The 4 Archetypes of Spiritual Awakening ~ Light & Shadow

Did you know that the Major Arcana of the Tarot provide a narrative map for your journey into awakening? Add this to the fact that the human brain is literally wired for story and you've got a very useful tool: For divination, and also for understanding where you are in your journey.

While this article isn't about using tarot as a tool for guidance, I do want to discuss four particular cards of the Major Arcana that highlight the dark side ~ and also the bright side ~ of the spiritual journey.

The 4 Archetypes of Spiritual Awakening ~ Light & Shadow

spiritual awakening archetype the foolThe Fool

The spiritual journey is much like the Hero's Journey, evident in every myth and story across all cultures. And so it inevitably begins with an incident that will throw you out of your comfort zone and into an alien, unfamiliar world.

That world, in this case, is the world of the spiritual or the esoteric.

Hence, we all enter that unknown dimension as The Fool.

However, the archetypal Fool is the Sacred Fool. Stepping into this archetype at the start of a journey means that you are encountering new beginnings with innocence and hopefully open-mindedness. Numbering 0 {Zero} in the Tarot, it is both the first and last card of the Major Arcana.

This is because there are two aspects to The Fool.

The First Aspect of the Fool {at the start of the journey}:

The Fool in its first aspect represents childlike trust, curiosity and a total oblivion or blindness to the abyss he is about to step off into. He speaks to our excitement and desire for new adventures and for awakening.

Yet his carefree nature and inappropriate dress {fashionable, rather than practical for his arduous hike} hint that perhaps he doesn't quite know what he's in for. His companion, a dog that could symbolize his intuition, is the only one here that is seemingly aware of impending danger and attempts to warn him {or is the dog gleefully leaping off as well?}.

The Final Aspect of the Fool {at the end of the journey}:

The higher truth expressed by the Fool archetype is that once the journey has been traversed, he has complete faith and trust in the Divine. At an ego level he has no need to fear any impending abyss or approaching ledge.

As A. E. Waite notes in his own explanation below, "it is as if angels were waiting to uphold him, if it came about that he leaped from the height."

When we allow ourselves to inhabit this powerful archetype during our own journey {it happens either way, but we can choose to embrace or resist it}, we accept that like a child, we will be ill-prepared and maybe even naive as we enter the new world of Spiritual Awakening. And that's okay.

However that childlike ability to embark on the journey anyway, and to bring curiosity and a thirst for adventure, is exactly what gets us through. And then our naivete will transform into divine faith earned from a deep knowing, which evolves as we traverse the next 3 archetypes...

Here is a description of The Fool, excerpted from the Rider Waite Tarot Deck:

"With light step, as if earth and its trammels had little power to restrain him, a young man in gorgeous vestments pauses at the brink of a precipice among the great heights of the world; he surveys the blue distance before him-its expanse of sky rather than the prospect below. His act of eager walking is still indicated, though he is stationary at the given moment; his dog is still bounding.

"The edge which opens on the depth has no terror; it is as if angels were waiting to uphold him, if it came about that he leaped from the height. His countenance is full of intelligence and expectant dream. He has a rose in one hand and in the other a costly wand, from which depends over his right shoulder a wallet curiously embroidered. He is a prince of the other world on his travels through this one-all amidst the morning glory, in the keen air. The sun, which shines behind him, knows whence he came, whither he is going, and how he will return by another path after many days. He is the spirit in search of experience."

~ A. E. Waite

spiritual awakening archetype the magicianThe Magician

Closely related to The Fool, the Magician is the more seasoned and serious manifestation. Both archetypes are also closely related to the Trickster.

Where the Fool bumbles toward the unknown, trusting in the Unknowable Mystery... the Magician seeks to master and utilize the Unknowable Mystery.

He aims to draw its secrets, knowledge and boons down from Heaven and into the earth {such as by bringing knowledge to other seekers and the planet at large}.

This archetype calls to the highest in us that seeks enlightenment, not just for ourselves, but so that we can serve and assist others in their awakening as well. The Magician also calls attention to the sacred truth that "As above, so below."

When we step into this archetype in our journey, we begin co-creating and participating with all the other cosmic and earthly forces, and we awaken to the desire to communicate that knowledge and experience to others. Within this archetype we pursue mastery of the new gifts, genius and sacred mysteries that we discover ~ all in service to Supreme Being and the Oneness that is.

However one must be careful not to become addicted or attached to the phenomena, knowledge or gifts the Magician archetype awakens. Such a trap will feel powerful in the moment, and even seem like proof of awakening to others... yet you cut yourself off from further awakening into the truth of your divine Self if the ego still identifies as the little self wielding divine power.

Here is a description of The Magician, excerpted from the Rider Waite Tarot Deck:

"A youthful figure in the robe of a magician, having the countenance of divine Apollo, with smile of confidence and shining eyes. Above his head is the mysterious sign of the Holy Spirit, the sign of life, like an endless cord, forming the figure 8 in a horizontal position. About his waist is a serpent-cincture, the serpent appearing to devour its own tail. This is familiar to most as a conventional symbol of eternity, but here it indicates more especially the eternity of attainment in the spirit. In the Magician's right hand is a wand raised towards heaven, while the left hand is pointing to the earth. This dual sign is known in very high grades of the Instituted Mysteries; it shews the descent of grace, virtue and light, drawn from things above and derived to things below. The suggestion throughout is therefore the possession and communication of the Powers and Gifts of the Spirit...

