the time and correlated the meanings with the ten Sephira of the Kaballah. After this year of work I began to do tarot readings just for fun. I really intended it only as a sort of parlor game and it turned out to be much more than that. I am, by nature, a skeptical person and I was amazed at the relevancy of the readings.

When a tarot reader lays out the cards to do a reading and the reading turns out to be pretty accurate, what is really going on? Mainstream science has no good explanations for it and, in fact, denies the effectiveness of such tools. Nevertheless, they work. Even a total skeptic can be amazed by the accuracy of divination systems. There are two main reasons for their effectiveness.

First, divination systems can be very effective as a mirror of the subconscious. The more complex the system the better the results. An astrology chart that takes into account the positions of all the planets and their relationships with each other gives us a system with millions of possible elements that are supposed to be significant. As the interpreter of the chart recounts the meanings of each celestial relationship, the person being read for (the client) will latch onto the meanings that they feel a connection to and the other ones will go right by, unnoticed and not remembered. Thus people can use astrology as a mirror of their subconscious and thereby understand themselves better.

With the tarot, I found that the readings had the most relevance when the client has a fairly clear question or particular personal circumstance in mind. I would ask the client to focus on a question or circumstance in a brief meditation before the reading. Then, when the reading was underway, their minds were already primed to absorb the meanings related to their question and to reject the ones that have no relevancy. This all happens below the conscious level. The subconscious does the filtering thereby making objective its reflection.

The second factor that can make divination effective is the relative psychic abilities of the reader. The emotional world is a very real world. Even though it is not measurable by scientific instruments, it is as real as the physical world. Everyone has some ability to understand this world. We wouldnít be able to relate effectively with each other at all if we were not sensitive to the ebb and flow of emotional energy. A psychic has more sensitivity to this world and can enhance the effectiveness of divination systems by applying these abilities to "see" the emotional forces at work within the client.

Even without psychic ability divination systems can be very useful. I used to do readings for myself if I was in a dilemma about how to respond to certain issues in my life. I would focus the situation in my mind and then lay out the tarot cards in a ten-card spread to get the maximum complexity. I would read the tarot to show all the forces at work around the situation so I could see the situation more clearly. Then I would throw the I Ching for a recommendation on how to proceed. I found this a very effective way to concentrate on a problem and then come up with a solution. Not much "magic" here, but very useful, nonetheless. Even knowing that it was my subconscious doing the work, and not the cards, didnít diminish the effectiveness of using these divination tools.

So, the next time you see someone throw some runes or read chicken entrails, donít throw it all out as nonsense. These tools work although not for the reasons some people think.


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Royce Carlson