I had an experience with my tarot cards recently that brought me back to myself.
I was in a state of general undefined discontent and decided to pull a few cards to see if it would help me understand what was at the heart of my feelings. I laid out three cards, was not initially seeing anything that looked compelling, was also annoyed that the cards had not immediately responded to my petulant needs, and put them away without reading them. My sour mood prevailed.
The next morning, I decided I should give the cards another try. Here is my method: I always leave the cards from a previous reading face-up on top of the deck when I put it away. Before I begin to shuffle for a new reading, I carefully tuck those cards back into the deck, one at a time, more or less evenly spaced throughout the deck. I spend some time shuffling the deck, and then I cut the deck, allowing the surface tension of the cards to find the right place for the division. The bottom half of the deck becomes the top, and I pull cards one at a time from the top of this shuffled deck.
In the back of my mind, the statistical potential for the randomization of a deck of 78 cards is always present in my approach to pulling cards. My methods are not special, but I feel the need to be thorough enough to reassure the Analytical Monster that lurks in the back of my head that I have sufficiently randomized the deck. With the Monster thus satisfied, I can allow the rest of my mind the freedom to embrace the magic of the moment as it unfolds.
That morning I did this, and shuffled the deck while I formed a similar question in my mind as the night before.
I pulled three cards. The first two cards were two of the exact same cards I had pulled the night before, but the third card was different. This coincidence got my attention, and I carefully read about the three cards in front of me. I felt the message of the third card was not particularly clear so I decided to pull an additional card to clarify the meaning. I shuffled the deck again, cut it, and pulled a single card from the top of the deck – I was looking at the third card I had pulled from the night before. I had pulled four cards from a completely randomized set of 78, and all three of the cards from the previous night were present.
I love science, but let’s face it, Isaac Newton kind of ruined things. I am with William Blake in this view, and have consciously worked to to try and remove the subtle and ever-present effects of ‘Newton’s Sleep’ from my thinking as best I can. Even so, the soulless aspects of single thinking has saturated western culture, and I am not immune from its influence. It feeds the Analytical Monster, and over time wears me down until I welcome it into the driver’s seat. This is where I was when I sat down to do the reading the second time, and then I pulled the same cards again. It is statistically impossible that, without interference, the cards that were carefully spaced throughout the deck could be shuffled back into the same order again, let alone after randomizing the deck a second time. The bus suddenly came to a screeching halt, and I pitched the Analytical Monster to the curb. How refreshing! I was then able to read the message that I needed to receive, and connect with the essential part of my self. My sour mood was eradicated.
This experience with the cards is the definition of Jung’s theory of synchronicity – acausal coincidence, but with meaning. The more formal definition of the term is “the simultaneous occurrence of events which appear significantly related but have no discernible causal connection.” How ever you describe it, it means there is more at work in the world than meets the Newtonian standard.
The same device – a careful shuffling method – employed as a methodical process to remove the possibility of a coincidental occurrence of a repeated pattern, was also the pathway to liberating the deep spiritual experience of synchronicity. The thought process that was working to strangle magic also allowed for it to emerge in an even more potent and meaningful way.
Of this, Jung says: “Natural laws are statistical truths, which means that they are completely valid only when we are dealing with macrophysical quantities.” This is Newton’s world – apples fall from trees, planets swing through space in predictable patterns, thoughts follows a linear process. Jung continues: “In the realm of very small quantities prediction become uncertain, if not impossible, because very small quantities no longer behave in accordance with the known natural laws.” Now we are dealing with the realm of quantum physics – where spooky interaction at a distance defines the relationships of meaningful coincidence. Jung goes on to say: “Every answer of nature is therefore more or less influenced by the kind of questions asked, and the result is always a hybrid product.” What better definition is there of the experience of reading tarot cards than this?
The microcosm is the macrocosm – a fractal hybrid where three symbollic images printed on cards can come together and constellate into a larger pattern of meaning – uncertain, unpredictable, but beautifully orchestrated by the power and energy of a questioning mind.
The quotes above come from the Collected Works of C. G. Jung, Volume 8 – Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle, paragraphs 818 and 821.