July [20] 2008

AN INTRODUCTION TO THE TAROT RESEARCH PROJECT (Full study published in final three chapters of Rosengarten’s Tarot And Psychology: Spectrums Of Possibility (2000)

Divination, Love, And Violence:

A Pilot Study of Tarot and Spousal Abuse

By Arthur Rosengarten, Ph.D.

“What to the causal view is fact, to the final view is symbol.”  C. G. Jung

A Divine Logic That Is Hidden

From sage lips to spry ears it’s been whispered down through the ages: wisdom is different than logic. Empty of the bias which muddies human perception, the logic of the divine flows more like a fresh running river.  It is deep and clear, cool and nonpersonal, unfixed and nonlocalized.  Though accessed from a transcendent source,  its flow is nevertheless closer to the natural order.  It is immune to those arbitrary bad habits of cultural bias and conventional thinking which, in the final analysis, may rest on no logic at all.

At first suggestive of the scientific perspective for its objectivity,  divine logic extends its gaze well beyond the quantifiable universe of conventional science into those hidden regions of experience generally deemed invisible and immeasurable. The word divination (the vehicle of divine logic) stems from the Latin root divinatio, meaning: “the faculty of foreseeing” or “vision of the Gods.”   And while occasionally scientific and divine perspectives will overlap, divine knowledge is made available mainly through metaphysical or depth psychological channels. Inherent in Jung’s notion of unconscious compensation is inferred the workings of some internal divine logic guiding the individual towards psychological wholeness:

Final causes, twist them how we will, postulate a foreknowledge of some kind.  It is certainly not a knowledge that could be connected with the ego, and hence not a conscious knowledge as know it, but rather a self-subsistent “unconscious” knowledge which I would prefer to call “absolute knowledge.” 1

The Logic Of The Lovesick

As for our ordinary, conventional way of thinking, what generously passes for “human logic,” upon closer examination often reveals what may be described as “loose bundles” of logical fallacy and cognitive distortion. The so-called “emotional reasoning” of modern cognitive therapists, the unique thought-engine that drives human passions, has historically served as both asset and liability.  It is to the liability side of the ledger that this discussion looks.

One need only imagine the assorted array of psychological voice and odd behavior that collects beneath the umbrella of “love” and the difference becomes all the more painful.  Particularly within the smaller subset of romantic and marital affiliation, the human logic of “love” points in practice to multidimensional collages of expectancy and belief, to thoughts and feelings often dramatically removed from stated intentions or self-perceptions.  Love relationships are like heavy human sponges saturated in the multiple oils of complex individualized belief systems.  The “real stuff” of them is always a private blend.   Moreover, a large portion of subjective “love” constructions are rarely expressed directly between partners.  The silent credos that animate our soliloquizing “self talk” most often remain unacknowledged, marginally aware, or fully unconscious to the individuals themselves.

Human logic as it appears when “love-stricken” is reflected humorously in the opening stanza of the poem by Charles Simic entitled Marked Playing Cards:

I took my TV and bass fiddle to the pawnshop.

Then I had my car stolen and everything in it.

This morning I’m down to a windbreaker and house slippers,

But I feel cheerful, even though it’s snowing.

This proves she loves me, I said to the crowd

Waiting for the bus. They were afraid to look my way.2

Although the subject matter here described is infatuation and romantic abandon, the poem captures a universal subjectivity that is easily identified, and forgiven.  Inflation,  flamboyance, loss (even car theft) have endearing touches as epiphenomena of love’s madness.  Such subjective outpourings of human logic, however skewed, often make for sympathetic verse.  But wisdom (to say nothing of basic sanity) will shy away from such open displays much like the others at the bus station.  Too little endures in this wide-eyed realm to build upon or to serve, too much lability and passion obstruct a suitable site to hang one’s philosophical hat on.

At the shadowy tail of such folly we encounter not “love-sickness” but something closer to love’s terminal illness. For in the darker domains of domestic dysfunction, we confront an unthinkable paradox: love mixed with violence. Here an aberration of human logic may explode into violent actions like shards from a terrorist’s bomb, honed towards the very objects one purportedly loves, cherishes, and vows to protect.  And within each tragic scenario of domestic violence there stands a strange (though apparently common), distinctly human, brand of logic.  A thinking process that self-justifies aggression behind some grand distortion,  misattribution,  noncommunication, or hostile takeover. “Because she did A, I did B,” he explained.

Sadly, in the great majority of cases this emotional logic leaves a victimized woman in serious peril and risk of bodily harm from the very man who is her purported partner. An unthinkable paradox, yet from its own side, i.e. within the strange reasonings of perpetrator and victim, there exists a logic (of sorts) to these actions. Sense is made of them.  Justice, however short-lived, is served by them.  While potentially more pernicious still is the developing twig of logic lodged between the terror and the heartbreak, that intrudes upon the vulnerable small brain of a child who has witnessed the ugly battering of (typically) her mother by her father.  Unavoidably, spousal abuse becomes a family affair.

