By Art Rosengarten, Ph.D. 

The intuitive and spiritual vision gained from tarot divination, I Ching, numerology, and other such methods remains, even to this day, outright suspect to the spiritual establishment. Established religion asks: Why is there need for these methods when we have already spelled out everything so clearly? Who can be sure that people channeling their own spiritual insight won’t go their own way? As Brother David Steindl-Rast, author, Ph.D., and monk of the Mount Savior Monastery observes:

One way or the other, the same plot is acted out repeatedly on the stage of history: every religion seems to begin with mysticism and end up in politics… Fortunately, I have not yet come across a religion where the system didn’t work at all. Unfortunately, however, deterioration begins on the day the system is installed…. Our social structures have a tendency to perpetuate themselves. Religious institutions are less likely than seed pods to yield to the new life stirring within. And although life (over and over again) creates structures, structures do not create life. (The Mystical Core of Organized Religion, p. 2, 1989)

While the merits of extending good will and warm regard for individuals of differing faiths have evolved to a “hopeful dialogue” at this juncture of planetary change, such progress in the religious and spiritual sectors is usually constrained and offset by the perennially insular practical needs that a particular organization carries for its own survival.

Spreading (or at least keeping) its own faith is a simple matter of endurance, though often and unfortunately it bleeds away energies which might otherwise enliven the creative furthering of an organization’s own vision. Yes charity begins at home, and sure adherence to one’s tradition bears an important function, but a tradition needs to continually renew and develop if it wishes to remain fully alive.  The same self-cherishing tendencies, of course, apply to most psychological movements and consciousness-raising programs as well. For all their intelligence and good works, they too tend  to calcify within the business of their businesses, and the doctrine of their doctrines. One should not be surprised, therefore, by an almost universal undercurrent of stodgy, “ear wax” sermonettes all in the service of self-preservation and tradition.

Truth be told,  most spiritual entities and wisdom enterprises entertain unspoken desires for dominance (hush!) – that is, for becoming the preferred “superbridge” to the world’s great spiritual superhighway – it thus follows, quite logically, that each group in practice would be at best “hesitant,” if not a tad snarly, in its support of the hypothetical “top honor” were it given to any rival group (“OK boys and girls, pack your things — Quakerism is now the universal world practice”), especially if in so doing it meant cementing the quick and painful surcease of their own orders, schools, and doctrines. (Someone has to pay the bills, no?). Human nature being what it is, the politics of organized spirituality as seen on the “world stage” during the 21st century “transition” decade of the 90s was indeed a curious display to behold.  The “dirty little secrets” (then and Now) behind ‘The Secret’, I sometimes call it.


The Penultimate Lovefest

As case in point, a number of years ago I had the good fortune to travel to Chicago, Illinois,  to attend the auspicious five-day Parliament of World Religions. This by all measures was to be an extraordinary spiritual bonanza, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the great Indian saint, Swami Vivekananda, and his epic journey to America in August of 1893 for the express purpose of initiating the first major “interfaith conference” in recorded history.

The centennial celebration was truly a marvelous event to behold, with every emanation of guru, spiritual ambassador, captain of consciousness, priest and priestess imaginable. The colorful opening ceremony was a procession of Hindus, Buddhists, Native Americans, Sikhs, Jains, Moslems, Rastafarians, B’hais, Yorubans, and Zoroastrians, with women participating on a par with men, and, all in all, creating a truly overwhelming joyous feeling of global spiritual diversity and community.

With more than five thousand attendees filling the luxurious ballrooms of the Palmer Hotel in downtown Chicago, we all were free to pick and choose various talks and instructions given by a virtual smorgasbord of “spiritual bridgemakers” at any given hour (it was worth surrendering your lunch ticket).  At this crest of the  Clinton Administration, the senior icons of higher spirit and consciousness, many avowed heroes and “rock stars” of the 1960’s Human Potentials Movement, now gathered for the  triumphal occasion.

Sublime vision was offered up from the renowned Korean Zen taskmaster Seung Sahn to the gentle Vietnamese Zen poet Thich Nat Hanh.  Moral high ground was transmitted from the elegant leader of European Jewry in Sir Sigmund Sternberg to the feisty and controversial leader of African-American Muslims– Reverend Louis Farrakhan (replete with his small army of bodyguards). There were outstanding Christian monks, mystics, and clergy, as well as delegations from three of the largest Pagan organizations in North America. The Joseph Campbell Society was represented, Dr. Jean Houston was there, Arlo Guthrie (and his Brooklyn-born guru) were there, and Harvard professor John Mack, M.D. gave a chilling discussion of his UFO abduction research and theories regarding the interdependence of all beings, earthborn or otherwise.

Yet for so impressive a mandala of spiritual diversity, I don’t believe any speaker throughout the entire affair once mentioned (with the possible exception of the Joseph Campbell group) the incomparable deck of human spiritual possibility itself, that is, the Tarot.  As a practical map and instrument of The Great Work itself,  I believe there is an important reason for its notable absence in this body: Tarot is not a religion, but a sacred tool. Nor is the Tarot a spiritual movement or a school of consciousness, but a catalyst of imagination and a creator (some may prefer inventor) of consciousness. As such, unfortunately, it carries no traction in the official (outer) world dialogue of spirit or consciousness.


