No Guru, No Method, No Teacher, Pt. II

"The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek." ~ Joseph Campbell.

The entrance to the Hell Fire Caves in West Wycombe, Bucks.

Consider this a quasi-Part-II to the "No Guru, No Method, No Teacher" post I did earlier this month about forging one's own path.

Up until a year ago, I spent thousands of dollars on business coaches who I thought would turn Integrated Tarot - and me, by extension - into a lucrative proposition that would enable me to live fully off the proceeds of my work. (I conveniently call this particular leg of the journey the "Path of the Novice" so that I can distance myself from it enough to feel superior to it ;) )

I spent about $5k each on two coaches that were there, respectively, to give my persona a make-over, and to craft my business so that I could command, and receive, thousands of dollars a month in revenue.

They both have proven track records in doing this for themselves and others. What they do, they do really well. It just that their work didn't work for me, and I found myself dropping out of their training after a few months with the first, and before I even got started with the second.

So, aside from a greatly reduced business bank balance, I was left with a very simple question whose answer was infuriatingly elusive:


Why didn't it work? Why couldn't I do what other acolytes could do? Where did I cock up? It wasn't just a matter of not being able to stick it out: I'm disciplined in other areas of my life to the point where I have to stop myself from obsessing over them. I have regular commitments I have kept, week in and week out, for decades.

So perhaps my lack of staying power wasn't to do with a lack of discipline. Perhaps it was to do with a lack of alignment. And if you take anything away with you from this post, then I hope it's this distinction, because it was an important one for me, and maybe, once again, I’m not the only one.

"Alignment" in the context I'm using it is a term to describe a state of congruence between the agenda of the soul, and our words and our actions, i.e. what our soul is saying to us is also what we are saying to ourselves and others, and what we are doing. All three have to be present for alignment to be present. (Otherwise what you have is the Waite-Smith Five of Wands. Look it up. You'll see exactly what I mean!)

Alignment is an amazing thing. It is prescriptive, for sure, but uniquely so: we are answerable only to ourselves, and to the desires of our soul. We are NOT answerable to any of the following (I know - a couple of these might feel edgy. Feel into those edges):

  • Our family of birth
  • Our partner/spouse/lover
  • Our children
  • Our friends
  • Society
  • Trends and fashion
  • The media
  • Our superstitions
  • Our daily horoscope
  • Authority figures of any kind
  • Those we idolise, idealise, and variously look up to

And so, while chatting to my partner (who, by dint of being a great listener is a great mirror) about my frustrations about work and life in general, I realised that my inability to market myself wasn't because I was either a) lacking in discipline, or b) British (where self-publicity is a swearword of the highest calibre)!

It is because traditional marketing is out of alignment for me.

For me, tarot readings are not frivolous, frilly things that are guaranteed to bring joy and levity and hope to life. Not the readings I do anyway. No. Sometimes they will bring joy, levity, and hope - but those are perhaps not the point. The point of tarot, being the mirror into the soul that it is, is change. Tarot depicts change. Change, in turn, is disruptive to our habits, relationships and routines and it tends to ask a lot of us.

Every Tarot reading holds the potential of The Tower in it, because a true reflection can deconstruct in an instant.

We don't ask for tarot readings when things are going well; and what I think many of us hope for in a reading in the face of adversity is reassurance. However, reassurance suggests that we stay on familiar ground ... and yet tarot, as the tool of transformation that I know it to be, promises anything but familiarity.

Alice who comes to a reading asking when her boyfriend is going to come back does not want to know that he isn't coming back. Alice doesn't want to know why she keeps choosing men who aren't available, and will always leave. Alice longs for romance, and tarot has so many cards that reflect romantic possibility. And so many cards that do not.

Steph comes to a reading asking why her job is so shit, and it bores her senseless. Steph wants a reading to help her out of her work predicament. But Steph also hopes that she can keep the security that her current job offers, even while she's bored and the environment is untenable. Tarot, on the other hand, reflects to her that she needs to walk away - which also means walking away from all financial certainty, and any guarantees that she'll be re-hired.

Jason asks if his mental health situation will change. Jason's cards are clear that it will - but it will entail the kind of soul-searching enquiry that demands radical transformation from caterpillar to butterfly ... and the dissolution of the metamorphosis that happens between these two states. Jason will find peace when he is willing to look at the pain that the cards are reflecting to him in all of their detached openness. It is the compassionate detachment of a mirror that truth-tells, and will also never abandon. It is the companion that walks with you through hell and heaven, and everywhere between.

But who in the hell wants to advertise that? And why would I commoditise something that is so personal, so unique, and so fragile? I would rather have no one come to a reading if all they wanted was hope; and the occasional someone who wanted more than that, and who was willing to step into the underworld to get it.

I don’t really know where I’m going with this. Maybe that’s no accident. There are no clearly defined answers, because the really important questions aren’t clear either. Those glib questions we tarot readers get are *never* the point. The real questions lie underneath. And it takes courage to get to them.