The Hanged Man has one main central meaning regarding the events or facets of spiritual life. It represents the understanding of our non-authoship. It is the realization that the ego as an author of experience is non-existent. The mover of the universe is not personal, never was and never will be. The person as an author of experience is a figment of imagination.
How is this depicted on the Tarot card?
He is suspended by wands growing from the ground. Wands is the symbol of action, which shows that the acting power is not his. Any action that he performs in life is 100% dependent on the World. The universe moves, we move; and us, being part of the universe, when we move the universe moves, as one whole. In the words of the Buddha: “Deeds are done but there is no doer thereof” and that is understood. That is the main spiritual meaning of the hanged-man.
This realization is a major change in perspective in our view of life and ourselves, symbolized by him being upside-down. Things and we are not what we thought them/us to be. As the Eastern saying goes: “mountains are no longer mountains and rivers are no longer rivers”, all is consciousness, and I am That.
Near the point where he is tied to the top beam we see an open circle with three lines in it. That represents the three fundamental facets of our True Nature: love, truth and beauty, which the Hanged Man has now had a deep taste of. For lack of proper words to describe the experience: “the Self is now known”.
He is now hooked; from now on he wants to go back to that peace. In some traditional teachings the three fundamental facets are referred to “the holy trinity” or some other description of a unified experience of three fundamental qualities of manifested reality. In some traditions the triangle (3) is a symbol of the point of union between man and god. That is the experience the Hanged Man has now had: he has perceived his union with God, more specifically, he has realized that God and Him are not two, or separate.
The circle in the arcanum is incomplete however: this is only an insight into the trinity, it is not a living reality for the Hanged Man. The psyche and its habits of ignorance close the doors to this most sublime realization. A new approach must be taken. The circle is completed only in The World.
The symbol of “love, truth and beauty” is found in various of these cards (three dots, for example) indicating the eternal underlying presence of those qualities in any of our experiences and states. The complete circle is depicted near the Fool’s foot pointing at the fact that this journey ends where it started. (A tiny triangle can be seen by the Hanged Man’s heel which could be interpreted in the same way.)
Some authors refer to the hanged man as the dissolution of the ego. That is not correct. If the Hanged Man represented the dissolution of the ego there would be no need for the following cards in the Major Arcana because the dissolution of the ego is Self-realization and thus is the end of the spiritual path and the end of all of its attending psychological suffering which necessitated a path to start with.
The Hanged Man is the beginning of the end of the spiritual path. The event of the total the dissolution of the ego is represented by The Judgement while The World points to the True Self itself. The hanged man is an insight into The World; into our true “One Without a Second” nature expressed primarily as three: love, truth and beauty.
The hanged man is the archetype describing the first time the realization of our true self takes place in a sufficient depth to cause a lasting impact on the psyche. It is the first true moment of enlightenment. This event will have ongoing repercussions in the spiritual seeker’s life. It opens a crack of light in the mind which will never close again.