The Difference Between Superstition and Spirituality
Because I read tarot, meditate and work with energy, I am often accused of being superstitious.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Every culture has its superstitious customs. We all say “God bless you” when someone sneezes, but none of us these days actually believe the sneezer to be in mortal or spiritual danger.
When we look at the ideological differences across the planet, and the way those ideologies can cause harm, we often wonder if the planet would be better off without religion, or without spiritual thought.
I am sure that religion is not the problem.
The problem is that sometimes people become superstitious about their religion,and use that superstition to gain power over other people.
As I see it, the difference between superstition and spirituality is this.
Superstition is based on fear – the idea that bad things might happen if we don’t conform to a certain set of (often arbitrary) behaviors.
Spirituality is based on love – whatever our concept of Higher Power may be, when we conceive that power as being a force of love and forgiveness, rather than judgment and punishment, we find true spiritual awareness and enlightenment.
Tarot and the Search for Spiritual Truth
There are quite a few tarot cards, especially within the Major Arcana, that speak of the search for spiritual truth. For example, the High Priestess, the Hierophant, the Hermit and the Moon each give a specific message to help us on our journey toward understanding and enlightenment.
It could be argued, too, that every tarot card has a message, or a lesson, to aid us on our journey toward spiritual awareness.
Here are two tarot exercises that work with this idea.
1. One Card
Pull a card at random, and interpret it in this context. What does this card teach me about my spiritual journey and search for truth?
2. Seventy-Eight Cards
Look through the deck, one card at a time. The cards needn’t be in order. For each of the seventy-eight cards, decide what the spiritual lesson or message might be. How does this card assist you on your journey toward enlightenment?
From my Desk to Yours
From Around the Web
From the Spiritual Literacy Blog, here is “Art and your Inner Spiritual Work”.
How can you tell the difference between a cult and a legitimate spiritual organization? Take the Cult Test.
Monday was the summer solstice. There’s still time to do a Summer Solstice Tarot Spread!
Song of the Week
Here’s Stevie Wonder’s Superstition, performed live on Sesame Street.
with Michael Bridge-Dickson
Breaking Down Tarot’s Elements
So far in this series, I have skirted the etheric, fifth Element of Space. This is partly because it is even more intangible than Air, but also because there is confusion — or at least disagreement — on what exactly Space is. In a way, that’s kind of the point: it’s elusive, yet eternal.
Space is often equated with Spirit, and to some, Space and Spirit are one and the same. This is a fair view held by several traditions and supported by many individuals. However, I see a difference between the two, and although it is subtle, I think it is important to discern between them. You may, by all means, argue that they are just two sides of the same thing... so let’s look at those two sides, and the similarities and differences between the two.
You may have noticed in your linguistic observations that some words like shadow, ethereal, spectral, dreamy, supernatural, mysterious, empty, dark, eternal, mystical, sacred, and celestial don’t really belong to Air, Fire, Water, or Earth. Sometimes these words may describe essences of the more tangible Elements (or hint at them), but at the same time feel as though they describe a separate Element, or or an aspect that they all share.
There is something both crucial and intangible about this fifth Element; it seems to be beyond all Elements, greater than we can imagine, but also the very essence of all Elements — even our very own essence, and that which connects all things.
And so, as an intangible connector, we sometimes call this Element Spirit.
Each of the Four tangible Elements also requires a field in which to exist. Though crucial, this field is not so much an essence, as it exists with or without the Element, but accommodates all Elements whether it remains empty or is filled by them. This aspect is more basic, though it also connects all things.
We sometimes call this intangible connector Space.
So what’s the difference between Spirit and Space — or is there one?
Personally, I do see a difference. For me, Spirit is not an Element at all, but rather a force. Spirit is the organizing force behind all that exists and doesn’t exist... it is consciousness. This consciousness, at a non-personal, non-individuated level, requires no Element. It does not even need space in order to be! It does, however, need Space and the other Four Elements in order to express itself.
Space on the other hand, is more certainly an Element. We may not be able to feel or see Space, but it is always there — it is the field in which the other Four Elements exist.
Think of Spirit as the playwright, who does not need a stage, actors, props, costumes, or an audience in order to conceive a play — the playwright is the organizing force, the consciousness behind the creation. For that play to be expressed, however, it first requires a space to be preformed — a stage, a theatre. This Space is then filled by all the other Elements of a play props, sets, costumes, actors, crew, and an audience all performing and witnessing what is hopefully an entertaining script. Each aspect comes together to create something that is more than the sum of its parts.
This is not totally accurate since it describes an individual consciousness the is dependent upon surroundings and circumstance, but like all analogies, it functions to demonstrate the distinction: the playwright is “Spirit;” the theatre is the “Space.”
Spirit encompasses and interpenetrates all Elements.
Space, while vast, is more specific than Spirit, and enables all other Elements to be.
I make this distinction because, when speaking of Elements, it is Space that I’d like to investigate further. While no Element can be separated from Spirit, it can be helpful to look at the aspects of each Element that are individual, rather than the aspects that are unified by Spirit.
How we understand Space is often made more clear by how it is filled and divided. A small home may feel more “spacious” when it is free of clutter or well organized by function, when it has less “stuff” filling it. Comparatively, even a large home may feel cramped if it is cluttered, filled with nick-nacks, and is poorly organized. So while the larger home may have a larger space to exist in, our perception of that space is that there is less of it because of how it is filled and divided.
However, though the amount of space may be greater in the larger home, because our perception of it is more cramped, that also affects how we feel, behave, and react to that space.
Our mind, mood, and behaviour are affected by how Space is filled and divided — and this understanding can give us greater insight into reading tarot.
