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(For a list of all card articles, open March 2008 on the sidebar).

Friday, 7 March 2008

The Magician

The stones beneath my feet,
the fire,
the waves between my hands,
the night
the power.

A hand to touch the sky,
the air,
two feet upon the ground,
a wand
the power.

Blank eyes, empty body,
the channel,
'what is above, so below'
the words
the power.

Unlike many other parts of the deck, the Magician's world is very simple. As above, so below; all is one; wave your hands like so, and things will be like thus. He tells us that all things began at the same moment and are all still connected. (the next one along, the High Priestess, tells us about what is separate). In some cases, he thinks the personal is political. He thinks you can change little things and thereby alter the course of the world, or alter the course of the world and thereby change the little things.

He is the master of all elements; he is a channel, and he invites you to experience how a change in the balance of the elements affects you and the world around you. He uses his intentions to change the world. That power of intent crops up in a few different places - the Chariot and the Nine of Wands, to name only two - but it begins here, with the basic belief that you can control the world by changing your self, and letting that self tug at the web of connections between all things. This paragraph, it rambles too much, but I hope you get the idea. This guy means what he says.

But, though this certainly doesn't hold IRL, I've never seen a Magician illustration that wasn't both white and male. 'As above, so below' doesn't lend itself to subtlety; the Magician might even think he is neutral with regard to such things, and that he is in general a neutral player in the world; in this regard he may be full of shit. One other usual feature of Magician cards is a mixture of elemental symbols, or of elements themselves.

I made all these draft entries in March, so they'd list in the right order, and for ease of linking, and I thought I'd left all of them blank - but not this one. Here I found a note from me that says; So would it work, if I said that I met a Magician once?

I know two, at least, but there's nothing like a Magician for acting like the only Magician in the world. He's...where to begin? He wants things to be fixed, and thinks that humans are capable of being different from what they are. He's an old-fashioned Baconian dominionist and not ashamed of it in the least - the things that are wrong with that are not his problems. He's not arrogant; there's no swagger in his Nikes - he merely believes in his own magic. He showed me something useful about the world which I'd never before guessed. I think he attracts synchronicity, which I'd guess is a property of the card in general - tug at the web, and it tugs back.

Images of the Magician:

The Magician in the Marseilles is a template for many that come after; see the element symbols gathered on his table. They are his tools. The RWS image is one that follows on from this; here's the Robin Wood one, which follows on from that.

The Intuitive card, which I feel is echoed by the Intuitive Hanged Man and World; they contain similar colours and not-dissimilar forms.

The Osho Zen card, Existence, comes with one of the best Osho quotes ever ever ever: "You are not accidental. Existence needs you. Without you something will be missing in existence and nobody can replace it. That's what gives you dignity, that the whole existence will miss you. The stars and sun and moon, the trees and birds and earth - everything in the universe will feel a small place is vacant which cannot be filled by anybody except you. This gives you a tremendous joy, a fulfillment that you are related to existence, and existence cares for you. Once you are clean and clear, you can see tremendous love falling on you from all dimensions."

The Mythic Tarot says the Magician is Hermes. Hermes is the only god who appears twice in the Major Arcana; he is also Judgement, in his role as the Psychopomp. There he puts the same tools to a different use. In medieval myth, Hermes was used as part of a unifying figure between Greek, Egyptian and Biblical culture; Hermes Trismegistus, who was Hermes and Thoth and Moses all at once. This was a neat trick medieval occultists ('hermeticists', in fact) used to pretend their three woven cultures had a common origin. As below, so above, right?

I have no idea what the Amano Magician is scheming about. None.

What I said about the Magician in 2005:

[I can no longer grok a lot of this - but it's funny how what I just put above is mostly about using the Magician to change the world, and what I wrote below is mostly about using the Magician to maintain continuity with the past. I could blame this change on that Magician I met, damn his eyes.]

The Magician embodies a very old and very simple saying: 'as above, so below.' It has a lot of uses, from divine kingship to the universality of mathematics and geometry. The saying is generally held to be Hermetic and there's no reason to not hold the Magician to be equally so. It's a hazy area, one of those pieces of history written almost entirely in retrospect in a time we now also call history, but maybe that's the way all things are; the present erasing the past as it beelines to the future. There was no Classical acceptance for the idea that Hermes, Thoth and Moses were all the same person; Hermes Trismegistus only existed in retrospect, once century after century had passed and we'd decided that Greek, Egyptian and Hebrew thought were the three things that were important to us.

I don't know whether the retrospectiveness of this Magician, this Thrice-Great Hermes, has much significance; it certainly blurs the lines more than a little. Maybe it just explains the theme of unity; on earth as it is in heaven, all the important things we are made of as one. We all come from the same single point; weaving the three bits that were easiest to see at the time into a single mythos is just a symbolic way of representing this. They all three hold a wand, all pass magic down from heaven to earth, and maybe that is what we are, and that they are also those who take the spirits of the dead back along that line at the end says that maybe that is all we do. The Magician builds bridges and makes both sides the same place. He tells us that one world is very much like another, one person is very much like another, and somewhere, at the start and the end of it all, we are all one.

This is, of course, pretty conventional hippy bullcrap, but the Magician puts a little twist into it. See, I tend to take against ideas that go strongly against what we commonly do on this earth, simply because there's a lot of us and if the world has driven all but an insignificant number in one direction, the world is quite possibly onto something. (Communism is a case in point; territory and attachment are such basic, animal ideas that I wouldn't bet on the chances of anything that relies on severing them). That's why esoterica is bunk; there's a lot of us and if any secret was really that good, we'd all know about it by now...and that's what organised religion is for. The Magician calls it; we are all of the same people and all those before us are too, so if many, many others have been satisfied with walking a certain way, you will be to. This doesn't preclude anything new, merely says that even the new runs on very old guidelines. You are not going to change the world, though you may renew it.

What does this have to do with the oneness of all things? Simply that it doesn't fit square with a lot of Western thought or Western history. We've had Aristotle telling us that the brute physical laws of our planet cease applying in the heavens; in Islamic thought, the two do not touch at all. We were made separate from the lesser beasts, and then we were exiled from the Garden, and even that was long ago and far away. But these are just old stories; what we know of the world now contradicts them, and yet the mental assumption of separation tends to live on. The idea that all things touch at the root and you can dance from one place to another has always been clinging to the edges even here, through qabalism and hermeticism and alchemy, and now in many ways we know that we are of the same matter and the same end as everything else, not substantially different from any other thing in this world. I think our theme of separation is, when seen in a whole-world context, anomalous rather than normal.

And the Amano deck is from a lot further away than Egypt and it's still got a Magician. Hermes Trismegistus of the other side of the world. I'm guessing there's a story I don't know here, and he's probably getting Points for it.

As Above, So Below, is also the name of the sixth episode of Neverwhere. The world's nice like that sometimes.

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