A Metaphysical Thermometer


Perhaps some “infusion medicine” might have re-vitalized the competing enterprises of wisdom here? The Tarot, to this end, would be utilized as a gauge of vitality, a transpersonal thermometer of sorts.  With its insertion into one of several small physical openings, the traditional thermometer, as we all know, is a diagnostic instrument designed to measure body temperature.  Its feedback alerts one to a preliminary and non-specific assessment of multiple, simultaneous, and interrelated systems operating within the physical organism either in health or in sickness.

Curiously, the thermometer’s scientific precursors, technical mechanics, components, internal structure, place of manufacture etc. are entirely secondary (if not irrelevant) to its function. Such technicalities are left to the physicians, producers, and distributors of the product. We just stick it in, pull it out, read it, and wash it (What? You didn’t know that?)– WITHOUT concern for these other irrelevancies. The thermometer’s utility nonetheless remains unrivalled in common medical practice.

So too, we might say, is the Tarot.  Its insertion too is placed in one of several small (meta) physical openings—say, a context of exhausted rationality, or perhaps the invocation of a higher power, or a moment of compelling uncertainty that calls out for deeper guidance. Similar to the thermometer, tarot’s feedback alerts one to a non-specific, generalized assessment of structures operating within the whole personality; and interestingly, unlike the thermometer, the Tarot can also be directed to specific systems and subsystems throughout multiple levels of experience, and is comparatively-speaking vastly more versatile. 

Practical Spirituality

In terms of “spiritual” matters and organizations, a user my seek to determine, for instance, “Why am I not making spiritual progress after so many years of meditation?”  Or perhaps “How can our tradition evolve within the emerging issues and insights of the day?” Or “How can this religion become more experiential and relevant to bright individuals?”  Invariably, the cards will point to a unique, multi-layered, set of inter-relationships supplying a complex web of fresh information, ideas, new combinations etc. for introspection as well as corrective action.

As a scion of symbolism, Tarot operates multi-dimensionally from a purely non-affiliated platform in the truest sense. This means anyone can join it, and return to where they are otherwise more traditionally comfortable, yet I believe “improved” by the experience. Tarot is ‘foundationless’ with respect to adherence and fealty to the embedded beliefs of any particular tradition. In the political debates of religion, for instance, liberals and conservatives alike may claim its arcane workings put to the service of their own partisan agendas, but Tarot’s own “vote” always remains within the structure of its apolitical governance. As simply an instrument, or as I prefer, a sacred tool, the Tarot functions as a spiritual thermometer—a measuring stick of psychospiritual health and an early alert signal to The Great Work itself.


Tools Of Imagination

I daresay, once past the psychotheocratic resistance (if such were possible) known to tatter the woven seams of many religious and psycho-spiritual mantles, that Tarot’s tremendous versatility and universality would serve as a natural and creative aid to each and every established school of spirituality, psychology, and consciousness. 

Are tools of imagination and barometers of the perennial philosophy no longer needed by such groups?  I certainly hope not. Unless any spiritual, religious, or psychological school grows irreparably stale or stultified within its own dogma and tradition, it, like all organisms, must continue to adapt and evolve to the changing demands of each age. As a simple matter of common sense, the closer an organization is to the lived heartbeat of its constituents, the more likely its survival. And neither should this fact be lost on Tarot itself; to the contrary, Tarot must continue to creatively use its own wisdom and method upon itself in order to accommodate to the changing demands of this age and the next.

Unlike the movements represented at the Parliament of World Religions, Tarot’s potential utility is equally relevant to the corporate manager, the research scientist, the professional athlete, the abstract artist, the elementary school teacher, the single mother, the politician, and the mental health worker, to name a few. This is because Tarot is an ingenious instrument in many ways like a thermometer: it points us to a direction of inner vision,  a hidden side of events, a timeless wisdom. Extremely handy things, I should think, for all and any who wish to expand and deepen perspective and awareness.

Specific applications are secondary in Tarot, though, personally, I would find no difficulty envisioning at the Parliament’s 200 Year Anniversary (come 2093) a  assemblage of 21st century transformational healers and teachers where the praises of Tarot, and other sacred tools like it, are acknowledged for their creative catalyzing effects which have served their own organization’s development immeasurably.

Dr. Art Rosengarten is the author of TAROT AND PSYCHOLOGY: SPECTRUMS OF POSSIBILITY and owner moderator of the Yahoo discussion group:  taropsych  He is a featured expert/author in the just released metaphysical documentary, THE GREAT WORK produced by Chance Gardner and Vanese McNeill.









