THE ARCHETYPE OF THE MAGICIAN
By John Granrose
II. ARCHETYPE, ARCHETYPAL IMAGE, AND SYMBOL
Archetypes, according to Jung, are "active living dispositions, ideas in the Platonic sense, that preform and continually influence our thoughts and feelings and actions."7 They are not inherited ideas, but rather, as Jung says elsewhere, "inherited possibilities of ideas."8 The exact nature of these archetypes has been much discussed both within and outside of Jungian circles.9 What matters for our present purposes is just that the underlying archetypes (which by definition are beyond or beneath consciousness) are expressed in conscious images called "archetypal images" which have the power to fascinate us. It is one such image, that of "magician", which is the subject of this thesis.
Given this contrast between the archetype as such and the archetypal image in which it finds cultural expression, "the magician" might better be regarded as an archetypal image than as an archetype itself. Jungian usage is, however, inconsistent on this point and because one so often sees the magician referred to directly as an archetype,10 I have adopted this usage for my thesis. This seems the simpler and more straight-forward course. What needs to be insisted on, however, it that there is something still deeper behind the image of the magician, something itself unknown, which expresses itself in the psyche as "magician".
Jung himself describes this as an archetype in "The Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious" in Two Essays on Analytical Psychology: One of the archetypes that is almost invariably met with in the projection of unconscious collective contents is the "magic demon" with mysterious powers. ... [T]he demon can also have a very positive aspect as the "wise old man."11 Jung makes this comment in connection with his patient's saying, "Sometimes you seem rather dangerous, sinister, like an evil magician or a demon."12 And he interprets her remark: "... we saw that on the subjective level I became an image for the figure of the magician in the collective unconscious."13 So it seems reasonable to consider "magician" as one of the archetypes in Jung's sense.
It would be interesting, but beyond the scope of this thesis, to explore Jung's ideas about archetypes in general and perhaps to defend Jung against various misunderstandings. In particular, the common assumption that Jung is a kind of Lamarckian who believes in the inheritance of acquired ideas would be worth refuting since this misinterpretation has interfered with Jung's acceptance in many scientific circles. But since others have written about this elsewhere14 I propose to leave this issue aside.
In addition to the concepts of archetype and archetypal image, the concept of symbol will also be important for this thesis. The word "symbol" is based on the Greek symbolon, from sym, "together," and bolon or ballein, "to throw or fit."15 The Greek word refers to the practice of breaking a coin or other small object in half when friends parted. Each half of the object would serve as a reminder of the friend during his or her absence. Then when the friends were reunited the re-fitting together of the two halves would serve as a kind of proof of his or her identity. One friend could also entrust half of the object to a further friend or relative and thus show to the holder of the original half that this stranger was entitled to recognition or hospitality. Thus, as Verena Kast puts it, "... the symbol is a visible sign of an invisible reality. ... When we interpret, we seek the invisible reality behind the visible and the connections between the two."16 In contrast to signs, for example, the road sign "+" (meaning "crossroad ahead"), a symbol points to "... an intuitive idea that cannot yet be formulated in any other or better way."17 As A Critical Dictionary of Jungian Analysis expresses it,
"Symbols are captivating pictorial statements .... They are indistinct, metaphoric and enigmatic portrayals of psychic reality. The content, i.e. the meaning of symbols, is far from obvious; instead, it is expressed in unique and individual terms while at the same time partaking of a universal imagery. Worked upon (that is, reflected upon and related to), they can be recognized as aspects of those images that control, order and give meaning to our lives. Their source, therefore, can be traced to the archetypes themselves which by way of symbols find more full expression ....18"
Symbols are thus one type of what Jung called "archetypal images," that is, the representation in consciousness of an underlying archetype.
So the theme of this thesis could be expressed in a variety of ways: What does the magician symbolize in human life? What are the aspects of the archetypal image of the magician? or, simply, What is the archetype of the magician?Ý
We all know informally and roughly what a magician is. A magician is, of course, a person who does "magic. That is, a magician is a person who can make things happen that wouldn't happen under the normal or familiar laws of nature. Something is transformed in a mysterious way, or disappears, or appears. We know also, if we reflect on our use of the word, that a "magician" could be an entertainer (a "conjuror" or "prestidigitator") or a "real" magician (something like a "witch doctor," "medicine man," or, perhaps, "sorcerer").19 Still, both conjurors and "real" magicians are assumed to have the power to transform things and make them appear or disappear, whether playing cards and silk scarves or illnesses and spirits. And such transformations take place in a way which is, literally, extra-ordinary. This thesis intends to deal with both types or senses of "magician" and to explore the possible relationships between them.20
In passing, it should be noted that a distinction is often made between the "white magician" and the "black magician. This distinction occurs, for example, in one of the "big" dreams discussed by Jung.21 Although there are interesting symbolic aspects of "white" and "black" which could be developed, the basic distinction seems to be in whether the magic is being used for helpful or for harmful purposes. This is, of course, to some extent relative to the standpoint of the observer.
The English word "magician" comes from the Greek and the Latin magia that is, having to do with "the religion, learning, and occult practices of the Persian Magi, or priests of the sect of Zoroaster, in the form in which they became known to the West."22
Although these "Magi" were men, and although (for the sake of simplicity) I use the male pronoun to refer to magicians in this thesis, many women have also been magicians. One scholar has even claimed that in every period of history and in every country the majority of magicians have been women.23 Be that as it may, the magicians who have captured the public's attention and who have been written about have been overwhelmingly males.
This controversy over the ratio of men to women in magic may be connected, however, with the ambiguity of the word "magic" already referred to, that between performing, stage, or "entertainment" magic, on the one hand, and ceremonial, ritual, or "real" magic, on the other. As I have mentioned, the first is sometimes called "conjuring" and the second "witchcraft. Even here, however, there remains an ambiguity since "conjuror" is sometimes used for a person who can cast spells or "conjure up" the dead. Now it might be the case that the practitioners of witchcraft have been mostly women and the practitioners of magic for entertainment have been mostly men. Given the common negative associations to "witchcraft," this assumption might be unfair to women so let us leave the question open.24 Still, this controversy points to the tension between what might be called the two "contexts" for magic: the changing of the world through allegedly magical power and the entertaining of people for the sake of pleasure. In actual cases, of course, it is not always easy to discern which is intended. Shamans and ceremonial magicians can be entertaining. And conjurors do sometimes rise to the level of performing "real" magic.
Still, our consciousness is shaped by our fantasy or fantasies of magicians. As Nikolai Tolstoy writes:
"The centuries come and go, literary fashions pass, but the magician reappears before us: shifting his shape and changing his name, now mocking, now awe-inspiring, but essentially the same character whose fame flew over all Europe eight centuries ago. Trickster, illusionist, philosopher and sorcerer, he represents an archetype to which the race turns for guidance and protection."25
"Guidance and protection," of course, can come from a variety of sources. What is unique to the magician?
The magician is a man (or woman) of power. In this sense, the substance of magic is fundamentally serious (despite the combination of magician with clown in some cases). Furthermore, the magician gets his power from another level of reality. He is not like the engineer who has learned how to harness the power of this world.
In the Introduction I mentioned the connection between magic and the numinous and referred to "magico-religious" impulses. So one might well wonder about the similarities and differences between the magician and the priest. One way of drawing the distinction might be to say that the magician's power is somehow his own, whereas the priest's comes from a higher power. Roughly, this seems right although, as we shall see in discussing the shaman below, some magicians claim to have their power from a helpful spirit or animal rather than simply from themselves, so the distinction cannot be made solely on this basis. Still, the image of the priest is of someone who is a servant, while the image of the magician is of someone who the spirits obey.
Some writers have seen magic and magicians as simply an earlier or more primitive form of what later becomes religion and the priesthood. This is one of the popular 19th-century claims which I intend to bypass here (although we shall see in the section on Shaman, below, that Marie-Louise von Franz has her own proposal about this contrast). Perhaps it is enough to notice that both magic and religion arise from something similar in the psyche. If not parent and child, or even siblings, they are at least close cousins.
Magicians of all kinds combine our natural human interest in power with our natural human interest in mystery. Another name for this is "the occult. And, along with the charge of "Lamarckianism" mentioned in Chapter Two, the charge that Jung was too involved in the occult is one of the standard rebukes one hears in academic or scientific circles. (After all, Jung's doctoral dissertation was "On the Psychology and Pathology of So-called Occult Phenomena"26 and the index to his Collected Works has many entries under "occult," "parapsychology" and the like.)
Marvin Spiegelman makes some interesting observations about "occultists" [or, we might say, magicians in general].
[They] are interested not so much in relationship, as in power. They seek to train both fantasy and the will. Fantasy is trained by focusing upon given images as in Tarot, or upon given rituals or prayers in magic. The implication is that if one focuses upon the given mantra [for example], then predicted and known events will occur. In contrast with the open system of Jung, the occultist focuses upon training and conditioning his psyche; thus he is more like the behaviorist. The Jungian focuses upon relating to and understanding his psyche.27 And this focus on relating to and understanding one's psyche will be a theme in the following pages. First, however, let us briefly examine several concepts which might help us better understand the image we have of the magician himself.
Jung concludes the second of his Two Essays on Analytical Psychology with a chapter on the so-called "mana personality."28 The term "mana" is a Melanesian word used by anthropologists to refer to the subjective experience of "... the extraordinary and compelling supernatural power which emanates from certain individuals, objects, action and events as well as from inhabitants of the spirit world."29 Jung cites Friedrich Lehmann's phrase "the extraordinarily potent" as his definition of "mana"30 and remarks that:
"... the mana-personality is a dominant of the collective unconscious, the well-known archetype of the mighty man in the form of hero, chief, magician, medicine-man, saint, the ruler of men and spirits, the friend of God.31 So whatever else the magician archetype might be, it is clear that it is one instance of a mana-personality. As I mentioned above, the magician is a person to whom extraordinary power is attributed by others (and, perhaps, given the ever present danger of psychic inflation, by himself). "
A standard definition of "shaman" begins: "among tribal peoples, a magician, medium, or healer who owes his powers to mystical communion with the spirit world."32 The term has been used by generations of anthropologists, especially in their descriptions of certain Siberian and native American tribes. More recently, the use of shamanistic techniques for self-discovery, personal growth and healing has been popularized by Michael Harner and others.33
Clearly, a better understanding of the shaman will aid us in understanding the magician. But the exact relationship between the two is not always clear. Mircea Eliade, for example, begins his classic study of shamanism as follows:
"Since the beginning of the century, ethnologists have fallen into the habit of using the terms "shaman," "medicine man," "sorcerer," and "magician" interchangeably to designate certain individuals possessing magico-religious powers and found in all "primitive" societies. ... [But] If the word "shaman" is taken to mean any magician, sorcerer, medicine man, or ecstatic found throughout the history of religions and religious ethnology, we arrive at a notion at once extremely complex and extremely vague; it seems, furthermore, to serve no purpose, for we already have the terms "magician" or "sorcerer" ....34 So it seems that the shaman is one type of magician. Or, to put in another way, the shaman expresses one aspect of the magician. How so?"
"Magic and magicians are to be found more or less all over the world, whereas shamanism exhibits a particular magical specialty, on which we shall later dwell at length: "mastery over fire," "magical flight," and so on. By virtue of this fact, though the shaman is, among other things, a magician, not every magician can properly be termed a shaman.35 "
Central to shamanism as such is a belief in spirits who can help or harm human beings. The shaman typically has a special relationship to one or more such spirits (which may have singled him out in some manner which he could not refuse, usually involving an illness or psychic crisis of some kind). With the aid of his spirit "guide" or "helper," the shaman is able heal other members of his tribe by removing destructive spirits or rendering them harmless. This process usually involves the shaman entering a trance, a special form of the abaissement du niveau mental which Jung so often mentioned.36 Trance as such is important in many forms of magic and is currently the subject of investigation in many branches of science.37
In its simplest form, the world view of shamanistic tribes is one of a universe with three levels or "layers" our "middle-world" of ordinary reality plus an "upper-world" and an "under-world" of divinities and spirits. The shaman is one who has learned the techniques for journeying between these different worlds and his power to help and to heal is based on this.38
But most important of all, the shaman has not learned about the spiritual world from books but through his own experience, through his own body. So when he acts or speaks he is one who "speaks with authority. As Marie-Louise von Franz writes, "In civilized societies the priest is primarily the guardian of existing collective ritual and tradition; among primitive peoples, however, the figure of the shaman is characterized by individual experience of the world of spirits (which today we call the unconscious) ...." 39 And here we find our first intimation that this world of "spirits" and "powers" which the shaman (and magician) know and use is what we also call "the unconscious. This insight is the basis for the parallel between shaman and analyst.
The magician in general is a person of power in the spiritual world (as contrasted with the power of the king or tribal chief in secular affairs). The special features of the shamanic magician is that he has undergone a certain kind of initiation into the multi-layered world of spirits, has learned the methods of trance and soul retrieval, and has thus become, in Eliade's recurring phrase, a "technician of the sacred.
Many shamanistic techniques are very widespread, for example, the shaman's use of the drum to create the rhythmic beat conducive to trance or the practice of dressing in the clothes of the opposite sex to foster contrasexual powers.
While not all magicians are of this shamanistic type, we clearly see one aspect of the magician here. Moreover, the special characteristics of the shaman are related to the approach which Jung took to his own analytic work: ... the main interest of my work is not concerned with the treatment of neurosis, but rather with the approach to the numinous. But the fact is that the approach to the numinous is the real therapy, and inasmuch as you attain to the numinous experience, you are released from the curse of pathology. Even the very disease takes on a numinous character.40
Jung himself has been described as "a modern shaman if I have ever met one."41 And another writer on shamanism said of Jung: "All he lacked was the drum."42 Finally, there is a story that when Marie-Louise von Franz once remarked to Jung that he was like a shaman, he replied, "Well, that's nothing to be ashamed of. It is an honour."43
Perhaps because of the expression "magic tricks" or "conjuring tricks," the figure of Trickster comes immediately to mind when one thinks of the magician.
Primarily, the Trickster is a figure in mythology and folklore who has entered our psychological vocabulary through Jung's essay "On the Psychology of the Trickster-Figure,"44 in Paul Radin's Der g²ttliche Schelm.45 As Jung puts it, "The trickster is a collective shadow figure, a summation of all the inferior traits of character in individuals."46 Although Radin focused his attention on the Trickster stories of the Winnebago indians, Jung is reminded of the practices of carnival, the medieval Feast of Fools, the pranks and shape-shifting of Mercurius, and of the shaman.
There is something of the trickster in the character of the shaman and medicine-man, for he, too, often plays malicious jokes on people, only to fall victim in his turn to the vengeance of those whom he has injured.47 This side of the shaman, however, as of the magician, is his shadow side. And, of course, just as we all need to become conscious of our shadows to keep, for example, from simply projecting them on our neighbors, so the shaman or magician needs consciousness of his shadow/trickster side. And, on the other hand, the prankishness of the trickster can serve to "leaven the loaf" of an all-too-serious magician's personality.48 Jung notes in the same essay that the trickster is "a forerunner of the savior."49
Just as the shaman can be viewed as a certain type of magician-figure, the fool can in turn be viewed as a certain type of trickster-figure. The fool and the trickster are not always distinguished, of course. (So, for example, the entry for "Fool" in A Critical Dictionary of Jungian Analysis simply reads "See Trickster.")
In his now-classic work The Fool and His Scepter,50 William Willeford mentions two main tendencies in our attitudes towards fools: the naüve view that fools are just silly and the more refined view that fools show a kind of wisdom. Each is a partial truth, of course: on the surface the actions and speech of the fool are silly, but, as Willeford writes, "the surface of folly sometimes breaks open to reveal surprising depths ...."51
Like all tricksters, the fool somehow stands outside of the normal social order. In the form of the jester, the fool can say to the king what no one else would dare. As "outsiders," the fool, the trickster, the magician can all show us things that we otherwise avoid.
While the trickster is more likely to deceive, cheat, or shock us, the fool (as related to the clown) is more likely to make us laugh at his antics.
We may laugh at the outrageous behavior of a trickster, the pathos of a sad clown, or the surprising happenings in a magician's show. There is also, however, as Willeford points out, a connection between horror and humor.
"... [H]orrible things may also be laughable. When we laugh at them, we often do so partly because we do not know what else to do, because we do not find our way to another and more appropriate reaction. Through laughter we achieve a provisional stance, outside belief and disbelief, in the face of the horrible. We also laugh as part of an automatic recoil into life."52
So the fool, too, through the function of laughter, helps us find our way back and forth between worlds. This, of course, was also one of the functions of the shaman. And, in a certain way, it is a function of the analyst as well.
IV. A GATHERING OF MAGICIANS
Having considered magic and magicians in general, we now must examine several particular magicians in search of further insights into this archetype.
The Greek god Hermes is known for many things: being the messenger of all the gods, being the conductor of souls (the so-called psychopompos) to the underworld, and for his connection with fertility.53 In addition, however, he is the god of tricksters, thieves and magicians. In his Roman equivalent of Mercury he appears in the center of the seal of the International Brotherhood of Magicians and is regarded as the patron of magicians and as a magician himself. His golden staff (the kerykeion, in Greek, but often referred to later as a caduceus) is an example of the magic wand, to be discussed in the next chapter. The illustration below54 shows a Greek coin from 360 B.C.E. bearing the likeness of Hermes holding his wand entwined with two snakes. With this wand "he charms the eyes of men or wakens whom he wills."55 And, as Karl Keranyi writes of this passage, ... the text speaks of death, but of death not as an unambiguous and final event. Re-awakening in this context also contains a double meaning: it can refer to an escape from death itself.56 So there is an implicit theme of death and resurrection here, an important theme in magic.57
In the General Index to Jung's Collected Works, a distinction is made between "Mercurius/Hermes/Mercury, in alchemists' writings" and "Mercury/Hermes, Greek/Roman god" with approximately six times as much space being given to the Hermes of alchemy as to the classical god. Jung is referring to both, however, when he writes, "Mercurius or Hermes is a magician and god of magicians."58
What is it about the story of Hermes which makes this so? Such attributions cannot be simply arbitrary, the assigning of gods as patrons of various human activities on a random basis.
As with many gods and heros, there are miracle stories connected with his birth. On the day of his birth, for example, Hermes was already able to walk. He immediately killed a tortoise and, hollowing out its shell for a sounding board, invented the lyre. (This, of course, prefigures Hermes' connection with the opposites of life and death.) Next Hermes stole the cattle of his brother Apollo, tricked his brother by driving the cattle backwards and by wearing his shoes backwards (so that the tracks left behind would confuse Apollo), and then lied (by "playing innocent" and asking, "what are cattle?" when eventually confronted by Apollo). Thieves and magicians do such things, of course.
The stories of the lyre and the cattle are connected in that Hermes also killed two of the cows to make strings for his lyre and also in that Hermes charmed Apollo with the music of the lyre, with the result that Hermes gave his brother the lyre (which became Apollo's symbol) and that Apollo gave Hermes the golden staff or wand (which Hermes then always carried). So, in their way, these stories of the birth of Hermes show the "union of opposites," the coniunctio oppositorum, so important in Jungian thought. In any case, stories such as these show how Hermes logically became the god of both thieves and magicians.
The Tarot Magician
The controversial and mysterious set of cards known as the "Tarot" have become popular in the 20th century and have been interpreted by many Jungians.59
Jung himself refers to the Tarot cards only once in his Collected Works, mentioning them, in parallel with the pictures found in alchemy, the Tantric chakra system and the nerve system of Chinese yoga, as seeming to be "distantly descended from the archetypes of transformation."60
Some interpreters of the cards claim to have traced their origin to ancient occult traditions.61 Virtually all commentators agree, however, that parts of the Tarot are at least six centuries old and that the Marseilles version of the Tarot is perhaps the oldest complete Tarot still in general use. What matters for this thesis is that Tarot images, in particular those of the Major Arcana, can readily be understood as arising from some deep level of human experience and lend themselves to interpretation just as dreams and fairy tales do. As humans we have a tendency toward projecting aspects of ourselves on object that provide "hooks" for these projections. The cards of the Major Arcana are well suited to receive these projections and thus can serve as tools in our search for self-knowledge. And since the 22 cards of the so-called "Major Arcana" (also called the "Greater Trumps") are pictures, this section of the thesis will be something of an exercise in picture interpretation. The goal, however, is to understand better another aspect of the magician.
Consider now the figure of the magician as depicted in the Marseilles deck:
This card shows a beardless young man with long, blond curls. His clothes are tri-colored, red, blue and gold, and the colors red and blue are always paired opposite one another. For example, he wears a blue shoe on one foot and a red one on the other, one sleeve is red while the other is blue. He wears a large, floppy hat with a red brim and a golden crown. In each hand he is holding something, in one hand a golden wand and in the other, a round, golden object, either a ball or a coin. The Magician stands behind a table which extends, to the viewer's right, out of the frame of the picture. On this table are a variety of small objects: a golden bag or purse with a golden scarf protruding, a golden cup and a red one, a red ball, a knife with a blue handle, a blue object which is perhaps a feather, three golden coins, a pair of golden dice, and a red object which is probably another ball. The Magician stands on very hilly, uneven ground. A small amount of grass or other vegetation is visible near his feet and there is what appears to be a thin, green tree visible in the distance.
Consider what we can surmise about this figure simply from the evidence in the picture. His face is clearly young, and his curls are still blond, rather than having darkened (or grayed) with age. His youth and his beardless face suggest that he stands at the beginning of his life's journey. If we compare this figure with other men depicted in the Major Arcana, we find the beardless men typically in precarious positions such as falling, hanging, or standing at a fork in the road. The bearded men of the Major Arcana, in contrast, all have their feet on the ground.62 These facts, plus the unevenness of the ground beneath his feet, suggest that this Magician symbolizes a state of psychological youth and insecurity, a person at an initial stage of life. This is further emphasized by the number assigned to this card in the series: "1".
His clothing provides further clues to his nature. The size and unusual nature of his hat, for example, merits reflection. As Newman points out, the hat "is the insignia (i.e., signifies) the bearer, whether it be the hat of the train conductor, ... or the crown the king receives at his coronation."63 Most commentators on this card have observed that the brim of this hat resembles a figure eight lying on its side, the mathematical sign for infinity (called the "lemniscate"). In the Rider-Waite version of this card the hat is actually replaced by this symbol. In the Royal Fez Moroccan Tarot the Magician wears a hood or cowl rather than a hat, but holds a luminous figure eight in his hand along with his wand. The Jungian Tarot does not contain the lemniscate directly but it is at least hinted at in the figure formed by the two snakes on his wand. These three cards are pictured below. In the Ansata Tarot (not pictured here) the infinity sign is represented by a cobra at the Magician's feet.
The fact that so many different versions of this card include the sign for infinity suggests that it is important to the symbolic meaning of the card and not just incidental. Bernd Mertz sees in the lemniscate "a hint about the endlessness of the powers of magic."64 It might also be seen as a hint that this Magician is more than he seems: perhaps this sign of infinity is to remind us that although we see but a youth before us, above or behind this youth are transcendent powers. And the lemniscate is a sure sign that we are not concerned here solely with the street conjurer, the magician as entertainer.
The Magician's hat can also be seen as a complement to his clothing in general. Just as the hat has two parts the loops of the reclining figure eight which are unified through the golden center of the hat, each item of his clothing in general shoes, leggings, jacket, sleeves is composed of two opposing parts, their difference being emphasized by their contrasting colors. Their ultimate unity, however, is shown both by their being obviously the clothes of this one man and by the golden belt with which they are held together. So here we see in pictorial form the coniunctio oppositorum which we have seen before in the stories about Hermes and which we will consider again in our final chapter.
The items in the Magician's hands provide further clues to his symbolic nature. The wand is both a badge of his office or status and a tool with which he creates his miracles. Like the staff of Moses which could alternately astound the masses by turning into a serpent and nourish them by striking water from the rock, we know that this tool will be used both to charm and to help us. Its golden color suggests that the power of the wand comes from heaven itself65, unlike the power of the evil magician or sorcerer. The round object in his other hand, whether it be a ball or a coin, is also golden and therefore connected with this divine power.
Another way of looking at the objects in his hands would combine the objects themselves with the position of the hands and arms: the wand is in the hand raised toward heaven while the coin(?) is in the hand closer to the earth. This might be connected with the Hermetic saying "As above, so below."66 The saying "As above, so below," is attributed to Hermes Trismegistus, described in Putman's Concise Mythological Dictionary as an identification, in late Classical times, of the Greek Hermes with the ancient Egyptian Thoth. The god Thoth, in Egypt, was the scribe of the gods and the inventor of the art of writing, and as such was the patron deity of knowledge and the sciences in general, of which magic constituted an important part.67
The position of the Magician's hands might also be connected with Jesus' words in the Lord's Prayer: "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. The traditional posture of the Buddha, with one hand raised in spiritual blessing and the other hand touching the earth, also comes to mind. This "above and below" symbolism is emphasized even more strongly in the design of the Rider-Waite card.
What of the items on the table itself? Newman describes them as "an assortment of objects relating to gambling and chance."68 In this connection, Newman informs us that this card has also been called "The Gambler."69 With this interpretation in mind Newman writes: "Without conviction and commitment, he endlessly turns his cards and shakes his dice. ... The Gambler signifies one lost among possibilities, unable to take a chosen path and stick to it."70 So, according to Newman's interpretation, this Magician card represents a kind of puer.
