I hope you’ll try this out, join in, and share your own posting or video response to these philosophical readings with the tarot. Or if you prefer, use your favorite oracle deck.
Here’s the premise. You’re going to be using the cards to answer seven classic philosophical questions.
Before you start, you’ll set the intention that the cards will know how you’d respond to the questions deep down, on some soul level. So every card reading will reflect what you really think, how you really feel about the answer to the given inquiry.
I’ll be using my Spirit Keeper’s Tarot Vitruvian. For each question I will only be doing a single card draw, but please don’t limit yourself to that. If you’d rather do a three-card reading for each question or design a simple spread for each, go for it!
For those familiar with how I’ve designed the SKT, I’ll be using The Seeker version of Key 0 for my significator, Spirit in Search of Science. Then I’ll shuffle, meditate on the question at hand, and then turn over the cards looking for The Seeker. The card behind The Seeker will be my answer to the question.
Let’s begin with the classic trolley dilemma, shall we?
A runaway trolley is racing down the tracks toward five people who won’t be able to move out of the way in time. There’s a side track with one single person. You can pull a lever to divert the train onto the side track, preventing the death of five, though it will kill the one.
Do you pull the lever to divert the trolley from killing five, but then it would kill one, or do you take no action, leave the trolley on its natural course, and kill five? Ask the cards what you would do.
The point of this exercise is to not answer with your conscious mind, but to make room for a more subconscious and truthful response to reveal itself through the cards.
Key 8: The Force (The Tamed Lion). This is the Strength card from the Major Arcana.
Here we see the symbol of the north lunar node and the awakened kundalini first pictured on Key 1: The Magus. (This link here takes you to a gallery of all SKT cards to check out The Magus if you’re curious.) The astrological correspondence here is Leo, featuring strong energies of one who seeks to be a hero.
And if I had to choose between whether I interpret the visuals in this card as “taking action” or “taking no action,” I would say the maiden in white is taking action, gently and with great compassion, albeit most certainly doing something.
Even the key phrase, “The Tamed Lion,” suggests action– taming the circumstances, interfering with the course of feral nature.
So I think I have to interpret this card draw as indicating that I would take the action of pulling the lever to kill one but save five, and live with the consequences of having killed that one.
What difficult truth about the human condition are you ignoring? The cards will reply with a response specific to you.
Key 4: The Emperor (Commander of Intellections). This card is the power of self-determination. I interpret this reading as conveying the unimpeded free will we all possess, but the reason we believe in fate, destiny, or even force majeure (“Acts of God”), where extenuating circumstances beyond our control happen to us is because at an earlier point in time, we failed to acquire the personal power to divert that circumstance.
We always have the opportunity to acquire the power and the self-determination to do virtually anything, to perform any miracle. It is simply that we fail to take sufficient initiative do so.
What does it mean to live a good life? This is what the cards reveal about what living a good life means to you.
Archangel of Healing (Angel Who Salves and Purifies). This is the King of Cups from the tarot courts. For me, the Archangel of Healing represents a feminized deity who personifies compassion, spiritual, psychic, or karmic healing, and of the four alchemical elements, might be more closely linked to water. And so given my background, that personification is Kuan Yin or even Marici, one of Kuan Yin’s disciples.
I interpret this card as saying that to live a good life is to transmute as much of my personal energy as I can, ideally all of it, before I leave this earth, and give that transmuted energy back to the world in a manner that can salve its open wounds. To live a good life is to take cues from Kuan Yin and to do what I can within my abilities to embody that spirit.
Where does your self-worth come from? This is the truth about your self-worth.
Oh nuts! On all things holy I affirm and testify I shuffled these cards thoroughly and went out of my way to randomize them, to make sure no two cards that were side by side in the deck for one reading would remain side by side in the next.
Nonetheless, here we get Key 4: The Emperor again in answer to Question 4. This is also the card that answered Question 2 (What difficult truth about the human condition am I ignoring). I’ve also fanned out the first three cards when I turned the deck over.
Actually, it’s quite meaningful that The Emperor shows up for both Question 2 on difficult truth and Question 4, self-worth. My self-worth comes from self-determination, or to be more specific, when I have acquired the power to control my circumstances, I feel worthy, and when I have failed to acquire the power to control my circumstances, I don’t feel worthy.
What had existed before our universe was created? This is an inner knowledge you’ve had latent within you since your own creation, a knowledge you were born with.
Key 20: Apocalypse (Last Judgment). This is Key 20: Judgement from the Major Arcana. (::shakes my head:: Readings with my SKT deck never cease to amaze me.)
