Having just returned from a conference in Malta that I attend every year – organized in different countries by the PsyArt foundation and the PsyArt Journal that I have the honor of serving as editor-in-chief – I found myself making statements that brought my life as an academic closer to my life as a cartomancer and practitioner of the magical arts. Fair enough.
At this particular conference, as I get to meet and greet old and new friends who work with the interpretative arts, both as professors of literature and culture and often also as psychoanalysts and psychotherapists, it is almost accepted that the lesser consecrated world of semiotics through cards can make as valid an impact on people seeking advice and wisdom as some branches of psychology and even psychiatry.
While I’m disciplined enough to keep my personal narratives apart regarding my public and social life, on this occasion I found that my inner fire would go blazing arduously whenever I would refer to my work with the cards, and the art of helping others with seeing through their blind spots than when I would refer to my work as an academic, teaching and researching for the university.
On the question from friends: ‘How are you doing these days?’, I found myself disclosing bluntly to everyone interested that if I didn’t have the so-called crazy world of the cards to save me from the imbecility of the so-called rational world of the university, permeated now by obnoxious corporate language and empty rhetoric about global impact, growth and visibility, I would go insane.
But I have also found that the reason for my blazing fire whenever the cards were on the table – many times during the conference, I dare say – had to do with this simple string of realizations:
- The cards create a real connection with people.
- The cards firmly establish a space for truth to inhabit, and for trust to occur.
- The cards tell a story that goes beyond socializing.
- The cards make us shout, ‘Eureka’, or ‘I knew it’, or ‘Why didn’t I think of this?’
- The cards make people cry.
- The cards transform our nodding gestures into tears of joy or sorrow.
- The cards show us who we like and who we don’t.
- The cards give us permission to get what we love.
- The cards instruct us in the art of having.
- The cards sharply ask us to make our cuts in accordance.
- The cards tell us to stop thinking that if we cannot build bridges across, we cannot burn them either, and start anew.
- The cards teach us to pay attention: They say, ‘Look, here’s an alternative you haven’t thought of.’ We nod and say to them, ‘You bet’.
- The cards make freedom concrete.
- The cards show us what to beware of.
- The cards illuminate our strategic thinking.
- The cards give us an idea to think about.
- The cards give us courage.
- The cards help us to process information and gain wisdom.
- The cards teach us distinction: ‘There’s symbolic power and real power. Pay attention!,’ they say, and we do.
One person I’ve read the cards for at the conference went through pretty much the whole list here, and then some more, in just five minutes. Indeed I can say the same about all those I read the cards for. Is it any wonder, then, that my fire is blazing, that I always look forward to working with people who strip naked for me, and let me see their souls through the cards? No wonder at all.
The cards can make people realize that in five minutes they have gotten more out of it than in the 20 years of psychoanalysis or some other form of psychotherapy they may have gotten through – with all due respect for the profession, which I myself profess on occasion, whenever I combine prediction with the prowess of the psyche.
Prompted by some of the discussions during the conference, I have decided to spend my summer vacation pondering on symmetrical relationships, equal weight, and the two narratives I have been keeping apart. Who are the people I like and trust? Do they populate the university or do they mingle with the magical? While I like most of my academic colleagues, I find that they waste their time with claims to knowledge that no one is interested in hearing about.
So I simply want to ask myself if it’s fair that I should continue working for an environment that only makes me say: ‘I’m in it for the money, not anything else.’ I will ask myself if it’s fair that I have to waste my time on discourse that I don’t endorse and don’t believe in. I will ask myself if it’s fair that I meet suspicion and lack of largesse in the higher learning educational garden, where the higher and the learning are becoming empty words serving only bureaucracy and the god of money. There’s work to be done elsewhere.
My new cards, a facsimile of a rare Lenormand type fortunetelling device in the private collection of K. Frank Jensen, which he generously has cut for me, tell me the following, on my question about how I can tilt my inclinations more towards the environment that I prefer without compromising my intellectual integrity or giving in to the fear of poverty.
The cards speak their truth (laid out in a mirroring pattern from the center card to the exterior cards: Messenger, Woman waiting, Wicked Woman, People of the Church, A Gift):
The message is the medium, even if it disciplines. Others will want to stab your gift, but you can wait for the counter-forces to drown their blades in a loving cup, and trust that those who are like you will find you. Your spirituality has a solid method. Fear nothing.
Good luck to all who go through transformations. Keep going. Let the summer sun back you up, and shout your truths all you can. It’s the only thing that will carry you forward.
Historians date this deck to ca. 1850, but a woodcut block of this deck has been spotted in circulation and dated to 1906).
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