King, warrior, magician, lover; four archetypes of mature masculinity

When it comes to archetypes, there are countless of different ideas, theories, and attempts at describing the world. Archetypes is the major aspect of Jungian theory, a shared pattern that lies in our subconscious. A pattern that looks the same regardless of who you are. It is in this tradition that Robert L. Moore and Douglas Gilette wrote their book King, Warrior, Magician, Lover, where they explore the idea of masculinity through four different archetypes, each with shadows of their own, and a younger, immature version from which it grows.

Boy psychology and man psychology

The authors start by pointing out a difference between boy psychology and man psychology. In a boy, there are four active archetypes, coming into play at different stages during the child’s development. They are, although different, connected to the archetypes in the mature man and, just as the latter, have a mature or a healthy aspect, and two shadows. Normally, we grow out of the boy archetypes and into those of the mature man. But as we will see later, it’s not quite as simple. Even though the growth occurs, the boy archetypes have their place even in a mature man.

The divine child

The divine child is chronologically the first archetype. It’s the first and the most primal archetype, present in everyone from the time we are born. The divine child is helpless and incapable of anything by themselves, but are still the center of the world. While the divine child is destined for greatness, he can’t take care of himself. He needs the support and the protection of people around him, to give him the opportunity to, later in life, shine. The divine child has two shadow poles; one overactive “high chair tyrant” and one passive “weakling prince”. The high chair tyrant brings the nature of the divine child to the extreme, and expects constant attention out of everyone around him. Nothing is ever good enough, and everything is supposed to be in service of them and their needs. They’re the divine child, right? The other pole is the weakling prince, the complete opposite of the high chair tyrant. Instead of having clear and distinct opinions on everything, the weakling prince seems to lack a will to life altogether. He can’t take initiative by himself, and has to be pushed for every single thing.

The divine child, as is the case with all archetypes, isn’t a bad thing in itself though, or even as present in adult life. While we’re supposed to eventually grow into the King archetype, the divine child still plays an essential role in our psyche, regardless of our age. It’s always representing rebirth and the start of something new. There is a creativity and a playfulness in the divine child, something that should never be lost. The trick, the secret if you will, is not to be stuck in the divine child, but to reach for him. Or to quote the authors, “we need to acknowledge him, but not identify with him”.

The precious child

The precious child is the second stage. It’s a child of intense curiosity and energy, that is always eager to learn. I say “a child of”, but it’s important to note that this is an archetype present in all of us, and not just a few children, as archetypes aren’t personality types, but universal patterns. This is the child starting to come to terms with and learning about the world, curious to know why, how, and what, about everything. The active shadow of the precious child is known as the “know-it-all trickster”, and the passive pole as the “dummy”. The know-it-all trickster doesn’t use the curiosity of the precious child to learn. Instead, he puts himself on a pedestal because of his knowledge, and uses this to push other people down. The dummy instead lacks humor, creativity, and vitality. He is a pale shadow of the curiosity and life of the precious child, seeming, sometimes consciously, slow and behind.

Later on in life, as we grow older and mature, we still need access to the precious child. Just as with the divine child, it’s important that it’s not something we put our identity in, but rather something we can draw on when needed. It’s important for the kind of childlike creativity and wonder, for a curiosity that often seem to leave us as we grow older. It often seem to leave us, even though that’s not the best lane forward. We need to access it, even if we shouldn’t be it.

The oedipal child

The oedipal child is when the boy first gets in touch with the feminine. At this stage, the boy is strongly tied to the mother. Not the physical mother, although that is likely to be true as well. The boy is strongly tied to the archetypal mother, and experiences a contentedness to the world around him. It is also, through the first connection to the feminine and the connectedness, a first connection with the spiritual. Looking beyond. But, at this stage, it is still largely tied to the archetypally feminine. The two shadows are the “mama’s boy” and the “dreamer”. Starting with the mama’s boy, this is someone that takes the name “oedipal child” and its tie to the (archetypal) mother far too literally. He also searches for the perfect feminine, the image of a goddess, in real women, including and maybe most clearly his mother. This creates unrealistic expectations of women everywhere, since they are “merely” human and cannot live up to the expectation of an actual goddess. He seeks to experience and express his masculinity, in relation to the feminine, but cannot do so since he expects nothing but divine. The second shadow, the passive pole of the oedipal child, is the dreamer. Where the mama’s boy is hyper-active, the dreamer lacks all of this. He is passive and have a hard time forming human relationships, and tend to be stuck in melancholic dreams.

