Many people believe that the tarot can answer any question, big or small (true, in a qualified way), and that the mere act of asking will deliver an unconditional solution to their problem, gift-wrapped and duty-free, into their anxiously waiting hands (less certain in many cases). They take the old “instant food” promise to heart (“Just add water”), and also its slightly irritable follow-up: “Is it soup yet?” Experienced readers tend to believe that they can offer a glimpse of future trends or possibilities (and on good days, probabilities), but that the satisfactory outcome of any reading rests with the querent’s willingness and ability to follow through on the advice given via the cards. Anything of value has a price attached to it, and as has been famously said (ad nauseum), “There ain’t no free lunch.” (Fans of the Law of Attraction can stop reading here.)
I just read an interesting article on the Lorian Association’s blog by contributing writer Freya Secrest, in which she described her life-long reluctance to ask questions because of her fear of having to deal with the “whole ecology” of the answers (in other words, all of their ramifications and potentially unpleasant “fallout”). Although she didn’t use it, the caveat “Don’t ask if you really don’t want to know” comes to mind.
In the essay she did quote a passage from Rainer Maria Rilke’s book Letters to a Young Poet that seemed especially relevant to the subject of this post and to the practice of divination in general:
“Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”
We acknowledge that a question that isn’t carefully framed is less likely to produce a meaningful result. But it goes much deeper than that. In horary astrology, a crucial preliminary to casting a chart is establishing a valid “need to know.” This automatically rules out idle curiosity questions that have no direct bearing on the querent’s personal circumstances, things like “Is the boss having an affair with his secretary?” unless the boss’s foul mood from a failed “night before” incites wrathful “morning after” office conduct.
This is one of the reasons I generally avoid answering romance questions. So many of them are thinly-veiled substitutes for developing the nerve to go find out for oneself whether someone else “likes” you, or its sly euphemism, “thinks or feels” anything about you. Back in the day, we used to call this a “cop-out.” These querents aren’t truly “living the question,” they’re just looking for an edge so they don’t appear foolish if they ultimately have to “live the answer” when it doesn’t align with their fondest hopes. At one point in time, the socially acceptable approach to this quandary was to ask “a friend of a friend” of the person of interest, always from a safe distance. It may be human nature to avoid embarrassment at all costs, but closing one’s eyes to the very real possibility of disappointment, crossing one’s fingers for luck, and just coyly posing this kind of question to the diviner amounts to self-deception at best and outright dishonesty at worst, especially if done repeatedly. I’m not in the business of engaging with and helping to fuel anyone’s romantic fantasies, even if it means turning down a fee. There are much more worthwhile uses for the time I spend with the cards.