Why Does It Work?

Some revelations are of God:
some revelations are of man:
and some revelations are of the devil.
1

To answer the question, I don’t know.

I’ve heard cool explanations such as, “Shuffling puts your aura into the cards”. Or, “Letting go of your analytical mind (e.g. by using your left hand) allows the subconscious to manipulate the cards. My subconscious is good, but I don’t know that it is that good.

I’ve heard skeptical explanations, of it being a type of free association prompted by random illustrations.  Or that it is a type of “cold reading“. 2 If it is “cold reading”, why do the cards keep coming up so damn accurately in so many readings.

But given that we don’t know why or how it works, there are some things we can say about it.

First is that the Tarot is not mechanistic.

We Shuffle the cards to put them into non-determinable quasi random pattern. And people frequently use the clumsier left hand to shuffle, controlled by the right, less linear hemisphere of the brain.

Something is going on, but what.

It is not of God. At least in the sense that we think of religion, church, and scripture. God is not revealing his will through the cards. Thank goodness, because that would make a Tarot reading an awfully restricting activity.

I think this is why so many religious people are afraid of Tarot. If it is not of God, then to their mind there can be only one other possibility. And that is even less attractive than the first.

But I don’t get the feeling that guides, demons, angels, or any other non-corporeal, or even corporeal, beings are affecting the cards. I know some would like it to be so, but it’s not.

I think it is just you and me, the reader and readee. Here in the big middle. It’s an act of pure will.

The most magical (or Magickal) thing that happens in the reading, happens before the reader lays out the first card. Frequently by someone that has never, or only rarely, ever touched a deck before.  That magic is to shuffle the deck so it’s ready for a reading.

What is the admonition given at the beginning of a reading?  The reader usually says something like, “Concentrate on your problem or issue, and shuffle the cards until you are ready to stop.” The readee concentrates his will on the issue at hand, while performing a chaotic act (shuffling), using intuition to stop.

How more clear could it be. An act of will successfully accomplished by anyone, without any training whatsoever, all done without thinking about it.

Someone this very hour, perhaps this very minute, somewhere is successfully shuffling a deck for the very first time.  And they are almost certainly thinking that the wonder and mystery of a Tarot reading is beyond them.

Of course, the reader’s will has more than a little something to do with it too.

The Magician Tarot Card.


1 Joseph Smith, History of the Church 2:279.

2 Your normal psychologist is doing nothing much more complicated than “cold reading”. And nobody questions their validity.  I’ve routinely seen psychics give dead on readings after a brief glimpse of a readee, with eyes closed during the rest of it. Tarot isn’t any harder.  Plus, see this by Raven.

What is the sense of reading for another person? Merely to show off what a great Tarot reader you are? How you can know all kinds of things just from the cards? Does it really matter whether your insights are from the cards alone, or from ‘cold reading’, or from a combination of both?

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