In tales of old, the magician was the wizard, the wise one who counseled the king, like the way Merlin counseled King Author. Magicians also had access to hidden, esoteric knowledge, which gave them special powers. They were the consulted when people were in need of healing, understanding, self-transformation, or something life changing. They were the alchemists, who could transmute one substance into another. Yet, possibly because their knowledge was outside the norm, they tended to be on the outside of society, looking in. This position, in turn, enabled them to gain perspective and an objectivity which hey could then offer to help society see things in new ways.
In Shadow Work, we appreciate the magical quality of this archetype to create shifts in peoples’ understanding of themselves and the issues they are facing. We regard the magician as that part of us which stands back and sees the big picture. It is the part that steps out of the thick of things and looks objectively at what is going on. Scientists and researchers exemplify this objective stance. There is no judgment of right or wrong; only the quest to know what is. The magician is not primarily concerned with morality but instead simply observes, like a mirror. This archetype is dispassionate. If there is passion, it is usually about probing deeply into an area of life to uncover new knowledge about it.
When the magician archetype is lively in people, they usually have an active mind. They may enjoy simply thinking about things and analyzing them, although they often like to study various fields in depth. They can thus be highly knowledgeable about a wide variety of subjects. In daily interactions, they tend to keep a distance from others, especially from emotional involvements. They are the ones who can be counted on to remain “cool, calm and collected” when others are caught in the dramas of life. Their role is likely to be that of an observer, and they tend to be alert to what is going on around them. In that regard, they can have keen powers of observation about people and social dynamics as well as about the physical world. It could be said that they excel at seeing. By virtue of standing back, they are able to offer perspective. Furthermore, they usually have the mental flexibility to see many options in a situation and alternate ways of thinking about things. They also see threats and risks. They are typically the ones who warn others of potential dangers in a situation or play the Devil’s Advocate in a group.
The element we associate with the magician is that of air because, like air, the magician can be detached from earthy matters and move freely. In story, also, magicians are linked to this element—they sometimes disappear into thin air, ride on magic carpets or fly through the air on broomsticks. Air is changeable and mutable, and it is the magician archetype within us that enables us to change our perceptions and transmute our consciousness from one state to another.
The gateway for accessing the magician archetype is the emotion of fear. This doesn’t mean that people are afraid when they experience their magician energy. This archetype, in and of itself, is about knowing and transforming. Yet to find something new, we have to enter the unknown, which generally evokes fear in people. But if we are willing to experience our fear, to welcome it instead of fighting it, we can gain entry into the gifts of our magician energy. In a sense, when we take the risk involved in seeing or changing something about ourselves, we are going through an initiation, and initiation rites traditionally involve facing some kind of fear.
When magician energy is weak or deflated, people seem to lose their sight. They have difficulty getting perspective. They can’t see clearly. They lack insight into things. They have a hard time recognizing options, and instead get locked into only one, rigid way of seeing things. On the other hand, when people have too much magician energy, their mind can be hyperactive, spinning so many options that they can’t choose between them or having so many thoughts that their thinking becomes fragmented and confused. People with inflated magician energy can also become detached to the point of being cold, or alert to the point of being hyper vigilant and paranoid.
The wound that leads to both inflating and deflating the magician archetype is the shaming message that we are bad. In various ways, people can form the false belief that says, in effect, “Somehow, there is something wrong about me.” Maybe they believe that they are doing or have done something bad, or maybe they have a pervasive sense that just being themselves is bad. In whatever way they may have formed this wounding message, once people start telling themselves that they are bad, they no longer see clearly. Their magician energy goes into shadow, that is, it inflates or deflates.
The tool we use to bring the magician back out of shadow is to help them detach from whatever experience they are in, emotionally or psychologically, and to gain balanced perspective so they can see clearly again. A specific technique we use is called splitting, which involves separating out different parts of ourselves so that we can stand back and look at them at a distance. It is a form of role playing that is common to several therapeutic modalities. In Shadow Work, we use it as a way to bring magician energy on line by putting people in a position of distance where they can gain insight and guidance about how to make the shift, or transformation, that they need in order to go forward in their lives.