The number of books available in and out of print on Tarot is not as large as the number of books on astrology, but new books continue to get published. Much of the material written about Tarot decks appears in the companion books that come with many of the decks, and many of them are quite good. Since the number of books on Tarot is quite small in comparison to astrology, but larger than say books on runes or pendulums, it is easier to find and write about the best books to purchase and own.
Choosing the Book
For this review process, I am looking at three main factors: the knowledge and wisdom of the author, the readability and delivery of the knowledge, and the usefulness of the book – in practice or for building an understanding of the field. Beginner books will be delineated from more advanced techniques from largely philosophical and or theoretical books. Most of the books will fall somewhere between beginner and theoretical, with an eye towards usefulness. When I began, I read as much as I could from past and current authors and explored many different techniques until I finally settled on my particular way of doing Tarot and oracle card reading, which has become my signature style.
The Book – Tarot and Psychology by Arthur Rosengarten, PhD
The full title of this book is Tarot and Psychology: Spectrums of Possibility. The ISBN 13 number for this book is 978-1557787842 and it is currently $15.92 USD on Amazon at the time this article was written. If you are a used book junkie, you can find a copy on Alibris for $12.51 USD. Published in 2000, this book “combines moving case studies with practical details of exactly how Tarot can be used as a therapeutic tool … provides a deep theoretical examination of how this synchronicity is inherent in archetypical symbolism of the Tarot.” Robert Robertson, PhD, author of Jungian Archetypes (back cover).
The book is well-edited, with a useful table of contents at the beginning of the book, extensive endnotes for each chapter, appendices for meanings of individual and combination Tarot cards, a bibliography, and an extensive index at the end. Arthur Rosengarten is a scholarly writer with a very accessible writing style. He holds a PhD in Psychology and was in private practice when the book was written, so he includes case studies and interactions (anonymously shared) with patients and clients. This book is certainly a must-have for any Tarot enthusiast and professional reader.
The book is broken into three parts, starting with The Tarot of Psychology, which includes chapters on The Deck of Possibility; Healing Contexts: Three Vignettes; The Tarot Method; and Tarot and Systems of Psychotherapy. Part 2 covers The Psychology of Tarot, with chapters on Symbolic Dimensions; The Laws of Opposition; Universality; and The Fool’s Journey. Part 3 covers Empirical Studies, with chapters on Synchronicity; The Tarot Research Project; Case Study: The Hermit Reversed; Case Study: the Lady of the Knight; and When Psychology Meets Tarot.
I do highly recommend this book, not only for the scholarship, which is thorough and deeply informative but also for several of the practical applications included in the text. In the scholarly work, Rosengarten writes, “Tarot cards, through their imagistic power, often aid in suspending and preserving visual representations of past experiences regardless of current transient emotional states” (33). Further, he points out, “Both therapists and Tarot readers are professional agents of psychic change and awareness, not magistrates of truth and power” (42).
Throughout the book, he builds a case for the powerful and judicious use of cards in therapy and personal application. In the chapter Symbolic Dimensions, he points out:
Divination, in its modern psychological context, can be thought of as conscious blind selection, or as I prefer ‘empowered randomness’. As we shall see, this fascinating procedure operates within the philosophical parameters of Jungian synchronicity and is inferred in the ancient Buddhist doctrine of dependent co-origination (mutual co-arising). Empowered randomness assumes with great confidence that personal meaning will be accessed from an intelligent nonpersonal source [i.e., the cards!].
In the chapter entitled The Fool’s Journey, he discusses Quantum Paradigms (163) pointing out that “events are more properly understood as functionally interdependent, with no particular event taking precedence simply because it occurred before the other in time”. The Tarot reading is an intersubjective event involving three different subjects – the reader, the querent, and the cards. Further in he points out, “A reading will focus intensively on those archetypal patterns that are configured in the present moment simultaneous to the querent’s conscious concerns” (166).
Later in the book Rosengarten applies case studies to demonstrate the impact of Tarot readings on patients and to explore various ways to interpret cards in the function of readings. He does multi-card spreads and discusses the interpretations provided to the client and the reactions of the client. In the many examples, the results are profound and helpful, for him and the client.
The book concludes with two nice appendices. Appendix A provides an explanation of the individual cards, offering a Phrase, talking about the Image, reviewing the Traditional meaning, and offering Rosengarten’s Spectrum of Possibility for the card. Appendix B is entitled Composite Tarot Voices and looks at cards in combination from a 10-card spread.
Knowing the Reviewer
I have an academic background; my PhD is in English (1996) and my concentration was rhetoric and composition. Astrologically speaking, I am an Aries Sun with Mercury, my point of communication, also in Aries. These two facts about my background and astrological identity are the two main “lenses” for how I pick and interpret books. I want them to be well-written, researched, and presented (my academic lens), and I want them to be useful, direct, and pithy (my Aries Mercury lens).
I will be most helpful to you if my point of view and your point of view have significant similarities. If you spend enough time reading music, book, or movie reviews, and you explore a number of different reviewers, you probably experience a thrill when you find the reviewer that hits your sweet spot and you can trust him or her to give you a heads up on music, books, or a movie in a way you can trust. When you listen to music, read the book, or see the movie by “your” reviewer, you know you will not be wasting your time. I want to be “your” reviewer.
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