Magi: a priestly caste in the East, constituting the "learned" class, the custodians of religion and the rites connected therewith, and who gave themselves up to the study of sciences of a recondite character, but with a human interest, such as astrology and magic, and who were held in great reverence by, and exercised a great influence over, the people.
Magi-cian: the art that purports to control or forecast natural events, effects, or forces by invoking the supernatural.
The practice of using rituals to attempt to produce supernatural effects or control events in nature.
You are that "Nature"!
I knew the moment the card was revealed I was looking at a brother Fellow Craft.
But how could that be, here in front of me sat a middle-aged woman, not normally associated with the Men's Club called Freemasonry, dealing cards from a deck called the Tarot, not a subject necessarily discussed within Masonic Temple walls, yet here in front of me this diviner was presenting me with a clear illustration of a Fellow Craft, an image on a card.
I wondered if she knew.
After leaving the reading my curiosity kicked in, the same curiosity that once drove me to knock on the door of Freemasonry many years before.
I drove directly to the local bookstore a bought a Tarot deck similar to the one used by the gypsy reader, the Rider-Waite deck.
How I knew this, I looked carefully at the weathered box she drew the deck from before leaving.
Come to find out that although the deck was illustrated by an artist named Pamela Colman Smith the symbolic structure was guided by A. E. Waite a brother Freemason, author, and mystic.
I quickly singled out the Magician from the deck. I needed to see if my suspicions were correct, what was Brother Waite sharing, was it the Fellow Craft?
There he stood behind a table in the shape of an alter giving what appeared to be a modified version of the due-guard of the Fellow Craft. Around his waist was what resembled a cable-toe, upon his forehead appeared to be a lifted blindfold, on and on the card kept opening up its symbolism to me, it was certainly a Fellow Craft.
The Magician card of the Tarot is named for the individual whose possesses the skill to control the elements, which on the card you will find symbolically placed on the table in front of him, in the form of the chalice, symbolic of water, the pentacle, symbolic of the earth, the sword, symbolic of fire, and the wand, symbolic of air, all items you will find physically contained within the many rituals of Freemasonry, with most included in the higher degrees of Freemasonry which are not necessarily within the scope of this paper.
As far as the elements themselves, the importance of water, earth, air, and fire, can't be understated. Physically water is essential for life, and the major component of our bodies and of the earth itself. Earth is the substance or physical body, and the food which is needed to maintain this existence. Respiration, breathing in an out, is another central condition of life, as is the warmth and light of the Sun. Although these elements are physical in nature they are also symbolic of the inner "us", it's these inner elements of our nature we seek to control as the Magician (Fellow Craft).
The same as the tightrope walker the strength of the Magician is his ability control the inner elements of his mind, distractions of any kind could spell disaster if he does not maintain a concentrated state.
If you take the four elements on the table in front of him literally you'll totally miss the point, each one of the symbolic elements pictured on the table represent an aspect of mind that the Magician must master in order to achieve a focused state.
As for these inner elements, Air itself symbolizes thought.
When we look closely at our everyday mind it's not hard to see why Air becomes symbolic of thought, that continually present air-like continuous movement of mind, a mind that continues morning through night, with thoughts often appearing as if out of nowhere.
In order to perform with the ease and ability of the Magician it is necessary to be calm and mindful, with a type of concentration where distractions don't exist, air-heads need not apply.
It's only we can successfully function from our higher mind, completely and totally without distraction can we achieve the focused mind of the Magician.
In many Masonic Temples of old an engraving was placed over the entrance to the lodge room, on it was an axiom "Know thyself", fitting advice, which has nothing to do with your image in the mirror. The Oracle was referring to mind. Knowledge of oneself is the only real knowledge. Hence, the Oracle of Delphi proclaiming to know thyself, for within each of us, all is contained, Air, Fire, Water, Earth.
When we look at the Fire element and how it relates to mind we find ourselves exploring our psychological temperature, and for those involved in the Great Work our spiritual temperature. When we learned to control our inner Fire and harness its energy we can allow the creative force of intuition to guide our spiritual progress.
