Can Tarot Cards Predict the Future?: Common Tarot Questions Pt 3

I don’t have too much of an introduction to this topic, as I feel like the question is pretty straight forward. However, I thought that perhaps, in keeping in line with the Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, that I would include some philosophy on the matter. However, in breaking away from the format of the last two parts, I will leave the philosophy until after the question is answered, or at least, in part.

Can Tarot Predict the Future?

img_6208I think the best answer to this question that I’ve come across so far is yes and no, tarot cards do and don’t predict the future.

You can read my reaction to the idea of fortune-telling here, and what I am going to say might seem to contradict this in a manner, so bear with me.

The tarot cards are kind of like doing an astrological chart. In astrology, the natal or birth chart is essentially seeing where the planets were in the sky at the moment you were born. It’s looking at what sign was rising in the east, where the sun was, where Pluto was, where Venus was, etc., and then looking at the angles between all of those planets. It’s a snapshot of the heavens at the time of your birth.

Astrology Chart

Tarot operates in the same way. The cards show you a snapshot of the moment that the querent is asking the question. This includes the emotion behind the cards, and the forces at work at the time the cards are laid, such as social influences, career, things that the querant knows, things they don’t know, etc.

With all this information, the cards then show a prediction of what is likely to happen if everything the cards show or have taken in remains the same.

So if the cards are showing the Ace of Coins and the Empress and the Three of Wands with the final outcome of the Six of Wands, then what it’s saying is that the beginning business venture (Ace of Coins and Three of Wands), if nurtured with the energy of the Empress, will be a success, though only from the outside (Six of Wands). As long as long as the querant keeps on as they have been, that will be the likely outcome.

Spiral Tarot Reading
The Spiral Tarot by Kay Steventon Ace of Pentacles, III The Empress, Three of Wands, Six of Wands

benebell wen describes it as like a weather forecast. You can make the prediction based on the patterns known and on display, but it can always alter and then it rains on a picknick.

Things can change the outcome, or challenge the outcome and make the querant work harder for it. Things unknown to the querant our outside their control can influence the business above, such as, well, the weather. There could be a hail storm that throws down baseball-sized hail and smashes every window in the business, and it turns out that the querant’s insurance doesn’t cover ‘acts of God’. This could throw the querant into financial struggles. I could go on, but I think (I hope) you get the picture.

However, that doesn’t mean that there wouldn’t be success in the business. At the end of the day, it’s how the querant reacts to these things that creates their future. If they are able to prepare for these things by having an emergency fund, or if they already have another plan in place in case of accidents, then they might still be alright. If they say, ‘Screw it! My business is ruined!’ then it likely will be.

The cards can show you aspects of the future, can show you the patterns that are working and make predictions based on that, but ultimately, each person is in charge of their destiny.

You, and only you, create the reality you live in. How you drive through difficult, challenging, and sometimes gut-wrenching situations creates how you perceive the world, and thus how you navigate through it.

Does the Future Exist?

Note how I never said that the cards foretell the future. That’s because me, personally, I’m still out on whether I believe the future exists at all. In philosophy, there is much debate on whether the future is set in stone or not, and if it is set in stone, then how can we have free will?

I’m not goig to go too much into this, however, I will say that the Stanford Encyclopedia has some fantastic entries outlining the debate, particularly ‘Foreknowledge and Free Will.’

There are many theories regarding how time exists and how we exist within time. Three main theories attempt provide explanation: presentism (believing only the present exists), eternalism (subscribing that the past, present, and future all exist), and the Growing Block Theory, which posits only the past and present to exist.

Temporal Consciousness
Photo Credit from Stanford Encyclopedia

The reason for these theories is that it coresponds with how we view truths. If something is true now, will it always be true and can it be true of past events? Philosophy is nothing if not an exploration of what is true.

My goal is to get into this without touching too much on physics. However, if you search any of the terms above, you’ll find article after article of different theories that physisits posit. I’ll try and break this up though.

Let’s Start NOW

If we are contemplating the question of whether the future exists, then the question of whether the past exists must come up, which then leads to the question of how much, really, can the present exist–especially when each second can be fragmented infinitely.

When we consider the fragmentation of time, of a half a second, a quarter of a second, an eighth of a second, a sixteenth, a thiry-second, a sixty-fourth, and so on–each slice of a second getting slimmer and slimmer–how can we say that now is happening at all when we can’t pinpoint when now is? If that is the case, then how can we even move forward at all?

