SPREADS OF DECISION AND CHOICE
Both the linear and the multi-level spreads try to find out and understand what the Querent is about. They cast some light on his make-up, &is friends and loved ones, his problems, his past and his future. Historically speaking, these spreads have evolved from traditional fortune-telling, where the Querent was interested in what was going to happen. It is almost as if the people who believed in the Tarot also believed that your fate was written in the stars, or was in the cards, and that no struggle would avail. The classical Greek tragedies, such as Oedipus, show the prediction coming true precisely because the participants have struggled to change fate. I've always secretly wondered what would have happened if the father of Oedipus had not struggled; if one believes totally in predestination, then that is a silly question, since the father had no choice but to struggle. And yet...
Modern astrology is beginning to change its attitude. You will hear the phrase *the stars incline, but do not command'. This parallels the twentieth century development of the science of psychology/psychiatry where it is held that early or innate character traits tend to make people behave in certain ways but that, with help, it is not impossible to rise above these compulsions.
I am inclined to feel that people will tend to do things which are predictable unless they struggle mightily to stop doing them. It is possible for a heavy smoker to stop smoking entirely, but requires tremendous effort; for a heavy smoker to become a light smoker is even more difficult. With smoking we are dealing with a habit which exhibits itself in such a way that it is easily seen; whenever you have a smoking cigarette in your hand, you know you are smoking. But how do you stop yourself from being rude to people? Or flirtatious? When does being firm, in the one case, and friendly, in the other, become excessive?
I am of the opinion that there are two major ways in which people can change through the use of the Tarot. The first is the occasion when the Querent comes to the Reader at a 'node point1. The second is when the Reader is able to draw the Querent's attention to certain deep-seated problems which are not being tackled but are causing recurrent problems.
A node point is an occasion when the deep, underlying problems in the Querent's psyche cause a visible crisis. The Querent is aware of the crisis, and tries to solve that, even to the extent of consulting a Tarot Reader. If the Reader understands that the outward and visible crisis is a manifestation of an inward and invisible chronic problem, then it is possible to do something about the chronic problem by solving the acute crisis appropriately. We have seen something of this when we were discussing the Celtic Cross spread; the underlying, chronic problem was the Querent's inability to feel free to realize his potentiality, while the acute, visible problem was his need to know whether his wife was unfaithful. By suggesting a course of action that would change his way of tackling the visible crisis, it is possible that a change is made in the way of tackling future similar crises and of slowly changing his deeper psyche.
The second way of changing the Querent is by drawing his attention to these deep-seated problems before they result in a deep crisis. If, for instance, using the Pontoon spread, we notice only three Major Arcana cards, six each of Swords and Pentacles and only three each of Rods and Cups, then we can start thinking about the sort of problems this person is going to meet with in the future. At present the person is suppressing all doubts and fears, but seems lacking in feelings and has an inability to grow. As long as this person does not have a family or close friends, and everything practical in his life goes fine, there will be no problems. But family or friends will raise problems of a personal nature which will demand the use of his feelings to solve or at least deal with; practical problems cannot always be dealt with practically. By drawing the Querent's attention to the imbalance, it is possible to plant a seed in the mind which may grow to the point where the recipient will actually do something about it.
When the Querent comes to us with either a request for a general reading, or a request for an analysis of the general situation surrounding a problem, then we use a linear or multi-level spread. However, when the Querent comes to us for help in reaching a decision then we use one of the spreads which I will describe below. These spreads are for use when a decision has to be made whether to go on or stop, whether to act or not to act, and which of two alternatives to choose. They are designed to help the Querent understand his underlying problems; the Reader does not make the choice, but merely illuminates the underlying problems and leaves the final choice to the Querent.
As we are trying to find the deep-seated, underlying, chronic problems behind apparently acute crises, I would strongly recommend the use of the Major Arcana only. Remember, at this stage you are not trying to prove how accurate or 'psychic' you are; you are merely providing insight for the use of the Querent. If he doesn't 'believe' you because you have not provided any miraculous data about his past, that is his loss.
