Chapter 16


People say they want help, when they want attention. They say they want to listen when they want to be heard. We know this by what you say, by how you look, by what we can feel. Everyone else would feel it too, if they were not similarly self-absorbed and uninterested in you. You must first of all find out from yourself if you want to learn, and why you want to learn. If you go somewhere to buy something you must first earn the money, and have some idea of what you need. If you just have idle wants, and do not know your needs, you have a long way to go. If you become diverted from us by your behaviour you would never have been able to keep pace with us, anyway.

If this sounds unpleasant, it does not signify that it is meant to be unpleasant. If you think we are unpleasant, you are holding up a mirror to yourself and saying 'Look at them!'

(Salahudin Afranji)

That rather long quote from a Middle Eastern philosopher, written in the Middle Ages, is to my way of thinking apposite to the whole study of the Tarot. Its major point is the careful differentiation between want and need.

In the social science of Economics, a careful distinction is made between desire and demand. Desire is the (presumed) wish of the citizen to obtain some service or object. That means nothing; I can desire a private aeroplane or a Taj Mahal in my back garden, but nobody is going to lift a finger to supply these items. Demand is defined as the desire plus the willingness and ability to pay for it. If I have a million pounds in my bank, then I can find someone who will supply an aeroplane or a copy of the Taj Mahal.

In the study of the development of the psyche, a careful distinction is made between wants and needs. Wants are the things and ideas that the person desires; needs are the things and ideas that are necessary to his development.

Here I am, talking about developing the psyche, when all you wanted was to know how to read someone's fortune. Well, in reading a person's fortune, you are predicting what will happen given the Querent's present disposition and intentions. In order to change the future, it is necessary to change the Querent's psyche, and in order to understand the psyche we use the Tarot (or psychoanalysis, or tea-leaves or whatever). If you read someone's future, and leave it at that, it's rather like looking at a neglected garden and saying how messy it is and leaving it at that. A messy, neglected garden can gradually be cleared so as to become beautiful; an overgrown psyche with too many weeds, thorns and nettles can be weeded and cleared. The prediction that a garden, which is at present neglected, will in two years time be a jungle is only half the story. The statement that if five minutes a day is spent on weeding then in two years time the garden will at least be tidy is the other half; whether the owner will listen is another matter.

.Let us take this analogy much further. The Querent comes to the Reader, and complains that his garden is not producing much fruit, and that the fruit is small, unappetizing and often diseased. Will next year's crop be better? A fortune-teller will look at the garden, and say that next year's crop will be worse, or better; someone interested in gardens will look at the garden, and try to understand why the crop is not good enough. He will sample the soil, inspect rainfall records, ask what fertilizers have been used, whether the garden is watered, and how and at what time of the day; he will ask how old the fruit-trees are, and what strain. Eventually the reader will find out that the man has used no fertilizer, or the wrong type, that the strain of fruit-tree is wrong for the soil, that the last three years have had far too little rainfall, that the owner has been pruning them in the wrong way for many years, or hasn't pruned them at all. The Reader then puts all the facts together, and comes to a inclusion. It could be that circumstances have changed (rainfall, new insect-pests) and that the owner has not realized these changes, and has therefore not responded. It could be that the owner has been doing the wrong things, through ignorance or obstinacy. It could be that the owner has been lazy, or absent; he hasn't given the garden the attention and care it needs. Having reached those conclusions, the Reader then can say that, given the owner's willingness and ability to change the way he treats the garden, there will be an improvement or no improvement.

What the Querent wanted was to be told whether next year was going to be better. What he needed was to be told why it was not good enough, and how that could be changed. Things don't happen by chance, they happen because we arrange our lives so as to make these occurrences likely. Obviously, I'm not talking of train crashes or earthquakes, but of failed jobs, broken marriages, betrayal by friends, lost opportunities, depression, etc.

Of course, when we have told the Querent what needs doing in the garden, that doesn't mean that things will change. The Querent may object that too much work is needed, the fertilizer costs too much, the instructions are too complicated, that perhaps next year the old amounts of rain will fall down. That's O.K., you're not going to be able to do the work for him. But you can advise what needs doing, and that is the purpose of reading the Tarot.

