The Magus represents the step from dependence (passivity) to self-awareness (action). All the outside forces which try to shape us into their image or make us dependent and comfortable bury the inner or true will under layers of confusion and disorientation. To awake the Magus within oneself the net of layers must be ripped off to see clearly, even if it is just for a moment. Only then we can reshape our routines and cycles to a better outcome. In this context the phoenix would be a similar symbol.
At the bottom of the card you can find the square layers of matter/routine/structure. In the middle of these layers you can see the skull of an ape. Obviously the layers need to be dissolved and transcended to evolve within oneself. While the ape’s skull symbolizes the discarded shell, the meditating person in the middle represents this process of evolving. The ascending forces which are active in this archetype are symbolized twice – first in the chakras of the meditating person and second – and more obviously – in the rising serpents which are a direct reference to Mercury and the Kundalini.
Focus is the keyword of the Magus. While „0 – The Fool“ can never be constant, „The Magus“ concentrates his will through practical actions. „The Fool“ is the archetype of the raw shape or initiation of an idea while the magus transcends this shape into a concrete form.
The Magus itself holds his arms in an „as above so below“-position while being the centre of the elements within a pentagram. He is the connection between any two realms/dimensions or ideas (= vertical balance). The symbol of Akasha/the egg is above his head and again represents the crown chakra. The winged disk and the lotus are both a mercurial symbol and a depiction of the victorious Horus/child or of the unfolding idea.
The pentagram not only means that this archetype has mastered the elements, but also that he uses them in an active, inventive way so that they can manifest (the way from will to physical manifestation – together with the fool 0→1). While a mystic or a medium is driven by the forces, the Magus represents the active conductor. He balances his position on a very tiny point – not only a symbol for concentration but also for his airy/mercurial nature. The rays below are another reference to dissolving structures in the upper part.