This is the fifth part of a series on the archetypes of mature masculinity based on the book King, Warrior, Magician, Lover by Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette. If you haven’t already, I highly recommend reading the introduction to the series first. Also, keep in mind that these posts are a little more esoteric than our normal fare, and are meant to be contemplated and thoughtfully reflected upon.
Many a boy goes through a magic phase growing up. He learns a few card tricks, and maybe goes down to the local magic store to browse for more elaborate tricks. Even just entering the store is a little thrilling, as is showing off newly learned tricks to one’s family and friends.
Most men outgrow their magic hobby, although not necessarily their fascination with the art. But even the professional ranks of magicians are dominated by men.
So why are men so drawn to magic?
The masculine attraction to magic can be traced to something much deeper than the ability to pull a rabbit out of a hat. Rather, it is rooted in what the magician’s abilities represent–the power that comes from the mastery of a secret knowledge and the ability to use that knowledge to manipulate tools in order to control certain elements and produce desired outcomes. The yearning to harness and possess that power is what fuels the Magician archetype, an energy that every man should seek, whether or not he ever hopes to saw a lady in half.
The Characteristics of the Magician in His Fullness
Intellectually Curious/The Holder of Hidden Knowledge
As Moore puts it, “The Magician is the knower.” What does he know? “Secret and hidden knowledge of all kinds.” While this kind of knowledge sounds very esoteric, and it can be, Moore is simply referring to any kind of knowledge that is “not immediately apparent or commonsensical.” It is knowledge you learn in degrees, its mastery takes great effort and diligence, and the reward is to be able to dwell in a realm that the average man does not have access to. Moore argues that:
“All knowledge that takes special training to acquire is the province of the Magician energy. Whether you are an apprentice training to become a master electrician and unraveling the mysteries of high voltage; or a medical student, grinding away night and day, studying the secrets of the human body and using available technologies to help your patients; or a would-be stockbroker or a student of high finance; or a trainee in one of the psychoanalytic schools, you are in exactly the same position as the apprentice shaman or witch doctor in tribal societies. You are spending large amounts of time, energy, and money in order to be initiated into rarefied realms of secret power. You are undergoing an ordeal testing your capacities to become a master of this power. And, as is true in all initiations, there is no guarantee of success.”
As you go about your studies or the day-to-day duties of your profession, you probably don’t feel like you’re acting in a “realm of secret power.” But take a step back and consider it—whether it’s how to set a bone or repair a carburetor, you probably can do things that to others are completely obscure and shrouded in mystery.
A Master of Technology
A few months ago I bought an iPad. I love it. The first time I swiped across its screen, I felt like I was using some sort of magic gazing mirror that granted me access to an infinite amount of knowledge right at my fingertips. One minute I can be reading a biography of Winston Churchill and the next I can be watching a free video lecture about Churchill on YouTube. The iPad, along with other tablet devices, are great examples of science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke’s third rule: “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
And indeed, the Magician is a “master of technology.” When men learn the secret knowledge of how the world works, and use that knowledge to harness its laws, energies, and forces in order to manipulate them into practical tools and systems, they’re accessing Magician energy. Inventors, scientists, and just simple tinkerers are examples of “masters of technology. It’s funny how we often imbue our most famous inventors and creators with almost supernatural qualities. Newspapers dubbed Thomas Edison “The Wizard of Menlo Park,” legends sprouted up about Nikola Tesla and his power over electricity, and recent obituaries about Steve Jobs would often refer to his creations as almost magical.
Becoming a master of technology doesn’t require that we invent a device like the iPad. Instead, we simply need to create. There’s a concept in the Western esoteric tradition of Hermeticism that the goal of man should be to live the principle of: “as above, so below.” It’s sort of similar to Christ’s admonition in the Lord’s prayer to “make on earth as it is in heaven.” Several interpretations exist as to the meaning of “as above, so below,” but the interpretation that I like is that it means making our amorphous thoughts, imaginations, and dreams a reality. In order to accomplish this, we must use all the knowledge and tools at our disposal. In short, we must become masters of technology.
The Warrior is the archetype of action. But he gets his marching orders from the Magician. This is the energy that powers healthy introspection. When you’re facing a tough decision, your deliberations on which course to take are powered by the Magician. His power comes from thoughtful reflection and meditation; the Magician is like an excellent chess player; the more he experiences and studies, the more he is able to see life like a chess board, envision all the possible moves, and predict with good accuracy where those moves will lead. This ability also generates a man’s hunches and gut feelings and the spontaneous decisions he makes in a time of crisis.