I disagree with Newman here. It is true, of course, that chance plays a role in human affairs and that "life is a gamble. But there is a Tarot card in which this factor is already evident: The Wheel of Fortune. What Newman appears to have done is to misinterpret the items which the Magician is about to use in his work as the tools of the gambler. True, dice and coins are present, but most likely as the items with which our Magician is about to show us his miracles. Even today magicians use these same objects. And in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and earlier, when these cards were presumably designed, the road-side or drawing-room magician or conjuror would have been a familiar figure in Europe. The Flemish painter Hieronymus Bosch (1450?-1516) portrayed a conjuror of his time whose table and equipment resemble that of the Marseilles Magician. Later, in circa 1740, a woodcut from The Old Hocus Pocus, being the Whole Art of Jugling [sic] shows a conjuror giving a performance with similar items on his table:
It seems to me, therefore, that what we have here are not "objects relating to gambling and chance," as Newman claims, but objects to be used in conjuring or sleight of hand. This is further supported by the fact that the Magician card in German was sometimes labelled "Der Gaukler" and in French "Escamoteur,"71 both words more connected with sleight of hand and deception and neither with gambling (and neither, by the way, with the "spiritualized" magic suggested by the Rider-Waite card). Also, the traditional French label on the Magician card in the Marseilles deck is "Le Bateleur" ("The Juggler"), rather than "Le Mage" (or something similar). Two other English labels for this card have been "The Mountebank"72 and "The Thimble-Rigger,"73 both words rather like "trickster."
Some commentators on the Tarot make much of whether the Magician holds objects in his "right hand" or his "left hand. I put these terms in quotation marks because they are sometimes used to refer to the hand at the right or left side of the card from the viewer's standpoint. Thus Newman writes, The convention will be followed throughout this work that the right hand is the hand of a figure closest to the right side of the card and represents the side closest to consciousness. It is here that the events and contents closest to consciousness are found. Similarly, when I refer to the left hand I am speaking from our point of view and am referring to the hand holding the unconscious content, which is the hand that appears on the left-hand side of the card.74
While I agree in general with this approach to picture interpretation, I suspect that not too much weight should be placed on this question of left and right in this case. Note, for example, that the Marseilles Magician holds the wand in his left hand while the Rider-Waite Magician holds the wand in his right hand. Similarly, the Royal Fez Moroccan Magician holds the wand in his right hand while the Jungian Magician holds the wand in his left. (See the above reproductions of these three cards.)
What else can we surmise from this consideration of the Magician in the Tarot? Thus far little has been said about his location in relation to the other cards in the Major Arcana. The Magician is "Arcanum I," the initial card in the series of 21 numbered cards. The Fool card sometimes comes before the series of 21 cards and sometimes comes after the other cards. Sometimes the Fool is numbered "0" and sometimes (as in the Marseilles version) it bears no number at all. In any case, it the Magician who is "Number One. This position can be interpreted in terms of one's overall view of the nature of the Tarot. Newman, for example, as the sub-title of his book indicates, sees the Tarot as "a myth of male initiation. Joseph Campbell, in a related vein, sees the order of the cards as suggesting "the graded stages of an ideal life, lived virtuously according to the knightly codes of the Middle Ages."75 A. E. Waite and many others find various occult traditions and esoteric teachings embodied in the order of the cards.76 What is certain, however, and most useful for our purposes, is that the Magician bears a special relation to one-ness or wholeness. Here, I believe, Newman has got it right:
The number one symbolizes the undifferentiated totality. Out of the one come the two, i.e., the opposites. In the state signified by the number one, the opposites have not yet been experienced, nor the conflict, the tension, or the possibility for consciousness. The numerical value given to this arcanum by virtue of its location is that of a wholeness in its predifferentiated condition. It is the distinction often made between unity and union.77
As a young man at the beginning of his journey, the Magician lives with the opposites (as shown, for example, by the features of his clothing) but has not yet fully experienced them and thus has not yet learned to overcome these opposites through holding the tension between them. That is, he has not yet reached the state of union. Here, at the beginning of his life, he exists in a state of participation mystique. In a certain sense, however, this kind of oneness is a valuable quality for someone at the beginning of a journey, perhaps even an essential one. Like the experience of "falling in love," or like the developmental stage of the "love affair with the world," this pre-conscious unity provides a launching into the struggles and growth of adult life.
Before leaving the Tarot behind we should note that not only is the Magician one of the images within this mysterious set of cards. Magicians also use the Tarot for magical purposes, especially for divination, one of the traditional functions of magic and one with close ties to psychology. So regardless of the age of these symbols they can be used for an ancient purpose. "So," as Grillot de Givry writes,
here we come back to the pythoness of antiquity; the seer, the inspired one, the sibyl, whose tripod was only a material instrument helping to induce trance and to facilitate the reception of the Spirit. Today the tarot replaces the tripod; the phenomenon remains identical and quite as disturbing, but the procedure is better adapted to the requirements of modern society, and it has been successfully introduced into the humblest cottage as well as the most sumptuous dwellings.78
In contrast to Hermes and to the Tarot magician, Merlin is known by virtually all Western adults. His name and his popular image, clothed in dark robe and conical hat with astrological symbols, waving his magic wand, are known even by most children. We may even think of Merlin as an icon of "magician" for our culture. This in itself is significant since we may learn about the deep meaning of "magician" by studying this figure which continues to enchant us.
Scholars differ in their opinions about the extent to which the stories of Merlin are based on an historical person. As one might expect, the "quest for the historical Merlin" has been popular in the 20th century.79 And although some experts continue to hold that Merlin is a completely fictional character, the current view seems to be that he has a historical basis. In fact, it seems likely that there were two historical figures underlying the literary character: a fifth-century Welsh political prophet, referred to as Merlin Ambrosius because he was called "Ambrosius" in the earliest stories, and a sixth-century visionary and "wildman of the forest" named "Myrddin," referred to as Merlin Silvestris because of his connection to the woods.80 In the 12th century Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote about both of these Merlins: first about Merlin Ambrosius, in his Historia Regum Britanniae (History of the Kings of Britain), and then about Merlin Silvestris, in his Vita Merlini (The Life of Merlin) which was composed some years later and which also attempted "to fuse the fifth- and sixth-century Merlins into one person."81
Some recent scholars have maintained that one or the other of these two (probably) historical figures provides the more plausible basis for the Merlin stories. Leona Goodrich,82 for example, favors Merlin Ambrosius, while Nikolai Tolstoy83 favors Merlin Silvestris as the primary basis. Fortunately, for our purposes, this issue may remain open. The point, however, is that unlike Hermes and the Tarot Magician, the stories of Merlin often seem to be possible descriptions of an actual human being.
As with Hermes (or with Jesus or any other "hero," for that matter), the stories or legends surrounding Merlin's birth and childhood are significant. In the first vernacular version of the Merlin story, Robert de Boron84 tells of the devils plotting to undo the work of Christ by "incarnating" one of their own a kind of "Anti-Christ. One of the devils impregnates a virgin at night, conceiving Merlin. Realizing what has happened, the girl confesses to her priest who sprinkles her with holy water thus breaking the devil's power over her and her child. So although Merlin is born of a devil father and a virgin mother (and thus from the very beginning is a union of opposites), his overall impact is for good. This is confirmed by the story, also related by Robert de Boron, that when Merlin was 18 months old he saved his mother's life by speaking out eloquently and prophetically when his mother was on trial for having borne him.
At the age of seven, according to Geoffrey of Monmouth, Merlin was brought before King Vortigern. The king had been told that the walls of his tower, which kept collapsing, would stand firm if their mortar were mixed with the blood of a fatherless boy. Merlin, of course, was "fatherless. Because of his clairvoyant powers, however, Merlin was able to tell the king that if he would dig beneath the tower he would find the true cause of the tower's collapse: two dragons fighting, a red one and a white one again, a struggle of opposites. As Gollnick puts it, "Merlin is represented here as the wise child. He has the ability to see into the depths and to diagnose the roots of a problem that cannot or will not be seen on the surface."85 Because of his power to see and confront the opposites, whether in the psyche or in the external world, Merlin is able to transform situations. The "opposites," however, are within him as well. Jung wrote:
Just as all archetypes have a positive, favourable, bright side that points upwards, so also they have one that points downwards, partly negative and unfavourable, partly chthonic .... witness the extremely instructive figure of Merlin ....86
Of course, it is instructive that so often even those actions which may seem at first to be "negative" turn out to be seen as positive, as celebrated by the concept of the felix culpa in Christian theology. An example of this in the Merlin stories is when Merlin deceives Igraine into thinking that Uther Pendragon is her husband. The product of their illicit sex is, of course, Arthur. Merlin, like all magicians, is a deceiver. But he also has a "bright" and "positive" side. As von Franz puts it, "... those primal opposites which the Christian teaching has torn apart into an unresolvable conflict exist together in his nature."87
Two final stories about Merlin may help balance his magical powers with his more human side. According to Geoffrey's Vita Merlini, Merlin goes mad after a great battle in which he kills his nephew and withdraws to the Caledonian Forest, becoming a kind of wild man.
