This is the eleventh year for Readers Studio. I’ve been coming for the last five. This year, for the first time, a full additional day was added. This day is the first Tarot and Psychology Conference and the brainchild of Dr. Arthur Rosengarten, the author of Tarot and Psychology. Dr. Rosengarten was to be one of the instructors but fell ill and was unable to attend. With just two days notice Mary K. Greer stepped up and taught a class in his place. Dr. David Van Nuys, Emeritus Professor of Psychology from Sonoma State University and Dr. Elinor Greenberg, a private practice psychologist in New York City were the other two presenters.
One thing I frequently caution my clients about is managing expectations. It’s nearly impossible to enter a situation without having some expectations about the experience and/or the outcome. It’s fine to have an idea of how the day is going to go but we set ourselves up for disappointment when we are attached to what we think things are supposed to be. I wasn’t sure what to expect from a Tarot and Psychology conference but based on past experience at Readers Studio I expected to be introduced to a concept, be educated about the concept and then have some training in the practical application of the concept. That is not exactly how this day went.
The first speaker, Dr. Van Nuys is a psychologist first and so his presentation was not what I expected from a tarot conference but what I would expect at a psychology conference and that is not what I wanted. His talk, “Hypnotic Dream Induction and Tarot for Powerful Insights”, was interesting in parts but not compelling enough to keep my mind from wandering. Because his primary focus is psychology it seemed like the practical application of his technique didn’t really require tarot and the tarot portion felt as if it were patched onto an already existing practice. For personal use this may be handy but I don’t see it translating into a service I can offer clients. I may change my mind after I’ve played with this a while.
Dr. Greenberg’s presentation was “Tarot as a Therapeutic Tool” and she walked us through the process and rationale for having clients create their own oracles. We did this by doing it ourselves. The concept is to find your theme for a deck based on your particular need for guidance, assign meaning to images and put them on the cards. Later on the cards are drawn at random to provide guidance by reminding the clients/ourselves what we already know. There is more to it than just this. Working with a client to create a small stack of focused reminders would be very useful for dealing with ongoing issues they are experiencing. When situations arise in line with the theme, the cards act as touchstones grounding the person using them and reminding them of what they know and in some cases advising them of actions to take. Plus, we got to play with markers and stickers; always a crowd pleaser.
Then came Mary K. Greer. She did a presentation on “Intuition and Transference” that was impressive considering she had only about two days to put it all together. Mary understands the audience she was teaching to and explained psychological terms and theories that could be pertinent to a tarot practice. She took it a bit further and dissected Intuition in a way that I don’t entirely agree with. It surprised me. She came at it from a clinical point of view and gave a definition that belongs in a psych textbook written by someone who has never experienced a flash of intuition and that is not something I expected from Mary Greer. In fact the whole presentation was so very different from the last class I took with Mary that it rattled me a bit. She discussed tarot, intuition, psychic flashes and other phenomenon that her audience takes for granted but she did so in a rather detached and analytical way that most of us weren’t ready for. There was some fascinating information included like the existence of mirror neurons and the function they are believed to perform but there was also some concepts that seemed to dismiss the spiritual aspect of tarot reading. That right there is where my resistance to this marriage of psychology and tarot lies.
I wasn’t disappointed exactly nor do I think I wasted time and money on this conference. Not at all. I didn’t know precisely what I was getting myself into but I took a chance. This was the first year for this conference and I expect that next year’s will be better. There is an argument to made that tarot is a form of therapy and Carl Jung himself was a fan. His concepts of archetypes, synchronicity and the collective unconscious all intertwine with the tarot. It’s the need of science to strip away the spiritual that I find most offensive. It’s particularly hard to take from psychology: the study of the psyche, a part of us and our experience that cannot really be measured and dissected. In its zeal to be taken seriously like the harder sciences of physics and chemistry, psychology is selling its soul. I just don’t want it to take tarot with it.