Just as physical Air increases the heat of physical Fire, so does a clear uncluttered mind (Air) increase our ability to focus, by burning (Fire) away superfluous thought.
"Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark.... Do not let the hero in your soul perish, in lonely frustration for the life you deserved, but have never been able to reach."...Ayn Rand
As for the element of Water and how it pertains to mind (Air) Water relates to fluidity, the ability to be spiritually and psychologically fluid. The flexibility of water also has the ability to temper overly active passion (Fire). In the world of mind sciences Water is also symbolic of our subconscious, a place all seekers must journey eventually, the home of our emotions, shadow, and suppressed memories.
In the three degrees of Freemasonry, each is symbolic of a certain element, the Entered Apprentice is symbolic of Water, the Fellow Craft symbolic of Air, and the Master Mason symbolic of Fire, you we told this in a round about way through the penalties that weren't meant to warn but meant to inform.
I mention this because although we are discussing the Fellow Craft and how he relates to the Magician our actual journey in Freemasonry began with the allusion to Water, a cleansing of sort that prepared us for our journey.
Last but not least the element of Earth, our foundation, strength, and willpower, all important characteristics necessarily to still the over active tendency of what the Buddhists call the "monkey mind".
A note to those observant brothers that noticed the element Earth missing from the degree structure of Freemasonry, it's there, and at one time you even resided in it.
If we return to the image of the Magician standing behind the table with the elements of his trade, the intuitive brother should be able to visibly discern the penalty sign of the Fellow Craft within the position of the Magician's arms, one pointing skyward, the other towards the earth, symbolic of his consciousnesses ability to ascend to the realms of the divine, or descend to the earthly plane of matter, similar to that of Mercury the Roman god who had the ability at will to travel to the realms of the gods as well as descend to the world of men.
It's in this in-between state, Spirit and Matter, we have been given the opportunity to create, a very god-like gift.
If we look to the verse within the penalty portion of the Fellow Craft itself we hear "beasts of the field, and fowls of the air", we can easily make the case this refers to the position of the hands of the Magician, one hand pointing skyward, fowls of the air, the other to the earth, beasts of the field.
The more one researches and compares the symbolism of Tarot to that of Freemasonry the more one discovers the Kabbalah, a mystical science deeply entwined in both.
In Freemasonry we find the Kabbalah symbolically embedded within the rituals, symbols, and allegory of the tradition. For instance if we look at the Hebrew alphabet, of which the Kabbalah borrows freely, the first letter is Aleph, illustrated as a diagonal line with a Yod (which looks like an arm or hand) on each side, one above, one below, similar to the position of the hands of the Magician pictured on the card. This diagonal line is also drawn at the same angle as the penalty of the Fellow Craft. Coincidence? I think not.
If the Magician could speak I'm pretty sure he would be quoting from the Emerald Tablet of Hermes: "True, without falsehood, certain and most true, that which is above is the same as that which is below, and that which is below is the same as that which is above."
Without looking closely at the Kabbalah much of the hidden symbolism in Freemasonry will remain hidden, even to those who earnestly seek.
If we look in the Sefer Yetzirah, the Book of Creation, the earliest extant book on Jewish mysticism, we find Aleph called the King over Breath (Air), one of the three elements known as the "Three Mothers", along with letters Mem, symbolizing Water, and Shin, symbolizing Fire.
"Three mothers, Aleph, Mem, and Shin, in the Universe are Air, Water and Fire.
Heaven was created from Fire;
Earth was created from Water;
and Air, from Breath, decides between them."...Sefer Yetzirah
Without a clear understanding of the "Three Mothers" much of the penalty portions of the three degrees will be misunderstood, penalties that were not really meant to warn but to inform. So misunderstood are the penalties of the degrees various jurisdictions have wrongly removed them, believing that their presence in the rituals scared away potential initiates.