The second story which shows Merlin's "human" side, and one which seems to have particularly impressed Jung, is Merlin's falling in love with the mysterious "Lady of the Lake" (variously identified as Viviane, or Vivien, sometimes as Niniane, or Nimiane or Nymus or Nimu”).88 This "lady" eventually imprisons Merlin forever in a tower, showing that even a great magician is not immune to anima projections ("because she sums up everything that a man can never get the better of and never finishes coping with"89). As Jung writes in discussing a particular fairy tale, In that case the hero has been wafted out of the profane world through his encounter with the anima, like Merlin by his fairy: as an ordinary man he is like one caught in a marvellous dream, viewing the world through a veil of mist.90 One thinks in this connection, naturally, of Jung's own experience of "poetry" with Sabina Spielrein. "Human, all-too-human."
According to legend, Merlin's mysterious call continued to be heard in the forest during the last years of his life. Von Franz acknowledges the importance of this image for Jung by calling the final chapter of her C.G. Jung: His Myth in Our Time "Le Cri de Merlin."91 And Jung himself wrote the following about the large stone which he carved at his Bolligen "Tower" in connection with his seventy-fifth birthday:
The stone stands outside the Tower, and is like an explanation of it. It is a manifestation of the occupant, but one which remains incomprehensible to others. Do you know what I wanted to chisel into the back face of the stone? "Le cri de Merlin!" For what the stone expressed reminded me of Merlin's life in the forest, after he had vanished from the world. Men still hear his cries, so the legend runs, but they cannot understand or interpret them.92
The final figure I have selected for this "gathering of magicians," is Harry Houdini. Born Erich Weiss in Hungary in 1874, he moved to America with his parents when he was still a child.93 He changed his name to "Houdini" to honor the popular and creative French magician Jean Eug ne Robert-Houdin (1805-71). Before the recent fame of another American magician, David Copperfield, Houdini was clearly the most famous conjuror in history. (One evidence of his influence is the large number of performing magicians who have adopted stage names ending in "-ini" since his death.)
Like Jung and many others in this period, Houdini (who was born one year prior to Jung) had a life-long interest in spiritualism and the occult. But where Jung attempted to find the sources of such manifestations in the psyche, Houdini first attempted to replicate them, then to debunk them,94 and then, desperately, to use them to make contact with the dead. Rogan Taylor writes of Houdini:
At the height of his career, he was loved, even worshipped, by literally millions of people in Europe and America. Whatever it was about Houdini and his feats that so impressed the minds of his faithful followers, that power seems hardly to have waned at all. Houdini still casts an irresistible shadow, and long after his death [in 1926], his name remains a household word. He captured the imaginations not only of his contemporaries, but also of successive generations who never even witnessed any of his stupendous feats. He is a modern myth, a true showbiz shaman of our time.95
Houdini was fascinated by magic as a boy and began his stage career performing rather standard tricks. He was inspired by the famous stage magicians of the recent past, Hermann the Great and Harry Kellar in addition to Robert-Houdin, and he desperately wanted to be "great" himself, but it was some time before he found the approach which led to his special fame. As his biographer put it, "He was convinced that he had some role to play but could not work out what it was."96 The key came through his interest in spiritualist saances.
In the typical spiritualist s’ance of Houdini's time, the so-called medium would be securely tired up with ropes prior to the darkening of the s’ance room or the closing of the "spirit cabinet. Nevertheless, drums and trumpets would sound and people would be touched by "spirit hands. Houdini soon learned that the secret of such performances was that the mediums had ways to free themselves and then re-tie themselves. He set himself the goal of becoming history's greatest escape artist. He succeeded in doing just this.
What Houdini did not know at the time that he set himself this goal was that escaping from restraints was a typical shamanistic demonstration. According to Rogan Taylor, again, "The escapology trick is one of the most ancient and potent symbols of the drama and the dilemma of human existence. We are bound in our bodies. How can we escape? Consequently, escapology is also one of the most frequently occurring feats performed during shamanistic healing magic all over the world."97 Regardless of whether the shaman literally demonstrates his ability to escape, he must convince his audience that he has undergone an initiation in the Underworld or on a different plane of existence and has returned healed. He must convince his audience that healing escape from sickness is possible for them as well through his help.
Although Houdini remained unfamiliar with this shamanistic context for his art, His shows contained such an ancient and powerful healing drama that his contemporaries found them as fascinating, moving and "therapeutic" as their nomadic forebears had done ten thousand years before. Houdini's escapology was, in essence, a healing rite which the demon-possessed modern Westerners avidly attended in the hope of a dramatic exorcism. ... [T]he effect of these feats lies less on visual stimulation than on their impact on the inner lives of the watchers. The audiences identified with him totally and shared every minute of his ordeal. When Houdini got free, everybody got free.98
One of Houdini's most famous stage tricks was the illusion known as Metamorphosis, sometimes referred to as "the substitution trunk. In this trick the magician is bound with restraints such as ropes or handcuffs and locked in a large trunk. His assistant holds a curtain in front of the trunk and in a matter of seconds the curtain is dropped and the magician, now freed from the restraints, is standing there. The assistant (in Houdini's case, his wife, Bess) is found, tightly bound, inside the trunk. Versions of this trick have become a standard part of stage magic shows since Houdini's time. (Coincidentally, given our focus on the magician as archetype, the most famous current performers of this effect are "The Pendragons.") But with Metamorphosis the most striking thing for Houdini was not the reaction of his audience, it was his own reaction: performing the trick gave Houdini the feeling that he had left his body. Despite knowing full well that it was "only a trick," Houdini felt that a genuine miracle had occurred. As Taylor puts it, It is fascinating that a trick that, in its original context, was designed to point towards the ecstatic experiences of the shaman, should actually begin to create such experiences. Houdini was, as it were, working backwards, starting with the tricks and ending up with the supernatural experiences, instead of the other way around. ... Houdini was baffled by his own experiences.99
As a performer myself, I have occasionally had the same feeling. It can happen in many fields, of course. The gymnast who completes a difficult routine without a hitch and the musician who performs a demanding piece in a "magical" way can know this same sense of ecstasy.100 It is rare, but when it happens to the magician, as it did to Houdini, it raises the question of the relationship between "the two magics performance magic and ceremonial magic."101
As a result of such experiences, Houdini became obsessed with his search for "real" magic. He collected thousands upon thousands of books about magic and the occult (books which are now housed in a special collection at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.). As Taylor, poignantly, describes Houdini's library: It was like an occult version of Citizen Kane's vast collection of European art, only Houdini was gathering together all the desperate fragments of literature reflecting Europe's longstanding obsession with magic. Houdini plumbed the European unconscious in his search for a genuine tradition in which to find a home. But he never found it.102
Lacking the context of a spiritual "home" or tradition, Houdini's inner life took a rather morbid turn. He had long since achieved both fame and wealth. And he had escaped from all the locks, ropes and jails that both America and Europe had to offer. What he could not escape from, however, was has dependence on his mother. Bizarre as it may seem, he was never concerned with the possibility of his own death, despite the fact that he often risked his life with his spectacular escapes. Nor was he concerned with the possible death of his wife. He was, however, obsessed with the thought that his beloved mother would die before him and that her death would drive him insane. (It is for this reason that one of his most interesting biographies is titled Death and the Magician.103) Because of this fear of his mother's death and his belief he would inevitably go mad, Houdini visited the local psychiatric hospitals, then called "lunatic asylums," of course, in all the major cities where he performed. (As a result of these visits he developed several famous escapes from the psychiatric restraints of those days, the strait-jacket, for example.) He also visited graveyards, being especially interested in the graves of suicides.
When his mother did die, in 1908, Houdini collapsed. Afterwards, he visited her grave every day and would lie face down on it hoping to receive a message from her. Despite his public attacks on spiritualist mediums, Houdini began seeking out mediums who might help him make contact with his mother. When no such contact came, Houdini made pacts with those around him, arranging secret codes and signs which could be used to prove communication after his own death. For fifty years following Houdini's death on Halloween 1926, an annual sance was held for his family and friends. After fifty years without success, the saances were discontinued.
