The Magician Archetype: The Knower and the Creator of Worlds

by Scott Jeffrey

What does Gandalf from Lord of the Rings, Yoda from Star Wars, the Architect from The Matrix, Albert Einstein, and Nicola Tesla all have in common?

They are all expressions of the Magician archetype.

But what is the Magician? And what’s the vital role it plays in our lives?

What is the Magician Archetype and Its Primary Functions?

An archetype is a collection of patterns: thoughts, feelings, images, and behaviors. There are many different archetypes active in our psyche, but few hold such importance and dominance as the Magician.

The Magician archetype goes by many names:

Sage
Shaman
Holy Man
Wise Old Man
Ritual Elder

Knower
Seer
Prophet
Wizard
Alchemist

The Magician is the bearer of knowledge both ancient and new. The Magician archetype is synonymous with cognition. In his fullest, the Magician is wise, thoughtful, reflective, healing, contemplative, and transformative.

As a master of technology, the Magician knows how to manipulate the elements. And as such, he possesses great power to create.

In King Warrior Magician Lover, Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette explain:

“This secret knowledge, of course, gives the magician an enormous amount of power. And because he has knowledge of the dynamics of energy flows and patterns in nature, in human individuals and societies, and among the gods—the deep unconscious forces—he is a master at containing and channeling power.”

The primary role of the Magician archetype is to contain and channel power for the good of all.

When humans access the Magician in its full glory, society prospers. When we fail to align with the Magician, accessing its shadow instead, society slips into chaos. The same is true for the individual.

magician archetype

The Magician Archetype in Culture

In The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell called the Magician archetype “the mentor with supernatural aid” and illustrated how this character appears in every hero’s journey.

Neo had Morpheus. King Arthur had Merlin. Harry Potter had Dumbledore. Luke Skywalker had Obi-wan and Yoda. And every tribe of old had a shaman or medicine man.

The Magician plays the vital role of the ritual elder who blesses the younger generation, allowing them to mature into manhood (which is the function of the hero’s journey).

And as Moore and Gillette point out, the ritual elder is mostly absent in modern society. And the lack of ritual elders is part of the cause of our current crisis in masculinity.

A Note About Gender: Moore and Gillette’s work focus on masculine psychology, but in many ways, their model extends to the feminine as well. In the case of the Magician archetype, any woman accessing her cognitive line of intelligence is also tapping into Magician energy.

The Magician’s Role in Society

Inventions, discoveries, technology, language, mathematics, engineering, astronomy, chemistry, physics, law, medicine, and other sciences, all fall within the Magician’s domain.

All knowledge that requires specialized training to acquire derives from Magician energy. The Magician archetype is an initiate of hidden knowledge of all varieties. And as such, he is an initiator for others.

The Magician takes students, apprentices, or disciples. All students studying in any field are apprentice shamans or Magicians-in-training.

As an apprentice, you undergo an ordeal by investing large amounts of time, energy, and money studying and testing your capabilities to become a master of the Magician’s powers.

And, as in any hero’s quest, there’s no guarantee that you’ll succeed.

When people have questions, problems, and pains, they seek the Magician for resolution.

Why Kings Kept the Counsel of Wizards

King Arthur wasn’t the only king with a Merlin. Kings always had a wizard, magician, mage, or seer by his side.

Why?

The Magician was the king’s strategist, helping him think things through to a just end.

But more than that, the Magician was able to reawaken the conscience and good sense of the ruler.

The Magician played the role of a kind of royal psychotherapist, keeping the ruler’s arrogance in check.

The Roman emperors who failed to take the counsel of the Magician became tyrannical dictators. And the tyrant’s hubris (outrageous arrogance) eventually led to the fall of Rome.

An individual fully accessing the Magician energy has discernment. He can see evil for what it is and perceive “the wolf in sheep’s clothing.” In this way, as Moore and Gillette point out, the Magician archetype in a man is his “bullshit detector.”

magician archetype

The Magician’s Bi-Polar Shadow

With the power to create worlds also comes its opposite: the ability to manipulate and destroy them.

In modern society, it is more often than not, the Magician’s shadows that operate in individuals with power over others.

And so, the most significant lessons we can learn about the Magician archetype comes from taking a closer look at its shadow.

For until we do, both individually and collectively, this shadow will continue to rule us from the darkness of our unconscious.

In neo-Jungian Robert Moore’s model, like all the archetypes, the Magician has a bi-polar shadow with an active and passive side.

The active side is called the Detached Manipulator, and the passive side is the “Denying” Innocent One.

The Detached Manipulator

The Detached Manipulator is the Trickster archetype.

Because the Magician is the bearer of knowledge, when left unchecked, it can use this knowledge to control others.

The primary way the Trickster manipulates others isn’t necessarily by lying (although it does that too), but by withholding.

That is, the Detached Manipulator will give half-truths, withholding vital information others may need for their wellbeing.

The Architect in the second Matrix film, The Matrix Reloaded, is the quintessential Detached Manipulator.

