“I don’t need no steenkin’ books! My intuition sees all.”
(Alternatively, “I talk to angels.”)
Frankly, as a story-teller, if all I gave my Muse to work with was my presumptive groping after what I vaguely supposed the people in the cards might be up to within the context of the reading, she would run down the road screaming and tearing her hair out. Effective story-telling requires substance, not tissue-thin assumptions based on free-association from the images, even if it only comes in the form of metaphor and analogy derived from social, cultural or historical common ground. I would argue that diviners who never crack a tarot book aren’t reading the essence of the cards so much as foraging eyeball-deep in their own subconscious navel lint. The literature provides deep reservoirs of accumulated meaning that serve as a wellspring of useful material for narrative wordsmithing, and a reliable interpretive touchstone when the psychic channels run dry. I love an unexpected flash of pure insight as much as anyone, but I don’t count on it happening every time with every card in a spread. Most of the time I would rather trust my workmanlike understanding of the fundamentals, fleshed out with inspiration, imagination and ingenuity drawn from my own experiential storehouse, than a vagrant whim that may or may not have anything whatsoever to do with the querent’s personal reality. Intuitive guesswork feeding off the reader’s own lop-sided preconceptions about the matter in question could very well be the worst case.
Joseph Maxwell had a very clear-eyed view of the proper role of intuition in cartomancy:
“Harnessing the restless steeds of the intuition and making them do their work properly is the seer’s primary difficulty. To do this, it is necessary to form a picture of how the sitter’s thoughts and feelings affect him, or her, in order of importance or intensity.
The sitter usually needs help to do this, and the best method is to inspect the spread of cards, and then, in the way taught by experience and inspiration, give a general outline of the probabilities. Specific orientation occurs when observation of the sitter shows some matter of importance has been touched. This is an essential procedure because the variety and complexity of ideas stemming from each arcanum are immense. Moreover, the general sense of the reading, or part of a reading, will have an overall connotation that gives it relevance; without knowing what this connotation is, the cartomant, however gifted, may be in the dark. Material concerns, family matters or career each demand their own perspective and the reading must be aligned to it.
Intuition is a good guide, but in the interest of making a full and helpful divination, it is necessary to verify with the enquirer at each step if the intuition is taking the right path.
Useful though rational perception may be to the cartomant, it is only an adjunct to the gift of vaticination, that is, the faculty of being able to read the information possessed by the enquirer about his past, present and future. Coming events cast a shadow before them; each individual has a presentiment about his own destiny, which may remain latent: the normal processes of consciousness do not include such presentiments.
To understand the presence in each individual of a detailed record of personal consciousness it is necessary to take into account the fact that an individual being exists, as it were, on several planes simultaneously, or is capable of so doing. What is loosely termed the subconscious is actively interleaved with the astral levels; the mental and intellectual processes, emanating from the intelligence, link themselves in a living web to the spiritual levels.”