In today’s society, information has been greatly democratized, and people expect everything there is to be known to be available to every person. If you tell someone that certain knowledge is sacred, secret, or just too advanced for them to understand, they’re typically deeply offended and automatically assume that you’re up to something suspicious. But great teachers throughout history understood that knowledge and truth must be taught “precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little.” Effective learning must be done in degrees–each advancement is earned by the mastery of the previous step. Each concept builds on the other, until a person has acquired perfect knowledge.
Those who try to jump into the deep end without first learning to swim can drown. For that reason, men accessing Magician energy are reticent about the knowledge they possess, only sharing it with the earnest student who continually proves he is a worthy of the knowledge he seeks.
Alchemist of Life
The alchemists of antiquity sought to find a way to turn the baser elements into gold. And this inclination to turn a sow’s ear into a purse is a vital current in the Magician’s stream of energy. When the Magician archetype is integrated into a man, he looks for ways to turn disappointing situations and setbacks into opportunities to learn, grow, and become a better man.
As Moore puts it, the Magician “understands the link between the unseen world of the spirits–the Divine World–and the world of human beings and nature.” As the mediator between these worlds, the Magician has the ability to explain complicated spiritual ideas in ways others can easily grasp. If you’ve ever talked to a friend who used a simple metaphor to resolve your doubts, that was the Magician energy at work.
Initiation and the Modern Obstacle to Accessing Magician Energy
There are two main roles that the energy of the Magician flow through—the initiate and the initiator. Or in the other words, the mentee and the mentor.
As we just discussed, Magician energy drives us to obtain hidden knowledge. But contrary to the popular adage about professional magicians—that they never reveal their tricks—a man truly animated by the mature Magician archetype is eager to turn around and share what he has learned with others. He desires to elevate the serious and earnest seeker to his level.
This is why the lack of magician energy in modern culture is really at the heart of the issues many men are having today. There is a lack of mature men who have made a rite-of-passage themselves available to initiate other men into the “secret knowledge” of manhood. Dads and granddads, uncles and cousins, used to teach their sons and other young men how to act, dress, and behave like a man. But a lot of men have grown up without such a mentor these days and thus feel lost, directionless, and adrift.
This is not only true when it comes to being initiated into manhood, however, but also applies to a man’s professional path as well. For the most part, gone are the days of guilds and intimate apprenticeships, and trade schools have fallen in popularity. Men are in fierce competition with each other and are looking out only for themselves, thus there is often no one willing to initiate a man into his vocation. It is telling that apprenticeships have been replaced by internships; instead of getting initiated into the job, interns are made to do the undesirable grunt work of others and then cut loose when their temporary stint is up.
That many men have an unfulfilled hunger for initiation into some kind of secret knowledge can be evidenced by the soaring popularity of pick-up and seduction artists who promise, for a few hundred or thousand dollars, to teach initiates the secrets to scoring lots of ladies. And a lot of guys who can’t find mentors otherwise are willing to pony up big time dough to hire them. On the surface, the popularity of the PUA movement is due simply to the desire to want to be great at picking up chicks, but I think it’s really a manifestation of this deeper hunger to be initiated into a secret realm, to have knowledge that others don’t. And actually you see this kind of language used in a lot of PUA forums—people talk about the different levels of knowledge you gain, and how only 10% of people who study the subject ever really understand it, etc.
I know a few guys that have gotten something out of some of these classes and books. Mainly, they’re learning basic social skills they just didn’t pick up as kids. However, I don’t think young men can fully satiate their hunger for initiation into manhood in the pick-up artist scene for a few reasons.
First, most PUA gurus are nothing more than internet marketing hucksters that prey on a young man’s sexual insecurity in order to make a buck. Instead of being in touch with positive Magician energy, many PUA coaches are possessed with the Magician’s shadow, the Manipulator. The initiation into manhood that these gurus offer lacks the gravitas and depth of an initiation from men who have fully developed the mature masculine within themselves.
Second, the manliness of PUA devotees is constantly defined in the context of women–they are consumed with thinking about women– how they think, how they can be manipulated, how to talk to them, where to meet them, and so on. But manhood is not about women. Look at any great man of the past–none of them made women their main focus. Instead, they concentrated on mastering a more significant subject of hidden knowledge, one which created a real and lasting legacy for them. Their success then naturally attracted women to them, without the need for any special gimmicks.
