Silver gelatin print processed in the darkroom by Camelia Elias

Here’s an analogy between the art world and the Tarot for divination purpose.

It’s all about looking. What you put forth as an artist and a Tarot reader is the way you look at something, your cards or pictures. What matters is the result of your looking, not the method that goes into it.

Many are invested in seeking knowledge and learning. There’s a place for that. But at the end of the day, what you put forth or across the table to the other is never the effort that goes into learning how to look at things, or how to think through things. Rather, it’s the strong message that does it, and because of that, the beautiful message that grabs the heart.

In a recent conversation with my partner I said the following: ‘Art is philosophy, it’s about viewing, not about processing, consuming, and broadcasting.’

He asked in return: ‘Can’t art just be BANG’, implying that when art succeeds it’s precisely when it grabs you by the heart.

I said: ‘That IS philosophy. BANG is philosophy, as it’s about EUREKA and AHA moments. It’s about the immediate response to the obvious.’

Of course, as with many things, the obvious is the most impenetrable, and that’s precisely why we respond so strongly to it. It can take years to get what you’re looking at. But it can also happen in an instant. That’s the beauty of it. That’s why art is about beauty, not process.

The same with the Tarot cards. You read them for the AHA moment. You can train your cognitive faculties and follow formal rules that allow you to recognize the essential in a card reading. Some methods are also more effective and rewarding than others – for instance, reading your cards via deductive reasoning is not the same as reading intuitively, whatever ‘intuitively’ stands for. But at the end of the day, when you sit there with your verdict, or your sentence as it arises from a string of cards, what you put forth is the beauty of the end result, not the process that goes into it.

It’s worth reminding yourself sometimes that part of what makes you a good diviner is your discernment, or the fact that you never lose sight of the beauty in delivering a clear and useful message.

Being too heavily invested in learning communities, methods, schools, and traditions has no other effect than turning you into a diviner who is less and less sure of herself.

If you take the time it takes to really look at your cards and to think for yourself, you end up appreciating what beauty is all about, namely the instant recognition of the whole universe in a grain of sand, as the poet William Blake put it.

Inspired by my own work with analog photography, when I imagine that what I’d doing or aiming for is to have an infinite conversation with what I’m looking at, I like to ask my cards:

How can I have an infinite conversation with my work as a diviner? What does it take for me to have such a conversation with the cards? How do I get past the situation of ‘now I see it, now I don’t,’ and hit the continuum instead, that is to say, when I’m able to see it all the time?

This is my ambition for my students in my teaching, to make them see it all the time, the clear message, and because of that, the beautiful message.

How is your infinite conversation with the cards?

Silver gelatin print processed in the darkroom by Camelia Elias

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About Camelia Elias
Camelia Elias, PhD & Dr.Phil., is a former university professor. After 20 years in the academia, she left her career to pursue her interests in teaching and writing on the philosophy and practice of reading cards. She works with contemplative arts, oracular language, and martial arts cartomancy and Zen at her own school, Aradia Academy. You can read more about the author here.
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