Mea Culpa, Baby . . . Maybe

I appreciate the expression mea culpa. It has a contrite, confessional ring to it that in this imperfect world may in fact only be, like the Tarot de Marseille stage-magician’s averted glance, an attempt to deflect critical scrutiny (call it moral sleight-of-hand). Bring attention to the little sins and let the big ones go so you can get on with business. (Politicians do it all the time: “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain,” the Wizard of Oz thundered). In my case I’ve been thinking about how my practice of doing missing-person readings, where there is no “sitter” present to handle the cards, differs from trying to suss out the love life of someone living in California from my New Hampshire home. Neither case meets my subconscious induction model of “how tarot works,” so I may be skirting the borders of sophistry in my argument against the latter.

As I see it, the distinction lies in the abstract, almost clinical, nature of the cold-case reading, where I’m trying to run my mental fingers through the fabric of the Universal Mind (what Plato called the “Soul of the Universe” and we now term the “Collective Unconscious”) and sort out any tenuous strands of meaning that may resemble truth in the matter under consideration. The impersonal quality of this endeavor places it more in the realm of scientific experiment than the “warm-and-fuzzy” tone of the more curious fortune-telling consultation. (“If divination with cards is truly effective, show me a sign!”)

The “fluffy bunny” school of tarot interpretation holds that there are no bad cards, and that anything can be turned to one’s advantage with enough faith in the good will of the Universe. (See my previous post on the “Pangloss Syndrome.”) I side more with James Ricklef, who said “There are no bad cards, only necessary ones.” (Forgive me here, but I get the wickedly vivid image of a fast-food purveyor of “fried-rabbit-on-a-stick” trying to sweeten the deal for skeptical customers: “Hey, you want some fluff with that bunny?”) Bad things still do happen to good people, and the cards have no reservation about pointing that out if read with complete honesty. Empowerment comes from acquainting the querent’s mind with the possibility of less-than-desirable results, hopefully sparking personal initiative in proactively managing their affairs to cope; there seems to be little value in blandly asserting that “all is (or will) be right with the world” when it patently isn’t and may not be in the foreseeable future. As I always insist, my sitters know (even if only unconsciously) the hard facts of their personal reality and its most plausible extension into the future far better than I can hope to achieve from my own subconscious vantage point. My job is to get out of the way and let the cards speak, keeping my own “spin” out of the mix.

To segue (sort of) back on topic, this is far easier to do in a clinical setting than when confronted with the needy anxiety of clients who only want assurances that they are going to land on their feet. With the latter, it is tempting to take on the role of cheer-leading enabler rather than wise and impartial observer. In what is often described as a branch of the “helping professions,” it can seem uncharitable to stand back and let the cards fall where they may, but that degree of unflinching integrity and constancy of purpose is, in my less-than-humble opinion, “where the rubber meets the road.”

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