Disconnected from nature, feelings, and emotions, the Detached Manipulator is cold, calculating, cynical, and soulless.

The Detached Manipulator and Money

Modern society is mostly run by the Manipulator. Instead of using its knowledge to serve others, the cynical manipulator mainly profits from them.

A primary trigger for the Detached Manipulator is money. Whenever money is involved in an exchange, there’s a good chance the Manipulator is at work.

Money influences the Manipulator to provide limited information and charge lots of money for it. (See the money priming research I cite in this financial freedom guide.)

We can observe this Manipulator operating in many spiritual teachers who amass fortunes while keeping their followers subservient to them. (See Wild Wild Country, a documentary about spiritual guru OSHO who apparently amassed 93 Rolls Royces.)

The Detached Manipulator runs most governments. The entire advertising industry is the Manipulator’s game. In fact, so is the fashion, pharmaceutical, counseling, education, self-help, and countless other industries.

magician trickster archetype

The Detached Manipulator in Our Daily Lives

This Trickster archetype is one of the most common forces in society, and yet its stealth nature allows him to operate within society and ourselves unchecked and unnoticed.

Moore and Gillette explain:

“Whenever we are detached, unrelated, and withholding what we know could help others, whenever we use our knowledge as a weapon to belittle and control others or to bolster our status or wealth at others’ expense, we are identified with the Shadow Magician as Manipulator. We are doing black magic, damaging ourselves as well as those who could benefit from our wisdom.”

Anyone in a teaching role or position of authority (including parents) must remain mindful of the Manipulator.

Also, when the Trickster in us manipulates another, he also damages us. And when there’s no one around to trick, this detached archetypes focuses his energy on manipulating us.

The Denying Innocent One

The passive side of the Magician’s shadow is the “Denying” Innocent One. While the Detached Manipulator plays the perpetrator, the Innocent One plays the helpless victim.

It is the Innocent One that keeps us from opening our eyes and seeing Reality more clearly.

The Innocent One believes it is a good person and so we bury our head in the sand to avoid owning the destructive manipulation game our dark brother is playing.

Parents unconsciously activate this shadow in their children by praising them. Praise doesn’t just stall growth and limit our potential; it instills a false identity and illusory self-image in children that plague them into adulthood.

It’s the so-called innocence and false goodness of spiritual teachers and religious authorities that leads to the manipulation of millions of individuals every day.

While greed and lust for power mainly motivate the Manipulator, envy fuels the Innocent One. The Innocent One envies the lives of others and their drive to share.

Simultaneously, the Innocent One fears others will discover his lifelessness and lack of responsibility.

How to Bring the Magician’s Shadow to Awareness

Thinking types in Myers-Briggs and Types 5, 6, 7 in the Enneagram are arguably the most prone to the Magician’s shadow.

But modern society is dominated by what the Jungians call the thinking function. We all tend to have a bias toward the mind and cognition. After all, this is the technological or information age.

Because of the bi-polar nature of this shadow archetype, the Detached Manipulator and the Denying Innocent One always go hand-in-hand.

Another way of explaining this bi-polar nature is through inflation and deflation.

An inflated ego that feels superior to others is accessing the Detached Manipulator. The Innocent One is a deflated ego who secretly feels inferior to others.

Confusion is a sign of the Innocent One. If you feel confused, discover what you’re hiding from (envy, fear, not living your values, a lack of responsibility, etc.)

The key to catching the Manipulator-Innocent One game is self-honesty. These shadows maintain their dominance until we call them out, which requires self-reflection and a willingness to look beyond our self-identity.

Remember: It’s not a question of whether or not we get possessed by these shadow archetypes, but to what degree.

It’s only through self-reflection and self-awareness that we can bring these shadows to light.

How to Activate the Magician Within

The Trickster archetype is a prevalent force in our psyche because of our dishonesty and disconnection from our feelings. Detachment from emotions and the physical body tends to trigger the manipulation game.

Because of our bias toward thinking and the mind, the fast track to accessing the Magician archetype is through the body and the heart.

Drawing excess energy from the mind to the heart and gut regions, allows us to integrate the Magician energy constructively without succumbing to its shadow (as often).

By holding to our Center, we naturally access the Magician’s energy.

When we fall out of Center, the shadows take over. This occurs every time we move too fast and we cut ourselves off from our feelings. And when we live in our minds, the Manipulator and the Innocent One are likely in charge.

So to access the Magician archetype more often:

  1. Reforge your connection to your body and nature: ground yourself and breathe like a Jedi.
  2. Realign your body’s energy system: find your Center and stand like a tree.
  3. Reclaim your power that you were tricked into handing over to others: reclaim your inner gold.
  4. Connect with your emotional body and contain your emotions: cultivate self-leadership and self-awareness.
  5. Create your own inner world: activate your imagination and dialogue with the archetypes in your psyche.
  6. Accept responsibility for your outer world.
  7. Confront your shadow and be honest with yourself.

Bring the Magician into its full glory by integrating body, mind, heart, and soul.

Read Next: The Hero Archetype: Friend or Foe?

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magician archetype

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