Book Reviews

Some Reviews of Tarot and Psychology: Spectrums of Possibility by Arthur Rosengarten, Ph.D.

Review by Kathleen Meadows (See online at http://www.aeclectic.net/tarot/books/psychology-spectrums/

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.

New insights for both psychologists and Tarotists                                         Review by Linda Gail Walters

This is a book that challenges the thinking of both practicing clinical psychologist and practicing Tarot readers. The primary audience is the clinician, but that does not mean that the advanced student and practitioner of Tarot is left out, far from it. There are three main sections of the book: The Tarot of Psychology, The Psychology of Tarot and Empirical Studies, so there is something for both disciplines.

The first section, The Tarot of Psychology, introduces the clinician to the world of Tarot’s archetypal images. This is where this book distinguishes itself from other books that seek to connect Tarot and psychology. Most of these other works give a brief introduction to Jung’s theory of Archetypes and then go on to be fairly pedestrian descriptions of the Major Arcana of Tarot. Unlike its rivals, this work is based on solid clinical training and the author’s own extensive research and practical clinical experience.

In the second section, The Psychology of Tarot, the clinician is not forgotten, but the emphasis here is more toward exposing the student of Tarot to the deeper psychological meanings in the cards. Dr. Rosengarten does an excellent job here of leading the non-specialist, non-clinician into the often confusing world of psychology. For example, an error often made by dilettantes who attempt to show the psychological meaning of Tarot is to equate it to the TAT or Rorschach tests. Dr. Rosengarten quite correctly states that Tarot is not at all like these tests, which, being extrinsic, that is, being themselves meaningless, are in no way related to the Tarot, with its deep symbolic and archetypal meanings. This second section is also where we see the reason for the subtitle, “Spectrums of Possibility”. The author has developed a Spectrum of Possibility for each card in the Tarot deck. These spectra are not the cut and dried “card meanings” found in the Little White Books that come with decks of Tarot cards, but rich shades of psychological meaning.

Appendix A of the book provides the spectra for the entire 78 card Tarot deck. The final section of the book is Empirical Studies. The first chapter of this section alone is almost worth the price of the book. This chapter is entitled simply, “Synchronicity”. In less than a score of pages, the author explains the Jungian Theory of Synchronicity, that is, the notion of acausality. This is the most lucid and uncomplicated exposition of this important and oft misunderstood subject. The main part of these Empirical Studies come from the Tarot Research Project, a rigorously scientific study of the use of Tarot in clinical studies of both victims and perpetrators of domestic violence. As both a serious Tarotist and scientist, this reviewer found this section fascinating.

Appendix B summarizes composite Tarot spreads from the perpetrator’s and victim’s readings into a “Dialog”. Finally there is an extensive Bibliography to supplement the end-chapter references and a very good index. This is a “must read” for clinicians who are looking for new approaches to old problems and for Tarotists looking for a work with more depth and meaning than yet another description of the archetypal images of the Major Arcana. DISCLAIMER: This reviewer has, for some time, been a student of both Dr. Rosengarten and Forward author Lon Milo DuQuette.

Linda Gail Walters is a software engineer.

What experts have said:

“A deliciously rich exploration of the Tarot. Never have I seen the Tarot’s deep wealth of meaning uncovered and explained with such skilled and loving intelligence.”

-Allan Combs, author of Synchronicity: Science, Myth, and the Trickster and The Radiance of Being

“Arthur Rosengarten’s Tarot And Psychology: Spectrums of Possibility joins Sally Nichols’ Jung and Tarot and Irene Gad’s Tarot and Individuation as the third major book on Tarot from a Jungian perspective. Spectrums of Possibility combines moving case studies with practical details of exactly how Tarot can be used as a therapeutic tool. There are no apologies here for his acceptance of Tarot as a divinatory tool; instead Rosengarten tries to show even skeptics how divination is rooted in the synchronistic coming together of a questioner’s need with the layout of the Tarot.

More than any other book to date, it also provides a deep theoretical examination of how this synchronicity is inherent in the archetypal symbolism of the Tarot. An important and useful book.”

– Robin Robertson, Ph.D., author of Jungian Archetypes

“What happens when psychic arts meet scientific methodologies, when prediction marries meaning, when image and empiricism come together? In this radical breakthrough and brilliant masterwork, Art Rosengarten merges Tarot’s 600 years of psycho-socio-cultural symbol-encoding with the newer discipline of psychology. Tarot reading therapists can come out of the closet! Rosengarten demonstrates through research, case-studies, and psycho-therapeutic techniques how both disciplines benefit from a mutual ability to amplify personal meaning, the “heartbeat of experience.”

By integrating psychology’s rigorous standards with Tarot’s imaginal landscape to create “spectrums of possibility,” Rosengarten lays an impressive groundwork for a 21st century working relationship. Seasoned Tarotists will value his unerring instinct for analyzing the card reading process itself, opening a magician’s bag of tricks to the light of conscious application. I predict a major success, and a turning point for Tarot as well as for psychologists who pioneer the use of this demonstrably valuable resource.”                     

– Mary K. Greer, author of Tarot For Your Self, Tarot Mirrors, and Tarot Constellations

“Few people understand the therapeutic potential of the Tarot better than Dr. Arthur Rosengarten — a skilled and successful therapist and a gifted and insightful Tarotist. His work spans the abyss that yawns between psychology and mysticism. Remarkably, it does so without diminishment to either art or science, indeed, both are enriched by his unique contribution. We of the Tarot/metaphysical community should be especially gratified. Rosengarten’s Spectrums of Possibility gives us a compelling andprovocatively enlightening new look at an ancient tradition.”

– Lon Milo DuQuette, author of Angels, Demons, & Gods of the New Millennium and Tarot Of Ceremonial Magick

For three decades…Tarot served me well in my private life. A Tarot reading, like other projective devices such as sandtrays, could make me rethink my attitudes, allowing for unconscious or tacit factors I had neglected. In my practice, though, I used Tarot images only in amplifying dreams and sandtrays. Not until I read Dr. Rosengarten’s manuscript was I aware of the potential of Tarot. If I were still in practice, I would certainly try using it.

James A. Hall, MD author of Jungian Dream Interpretation and The Jungian Experience           

 “Most Tarot literature is gobbledygook. Unqualified ‘adepts’ using the thick smoke of their sorcerer’s cauldron to compensate for heavy doses of nonsense. In Tarot And Psychology we have a qualified author attempting a new approach. Dr. Rosengarten adapts the profound symbols of the Tarot to the diagnosis and treatment of psychological problems. In a series of studies and case studies, he uses the symbols as part of thehealing process.   The symbols are being applied in a systematic and scientific manner to their original purpose – the development of the individual. The 15th century Italian inventors of the Tarot would have been delighted!”

 -Robert V. O’Neill, Ph.D., author of Tarot Symbolism