August [13] 2008

Excerpted from Chapter 9 ‘Synchronicity’ in TAROT AND PSYCHOLOGY: SPECTRUMS OF POSSIBILITY   


“Science comes to a stop at the frontiers of logic, but nature does not–she thrives on ground as yet untrodden by theory.”   C. G. Jung 

Strange Workings

Even after reading and accepting (albeit provisionally) the foregoing discussion pertaining to the meeting of Psychology and Tarot, the responsible psychotherapist will still properly wonder: How could these spiritually-based, randomly-selected Tarot cards be reliable and valid in psychological treatment?   It is one thing to establish a Tarot lexicon based on sound psychological principles, or even stunning metaphysical insights, but quite another to actually bring this arcane instrument into one’s livingroom, much less one’s consulting room.  Particularly as the Tarot method requires placing supreme trust in the natural intelligence that collects around sacred or “empowered” randomness, many will feel hesitant, fearing the method’s lack of reliability.  Before being sufficiently comfortable to introduce so unorthodox a tool into actual practice, the therapist will need to better understand the mysterious mechanism of its operation.  How on earth, she well asks, does it work?

Little assurance will be drawn from so unlikely an apologist as Fred Gettings, occult author and compiler of the voluminous Fate & Prediction: An Historical Compendium of Palmistry, Astrology, and Tarot , who himself allows an echoing, if not disconcerting, sentiment:  “Although the Tarot method works,” he writes, “it must be admitted from the outset that no one has ever been able to explain how it works [italics mine].”2   Perhaps a more precise summation of Mr. Gettings’ factually correct assertion would grant that although the mechanism behind Tarot has been speculated upon in multiple arcane and exotic ways, from nonlinear postulates of theoretical physics to ancient wisdom myths like Indra’s Net (and everything in between), still no one to date has empirically demonstrated to any  satisfaction how or even “that” the Tarot method works.

To do so scientifically, one must clearly demonstrate a causal relationship linking method and effect, a linkage that can be repeated under similar conditions by different observers.  The inherent problematics of scientific proof for a subjective, invisible, and irregular effect present a real challenge to the would-be Tarot empiricist, much as is encountered with related depth techniques or even in the fierce “brain versus mind” debates brewing in the emerging science of consciousness.  It is widely agreed that scientific study is not well-equipped to penetrate the subjective dimensions of the human mind.  The problem with classical scientific method when dealing with intrapsychic states is that mental events are not always clearly distinguished, nor are they independent from each other.  Subjective effects in some cases are not easily translatable into precise language, nor are they consistently or objectively reported.  There is no clear flowing of influence from one event to the next as (allegedly) with outer behavior, and finally, “psychological time” is neither linear nor unambiguous, but irregular, observer dependent, and contextually shaded.  All of which makes direct quantification and measurement especially troublesome.


The Theory of Meaningful Chance

Such inherent difficulties notwithstanding, I believe an empirical explanation for the Tarot method can indeed be demonstrated in Jung’s theory of synchronicity.  As we suggested earlier, many explorers today believe synchronicity carries the key not only to divinatory practices but to paranormal phenomena and certain anomalous physical phenomena as well.  Herein lies a region we may refer to as “metascience,” the study of invisible, acausal, non-linear relationships between inner and outer worlds.

As was briefly discussed [in Chapter Four], the term “synchronicity” made its first introduction into the world’s lexicon in 1938 by Carl Jung, in his quite famous foreword to sinologist Richard Wilhelm’s classic translation of the I Ching.  For those not familiar with the Book of Changes, it has been without rival the fundamental text of traditional Chinese culture and continues to capture the imagination of intuitively-inclined Westerners today. The text is a divinatory system with 3000 year old roots in the traditions of magic and shamanism.  Nearly all that was significant in traditional China–philosophy, science, politics and popular culture–was founded on interpretations and adaptations of the I.   The core of the book is considered the oldest and most complex divinatory system to survive into modern times.

Perhaps more than any other divinatory tool, the I Ching’s  mechanism of operation parallels that of Tarot.  The Chinese term I, reminiscent of our description of the Tarot method, emphasizes “imagination, openness and fluidity” as contemporary I Ching  scholars Ritsema and Stephen Karcher (1994) note:

[I ] suggests the ability to change direction quickly and the use of a variety of imaginative stances to mirror the variety of being.  The most adequate English translation of this is versatility, the ability to remain available to and be moved by the unforeseen demands of time, fate, and psyche.3


The authors further summarize:

The I Ching  offers a way to see into difficult situations, particularly those emotionally charged ones where rational knowledge fails us yet we are called upon to decide and act…[It] is able to do this because it is an oracle.  It is a particular kind of imaginative space set off for a dialogue with the gods or spirits, the creative basis of experience now called the unconscious.  An oracle translates a problem or question brought to it into an image language like that of dreams.  It changes the way you experience the situation in  order to connect you with the inner forces that are shaping it.  The oracle’s images dissolve what is blocking the connection, making the spirits available.4


From highly personal divinatory experiments with the Chinese Book of Changes or I Ching, Jung advanced the synchronicity hypothesis.  In his later works he more generally describes synchronicity in relation to certain strange curiosities of nature operating in various rare instances of inner/outer “crossovers” which defy normative constructions of reality.  Such anomalies as prophetic dreams, unconnected parallel processes, paranormal oddities and chance occurrences in which subject and object mysteriously seem to collide are included in this brave literature of “acausal” connection.  According to Jung, synchronicity is a special case of “acausality” that additionally produces in the observer some intimate, self-deepening, or spiritually-enhancing meaningfulness, or put in the Jungian vernacular, “unconscious compensation in the service of individuation.” 

