The Story Of Mickey Magic
with Caroline Myss, Ph.D – 2001
Reprinted with permission from “Sacred Contracts” by Caroline Myss, Ph.D.
Sometime after I met and cast the Archetypal Wheel for Mickey Magic, the person with whom I’ll conclude this chapter, I came across a story that bears a remarkable parallel to his life. Perhaps it’s worth mentioning here if only as evidence that an incredible story like Mickey’s is neither inconceivable nor unprecedented.
In eleventh- and twelfth-century Tibet, some three hundred years after Buddhism was originally brought to that mountain kingdom by a master teacher and magician from India called Padma Sarnbhava, the man known as Milarepa was born into a prosperous family. He was apparently destined for a comfortable and conventional life, but when he was seven years old, his father became gravely ill. Realizing that he would not recover, the patriarch gathered his family for a last meeting. After getting his relatives to promise that they would take care of his estate until Milarepa and his sister came of age, he died. An evil aunt and uncle nonetheless took the money and land entrusted to them and used it for themselves, forcing Milarepa, his sister, and his mother to work as servants. Their relatives treated them badly and often beat them.
At his mother’s urging Milarepa mastered black magic, studying with a lama skilled in the art of mantra and learning to cast spells that gave him the power to send hailstorms. He then used this power to direct a storm at the house where the evil aunt and uncle were holding a large family gathering. The house collapsed, and thirty-five people were killed; the hailstorm also descended on the village and destroyed the harvest. Milarepa’s mother was delighted with his magical feats, but Milarepa himself was torn by pangs of conscience at having caused so much death and destruction. Fearing that the only result of his action would be rebirth in a realm of Hell for him and his mother, he determined to counteract his negative acts by becoming a buddha. Milarepa spent long years in an excruciating course of study and practice with the great Tibetan Buddhist master Marpa. With the same determination and skill that had made him a master of black magic, Milarepa went on to become the greatest yogi in the history of Tibet.
In recognition of Milarepa’s reversal of fortune, Marpa gave him a new name: the Gentleman of Great Magic. The parallels between this legend, which is accepted as gospel truth by millions of Buddhists around the world, and Mickey’s life will become clear.
I first met Mickey at a workshop in Mexico, where he had been imprisoned some twenty years earlier on drug-smuggling charges. He had since turned his life around and become a successful professional magician. In addition to the Prostitute, Victim, Saboteur, and Wounded Child, Mickey’s archetypal companions include the Magician, Rebel, Thief (Robin Hood), Knight, Storyteller, Actor, Hermit, and Healer After working with him for some time, I found it difficult to separate the combined forces of Mickey’s archetypes because they work so closely as a team. Mickey first met almost every one of his archetypal patterns in its shadow presentation, only to have the spiritual aspects of all of them appear to him in a single epiphany while he was being beaten in prison. Rather than examine each archetype/house pairing separately as I have done with Maeve and Byron, I’ll just tell Mickey’s story.
As a child growing up in Chicago, Mickey had been constantly abused by his father, who beat him regularly until he bled. Mickey interpreted the presence of his Wounded Child archetype in the tenth house as indicating that, given the severe and emotionally toxic environment of his youth, his psyche was almost completely formed by wounds. That this archetype represented his highest potential was an almost perfect spiritual alignment, because Mickey is now dedicated to helping “wounded children” with his magic, teaching them above all else that hope and self-esteem are two of the highest forms of divine magic ever provided by the heavens.
To survive his brutal childhood, Mickey left home after his family moved to the West Coast, and by age nineteen he had become deeply enmeshed in the drug culture of Santa Cruz. When Mickey speaks about his life from this point onward, he uses two primary voices: the Thief and the Magician/Trickster. Mickey’s Thief archetype landed in the first house representing his persona, and given that he had carved out his identity as both a drug dealer and a Magician at an early age, the Thief as the archetype representing his ego could not be more accurate.
As for the Magician/Trickster, which landed in his house of spirituality, Mickey developed his remarkable talent and immediately used its shadow aspect for tricks that served his drug-trafficking occupation. Eventually, however; the Magician in him became his strongest spiritual guide, inspiring his own transformation and leading to his dedication to working with magic to entertain children as well as to inspire hope in children who need healing.
His parents drank and smoked, but Mickey instead became a habitual user of marijuana and occasionally of cocaine. “I didn’t want to be addicts like them,” he joked. “I needed to find an addiction of my own.” As he was working his way into the drug culture, he met a locally famous magician and clown named Hocus Pocus (Carl Hansen), who had his own TV program on a local station. Mickey first heard the distinctive Danish-accented voice of Hocus Pocus as he was doing impromptu magic ticks for kids on the street. Mickey figured out the sleights-of-hand, practiced them in front of a mirror until he got them right, and then approached Hocus Pocus to show him what he had figured out. The magician was impressed by Mickey’s skill and enthusiasm-and by his tact in not revealing his knowledge in public-and took him on as an apprentice magician for the next five years.
