Tarot and Psychology: Spectrums of Possibility

Tarot and Psychology: Spectrums of Possibility is written by a licensed Jungian-focused clinical psychologist, and integrates the images from the archetypal world of Tarot into the scientific field of psychology.

By Arthur Rosengarten

Book - 293 pages - Published by Parragon Publishing

Review by Bonnie Cehovet

"Tarot and Psychology - Spectrums of Possibility" integrates the images from the archetypal world of Tarot into the scientific field of psychology. The audience for this book would be those working in the field of psychology who are considering integrating the Tarot into their client work, or those in the Tarot field who have an interest in the application of Tarot to psychological work. My interest in Dr. Rosengarten's work comes from comments that I overheard from an attendee at the 203 Readers Studio. She was excited about the work that we were doing during that weekend, and wanted to know how she could apply that in a clinical setting.

I think that mention of Dr. Rosengarten's credentials is appropriate here. He is a licensed clinical psychologist, a Diplomate of the American Psychotherapy Association, and a professional Tarot reader/teacher with over twenty-five years experience. He wrote the first accredited doctoral dissertation on Tarot divination (1985, at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco). He was a featured presenter at the First and Second World Tarot Congress in Chicago and is currently in private practice in Encinitas, California. He teaches the Tarot Circle, now in its 7th year, and leads Continuing Education Workshops on Symbols and Synchronicity For Psychologists and other helping professionals (Approved by The California Board of Psychology) throughout California.

In his preface, Dr. Rosengarten notes that one of the reasons that he wrote this book is because of his personally witnessing the elegance and insightfulness that the Tarot can stimulate. A central theme throughout this book is that Tarot and the field of psychology are essentially compatible - a long way from the New Agey rap that Tarot has been attempting to work its way out of.

In his foreword, well known Tarot expert Lon Milo DuQuette posits that the Tarot entered the new millennium still in the guise of a "fallen angel". He also notes that the "mystical" concepts of the Tarot archetypes are identical in essence with those of Jung's Universal Collective Unconscious. He also notes that it is still a professional risk to apply the tool of Tarot in a therapeutic environment. DuQuette sees Dr. Rosengarten's work as a bridge in the "yawning abyss" between psychology and mysticism.

I found it interesting that James A. Hill, M.D., in his forward noted that were he still in active practice, that he would wish to test for himself the integration of Tarot and other mantic methods into analysis. The question that he posits is "Where do you choose to draw the line between psychotherapy and life?"

Some of the most definitive moments in this book come from Dr. Rosengarten's case studies. The one that drew me the strongest was based on talk about the Tarot that he gave to an ongoing women's support group. The women were all professionals, and the group had been together for a significant amount of time. As part of his presentation, he did a reading for the group as a whole - with stunning results! What the Tarot brought out were core issues within the group that none of the members had been willing to bring up on their own. My feeling here is that there is wisdom here not only for those working within the field of Tarot but also for those working within the field of psychology.

Dr. Rosengarten discusses the foundation of a Tarot reading, and the instances where it can be applied (as well as where it should not be applied) in a counseling environment. He addresses the configuration of Tarot spreads, and how the switching of sequences would affect a reading. (This technique is also employed by Tarot author/teacher Mary K. Greer as a way of better understanding the cards, and interpreting them in relation to surrounding cards.) Also addressed is reading the Tarot spread in clusters of cards - a technique that certainly takes away the feeling of being overwhelmed by too much information. Coming from the Tarot side of things myself, I was interested in the information presented on the various psychological approaches, and how the Tarot fit into them.

Dr. Rosengarten addresses the laws of opposition in a manner that the general public can understand and follow. He shows how these laws apply through the suits as well as through the individual Tarot cards, through position definition within a spread, and through numerological correspondences.

A "Spectrum of Possibility" has been developed for each of the 78 cards of the Tarot. For the Minor Arcana, this includes exterior meanings, reversed meanings, interior meanings, and place with the spectrums (mind, soul, spirit and body). For the Major Arcana, this includes agency (intention), coherence (organization), continuity (process) and emotional arousal (motivation). This vastly expands not only the upright/reversed mindset, but the 360 degrees of possibility mindset.

All of the above was put to work in a pilot project that Dr. Rosengarten conducted, working with a subject base of both victims and perpetrators of domestic violence. This project was based on voluntary participation of clients within local (Southern California), community-based services for recovering perpetrators and/or victims of spousal abuse and family violence. Each subject received a free, standardized, taped Tarot reading. While the number of participants was low, giving a very small data base, some trends did emerge, such as the appearance of Knights in the obstacle position of the women's readings.

Dr. Rosengarten has included an Appendix that addresses each of the Tarot cards through applicable phrases, images within the card, traditional definition (along with an appropriate proverb), and spectrum of possibility keywords.

