I’m not a huge fan of purely intuitive tarot reading. There, I said it. It will probably be dismissed as mean-spirited literalism toward what is chiefly an elastic, visionary pursuit, but there is something too fatuously “squishy” about unmitigated intuition for my taste. I think the idea is fed to beginners as “The Way” because there is a mystique about tarot that encourages just going with your feelings, regardless of the depth of meaning underlying the symbolism in the cards. It is also a lot easier than having to study anyone else’s ideas and methods, no matter how highly esteemed they are in the field. It promotes the “learn tarot in three days” brand of hucksterism that is driving us toward the “Idiocracy” model of proficiency: “I got my PhD from Walmart!” Some forum participants have even gone so far as to state that book-learning is an impediment to creative interpretation. Although they insist they are reading the cards, the sensibilities they project are those of pure psychism.
I think I like Plato’s definition of intuition best: “a fundamental capacity of human reason to comprehend the true nature of reality.” He describes intuition as “a pre-existing knowledge residing in the soul of eternity,” and “a phenomenon by which one becomes conscious of pre-existing knowledge.” He argues that these truths are accessed using a knowledge already present in a dormant form and accessible to our intuitive capacity. This sounds a lot like Jung’s Collective Unconscious to me, and I call the process by which it is teased out “subconscious induction.” It seems to me, though, that most proponents of intuition as the supreme tool for divination don’t wield it with such philosophical or psychological precision. In the words of one of my learned friends, it’s more of a “free-for-all.”
I’m not very mystical about this stuff. I really think it’s a form of mental physics (or mentation) that we haven’t found a way to measure and quantify yet. Our waking consciousness is just the tip of the iceberg, and digging down into the subsurface layers is how we obtain the insights we seek, whether we call our source the Collective Unconscious, the Astral Plane, the Formative World, Spirit, the Divine, the Akasha or whatever. I’m less concerned about method than about results. But the more mystical things get, the less faith I have in them. It becomes like trying to push a string.
I’m not saying I don’t use intuition at all. I just don’t trust it, all by itself, to give me anything more than subjective guesswork on a regular basis. I believe I have more reliable knowledge-based tools. But rather than just swallowing intuitive impressions whole and letting them rule my reading style in their raw form, I usually try to turn them into metaphors or analogies that will make sense to my sitters. I see it as “building a bridge” that creates common ground for understanding. This is why I’ve been applying the other “I-words” in lieu of “intuition,” especially inspiration backed up with imagination and ingenuity.
Although I don’t linger there long, everything I do is cued up by the images on the cards (even if it’s only to recognize which one I’m looking at). With RWS-style decks, what I call their “narrative vignettes” submit easily to free-association, which can produce inspired insights. With the Thoth and other semi-scenic decks, it’s the color scheme and mood that bring out the non-verbal flair. I find that softening the mental focus in this way can open a window into “other states of consciousness,” and the only faculty I need to tap into it is sensitivity to its symbolic language. This is more about cultivating altered perception in an orderly way than an open-ended harvesting of intuitive notions.
I’m not so sure “openness to suggestion” qualifies as anything more than good form when trying to align ourselves with unseen forces. I think this capability is woven into the fabric of reality (yes, I know, Plato’s “soul of eternity” as the source of intuitive precognition is a rather “squishy” concept as well) and pulling the thread that unravels the mystery is what we’re all after. My methods give me bits of information I can immediately decipher, rather than vague feelings that first have to be converted into ideas in order to communicate them. Ultimately, unless we only read for ourselves and can bypass that step, our impressions have to be fashioned into words that can be understood by others, so it really comes down to a matter of rational appraisal in the end.