The Shadows of the Magician Archetype
The Detached Manipulator
The Magician in his fullness desires to initiate other men into his knowledge, bringing them up from degree to degree so that they can become better and happier men. The Manipulator Shadow poses as the Magician in his fullness–he teases would-be initiates with the prospect of learning his secrets, but he does not give them all his knowledge. He withholds things from them in order to feed both his pride and his pocketbook. Shadow Manipulators charge their seekers a ton of money with the promise that the student can become just like them, but don’t give away the real secrets to doing that, and especially the secret that they often can’t become just like them, because their own success was due to x,y, or z factor that won’t happen to anyone else.
The internet has created an army of Shadow Manipulators. Everywhere you look there are hucksters promising you the secrets to bedding women, losing weight, making money online…if you’ll only buy their $200 eBook.
Shadow manipulators play a prominent role on our cultural stage as well. Wall Street bankers, politicians, ad agencies, and media pundits are all absolute experts in getting a following by sharing some of the story, but not all of it.
Another aspect of the Manipulator is his cynical detachment from other people. I see this Shadow in guys too often. They’re the ones who, when confronted with their inability to commit to anything, be passionate about anything, or enjoy any pleasures in life, will retort with “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Moore summarizes this man’s issues very well:
“This is the man who thinks too much, who stands back from his life and never lives it. He is caught in a web of pros and cons about his decisions and lost in a labyrinth of reflective meanderings from which he cannot extricate himself. He is afraid to live, to ‘leap into battle.’ He can only sit on his rock and think. The years pass. He wonders where the time has gone. And he ends by regretting a life of sterility. He is a voyeur, an armchair adventurer. In the world of academia, he is a hairsplitter. In the fear of making the wrong decision, he makes none. In his fear of living, he also cannot participate in the joy and pleasure that other people experience in their lived lives. If he is withholding from others, and not sharing what he knows, he eventually feels isolated and lonely. To the extent that he has hurt others with his knowledge and technology—in whatever field and in whatever way—by cutting himself off from living relatedness with other human beings, he has cut off his own soul.”
The Innocent One
The Innocent One is the passive pole of the bi-polar shadow. A man possessed by the Innocent One shadow wants all the power, glory, and status that comes with harnessing the Magician archetype in his fullness, but he isn’t willing to put in the work or take on the responsibility that said power, glory, and status requires. They see another man doing something really cool, and decide they want to do it too. These are guys who get super excited about a new hobby, or faith, or career path–their excitement is absolutely coursing through them–but after the easy part has passed (coming up with the name of the band, buying a skateboard, designing the start-up’s logo), they realize how much “dead work” is required to get really good at the cool thing, and they give up. Men haunted by the shadow of the Innocent One want to be millionaires, but aren’t willing to toil and work years to achieve it. They want to play guitar like Django Reinhardt, but they give up guitar lessons after just a few weeks. They want to be spiritual, but without all that prayer, meditation, and scripture study business.
But the Innocent One’s shadow behavior doesn’t stop there. Because a man in touch with the Innocent One can never attain or achieve his goals because of laziness, he doesn’t want others to achieve their goals and ambitions either. He becomes a stumbling block to others simply out of envy. A man possessed by the Innocent One begrudges the success of others and does all that he can to diminish it. Theodore Roosevelt despised this type of man. To him, a man possessed by the Innocent One was “one of those cold and timid souls, who know neither victory nor defeat.”
How to Access the Magician Archetype
- Commit to lifelong learning
- Create more, consume less.
- Work with your hands.
- Take part in a rite of passage
- Find a mentor
- Become a mentor
- Join a Fraternal organization like the Freemasons or Knights of Columbus
- Carve out a sacred space in your life. This is, in my opinion, the biggest key to accessing the Magician archetype. In the life of the modern man, there is no line between the sacred and the profane. But if you want access to the insights, energies, and ideas that exist on a plane above that of your ordinary, day-to-day life, then you need an entryway to that higher realm. Sacred space is that gateway. Carve out a ritual for yourself, a time or a physical space where you are not interrupted, where others are not privy to what you think about. Maybe it’s listening to Bach in your study after the kids go to bed. Maybe it’s finding a special, secluded grove in the park where you go to think. Maybe it’s a morning walk in the woods. Maybe it’s going to morning weekday Mass without your family. Whatever it is, draw a line around it and make it sacred in your life.