The first spread is one which I shall call the McCarthy spread - the man who said that those who are not with us are against us. We select seven cards and lay them out in the following spread:
The cards are turned over and laid in the numerical order shown. Cards 1, 3 and 5 are designated as the positive aspects and Cards 2, 4 and 6 as the negative; Card 7 shows us the underlying problem.
Positive aspects can give reasons why the Querent should do whatever it is they are contemplating, or should persevere with whatever it is they are considering bringing to an end. Negative aspects suggest stopping things, not doing things. At this level of reading we are simply telling the Querent to do one thing or another.
In order to understand what is going on, we must firstly combine opposites. We take, for example, Cards 1 and 2 in order to see what they have in common. To do this, we must first understand an idea that was first mentioned briefly in chapter 8: the meanings of reversed cards. In traditional methods of reading, the reversed card has a different, often negative, meaning to the card standing the right way up. I suggested this was too simplistic a view, and that really any attribute is an idea which can range from one extreme to the other extreme.
Let us take the Major Arcana card Justice. It looks very like the lady on the top of the Old Bailey, except that this one is not blindfolded. It is the absence of the blindfold that distinguishes the Tarot card Justice from the classical statue of Justice. Most people pay no attention to the absence of the blindfold, and feel that the card means something like justice, fairness, balance; at times they add things like responsibility or the consequences of previous actions. After reading the chapter on what I think all the Major Arcana cards mean, you may be no wiser or clearer as to what I feel the card means. But have a look at the following diagram:
The card Justice covers the whole range from murder to suicide, neither of which will help the Querent solve the problem. In between are slightly more 'civilized' solutions such as revenge or guilt; gradually as the Querent achieves greater understanding of the real balance between extremes, he approaches nearer and nearer to the zero. Historically, civilizations have tried to move their official, approved solutions to problems from the extremes to the middle. We move from 'an eye for an eye' to the idea that a murderer is perhaps somebody who is merely sick; the Sumerian judges insisted that if you gouged someone's eye out, your own were to be judiciously removed, whereas we now would decide that an eye-gouger was perhaps mentally disturbed, and remove him for observation and treatment.
The reason Justice is not blindfolded in the Tarot is to emphasize the concept that ideally justice should be coupled with insight, the insight that realizes all the consequences of a decision. The need for the community to be protected from the actions of sick or wicked people must be balanced with the need to provide an opportunity for the accused to grow healthy enough so as not to feel the need to repeat the action - simply punishing him won't help. Letting him go completely scot-free won't help to allay the fears of the community. The needs of the present must be balanced against the needs of the future - light community service instead of a short prison sentence will turn a potential recidivist into a useful member of the community. Obviously, no earthly man or judge can know enough to make such a decision, hence we come to the realization that the card represents a range of values, a concept which can take all extremes and intermediate points and unite them into one card.
The other end of the scale, suicide and guilt, are just as unsuitable for the long-term survival of the community. Guilt prevents us making decisions and taking actions which could benefit everyone; classically, guilt sits in a corner, weeps in self-pity, and does nothing. Often guilt will prevent us taking the correct action when we are faced with someone who reminds us of our past conduct. Such a reminder can range from an inadvertent trigger to our subconscious, through deliberate emotional blackmail to ordinary criminal blackmail with menaces and threats.
Taking responsibility whenever it is possible, without seeing whether or not it is necessary or useful is nevertheless a good distance away from the still centre, but at least it is not as destructive. Its everyday consequences are either a feeling of guilt if the assumed responsibility proved too much, or an attempt to play Jewish Momma. Jewish Momma does everything, but everything, for her children while they are small, to the point where the children never learn to do things for themselves; when they are older and want to go out for the evening, Jewish Momma says, 'Go out, have a nice time, here's some money for a nice meal -I can afford it since I'll just have a sandwich tonight as I sit by myself in the kitchen waiting for you to come home. Don't worry, children, just make sure you have a nice time.'
Much nearer the centre lies the act in which responsibility is assumed when, and only when, it is really necessary. If there is an accident in the street, it is necessary to check that someone is redirecting the traffic, that someone is fetching medical help, and that first-aid is being given. Satisfied that these things are being done, we can move on, instead of standing in the way giving orders and volunteering for all sorts of duties which can be done better by others.
