Or perhaps it is enough to illuminate a specific corner of someone’s world.
Many tarot readers believe that the question asked before the cards are shuffled and spread is very important. There are many facets of discussion about this, though, and no universal agreement. There are probably just as many readers who do not have their clients ask a question. However, for those who find questions useful, it’s always interesting to think about how to phrase a good question.
Years ago I read The Great Influenza by John M. Barry (published by Penguin Books) and one passage (pp 60 – 61, paperback edition, 2005) struck me as so interesting I copied it out in a journal. I’ll reproduce it here.
“The greatest challenge of science, its art, lies in asking an important question and framing it in a way that allows it to be broken into manageable pieces, into experiments that can be conducted that ultimately lead to answers. To do this requires a certain kind of genius, one that probes vertically and sees horizontally.
Horizontal vision allows someone to assimilate and weave together seemingly unconnected bits of information. It allows an investigator to see what others do not see, and to make leaps of connectivity and creativity. Probing vertically, going deeper and deeper into something, creates new information. Sometimes what one finds will shine brilliantly enough to illuminate the whole world.
….To see questions in these ways requires a wonder, a deep wonder focused by discipline, like a lens focusing the sun’s rays on a spot on paper until it bursts into flame. It requires a kind of conjury.”
From this observation, I took four main points:
1. Ask an important question
This does beg the question “how does one know what is an important question.” Perhaps we know intuitively or perhaps we ask the question and wring out all the answers we can and determine the importance of the question based on the significance of the answers.
A common example of what many consider a “bad” or “less useful” or in the words used here “not important question” would be something like: Is my ex going to come back to me?
The answer could be yes or no or maybe. But how significant is that answer to the asker’s life? How is it going to change or illuminate them?
Some readers would encourage digging deeper. For example, asking why the person is having trouble letting go of the relationship, how this information would shape his or her present actions, or how can the wound caused by the ending of the relationship be healed?
2. Frame the question in a way that creates manageable pieces
This is where spread selection is influenced. After assessing the question and determining the facets of it that may yield the most useful information, use (or design) a spread that can best reflect these aspects.
3. Probe horizontally
After the cards are laid out for the reading, scan them looking for patterns and connectivity. Use that information to pinpoint insights. This aspect of reading, especially the initial scan, can answer the whats and the hows of a situation.
4. Probe vertically
I found it fascinating that by delving deeper, we actually create new information. “Create” rather than “discover.” Part of going deeper is asking “why.” So, in a relativistic way (in which the observer influences the outcome), probing vertically “creates” new information that can influence the outcome, either of a situation or of the insight and/or guidance gleaned from the reading. When we “create” new information, we can then cycle back to the probing horizontally, seeing how the new information affects the previously established patterns or creates new ones. Again, this aspect can answer the whys of a situation.
If used, these steps can create an interactive, dynamic reading that will provide more insight than a simple, static one. Answering what one might call a “non-important” question may give someone comfort (or the opposite, depending on the answer). But spending time with any question and teasing out its complex layers can lead to the “important” question nestled within the surface concern. Once you find that question, you open the door to greater illumination.