Predicting the Future: Prescience or Self-Projection?

There is a strong sentiment among experienced diviners that “fortune-telling” of the flatly predictive variety – while it is not exactly denounced – is an impractical and unreliable pursuit, for a couple of reasons: 1) the future is a moving target and can change regularly based on intervening circumstances not always of our own making since they may intersect with someone else’s future; and 2) predicting something can turn it into a self-fulfilling prophecy that, in the mind of the querent, may inhibit more appealing eventualities. I recently came across a better idea in my studies: use the tarot to comment on what kind of future we envision for ourselves. This puts the querent in the driver’s seat rather than becoming a mere pawn of fate. Pulling cards based on such an assumption, whether conscious or subconscious, can align the reading with the known territory of the querent’s environment and, more importantly, unroll the horizon that the individual perceives as his or her mission to expand. It’s not so much “What’s going to happen to me?” as “Who am I and what can I make of myself or my situation?”

I believe that we all hold the keys to our own future through the attitudes we adopt and the actions we undertake in the present. The cards can help to show which of those should be actively pursued and which dismissed as unproductive so we arrive at our destination mentally and physically whole. While it has an undeniable “future orientation” to it, there is nothing automatic about this projection; it shows latent opportunities or inner potentials that the querent must actualize through either specific action or astute positioning (being “in the right place at the right time”). The cards may be either salutary or cautionary, and they can be blunt or nuanced, but they are only mirrors of what we’re already subconsciously aware of in the way of developmental options. We may not consciously know it yet, but we’re already plotting our course and the cards can tap into our intentions by offering signposts by which to navigate.

I like to consider a tarot reading a kind of “roadmap” similar to an astrological horoscope. The road is symbolically laid out before us, we just have to trust and follow the signs and signals to the best of our ability, including those for both the “highways” and the “byways.” Negative or reversed cards can signify “detours” or “roadblocks” that bar the way, but more often than not they just suggest “speed-bumps” that will rattle our teeth but not prevent progress if we have a clear mental picture of the end of the journey. That journey is ideally depicted in the narrative of the reading, which acts as a metaphysical GPS telling us where to turn, although not always according to the shortest route! As many travelers learn to their chagrin, following pre-programmed directions too literally can land us in a backwater of dirt roads and dead ends. Anticipating and avoiding these errors of judgment is part of the interactive art of divination that the reader and the sitter must cooperate in to get the best results.

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