"Tarot and Psychology - Spectrums of Possibility" addresses the use of Tarot from the point of view of spiritual growth and psychological insight into the self. Dr. Rosengarten steps outside of the parameters of any one psychological mind-set to work with the myriad levels of the Tarot without a specific agenda. He allows the images of the Tarot to work through the personal experiences of each individual within the auspices of a counseling framework. One of the points that Dr. Rosengarten makes is that for the Tarot to evolve, it must be relevant to people's lives, accessible, and retain its meaning throughout the changes that form our lives. Tarot must function as a tool of empowerment for those who seek to access their creative nature, and find greater meaning and awareness in their lives.

The challenge within this book is to both the world of psychology and the world of Tarot. It asks practitioners of both worlds to step outside the box and expand their thinking. Based on the author's solid training, extensive research and practical experience in both fields, this is a must read book of those that wish to add meaning and facilitate growth in their own lives, and the lives of their clients.

© Bonnie Cehovet

Bonnie Cehovet is Certified Tarot Grand Master, a professional Tarot reader with over ten years experience, a Reiki Master/Teacher and a writer. Bonnie has served in various capacities with the American Tarot Association, is co-founder of the World Tarot Network, and Vice President (as well as Director of Certification) for the American Board For Tarot Certification. She has had articles appear in the 2004 and 2005 Llewellyn Tarot Reader.

Review by Kathleen Meadows

If you are a tarot reader and have often considered what a brilliant study in psychology the Tarot provides, then this book is for you. If you are a practicing psychotherapist who has been eying a Tarot deck for a tool to add to your therapy kit, this book is for you too. Dr. Rosengarten has written this book with humour, wisdom and enticement. An easy read with only a few complex psychological references to throw the novice psychology buff off kilter. But if you are a tarotist interested in psychology (really what tarotist is not interested in psychology?) you will thoroughly enjoy reading a psychologist’s perspective on not only the process of reading the tarot, but it’s inherent, instructive psychological meanings as well.

When I discovered this book I was ecstatic. I am a psychotherapist who has become a full time tarot reader. I don’t call myself a psychotherapist now. There was a time when I saw clients during the day for therapy and taught the tarot in the evening. Although I would teach psychology to my tarot students, I never spoke of the tarot to my psychotherapy clients. Sad but true. I became a full time tarot reader for the freedom and openness possible in working with clients. I wanted to be free to say what I think and feel while drawing upon a brilliant synchronicity tool to open a sacred space untethered by convention. Although best practice overlaps in both realms (confidentiality, honour and respect) the arena, culture and underlying assumptions are vastly different.

Dr. Rosengarten describes a study he launched in California whereby volunteer, high-risk couples were invited to participate, using tarot readings as the centre, therapeutic modality. This is not something that would fly in Canada (unfortunately!) but in California, not only was it permitted but it also received some government funding! Dr. Rosengarten does some statistical analysis about what cards tended to show up the most often in certain positions for both men and women. For example, the Knight of Wands shows up in the warning position of most women who have suffered abuse at the hands of their partner! This study in its entirety makes for a fascinating and unique read.

This is only one the many, many examples Dr. Rosengarten shares in his experience as a therapist using the Tarot to enrich, enliven and deepen his connection to clients in therapy. He describes working with a client named David, who is dying of aids. Creative, explorative and joyful, you are carried right into the heart of these sessions which end just prior to David’s passing on to spirit. You won’t soon forget the extraordinary and rare glimpse into this profound work done by the author with a grace that is truly awe-inspiring.

He describes being invited to do a reading for a group of women who had been meeting for years and had hit a bump in their process. I laughed out loud reading, “Up to that moment, I must say, the energy in the room had been genuinely quite friendly, supportive, accepting, and welcoming (that is, remarkably Empress-like), as one might expect from a group of warm and bright women who had been meeting together in this way for years. Now, after two measly Tarot cards, hot steam and dragon fire began erupting like Mt. Saint Helens. Tarot, it seems, had presented an opportunity to air certain grievances, apparently quite atypical of this group’s normal functioning (I was later to learn).”

The Tarot as usual brings both light and shadow to any situation. The atmosphere of play, anticipation and curiosity associated with doing a “reading” opened the women to a whole new perspective on their group and ultimately saved the group from complete dissolution.

Dr. Rosengarten introduces this book by saying, “Finally, I wanted to offer some new ground to those seasoned tarotists, hermeticists, artists, mystics, magicians, and sundry esoteric thinkers who were interested to learn more of Tarot’s psychological and therapeutic properties and possibilities. Psychology, I would show them, is intrinsic to both the structure and the method of Tarot itself.” Dr. Rosengarten meets this goal brilliantly in this book which has been on my highly recommended list for Tarot students for many years. You will quite simply love this book.

Kathleen Meadows, M.A, is a Certified Tarot Grand Master with 20 years reading and teaching the Tarot from a feminist perspective.

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