By this definition, not all acausal phenomena are necessarily synchronistic.  As its name implies, ‘acausality’ simply means that no exchange of energy (the hallmark of Newtonian causality) is transmitted between related events.  Examples have been shown, for instance, by experimenters like Robert Jahn et. al. at the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research Laboratory (PEAR) that certain acausal phenomena occurs naturally and can be scientifically demonstrated as such.  Through studying the interaction of human consciousness and complex machines (“sensitive physical devices, systems, and processes common to engineering practice”) Jahn has shown that a test-subject’s conscious intent could influence a machine’s operation.  Such effects, though usually quite small, have nevertheless been proved to be statistically repeatable and appear to be operator-specific in their details.5  

Technically however, these extraordinary findings of ‘acausal connection’ are not purely ‘synchronistic’ as they carry no particular meaningfulness to the subject unless, of course, the test-subject is lucky enough to be a race car driver, a machine-gun mercenary, or even a high-speed computer user with minimal techno-skills like myself, in which case, any clairvoyant repartee with one’s machinery would prove immensely meaningful indeed.   Be that as it may, one point is certain as put succinctly by Jungian author James A. Hall: “Science without parapsychology is two-dimensional.  Parapsychology without synchronicity misses psyche.”6

Therapists in all their sophistication should take heart as they search for alternative explanations for the “synchronicity hypothesis.”  Jung stipulates clearly that acausality requires not merely the absence of physical energy exchange between events, but equally the absence of psychological  energy exchange as well.  Victor Mansfield (1995) an astrophysicist and synchronicity author, further specifies this point: “just as gravity causes the apple to fall,  anxiety causes the head to shake.”  Both events are easily explained by ordinary causation.  Psychological causation (like physical causation)  contradicts the elusive precondition of acausality itself;  Jung carefully stressed that neither repressed contents, defense mechanisms, complexes, nor archetypal constellations could cause such coincidences, thereby ruling out subtler mechanisms like projective identification or conversion from slipping through the psychological cracks.7 


Synchronicity And Events

Examples of synchronistic phenomena are easily illustrated in collective events, as for instance, the Oklahoma City Bombing of April 19, 1995.  But first, let’s examine (hypothetically) the more likely cause-and-effect scenario of this incident, which must be ruled out should we find the genuine article.  Suppose several research psychologists attempted dream studies in Oklahoma City following the event.  They discover significant numbers of subjects reporting dreams and fantasies involving sabotage and destruction, of buildings exploding, of hidden bombs or mass death–that is, dreams occurring shortly after  reports of the tragedy.  These parallels would hardly be considered ‘synchronistic’ or even ‘acausally-connected’.  The psyche of such dreamers has obviously been affected by psychological causes churning throughout local and collective awareness.  Anxiety dreams following shocking events of this nature are quite common.  To the contrary, after the tragic news one might rather expect a great many people in all parts of the country to incorporate this upsetting imagery in their dreams.  We would then obviously rule out ‘synchronicity’ to explain such clearly ‘caused’ correspondences.

If, on the other hand, a particular dreamer reports: (1) the same sort of mayhem and destruction in his dream, perhaps with lucid details of the Ryder truck, the screaming panicked government employees, The Murray Building collapsing etc.;  (2) this startling dream occurred on the night preceding the catastrophe; and (3) we can be certain this dreamer bears no possible conscious or unconscious relationship to the conspirators themselves, or has not been made privy at all to their goings on whatsoever; then, (4) it is then safe to conclude that those clamoring headlines discovered on the morning AFTER the event (by said dreamer) must reasonably be considered ‘acausally-connected’ to the dream.  This is simply because the actual event for which such dream content was referent had not yet taken place. 

No exchange of energy can therefore connect these two events or account for their mutual co-arising, neither physical nor mental energy.  An acausal connection is thus clearly established between dream and event.  But note: “synchronicity” has not yet technically occurred.  If then, (5) upon reading the dreadful report in the newspaper on the morning after, the dreamer is thus struck meaningfully (i.e. in regards to his/her own sense of psychospiritual purpose or individuation) by this eerie coincidence, and encouraged perhaps to reevaluate core beliefs (say, of the importance of family, or perhaps, the impermanence of life and death) owing to this strange coincidence, it is at that point, officially, that these two events have produced a bone fide “synchronicity.”  They are now, in Jung’s famous phrase, “acausally connected through meaning.”

Of course, the parapsychologist may beg to differ.  His argument would insist that a causal exchange did in fact occur: the dreamer was simply prescient, his psychic foreknowledge (precognition) would account for (i.e. caused) the seeming dream coincidence as such.  It was simply a case of prescience or clairvoyance; in a manner of speaking, the ‘future’ had caused the dream!   It’s simply that we have not yet the technology to measure such invisible forces.  Jung himself, with his great fascination for J.B. Rhine’s groundbreaking ESP experiments at Duke in the 1930’s, entertained the impressive parapsychological evidence contributing to synchronistic phenomena.  Many in the Tarot community, as well, believe divination to be a psychic phenomenon, with the cards acting as “psychic springboards” or triggers for telepathic, clairvoyant, or precognitive phenomena.  Paranormal research, in fact, may one day isolate certain subtle and causal energy fields operating between Tarot cards, readers and subjects, and require major revisions of the synchronicity hypothesis.

