Those who believe they have arrived at mastery of the tarot would be well advised to heed this Terry Pratchett quote from his book, Monster Regiment:
“The presence of those seeking the truth is infinitely to be preferred to the presence of those who think they’ve found it.”
In my experience, tarot divination is a lifetime study and practice that evolves from day-to-day, presenting unique facets with every reading. Its infinite permutations (well, actually 4,566,176,969,818,463,700 in a 10-card draw) are as subtle and variable as the human condition it attempts to portray. I like to say that I learn at least one new thing every time I read for another person, which isn’t far from the truth. This is all the more remarkable because I’ve been doing it for so long. But from a depth-of-knowledge standpoint I still consider myself a lifelong student and accomplished journeyman at the feet of history’s acknowledged masters. I suspect, though, that Pratchett was probably right: given his reputation, Aleister Crowley’s presence was most likely insufferable.
Converging on such absolute mastery but not actually getting there is as close as most of us will ever come in a single lifetime. Outside of contemplation and reinforcement through repetition, there is no “magic bullet” that will secure it for us any faster. In my opinion, the journey is more compelling than the destination anyway. As a medium of communication with elements of performance art, it invites shared exploration of the awareness and insights hidden within a querent’s subconscious through the symbolic agency of the cards. Becoming expert in the underlying system of knowledge might even be considered secondary to cultivating the talents of a master storyteller, propelled by the intuitive “triple threat” of imagination, inspiration and ingenuity.
The earmark of a seasoned tarot reader lies not so much in the ability to navigate complex spreads with ease – although that certainly comes with time – as in demonstrating the sound judgment required to sort the interpretive wheat from the chaff. Not every card carries equal weight in a reading, and consistently determining where to place the most emphasis is a consummate skill that takes years and considerable experience to get right more often than not. For me, connecting with my sitter at this broader level of concurrence is more valuable than trying to get every single detail correct in order to claim success. It reflects that the reading is heading in the right direction overall, regardless of what may emerge from the specifics of the narrative; that can be worked into the larger puzzle during the ongoing dialogue. Bringing it all together in a seamless and satisfying whole – as always, in the eyes of the client – is what separates the top-notch reader from the nearly so.