If we were to assign a certain card from the Tarot to the three degrees of Freemasonry we would find the Entered Apprentice symbolized by the Hanged Man (Water, Mem), the Fellow Craft symbolized by the Magician (Air, Aleph), and the Master Mason symbolized the Fool (Fire, Shin). It should be noted that other Tarot interpreters have named the "Fool" Aleph, instead of the Magician, and that's fine, just as long as it’s your personal interpretation and not that of another. The idea being to allow the cards to speak to you.
As for my reason for labeling the Magician Aleph, of you look above the image of the Magician you'll find the lemniscate, a very old symbol of "infinity". Another way of looking at the infinity sign is through the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, Aleph, which has a number value of One.
"the One has never known measure and stands outside of number, and so is under no limit either in regard to anything external or internal; for any such determination would bring something of the dual into it"...Plotinus
The Tree of Life is a symbol from the Kabbalah, which consists of ten spheres or energy centre’s, called Sephiroth (numbers), the 10 attributes or emanations through which Ein Sof, the Infinite, reveals himself and continuously creates both the physical realm and the chain of higher metaphysical realms.
These spheres are organized into three columns or pillars as they are called in Freemasonry. Upon these pillars you will find the ten Sephiroth (spheres) aligned in a descending zigzag ladder, symbolic of the Spirit descending into Matter, or reversed where Matter ascends to Spirit.
The sphere named Kether heads the central column, which is known metaphorically speaking as the "Pillar of Mildness" and is associated with Hebrew letter Aleph, "the breath", and the Air element. This pillar is considered the balance, or harmony, between the two opposing forces of black/white, male/female, water/fire, Matter/Spirit, etc… The opposing pillars are known as the Pillar of Severity on one side and the Pillar of Mercy on the other, with the Pillar of Mildness in the middle.
In Freemasonry we call these opposing pillars Jachin and Boaz.
Although you don't see them pictured on the card of the Magician you will find the pillars of Jachin and Boaz featured repeatedly in many of the cards of the tarot.
All of the ten spheres of the Kabbalah belong to one of the three pillars and share particular characteristics with the other spheres which belong to that Pillar. If we consider one side force and the other side form, force is a male trait, Spirit, form female, active/receptive, Matter, than the middle pillar represents harmony, Consciousness.
Returning to the pillars: the Pillar of Mercy in the Kabbalah, which could be associated with the Pillar of Jachin in Freemasonry, is found on the right hand side of diagrams of what the Kabbalist call the Tree of Life, and is associated with the left hand side of the body and right-brain functions. It represents the male side of man, light, motion, and activity. It is composed of the following spheres in descending order, Chokmah at the top, followed by Chesed than Netzach.
The Pillar of Severity, which could be associated with the Pillar of Boaz in Freemasonry, lies on the left hand side of the Tree of Life as you look at it as a diagram drawn on a piece of paper, but on the right hand side of the body. It is associated with ‘left brain’ functions, darkness, passivity, receptivity, and silence. This represents the female side of man. It is composed of the following spheres Binah at the top, followed by Geburah than Hod.
The Pillar of Balance is the ‘middle pillar’ which runs up the centre of the Tree. It is associated with balance, holism and integration. It represents the balance between the male and female pillars. It is composed of the following spheres, Kether at the top, followed by Tifaret, Yesod, and Malkuth.
During the Fellow Craft degree the candidate is guided through the Pillars of Boaz and Jachin, when passing through he symbolizes Harmony, at that moment the Middle Pillar.
It should be noted that often times you will find these pillars reversed by different artists, a common mistake for those that fail to realize that looking at the "Tree of Life" is like looking at a mirror image, your left becomes the right, and subsequently the right the left, another allusion to what the Tree is also symbolic of, you.
Returning to Aleph, the One, as a symbol represents unity, origin, power, continuity and stability, as unity contains in itself duality, as it is also seen in its form. It links the primeval source with everything that emanates from it.
"In the beginning was (Aleph) the Word, and (Aleph) the Word was with God, and (Aleph) the Word was God." - John 1: 1
On the human level Aleph represents Divine Man.
