The Four Archetypes and the Four Stoic Virtues

Dear Friends:
Happy summer! Our guest columnist this month is the ever-thoughtful Santiago.

Tim “Santiago” Converse

The last time I wrote for The Museletter, I explored the idea that the overall character we think of as “The Magician,” could very likely be a Stoic as defined by the ancient philosophers such as Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius. I have continued to deepen my understanding of the Stoics, and I have been thinking about the Four Stoic Virtues.
So what are the Four Stoic Virtues?  Justice, Courage, Temperance, and Wisdom.

Very quickly I began to think about the four archetypes of the magician with which we have all become so familiar: The Trickster, The Sorcerer, The Oracle, and The Sage. I began to look at both the differences and the similarities. I grant that some metaphors are better than others, but the more I thought about this one, the more I thought that there really seemed to be something to It—a lesson to be learned.

Let’s start with Justice.  For the stoics it wasn’t just about following “the law,” but rather more about the idea of doing what was right for the common good of all. It was about making sure that we were true to ourselves, and thus served as good examples to emulate.

This made me think of one of the ultimate “tricksters,” Coyote.  His job was to teach people lessons about themselves, to put a pin in their pomposity, and get them to realize that they were being arrogant, egotistical, or just plain wrong, and in so doing, get them to act better—to be more true to who they really were, or could be.

The greatest justice we ever experience is when we ourselves are just. The Trickster seems ideally suited to pushing us in the right direction, even if we have to take a few lumps along the way to get there.

Then there is Courage. Of all the Stoics, the one we may know best is Marcus Aurelius, and he faced some of the greatest challenges of all ruling an empire wracked by war, plague, and politics. But, he always faced these challenges first and foremost by reminding himself that he must never let the power he had corrupt him. He faced each day with courage, and used the power he had to master not only an empire, but more importantly, himself.

Sounds a heck of a lot like the Sorcerer to me; someone gathering the knowledge and power to rule the world around them, and to achieve whatever it is they want. But, having power is one thing. Having the courage to use it well is something else.

Where I felt that the metaphors started to become stronger is with the virtue of Temperance. After all, once the Sorcerer has the power to get everything they desire, the first thing they have to determine is what they desire!

Turning to the wisdom of Seneca we get these words.

“You ask what is the proper limit to a person’s wealth? First, having what is essential, and second, having what is enough.”

The Sorcerer may have all the power and control, but they may not yet have direction. Turning inward and tempering that power is the job of the Oracle. 

With the Oracle, suddenly mysteries are revealed. We begin to understand ourselves and what we want.  We begin to see others around us, and understand them on an even deeper level. 

We then see that we have the power to create a better world, not just for ourselves, but for others. Recall Justice and The Trickster?  Maybe it’s time to take some of that Sorcerer’s power and teach some lessons. Add a dash of Oracular Temperance and you’ll soon learn enough about yourself to understand the kinds of lessons you not only want to teach, but are best suited to teach.

For those of us who are thinking about making our performances more meaningful, isn’t this exactly where we want to be—using all that knowledge, all those skills, and all that “power”, to connect, communicate, and ultimately teach with your magic?

And now here we are, teaching. We have crossed into the realm of the Sage who is best characterized by Wisdom. For The Stoics, the course of Wisdom was to recognize the things we can control, and understand the difference between them and the things that we cannot control. Once they knew that, choosing the right actions, the right lessons, and the right way to be, became easy.

Through the archetypes of The magician, and maybe with some help from The Four Stoic Virtues, we’ve found ourselves in a place where we have a deeper wisdom, not just about the magic, but about the journey.

What we also have found ourselves with is a certain responsibility—a responsibility to take all that we’ve learned from what came before, and share it with “the tribe”. Our community grows stronger by virtue of the Sages among us who take the time to do more than say “see, this is how this is done,” but also say “this is why this is done.”

The word ‘philosophy,’ derived from the Greek ‘philo’ (love) and ‘sophia’ (wisdom), is literally defined as “the love of wisdom.”  What makes philosophy fun, in my opinion, is to take disparate ideas and bring them together to see what happens. My ever-growing love of The Stoics brought me here to a place where I could bring their ideas and our school’s ideas of The Archetypes together, to see what happens.

For me, this is what happened, and I hope that it sparks some deeper ideas in you as well.

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