For what do we need the oedipal child, when we’ve grown up and moved away from it? Just as with the other boy archetypes, there’s a sort of positive naivety about him. There’s a wondrous relationship to the world, one that we should keep access to later on in life as well.

The Hero

The Hero is a sort of unique archetype. When we think of the Hero and the Hero’s journey, we see it as an ideal. As the goal to strive towards. But, it is still a boy archetype. The last of them, chronologically, and the one that works as a transition from boy psychology, and where we start moving into that of the mature (or towards mature) man. The Hero is in himself a boyish, proud, and limited, younger version of the Warrior archetype, which we will get to later. The Hero is admirable, and powerful. Something we should keep access to later on in life as well. But let’s start with the shadows; the “grandstander bully” and the “coward”. The grandstander bully is the teenager that tries to be macho. They take unnecessary risks, all to feel and be seen as powerful and capable. He is hot headed, and has a complete disregard for his own limits, as long as what he attempts will bring him glory. A prime example of the hero archetype is Achilles, who chose to die a young but glorious death. To die a hero, rather than to live. Another important aspect of the hero archetype is its relationship to the feminine. In stories about the hero, a woman to be saved is often involved in one way or another. But in the end of the story, after the battle is won and the hero has united with the woman, we never hear what happens. It’s not because the story ends, it’s because the hero is incapable of a life beyond the battle. The cowards on the other hand, isn’t just incapable of a life beyond the battle; he is also incapable of the battle itself. He shies away from combat (whether physical or mental), and lets other people walk over him as they wish.

Does this make the hero seem like a negative archetype, like a shadow in itself? I hope not. The hero is immensely powerful, and should be valued in its own right. Not because it’s a “complete” archetype, or the archetype towards which we should be aspiring, but because it’s an essential part of our journey. It is the transition between boy psychology, and to move forwards. In many stories about the hero, he dies. In fighting the battle of his life, he sees what he is capable of. He sees darkness, in himself and around him, and he gets burned by the dragon. But in one way or another, he comes out stronger. Aware of his limitations. No longer the naive hero.

The warrior

The warrior is, although not necessarily the first if we look at it chronologically, the archetype that the hero evolves into. Where the hero is unaware of his own limits and fights for himself and his own glory, the warrior fights for a cause bigger than himself; whether it’s about duty to king and country, or loyalty to someone else.

The warrior is a man of action. A developed warrior archetype makes us take action to move things forward, to make things happen. But the warrior isn’t just a person with physical capabilities, to move forward and make things happen. It’s also someone with the mind fully engaged in the game. Looking at major warrior cultures throughout history; the European medieval knights, the samurai, and the warriors of Sparta, a superior fighting skill isn’t the only thing that unites them. Their mentality and their honor is of as much importance, and their mind has to be on par with their physical skills. The warrior archetype brings discipline and awareness, both of self and the surroundings. Like Sun Tzu said, you need to know yourself, your enemy, and the terrain around you, to be sure to win a battle. It’s important to, unlike the hero, be able to discern when the enemy is too powerful, when you need to momentarily retreat and bring in help. This, the warrior can do. He is not a maniac when it comes to violence. It’s merely something he is comfortable with, and capable of.

The warrior, just as the boy archetypes, has an active and a passive shadow. Where in itself, the warrior is a powerful, useful, and essential archetype, things aren’t always happy and fun. Beyond an inability to develop the warrior archetype still live through the hero, long after development should’ve happened, we can fall into one of its two shadows; the sadist and the masochist.

The sadist is the active shadow of the warrior. He, more than anything, detests weakness, both in himself and in others (weakness can easily be seen in him, if we look beneath the sadistic and “powerful” surface he projects). Because of this, he is harsh towards other people, often running his family with a rigid, military grade discipline. While the warrior takes on the role of protecting those that are weaker than himself, the warrior feels a distaste for them. He has a strong reaction towards anything that is nice and “weak”, and feels the need to be hard and unforgiving. In terms of raw destruction, this archetype is the most powerful. Constructive destruction is one thing, and that’s an aspect of a healthy warrior. Destruction for the sake of destruction, for sadism, is another one entirely, and one that we find in the sadist.

The masochist is in many ways similar to the coward: the passive shadow of the hero. Instead of, like the masochist, expressing what could be described as too much of the warrior energy (in a bad, unhealthy way), the masochist expresses nothing of it, and projects the warrior energy unto other people. Through this, the man puts himself, as he expresses nothing of this energy, in deficit compared to other people, and sees himself capable of nothing. Instead of putting up healthy boundaries, as the warrior would, he lets other people push him around until it gets too much, until he can take it no more, and then bursts out, expressing the sadist at his worst.