Back to our spread. You can now see in what way we should combine opposite cards such as 1 and 2, 3 and 4, and 5 and 6. Each of the combinations should form a synergetic new concept for which these two cards are extremes at opposite ends of the scale.
Card 7, at the centre, represents the real problem, and each of the pairs of cards at opposite ends of the arrows, must be combined in turn with the centre card, to form a triad whose synergetic new concept is being sought. As this is beginning to sound very complicated, with lots of big words being thrown in, I think an actual example might be useful.
A young lady comes to me asking whether she will go on holiday to Spain with her boyfriend. After a little questioning it comes out that the actual location is not important, Italy being just as good; it is clear that it is the relationship with the boyfriend which is in doubt.
She selects seven cards, as follows:
I straightaway look at the Star, and I feel that the real question has to do with trust, i.e. the extent to which she trusts the young man. Will he look after her, not only when the going is easy, but when she is in trouble, ill, pregnant, bad-tempered and so on? She looks to the holiday as a way to get to know these things about him, but to a certain extent realizes that the holiday itself will require that she trust him. Should she really go on holiday with the young man?
We'll assume that the Hanged Man, the Empress and the Lovers are cards which suggest that she should and will; the Fool, the Devil and the Wheel suggest caution and alternative holiday arrangements. Let's first take a look at the combination of Hanged Man and the Wheel. The Hanged Man is about dedication, spiking your flag to the mast, whereas the Wheel is not attached to anything, is free to go when and where, and drifts with the current. Now add the central card, the Star, and see what unifying concept is created.
Here it seems to me that this is a line about putting all your possessions and talents into a partnership, trusting that such an investment will be returned. If she goes on holiday, she will have invested all as a sign that she trusts the young man with her all (question; is she a virgin?). If she doesn't go, then she is free from a tied investment, and can make another choice; the sad thing is that she won't be going anywhere, but will just drift. If she goes, at least she will be going somewhere, even if it is only to Hell in a hand-basket. So we can ask her legitimately whether she prefers to commit sins of omission or commission.
The second pair that catches my eye is the Lovers and the Fool. The Lovers is about decision, while the Fool is about innocence and starting new things. Add the Star to this combination, and search for the unifying concept to find the idea of security. You see, at one end the Lovers gives the security of having made a decision, and the comfort of not having to worry about making decisions in the future;, at the other end the Fool is just about to start something of which he doesn't know the ending. If she goes to Spain, she has committed herself and she doesn't have to worry about any future decisions. If she doesn't go, she will probably lose this boyfriend, and have to look for a new one; she isn't sure whether she can find one. The Fool's innocence also suggests strongly that she is still a virgin, and perhaps a strong desire for sexual experience lies behind the idea of going to Spain.
Lastly, the Empress and the Devil need to be looked at. Combined with the Star, the trio suggests the need to find out her powers and ability to be a woman. The Empress is a fertility symbol, a lady who can have children and be a mother. The Devil is the symbol of being locked in; frigidity is one way of looking at it. Perhaps she feels that going to Spain will prove that she can be a woman through doing what is normal for women, i.e. making love. If she stays away, she cannot trust in herself and her womanhood.
Summing up all these conflicting ideas, we can say that if she does go to Spain with her boyfriend, she will feel a sense of commitment, she will be able to prove that she is a woman rather than a little girl, and she will not have to worry about making a decision or having to look for another man. If she stays at home, or goes elsewhere on her own, she will be free to explore other men, she can put off committing herself irrevocably, and she can still enjoy part of her childhood.
Finally, I look back at the Star, and realize that it can also stand for the idea that each individual is at the same time part of the whole Human Race, or of the Cosmos if you like. All of us make this decision at some time or another; as the human race has survived, by and large, these decisions must have been the right ones on most occasions.
After we had looked at all the cards, and discussed the meanings, the young lady realized that the reason she wanted advice was because she wasn't ready for marriage yet, and she felt that the trip to Spain more or less meant some form of commitment. I suggested a short love affair with a man who wasn't interested in marriage might help a lot in sorting out her real feelings. But I would not predict the outcome, nor make any commands. I felt she was old enough and sensible enough to make up her own mind.