I admit it: this subject has for too long been nagging me. Last September Mary K. Greer wrote about her 21 Ways to Read a Tarot Card – a book which I highly recommend for everyone – in her most excellent blog and mentioned the name of Viktor Frankl there. Having studied logotherapeutic techniques myself (as part of my art therapy training) I’ve been thinking about the relationship between Tarot and Logotherapy ever since (frankly, ahem). What follows here is my reply to Mary, outlining vaguely my thoughts about these two disciplines, and what might possibly be similar in them.
I think Tarot and logotherapy is quite an interesting combination. I was really surprised that I couldn’t find a single link to a site which would’ve dealt with such a combination. I’m sure there are logotherapists who use Tarot – there must be – but not a single site? Just google “tarot + logotherapy”, it’s a dead end. If you have any idea about people who would use this combo I’d love to hear
I’m definitely not an expert on the subject of logotherapy, far from it, (the same goes to Tarot) but I did find some interesting parallels between the two. I thought about self-detachment and self-transcendence, very popular concepts in logotherapy, and about the idea of perspective in these.. isn’t it very much about gaining a broader and wider perspective in these two concepts? And then I thought about what happens in a Tarot reading. Just the physical level by itself: you sit there by the table, cards are in front of you, you are yourself literally above the cards, looking down at them. If and when the cards are showing you your own life and situation, then you are above these, having a physical perspective already. Isn’t that a great start for a “self-transcendence”? It’s almost like Tarot saying, “yes, you can rise above your situation.. see, you are already above it!”
The meaning of life — isn’t this what basically every Tarot reading is about? No matter what our subject is, there’s always the motivation to find a meaning in it, or behind the obvious. I like what Frankl said about finding a meaning, that it’s very difficult if not downright impossible to answer the big question (the meaning of life), but you can answer it if you bring it closer to your own life.. what’s the meaning of my situation here and now, what’s the meaning of this problem, relationship, etc. You make it smaller and thereby more tangible. And that’s what we are after in a Tarot reading, finding an answer is about finding a meaning. But here comes the big question for the reader and the querent / client; who gives the meaning and where can the meaning be found? If we stick to a fixed set of card meanings, how personal can the reading – and the meaning – become?
In my current understanding the answer to this is to be found in working actively with the images. Therefore I always ask the client, “what does this image ask from you?”. I don’t provide the answer for the simple reason that I can’t know what the answer is. I can tell the general meanings of the card in question, basic symbology of the iconography, some of the correspondances (numerological, astrological, cabbalistic, etc.) but the “true meaning of this card here and now” – that I think is for the client to discover. And for this reason we need to have different techniques at hand to help the client achieve in finding the meaning (which is why 21 Ways to Read a Tarot Card is so great!).
What I also found a gem among his ideas was what Frankl said about suffering, that we shouldn’t suffer unnecessarily. Isn’t that what happens all too often, we prolong an unbearable situation, avoid taking responsibility.. and suffer unnecessarily. Tarot reading can then be one way of becoming conscious of what needs to change.
I think I need to find someone who’s good at Logotherapy, someone who knows it inside out. Then I and that person need to have a chat. And then, maybe, I’ll come back here with more thoughts.
p.s. Seriously – we need that book called "Tarot and Logotherapy" or "Logotherapeutic Tarot". And no, hell no, I’m not gonna write it.