More recently, however, Mansfield (1995) challenges this argument by making a compelling case against such paranormal attributions which, in effect, violate the technical specifics of Jung’s own treatise.3  Psychic causes, Mansfield contends, suggest some transfer of energy between bodies, albeit to date, not an “energy” clearly isolated, measured, or demonstrated as such.  Psychic causal agents, of course, even unseen hypothetical ones, would veer away from Jung’s central notion of “acausality.”


Absolute Knowledge

Suggested in Jung’s theory of synchronicity is the presence of some underlying interior intelligence at work, some non-personal agency of wisdom which purposively guides each individual psyche towards its predestined objectives of balance and wholeness (equilibrium and individuation).  Empty of the sentiment that normally muddies human perception, this higher logic flows more like a fresh running river.  It is deep and clear, cool and nonpersonal, unfixed and nonlocalized.  Though accessed from a mysterious source, it is nonetheless closer to the natural order.  It is immune to those arbitrary habits or conventional thinking which, in the final analysis, may rest on no logic at all.

For Jung, such transcendent intelligence is viewed as the very matrix from which all psychological development and transformation unfolds; it operates through a system of compensatory self-regulations for the purpose of linking conscious and unconscious worlds with the objective of psychological wholeness.  This view is quite distinct from the determinist constructions of evolutionary psychology which place more emphasis on the role of social and cognitive factors of adaptability without reference to teleology.

From a depth psychological perspective, the bridge that this transcendent intelligence uses to link conscious and unconscious worlds is the symbol.  After all, one might pause to consider this: given the generally accepted hypothesis that dreams and dream symbols are significant and meaningful, and moreover, that these spontaneous unconscious narratives are revealing, multifaceted, intricately crafted, economical, restorative, poetic, and even comical– then by whose masterful intelligence are they authored?  The sleeping child?  Your snoring, comatose “creative side?”  Who is it really, in the final analysis, that speaks to us when we sleep?  After studying thousands of such dreamscapes captured from his patients and his own mind, Jung was moved to formulate the concept of “absolute knowledge” to account for their true creator:

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.” 8


Habitual Causality

One needn’t be a behavioral psychologist to know that old habits die hard.  These learned patterns of activity through chronic repetition become automated, fixed, and effortlessly carried out much like putting one’s left sock on first each morning.  As author Umberto Eco laments

I believe that you can reach the point where there is no longer any difference between developing the habit of pretending to believe and developing the habit of believing.   

Given the undeniable fact of our own nearly intractable, causally pre-conditioned, modern habits of explanation– the cognitive reflex that needs to discern “this is so because of______,”   I think it is safe to surmise that many reading this brief synopsis of the synchronicity hypothesis, and even Tarot divination in general, will find it bordering on the ungraspable.  I myself feel this way often.  There will likely be a gnawing urge to restate the obvious, at least to oneself, as almost everything learned throughout our scientifically-constructed lives has taught us not to presume otherwise.  Be it parlor trick, clairvoyant reader, psychological illusion, misattribution, projective identification, accident, meaningless coincidence, miracle, or loaded deck: something  surely must be given credit (or blame) as the “real cause.”

Jung’s puffy phrase “absolute knowledge,” a cause without a cause, will smack of fuzzy theology and leave the scientifically-grounded and metaphysically-squeamish (i.e. most therapists) whining about Ouji boards.  His or her  gut will continue to encourage rational assurances: “There can be no reliable effects resulting from non-existent or indiscernible causes.”  Of course, the corollary to this logic is equally tenacious: “if no reliable cause can be established, then the effects of the reading cannot be valid.”  A short while later, after the Tarot reading one has just witnessed does appear to be unambiguously accurate, “amazing” by some accounts, or at least, strikingly meaningful to its subject, then and there, as a matter of habitual reflex, the explanatory litany of accidental factors, suggestibility, projection, fraud, or “coincidence” is causally assigned.  We are relieved.   Phew…  “It was merely an instance of  _________.”

But no matter.  In defiance of our reassuring rationality, the synchronistic hypothesis reasserts its ugly head:  All energetic exchanges between reader/querent/card are categorically ruled-out and unrelated to the effect!  That is, no parlor trick, no clairvoyant reader, no psychological illusion, no misattribution, no projective identification, no accident, no meaningless coincidence, no miracle, and no loaded deck has caused the reading’s accuracy.  Indeed, there are NO BECAUSES.  

To the contrary, one finds instead only the disquieting reminder that the world moves in mysterious ways.  Meaning has arrived acausally  as a function of the method itself, involving no extrinsic influence whatsoever.  Instead, an agent presumably of ‘higher intelligence’ or ‘absolute knowledge’ (at least from our limited vantage points) has delivered the correct cards for this moment much as it delivered the correct dream in all its well crafted complexity last night.  Although in Tarot, unlike the dream, the agent is deliberately called forth.  Sagaciously, and in concert with the emotional motivation of the querent, the Tarot method itself creates conditions for the probability of synchronicity to occur.  And as mentioned in a previous chapter, psychologists will likely locate this innate, guiding agency as residing within the psyche, while metaphysicians, theologians, and perhaps quantum physicists will place its residence in nature or in god.

In the Tarot method, a procedure that intentionally disrupts and confounds linear assumptions, the meaningful coincidence that occurs between cards and querent can not be causally explained, because in the final analysis, there is no conventional causality operating.  A linkage between mind and matter, subject and object, has been facilitated by what has been deemed ‘empowered randomness,’ the vehicle of oracularly-intended synchronicity.  This phenomenon is likely to be simply an occurrence of nature– related perhaps to “The Force” (of Star Wars fame)–though typically unrecognized due to our vast inculcation of scientific realism and habitual causality.  When it occurs spontaneously we deem either fraudulent or else categorize it as “some religious miracle.”   Such describes the so-called “apex problem” of the Tarot practitioner, mentioned earlier with Thought Field Therapy.

We should regard such things in keeping with our earlier theme of opposition: that is, so-called ‘acausal/synchronistic’ phenomena are merely the other side of conventional causality, “like the different, but inseparable, sides of a coin, the poles of a magnet, or pulse and interval in any vibration (Watts).”  The apparent rarity of synchronistic occurrences reflects more than anything our habit of causal explanation.  If we can’t explain it, it probably doesn’t exist.  But it is important to remember that the concept of so-called “randomness” is itself a modern invention that developed out of the dogma of causation.  Of course, that well-oiled band of naysayers–the professional skeptics and debunkers–who bravely embrace the scientific realism of the 19th century, will not be deterred by such unbridled “metaphysical hogwash” but instead will salivate over such claims like greedy jackals over wounded rabbits.  “Blatantly unscientific!” they hoot and snarl with great assurance.  “Prove it!  Prove it!  The method is flawed, it’s entirely random.  It can never be re-peat-ed!” 

Little do these smug evaluators realize that Tarot’s random selection is precisely what makes it Tarot.  Repeatability is hardly the point.  Like each unique fingerprint or signature of human identity, no two Tarot readings are ever identical or repeatable per se.  Though what does repeat, should we call it that, is the consistent and striking experience of meaning for the subject.  John Van Eenwyk notes in Archetypes & Strange Attractors: The Chaotic World of Symbols  (1997):

If a dynamic repeats over and over (orbits, chemical reactions, symbols), it is possible eventually to figure it out.  That which occurs just once, however (miracles, the creation of the universe, a crank telephone call) is infinitely more difficult to decipher.  Repetition creates patterns that can be scrutinized.  Single occurrences are incomparable, hence they tend to be labeled “random.”9

 The serious scientist, without the professional skeptic’s need to prejudge or “debunk” to make his living, does, however,  indeed hold forth a legitimate challenge for objective verification.  To my mind, solid scientific verification of the synchronicity hypothesis is an unrivaled and highly worthy challenge for the very best scientific explorers.  But as the imaginative, and indeed highly regarded scientific thinker Arthur C. Clarke recently noted from his home in Sri Lanka:

We need more scientists…to push the limits of knowledge and understanding. Science, unlike politics or diplomacy, does not depend on consensus or expediency– it progresses by open-minded probing, rigorous questioning, independent thought and, when the need arises, being bold enough to say that the emperor has no clothes.10


In this case is the Emperor clothed or naked?  The scientist is quite right to wonder: Could this synchronistic hypothesis using the Tarot method be demonstrated experimentally?  Could it empirically be shown to have practical value and application?  Regardless of Tarot’s inherent difficulties with scientific measurement, could a pilot study of sorts be designed to demonstrate sufficient consideration of this approach, in the least to initiate a path of further research and experimentation?  The following chapter describes one of several such pilot studies conducted by the author wherein the synchronicity hypothesis was tested.



1 Jung, C. G., ‘On the Nature of the Psyche’. Reprinted in Collected Works Vol. 8;  Second edition (Princeton University Press), Ziff, 246, p. 167.

2 Getting, F., Fate & Prediction:  An Historical Compendium of Palmistry, Astrology, and Tarot;  Exeter, New York, 1980, p. 157.

3 Ritsema, Rudolf, and Karcher, Stephen [trans] I Ching: The Classic Chinese Oracle of Change;  Element Books Limited, Great Britain, 1994, p. 10.

4 Ibid. 

5 Jahn, Robert, and Dunne, Brenda, Margins of Reality:  The Role of Consciousness in the Physical World;  Harcourt, Brace, Javanovich, New York, 1987.

6  personal correspondence, 1998.

7 Mansfield, Victor, Synchronicity, Science, and Soul-Making,  Open Court. 1995, pp. 22-36.

8 Jung, C. G., Synchronicity  [Collected Works, Vol. 8]; Princeton University Press, Princeton, N.J.,  1978, p.493

9 Van Eenwyk, John, Archetypes & Strange Attractors: The Chaotic World of Symbols; Inner City Books, Toronto, Canada, 1997, p. 42.

10  Clarke, Arthur, C. quoted in The San Diego Union Tribune [“La Jolla Nobelist rocks the scientific boat”, Graham, David, E.), September 15, 1998, p. A13.