There are fun little philosophical puzzels that mathmeticians and philosophers like to play with called Zeno’s Paradoxes. In one of these, he has what is called Achille’s Paradox, in which Achilles is tasked to catch a slower runner:

‘Achilles races to catch a slower runner—for example, a tortoise that is crawling in a line away from him. The tortoise has a head start, so if Achilles hopes to overtake it, he must run at least as far as the place where the tortoise presently is, but by the time he arrives there, it will have crawled to a new place, so then Achilles must run at least to this new place, but the tortoise meanwhile will have crawled on, and so forth. Achilles will never catch the tortoise, says Zeno. Therefore, good reasoning shows that fast runners never can catch slow ones. So much the worse for the claim that any kind of motion really occurs, Zeno says in defense of his mentor Parmenides who had argued that motion is an illusion.’

The idea behind this is that let’s say it’s a yard he has to run, and ignore the fact that he can probably hop that yard. If he is halfing the distance every time, then he can never reach the end. He goes half the way, then add half of that, then half of that, you never reach the full distance.geometric series

  • 1/2 + 1/4 = 3/4
  • 3/4 +1/8 = 7/8
  • 7/8 + 1/16 = 15/16
  • 15/16 + 1/32 = 31/32
  • ….

Not one of those numbers equals 1, even though they are still increasing toward 1, they never reach it, no matter how far the sequence continues into the furture.

Of course we know that the runner crosses the line, or catches up to the slower runner. That’s obvious. Mathematically though, it doesn’t work out. One might consider that there isn’t really an application for this, though when considering time, I feel that there is.

If we can keep dividing a current section into fractions of seconds that are running on a meter or a clock, at what point between the number flipping to the next fraction is ‘now’?

What’s Past is Passed

If we can’t quite pinpoint when the ‘now’ is, then it seems plausible that we can at least then consider the past to be somewhat real. After all, if we can remember the past, then we know it’s happened. We experienced the now, whenever that might have been, and it’s behind us. It’s passed.

There is a theory which is called the Growing Block Theory. This looks at time as a log which is ever-increasing by the second (or half a second, or quarter of a second, or eight of a second, etc.). This log represents the past up until the present. Each fraction of time that passes is a slice of time that is added to the log.

Growing Block
Image Credit: The Shreypurohit Blog

If the past is a fact, and the past does exist, then this creates a problem regarding what is true.

The idea here is that the Truths of the present become perminently lodged into this growing log. So as I write this, it is a truth that the UK is struggling to create a plan for Brexit. It is a truth that Trump is in the presendent of the U.S.. It is a truth that I am sitting in a wooden house in the North East of England. It is a truth that my partner and I are both alive.

These are present truths. However, as time goes, those truths for the moment that I’m writing this still remeain truths in correlation to this moment. But then these slices of time become past, and even after those truths are done being truths because of the universal constant of change, they’ll still be truths in the past.

Consider that I have a grandmother who died. Up until recently, it was a true statement that she was in the present, and in the past she was alive. However, the continual slices of time were added on to the present edge, making that time she was alive go further back into the past, or collection of present-slices, until she was no longer living. If the past and the present are real, then it is equally true for me to say that she is alive, and that she is dead. One of these statements must be false.

Eternalism–It’s All Right

The third theory is that all of them–past, present, and future, do exist.

In all honesty, I don’t have much to say about this, because all I see are problems with this theory. No, that’s not true. Here are the pros:

  • It eliminates the theory of when the ‘now’ is
  • It eliminates the problem of when present becomes past and what those truths indicate if they exist simultaneously.

However, it does create a problem:

If the past, present, and future all exist, then that means the future is predetermined, and if that is the case, then we have no Free Will.

My Take

It used to be that I threw out the Growing Block Theory, purely because I didn’t believe that we could access the past. If the past exists, and my grandmother is both alive and dead, then there is an aspect in which I can contact her.

I’m not going to say I can’t contact her. There are some very talented mediums out there who might be able to do exactly that (I haven’t ever asked to speak with dead people, so I have no idea how experiences like this go). Likewise, if the present is in a constant state of transforming into solidity in the past, then my grandmother’s moving on to the next realm, whatever that might be (I personally believe in reincarnation) will also be true as well.

I suppose you could take the stance that time doesn’t exist at all, that it’s a purely constructed human thing. In The Power of Now Eckhart Tolle suggests that time certainly doesn’t exist at all, that if humans were to disappear that animals would not register a past or a future.

I actually disagree with that, since past experiences play into how they understand the world, and preparation for the furture such as getting ready for winters, or making a nest for offspring is instinctually ingrained. It’s not time as we use it in the sense of hands on the clock, but it’s certainly divided between past and future.

I think that I, personally, favor the Growing Block Theory. I think this is how the tarot can pull from the past as well, and I think it’s how it’s able to make predictions for the future. I also think this is how we are able to alter our courses if we don’t like what the final outcome is pointing to.

What do you think? How do you think that time relates to the tarot, and how accurate do you think it is? Do you think there is a past that currently exists? Do you think that we are predetermined?

I hope to inspire discussion, but I can’t do that without your thoughts. Let’s discuss!


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