One must learn by doing the thing; for though you think
you know it, you have no certainty until you try.
An important part of learning the Tarot is reading books on the subject. It is important to compare and contrast the viewpoints of various authors, to see what points are generally agreed upon, and to see which concepts are surrounded by debate and controversy. Without such theoretical background it is impossible to gain any meaningful practical experience. But theory can only take you so far, and beyond that, application must take over. In the end, we do not learn by reading or listening or studying. We learn by doing. It is practical experience that makes the difference between Tarot students and Tarot readers.
Allow me to put this example in more practical terms. Take two students of the Tarot who have each bought their first deck and read their little white booklets a few times. One of them heads to the library and checks out all of the books by Eden Gray, Mary Greer, Joan Bunning, etc. Within a matter of months this student will know a wide variety of possible meanings for each of the cards. The other student, meanwhile, took a different path and ended up at the local coffee shop, where he started doing readings for the people there. At first he wasn't very good, but as time went on, he saw patterns in his readings, and he was able to improve his accuracy.
Now I ask you this: A year after they began together, which of these two has the right to call himself a Tarot reader? Is it the one who knows all there is to know about every card, or the one who knows little other than how to apply all of the information he does know? I think the answer is clear. If I wanted someone to write a paper comparing the viewpoints of authors from different times and social backgrounds, I would call on the first of these students. But if I'm curious about what the future holds for me, when I decide that I need a Tarot reading, I will be knocking on the door of the second student - the true reader.
Someone who does a dozen readings and reads one book is, in my opinion, far more experienced than he who reads a dozen books and does one reading. And there are quite a few of this latter group, who are also inclined to believe that one can learn to ride a bicycle through written instructions. But no matter how well-crafted your curriculum, you will not teach someone to ride a bicycle until they actually sit down on it and try. Likewise, you cannot teach someone to be a Tarot reader simply by filling their mind with information from books. The mind must indeed be filled, but with deeds, not words.
Theory exists to show us how to apply the theory in everyday life. Just as scientific theories are applied through laboratory experiments, Tarot is applied through readings. Both solve problems, but where science deals with universal laws of nature, Tarot helps you solve the more important problems of everyday existence. Unlike the laws of science, however, which remain useful even when not used, the concepts of the Tarot must be applied on a regular basis if they are to mean anything. A Tarot deck is worth nothing if it stays wrapped in its box forever - you must work with it, and the more you work, the more powerful you will become.
How will you know when you have practiced enough, and when you have stopped learning new meanings? That's easy. You never stop. Just as new laws of physics are constantly being discovered, and the atom continues to be split into smaller pieces, so can the Tarot be analyzed to reveal both its outer meanings and its inner significance. Every time you do a reading, you not only help someone else learn about their life, but you teach yourself a bit of its mystery. Over time, all the grains of wisdom you get from readings, as well as from your studies, will pile up to form a mountain from which you can see entire worlds.
I see and I forget. I hear and I remember. I do and I understand.