As the rabbi said at his graveside, Houdini possessed a power which he himself had never understood. In another culture he might have become a shaman. Given still another background, he might have become an innovative and powerful therapist. He was clearly a "superstar," perhaps the first. But he failed to find a framework in which to make full sense of his gifts or his life.
And yet, as Eugene Burger writes, "This image of freedom from bondage, in whatever form, is a powerful one indeed."104 And Houdini's success and a huge success it was was due "to the great power of the mythical (if not archetypal) character he was portraying namely, the 'Man No Chains Can Hold.'"105
The phrase "if not archetypal" in the above quotation is echoed in the most recent biography of Houdini which I have read. In her 1993 work The Life and Many Deaths of Harry Houdini, Ruth Brandon quotes Jung on "the primordial images of the unconscious" and then concludes, Houdini, in his (literally) death-defying stunts, brought this 'primordial image' to the level of conscious experience, both for himself and on behalf of his audience.
That was real magic.106
V. TOOLS OF THE TRADE
Hermes, the Tarot magician, and Merlin all used wands. Houdini, once he began to specialize in escapes, did not. Still, the magic wand is clearly the most widespread of the various "tools" and/or "badges" associated with the magician. What, then, might it mean?
An Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Traditional Symbols contains the following entry: Wand -- Power; conductor of supernatural force; an attribute of all magicians, shamans and medicine men. It is associated symbolically with the mace, sceptre, trident and crozier.107
As we have already seen in connection with Hermes and with the Tarot magician, the wand represents the specific power(s) of the magician who possesses it. Its association with the mace and sceptre, however, adds a new dimension of meaning. Using our imagination, we can picture primitive man using club and spear to hunt and to kill and then using these same implements to threaten, that is to attempt to control by intimidation. From there, that is, from the mace, it would be but a short step to the scepter, the badge of office of the chief or king. The trident and crozier would fit the same pattern.
One primary use to the wand is to point to something and thus to focus attention and energy on it. As with all magic, this can lead to harm or to good, depending on context and intention. For example, in Melanesia "pointing the bone" (or stick or arrow or wand), accompanied by the ritual expression of negative emotion, may lead to the death of the victim.108 On the other hand, wands can focus emotional energy in positive ways, as with the fairy godmother's wand, the wand used by Moses to strike water from the rock, or the wand used by Jesus (see below) to raise Lazarus from the dead.
Wands have sometimes been identified with the divining rods used in dowsing. This practice, called rhabdomancy or rhabdoscopy,109 however, seems less connected with the power which wands traditionally symbolize than with other means of divination (such as the use of a pendulum) which amplify one's intuitive responses.110
A more plausible interpretation of the magician's wand sees it as a type of phallic symbol. (Indeed, some men who know nothing of symbolism have referred to their penis as their "magic wand.") The Druids of ancient Britain used wands of hazel or mistletoe with a pine cone attached to one end. Such a wand was eventually called the "Priapic wand" in honor of the Greek fertility god Priapus.111 Perhaps the symbolism here is obvious.112
There are parallels here too between the magician and his wand and the fool and his scepter or "bauble. And according to William Willeford, "Attached to the bauble of the European court jester was often a bladder formed into a clear representation of a phallus."113
This observations about the "phallic" nature of the magician's wand can be balanced by the claims of Monica Sjoo and Barbara Mor in their book The Great Cosmic Mother: Rediscovering the Religion of the Earth.114 Their argument is that the magician's wand was originally "a women's lunar calendar stick, the first time-measuring device known, dating from the Ice Age. A male magician or shaman cannot be magic, i.e., female without it."115 By the phrase "magic, i.e., female," Sjoo and Mor are referring to such wide-spread practices among shamans as dressing in women's clothes in order to combine both male and female powers or energies. So in this sense it would not seem too implausible for a traditional shaman to employ a "power object" characteristic of women. They discuss this "wand" again later in their book, contrasting their view with that of Abbe Breuil (the original investigator of the Trois Fr res cave paintings and the one who named the central image the "sorcerer"):
Such sticks appear in Paleolithic cave paintings dating from 50,000 B.C. They are held by women and shamans. (And later became the magician's wand.) Abbe Breuil named this stick, le baton de commandement, suggesting it was an insignia of male rulership or power. But in fact, as a lunar measuring instrument, the stick derives from women's earliest moon-phase engravings on rock and bone.116 All of our reflections on the Paleolithic cave paintings must remain speculative, of course. Still, it is true that it is a tradition for the shaman to combine qualities of both male and female, a tradition similar to the Jungian stress on developing a relationship with one's contrasexual side, anima or animus, so such speculations are interesting.117
As we can easily imagine, Christ has often been viewed as a kind of magician.118 And many older illustrations show Jesus using a magic wand of some kind to perform his miracles. For example, this Fourth Century image from the Vatican library shows Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead by touching him with a type of wand.119
While ceremonial magicians use wands as a symbol of their power or authority, performing magicians have often used their wands to help them accomplish magic tricks. Many special "gimmicked" wands have been available over the centuries, some of which are still sold in magic shops.120 These wands may, for example, levitate or change their own appearance in some way (say, by changing color). They may also aid in the producing, vanishing, or transforming of some other object. And magic wands may also assist the conjuror to "misdirect" the attention of the audience in various ways.
And then, of course, the expression "magic wand" is a relatively common metaphor in European languages. Here it is mostly just a figure of speech, but one with an archetypal background (as many figures of speech have).121 For example, Jung wrote to Karl Kerínyi, praising his interpretations of Greek mythology: "You touch the fragments with the magic wand of your intuition, and behold! they fly together into recognizable figures."122
When asked if they know any magic words, the average speaker of English today will answer with either "abracadabra" or "hocus pocus" and, in fact, these words each have a long history.
The Herder Symbol Dictionary contains the following entry:Abracadabra It is a magical word that appeared in late Greek writings and was probably related to Abraxas [the name of the God of the Year]. It was used as an amulet inscription, primarily to vanquish illness.123 In this entry, the origin and meaning of the word is not given. Aryeh Kaplan, however, gives the meaning as "I will create as I speak" (ABRA K'ADaBRA).124 This translation clearly underscores the power that magicians attribute to the act of speaking. This is, of course, evident from the Genesis account of the creation of the world: "And God said, 'Let there be light.'"
This particular magic word was often written as an inverted triangle, as follows:
A B R A C A D A B R A
Just why it is/was written this way I have not seen explained. This arrangement, while visually interesting, is not anything like the traditional "Sator Arepo" magical square device which was also often used on magical amulets.125
"Hocus Pocus" is usually explained in one of two different ways. On the one hand, it is often alleged to come from the words hoc est corpus in the Latin mass "this is the body" (of Christ) or hoc est corpus (meum), "this is (my) body."126 If this is so, it reflects a recognition of the magical transformation aspect in the mass as well, perhaps, an intentional parody of "ecclesiastical magic. On the other hand, however, it sometimes alleged to come from the name of a famous magician. Who's Who in Magic confirms that this was the [s]tage name of the leading conjurer in England during the reign of King James (1603-25), as reported by both Ben Jonson (in 1625 & 1632, spelling his name both "Hocos Pokos" & "Hokos-pokos") & Thomas Ady (in 1656).127 However, given that Reginald Scot mentions the use of "hocus pocus" as a magic word in his 1584 book The Discouerie of Witchcraft, it seems likely the 17th century performer by that name simply adopted the already existing words as his stage name.
Another bit of evidence which seems to support the view at the Latin mass rather than a particular popular performer is the source of this word is that "hocus pocus" is known in almost all the European languages,128 something which the "hoc est corpus" theory could easily explain.
In any case, "hocus pocus" as an accompaniment of magic has a long history.129
The very strangeness of magic words like "abracadabra" and "hocus pocus" may also be part of their charm. As Jung writes in discussing "our dependence on words,"Because words are substitutes for things, which of course they cannot be in reality, they take on intensified forms, become eccentric, outlandish, stupendous, swell up into what schizophrenic patients call "power words. A primitive word-magic develops, and one is inordinately impressed by it because anything out of the ordinary is felt to be especially profound and significant.130 And Jung elsewhere refers to the "unintelligible incantations" used in magic.131
Perhaps the primary use of magic words, however, is in the type of ritual known as "casting a spell. According to Malinowski, "the most important element in magic is the spell."132 He analyses the words or sounds involved in terms of their phonetic effect (as for example when the wailing of the wind or the sea is onomatopoeically invoked), their stating or commanding the desired aim (cf. "hoc est corpus" above!), and their mythological allusions (for example, the history and traditions of the people involved). Because of the complexity of all this, Malinowski argues, "The slightest alteration from the original pattern would be fatal."133
Each culture will have its own set of spells, naturally. However, the range of the purposes for which spells have been cast is remarkable. Included are virtually all things which humans might desire but have difficulty obtaining. For instance, in just one ancient culture there were spells for memory, for foreknowledge, for attracting love, for restraining anger, for producing a trance, for inducing insomnia (presumably in others!), for keeping bugs out of the house, for requesting a dream oracle, and for gaining control on one's shadow (although not, presumably, in the Jungian sense), along with many others.134 There were also, naturally, spells to protect one from spells cast by others.
