At a recent company quarterly meeting in New Orleans, we had our tarot read outside of Café du Monde. Over chicory coffee and beignets afterward, it got us thinking about the ways people are deconstructing old systems of religion to create new personalized systems of spirituality with tools like meditation, tarot, and astrology.
Why have these modalities exploded in recent years in the cultural zeitgeist? (Besides having Mercury Retrograde as a convenient scapegoat for technological dumpster fires)
What is the future of belief in our modernizing society?
And what does this mean for brands and business… if anything?
According to the Pew Research Center, 27% of Americans now identify as “spiritual” over “religious” — and that was just in 2017. More recently, the global research firm YouGov cites “being more spiritual” as one of the top ten New Year's resolutions for Americans in 2020. So while Millennials and Gen Z are the least religious generations in history yet still claim to be spiritual, it’s clear that something is going on to cause them to look beyond.
We know from our research that Gen Z is highly focused on individualism and that COVID has played a huge role in shaping their identity. In times of unrest and uncertainty — and also as human beings trying to navigate the complexities of being sentient — we often seek a system of values and a code by which we can orient ourselves in the world. While that has, in the past, been a role occupied by organized religion, nowadays bits and pieces of spiritual traditions are being cobbled together into systems of belief that work on the individual level.
When we take a step back and look at our culture, we see two key shifts taking place. One is about things coming apart: individualized belief systems, often pieced together through the exploration of many different options, taking precedence over traditional, organized belief systems. The other shift is about a coming together, as we are witnessing with the rise of mental health care, where physical, mental, and spiritual health are now seen as inextricably linked, and of equal importance for overall wellbeing.
These two shifts seem contradictory, and yet there’s an insight here: people are disassembling traditional systems, yes, but not for destruction’s sake. They’re using what works for them in these systems as a way to create something new and more personal to them, forming links between the old and the new. What’s happening with spirituality is prolific and encouraging: we are building bridges into the future out of materials of the past.
As we find ourselves transitioning between the world of COVID and what comes next, we can take serious inspiration from shifts like these, even when they feel scary. Maybe your business is experiencing tensions or growing pains. Maybe you’re struggling to connect with your team across a distance. Perhaps now is the time to transition your business model as our vertical farming client did. Or to forge a new identity, re-grounded in a sense of place as one of our VC clients has.
Some new-age-inspired questions to ask yourself if you’re feeling stuck:
- Take a step back and divine this: what are you truly trying to accomplish? Often, getting crystal clear on your goal (no crystal ball required) is what’s needed to begin removing barriers.
- If a system or model isn’t working anymore, can you dissect it? Which aspects are still serving you? Which should be removed or replaced?
- Are there other companies or industries that have solved your problem? Can you look to them for inspiration? How did they move into the future effectively?
- What might help you look at the issue from a new angle? Do you need a change of scenery? Is there a colleague that could give you a fresh perspective? Or, like Carl Jung, do you just need to read your horoscope?
“In cases of difficult psychological diagnosis, I usually get a horoscope in order to have a further point of view from an entirely different angle. I must say that I very often found that the astrological data elucidated certain points which I otherwise would have been unable to understand.” — Carl Jung
We couldn’t finish this article without taking our own advice and looking for inspiration in the very place this article began: the tarot! We asked the cards: “What do our readers need to hear about the future of branding?” We did a simple, four-card spread (using the Modern Witch Tarot Deck by Lisa Sterle, of course), in which our four cards represent: the situation, obstacle, action recommended, and outcome. As the TikTokers would say, if you’re seeing this, it’s meant for you. 😉
The Situation: Page of Wands
This is a card about the energy of new ideas and the desire to learn. And yet, despite the page’s energy, she’s not yet mature enough to focus. She’s distracted by shiny objects and has a hard time following through. In our card, we can see the page’s wand begin to sprout…but it’s still the beginning. Everything is open. Everything is possible. But thoughtlessness has consequences.
The Obstacle: The Hermit, reversed
The Hermit is a seeker of truth. She’s an archetypal figure and is considered a sage, teacher, and guide. When she appears in a reading, she often represents a guide or teacher. When The Hermit appears reversed, as she is in this reading, it can mean that you’re ignoring or turning your nose up at the wisdom offered to you. It often means that it’s time to reflect on your purpose. It can also mean you don’t want to go it alone.
The Recommended Action: Six of Wands, reversed
The Six of Wands is a victorious card, and represents achieving something big and reaping the rewards. When reversed, it means there’s still work to be done. Is that frustrating? Yes, it can be. Especially after the grueling past few years that we’ve had. But it’s also reassurance that if you keep moving in the direction of your goals, you will win. A reversed Six of Wands can also mean you need to spend some time reassessing your goals and what success means to you. Feels very in line with our reversed Hermit, doesn’t it?
The Outcome: Five of Swords
This is a Strength card — it means you’re ready to go to the mat for what you believe in. It also means there’s a good chance you’ll accomplish what you want. But act thoughtfully, and don’t throw a punch just yet. Take a look at the crumpled postures of the other humans in the card. Is that worth a traditional victory? Or, is there an opportunity for collaboration? The Five of Swords also symbolizes change and adjustment after a time of conflict and recommends using diplomacy to solve problems.
We’re all coming out of a time of great uncertainty. The world is different in so many ways, and if you’re feeling like a novice, you’re not alone. While we want and need to take action, the cards recommend doing this thoughtfully and collaboratively. Look around you — what wisdom might you be ignoring? Are there mentors or peers with whom you can take the next steps? We’ve also spent the past few years in a state of survival. There has been much need for action and sometimes little time for thought. Now is the time to reassess your purpose, think deeply about what you want to accomplish, and contemplate what victory means to you. The cards say that you have a great chance of meeting your goals, but that things will go better for you if you find collaborative solutions to problems.
Sounds spot on to us. We live in a day and age in which so many of us are fighting for and actively creating new and better solutions and systems (some of us with crystals). Those are worthy actions and goals. But, as we advise our clients, they can’t be accomplished without deep purpose and invested community.