"This card signifies the divine motive in man, reflecting God, the will in the liberation of its union with that which is above. It is also the unity of individual being on all planes, and in a very high sense it is thought, in the fixation thereof. With further reference to what I have called the sign of life and its connexion with the number 8, it may be remembered that Christian Gnosticism speaks of rebirth in Christ as a change "unto the Ogdoad." The mystic number is termed Jerusalem above, the Land flowing with Milk and Honey, the Holy Spirit and the Land of the Lord. According to Martinism, 8 is the number of Christ."

~ A. E. Waite

spiritual awakening archetype the devilThe Devil

The entire origin of this article lies in the epiphany I had when researching this card and discovering:

The Devil is the exact shadow manifestation of the Magician archetype. {You see this in various similarities, such as the left arm raised to heaven, and the right arm pointing to the earth ~ As above, so below.

We cannot embody the Magician without eventually encountering the Devil. Not if we're doing it right! Though this card carries a lot of historical and religious context that would deem it evil or foreboding disaster, this is not an inherently wicked or evil archetype. Rather, it calls attention to the shadow side of awakening that is not meant to destroy or harm you.

The Devil of the Tarot is a great mirror for your ego attachments and ego consciousness. What attachments do you have that have bedeviled you? What obsessions or addictions might chain you?

You will also encounter the Devil archetype in your own spiritual journey when your shadow side begins to emerge for the purpose of cleansing, healing and reintegration.

It's important to note here that you can never {nor should you want to} destroy your shadow. It's also not inherently negative or bad. In fact some of your most noble aspects are hidden in your shadow. That's why we are more terrified of our own greatness than we are of our flaws.

When you work with this card and the Devil archetype, you invite the darkness to make itself known in your life. When you recognize that the darkness represents those places in you where you have forgotten that you are Light, you see that all you have to do is flip the switch. 🙂

Here is a description of The Devil, excerpted from the Rider Waite Tarot Deck:

"The Horned Goat of Mendes, with wings like those of a bat, is standing on an altar. At the pit of the stomach there is the sign of Mercury. The right hand is upraised and extended, being the reverse of that benediction which is given by the Hierophant in the fifth card. In the left hand there is a great flaming torch, inverted towards the earth. A reversed pentagram is on the forehead. There is a ring in front of the altar, from which two chains are carried to the necks of two figures, male and female. These are analogous with those of the fifth card, as if Adam and Eve after the Fall. Hereof is the chain and fatality of the material life."

~ A. E. Waite

spiritual awakening archetype deathDeath

Eventually, we must face Death itself: Without dying to our physical body and this physical realm.

This is the meaning behind the phrase "twice-born" to describe enlightened or awakened individuals. People who experience death before physically dying {such as through visions, out of body experiences, altered states and so forth} will ultimately experience a spiritual rebirth.

Rumi, in his poetry and discourses, particularly in the Mathnawi, captures this experience beautifully. He is drunk on his love for the Beloved, yet he acknowledges how his Beloved ~ the Divine Beloved ~ rips him apart at the seams. He says that the terrible suffering he must face as the Beloved strips from him his ego is more grace-filled and more lovely than the sweetest pleasures of the illusion.

Just because this experience of Death isn't physical {or seemingly final} doesn't make it any less harrowing to experience. What dies is the part of us that identifies with ego {the ego itself doesn't die, but rather enters into a more balanced service to the Essential Self}... and unfortunately MOST of who we are identifies as ego!

But do not fear: even as this is a necessary experience each of us encounters {often repeatedly, in phases} on our journey of awakening, you are never given more than you can handle. And God is never late. :} Trust in the process.

Here is a description of The Devil, excerpted from the Rider Waite Tarot Deck:

"The veil or mask of life is perpetuated in change, transformation and passage from lower to higher, and this is more fitly represented in the rectified Tarot by one of the apocalyptic visions than by the crude notion of the reaping skeleton. Behind it lies the whole world of ascent in the spirit. The mysterious horseman moves slowly, bearing a black banner emblazoned with the Mystic Rose, which signifies life. Between two pillars on the verge of the horizon there shines the sun of immortality. The horseman carries no visible weapon, but king and child and maiden fall before him, while a prelate with clasped hands awaits his end.

"There should be no need to point out that the suggestion of death which I have made in connection with the previous card is, of course, to be understood mystically, but this is not [necessarily] the case in the present instance. The natural transit of man to the next stage of his being either is or may be one form of his progress, but the exotic and almost unknown entrance, while still in this life, into the state of mystical death is a change in the form of consciousness and the passage into a state to which ordinary death is neither the path nor gate. The existing occult explanations of the 13th card are, on the whole, better than usual, rebirth, creation, destination, renewal, and the rest."

~ A. E. Waite

If you wish to delve deeper into the Tarot, primarily A. E. Waite's tarot deck and accompanying explanations, we pulled the above excerpts from The Pictorial Key to the Tarot, available free online.

You can also check out this video on the History of Tarot...

Top image credit: Jessica

Hey. I’m Jaime.

I’m a clairvoyant energy healer, initiated shaman in the Q’ero Andean tradition, and teacher of manifestation and spiritual transformation since 2009.

I’m here to live a magical life, and to help you do the same. Let’s make it awesome.

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