Note also that to be "magic" words do not have to have a mysterious sound, an esoteric meaning, or a special history. Robert Neale provides a moving example of this in his chapter "Many Magics" in the book Magic and Meaning:
Magic occurs between parent and child. I recall awful nights as a fledgling father with a crying infant, my first child. Night after night, she would scream and I would yell just as wildly in my mind. But magic occurred. Sometimes, I would pick her up, hold her close to me and say, "It is all right. It is all right. This is word magic. It was not all right from the everyday-life point of view. She was miserable and I was too. Besides, she could not understand what I said. Furthermore, I could not understand it either. But both of us were made content. "It is all right. That was a conviction about her, me, our relationship and our future. This is very basic magic. Many years later, I spent six months in a hospice, caring for those who were dying. They did die, and they did so while I was in their company, sitting beside them, often holding their hands or resting my hand on their shoulders. As I sat for hours and watched them die, it became clear that, you guessed it, "Everything was all right. How could this be? It was not all right. The person might be young with a family and career. The person might be older and have serious issues about their lives that were unresolved. And I was not very all right myself in my life, family and work. Even so, I said, "Everything is all right," and it was so. At the end, as well as at the beginning, of life, such primary life magic is commonplace.135 Our words can make a difference. We are all magicians.
According the Herder Symbol Dictionary,In magical practices, the circle is valued as an effective symbol of protection against evil spirits, demons, etc.; the protective function ascribed to such items as the belt, ... ring, hoop, and circular amulet probably derives from the symbolic value of the circle.136 So in this sense a magic circle is what in German would be called a "Bannkreis," a circle which keeps something out, which "bans" or "banishes" it. This seems to be the idea behind the image below, showing Faustus within his magic circle and Mephistopheles being kept at bay.137
In the novel The Last Temptation of Christ, Kazantzakis has Jesus draw a circle around himself in the sand when he has to confront his tempters. In Dracula there is a similar image of the circle as magical protection. And the Handw¾rterbuch des Deutschen Aberglaubens reports a wide variety of similar practices.138 In his Tavistock Lectures, Jung mentions the customs of making a magic circle around a field both when digging for a treasure and when protecting the harvest.139
But there is also a sense in which a magic circle serves to keep something in. The Dictionary of Symbols and Imagery, for example, describes the magic circle as "a circle of nine feet: the area within which the magician has contact with a spirit, and which he cannot leave before he has broken the spell."140 In both traditional and so-called "Neo-Pagan" rituals, the "casting of the circle" serves mainly to keep a certain energy or focus within the gathering rather than to protect against "evil" forces from outside.
Of course, a magic circle often has both the function of keeping something out and keeping something else in. Circles as such can always do both whether they are "circles of friends" or circles of barbed wire. Again, as Jung puts it,The vas bene clausum (well-sealed vessel) is a precautionary measure very frequently mentioned in alchemy, and is the equivalent of the magic circle. In both cases the idea is to protect what is within from what is without, as well as to prevent it from escaping.141
When the Berlin Wall was erected in 1961 I happened to be in Europe and I visited Berlin to see this wall. The Western press had only mentioned the wall as an attempt by East Germany to keep its citizens from escaping. The rationale I was given in East Berlin, however, was that it was more an attempt to keep out the pernicious influence of Western European culture. Although I doubted that this was the real reason for the wall, it did strike me at the time that walls actually do both.
Of course the magic circle of the magician as shaman and as conjuror is the area in which his "performance" takes place, whether it be a simple clearing or a formal stage. The function of having a well-defined space of this sort is to focus the attention of the spectators or participants and to show that something special is to happen here. In this sense, the circle or stage is similar to putting a frame around a painting and hanging it on the wall, a point returned to in the discussion of "audience," below.
A related way of conceptualizing the function of the magic circle is to imagine it dividing the secular from the sacred or the ordinary from the extraordinary. This is expressed in a quote from The Magician Within by Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette:Ancient cities were sacred spaces, usually roughly (and sometimes precisely) circular by design, with the palace-temple complex always located at the circle's center. Thus the King dwelt at the organizing center, from which the created world radiates. Sacred mountains, sacred trees, and inner sanctums all were the "power spots" through which an energy exchange took place between the various dimensions of reality. The center was always bounded and contained by impregnable walls or "magic circles" or some other device designed to separate ordinary from extraordinary time and space.142
The concept of the "temenos," so important to our understanding of the process of Jungian analysis, is clearly related to this function and will be returned to in the next chapter.
It is, of course, possible for ceremonial magic to take place in private. In such a case, the magician will either be attempting to affect himself (or something in his surroundings) or he will be addressing his magic to some spiritual power, such as God. In the typical case of magic, however, an audience of some kind is assumed. Hermes, the Tarot magician, Merlin and Houdini all work their wonders before an audience. Why and how is this significant?
Just as magic circle and the performer's stage set off the realm of magic from the ordinary, secular world, so too does the presence of an audience contribute to the success of magic of all kinds.
Magic, both ceremonial and performing, is, after all, a kind of theater. And theater people are very familiar with "the roar of the crowd" and its effect on the performance. Having an audience is not just incidental. Metaphorically if not literally, there is a reciprocal flow of energy between the performer and the audience. This must be so if the performance is to be successful at least.143
For there to a spectacle there must be spectators. Shamans and magicians have long realized this and have devote considerable attention to gathering and preparing (or "conditioning") their spectators.
Because shamans use ecstatic techniques (such as drumming, chanting, and, often, drugs), it is often the case that, as Rogan Taylor writes,... the psychological fusion between the shaman and his people is almost total and discrimination between the performer and the audience becomes almost impossible. ... In the sophisticated civilisations the very definition of an "audience" revolves around an increasing discrimination between performers and onlookers. It is really only when the onlookers no longer know the mystery which lies behind the performance, and to which it constantly refers, that they become an audience. In certain contexts, it might be true to say that the audience only comes into existence when it stops taking the same drugs as the performers.144 And when all are "in on the secret," they are colleagues or comrades, members of the same "community" or "tribe."
In general, for there to be a distinction between performer and audience there must be some way of marking the one off from the other, some way of showing that we are confronting a performance or a work of art. The frame around a painting and the pedestal under a piece of sculpture show is this, for example.
It has long been recognized by aestheticians, of course, that the stage with its proscenium arch (or the circular platform of theater-in-the-round) is analogous to the frame around a painting: it makes the statement, "This before you is a performance/a work of art. And because of this we take a different attitude towards what we are given.
A concept related to this is the changing of the frame or framework in which something is understood. Thus both psychotherapists and negotiators speak of "re-framing" an issue.145 Part of Jungian analysis consists in doing just this.
VI. THE ANALYST AS MAGICIAN
Jung's way of approaching the psyche was distinctive in its heavy use of imagery. As he once put it:In describing the living processes of the psyche, I deliberately and consciously give preference to a dramatic, mythological way of thinking and speaking, because this is not only more expressive but also more exact than an abstract scientific terminology, which is wont to toy with the notion that its theoretic formulations may one fine day be resolved into algebraic equations.146 So the idea of trying to understand the Jungian analyst better by considering him or her as a kind of "magician" is in keeping with the approach encouraged by Jung. He himself once referred to "the psyche and its box of conjuring tricks" and was personally fond of magic shows.147
Therapists of many schools have already looked for connections between magic and psychopathology and between magic and psychotherapy.148 Rather than summarize their suggestions here, I shall offer some thoughts based on my own observations.
What about the goal(s) of analysis itself? Freud's remark that his goal was to transform neurotic suffering into ordinary sadness comes to mind. But to stay with the magician metaphor, one Jungian has described the process as "how bewitchment is transformed into enchantment."149
In discussing the "mana personality" in Chapter III above, I quoted Jung's remark about "the well-known archetype of the mighty man in the form of hero, chief, magician, medicine-man, saint, the ruler of men and spirits, the friend of God."150 In one sense, of course, there are saints and heros. But to a large extent such titles are the results of projection, that process "by which a subjective content becomes alienated from the subject and is, so to speak, embodied in the object."151 So, as has been said, considering another person as a "magician" involves projection. In analysis, the analysand's projections on the analyst are referred to as "transference" and as we shall see (and as we might well expect), seeing the analyst as a kind of magician is not uncommon.
