Tarot is a spiritual path. People in the tarot community know this, but people outside the tarot community often do not realize it. Like religion, tarot is (or can be) a spiritual compass, a tool for understanding our lives within a spiritual framework and for developing into a more compassionate and ethical person. But why have I chosen tarot (and reiki and other energy work) as a part of my particular path instead of choosing, for example, to enter a seminary and become a minister?
I feel it’s worth exploring this topic because many of the people around me don’t understand why I’m making some of the life changes that I am currently making. I don’t think many people realized that I was being called toward a spiritual life, as a vocation, or that I considered the path of the seminary and ministry. I was keeping those ideas to myself until I made a decision. Below are my reasons for choosing my current course of action instead. If you are a minister, rabbi, or lama yourself, don’t take this personally — I deeply respect your path and your life choices.
1. I am a nonbeliever in monotheism (though if you are a believer, I think that’s wonderful too). This may surprise people who have heard me say that I will keep them in my prayers. How can I be such a big believer in prayer when I don’t believe in God? You might find me referring to “the universe,” but I don’t mean God. I view the universe as diverse, full of multiplicity. So I believe in buddhas, bodhisattvas, angels, etc., and I believe in the power of prayer, but not in one God. I still might, someday, opt for a Buddhist seminary, but I could never enter a monotheistic one. For those of you who scoff at tarot and yet still believe in a single all-knowing, all-powerful God, I have to wonder what your thinking is. Frankly, people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. Though not everything I believe can be verified scientifically, we do know scientifically that the world is diverse and that many aspects of reality are not visible to the naked eye. To me, the idea that fairies might exist seems like far less of a fairy tale than the existence of a monotheistic God does. If you believe in God, please don’t misunderstand me: I’m not making fun of your beliefs, just saying that I find your beliefs as implausible as you find mine. Of course, I will still respect those beliefs. Will you respect mine?
2. I will never be a preacher. I don’t have the personality for spiritual leadership. I have more the personality of a craftsperson. I believe in ethics and morality, but I don’t believe in judging people, or in telling them what they should do (even when I KNOW what they should do, I think they should come to that decision on their own). I won’t preach a sermon. It’s just not my personality. My role is to offer support, comfort, balance, and calm, to help the people I work with to become grounded and centered and to feel empowered to make their own good choices. Like the work that ministers do, my work is based on spiritual beliefs and a serious set of ethics, but I’m not remotely interested in leading a congregation. I’d rather get to work making an offering. If you are the leader of a congregation, I think that’s wonderful and hope you continue in that role. It’s just not for me.
3. Tarot is interactive, and that appeals to me. I have plenty of faith. I’m full to the gills with it. Yet, I still crave a practice that allows me to touch base with the spiritual side of life regularly. I like the regular reassurance of asking the cards a question and being certain to receive an answer that, though it might not be the answer I wanted, will still be sure to steady and ground me.
Prayer and meditation are interactive, too (by interactive, I mean, interactive with the spiritual side of life), and so is energy work. And you can do all that and be a minister and not a tarot reader. So what’s the difference? I guess it’s that the messages from tarot come through stronger and seem more unmistakable, to me. Tarot gives the universe a chance to deliver messages that are more pointed. Though that’s not to say that the universe can’t find non-tarot methods for delivering strong messages as well.
4. When I think about going back to school, I feel like the angels are rolling their eyes at me. More education seems like a cop-out, a procrastination strategy, when the world needs more spiritual workers right NOW. For me, going back to school would be a shy person’s strategy for hiding out and delaying having to talk to people in the real world. My Buddhist name translates as “lake of dharma,” and the truth is that my wisdom — my dharma, if you’re comfortable calling it that — should be offered to others, not hoarded in my hermit’s cave. I don’t mean that as an arrogant statement. Groundwater, lake water, rainwater, whatever kind of dharma is in the well — I didn’t make this wisdom, I’m just collecting it and sharing it. I am merely pulling up buckets of wisdom out of my well and offering them to whomever may find them useful or helpful.
5. Tarot is accessible. Many people who want spiritual support either are nonbelievers, like me, or are believers who aren’t members of a congregation and/or who can’t get the support they need from their formal congregation. There are lots and lots of people out on the margins of society who don’t want to be organized in a group, especially when it comes to their spirituality. Those people need sustenance for their spirits as much as churchgoers do.
6. This path chose me. I didn’t really have much of a choice in the matter! And if you don’t understand that, I can’t explain it.
Now I’ll probably get yelled at by people on both sides: atheists and secularists upset with me because I don’t think tarot is a joke, and religious conservatives predicting lightning is about to strike me (it never has before, but we’ll see!). Oh well. That’s what happens when you try to pick a spot that is in the middle and on the margins, both, at the same time!
“Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself. I am large, I contain multitudes.” –Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass