The Magician

from theTarot of Marseilles
Friedrich Schiller

a Journey into Christian Hermeticism

The young man – who is the Magician – holds a rod and a ball with perfect ease, without clasping them or showing any other sign of tension, encumbrance, haste or effort. What he does with his hands is perfect spontaneity – it is easy to play and not work. He does not follow the movement of his hands; his gaze is elsewhere. 

The hat that he wears with its lemniscate, horizontal eight ∞ shape is not only the symbol of infinity, but also that of rhythm.

The first arcanum – the principle underlying all the other twenty-one Major Arcana of the Tarot – is that of the rapport of personal effort and of spiritual reality. It is the Magician who is called to reveal the practical method relating to all the other Arcana, whose formula is:

Learn at first concentration without effort; Transform work into play; make every yoke that you have accepted easy and every burden that you carry light !
An arcanum is that which it is necessary to “know” in order to be fruitful in a given domain of spiritual life. It makes us fertile in our creative pursuits
My yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew xi. 30)
Let us examine three parts of this formula in order to penetrate the Arcanum of “active relaxation” or “effort without effort”

1. Learn at first concentration without effort.

Friedrich Schiller, considered Germany’s greatest playwright, said that he, who wants to complete something of worth and of skill, quietly and unceasingly directs the greatest force upon the smallest point.
This is the practical key to all success. Schools of spiritual exercises – Franciscan, Carmelite, Dominican and Jesuit – are in agreement on this. Patanjali in his classic work on Yoga writes: Yoga is is the suppression of the oscillations of the metal substance (yoga Sutras 1,2).
The Pythagorean School prescribed five years of silence to beginners or “hearers”. The silentium practised by the Trappist monks is the application of the same law. Both Saint John of the Cross and Saint Teresa of Avila do not tire of repeating that concentration is necessary for spiritual prayer.

Look at a tightrope walker. Her life is at stake and only perfect concentration can save her.  She has to eliminate all activity of the intellect and of the imagination in order to avoid a fall. The centre of consciousness is directed from the head to the chest.

In the last analysis it is a matter of a miracle analogous to that of Saint Dionysius, apostle of the Gauls and first bishop of Paris, whom tradition identifies with St. Dionysius, disciple of Saint Paul.  In particular he was:

beheaded with a sword before the statue of Mercury, confessing his faith in the Holy Trinity.  And at once the body of Dionysius stood erect , and took its head in its hands; and with a great light before, it walked two miles from Montmartre to the place, where by its own choice and by the providence of God, it now reposes.  (Jacobus de Voragine, Legendae aurea; trns G. Ryan and H. Ripperger, The Golden Legend)

It now reposes in the Basilica of Saint Denis, where the Kings of France were later buried.
Concentration without effort engenders the profound silence of desires, of pre-occupations, of the imagination, of the memory and of discursive thought. The entire being becomes like the surface of calm water, reflecting the immense presence of the starry sky and its indescribable harmony. And the waters are so deep, they are so deep ! And the silence grows ever increasing . . . what silence ! Have you ever drunk silence ?
The Tightrope Walker
Saint Denis holding his head. Statue at the left portal of Notre Dame de Paris.
Sacré-Coeur de Montmartre
To begin with there are moments, subsequently minutes, then “quarters of an hour” for which complete silence or “concentration without effort” lasts. With time, the silence or concentration without effort becomes always present in the the soul. It is like the perpetual services at the church of Sacré-Coeur de Montmartre which takes place, whilst in Paris one works, one trades, one amuses oneself, one sleeps, one dies . . . Likewise a “perpetual service” of silence is established in the soul, which continues all the same when one is active, when one works, or when one converses. This “zone of silence” being once established, you can draw from it both for rest and for work. Then you will have not only concentration without effort, but also activity without effort. It is precisely this that comes to expression in the second part of our formula:
2. Transform Work into Play

The changing of work, which is duty, into play, is effected by the “zone of perpetual silence”, where one draws from a sort of intimate respiration, whose sweetness and freshness accomplishes the anointing of work and transforms it into play. For the “zone of silence” does not only signify that the soul is at rest, but also, that there is contact with the heavenly or spiritual world, which works together with the soul. He who finds silence in the solitude of concentration without effort, is never alone. The forces of heaven are there taking part from now on. In this way the truth stated by the third part of the formula:
Stars over the Rhone by Van Gogh
3. Make every yoke that you have accepted easy and every burden that you carry light

The changing of work, which is duty, into play, is effected by the “zone of perpetual silence”, where one draws from a sort of intimate respiration, whose sweetness and freshness accomplishes the anointing of work and transforms it into play. For the “zone of silence” does not only signify that the soul is at rest, but also, that there is contact with the heavenly or spiritual world, which works together with the soul. He who finds silence in the solitude of concentration without effort, is never alone. The forces of heaven are there taking part from now on.
Saint Peter
Christ and Saint John,
the beloved disciple
The Heart

Several writers promulgate the particular doctrine of the so-called “two churches”: the church of Peter and the church of John. This doctrine teaches the end — more or less at hand — of the church of Peter, or of the papacy which is its visible symbol, and that the spirit of John, the disciple loved by the Master, he who leaned on his breast and heard the beating of his heart, will replace it. In this way it teaches that the “exoteric” church of Peter will make way for the “esoteric” church of John, which will be that of perfect freedom.

However John, who submitted himself voluntarily to Peter as leader or prince of the apostles, did not become his successor after his death, although he outlived Peter by many years. The beloved disciple who listened to the beating of the Master’s heart was, is, and always will be the representative and guardian of this heart — and as such he was not, is not, and never will be head of the Church.

Just as the heart is not called upon to replace the head, so is John not called upon to succeed Peter. The heart certainly guards the life of the body and the soul, but it is the head which makes decisions, directs, and chooses the means for the accomplishment of the tasks of the entire organism — head, heart and limbs. The mission of John is to keep the life and soul of the Church alive until the Second Coming of the Lord. This is why John has never claimed and never will claim the office of directing the body of the Church. He vivifies this body, but he does not direct its actions.

Hermeticists listen to the beating of the heart of the spiritual life of humanity.
They live for the mystery of the communal heart which beats within all religions, philosophies, arts and sciences. Inspired by the example of John, the beloved disciple, they do not pretend to play a directing role in religion, science, art, in social or political life; but they constantly serve humanity, and infuse the breath of life of their communal soul — analogous to the administration of the sacrament of Holy Communion.
If one wants to practise some form of authentic esotericism —be it mysticism, gnosis, or magic —it is necessary to be the Magician, i.e. concentrated without effort, operating with ease as if one were playing, and acting with perfect calm.
Papus 1865 - 1916, French physician, hypnotist, and Bishop of l'Église Gnostique de France
Truth and Analogy

Such is the practical teaching of the Magician. What of the theoretical? This consists in the basic unity of the natural, human and divine worlds. The ideal — or ultimate aim — of all philosophy and all science is TRUTH. All search for truth — mystical, gnostic, philosophical and scientific — postulates its existence, i.e. the fundamental unity of the multiplicity of phenomena in the world. Without this unity nothing would be knowable.

The world is not a mosaic, where a plurality of worlds, which are strangers to one another, are fitted together, but it is an organism — all of whose parts are governed by the same principle of their knowability. The recognition of this relationship of all things has given birth to a method of knowledge, known as THE METHOD OF ANALOGY, which has been illumined in an admirable way by Papus in his Traiteé Elementaire de Science Occulte
Analogy is the principal method of advancing knowledge. Unity is found, in such a way that phenomena are at the same time different and one. They are neither identical nor heterogeneous but are analogous in their essential kinship.
The Emerald Tablet

The second verse of the Emerald Table of Hermes Trismegistus:

That which is above is like to that which is below and that which is below is like to that which is above, to accomplish the miracles of (the) one thing.

