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The Magician Archetype in Men

Let’s look at the Magician archetype, one of the four main masculine archetypes along with the King, Lover and Warrior.

This is the archetype of mastery, intellect, wizardry and benevolence.

Please note: I use the male pronoun throughout the article, but know that the Magician is not a man but an apersonal archetype. Like all archetypes, no man embodies it perfectly. The masculine is chosen because this is commonly spoken of as one the four fundamental male archetypes.

Core Traits of the Magician Archetype

Fundamentally, the Magician desires to master a craft to an exceptional level, obtain secret knowledge and then put it into action, feeling the power this gives.

He spends many years learning, practicing and picking up knowledge, under the guidance of previous Magicians, until he’s able to begin experimenting, make his own discoveries, and add his personal touch to his craft. With time he’s able to advance the field, reach abnormal levels of skill, and make novel contributions that change the world.

He then becomes a holder of hidden knowledge, which blends conventional knowledge with his years of experimentation and discovery. He’s not just a master of the key skills, but a connoisseur, pioneer and rule-breaker.

The Magician is a master of technology, of the means and methods and tools he requires to perform his craft. When he wields his wand, he does so with extraordinary grace. When he plays his instrument, it looks effortless and innate, as though it were an extension of his body.

He is a master of deep work, of concentrated, intense effort applied to one skill or field for many years.

Crucially, he also becomes a mentor to the new potential Magicians that find him. He doesn’t hoard knowledge or greedily grab on to his status. He gives back, helping new initiates walk the same path he did.

He uses his knowledge and elevated position to the benefit of others. Rather than monopolising the market and concealing the deep knowledge he has uncovered, he brings his creations and discoveries into the marketplace.

Yet the Magician is also discrete: he won’t pass on his secrets to all and sundry. He discriminates between the beginners and the advanced students, only inviting those who are ready into the deep territory. He protects the trade secrets and doesn’t let them be tarnished by the tyrannical.

The role of the Magician archetype in an organisation, kingdom or family is to be the knower, the seer, to tap into power and secret knowledge, to think through problems. During stormy times, he’s the intellectual, clear-thinking beacon that guides the way, drawing on his years of experience and mastery to solve the problem at hand.

Excellent examples of the Magician archetype – notice they pop up in a lot of non-fiction and fantasy movies – include Merlin, Gandalf, Yoda and Dumbledore.

The Magicianless Modern World

The modern world does not permit this archetype to take root, flourish and regerminate.

For one thing, rites of passage have disappeared. We vaguely transition into adulthood at some point in our twenties, with no clear dividing line between our boyhood and manhood.

The process is not seen as sacred but as a monotonous biological given. Our purpose in adulthood is not clearly defined. We’re not the loyal tribesman, or the hunter, or the provider, but a vague amorphous gloop that lives for pleasure, status and stability.

The sacrality of learning has disappeared. Leaders rarely grab serious initiates by the hand and lead them into the secret territory of the trade: they grow more competitive and paranoid as the apprentice proceeds. School is a mad rush to achieve grades in subjects that are useless for most of the graduates, rather than a sacred initiation in learning and refinement of the self.

The process of patient, persistent learning has been denigrated and devalued. Why should we go through a long process of immersion to acquire knowledge and skills when we can look up information whenever we need it?

The loss of family and community structures has contributed to the denigration of the Magician archetype. There is no sense of heritage, of lineage. There are few mature, balanced men to guide us into adulthood. There is no hierarchy of competence, no accountability. Trades and apprenticeships in practical, applicable subjects are replaced for dry, academic, abstract university book-learning.

That said, it makes emerging Magicians rarer and more valuable. They stand out even more in a world of distracted, mediocre pretenders.

Like all archetypes, the Magician is a powerful force when fully brought forth, but a destructive one when distorted or damped down.

The Magician Archetype in Shadow

Each archeytpe has a bi-polar shadow, meaning it can exist in excess, in a deformed mutation, or show up in a half-baked, blunted form. One is an addiction, the other an aversion.

Addiction: The Manipulator

The Manipulator is the active, addicted pole of the shadow. It’s an overexpression of the Magician that slides towards black magic and manipulation. It’s a Magician without the moral consciousness or the benevolent desire.

Though he is a master of his craft, he uses his knowledge not to fight for good but to perpetuate evil.

He withholds rare, vital information from the world to further his own interests to the detriment of others. When he does share, he overcharges for it rather than giving freely.

The Manipulator is detached from human values and relatedness, thus his actions tend towards black magic. 

The Manipulator directs others in ways unknown to them, and schemes and plots using his knowledge. He is the evil wizard that has mastered the craft and now wields his power to bring destruction and disorder across the realm.

Aversion: The Innocent

On the other hand, we have the passive Magician, an expression of this archetype that is all too common in the modern world. 

Put crudely, the Innocent is the wannabe Magician. He wants glory, power and influence, but doesn’t put in the work required. He’s unwilling to fully develop his own inner Magician and step into the role of master, trailblazer and mentor. He never goes through the process of mastery.

Feeling inferior, unrealised and empty, he winds up envying the success of other Magicians. He’s liable to becoming not an evil wizard but a petty, passive destroyer and saboteur of other men’s success.

Unfortunately, we’re likely to encounter more and more Innocents as our addiction to low-grade technology and entertainment worsens. The world may be swarming with useless men who make it their mission to derail the destinies of the few would-be Magicians.

Living the Magician Archetype: How I Do It

On learning about this archetype recently, I was overcome with joy. This is the male archetype I’ve been embodying unknowingly for many years. I’ve always had a fascination for knowledge, learning and mastery, and have always endeavoured to help others reach the deep territory I discover during my own master’s journeys. I often get obsessive about discovering new secrets and making new connections.


Though I graduated years ago and have long stopped using maths in my professional life, I still find wellsprings of mathematical inspiration bubbling up inside me.

Recently, I was trying to solve a problem for my website, and I realised it was a combinatoric problem that I had never learned the necessary mathematics to solve. So I grabbed a pencil and paper and began scrawling and scrawling, digging for my answer. I didn’t really get anywhere, but still I was lit up inside.

Often new mathematical proofs will spontaneously appear to me as if from nowhere.

In the role of teacher, I’ve often found myself desperate to explain tricks or deeper concepts and been frustrated when I couldn’t effectively transmit them to the student.

Knowing the workings of mathematics is the key that opens the door to clearer seeing, to a magical quantification of reality.


I’ve been practicing meditation for nearly a decade, and the deeper I probe into its territory, the more profound and life-altering it becomes. I realise I’m seeing things that very few have the privelege to.

Yet the more I realise, the more I want others to realise! I aim to guide my students step by step into the deep territory of meditative insight. I imagine a transformed world in which meditation is commonplace. I may be a dreamer, but I also know this is the benevolent energy of the Magician at work.


Writing is another skill I’ve become proficient at in recent years. And I’ve discovered something about my writer self: it is highly rebellious!

I just can’t stand the boring, cut-and-dry advice that is dished out by writing “experts”. It’s too packaged, too restrictive, too formulaic. The generalised, sterilised advice will only get you so far. Grammar correctors like Grammarly might make your text adhere to their rules, but it creates robotic, predictable, bland writing.

You can only become a magical writer by repeatedly creating and evaluating, creating and evaluating, and making your own decisions. Whenever I face the blank screen, I feel my reserves of inspiration activate, ready to blast away convention and chart new territory in the land of letters.