At the same time he was learning to be a professional magician, Mickey was also apprenticing as a drug smuggler and thief. Beginning as a “stateside” dealer working mainly to support his own daily habit, he graduated to working on the Mexican side so that he would be able to oversee the planting and harvesting of the prime marijuana crop.
In this endeavor Mickey’s shadow Magician archetype became his greatest ally along with his Prostitute, aligned to his fifth house. One aspect of life that is ruled by the fifth house is creativity, not to mention luck. For Mickey and his occupation, both were essential. In the small mountain villages of Oaxaca where the best marijuana crops were grown, none of the locals had ever seen a magician, and they took his mystifying feats for the work of a brujo, as the local shaman or wizard was known. Mickey’s sleight-of-hand amazed both the children and the adults in the community, and in return they helped him and his drug crew form a network to acquire the best drugs and learn the best routes for moving them out of the country. He sold his talent, a common manifestation of the Prostitute archetype.
The ironic part of Mickey’s Magician life was that the locals, who assumed that he was an American shaman, believed that he also had the ability to heal. “Suddenly these people were bringing their sick family members to me,” he said. “I didn’t know what to do, but I couldn’t afford to make these people angry by turning them away. My partners told me to do what those TV evangelists do-just lay your hands on them. So I did, and then these people started healing! I couldn’t figure it out, but I just kept doing it. I think it was some sort of rehearsal for what I’m doing now. Mickey’s Healer archetype rests in hi twelfth house, which rules the unconscious. The last gift Mickey would ever have identified during this time in his life was a healing ability, since he knew he was a user of people as well as substances. Yet underneath his rebellious drug-culture psyche was a spirit in the process of maturation. In spite of the choices he made, his shadow Magician, Wounded Child, Victim, and all of the rest of his companions remained on the course of his mission.
In his late twenties Mickey was busted for drug running and put into a Mexican prison. During the three years he was incarcerated, he turned to prayer for comfort and began practicing yoga. In this setting Mickey encountered the Hermit within him, the archetype that rules his second house, life values. Having spent much of his time alone during his years of incarceration, he now comments, “I was never alone before, and at first it bothered me. But then I got used to it, and because I was alone, I had time to think. I prayed a lot, and I know this is going to sound weird, but I became a vegetarian. In Mexican prisons people buy their food. It’s not like here.” The food served by the state was so poor that Mickey threw in with some vegetarian inmates who grew their own produce in the prison yards. “I decided to change my diet,” he said. “My values about everything changed while I was in prison.”
When Mickey described these three years, I could not help but think of Saint John of the Cross, who wrote some of his most exquisite sacred poetry during his incarceration by Church officials in a prison in Toledo, Spain. Mickey was in a spiritual sanctuary, symbolically speaking, and in keeping with the true power of such places (regardless of their location-prison or paradise), he entered into a process of spiritual transformation. Eventually his spiritual life would become what he valued the most.
In prison the local guards were intrigued with his magical abilities and would make him perform tricks on demand, sometimes waking him up in the middle of the night with the butt end of a rifle. “Brujo! Truco!” they called, demanding the wizard perform a trick. Mickey’s natural Trickster nature inspired him to make an arrangement with a fellow inmate to assist him in performing a bizarre bit of legerdemain that he hoped would scare the superstitious guards for good. It was 1971, and this particular inmate, who was clearly ahead of his time, had his penis pierced through the foreskin with a safety pin. The next time the guards demanded Mickey do some magic for them, he alerted his companion, then showed the guards a safety pin, which he put in his hand and made disappear. At that moment, cued by a signal from Mickey, his accomplice began to scream wildly at the other end of the large common cell where they were housed. When the guards rushed over to see what was the matter, the man pulled down his pants to reveal the safety pin penetrating his penis. “They ran like hell when they saw that,” Mickey said. And they never bothered him again.
But the guards were the least of Mickey’s problems. As one of only fourteen American prisoners, he had to fight for survival among the 3,500 other inmates, most of whom belonged to gangs. “They were always after us, trying to get us in fights or something,” he said. “I mean, they hated us guys. It’s easy to feel like a victim, because I was a victim.” Not surprisingly, Mickey’s Victim archetype in his sixth house completely manifested in his occupation, because it was precisely his occupation that had put him into prison. During his third year in prison a riot broke out that proved to be the largest Mexican prison riot of the time.