This applied in time would be:

That which was is as that which will be and that which will be is as that which was, to accomplish the miracles of eternity.
The Emerald Table only alludes to space — between that which is “above” and that which is “below”.

Thus the Magician is above in space. He is the MAN OF SPIRIT.
We need to add to this the corresponding formula concerning myths or time, which we find, for example, in the book of Genesis of Moses.

In time Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel are myths that reveal archetypes and who precede individual biographies.
The Emerald Tablet is a compact text. It was highly regarded by Islamic and European alchemists as the foundation of their art. Though attributed to the legendary Hellenistic figure Hermes Trismegistus, the text of the Emerald Tablet first appears in a number of early medieval Arabic sources.
Cain and Abel

The story of Cain and Abel is a myth. It expresses an “eternal” idea. It refers to time, to history, and not to space. It shows how brothers can become mortal enemies through worshiping the same God in the same way. It reveals the source of religious wars. The cause is the pretension to equality – or the negation of hierarchy. Here the world’s first revolution took place. For the cause of all wars and revolutions and violence is always the negation of hierarchy. It is found the lofty level of the communal act of worship of the same God by two brothers — this is the staggering revelation of the story of Cain and Abel. And as murders, wars and revolutions continue, the story of Cain and Abel remains ever valid and relevant. It is a myth of the first order.
It is the same with the accounts of the Fall of Adam and Eve, the Deluge and Noah’s ark, the tower of Babel, etc. These are myths, i.e. in the first place historical symbols referring to time, and not symbols expressing the unity of the worlds in physical, metaphysical and moral space. The Fall of Adam and Eve does not reveal a corresponding fall in the divine world, within the womb of the Holy Trinity. Neither does it express directly the metaphysical structure of the archetypal world. It is a particular event in the terrestrial history of mankind, whose importance will cease only with the end of human history; in a word it is a true myth.
By contrast the vision of Ezekiel of the celestial chariot is not a myth, but a symbolic revelation of the archetypal world. The author of the Zohar – the chief text of the Jewish Kabbalah – describes the vision of Ezekiel as the central symbol of cosmic knowledge:

For as it is above so it is below: as all the celestial “days” are filled with blessing by the (heavenly) Man, so are the days here below filled with blessing through the agency of Man (i.e. the righteous). The Zohar
Here is an example of an argument by analogy:

“Robert is formed from matter, energy and consciousness. As matter does not disappear with his death, but only changes its form, and as energy does not disappear but only modifies its activity, Robert’s consciousness, also, cannot simply disappear, but merely changes its form.

Therefore Robert is immortal.”
This latter argument is founded on the formula of Hermes Trismegistus: that which is below (matter) (energy) is as that which is above (consciousness).

Now, if there exists a law of conservation of matter and energy (although matter transforms itself into energy and vice versa), there must necessarily exist also a law of conservation of consciousness, or immortality.
Cain killing Abel by Unknown 19th century artist.
Adam and Eve by Joachim Wtewael
Ezekiel's Vision by Raphael
Saint Thomas Aquinas and Saint Bonaventura

St. Thomas and St. Bonaventura have been proclaimed by Pope Sixtus V in 1588, and again in 1879 by Leo XIII as “two olive trees and two chandeliers shining in the house of God”.

All conclusions of a metaphysical nature are based on the analogy of man, Nature and the intelligible or metaphysical world.

Thus the two principal authorities of mediaeval Scholastic philosophy, Thomas Aquinas and St. Bonaventura not only make use of analogy but also assign it a very important theoretical role in their doctrines.
A major key to St. Thomas’ philosophy is the doctrine of analogia entis, the analogy of being, whereby the very being (entis) of the created world offers an analogy by which we can (in a very limited way) comprehend God.

