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Beyond Fortune Telling

New Tarot for New Times

by James Wanless, PhD


bove the portal to Delphi in Greece, the greatest oracle of the ancient world, it was inscribed, "Know Thyself." That is, in fact, what oracles, like tarot, are meant to do - to give us insight into ourselves and our lives.

Unfortunately, oracles over time have become debased into "fortune telling." Perhaps in the medieval world, it was somewhat possible to make predictions, for change was not so prevalent. This is not true in today’s world where we change domiciles, partners, jobs, and lifestyles with frequent regularity. How can we predict anything in this changing 21st century world? We can’t, nor should we.

No longer a medieval fortune telling game, contemporary tarot is a spiritual and psychological tool that gives us a holistic map for how to achieve the fortunes we desire. Rather than a passive, deterministic old world process, tarot is an empowering, proactive compass for navigating our lives in this changing, complex world.

An oracle, like tarot, is a practical tool for revealing options and possibilities. This approach evolves tarot into its rightful position as a "fortune creation" process. By so doing, we are empowered, and not enslaved by the cards. We are freed and not fated.

Indeed, the modern world is full of choices. In fact, a newly emergent human dilemma is the ever increasing variety and complexity of life options we face. How do we make our decisions? Often we guide our lives according to how others do. Almost unconsciously, we follow these models of behavior.

Tarot takes us beyond the "herd mentality." The very organizational structure of a tarot deck gives us a viable roadmap of timeless and universal truths for how to choose and live the "whole life." Very few such personal maps exist, and tarot may be the most exquisite and appropriate for the 21st century.

Tarot is a rich and holistic map of the psyche that says through its 78 Cards that we have at least 78 different aspects of ourselves that we need to consciously with intention live out in order to be whole - to be happy, healthy, holy, and wealthy. The purpose of tarot is to become all of ourselves through its symbolic and archetypal picture story of the human journey.

In our world today of change, uncertainty, speed, complexity, diversity and even chaos, how do we make correct decisions to navigate our lives? While the oracle of tarot gives us a general map of possibilities, it is our own personal intuition - an immediate and comprehensive little feeling within - that points the way. Tarot is a tool designed for tapping our natural intuition, for we must intuit what the cards mean to us personally. Intuition is naturally catalyzed by the picture symbols on the cards. And in following our intuition we live authentically in our own truth, which gives us the best opportunity to succeed. Only in our personal authenticity can we find our way to the ultimately fulfilling life.

Picture-symbols, as in the tarot, have always been triggers for intuition, as well as for new ideas and powerful perspectives. As Aristotle wrote, "The soul never thinks without a picture." The power of the tarot is in the power of the image which sparks our imagination. Picture or metaphoric thinking through tarot is a tried and true way for innovations that work. I have used tarot numerous times with businesses as an intuitive strategic planning tool and brainstorming process.

But neither the tarot map, nor our intuition or imagination get us where we want to go in life.. We must walk the talk and take action on the suggested journey. As it is said, "A vision without action is a hallucination." Enlightened tarot is about acting upon the wisdom of the cards. We must meet the forces of the universe half way by our own steps to co-create what we want.

The beauty of tarot is that its images have the power to inspire! They move us into action through the deep seated archetypal images before our eyes. I always keep the cards out that appear in my readings to be reminded of what needs to be done. In fact, I will never repeat the same reading over again unless I have acted on the previous reading. And every day, it is my ritual to pick my "action card" for the day. If you do this over a period of time with a particular focus, I guarantee that something good will happen. I call this the "ritual of results."

So, 21st century tarot places the user, not the cards nor an outside reader, with the responsibility for directing their lives. We choose how we respond to the cards. This is so different from the old world way of doing tarot, where we place the power over our lives in the hands of the cards or a card reader. Tarot is not a magic bullet that solves our issues for us. In fact, when we consult the tarot, we are choosing a process of taking more responsibility for ourselves.

