The Philosophy of Determinism and the Tarot Card
is a wonderful debate that has been raging since the days of the
Greeks about whether we have the ability to choose our actions or
not. Some say that we have what is called free will. Others insist
that all of our actions are predestined or determined by prior causes.
The free will argument is the one
most of us believe. I mean, suppose I want to raise my right hand.
I can do it or not, right? I could stand up right now and yell "hippopotamus."
Or buy that new car --yeah, the red one... convertible... These
are all choices where we consider the various possibilities and
pick the outcome we want, right? The simplest form of the free will
position ( lovingly referred to as naive free will) says we are
completely the masters of our destiny-- all of our responses to
life's stimuli are conscious choices we make. An old proponent of
this was John Locke ( of life, liberty and property fame) who said
when we are born we are all "blank slates" that we then
write our future on them.
But, argue the determinism folks,
(and this one starts to sound like the old silent tree falling in
the forest stuff) suppose every thought and action you take IS determined
and predestined? Then it is predestined that you will believe that
you have free will even though you don't. It's predestined that
you will argue that all things are not determined. Heck. It's predestined
that I'll type this article and that you'll read it! And say "
what a bunch of cr@p!"
So where does this whacky determinism
idea come from? Are these guys smoking old gym socks? Hang in there
and you'll see that they have a point. What's more, as science (oops
the "s" word again) advances, the determinists are gaining
more and more ground. You see, science is really into this "cause
and effect" thing. A billiard ball (and all science comes down
to the study of billiard balls) --anyway, a billiard ball doesn't
decide to just roll across the table on it's own volition. It has
to be hit with another billiard ball to initiate the trip. And since
we're all made of of tiny billiard balls -- we call them atoms--
each of the atoms can't move without a prior cause. Some other atom
has to give it a smack to get it going. So chemicals-- bunches of
atoms-- can't react without a prior reaction to get them going.
This keeps growing until leaves falling, winds blowing the sun shining,
etc. are all predetermined from the beginning of time by the first
reaction that happened.
(hmmm... I wonder what caused the
Anyway, so far, free will rules!
I mean in the law, art, human relationships, religion we all depend
on our ability to be in control of -- and responsible for -- our
own actions. How can you blame someone if what they did was determined
by two atoms making out at the dawn of time?
But slowly determinism is creeping
up on us. Already we are finding that your personality and your
reaction to other people can be caused -- determined -- by the chemical
balances in your brain. I can see the trial now: "not guilty
because of not enough neurotransmitters!" Or "Sally your
pheromones are really causing a rise in my endorphins! Will prior
events in the universe cause you to marry me?"
So think about it... As if you had
Anyway, back to the real subject.
It turns out the Tarot Deck is a wonderful example of determinism!
You buy a brand new deck and take it out of the box and guess what?
Every deal that you deal thereafter is completely determined by
how you handle the cards! you shuffle them three times, cut the
deck and deal. The order in which the cards appear is completely
caused by your shuffles and cut. Then you scoop up all the cards
and put them away in the box, in an order determined by how you
scoop them up. Later you shuffle and deal. This next deal is controlled
by the first shuffle and deal that you made as well as the second
one. This goes on as long as you use the deck. Each Tarot spread
you deal is determined by all the previous Tarot spreads you have
Spooky, huh? I think that is why
we should treat our Tarot cards with a touch of reverence. Not because
they're magic or anything, but because the deck at any moment includes
all the past history that the deck has been through. Every shuffle,
every reading, even that time you dropped the deck and all the cards
spilled all over the floor -- every action you take with your Tarot
deck will determine the order in which the next deal appears. When
you combine this deck "personality" with the miraculous
number of possible Tarot Spreads you discover that each reading
is a unique rare gift that is delivered to you through all the past
experiences of the Tarot enthusiasts that have enjoyed using that
deck. Your reading is the sum of the deck's past experiences with
your friends, family and acquaintances. Their shuffles, cuts and
deals determine how the cards will appear in your reading. So your
insight is the end product of the insight of those who went before
you, predetermined by each turn of a card.
Maybe it is magic after all.