Having made an intensive study of Tarot, I am aware that there are numerous excellent books by much more experienced authors than me. However, I am yet to find a publication that clarifies how meaning is derived. Many texts credit some force or powers at work that unveil the ‘hidden’. As sceptic I wanted a scientific or logical explanation of how the cards serve as mechanism to unleash what is within the mind of the querent or reader.
There is a large body of knowledge, including opposing theories, about the 'layers' or 'level's of conscious awareness, mentation or/and perception; with layers/levels located in some sense 'beneath' conscious awareness. In an attempt to simplify three hierarchical levels are identified:
Some theorists only differentiate between the aware or conscious mind and the unaware or subconscious, which is different from unconsciousness, a coma and a minimally conscious state. Carl Jung agreed with Sigmund Freud's model illustrated above for what he called the 'personal unconscious'. He proposed the existence of a further, far deeper form of the unconscious underlying the personal one, namely the collective unconscious—where the archetypes themselves reside. Be it as it may:
— Information or content in the preconscious is regarded as unrepressed (latent) and can relatively easily be called into the conscious awareness. Think of your PC, with the active programme you are using running, while other are programmes are running in the background. You can easily switch to those programmes, provided your PC has sufficient memory capacity (RAM). When stressed, under pressure or not well, your personal capacity of conscious awareness declines.
— However, it is generally believed that information or content in the unconscious require special investigative techniques for their exploration. This is where Tarot avails itself as a magnificent tool; it is not just random pictures, but a set of 78 cards with various universal symbols and a well developed internal structure. A symbol represents something else by association, resemblance, or convention. The word "symbol" means "to throw together", literally a "co-incidence". By forcing the querent or reader to think of the problem, challenge or matter to decide about in terms of an arbitrary set of cards the brain bring forth—illustrated below—content from the unaware or subconscious. There is a signification, substitution or displacement taking place. This additional information in the conscious awareness broadens the potential interpretation. The cards enable both free and forced association.