I saw people being killed all around me, Mickey said. “I saw people being beaten to death and burned alive.” After the week-long riot was quelled, Mickey and the Americans were transferred to another prison, where they planned an escape that included a promise that, if caught, they would tell the guards that everyone else had gone to rendezvous in Puerto Vallarta.
The escape was scheduled for Cinco de Mayo, the celebration of a nineteenth-century Mexican military victory that falls on the fifth of May. Mickey was the last to leave on the escape route-and the first to get caught. He was taken to a room in the prison, where he was beaten. Any guards who allowed prisoners to escape would be forced to serve out their remaining sentences, which may have motivated Mickey’s interrogators all the more to beat the truth out of him. As Mickey put it, “If they didn’t find these guys, it would be their asses on the line.” They forced him to sit naked in a chair, where he was beaten until several of his ribs were broken and one rib protruded from his skin. They hit him with cattle whips and burned him with cattle prods. After holding out long enough to make his confession credible, Mickey told them that the escapees had headed for Puerto Vallarta as agreed The guards dispatched a troop of their own men to capture them.
“I was left sitting in that chair, when all of a sudden,” said Mickey, “I was filled wit a burst of compassion for these guards. I could relate to the fear I saw in their faces. It reminded me of my childhood and my fear of my father. Up till then I hated the Mexican people. I had met some nice individuals, but I despised them as a nation. Yet suddenly all I felt for them was love and compassion. I forgave each one of those guards while I was sitting totally naked and bleeding half to death in that Mexican prison.”
Meanwhile, however, another American was caught, and under interrogation he told the officials the actual meeting place of all of the escapees. The guards now knew that Mickey had lied, and they were furious at having sent a large number of men on a wild-goose chase. “This time I could feel a red-hot aura coming into the room before the door even opened.” Up to this point they still had not hit him in the face, but now they started to pistol-whip him. They filled a bucket full of water and put his feet in it so that they could run an electric wire through it and send an excruciating shock through his entire system. After three attempts Mickey could no longer fight back, and he passed out. In that instant Mickey had a near-death experience. “I went through a tunnel and into this beautiful light,” he said. “I was greeted by an angel, but he didn’t look like an angel-he didn’t have any wings or anything. He hugged me and said it was good to see me again. Then I heard cheering in the tunnel, and I realized that somehow other souls who could not get there by themselves were able to come with me into this light. Next I was walking along a river, and other people were walking on the other side. The river was very deep, but I could see the bottom, and the sky was absolutely beautiful. All of the flowers and the grass were illuminated. Everything glowed. Then one woman came up to me and touched my cheek. Although she looked my age, I realized that she was my grandmother. I passed a man who looked at me with a warm smile, and I knew that he was my brother who had died at birth.”
Finding himself in a building with high ceilings, Mickey realized that the spectral figure walking with him was the same being who had come to him when he was in the hospital for a year at age six. “The doctors thought I was going to die then,” he recalled, “but this guy was always in the room with me, and he would come over and put his hand on my heart and head, comforting me. He told me that everything was going to be all right. Now he was telling me that I had to go back because I had not yet completed my mission”.
Mickey didn’t want to go back and explained that the guards were only going to kill him anyway. But the angel told Mickey that he had “protection” and would make it through. “The next thing I remember, I was in my body lying in a pool of blood,” he said. “The two guards were arguing over who had killed me, because neither of them wanted to be blamed for this. My first thought was that we looked like the Three Stooges, which made me start laughing. That let them know I was alive. They dragged me into a cell and threw me against a concrete wall, which knocked me out. Next thing I knew, my face was being washed off by the other American they had caught, who asked me why I was covered with so much blood. As I started to describe how they had beaten the hell out of me, I suddenly realized that all the bruises were gone, even the fractured rib that had been coming out of my gut. I didn’t have a wound left.” When the American prisoner heard this, he advised Mickey never to tell anyone about the experience, because they would think he was crazy. “I was in such a suggestible state that I did effectively conceal what had happened for many years, letting it manifest only in my dreams.”
“The Saboteur was still strong in me, though,” Mickey acknowledged. “Even after leaving prison, I kept smoking dope and using cocaine, because I wanted to get as far away from my thoughts as I could.” Yet at the same time the Saboteur began to manifest in positive ways, leading him to read the kinds of books that would eventually open up other spiritual passageways for him-books on mysticism, nutrition, and healing. He also began to take care of himself physically, using the highest-quality vitamins available and starting a regimen of physical exercise. Even now, in his early fifties, Mickey roller blades seven miles a day, follows a rigorous diet, and looks remarkably fit for someone whose body has taken so much abuse.