Readers— Chapter 9 actually introduces the final section of my book, The Tarot Research Project, which is a landmark pilot study of the synchronicity hypothesis; unlike anything attempted before, it explores tarot divination with an experimental population of spousal abusers and female victims (that I conducted in 1997 in Southern California). If interested, order directly on Amazon.com or from Paragon House. FSA

 Potent Quotes Department

This is adapted from the marvelous essay: “Coming To Meet: Advice From The I Ching,” by Carol Anthony,  [included in the anthology, Challenge Of The Heart, John Welwood, Shambhala) . Those seeking my advice for relationships are encouraged to read this enlightened  philosophy. It will  greatly enhance the process : ) Art

Excerpted from the classic Chinese Book Of Changes (I Ching)


                                                                                     HEXAGRAM 44


“Coming to meet halfway is possible only between people who are mutually  honest and sincere in their way of life.”   I Ching


Key Points:

  1. This hexagram describes a “correct” relationship as one in which two people come to meet each other halfway.  Halfway means that both are open and receptive to each other.  It  must be mutually voluntary.

  2. We must maintain reserve in our relationships until the coming to meet is mutual.  Maintaining “reserve” is the correct action (or nonaction) during turbulence and communication breakdown

  3. Coming to meet halfway is possible only between people who are mutually honest and sincere in their way of life.  It is the great joy of such relationships that they are full of mutual trust and sensitivity

  4. “Coming to meet” is best understood as a contract made between two people.  If one is indolent in performing his part, or has mental reservations about what he is willing to do, the contract may fail.  Although such a person may have entered the contract without any immediate objections, his attitude may contain objections which arise only at the time his obligations are to be performed. Such a person may secretly feel that contracts are not to be taken seriously, or, on seeing how difficult it is to fulfill his part, he may hedge on doing it because of some idea that all contracts are subject to fitting into his concept of what is “reasonable.”

  5. It is impossible to come to meet such a person halfway and it is better for us to go on our way alone and to wait until the fundamentals of unity are firmly established before we commit ourselves to other people.

  6. When we cater to another person’s ego because it is uncomfortable to go on our way alone, we choose the high road of comfort rather the low road of modesty and loneliness.  Withdrawal from the high road is the action often counseled by the I Ching (The Classic Chinese Book of Changes).

  7. If a person is treating us presumptuously, and if we remind him (or her) of this, he may correct his habits for a few days, but gradually revert to the same pattern of neglect.  This he does from egotistical indolence (apathy), something in his point of view makes him feel he has the right to be indifferent.

  8. Likewise, we must withdraw from the indolent person, “cutting our inner strings” of attachment to him, and no longer look at his wrongdoings with our inner eye (preoccupations, self talk, ideations etc.).

  9. This enables the person to see what he is doing in the mirror created by the void.  By dispersing any alienation we may feel, we also lend strength to his superior self. Momentarily, his ego is overcome.  We need to realize that his change is short-lived, but it is an essential beginning.  The change does not last because it is only founded on his response to feeling the void.  It becomes permanent change when he sees clearly that unity with others depends upon his devoting himself to correcting his mistakes.  Only then can we abandon a more formal way of relating to him.

  10.  The sense of loss, loneliness, or poverty of self a person feels on our withdrawing from him is called “punishment” (in the I Ching), but I prefer the term “mindful disengagement.” Mindful disengagement works only if it is applied in the way described—we must consistently and immediately withdraw, neither contending with him nor trying to force progress by leverage.  We withdraw accepting his state of mind, letting him go.  We must take care not to withdraw with any other attitude than that required to maintain inner serenity, and to keep from “giving up on” him (or her).

  11.  If on the other hand we withdraw with feelings of alienation, or of self-righteousness, our ego is involved as the punisher. The ego lacks “the power and authority” to punish. The culprits not only do not submit, but “by taking up the problem the punisher arouses poisonous hatred against himself.”  One person’s ego may not punish another person’s ego.

  12. When a person returns to the path of “responding correctly” (being open and receptive) we likewise go to meet him (or her) halfway, rather than tell him he is doing things correctly. In this way he comes to relating correctly from his own need to relate correctly and we do not force it on him.  Our consistence and discipline in feeling out each moment and responding to it does the work.

  13. It is unnecessary to watch a person’s behavior to see if he is becoming worse or better; we need only be in tune with ourselves.  Our inner voice warns us precisely when to withdraw and when to relate. We need only listen within.

  14. It is important to work with a situation only so long as the other person is receptive and open, and to retreat the instant this receptivity wanes.  When we understand that this represents a natural circle of influence, we learn to “let go” when the moment of influence passes, and not to press our views.  This gives other people the space they need to move away from us and return of their own accord.

  15. We must avoid egotistical enthusiasm when we think we are making progress, or discouragement when the dark period ensues.  Throughout the cycle we learn to remain detached. Holding steadily to the light within us and within others.  The instant we strive to influence, we “push upward blindly.”  If we insist on accomplishing the goal at all costs, our inner light is darkened and our will to see things through is damaged.

