Thursday, March 6, 2014

Ethics: The Art of Professionalism

Christopher delaMaison, CPTR

>>Ethics and Professionalism<<

Ethics, whether they are described as codes of conduct, policies, or
statements of value, all seem to have a basic goal in mind, that of
describing a set of rules by which an individual or a collective group
voluntarily agrees to abide for both the benefit of the practicing
individual, as well as the community being served. Such a set of rules
serves as a contract with society, outlining the general principles
that benefit both client and reader. For example, the ancient
Hippocratic Oath was developed when the medical arts were much less
"scientific" than they are today. This early oath helped affirm the
well-grounded intentions of the early medical practitioners, and in
turn became one of the cornerstones of the universal acceptability of
the modern practice of medicine. In modern society, such codes of
conduct are becoming a much more common occurrence. Many now seem to
have a set of ethical values that are presented to the public, to help
gain the trust of potential clients, as well as to facilitate
acceptance by society as a whole. Such codes outlining ethical
behavior and social responsibility seem to be the hallmark of
professionals and their professional organizations.

A large part of the problem with the social acceptance of the esoteric
disciplines can be directly traced to a lack of universally accepted
ethical codes. There is no Hippocratic Oath for the astrologer or
Tarot reader. Practitioners of these ancient arts are left to convey
to the public, as best they can, any ethical standards they may have.
The result of this unfortunate circumstance is the reinforcement of
outdated prejudices perpetuated by unscrupulous individuals who would
use these ancient disciplines to commit deception and fraud against
the public. One needs to look no further than the recent "Miss Cleo"
debacle for a graphic example.

To help remedy this situation, specifically in the field of Tarot
reading, responsible readers are beginning to join professional
organizations. Such organizations, while designed to help disseminate
information to their members and provide for member services, are also
demanding that their membership not only abide by but also actively
advance responsible codes of conduct and ethics. While this is not a
new phenomenon in the business world, given the public's preferred
taste for seeking legal redress of grievances, it is a novel approach
to improving the public face of a discipline that is often wrapped in
the free-spirited, "anything goes" environment of modern occult culture.

One organization in particular, the Canadian Tarot Network, has
incorporated the idea of having individual readers developing their
own personal code of ethics into their certification program. All six
certification levels offered by the CTN have a requirement that
focuses on the reader developing, writing, and then expanding upon a
personal code of ethics. The purpose behind such an emphasis on the
inculcation of ethics is to instill into the certified reader a basic
understanding of ethical practices, as would be applied by a
professional Tarot reader. This basic foundation of ethical conduct is
then built upon, as the reader becomes more experienced in reading for
the public, and starts taking on ever-larger roles of responsibility
in the Tarot reading community. This, in turn, serves to improve the
reader's reputation, as well as the reputation of the Tarot community,
as a whole. As in any other profession, the profession as a whole is
judged in many cases, by the conduct of individual members, for good
or ill.

However, there are a large number of individuals who would protest the
development of "established certifications" and "mandatory ethical
standards," as described by a professional organization. These
nay-sayers, most of whom claim to hail from the esoteric community,
object to such "rigidity," claiming it would detract from the
spiritual qualities of a Tarot reading, as could only be experienced
in a true "caveat emptor" environment. Such claims may be very well
true, in that ethical standards may impose additional burdens on a
reader's conduct towards a client. However, closer inspection of said
claims usually proves that such burdens have less to do with imposing
any spiritual constraints by the "establishment," than with the
hampering of a practitioner's "less than ethical" business practices.

An example of a "less than ethical" business practice can be seen in
my recent visit to a local bookstore that periodically offered Tarot
readings. When I asked for a reading the lady at the desk declined to
do a Tarot reading for me, and suggested that I consider an aura
reading instead. The aura reading included a mini-counseling session,
which concluded with a suggestion of which aromatherapy item I might
purchase. After listening to her pitch on the aromatherapy items, I
thanked her for the aura reading and left.