First we establish a Space in which to do our practice, established by other Elements to define it, even if that’s just setting out a table on which to lay the cards. Establishing the reading Space also often includes some aspects of Spirit, but for the moment let’s look only
at Space while recognizing that Spirit is always present.
Shuffling, too, is a reorganizing of Elements within Space — the small Space that is the deck (a more in-depth look at shuffling and its significance can be found here). Then, laying out the cards, whether in a predetermined spread, one at a time, or in a freestyle fashion, also divides the Space that is the reading table, each card filling a portion of that Space both physically and representationally by its Element or combination of Elements. Each card, too, has different proportions of “empty” Space compared to Filled Space — often related to the card’s rank, but each deck is a little different in this regard depending on how the artist uses Space in relation to the representation of each image.
In The Orbifold Tarot, this representation of Space is fairly apparent: higher ranks are more “filled” with Elements, while lower ranks have more “empty” space.
This is often true of other representations, too: Aces tend to have a greater feeling of open and empty Space, whereas Nines and Tens tend to be more dense, with the Space more full.
Sometimes our perception of vast, empty Space is one of freedom; other times we feel lost by the lack of definition. More densely filled Space can be a comfort or a burden.
These effects of Space vary, depending on the Elements that make up the “fullness” or “emptiness,” and our capacity to handle varying degrees of density and sparseness.
This applies to individual cards as well as to spreads and our reading Spaces: some people are comfortable reading in a busy cafe, while others need a separate and dedicated space; some prefer a large deck and table, while others are content with any surface, no matter how small. Spreads with many cards are just as popular as 1, 2, or 3-card spreads, and freeform “no-spreads” can be just as effective as standardized go-to spreads. A small spread may seem complete if there are denser cards in it, while even a large spread may seem sparse if it is made up of mostly lower numbered cards.
Over the next week, look at Space and how you perceive it in different circumstances. Notice Space in general, and more specifically how Space is a factor in your readings:
• Do you lay cards out close to each other, even overlapping them, or do you tend to ensure each one has room to be independent?
• When doing smaller spreads, when does the urge to add more cards emerge; and with larger spreads, at what point does it start to feel overwhelming?
• What forms, shapes, geometries, and arrangements are more comforting to you? More irritating?
• Does recognizing that Space is Space no matter how it is filled or divided change your perception of it? Does that perception change depending on what is filling that Space?
As you observe the field in which the other Four Elements exist, your perception of and relationship with those Elements may also deepen.
In the next entries of this series, we will look more deeply at each of the Four tangible Elements individually, starting with Air. Stay tuned!
I'm grateful to have Michael Bridge-Dickson as a guest contributor to Tarot Topics. Check out the Orbifold Tarot and Michael's work!
The Moon, Logic and Dogma
It’s fun to believe in fantasies, and to honor traditions that are based in mythology. At the same time, it’s important to stay grounded in reality.
The problem is, each person experiences reality differently, and everyone uses different language and symbols to describe their reality.
Often, we want to believe in the fanciful and eschew the mundane. The truth is, there is much spiritual growth to be had in the pursuit of mundane activities, if we do it with the right attitude.
If your spiritual beliefs are helpful, and in the highest good for all concerned, you will find great mystery within those beliefs, but also a great deal of logic.
If your beliefs limit your ability to grow, or to love others, or to be peaceful, your beliefs may be based on superstition, rather than on a true desire for spiritual growth.
The path to spiritual growth can be seen in Major Arcana 18, the Moon.
Here, we see that the path to the moon, and spiritual truth, is a twisted one, and fraught with danger.
Along the path to spiritual understanding, there are many illusions and dangers.
We must be able to discern what is true, and what is false.
We must find our truths, not in a book or doctrine, but within our hearts.
The next time you see the Moon card in a tarot reading, think about how it might apply to the search for spiritual truth.
The next time you find yourself wrestling with dogma and believe systems, look within your heart to find what is true, and logical, for you.
Image from Gilded Royale by Ciro Marchetti.
Your One-Card Weekly Reading
Three of Swords
This week, I pulled the Three of Swords for you.
In keeping with our theme, I could interpret the Three of Swords as the hurt that comes from misunderstanding, and the heartbreak that comes from dishonesty.
In the search for what is true, there can be a great deal of heartache as our illusions are replace by knowledge.
This week, be willing to take a fearless look at your beliefs – not just your spiritual beliefs, but also your beliefs about yourself and what is possible for you.
It may be time to release the beliefs that are hurting you.
Monday, June 27, 6:30 pm
An Evening with the Tarot
Lutz Branch Library
101 West Lutz Lake Fern Road, Lutz, FL 33548
Join me as I present tarot at our local library! You can RSVP on the Tampa Bay Area Tarot Meetup!
Sunday, July, 3:30 pm
Tampa Bay Area Tarot Meetup
The Four Elements and the Minor Arcana
23388 State Rd 54, Lutz, FL 33549
Bring your tarot cards! I'll be presenting this interesting and informative class. You can RSVP on the Meetup!
I will be available for private readings and house parties in Connecticut and surrounding areas from August 3 to August 17. Call 561-655-1160 to get on the schedule now!
TarotCon (Florida) 2016 will take place October 8th and 9th, with a special Professional Development Day on the 7th, in Palm Beach Gardens. Make your reservations now!
Origins Spa and Wellness Center
1537 N Dale Mabry Highway #102
Lutz, FL 33548
Private telephone, Skype and in person readings and instruction are available by appointment.
Tarot parties at your home or office are available throughout Florida.
Call 813-948-4488, toll free 866-99TAROT,
or text or call 561-655-1160
for more information or to schedule your event.
Agent inquiries are welcome.