What you say, not what how you say it

‘It’s not what you say but how you say it that matters,’ they say, and I’m not sure about what is presupposed here: That we prefer feeling good to the truth? – I presuppose myself now that we’re dealing with truth not with an abusive situation in this case.

I often think of this, especially since my whole career is built on teaching.

I’ve written lately about how I prefer the sword to the cup, but as I was going through some old student material, I pondered on my own consistency. I never appeal to feeling. I appeal to cognition and the capacity a student has to see precisely where I’m going. That’s the aim. Feeling doesn’t interest me in the slightest, as I see no reason to treat feeling as if it has any substance whatsoever. It doesn’t.

Cognition, on the other hand, leads to clarity when time is invested in seeing what’s what beyond any emotional engaging.

I thought I’d share here a snippet of the kind of interaction that I have with students, stressing the significance of ‘what you say’ over and above ‘how you say it’.

Said student in response to an assignment regarding the reading of a 3-card spread.

The question and the cards:

“How do you know whether you should give time for your work context to improve, or if it’s hopeless and time to move on?”

Lovers, Pope, Justice

Jean Noblet Marseille Tarot as reconstructed by Jean-Claude Flornoy

The student’s analysis:

“So pragmatic it hurts. There is a dual element in every card, and the obvious “choice” card at the beginning. I see urgency of decision. Should the central character of L’Amoureux not move, he will get an arrow through the head.

If the Pope is giving a blessing, it is for both people, and the scales of Justice are even. These elements combined seem to spell no privileged path.

As for the HOW, the actual process of decision, I see the blindfolded Cupid as an invitation to using intuition. I would stay away from emotions as a factor as it has L’Amoureux in a hesitant flutter. The Pope being listened to with attention suggests giving weight to what mentors or whatever authority figure are saying in the process. Justice (not blindfolded) could then sum up and cool-heatedly weigh that information.

In sum, I would read that all available resources should be used in the process of that decision, highlighting outside advice and minimizing the value of emotion in the process. It seems that any choice could lead to a workable solution, however a direction must inevitably be taken. ”

What I said:

“This one is a convoluted one, due to your muddling the issues. On one hand you want to know something about what is at stake in the process of making a decision. On the other hand, you want to relate it to a specific work situation that can be answered by doing a 3-card side by side: One set for ‘should I stay’ and another for ‘should I go’.

Things here get muddled because you’re mixing two narratives that are not on the same plane.

It’s better to make up your mind about what you really want to ask.

Asking, ‘how do I know…’ and then answering it with a discourse about decision-making that’s actually quite abstract and philosophical is not very helpful.

The cards can address both your concerns, but for tightness of precision, it’s better to see them answering separately.

How do I know… can here be answered by saying that you know if you listen first to what the authorities say.

How does the head (of church, hospital, etc) work with the law? (this can be logistics, the ethical board, or some other official board).

What do they say? How are they in conversation?

And how do you think it will impact ‘little you’ (the Lover caught between opinions)?

By the looks of these cards, there are officials above your head that don’t even know of your existence. Or, to be fair, the Pope may speak on behalf of his disciples, but he’s not focussed on any of them as such. His eyes are on Justice, as if almost saying: ‘Can I do this?’

Justice doesn’t care much about (spiritual) arguments. So there may be conflict there that’s not for you to resolve.

Secondly, if it’s for you to know whether work is worth it here or not, we have the same situation with the cards.

You’re up against higher suits. You can wait and see what they decide, and then you make your move in accordance. Anything else would be unwise.

So my point is that you don’t have much agency here (unless you see yourself as one of the suits), hence figuring out what is at stake in the act of decision is an exercise in sophistry.”

Diplomacy or fencing?

As you can see from this example, what I said had priority over how I put it. That’s the kind of teaching that I deliver.

In any encounter, we can engage the art of diplomacy, but as far as I’m concerned, whenever that happens, I always ask myself first: What is the purpose of it?

More often than not, I reject diplomacy and stick to the nasty cut. It’s more honest.

The Marseille Foundation Course is open for registration until tomorrow. Check it out if student-driven work and merciless feedback is what interests you in your learning how to read with the Marseille cards.

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3 thoughts on “What you say, not what how you say it

  1. John Roberts says:

    Your student’s analysis is convoluted, and in the many twists and turns it basically says nothing. Perhaps you are confusing your students with the method being taught. If the method is clear, shouldn’t the student be able to render a clear analysis which leads to an accurate prediction? Something is amiss.

    And……….. as an after thought, swords are not about thought, this is a misconception that is handed down from one tarot reader to another. Swords are spades. Spades are delays, obstacles, misery and suffering. Even though spades are part of life, no one wants them.

  2. Camelia Elias says:

    John, it may well be that the method I teach is no good. But this post is not about my method. It’s about a student’s question, her answer, and what I said to help her see sharper.

    As to your afterthought. The very backbone of my teaching is to teach cards by considering their exact function. Symbolic meaning interests me only marginally. By function I mean this: with a sword you cut, and with a spade you dig. Whether this ‘means’ delays, obstacles, misery and suffering has no interest to me outside of the context in which we read the cards. I don’t dig arbitrary meanings raised to some holy cow of cartomancy.

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