While I am not opposed to the insight an allied discipline would have
to offer, I was taken aback by the suggestion that I needed to buy
oils and/or incense sticks. I only wanted a Tarot reading, and nothing
more. I admit I do like to shop and purchase such items from time to
time, but that would have been at my prerogative to do so when it
would have suited me. I made up my mind that day that if I were going
to offer a service to the public, I would do just that. "Baiting"
potential customers to enter an establishment by offering a service,
and then switching to something else is a tactic I would never care
employ as a business professional.

>>Personal Code of Ethics to Professional Code of Ethics<<

With the goal in mind of creating a guideline of ethics-based conduct,
as well as the above-mentioned experience, I began outlining what I
believed would constitute a set of ethics I would want to uphold. I
wanted a Code of Ethics that would serve not only as a personal
guideline of ethical conduct, but also serve as a public notice of
what I will, and will not, do for a client. After reading several
examples, and listening to the advice of both my Tarot and astrology
friends, I put together the following Code of Ethics:

I do not foretell the future with Tarot cards, nor will I refer a
client to anyone who claims they can.

I do not provide advice concerning healthcare, legal, or financial
issues. These are areas of concern, which need to be addressed by
healthcare, legal and financial professionals.

What I will do is use the Tarot to provide insight into underlying
issues concerning your question. It is up to the client to use what we
might find in our Tarot reading to bring about positive changes in
his/her life.

My Tarot readings will be conducted in a professional manner that is
private and relaxed. The insight provided during the reading will be
about the client only, never about other people in the client's life,
including family members.

All information, insights or revelations brought to light during any
Tarot reading will remain confidential. The only exception will be if
the client expressly agrees to allow me to consult with my mentor on
the outcome of a particular reading.

I will encourage my clients to ask questions, take notes, or record
the reading as it takes place; so as to further my client's
understanding of the nature of the reading and any insights it may reveal.

I will teach my clients about the insights and limitations of the
Tarot. I will teach my clients that they have the responsibility to
conduct themselves according to their conscience, and that the
insights revealed by the Tarot are answers from their inner-self, and
may be acted upon according to the client's free will and conscience.

I will always endeavor to express what insights I have been given
during a Tarot reading in such a manner as to empower my client. My
clients will never be asked to make any additional purchase of any
kind, or be exploited for personal or financial gain.

I will respect the moral, religious and social beliefs of my clients,
and will refrain from any judgment and criticism. I will adhere to the
standards set forth by the ATA and the CTN, including the Code of
Ethics of both of these organizations.

In assembling this Code of Ethics, I strived to include a number of
elements which I believe are essential items in conveying the
professional nature of my services to the public. Among them are the
commitment to the delivery of consistent, high quality readings,
confidentiality of the reading, an agreed upon understanding of the
limitations of a Tarot reading, and a degree of sensitivity to my
client and the problems they discuss with me. Two additional items,
which I deemed to be vital components of a professional Code of
Ethics, are the ideas of providing the reading as the primary service
that I extend to my client, and that my Code of Ethics is compatible
with the professional Tarot organizations of which I am a member.
These last two items are key elements in the development of a
"professional" Code of Ethics, from a personal code of conduct.

To begin with, the reading, whatever its outcome, is NOT to be used or
leveraged so as to induce the client to purchase any additional
services, products or items. While I do understand that many readers
may work in shops that sell other items, such as oils, incense, etc.,
there needs to be some sort of ethical guideline in place that reduces
or prevents the issue of "conflicting interests." The inclusion of
such provisions in a Code of Ethics helps to alleviate such issues by
letting the client know before a reading, that the choice to purchase
any additional services or items should be considered separately from
the original contracted reading.

Second, the ethical standards, which I make available to my clients
BEFORE they agree to a contract reading, are compatible with the
professional organizations with which I am a member. As a professional
Tarot reader, I support the Tarot community through my membership in
professional organizations, which support and advance the quality of
the Tarot profession. As one person out of many, I have the
opportunity and advantage of learning from the insight and experience
of other members of a professional organization. Such organizations
provide not only a forum that facilitates the exchange of ideas and
methods, but also provides the opportunity to contribute to the
profession by striving to develop and improve the qualities and ideals
that are incumbent upon each member. My Code of Ethics may be
something I might claim for myself, but it really is the combined
influence of the professional Tarot community; examined, reviewed, and
questioned by my peers with whom I claim membership.

