For those of you who read my previous post on significators and didn’t snort in derision at my mentioning of magic and wizards, I thank you. This post is intended first to clarify exactly what I mean by those two terms, and second to show how these ideas connect to the Tarot.
First of all, what am I talking about when I say magic? I’ll keep this relatively short; I assure you, I could write pages and pages about my theories and never once mention the Tarot, but I’ll spare you that noise.
I like how Mr. Crowley defined magic: “…the Science and Art of causing change to occur in conformity with Will”. I have only recently stumbled upon this, but it is a remarkably accurate definition of my personal view, or at least part of it. I couldn’t have phrased it any better than that.
Many people totally underestimate the power of their own minds. Perspective is reality, and your thoughts have a very real power to change your life. To me, that’s the essence of magical thinking.
There is one thing to keep in mind: some things are just out of your control. This leads me to what I call the Magical Paradox.
The Wizard simultaneously has complete control and no control. This needs to be understood and accepted before any magic can happen.
Let me explain using the words I’ve written previously: We are all powerless in the midst of a vast and seemingly uncaring Universe. By the same token, however, we are a part of that Universe, made of the same stuff, and therefore have all the potential that comes with it. We are each the masters of our own Universes, but can only truly be in control of the Micro by relinquishing our futile attempts at controlling the Macro… in order to successfully use [magic], one must accept that he or she is simultaneously in and without control.
When I say the Universe, I am simply using a convenient term to refer to the un-referrable: that Greater Whole that is all of us, all of our world, everything we know, have known, and ever will know, and never will know, in all dimensions, together as one unified, undefinable thing. We are stuck in time – we can only perceive reality on a moment by moment basis. Everything we perceive, including ourselves, is just one minuscule aspect of the Universe at one point in time. Ultimately, though, we are all one with everything around us – we are the Universe.
I believe that, as humans, our magic stems from our ability to use language.* Our limit is only as far we can use it to put abstractions into words. If you can conceive it in your mind, then, in theory, you can make it real in the world.
Of course, none of this happens overnight. I liken the wizard to the performing musician who has spent countless hours practicing a piece. The audience only hears the final result, and to them, it is magic. This is why I like Crowley’s use of the words science and art. To the wizard, magic is a science. To everyone else, it is an art.**
I also believe that there is a natural magic inherent in the world around us. In order to really use magic, you also have to appreciate what has always been there, because that’s the energy that you’re really tapping into when you use language to express your desires. Language is, after all, just our way of comprehending what is around us and communicating that to others; it isn’t necessarily a force in and of itself, but rather our way of connecting to and manipulating our surroundings. In other words, magic as an energy exists with or without us. Magic as an art and science, on the other hand, depends on how we can use that energy, which I believe ultimately depends on our use of language.
“Wizard” is just a word that the Council and I really like. Sorcerer or magician or anything else will work just as well. It only means a user of magic. I like the term wizard, though, because it implies a little more than using magic. It’s etymology is derived from the same source as “wisdom”, and to me, that is significant. It means letting the Universe work through you as much as you are working the Universe. It’s a blending of passivity and activity – the achievement of the reconciliation of the Paradox.
I’ve mentioned the Council a couple of times throughout this blog. The Council is a group of five wizards and friends who discovered magic at roughly the same time. Our ideas about magic and our friendship united us as the Council. Any individual can be a wizard, but the Council allows us to keep open discussions on theory, ethics, and practical application. We evolve together. I wouldn’t be where I am now if it weren’t for them.
I should point out that I’d been developing theories and practicing magic for years before I ever discovered the Tarot. I never followed a specific magic system; my fellows on the Council and I were spontaneously struck with the realization of magic, and only as we fine-tuned our ideas over time did we come to discover that many of them coincided with magical ideas had by others through the ages (Coincidence? Maybe). Historically, magic has generally been divided into two categories: esoteric magic and natural magic. Our philosophy blends these categories.
I won’t go further into magical specifics here. This is not the place for it. I think I’ve done a good enough job at distilling the essence of magical philosophy as understood by the Council to move on to how the Tarot relates.
