I have been interested in the tarot and spiritualism in general for a long time. More recently, my studio has been working on a game called Where the Water Tastes Like Wine, which heavily features the tarot.
This post will most heavily focus on Tarot, but I would like to say that these arguments can be applied to any spiritualist practice. Often these practices are dismissed for their lack of scientific basis. I would like to start off by saying that I personally do not believe that the Tarot is somehow mystically guided by spirits or mystic powers beyond my understanding. I don’t believe that anything concrete can be determined about me based on the alignment of the stars when I was born, ie astrology. However, I do not think that these practices are without merit simply because they are not scientifically based. I think that reading the tarot, or learning about astrological signs can lead to real and better understandings of ourselves and our lives.
To me, tarot, like other practices, is a tool by which we are encouraged to think of our actions and lives in a different light. It is a way to take a step back and see things from a different perspective that might bring clarity to a situation. A tarot reading won’t tell you any solid facts that you don’t already know, but it may help you to sort out your emotions and thoughts to find what is significant, so that you can make better decisions.
The cards that come up in a tarot reading may not be guided by spirits and may be completely and utterly random, but literally anything that comes up in a tarot reading can have significance for the querent. Say someone goes to get a tarot reading and expresses that they are worried about whether or not they call their mom enough. Then say a tarot card for suffering comes up, such as the 9 of Swords. This can be interpreted in any way that seems relevant to the person getting the reading. Maybe they feel so much guilt over not calling their mom that they are causing themselves unnecessary stress. In which case, they should either stop worrying about it because they are worrying needlessly, or just call and alleviate their guilt. But perhaps that isn’t it, maybe the suffering depicted is how the querent’s mom makes them feel whenever they call her. Maybe she is naggy and harps on all the mistakes her child has made whenever they call her. In which case, it is obvious that in order to avoid this suffering, they shouldn’t call her. Or maybe the suffering is how the mother feels, not getting enough attention from her children. Maybe she is lonely now in her empty nest and just wants her children to call her. In which case, they should definitely call their mom.
This is an very very overly simplified example, but that is basic gist of the idea. The meaning of any card can be relevant to any situation. The tarot is merely a tool to encourage one to think about a problem in a variety of ways, and from different perspectives. It allows you to connect meaning and significance to abstract concepts in your head that you may not have known were there in the first place. For example if you feel this vague sense of dread and anxiety but don’t know why, then say you get the Death card, and realize you are just dreading getting older. The card, though having nothing to do with actual death, has helped you to identify the source of your anxiety. And now that the demon has a face, you can punch it.
In conclusion, just because some things have no scientific basis, doesn’t mean they are not useful in helping us to perceive the world in a more truthful manner.