>>Ethics in Writing, Publishing, and Dealing with Peers<<

The label "Tarot professional" carries with it much more than the
notion of simply being a responsible card reader. In today's society,
more so than in any other time in history, the written word has become
the standard method of transmitting ideas and learning, as well as
conveying the thoughts and opinions of our peers and the general
public. Today's Tarot professional must be an expert at locating and
learning from the written material available, as well as being able to
assemble his/her experiences and knowledge into written form, to be
used by the next generation of professional readers.

Now, this is not to say that all readers must be accomplished authors,
literary critics or experts in library science. However, a
professional reader, like any other professional, should uphold the
basic ethics incumbent upon those who create, edit and promote written
materials that are used in our profession. In short, ethical readers
should stand against the plagiarization of any materials, whether
esoteric or not, and should endeavor to maintain the accuracy of any
materials being published, properly citing references as well as
avoiding distorting information in favor of any particular viewpoint
or belief.

Much of the same can, and should, be applied to how we, as
professional Tarot readers, deal with our peers. By giving credit to
the appropriate references in our written works, we support and
encourage our peers to freely contribute their thoughts, insight, and
experiences to the overall knowledge base of our profession. These
contributions, most of which become freely available to the public,
serve to advance our profession and help bring the benefits of our
services to the general public. It is interesting to note that many of
the opinions of our profession stem from what the curious have gleaned
from the printed materials available at local bookstores. Writing and
publishing Tarot materials that reflect the high standards of our
profession promotes the external image we project to the public, as
well as to members of our profession. Creating these materials, and
presenting them to our students and peers in an ethical manner, is of
fundamental importance.

>>Ethics of the Student-Teacher Relationship<<

As a college instructor, I have learned that a good teacher is NOT the
chief dispenser of knowledge, but a facilitator of the learning
experience. Assuming the role as an instructor places upon the
professional reader an entirely different mantel of responsibility. As
an instructor, the Tarot professional is in a unique position to
convey the experiences and insights to new readers that have been
gained over the course of a career. Doing so requires that the
instructor approach the student neither as an equal nor as an
authority; but requires that a middle ground be defined that allows
for the learning experience to take place in a positive manner.

The Student-Teacher relationship is a very special bond that is
created when two people interact to exchange ideas or information. In
a very real sense, we are all both students and teachers. This
relationship is more akin to the situation of a blacksmith. Just as a
blacksmith bends and shapes his ironwork, so too does the working
itself bend and shape the smith. There are no Tarot "gurus" located in
far-away places that do not need the insight or experiences of others.
Likewise, there are no students who do not in some fashion influence
the perspective of their instructors. For this relationship to work,
the student must be honest about wanting to learn the profession
he/she is taking up, and the instructor must be honest about wanting
to really teach the student. When both of these conditions occur, a
student-teacher relationship is created.

To maintain this relationship, the instructor must be honest about
REALLY wanting to teach the student. This can only be realized if the
instructor is careful about maintaining the proper learning
environment. This is why virtually all colleges and universities have
guidelines in place that seek to prevent behavior that may be
interpreted as fraternization, including rules prohibiting dating
between the instructor and his/her students. Such policies seek to
maintain a "professional distance" between the student and the
instructor, which allows room for the learning process to operate,
free from "outside" distractions.

This "professional distance" is not to be taken as license to treat a
student as a number, but rather to maintain a level of compassion that
will still allow the instructor the objectivity needed to function as
a teacher. This sense of perspective is needed to successfully impart
the abilities, attitude, skills and knowledge needed by the student to
be successful in the Tarot profession. If the instructor cannot impart
these qualities, or build the confidence of his/her students, then
this relationship will fail both the instructor and the student.

