Occasionally I do Tarot readings at informal work gatherings, as I believe in Tarot’s potential to keep us infinitely more entertained than if we had to sit and yak superficially about jobs and politics over cheap wine. A friend and colleague, logician and philosopher Patrick Rowan Blackburn, invited a few of the teaching hordes at our university for curries. He wanted to say: ‘Thank god the exams are over and we have all learned something new about our working place.’
The evening unfolded with topics ranging from strategies of survival, being in an under-appreciated business – and strategies of resistance. We all made our contributions. Mine always consist in insisting that we must keep engaging with the most irrelevant subjects, the stuff that will not make us popular, that won’t sell, and will leave everyone wondering about our state of sanity, things such as the smallest infinities in computational logic, Shakespeare, the neo-Platonists, and Marx as a Tarotist.
So I do a few readings in front of witnesses while appreciating people’s genuine and candid approach to the cards, both in terms of offering insights and in terms of offering tears. We go from serious questions to silly questions. But as with the Tarot, the end result is always one of utmost truth. The Tarot moves the querent subjects, and I don’t even need to exercise my psychoanalytical skills to see that the one who asked: ‘What will I have for breakfast on my 70th birthday, 20 years from now?’ got an answer that he took seriously, which placed him over the moon.
Justice, The Hermit, and The Sun each contributed their fictitious reality to the equally fictitious future of this man – which we all otherwise imagine as real. I said to him: ‘Well, as you can see it for yourself, the minute you’ll open your eyes in the morning, you’ll think: Gosh, it’s my birthday, another formal occasion that I would so like to avoid. I’d much rather stay under the warm duvet and meditate. But no, the family will come running, wishing heartily: ‘Happy birthday to you, now let’s begin the day with some toast’ – one cannot be mistaken about what that huge burning disk on the card of the Sun refers to in this context. He touched my hand and said: ‘This is good, isn’t it?’ ‘Indeed it is’, I replied. He was happy with his reading, and we moved on to the next subject.
The cards were also clear here: ‘What you’re imagining about this relationship, which fascinates you beyond words, isn’t really happening. Rather, it weighs you down in depression and obsession. You need to see the truth and cut the subjugating and redundant bond.’ The 3 cards, The Moon, The Devil, and Justice have thus spoken their reality and the woman got the message. I heard her girlfriend behind her, a PhD student, tell her: ‘I told you so’. Score two for the Tarot.
Another wanted to play Star Wars and inquired about the Force: ‘Will I know the Dark Force?’ He is already in touch with his inner Darth Vader. His breathing demonstrated this quite convincingly. The cards answered: The Magician, The Fool,The Charioteer.
‘Yes, yes’, he yelled, before I got to say anything. I like it when this happens, as this is how it should be: The Subject must read his own cards. The Reader should only give a hint. ‘Look,’ he said to me: ‘I have all the tools I need on my table to make it happen, and I move straight into controlling the black and white horses, the two forces, light and dark.’ He was terribly excited. And for good reason.
I had to remind him, though, that his question was not about whether he can control the dark force, but whether he will know it. There’s a difference. ‘Yes,’ he said sighing, remembering his own wording of his question, ‘there’s a difference,’ and went back to assessing once more what he saw in the cards. ‘Yes,’ he said again: ‘The Fool walks about in his rags and the little lion grabs his balls. But this Magician, how does he deal with all this?’ ‘Good question,’ I said, and continued: ‘Obviously the Magician’s primary force is to make something impossible possible. He can conjure The Force, but he doesn’t know jack shit about it. When it comes down to The Force, he is a clueless, but fearless Fool. So we have The Magician’s strong will and creativity here combined with the wondrous desire of The Fool to take a leap into the unknown.’
‘But then what happens?’ I asked my enthusiastic star warrior, and answered my own question too. ‘What happens is that you run into military culture. You learn to don the appropriate costume, but by doing so you entomb your dangling and virile potency into concrete.’ ‘Yes,’ he said: ‘My God, my penis is gone.’ ‘Quite’. Another of the witnessing eyes added, pointing to how this is anticipated by the Magician already in the first card. ‘Look at that,’ he said: ‘The fancy organ is cut and held between the Magician’s fingers.’
By now we all moved to the rather unsettling image of the Charioteer as a Lord in shining armor, holding his lightsaber against the background of lace and ornament, and perhaps just about able to steer the light and dark forces, but at the same time being rather remote from actually ‘knowing’ either of these Forces.
Another witness wanted to know where the horses came from. ‘No problem,’ I said: ‘Let’s see what the Magician is looking at.’
I pulled another card and the Force itself announced its presence. My Darth Vader aspirant was rather impressed with this image. He was actually quite speechless. The only thing he managed to say was: ‘Look, the Force. That’s it. ’ ‘Yes,’ I said. ‘The Force is already within you, but what the fuck do you do to KNOW it? Go corporate on it? Discipline it militaristically the way culture and management teaches you to? Apply some reality principle to it?’ ‘Good luck,’ I said, and concluded the session. Score three.
The evening ended with profuse thanks, better insights, and a sense that some things do make more sense, infinitely more, than the ones we associate with what we call reality.
(May the Force be with you all, Patrick, Bent, Torben, Pelle, Muniza, Trine, Fatima, and the Angel of Divination, Hru.)
Note on the deck: Jean Noblet’s Tarot de Marseille, 1650, as restored by Jean-Claude Flornoy
Image above by Darth Alekseevich Vader, wiki commons.