In modern day tarot reading it is quite common that the tarot readers assume that people have a free will to choose their own course of action. That was also my starting point when I started writing this blog. I do think however that it is worth to investigate the opportunity that it is not so. Perhaps this is only something we tell ourselves, because our ego is too big to admit that our readings are off?
The mythological understanding of a divination is very different. When an oracle has been given in a myth it is set in stone and no mortal or even the gods can escape their fate. One of the most famous examples of this is King Oedipus who is doomed to kill his own father and marry his own mother. When he hears of that prophecy he does everything in his power to prevent it from happening – and this is exactly how the chain of events go about to fulfill his fate. There is a point to that in that even though his fate is revealed, the path leading up to it is unknown.
The ancients knew these myths and they were an important part of their culture. The oracles were consulted when it came to making important decisions and they took the advice they got seriously. Solon, the great reformer of Athens, consulted the Oracle of Delphi before he went on with his reforms. I doubt many people today would consult any tarot cards before making any important decisions, and if they do, they would probably not think that they were stuck to the outcome of it.
Most people who teach tarot today teach that the future is not bound by prophecy and that we do have a divine will to make our own choices. I find it difficult to argue against that we have choices in life, but perhaps they may be less of a choice than what we would like to think sometimes. Everyone is bound by the resources they have at their disposal and the upbringing they have received. We do not act outside of our own sphere of knowledge and to quite a large extent humans are creatures of habit. A lot of the things that we perhaps would like to define as choices come down to our habits. I am not so much talking of choices such as whether you want to have eggs or yoghurt for breakfast. What I mean are the choices that matter to us on the grand scale -the ones that we would do a divination to receive guidance for.
A common danger with divinations, and I think danger is the appropriate word here, is that they may become self-fulfilling prophecies. Someone might believe in them to the extent that they block out all other possible paths and end up just as it was predicted. This is a common theme within sociology. As I said, it can be very difficult to break out of our pattern of habits. And if the foretold prophecy has been internalized to the extent that it has become a habit to think of it as it would happen, it can be difficult to avoid. That is not to say that divinations should be avoided, but anyone who is serious about them should approach them with the right mindset. A self-fulfilling prophecy would be an example of where divination might take away other courses of action and therefore take away the actual choices that we may have had.
In one sense that is exactly what happens with King Oedipus, although it was not clear to him that it was exactly this that led him to the series of actions that fulfilled the prophecy, but had he not taken that action to prevent the series of events unfolding it may not have happened. It is unclear whether it would have happened if no actions at all had been taken, but that is not how the story of the myth goes. The question still remains if he even had the opportunity to act differently. Probably not. And certainly not as soon as he heard the dire prophecy. He got stuck to the prophecy as soon as he heard it.
If our divinations end up as a warning sign of things to come ahead, I think most of us will heed that advice and try to change our course of action in some way. Other times it may be difficult to do exactly that as our habits will often try to prevent us from change. So either we are heading straight for the direction of the warning sign or we are heading towards an alternative where we might have little overview of what the consequences might look like at the end of the road. In either case I am not sure if it necessarily is the product of our choices. Most people simply do not relate to their lives as a series of choices where everything is planned down to every single detail (this is where most conspiracy theorists fail). What follows then is that we are bound by social structures and habits that will make many of the choices for us. It also has to be that way as it would not be possible for us to plan out or know every single consequence of all our actions. The aggregate of all these actions may also be (for us) unpredictable. Human beings are often not as rational as we would like to think about ourselves.
Did I really choose to write this blog post? If I had not written it now and played a game or something instead chances are that I somewhere down the line would have written it anyway. Why? Because I have this blog and sometimes I feel the need to write stuff. I cannot help that. It is a part of my character and a habit I have. The fact that it has been in my draft for almost a month also means that it is not something I just spontaneously thought about. Now, I realize, how bombastic and silly it sounds like if I was interpreted as I was “destined to write this blog post”, but that is only because our cultural upbringing has made us used to hearing those words in the context of something that is great. If anything that destiny would also have to be something trivial.
Perhaps I will return to this topic again later, but for now I wish to conclude with that modern day tarot readers do not go sufficiently in-depth when they speak of the choices that we have. The idea that we have a free will may be a product of our cultural upbringing and may be something that we are taught more than we actually have come to and thought of that conclusion ourselves. A lot of the choices we have may be illusory. There are even cards within the tarot deck which may suggest that.
At last, I just want to say that this is not to be understood as that all readings therefore are accurate. They may very well not be. They too are bound by our interpretations and the threads of fate. I do, however, never think that the cards that appear are incorrect. I only think that the interpretation of them may be, and that is largely limited by the context and knowledge we have, which most often is very incomplete.
The Night Spirit