I’ll start with the deck of cards as an object. There is a branch of magical practice we call “Item Magic”. This involves selecting a particular object, imbuing it with magical energy, and using it as a tool or point of focus for magical activity. The Tarot already has a natural energy to it, both in the individual cards and the deck as a whole. This makes it ideal for Item Magic. A wizard can use it as a tool for divination, meditation (two forms of passive magic), ritual magic, or for creative uses like “writing your own story” (two forms of active magic). The Tarot is very much a magical item.
The classical elements play a significant role in helping us to understand the Universe. All magic falls under the domain of Aether, but any magic can also be attributed to another element depending on its nature. Or you can draw from an elemental energy to power and shape your magic, so to speak. Each of us on the Council has a specific element with which we identify (Earth for me, hence the use of the suit of Coins for my significators dealing with magic). The four suits of the Minor Arcana (with the Major Arcana representing the fifth element) makes the Tarot perfect for working with elemental energies. In fact, it was possibly designed with this in mind. Virtually any established magic system in the West agrees with this notion of the importance of the elements.
Then there are the archetypal energies found in the Major Arcana, specifically those of the Trickster and the Wise One. I mention these two in particular, because every true wizard is a combination of them, or so I believe. Others are applicable to the study of magic, like the High Priestess and the World, but they all represent energies that can be tapped into. At the very least, they should all be studied and understood, because they each represent a signpost along the path of the magical journey towards enlightenment.
Many magical orders have made use of the structure of the Tarot by assigning it various correspondences, most notably astrological, alchemical, and Kabbalistic correspondences. This makes the Tarot an excellent textbook for occult studies in general. Combine this with its uses as a spiritual guide (magic has its roots in spirituality), and you have a very handy manual for magical practices that works on many levels.
Finally (for this post, anyway; a complete list of possible magical uses of the Tarot would be practically endless), the Tarot works as a metaphor for the aforementioned Paradox. Using the deck requires both a relinquishing of and an assuming of control. You’re hands shuffle the deck; in this way, you are responsible for which cards come up. However, shuffling is a randomizing activity, so the final outcome is based on chance, or the Will of the Universe. This is symbolic of the paradox of magic. The purpose of the wizard is to work to somehow reconcile these opposing forces (to be simultaneously passive and active). This is illustrated throughout the Major Arcana with a concept called binary opposites. There are several pairs of cards that represent this idea: the Magician and the High Priestess, the Emperor and the Empress, the Hierophant and the Devil, the Moon and the Sun, etc. There are several individual cards that also show this idea, like the Lovers, or the black and white columns situated behind the High Priestess.
In the card commonly called Temperance, we see an angel mixing liquids from two vessels. This is symbolic of the reconciliation of binary opposites that results in the Golden Mean. This is the unity of the Universe, and it is our jobs as wizards to gain a more comprehensive understanding every day to achieve the same. This requires letting go of facts, in order to be open to truths. Once this is accomplished, we cease to be mere mortals, and reach divine status. If this could somehow be done not only by the individual, but by the entirety of humanity, we would reach a new level of collective consciousness. I assert that this is the New Aeon to which Crowley referred in his CHT.
I should probably point out that “magic” and “wizard” are just words. I like these words because they conjure certain ideas in my mind. I like to consider myself a wizard; it makes my daily life feel more interesting, and it’s really as simple as that. But you can think magically, with just as much success, without using these terms if that suits you.
In the end, it boils down to perspective. All you need is an open mind and active imagination. Magic only exists if you believe in it – that’s the catch, and that’s why so many people who require some sort of objective proof will never get it.
*Incidentally, I believe storytelling (and I mean the ability to really weave a yarn) to be among the most powerful forms of magic. The only wizard with magic more potent is, in my opinion, the Musician. Each of these folks uses a language to plant images, ideas, emotions and thoughts in your head (and thoughts are indeed the root of all action; I do not kid when I stress the connection between thought and magic). Only the musician, though, can do it through a language otherwise lost to us mere mortals: the language of the Muses. The Bard, then, is the most powerful Magician of them all, combining words we consciously understand with music we don’t into a cohesive song, within which we find ourselves entranced.
**Science and art – what two great, misunderstood words. Every artist has to some degree the mind of a scientist, and every scientist has to some degree the mind of an artist. It’s all about perspective! Always!