Such projections are sometimes helpful to the process of analysis, but not always. Jung writes:One of the greatest hindrances to understanding is the projection of the shaman the savior. As soon as you are elevated to such a rank, you are powerless, lost in a sea of mist. ... You are just as unable to perform miracles as a shaman as a rule is.152
To give structure to the present chapter, I divide it into sections related to the "tools of the trade" discussed in Chapter V: Wand, Words, Circle, and Audience.
In "A Study in the Process of Individuation," Jung tells how his patient was overcome by a fantasy-image as she was trying to paint a landscape:... she saw herself with the lower half of her body in the earth, stuck fast in a block of rock. The region round about was a beach strewn with boulders. In the background was the sea. She felt caught and helpless. Then she suddenly saw me in the guise of a medieval sorcerer. She shouted for help, I came along and touched the rock with a magic wand. The stone instantly burst open, and she stepped out uninjured.153 And the resulting painting of this situation which she brought to Jung has become famous in its own right.
But how are we to understand this "magic wand" being used? Like the drum of the shaman, the wand of the magician is both a badge of office and a tool to assist in transformation. The wand focuses the magician's power so that, as in Jung's patient's dream, that which the magician touches with his wand is changed.
In the above case, the patient's dream credits the analyst with possessing such a wand. In a different case, we might imagine the analyst asking a client who is "stuck" and cannot imagine how things might change, "If we had a magic wand, what could we do with it?" (The analyst might, of course, have said, "I" instead of "we" or, perhaps, "you.") Such a fantasy of having a wand could, with the right client at the right time, stimulate the imagination in a helpful way.154
In general, such techniques resemble the "active imagination" which Jung recommended, a topic which others have begun to explore.155
With other clients, of course, the above techniques might be more likely to stimulate a regression to a level of passivity and "magical thinking. A colleague told me of saying to such a client (presumably in a moment of frustration), "I don't have a magic wand, you know."
In Jungian analysis the typical therapeutic intervention is with words. (Actions, of course, such as declining to answer the telephone during a session, can also be important; but this is not as "typical" as the use of words.)
Russell Lockhart begins his stimulating essay "Words as Eggs" by quoting Leonard Cohen:I've been listening to all the dissension I've been listening to all the pain.
And I know that no matter what I do
It'll all come back to you again.
But I think that I can heal it
But I think that I can heal it
I'm a fool, but I think that I can heal it
With this song.Lockhart then continues: As an analyst, I, too, hear stories of dissension and pain. And, yes, I know, too, that no matter what I say or do this pain will come back again. Yet, in face of this inevitable return, the poet and analyst share a common vision, a common hope. Like the poet, the analyst, too, is a fool and feels that this pain and dissension can be touched and healed with his particular form of song: the curing word, the healing speech, the therapy of the word we call psychotherapy.156
In discussing magic words in the previous chapter, I cited Robert Neale's use of the words "it is all right. Now I provide three clinical examples, but examples from sessions where I was the analysand rather than the analyst.
First example: In the "acknowledgements" section at the beginning of this thesis, I referred to one example of an analyst's words which proved magical. In discussing my associations to a dream in which I was travelling first class, my analyst simply asked, "And what would it mean to go 'first class.'" The result was a breakthrough in my thinking about my life.
Second example: Prior to my beginning in Jungian analysis, I saw a Freudian for "psychoanalytic psychotherapy" for several years. For one session I arrived terribly upset and told him that my pre-teenaged daughter had been sitting in my car, had accidently released the parking brake, and I had witnessed the nightmare-ish scene of the car with my daughter rolling backwards down a hill and crashing into a tree. Although no one was injured and the car was insured, I remained quite upset. My analyst simply said, "Thank God she wasn't hurt. And his words transformed the situation for me.
Third example: I have noticed that many times during my years with my current analyst I have resisted doing (or even feeling) things which conflicted with my previously "set" ways of looking at the world. Sometimes, in such instances, I would fantasize about some new way of acting or of understanding a situation. My analyst's words, "And why not?" were often the key which opened new possibilities for me. Like magic.
The "magic circle" discussed in the previous chapter has its counterpart in the Jungian concept of the "temenos. The Greeks used this concept to mean a sacred, protected space, such as in a temple a place where the divine presence can be safely felt. Jung and his followers applied this notion to the analyst's consulting room.
In addition to the magic circle as temenos, there is another sense of circle which is relevant here: the mandala, the type of geometric figure usually involving both circle and square. Such images can appear spontaneously in dreams and paintings and have often been employed in traditional meditation practices. But whether produced by the client or offered in some way by the analyst, working with mandalas can be healing and "magical. Jung writes:... mandalas mostly appear in connection with chaotic psychic states of disorientation or panic. They then have the purpose of reducing the confusion to order, though this is never the conscious intention of the patient. At all events they express order, balance, and wholeness. Patients themselves often emphasize the beneficial or soothing effect of such pictures. ... Most mandalas have an intuitive, irrational character and, through their symbolical content, exert a retroactive influence on the unconscious. They therefore possess a "magical" significance ....157
One final sense of "circle" comes to mind in connection with the practice of analysis: the analyst's own "circle" of friends and colleagues. Perhaps it goes without saying that analysts who lack such a circle risk falling into a form of "co-dependency" with their clients simply due to the human need for contact with others. And it is also clear that consultation with one's professional colleagues can help one escape that other kind of circle, the "vicious circle," of limited imagination and understanding.
Unfortunately, it is also true that some Jungians see themselves as part of a circle of what might be called "the elect" in comparison with other psychotherapists. In such circles, "The term 'analyst' is used repeatedly ... in a special, almost magical, sense to separate such individuals from other psychotherapists."158 So we see here again the danger of inflation.
Two senses of "audience" may well concern the analyst: the analysand as a kind of "audience" in the analytic hour and the public in general as a kind of "audience" for the insights and concepts which arise from the Jungian tradition. Some comments about each.
In a way, the analytic relationship involves "an audience of one," to use a phrase suggested by Rogan Taylor.159 Sometimes, but not always, it is the analysand who is the audience. At other times it is the analyst. After all, listening is one of the characteristic activities of the analyst. And yet even listening is part of the role of the analyst, part of his or her performance if you will. To be fully present in the analytic hour the analyst must be "on" and have "stage energy," as actors might say.
The analyst's relation to a broader, public audience is also significant. Some analysts (James Hillman and Verena Kast come to mind) have chosen to discontinue seeing individual analysands so as to concentrate on writing and speaking for a broader audience. Other analysts try to combine their work with individuals with their concern for larger groups. Some analysts, of course, limit their activity to working with their individual clients. Still, the concept of having an audience to connect to is important.
Having an "audience of one" rather than a larger audience has economic implications as well. Being in analysis is a major expense for most analysands, something like having "private lessons" with a master teacher rather than taking group lessons in a public institution or private lessons from a more "ordinary" teacher. If the audience for Jungian analysis and insights is not to be limited to the financial elite, perhaps more conscious attention needs to be given to various types of Jungian group work and to the creative use of new media as well as to the traditional work of the analyst.
Finally, the suggestion that we look at the analyst as a type of magician raises the interesting question of whether the basis of analysis, the theories of Jung himself, need to be true for the "magic" to work. There is evidence from the field of magic itself that all that is necessary is that the persons involved believe in the process in order for it to work. (Perhaps something similar is true of the healing power of prayer.) There is no question but that the psyche is remarkable and only partly understood. So perhaps this comment from Richard Smith can be somewhat reassuring to us as analysts:Given the extraordinary ability of the human mind to make sense out of things, it is natural occasionally to make sense out of things that have no sense at all.160 This does not mean that we can offer suggested interpretations of dreams in some random or unprincipled way, only that a motivated analysand, being human, may well accept and make sense of things we say regardless of the truth or falsity of the theory behind them. Much magic is based on this fact. It is a fact. So analysts can surely afford to recognize it and to accept that the analytic process may work better because of it. This is one more way of learning from the magician. (As one recent writer has put it, "the history of medical treatment until relatively recently is the history of the placebo effect."161 And, given the demonstrated effectiveness of the placebo even today, one might well question the physician who refused the use of placebos.)
But now, really, what is analysis and how can thinking about "magicians" help us understand the process? Michael Harner quotes Albert Schweitzer as having observed,
The witch doctor succeeds for the same reason all the rest of us [doctors] succeed. Each patient carries his own doctor inside him. They come to us not knowing this truth. We are at our best when we give the doctor who resides within each patient a chance to go to work.162 Or, as a different writer put it, "Somewhere along the way our inner Magician is awakened ...."163