The student too, has his/her responsibilities in this relationship.
The student must be serious about learning the skills of this
profession. There seems to be no limit to the number of "dubious"
readers that are constantly in the public eye. While some of these
individuals are no doubt products of poor training, many of these
persons were perhaps never serious about REALLY learning the craft
they claim to practice. Lured by the promise of easy money to be had
at the expense of the general public, such readers seriously impair
the image of the professional card reader, as well as the image of
those readers who may consider joining the Tarot community. Students
should realize, or if necessary be told, that the field of Tarot
reading is a profession that will require a life-long commitment to
continual learning and practicing. The appetite for learning must be
present in the student, for the instructor to feed.

>>Ethics for Working with Groups and Communicating with Peers<<

Working with large groups of people places an extra burden on the
professional reader, in that the larger the group, the more exposure
the reader has to the public, especially when filling the role as a
group speaker. As any one will tell you, who has a background in
public speaking, group dynamics provides a whole new set of challenges
for the professional to contend with. Groups of people increase the
problem of hidden agendas and goals, with which the reader/speaker
must contend. I have personally seen this while participating in large
group lectures, where the speaker is confronted with a wide variety of
divergent views, insights and goals. It is often difficult, if not
impossible, to maintain a professional discourse under such
circumstances, especially if the speaker is working with an
adversarial group. These are the times when a firmly established Code
of Ethics will be of the greatest benefit.

The speaker must take considerable care to treat each individual in a
group with respect and equity, as well as insist that group members
also treat each other in the same fashion. As any group of individuals
is a collection of diverse personalities, the speaker must take care
to avoid comments, actions or behaviors that might be considered to be
offensive to any particular individual. From my own personal
experience, groups will often contain several sub-groups, or special
interest groups, with their own ideas and agendas. Many times the
agendas of such sub-groups will differ significantly from the intended
focus of the group. It is the responsibility of the speaker to be able
to address these special groups as needed, without loosing the
integrity of the group's original focus by diverging into unrelated

In many ways, speaking to a group of diverse individuals is not unlike
trying to develop and maintain a student-teacher relationship with
several people all at once. However, if everything works and the group
participants are not too rowdy, the speaker may begin to see a rise in
the group's "synergy." This is what the group participants will
remember about the group experience, and invariably, about the speaker
him/herself, even more so than what the original topic of discussion
was about!

Similar to the challenges of working with large groups is
communicating and working with peers in one's own field. Many readers
find themselves "at arm's length" when dealing with their peers, or
peers from other disciplines. Many times this problem arises from the
perception, either right or wrong, on how a peer is perceived as being
treated. Some readers tend to treat others they interact with as
potential students or clients. This, in turn, may be misinterpreted as
a personal slight.

From the standpoint of professional ethics, it would speak well for
all Tarot readers to treat their peers as equals, rather than as
amateur or junior readers. This would go far to instill a more
professional image within our own ranks. There have been many
instances where I have performed readings for others, only to learn
that my clients were seasoned readers, with many years of experience.
A professional bearing in these instances has earned for me their
respect, which has gone far in establishing my reputation as a solid

Likewise, as professionals, we need to show common respect and
courtesy to members of other Tarot organizations, as well as those
practitioners of the allied esoteric arts. While some practitioners of
other esoteric disciplines tend not to acknowledge Tarot readers as
professional peers, members of our profession should not respond in
like manner. If we, as a society of Tarot readers, extend professional
courtesies to all other disciplines in equal manner, then we, as a
collective group, will benefit from the reputation of being seen by
our peers, as well as by the public at large, as being a society of
responsible professionals worthy of being accepted as learned
esotericists in our own right.


In the end, it is up to the individual card reader to adopt and
advance the idea of abiding by a code of ethics, when working with our
clients. We alone are responsible for changing the public perception
of professional Tarot reading, restoring it to a place of honor as an
ancient esoteric discipline. Letting society slowly reverse the
antiquated laws against "fortune telling" is not enough to accomplish
the goal of restoring Tarot reading as a mature, responsible
profession. Individual readers must consciously choose to adhere to
standards of ethical conduct and accountability, and demand that their
peers do likewise. Only a total commitment to excellence will see our
craft established as a professional endeavor, worthy of the respect
and admiration that it so richly deserves.

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