When someone first wants to learn how to read Tarot cards, they quickly discover how much information there is to learn. All this information creates the appearance that the Tarot is profoundly mysterious; that it will take a huge effort to uncover its secrets. In no time at all, learning to read Tarot cards becomes a puzzle; something that needs to be solved. There are so many different techniques, spreads, mythologies, and different systems that can be attributed to the Tarot, that the apparent effort involved, appears daunting.
The process of going from a beginner to expert is similar to entering a maze; a vast puzzle, made from tall hedges that appear endless beyond imagining. There are many different options available to people wanting to enter the maze. One person might stumble around the maze desperately trying to solve the puzzle by themselves. Another person might ask for a guide to help them solve the puzzle; while others panic, frightened by the enormity of the task.
A maze is a complex network of paths or passages, especially, one with high hedges, designed to puzzle and confuse those walking through it; the solver must work his or her way from the entrance of the maze to an exit, or another location. A maze should not be confused with a labyrinth.
What ever method is chosen, it’s easy to forget why you are in the maze. Some places in the maze are very appealing, and you will wish to spend a long time there, while others are dull, dark, boring and sometimes frightening. It’s easy to become fascinated by the maze; it’s easy to forget about the puzzle you are trying to solve. This is a difficult period, one that can last years; try to remember why you have entered the maze.
This article outlines three easy steps to guide you from beginner to expert. These steps won’t show you how to solve the puzzle; rather, it will show you how to burn the maze to the ground. First, we learn some techniques, second we put effort into making these techniques unconscious and third, we drop the techniques.
1. Techniques are helpful
There are several useful techniques to learn at the beginning stages of learning how to read Tarot cards. Simply pick a technique that you want to learn and learn it. The only condition on choosing the technique is to chose one that feels right to you. There are so many different techniques available that finding a technique that you click with will be relatively easy. Once you have found that right technique for you, practice it.
As with most things, techniques can save a lot of time and energy. Techniques help you learn the Tarot that much faster. Although you would get there without knowing them, it would be a long and tedious journey. However, despite the usefulness of techniques to help us learn how to give Tarot card readings, they are not ‘Tarot card readings’ in and of themselves.
For the beginner, a Tarot reading is built on techniques; the choice of what spread to use, whether or not to use reversed Tarot cards, all of these are techniques and choices the beginner needs to make. However, that is just the beginning – in the end, you will laugh! You will laugh because techniques are not Tarot card readings. Techniques are designed to be dropped the moment you understand them. Techniques are designed to help you arrive an effortless point, where reading Tarot cards becomes something that requires no thought. It is the difference between doing a Tarot card reading, and being involved in a Tarot card reading.
2. Begin with effort
In the beginning, we need to put effort into the techniques that we choose. We need to apply ourselves constantly to the learning of these techniques. This is because in the beginning, learning a technique is a doing. We want to learn these techniques so well that we will no longer need to think about them. Naturally, at the start, it will feel like effort. But if you are successful, there will be no effort; it will become natural and spontaneous; like breathing.
Everything the mind does is effort. In Zen, the emphasis is on effortlessness. This becomes possible once the technique becomes unconscious and natural, that the use of the technique becomes unnecessary.
…the master says to the disciple, “Just sit. Don’t do anything.” And the disciple tries. Of course – what can you do other than trying?
Effort is a kind of tension
Putting effort into learning techniques is necessary in the beginning. However, you must remember to go beyond this point. To achieve an effortless state with your Tarot readings, there will come a point when you need to recognise that it is time to drop the technique. Effort is a kind of tension, and while we continue to put effort into our Tarot readings we will be unable to fully relax. With this in mind, remember that by selecting techniques to learn, by putting effort into these techniques, you have already started the process of effortlessness.
3. Drop the techniques
There is a story that Buddha used to tell:
Five idiots passed through a village. Seeing them, people were surprised, because they were carrying a boat on their heads. The boat was really big; they were almost dying under the weight of it. And people asked, “What are you doing?”
They said, “We cannot leave this boat. This is the boat that helped us to come from the other shore to this shore. How can we leave it? It is because of it that we have been able to come here. Without it we would have died on the other shore. The night was coming close, and there were wild animals on the other shore; it was as sure as anything that by the morning we would have been dead. We will never leave this boat. We are indebted forever. We will carry it on our heads in sheer gratitude.”
Techniques are useful, but there will come a time when they will become useless; they will become a hindrance. How do you recognise when a technique becomes useless? When a technique becomes academic and unnecessary to the accomplishment of the Tarot reading. There will come a point when you will no longer consciously think about elemental dignities, reversed Tarot cards, the divinatory definitions of the card meanings; all of these things will no longer be necessary to read Tarot. When this stage happens, immediately abandon the technique. As soon as you can apply and fully understand a technique, abandon it. Do not hold onto a technique the way the ‘five idiots’ in the story told by Buddha hold onto their boat. Drop it when it no longer serves a purpose.
Aleister Crowley mentions something very similar in the Book of Lies:
Consciousness is a symptom of disease.
All that moves well moves without will.
All skillfulness, all strain, all intention is contrary to
Practise a thousand times, and it becomes difficult;
a thousand thousand, and it becomes easy; a
thousand thousand times a thousand thousand,
and it is no longer Thou that doeth it, but It that
doeth itself through thee. Not until then is that
which is done well done.
Thus spoke FRATER PERDURABO as he leapt
from rock to rock of the moraine without ever
casting his eyes upon the ground.
Aleister Crowley, Book of Lies
The way to burn the maze to the ground is to follow the three easy steps I outlined above. First pick a technique, then put effort into learning that technique, then abandon that technique. Remember, techniques are not Tarot readings. Techniques can be useful, but they can also be prisons; they can act like a giant maze. Drop the technique and burn the maze.
Let me know if you agree with what I’ve written. Do you agree that techniques can act like prisons, preventing us from effortlessly reading Tarot cards?