The Tarot for dummies

October 17, 2005

ONE LAST TIME, BEFORE CHANGING THE SUBJECT! Andreas, a Hope for Europe colleague – and a sober German – wrote to me after a recent visit to the cinema: “While we were waiting for the main movie to start, the whole (and I mean the WHOLE) array of advertisements (from cars to cigarettes) and ALL pre-movie clips were SO MUCH geared towards a spiritually interested audience (with horror, mystic, cultic and shamanistic types of messages). I was really, really, really impressed as to the degree commercial marketing has tuned in to this neo-pagan ethos already. Wow! So – keep going and keep pointing to it.”

That’s what we have been doing in recent ww’s. We have pointed to the changing spiritual landscape of Europe, and at ways to respond to the growing spiritual hunger, in preparation for the Evangelism in a New Age consultation in Basel at the end of this month (see below). A major inspiration for this event was a seminar I attended last year in New Zealand, called “New Age for dummies”. I felt certainly qualified for such a seminar. So I went along to the local Baptist seminary to hear the principal of an Australian Baptist seminary talk on taking the cross to New Spirituality seekers without demonising them.

The room was full of respected evangelical leaders from across Auckland city. So when the speaker raised the subject of Tarot cards, I half expected a popular revolt as he shared his personal discovery of the ‘wisdom of the ages summarised and presented in pictorial form in the Tarot’. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one in the room beginning to wonder where this seminar would end up. Especially when he continued on, saying that when he and his colleagues looked beyond the popular image of the Tarot as being only a tool for stargazing and fortune-telling, they discovered things which had not only impacted their lives but which also had been transformational for many others they had shared them with.

Everyone knew Tarot cards were a favourite instrument of divination, I thought. But what I and most others didn’t know, was that, while the cards originated in Renaissance Italy in the 1400’s, the first attempt to link them with fortune telling was in 19th century France. For four centuries, the cards were not used in any form of occultism. One source traces the pictures depicted on the oldest surviving decks back to medieval illustrated manuscripts of the book of Revelation!

The speaker, Ross Clifford, had everyone’s undivided attention by now. He explained that he and his co-authors, Philip Johnson and New Testament scholar John Drane, had talked about the hidden secrets of the Tarot already for several years, in many contexts from psychic fairs to churches, in Britain, America and Australia, inviting others to discover the one whose cosmic wisdom was revealed through foolishness. They had published their insights about the Tarot, its history and uses, in a book called Beyond Prediction: the Tarot and your spirituality (Lion Publishing, 2001). They had analysed the biblical background to the images used on the cards, showing their relevance to the spiritual quest of many today.

In today’s spiritual climate, such use of the cards reflected incarnational mission, Clifford argued. In the Old Testament, God’s servants interacted with pagans in the context of pagan culture and belief. In the New Testament, Paul quoted pagan philosophers and spoke within the framework of reference of his pagan audience. Missionaries from Patrick (among the Irish Celts) to William Carey (Hindus) and Samuel Zwemer (Muslims) had applied incarnational mission principles, interacting with the pagan beliefs as they communicated the gospel.

In the epilogue to their book, Clifford and co recall the universal questions posed in the opening chapter: How can I be the best person I can possibly be? How can I find my place in the world? Who am I, and who might I become? Does any of it make any sense? Such questions, they suggest, are reflected in the universal archetypes, dreams, myths, stories and symbols of the world. The message of the Tarot cards faces these ultimate questions, and leads ultimately to the key figure of the Fool, who has always been with us, calling us from death to new life, empowering us on the roller coaster of life. “The Tarot beyond prediction is a call to broaden our horizons beyond our consciousness, and to reconnect our souls with the divine source of all life”, they conclude.

Clifford invites his readers to engage in further discussion on this topic by visiting You are also invited to engage in further discussion on this and other issues around the new spirituality at the above-mentioned consultation in Basel, October 31- November 3. The consultation, at the St. Chrischona Conference Centre, is initiated by the HOPE FOR EUROPE Evangelism Network, with the support of organisations including Agape, OM, YWAM, Greater Europe Mission, Janz Team International, Proclaim International and others. For further information and registration, go to:

Till next week,

Jeff Fountain

Till next week,

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