A man bathed in bright golden light stands erect before a wooden table, holding aloft a white wand. He wears a plain white robe with a pale-blue waistband, a bright red tunic and a gold headband. His right hand points to the heavens; his left hand points toward the ground. Above him and below him, garlands of flowers, roses and lilies, are in bloom. On the table in front of him are a coin, a cup, a sword, and a wand: These are representations of the four emanations of Kabbala, the four elements of the earth, the four seasons in time and the four suits of the Tarot: Wands, Cups, Swords and Pentacles—the creative, incubative, formative, and corporeal stages that form our spiritual cycle of life.
If The Fool is undifferentiated creation undergoing formation, then The Magician is the Divine intellect—the first spark of of God-consciousness—that defines and gives meaning to Creation itself: to coin a phrase, “Let there be light.” His intellect is all-encompassing—as symbolized by the four elements on the table before him—and eternal, as embodied by the presence above his head of the lemniscate: The symbol of infinity in mathematics and science. Some commentators have expressed the idea that the Magician’s belt is actually a serpent with its tail in its mouth. If so, it represents a uroborus, an ancient archetypal symbol of life everlasting.
The white wand the Magician holds above his him is phallic in shape at both ends, representing both the purity of his Creation and the dualistic force of phallic energy that flows from the Godhead to man, then back to God again along the paths of the Tree of Life: As it is written, and as his body language suggests, “As above, so below.” He is the adept, the shaman and the wizard, Creator and conjurer, uplifter and destroyer of nations and of men.
For a Creator-God, His dress is plain and his environment is austere; He has very few possessions, and save his table and the flower wreaths surrounding Him, no evident signs of luxury or splendor attach to Him. If we met a man in public who was dressed this way, we would assume that he was a man of modest means, and not given over to great and ambitious works. Perhaps this is the physical form that God would have us perceive Him, to live humbly and simply as imitations of Him, and giving blessings of healing to others, desiring little for ourselves. In this realm—of charity, love, mercy and selflessness—we discover that we are indeed in the realm of the adept, where miracles are possible every day.
The element of mercury is traditionally assigned to The Magician, and this is emblematic of the Creator’s mutability, the ability to change characteristics or appearances. Just as mercury can either liquify or solidify depending on external exigencies, the Magician, like the Fool, can be all things to all people. But now that the Magician has visualized His Creation and given it breath, He can now will His Creation to assume any physical form.
The Roman god Mercury (Greek Hermes) was worshipped in ancient times as a god of healing and wealth; he was also a god of trickery and deceit, and is often referred to as being among the many gods in the “trickster” pantheon. This is a caveat for those who invoke the Magician’s power: as the First Thought, the Logos of Creation, he can perform great miracles that transform people’s lives; or he can dazzle the psyche with magic spells that can plunge us into madness. It all depends on the spirit in which we approach Him, for He is capable of infinite good or infinite evil—but only as we, not He, would define it; in His world of Divine love and light, there is no such thing as evil, only misperception in the hearts and minds of man. Even the deceptions he facilitates are generally conjured for good ends. Consider the archetypes of Merlin in the Arthurian legends, or Odysseus in Homer’s epic, both of whom employ disguise and subterfuge to restore their houses and heal their lands.
The path of the Magician, which connects Kether to Binah, is known as the Intelligence of Transparency, such as occurs when a veil is parted or a curtain is raised. Having now drawn our first breath of air with the Fool, we can now open our inner eye and literally “see the light” of Creation. This is our first step toward recognizing and apprehending our spiritual side, and it reflects the Magician’s shamanistic powers; he is the first, but not the last, spirit-guide we shall encounter on the royal road to individuation.
The Hebrew letter assigned to The Magician is Beth, which means “house,” and in that context, when when we ponder The Magician, we should realize that we are entering into the House of God. We should enter into this House, then, with deep reverence and respect, as we should for all of Creation. Consider the God of Revelation, who is said to throw down all of man’s works and cover the earth in smoke and sulfur at the end of days, that the faithful in Christ would be released from the sins of the world and walk in the light of His love until the end of time. In that vein, the Magician is both a God of Creation, and like Shiva of the Hindus, a God of destruction. Whichever dispensation He gives, however, is entirely up to us: If we consecrate the temple, so shall we be uplifted; profane it, and we bring about our own demise. Sadly, we have proven ourselves far too capable of the latter in recent years; we may one day yet regret it.
The cards of the Trumps Major depict archetypal forces and sympathies that preexist the birth of human consciousness, and as such in their most rudimentary elements, they are almost indecipherable to us except on the most superficial levels. The Magician, like The Fool, is a remote and inscrutable figure whom we have not known intimately since the fall from Eden. Therefore, in a reading, a card such as The Magician doesn’t speak much to our immediate everyday concerns, but more to spiritual forces that are always exerting influence upon us: Psychic energy, the power of creativity, summoning that power through prayer and meditation, and by treating Creation with the same reverence the Creator would have us feel for each other. As such, in a reading the Magician presents us with the opportunity for renewal and rebirth; we only need to invoke His powers of love and forgiveness, and put them into practice. Negative connotations can include bad faith and deception (so-called “black magic”) or an inability or unwillingness to receive God-consciousness due to mental illness or depression. In any event, we should remind ourselves whenever we meditate on The Magician that in both Matthew and Deuteronomy, we are instructed to love the Creator with all our hearts, to treat others as we would be treated in kind, and this—and only this—is the sum of the Divine Law.
The Zohar, one of the earliest and most significant works in the Kabbala canon, teaches that us “Fear of God is the gateway to everything”—not the mindless, paranoid fear our egos generate, but the “spiritual fear” of awe one experiences when gazing into a starry night sky and wondering what lies beyond it. The Magician is a powerful Creator, deserving of much respect, and if we’re to fairly honor Him, then, we must also respect His Creation—that is to say, ourselves: As above, so below. Besides, we’re awesome too!