For the victimized child-witness, a new set of core beliefs will be formulated from the logic of violence, composing in memory what cognitive therapists would term the “core assumptions” about self, others,  and the world.  Left uncorrected, such beliefs will be incorporated into the very fabric of personality, constructing the so-called character structure, and will be destined to “play out” in future situations.  Destiny in such cases is the predictable after-effect of clear psychological causes. Pathological determinism.

A Very Strange Onion

A recent survey article in Psychology Today on family violence makes the following curious pronouncement:

Researchers and clinicians (many of them hard-core feminists) now peering into the very heart of domestic violence find, even to their own surprise, that it is far more complex, and far less dark, than most had imagined.3

The article claims that in the emerging new picture of domestic violence,  researchers are finding that spouse abuse is like “a very strange onion–the product of many forces operating and interacting at many levels between an individual and his environment.”  But unfortunately, outside the research laboratory, the social scientist cannot peer easily into the heart of that strange onion.  What he knows well is merely the outer skin.

Scientific study is not well-equipped to penetrate the inner dimensions of human logic. The problem with classical scientific method when dealing with psyche is that mental events are not clearly distinguished nor are they independent from each other. There is no clear flowing of influence from one event to the next as (allegedly) with outer physical events. And psychological time is not linear or unambiguous, quite to the contrary.4 “Softer” techniques such as projective tests, dream analysis, art therapy and other such methods which attempt to pry open the covered vaults of the soul are more typically utilized by clinician than research psychologist.  Their tools are more akin to worm and hook than crowbar or chisel, and they are subject to the unfavorable conditions that have frustrated many a fisherman. Scientific method, a more precise sport,  demands working with concrete and quantifiable data before objective causal relationship can be established.   In domestic violence, the objective researcher is more likely to inventory outer behavioral manifestations of a syndrome, then control, quantify, and correlate them with other behavioral markers or target populations, and finally attempt to incorporate the findings into an hypothetical model or paradigm of belief for experimenatal replication based on (what else) conventional scientific logic. (Logic that postulates if an effect has no discernable cause, it may very well not exist!).  

Patiently, the objective researcher must await fresh experimental outbreaks before his instruments can lock on to a cause, test an hypothesis, or at least correctly place pieces of the puzzle.  But today, acts of violence are still predicted mainly by previous acts of violence. So-called “pathological determinism. The rest remains theoretical and often controversial.  Mapping is near impossible in the dark, thus the objective researcher must watch and wait, anxiously.

Metaphysics On Mainstreet

Far from the plastic tubes and stainless steel casings that house laboratory instruments meant to register “autonomic physiologic arousal response patterns” in couples at risk (Jacobson5),  the paradox of love may show its truer colors in the subjective psyches of perpetrator and victim themselves, albeit,  hidden within concealed compartments beneath the human sea.  But how to access them?

Direct self-reports and testimonials, unfortunately, fail to reveal anything deeper than the presented human logic of the subject himself, at best providing an inferred phenomenology of the onion’s outer layers, at worst, a distorted, ego-contaminated piece of information that lacks sufficient evidence, corroboration, and cross-examination. One need only to be reminded of the recent “trial of the century” in Southern California to grasp the inherent limitations of such an approach.

On the other end of the spectrum is dream analysis, which reveals arguably the deepest if not purist drop into the sea of the human psyche, though unfortunately, dreamwork too suffers as a method of group study for several practical and theoretical reasons.  As any analyst will likely agree, a dream “report” is a sketchy, ego-mediated tale, that often morphs away from the actual event much like the original communique passed along by children in the game of telegraph.  A lot gets lost in the translation.  Even if this margin of error were accounted for, dream analysis, while unparalleled for inner forecasting and navigation within the hermetically-sealed container of analyst and analysand, will otherwise fare poorly before a large and less motivated, non-analytical, sample of resistive subjects;  certain thorny practical problems will emerge, namely,  inconsistent recall, troublesome control and collection of data, noncompliance, noninterest, not to mention the more academic theoretical-interpretative disagreements of clinicians themselves, to name but a few.  How then could a researcher uncover unconscious tendencies shared by individuals within a defined behavioral sub-group?


Domestic Violence Through A Synchronistic Lens

The Tarot Research Project, as I’ve officially dubbed it, began in late August of 1996 when in the spirit of both researcher and metaphysician (and using some advantage as clinical psychologist ) I proceeded to contact treatment centers in my own Southern California locale that provide community-based services for recovering perpetrators and/or recovering victims of spouse abuse and family violence. I approached various program directors for permission to speak to their closed recovery groups regarding my research with Tarot.  I was fortunate to find two such programs that were receptive enough to begin this pilot study.[See Rosengarten’s COMPLETE STUDY in TAROT AND PSYCHOLOGY: Spectrums of Possibility (Paragon, 2000), including Art’s brilliant and entertaining discussion of “synchronicity,” and the details of this landmark study’s experimental design, statistical analysis, findings, two experimental case studies, and its fascinating conclusions: Order directly from publisher:



  1. Jack 3d Says:

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