I interpret this as a pre-existing universe. What came before the universe we live in now was another prior universe, which was then destroyed in an apocalyptic manner, which gave birth to our universe. Whether what lived and thrived in that universe was anything like us, I couldn’t say, but they were for sure sentient.
Are you ethically obligated to improve yourself? The cards reveal the answer you really believe deep down.
The Shining Dew (Waters and Waves). This is the Knight of Cups from the tarot courts. Knights are about very active, kinetic energy, energy in movement. This is active movement of divine waves through the material realms. The horse pictured here is the twin to the pale horse in Key 13, the Death card, and I call this twin horse Life.
Encircling the medallion in the foreground are two phrases merged together: dabo pacem in finibus vestris (“I will grant peace in the land”) and gladius non transibit terminus vestros (“the sword shall not go through your lands”), Leviticus 26:6.
Ooh. If I’m being honest with myself and attempting objectivity, this card could in theory be interpreted either way, given the context of Leviticus 26:6.
I confess I’m having a bit of a struggle over what answer is coming from my conscious, willful state and what answer is the core truth coming out from somewhere deeper, more latent. Am I trying to consciously impose an answer on myself and suppress the deeper, latent answer trying to come through? Or are the two one and the same and I’m just confused?
So, doing my best to work through that struggle, I think this card is saying to me that it’s less a question of whether I’m ethically bound to improve myself, but that I am without question ethically bound to improve the world I’ve been put in. The answer to both questions is the same, though. Upholding a duty to improve the world I’ve been put on is upholding a duty to improve myself.
What is Divinity? This is your perception of Divinity and how you would express to others what that perception is.
This is the exploration of religious epistemology. If you want to follow the steps of moral philosophers, then another way to phrase Question 7 is, “Is there a God?”
For Question 7, I randomized the cards by distributing them into three card piles, repeating the question, “What is Divinity?” like a mantra as I distributed the cards one by one into those three piles.
I then chose any one of those three piles to start, and I opted for the right-most card pile. And it turns out the significator (Key 0: The Seeker) was in the very first card pile I chose.
The Ivory Shield (Power and Authority of Water). This is the Queen of Cups from the tarot courts. I’m also intrigued by the top-most card in that pile I chose: the Archangel of Healing, which came up earlier for Question 3.
Also, how nuts is it that the three higher-ranked courts from the suit of Chalices (Water) shows up in these #7philosophicalreadings — Archangel of Healing (King of Chalices), The Ivory Shield (Queen of Chalices), and The Shining Dew (Knight of Chalices)? Here for Question 7, the Archangel of Healing is leading the charge again (top-most card in the pile), though the actual answer is The Ivory Shield.
For me at least, this card is a strong, unequivocal message that Divinity exists. I want to share the entire entry for The Ivory Shield (Queen of Chalices) with you, taken from the Little White Book, Vitruvian Edition:
You are shielded against ailments, disease, and infirmity. Malefic energies that can cause malady or emotional afflictions are present in your space, challenging your vitality, and so the Ivory Shield appears in your path to help you preserve your own wellness.
Inscribed around the Queen’s shield: Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me. Her shield features the mmusuyidee, a West African symbol of purification and protection.
When the Queen of Chalices appears, you may be experiencing a dark night of your own soul, an alchemical darkening stage of your life path, and she is here to give you shelter, to accompany you by your side as you make your way out of danger. She is your defender as you walk through the valley of shadows.
Know that she is present. Know that you are not alone in your dark hour.
Okay, but back to the question presented: What is Divinity?
Answer: The Ivory Shield, the Queen of Chalices (Cups).
Divinity for me, then, is what protects and safeguards. It’s the name I invoke for personal superpowers. It is a state of emotional balance, of heightened emotional development.
How would your deck of cards answer these seven philosophical questions for you? Try out the seven readings for yourself and if you’re so inclined, share your reading results. I want to hear what all of you have to say through the interaction with your cards, so please use the hashtag #7philosophicalreadings and comment below with a link.
If you’re using the SKT for #7philosophicalreadings too, then don’t be shy about reading the card entry in the Little White Book, which comes with your deck inside its box. If you’re working with the black and white SKT First Edition, the majority of the Little White Book Vitruvian still applies for you, which you can download here. And of course there’s the Medium White Book.
The Seven Philosophical Questions
- The Trolley Dilemma: Divert the course of nature and kill one to save five or let nature take its course and let the five die?
- What difficult truth about the human condition are you ignoring?
- What does it mean to live a good life?
- Where does your self-worth come from?
- What had existed before our universe was created?
- Are you ethically obligated to improve yourself?
- What is Divinity?