The Magician in Tarot and in You
The Magician Tarot image is an archetype very much alive in each one of us and he expresses through our Power of Imagination. He is paired with The Empress card. The Empress is often pictured in a lush and unruly garden. She is eternally pregnant with your ideas and visions for the future and waits patiently for just the right time to birth them, but it is the Magician who sculpts these ideas into material form.
First let’s focus on the role of the Empress and the importance of waiting until the moment is ripe. You have probably at least once had the experience of telling a friend of some exciting new idea or endeavor, a spark that energized and motivated you, only to have her speak some word of caution that left you feeling limp and dampened your enthusiasm. Friends are well meaning and want to protect us, but sometimes it is best to keep our ideas to our self until we feel confident in a well-developed plan. Once you have a clear plan, or something in the works, friends and family will be less concerned and less likely to try and derail your zeal.
Even with a well-developed plan, once we begin we might find things don’t always go according to our expectations. There is almost always an element of surprise in birthing a fresh new idea. Art is a perfect example. When I begin a work I may have a vision in mind but inevitably while drawing and certainly while painting, a fresh and unexpected image will arise. The magician sees to this, he is the king of surprises and he represents the wonder-working aspect of ourselves.
How do we know when our inner Magician is active? The magician brings us experiences of déjà vu or synchronicity. In a déjà vu experience, we are certain something is happening for a second or third time, or have the sense “I have been here before,” when in fact it is a fresh new event. Synchronicity, or “meaningful coincidences” was a concept of Carl Jung’s. An example might be, while sitting on the bus observing a fellow passenger with kindly thoughts, she turns around to smile at you. Whenever the Magician is at work, we experience an expansion of Mind beyond our normal, every day understanding. You have probably all had this happen: Thinking of someone you haven’t seen for awhile, she suddenly calls or you run into her on a walk in the neighborhood. We also make up stories about the significance of these events. Here’s another example: One night late, alone at home, I was reading the book Jung and Tarot, an Archetypal Journey. I was on the chapter about the Magician, trying to make sense out of how the Magician might play in my life when the phone rang. A woman was calling to speak to my housemate who was not at home. I asked to take a message and she said to tell her Sallie Nichols called. I hung up the phone trying to remember where I had heard that name before. I went back to my reading and realized Sally Nichols was also the name of the author of my book; I guess one of those synchronistic events. After all I was asking the Magician to show me one of his tricks.
The Magician can show up as a trickster, a shape shifter who brings unplanned and un-wanted results to our original intention. This can happen at any time, since how our dreams manifest, is not always under our control. For instance, in an uncanny way, four of my friends at the same time discouraged at work and longing to move in a different direction, were unexpectedly laid off. All four of them! They had kept quiet about their intention to leave the job, but their unexpressed wish came to pass anyway, sooner than they had wanted and with difficult circumstances, no one wants her bosses disapproval. But their intentions were fulfilled in a sense behind the scenes, in the world of the Magician.
Another example of the Magician archetype at work in our lives can look something like this: My astrologer told me I would meet someone who would make the beginning of my journey to India very easy. She said I would meet this person in November. One day in November my partner came home from work and said that there was a new person hired in his Department. The new guy was from India so I was interested in meeting him. Puneet and I met over lunch and I shared my intentions of making a solo trip to India for an extended stay. He asked me a lot of questions about my intentions. At the end of our conversation he said, I’m going to speak to my father. I didn’t know what that meant but a week later he told me his father would pick me up at the airport and take me to their home in Delhi for the first night of my journey. I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction to my long adventure. It is easy for me to imagine that the Magician had his hand in these events. The Magician doesn’t play tricks on us he performs for us. In a sense, he includes us in his plans.
In another sense, we are imagining and reimagining our world all the time. Our lives are made of stories that we craft moment to moment. This happened because of that. She did that because of this. It happened this way, I’m certain, because I know him. An event happens and everyone who saw it has a different understanding and even different “facts” about what actually happened and certainly a different opinion as to why. Throw the Trickster into the mix and we have another layer of confused certainty.
So how do we consciously engage our inner Magician? In the movie, Awake chronically Paramahansa Yogananda’s life story, neuroscientist, Andrew Newberg, explains that the mind doesn’t simply sit in the brain, but extends throughout every cell in the body. Every part of our body holds intelligence and memory. Making friends with our bodies, listening to the language of our bones, muscles and organs can help lead us to the Magician, who is busy materializing our next idea. For instance, when I am stuck in writer’s block I take a walk or go for a long swim. I try to keep my attention on sensations in the body and empty my mind. Inevitably, after a period of exercise, I have another idea that will keep me writing for a longer stretch of time.
Attention, intention and visualization are other ways to engage the Magician. How skillful we become at the art of attention is an individual matter and often depends on how we learn or process information. Educators tell us there are three kinds of learners, visual, auditory and kinesthetic. If you are a visual learner, it is going to be easier for you to keep focused attention using visual cues. If you are an auditory learner you will be more successful at attending to what is pleasing to listen to. Kinesthetic learners learn by engaging in physical activity; here the body becomes the best teacher and assistant in focused attention.
We can take advantage of our natural and inherent style of learning to deepen and enhance our power of attention. Meditation doesn’t always have to happen sitting silently on a cushion. We can become entirely absorbed in music, painting or dance. We can be so completely absorbed that our mind becomes empty. This is also when we find ourselves in a state of Flow, heightened attention and enjoyment. Whenever we are in flow we have activated the Magician archetype.
Once learned, this heightened state of focused attention can be joined with our intentions, what we most desire to manifest, receive or give. If our intentions are strong enough they evolve into our life’s purpose, what we love to serve. If we are lucky this path is straightforward, but usually we are caught in a web of too many intentions, not always cooperating or in alignment. For instance, we may intend to get a college degree and intend to travel around the world, marry and settle down; when many possibilities have equal value we can become frozen or stuck or feel we are walking through quick sand. Of course, we don’t have to do everything at once and we could follow the advice of parents, co-workers and teachers who tell us to prioritize. Prioritize, sounds so business like, and hopelessly dull.
I’m more inclined to call in my inner Magician and join my power of attention and intention with the freedom of imagination. Our imagination has a way of finding a path to yes, a world of this and that, to several opportunities maturing at the same time, or a miracle we could never have noticed from where we were looking. Fully engaging our imagination requires slowing down, spending long lazy hours alone, allowing the mind to wander, exploring the wildest possibilities, playfully. This is the work of the Magician. Through imagination our attention and intention are brought to the world of anything possible. Soon you may find yourself enrolled in the University without Walls, living in Nice, France researching and writing your dissertation while listening to the sound of laughter of a loved one near by, feeling settled and happy. The Magician knows how to integrate several different ideas and seemingly opposing desires into a tapestry of what is possible.
For now, simply notice when the Magician archetype is alive in your life through experiences of déjà vu and synchronicity or choose to activate the Magician through your attention and intentions, empowering your life forward toward new ideas or personal visions. This power of imagination and creation is always within us waiting to be ignited and materialized.
Part of this essay is published in my book, Tarot and the Twelve Powers: A Journey for the Heart and Soul