The Emperor can represent self-discipline, and the ability to create boundaries and maintain them. He is also connected to the idea of doing something, possibly difficult, ‘for your own good’ or for the good of someone else; he can give us the strength and conviction to take a stand, and not back down when things get difficult.
Respect is an important element of The Emperor’s meaning in divination. He can help us to demand it, and to wear our own personal battle armor beneath a seemingly softer outer shell when it’s necessary. He can also represent authority figures, and fathers in general, and the structure and security that order offers. He invites us, too, to fully realize our own potential for mastery: whether that is over a challenge, a problem, or a situation, and to free ourselves of any limiting self-beliefs we may hold.
When the Emperor comes out of the deck on his head, his self-disciplined, authoritative, strong nature has often slid into an overbearing, dominant, inflexible attitude, in which he is unwilling to contemplate any other view than his own.
The Emperor reversed warns us to remember that the power of this card derives from service: The Emperor needs to serve, care for, and respect the people of his realm just as he demands these things from his subjects. We must be mindful of arrogance, and of the need to, occasionally, remove our armor, and allow ourselves to be vulnerable.
The Emperor is not just the mirror image of The Empress: he is her equal and partner. The masculine elements that he symbolizes, when fused with the archetypal feminine energy of The Empress, can, when balanced, create a joyous and harmonious whole.