In this modern tarot practice, the cards only assist us in our choices, by giving us insight, which is information. Tarot is an information resource. With that knowledge, we are better prepared to make better decisions. If the cards reveal things that we don’t want to see, then we are prepared to prevent and preempt them, which we have the power to do. If we like what we see, then we are inspired to fulfill their promise. We have the choice to either say yes or no to the cards. Information is power, so tarot is ultimately an empowerment process.

And since it is information that comes to us through the mystery and surprise of selecting the cards facedown, we break through our habitual ways of thinking. It’s truly an "aha!" game that frees our mind to explore a whole new menu of different possibilities. The cards show us a new way of thinking about ourselves that unlocks the box of our own perceptual limitations and narrowness. Once, in doing a personal consultation for a CEO of a company who wanted to focus the reading on profits, his card, "Love," enabled him to see what he had been blind to before - that his employees’ emotional fulfillment at work was a breakthrough way of gaining greater productivity, and hence, profits.

Another reason tarot is an appropriate roadmap for our new times is that, as the cards we select are always changing, they mirror back to us our own changing consciousness and circumstances. The cards keep us on our toes, constantly reminding us to keep up, stay flex-able, be change-able and response-able. As we change and adapt, we not only survive, but we grow and evolve. The map of tarot is fluid and ever-changing, as must we.

Central to this modern oracular technology of change are the questions we ask. Without good questions, there are no good answers. As Albert Einstein once said, "The formulation of the question is far more important than the answer." Modern tarot is question based. As a professional tarot consultant, my most important job is to come up with questions and the right questions for the client. Actually, the 78 cards in a tarot deck give us the essential 78 questions of life. For example, the number one tarot card, the Magician, brings up the question for all of us, "what’s your magic?’ If you can answer that and live your magic, then all else in life falls into place.

Tarot becomes, in this approach, a means for developing our curiosity, the cardinal principle for successful living. From questing for answers through acting upon our curiosity, we gain experience - our greatest teacher. If you don’t have any questions or are not on a quest, don’t do the tarot... watch the ballgame, drink a Bud, and die on the couch.

This may all sound fine, but I am frequently asked, "What about all those negative cards with swords and people spilling blood all over the place? First, there are tarot decks these days that have replaced the old medieval symbols. For example, the deck I created, Voyager Tarot, has converted swords into crystals, and the evil Devil into the celebratory Dionysius. And, in fortune creation tarot, the so-called "negative" cards are to be seen as positive catalysts. Such cards are wake up calls, they alert us to a lesson that must be learned. I always say that these "caca" cards are fertilizer for growth, so compost them. Use the negatives to positively move through your obstacles and challenges. In such a way, tarot is a wondrous teacher and growth path. Each year on my birthday, I pick a card for the coming year’s opportunity. This year it was the Five of Worlds, "Setback." Instead of crying or putting the card back to select another better one, I have chosen to see it as a constant reminder that in every setback there is an opportunity. Just this one insight has made my life vastly richer and more positive.

This highly conscious approach to tarot transforms it from gypsy-like hocus pocus into a real spiritual and personal growth practice. It opens our minds and hearts, and confers responsibility and power into our own hands. High level tarot is about helping us be all that we are meant to be and can be.

The next time you want some guidance, ask a question, pick a card, intuit the answer, and take action.

James Wanless, PH.D. (Columbia University Political Science) was a distinguished university professor in the Middle East when he experienced a life-threatening disease which led to a spiritual transformation. He relinquished his academic career and began to share his new found wisdom and inspiration by teaching groups how to live happy, healthy, holy, and wealthy. He is a pioneer of new thinking recognized for weaving timeless wisdom into modern life with intuitive tools and symbolic systems. With his magical blend of personal charisma, humor, and pragmatic enthusiasm, this prodigious explorer of consciousness engages his audience in a transformative experience that inspires and enlightens. James is also a co-founder of Primal Arts Playhouse located in Carmel Valley, California, and founder of Merrill West Publishing. www.voyagertarot.com 800-676-1256 James is a corporate shaman, truly a "bridge between worlds". The complete descriptions for his New England workshops can be found at www.SoulJourneying.com


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