From the perspective of Self-Knowledge, and Self-Knowledge being the goal of the spiritual path, the Hanged Man has one main central meaning: 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.
Spiritually, the Hanged Man embodies the understanding expressed in the Christian tradition as: “Thy Will be Done”. There is no individual personal will in reality, only God’s will. And there is no separation between Self and God.
How is this depicted on the Tarot card?
He is suspended supported 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 a power broader than the individual, 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 deepest 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. The Hanged Man has now perceived his union with God, more specifically, he has realized that God and Him are not two, or separate. Every knowledge, belief or mystery pale next to that direct Experience and Understanding. The Self is now known.
The small open 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 arcana (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.
Some authors refer to the hanged man as the dissolution of the ego. That is simply 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 an insight; a very significant one. It is the beginning of the end of the spiritual path because now we have been given a direct insight into the end of the 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 state of being who we are in the absence of what we have imagined ourselves to be. 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.