  16. The strength of a person’s ego corresponds to the amount of attention it can attract.  On the most simple level this recognition is by eye-to-eye contact; on the more basic inner level we strengthen other people’s egos by watching them with our inner eye.  Only when we withdraw both our eye-to-eye contact and our inner gaze do we deprive his ego of its power—“We cannot lead those whom we follow.”

  17. Inner withdrawal is an action of perseverance that has its own reward, but only when it is modest perseverance, not an attempt to impress others by getting them to notice our withdrawal.  In many situations the problem is resolved, not through any external action that arises spontaneously on our part, but by simply “letting it happen,” through letting go of the problem. Our “action” is to “let go.


This is adapted from the marvelous essay: “Coming To Meet: Advice From The I Ching,” by Carol Anthony,  [included in the anthology, Challenge Of The Heart, John Welwood, Shambhala) . Those seeking my guidance for relationship are encouraged to read this basic philosophy. It will  greatly enhance my ability to counsel you : ) Art


July [17] 2008




“In all chaos there is a cosmos, in all disorder a secret order” wrote the Swiss founder of Analytical Psychology, C.G. Jung.  Nowhere is this irony more evident than in the everyday lives of ordinary people. No matter how skilled we’ve grown in plugging the holes, the illusion of control jumps back like a yapping Schnauzer and bites us in the tightened buttocks of “business as usual.”  The world of conventional reality is a manufactured cosmos of deluded chaos; it scratches its dense skull in search of the only remedy it knows: the pursuit of perfection.

That slow leaking tire, running nylon, or bad-hair day, the ‘B’ you thought was an ‘A’, the surcharge and fine print, ALL conspire to dissolve the joy you’ve envisioned for a flawless day. The state of perfection is outright libel, though no laws protect us from its rampages. The impeccable is “oh so peccable,” the impeachable so easily impeached!

Flawlessness is itself a flawed vision (of perfection).  To the contrary, “flawfulness” is perfection’s secret virtue—rendering the current strange construction of “the perfect” virtually null and void.  The odd is, in effect, the beautiful. The anomaly that generates brilliance in a quartz crystal–that which is most different, most natural, most striking and unique, most “FLAWED” (if by that we mean “least commonplace”)–makes for a thing’s true beauty and character, its atypicality.  And naturally, this is not an indistinct, uniform, degree of “flawlfullness” which might then be “reproduced to perfection.”  (The Pet Rock only works once!); one must never attempt to redo the undone. Certainly this brought the death knell to rock n’ roll in the seventies.

Even the gods and goddesses sprout an occasional blemish, and the real deal is closer to the trashed “Out-Takes” in the film editor’s dustbin than the perfect teeth made from plaster of Paris implants in the Hollywood state of the mind. Sacred mistakes (because nature made them as they are) capture the trouble we’d rather not know we have.  Here we “make” the boat we’d actually be better off “missing.” The aftermath isn’t pretty or inspiring. Culture dies another vital strand each repeat performance for which the great monolith is reflexively imitated.  The perfect game every day. Desperately, though blindly, we recalibrate our slipping ‘predictometers’ hoping to lock-on to the emerging assets of the best case scenarios of our castles-in-the-sand reality.

Dying modernists that we are, we sorely regret the inconvenience, dissolution, the shifting of gears.  IT was our mother, and we remain attached to the predictable outcome like goat cheese on gourmet pizza. When (mis)constructions of the “perfect picture” are not matched in actuality, when life takes on that “almost but not quite” taste, we filter away to masturbatory memories (of perfection) before the dreaded real reality returns. We want the Hollywood moment-–the perfect teeth and triumphant skies. “Jesus, it’s good.”

The cosmos thus appears contained in our small-mindedness.  Briefly life feels unwrinkled and cooperative.  Uncle Gino receives a hopeful second opinion. And a secret order may be plucked out from one’s vortex of disturbance.  Good news. It bears no abeyance whatsoever to the clocks and cashiers of the conventional order. We must respond now as artists, not the usual escape artists. We can now use our natural materials with no mention of perfection.

This strategy goes to the heart of what I fondly call “the problem with trouble.” 
Rebounding too quickly from trouble denies us a rare opportunity— the wisdom of natural chaos. As the commentary to the third line of “Difficulty at the Beginning” (in the Chinese Book of Changes) states:

If a man tries to hunt in a strange forest and has no guide, he loses his way. When he finds himself in difficulties he must not try to steal out of them unthinkingly and without guidance.


The hexagram further tells us:

“Fate cannot be duped; premature effort, without the necessary guidance, ends in failure and disgrace.” 

The problem with trouble is that we are a mad, trouble-fixing, people. We fix to fix (and function to function), and typically miss entirely the secret order that an honest barrel of trouble provides us.  The sages called this ‘Fate”:

It is only a matter of time before we meet it.  Fate is not antagonistic or vindictive; it is there to teach us, in an impersonal way, that the goal may not be gained through false means. (Carol K. Anthony)

Fate is not the way out of trouble but, paradoxically, the way into it.  Thankfully, fate-born-of-trouble stymies our misguided pursuit of perfection—and returns us to what matters, ourselves.                  


Read what I regard as The Keys To Relationship (From The Chinese Book Of Changes, or I Ching) in Potent Quotes:  “THE ART OF MEETING HALFWAY” (IDEAS)