Each Querent will come to the Reader with a different question. Some want to grow bigger roses, others want to reach roses which smell nicer. One man wants to grow giant marrows, another likes to sit in the garden and enjoy a book - is all that weeding really necessary? The questions vary enormously, and we have to deal with them, and discern the real need behind each question. Once the real question has been carefully exposed, we can get down to looking for an answer. How do we get at the real question?

For a start, it is in order to look at the Querent, and ask him, 'If, as you sit there, a man suddenly appeared right in front of your very eyes, whom you knew, without a shadow of a doubt, could answer any question completely and accurately; suppose, that you were allowed only one question, what would you ask?' Most Querents look a bit startled, and say something like 'I don't know, I never thought about it like that'. If a Querent can state that question, then spread the cards and get on with it. For the others, I have devised a formula, or rather a series of formulae, into which all questions can be translated, that is, all really important questions. Below is the formula, followed in each case by the type of spread that is most useful:

If you take the question given to you by the Querent, and use one of these three formulae, you can, by striking out the inappropriate words, resolve well over 95% of all questions into a straightforward request which has, potentially, a straightforward answer. To go back to our gardening problem, all questions about the fruit resolve themselves into:

      a. How must I go about changing my garden, or what must I do to change my garden?

      b. Should I change my garden?

      c. Will I ever succeed in changing my garden?

These are the archetypal questions; they are never trivial, since ultimately all food comes from some garden or other (try seeing the planet Earth as a garden), and similarly, this world is made up of the conscious and subconscious minds of all its inhabitants.

To finish this chapter, and this section, here is a game that you can play. It is based on a quiz game that was very popular on the radio; to my surprise, many adults to whom I described this game had never heard of it, so I'll first describe the original game (which you can ignore if you know it already) and then the special version for this book.


A group of people, from three to ten or so, can play. One person is elected who thinks of an object (no abstract qualities or ideas) but does not tell any other member of the group. All the other members are allowed to ask questions about the nature of this object, the only proviso being that the person who chose the object can only say *Yes' or 'No'. You can for instance ask him whether the object is coloured blue, but you cannot ask him what colour the object is. Each member of the group takes it in turn to ask one question. A total of twenty questions only (hence the name) is permitted; by that time the object should have been guessed.

If you didn't succeed the first time, and you have decided that it is a very hard game, try thinking about the following. If you were to make a list of all objects and their names that exist in the English language and put them in a special object dictionary, then you could hand over the dictionary to our clever friend, and ask him 'Is the object one of the words in the first half of the dictionary?'; if he said yes, it would be so, if no, then you know it is in the second half. You could then ask him if it was in the last quarter, or the third eighth, or if it is any word between 'prong' or 'pupa*, and so on. Mathematically, you can, using twenty questions, ascertain, without any guessing whatsoever, over 1,000,000 words! So, if you didn't succeed the first time, try harder.


In the Tarot version of the game, one person is chosen, who must think of a person with whom he has a strong emotional relationship. It can be a parent, a wife or a child; it can be an enemy or a friend, as long as the bond is strong. If the bond is complex, or involves hate or fear, so much the better, since these will show up better in the game. The chosen person will write about the relationship, but not show it to anyone. He will then tell the other members of the group the way in which he is related, i.e. a father, daughter, friend, enemy, etc.

The rest of the group now ask twenty questions, one each in turn, about the relationship; again, all questions can only be answered 'Yes' or 'No'. After the twenty questions are asked, and the answers noted down, each member of the group then writes down their idea of the exact nature of the relationship, using only one sentence or so. The answers of each member are then read out, and commented on by the person whose relationship is the object of all the attention. This will obviously lead to some discussion.

Finally, in order to demonstrate that all the ideas have been correctly translated, each member of the group is asked to write down a simple action which the person could perform, both physically and mentally, which would or could reverse the relationship.

Here I come to the end of this chapter, and this section. A lot of it is not immediately or directly applicable to learning how to use the Tarot; all of it is knowledge and understanding which I have found necessary for myself as I studied the Tarot. If you don't find an immediate need for it, keep it until you are further on the path, when you may well be better able to make use of it.
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