Carl Jung described the First Principle of the “Magickian” with his archetype of “the self”, and also the “artist”, the Creator.
Now let’s look at the Magician card and see if further allusions can be made to that of the tradition of Freemasonry.
In the Rider-Waite Deck the Magician is dressed in white, symbolizing purity and innocence, the same allusion as the "lambskin" worn by Freemasons. In Freemasonry the Fellow Craft wears one corner of his apron tucked up, pointing up to the triangle of Spirit (the flap turned up).
Around his waist we see a cord in the image of a snake eating its own tail. All brothers are familiar with the cable-tow which binds us, but what of the snake eating its own tail, a very old Masonic symbol, the Ouroboros. Here we find an allusion symbolizing the cycle of life, death and rebirth, bound to what the Buddhists call the wheel. It is also said to symbolize the circle in the two part symbol "the point within the circle", the point then alluding to the One, the Monad of Pythagoras, and a name very familiar to Freemasonry. If we consider the Ouroboros the circle, the Magician inside of it becomes symbolic himself as the "point within the circle".
The red robe, more commonly seen in the higher degrees of Freemasonry, is symbolic of the color of blood is naturally connected with the idea of sacrifice. It is also symbolic of charity, the theme of the verse read aloud by the Chaplin as the Fellow Craft circumambulates the altar during the ritual, 1 Corinthians 13. Those brothers in the higher degrees of Freemasonry should recall the image of the pelican that feeds its progeny with its own blood, an alchemical reference to the reddening phase
Upon the forehead of the Magician we see a headband, which could just as well be a blindfold lifted, symbolic of a man brought into the light.
The color behind the Magician is bright Yellow, the color used symbolically to identify the element Air, the color of the sky when the sun is at its meridian height, the second phase of the sun. We find this further elaborated on by Brother Manly P. Hall: "The origin of the Trinity is obvious to anyone who will observe the daily manifestations of the sun. This orb, being the symbol of all Light, has three distinct phases: rising, midday, and setting. The philosophers therefore divided the life of all things into three distinct parts: growth, maturity, and decay. Between the twilight of dawn and the twilight of evening is the high noon of resplendent glory. God the Father, the Creator of the world, is symbolized by the dawn. His color is blue, because the sun rising in the morning is veiled in blue mist. God the Son he Illuminating One sent to bear witness of His Father before all the worlds, is the celestial globe at noonday, radiant and magnificent, the maned Lion of Judah, the Golden-haired Savior of the World. Yellow is His color and His power is without end. God the Holy Ghost is the sunset phase, when the orb of day, robed in flaming red, rests for a moment upon the horizon line and then vanishes into the darkness of the night to wandering the lower worlds and later rise again triumphant from the embrace of darkness."
Notice how the Magician holds his rod, upright, symbolic of Spirit, the same way as the Junior Warden in the south holds his rod when addressing the Lodge.
In front of the Magician the Rider-Waite deck shows a table, on older decks a cube was often depicted instead of a table, which makes more sense from a Masonic perspective. Why Brother Waite decided to make this change I have no idea, the cube on the other hand used in the older decks, in the language of symbolism, denotes truth.
"By perfecting his conduct, by struggles against his own natural propensities, the candidate is working the rough ashlar of his own nature into the perfect cube, and I would ask you to observe also that the cube itself contains a secret, for unfolded, it itself denotes and takes the form of the cross."...Brother W.L. Wilmshurst, The Meaning of Masonry
You should also notice another symbol discussed within the ritual of the Fellow Craft, the White Lilly, which you were shown were placed upon the pillars, and told they symbolized Peace. Yet when looked at dispersed with the red roses we begin to see a different allusion, the rose and lily together symbolize the balance of thought and desire, the balance of the head and the heart.
I'm fairly sure I have missed some of the hidden symbolism on the Magician card, maybe accidentally on purpose, leaving further exploration to the Fellow Craft himself.