For example, if you’ve looked at a sunset and wondered that perhaps God is similarly beautiful, you’ve intuitively employed the analogy of being
St. Bonaventura, in his doctrine of signatura rerum (the signature of all things), interprets the entire visible world as the symbol of the invisible world.

For him, the visible worldis only another Holy Scripture, another revelation alongside that which is contained in the Holy Scripture:
And it thus appears that the entire world is like a single mirror full of lights presenting the divine wisdom, or as charcoal emitting light.
(Bonaventura, Collationes in Hexaemeron ii, 27)
Saint Thomas Aquinas
Saint Bonaventure
Christ’s Parables

The Master himself uses analogy:

What man of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him. (Matthew vii, 9-11)

Here we have the analogy of terrestrial kinship (human) to celestial kinship (divine). The analogy of father and Father is the essence here.
Jesus teaching by parables
Of course analogies can mislead. Analogies are based on experience; and incomplete and false experiences will give rise to incomplete and false conclusions. For example in making use of insufficiently powerful telescopes “canals” were seen on Mars — straight, continuous lines. It was inferred that these “canals” must be artificial and that consequently the planet was inhabited by civilised beings. The subsequent perfecting of telescopes and exact observation has demonstrated the “canals” are not at all continuous, but that they display breaks, and are not rectilinear as they first appeared.
The effectiveness of analogy depends on the exactitude of the experience upon which it is based. Just as the magician or juggler has had to train for a long time before attaining concentration without effort, similarly he who makes use of analogy on the intellectual plane must have worked much before becoming a “magician” or “juggler”. The Master charged his disciples:

Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it” (Mark x, 15).
Little children do not “work”— they play. But how serious they are, i.e. concentrated, when they play! Their attention is complete and undivided. Similarly she or he who approaches the kingdom of God becomes whole and undivided. The Master does not want us to become puerile. He wants us to attain the ‘geniality’ of intelligence and heart which is analogous — not identical —to the attitude of the child, who carries only easy burdens and renders all his yokes light.
The Magician represents the man who has attained harmony and equilibrium between the spontaneity of the unconscious (in the sense given to it by C. G.Jung) and the deliberate action of the conscious (in the sense of “I” or ego consciousness). His state of consciousness is the synthesis of the conscious and the unconscious — of creative spontaneity and deliberately executed activity. It is the state of consciousness that the psychological school of C. G. Jung calls “individuation”, or “synthesis of the conscious and unconscious elements in the personality”. This synthesis renders possible concentration without effort and intellectual vision without effort, which are the practical and theoretical aspects of all fruitfulness in both practical and intellectual realms.
Carl Gustav Jung
Friedrich Schiller seems to have been conscious of this Arcanum when he writes of the synthesis between intellectual consciousness, imposing heavy burdens of duties and of rules, and the instinctive nature of man, in the Spieltrieb (the urge to play). The “true” and the “desired” must, according to him, find their synthesis in the “beautiful”, for it is only in the beautiful that the Spieltrieb renders the burden of the “true” or the “just” light and raises the darkness of instinctive forces to the level of light and consciousness. In other words, he who sees the beauty of truth cannot fail to love it — and in loving it duty becomes a delight. It is thus that “work” is transformed into “play” and concentration without effort becomes possible.
Friedrich Schiller
The first Arcanum, whilst proclaiming the effectiveness of serious play, also contains a serious warning: there is Play and play, there is the Magician and the magician. This is why anyone who confuses lack of concentration with concentration without effort, will become a charlatan. Too often, alas! — the teachers of occultism follow the two paths at the same time and what they teach contains elements of genius mixed with elements of charlatanism.

May the first Arcanum of the Tarot be always present before us as a kind of “guardian of the threshold”; may he invite us to cross the threshold of work and effort in order to enter into activity without effort, and knowledge without effort, but may he at the same time warn us that the more we go beyond the threshold, the more work, effort and experience on this side of the threshold will be indispensable for the attainment of real truth.