After being released from the Mexican prison and returning to Santa Cruz in 1977, Mickey did not immediately listen to the inner warnings of the Saboteur. By 1984 however, he had stopped dealing drugs and had begun to get his life back on track, meeting a woman, starting a new relationship, and fathering a child. Then he received a call from a former friend and drug customer who begged Mickey to get him some pot to help him through a health crisis. Although Mickey felt something was wrong about the whole deal, he went along with it to help his friend. What he didn’t know was that his friend had been busted by narcotics agents and had offered to set up Mickey and another person in exchange for more lenient treatment for himself. The bust jeopardized not only Mickey’s new marriage and impending family but also his work and his newly established position in the community. “When this guy called me,” Mickey said, “I heard my intuition screaming not to do this, but I just didn’t listen.”
In keeping with many spiritual tests about power, just as Mickey began his emergence into his new sense of inner power (which manifests in many ways, including intuition), the former “power” force came to call as if it were a divine examination. Which power will you serve, he was being asked, the inner or the external? As if standing in two worlds and hearing two voices, Mickey confronted the instincts of his Saboteur rising within his psyche to protect him. Ironically, the Magician was betrayed by another person’s Trickster.
After unsuccessfully fighting his conviction, Mickey was confined to Soledad prison in California. While serving time there, he befriended the guards and worked toward a college degree. He also became involved in speaking to children who had run afoul of the law, telling them his life story to help them stay straight. “Instead of trying to frighten them, as in the Scared Straight program,” Mickey said, “we tried to touch their hearts and show how what they did would affect the people they loved.” His Actor and Storyteller archetypes were very effective in reaching the kids emotionally. “By the time I was finished telling my story, the whole audience would be crying. Even the guards, who had heard the story before, told me I would still get them crying.” Moved into minimum security, Mickey became part of the Soledad Clowns, organizing classes to teach magic to other inmates. He noted how refreshing it was to use his well-developed acting talent as a way of inspiring other people instead of as a way to manipulate them, his specialty in his drug days. Mickey’s Actor archetype ruled his eighth house, representing other people’s resources as well as legal matters. “I was great at manipulating other people to get them to do what I wanted. I guess you could say I used everyone’s resources to my best advantage. I still manipulate people-I trick them into seeing the best in themselves”.
Each archetype has a positive manifestation, and Mickey’s Thief underwent a transformation from its shadow aspect. In some ways he was a Robin Hood character who took from the rich and shared with the poor. “Even when I was a dealer,” he said, “I would take part of my earnings and drop an envelope full of money through the slot at the Salvation Army, or give money anonymously to somebody in the neighborhood who needed it. I didn’t believe in God at that time, but I had some sense that I had to do something to counteract the negative karma arising from my activities.” Even today when he is not engaged in any illegal activities and doesn’t make nearly as much money, he still donates much of his time to giving magic performances for kids.
The Knight archetype for Mickey landed in his eleventh house, his relationship to the world. His response to this partnership was a fitting summation of the union of all of his archetypal companions: “I’m a Knight to God. My whole thing is to give service to people and make them aware of the greatness of God. I’m not serving a Christian concept of God, but I start every day by thanking God and pledging my service to God for that day. “When I tell people my story, they sometimes say, ‘Boy, you have some karma coming to you.’ But I believe now that karma doesn’t happen to you; it happens for you. If you sincerely believe that God loves you, then you’re not a victim of anything anymore. It’s happening to open up opportunities for us to become more aligned with our higher purpose. I feel so loved that I don’t believe God is going to throw anything at me that won’t benefit me and help me grow. I feel like a kid waiting for Christmas to open up my gifts. It took a long time to get to that place, let me tell you. My theme song when I was in prison in Mexico was the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”.
A few years ago Mickey began a club called Magic Pack that entertains and teaches magic tricks to kids who are suffering from life-threatening illnesses. At the time his act was billed as Mickey’s Magic. His real name is Mickey Thurmon, but the kids kept calling him Mickey Magic, and the nickname stuck. “I was so honored to be named by these kids”, he said, “that I decided to keep the name and use it professionally”. Mickey Magic now divides his time between performing magic for kids, teaching magic, and working as a healer in the Santa Cruz Community. He has scaled down his lucrative home remodeling business to devote more time to magic and kids. Although he now earns less money, he couldn’t feel more fulfilled. “I’m rich that way”, he said in conclusion. “I’m a wealthy man. I was making a lot more money before, but I’m a hundred million time happier now”.
Mickey described his Sacred Contract in these words: “In this lifetime I am here to show people the magic of compassion. I learned this by needing to survive, and I do everything in my life with this intention in mind.”
© 2001 Caroline Myss, Ph.D.