Despite the shadows, despite the destruction the warrior is capable, it is an essential archetype. Actions needs to be taken. Causes needs to be fought. And for this, we need the warrior. We need the capacity for violence and for aggressive and immediate action. But we need it to be healthy, and we need it to stand in relationship with the other archetypes in us.

The magician

When we hear “the magician”, it’s easy for our mind to directly go to one of the entertainers on TV, showing us “magic tricks” in exchange for cash. The archetype that we call the magician is not an act or something done to entertain. The name isn’t chosen out of the blue though: the magician, just as the archetype, has a type of knowledge that isn’t common among people in general. The magician is aware of a secret, whether it’s in the sphere of technology or in seeing what lies beyond the surface. While the precious child asks questions and wants to learn about everything, the magician has learned, and is already “in the know”. The best image for this archetype might be that of a medicine man, knowing hidden secrets both in medicine and in spirituality, teaching and showing the knowledge they have to their apprentice, while using it for the best of the tribe. As for the shadows, we have the manipulator and the innocent one.

The manipulator, as with all the shadows, share the general nature of the archetype, but twists it. Here, the manipulator is just as aware of what goes on behind the scenes as the healthy magician is, but chooses to use this not to teach and guide other people, but to pull their strings, to control them and the way they act, for his own gain. The manipulator creates a distance between himself and the people that, in the case of the magician, would be his students. Instead of guiding them and teaching them, he reinforces the distance between them. He is the one that sits on the secret knowledge, and they don’t. He wants to create an implicit air of superiority about him for this reason, to feel good about himself.

The innocent one wants the status and the recognition that the healthy magician, but also the manipulator in a sense, has. Rightfully received in the magician, the innocent one craves it, but doesn’t want to do the work that it takes to get there. Instead of learning and studying the secret knowledge, instead of humbling himself before a teacher that can show him the workings of the world, he cares only about knowing enough so that he can pretend. He is envious and jealous of magicians and their recognition, and feel the need to achieve this for themselves, the easiest way possible. It, essentially, creates a fraud.

The magician allows us to see into what lies beneath the surface. It allows us secret knowledge, that we can use to teach the new generation. Where the warrior is about action, the magician is about knowledge. Just as action and violence is for the warrior though, knowledge is for the magician. He knows when and how to apply it for best effect, and does it to help not only himself, but other people as well.

The lover

In The Symposium, a short dialogue on the nature of love by Plato, a man called Diotima takes his turn, and describes what has later become known as the “ladder of love”. At first, we fall in love with a particular body; a desire for physical beauty. Then, we realize that they share features with other bodies, we become enamored by bodies in general. After that, we learn that bodies in themselves aren’t enough, and move towards appreciating the beauty of a soul. After the soul, laws and institutions, as they are made by beautiful souls, which then in turn leads to an appreciation for knowledge of each kind. It is after this that the lover turns to the highest form of love. Beauty and love itself. Before this, we love what is beautiful. At this stage, we love that which is beauty.

The lover isn’t sexual in its nature. At least, that is not its sole or main purpose. The last stage of the ladder of love that Plato goes through is at large defining what the lover archetype is about. He has a love for life. The lover is closely tied to libido and eros. That is, libido in the Jungian sense, where it’s not merely about sex drive, but about life force. The lover, more than anything, has an aptitude and a passion for life. He sees the wonder around him, just like the oedipal child, his boy counterpart. This wonder and life force is corrupted by his shadows, the addicted and the impotent lover.

The addicted lover is all about experiencing a rush. Where the lover is about the Jungian libido; the life force, the addicted lover obsessed with it. For him, there is no reason to put a limit on the libido, whether it’s sexual or not. He’s driven by his libido alone, and loses himself in what he’s passionate about, without any reason or consideration to consistency. Passion is useful, but losing oneself in your passion, while being momentarily useful, looses in the long run. For the addicted lover, there are no limits.

The impotent lover, in contrast, could be said to lack the libido. Life for him, is best described as flat, without the passion and drive, the contentedness to the life force, that the lover usually has. He doesn’t feel connected, to himself or the world around him. Where the lover brings life, fulfillment, the impotent lover lacks all of this.

The lover is what brings a touch of humanity to the other archetypes. To the warrior, he brings compassion, a drive to help other people. To the magician, he brings a desire to help and teach other people. To the king, he brings a responsibility for other people.

The king

The first archetype that we enter into is the divine child, the predecessor of the king. The last, although not necessarily in terms of chronology, is the king. The king is two-fold, in that he is both an archetype for each man, and a more large scale archetype. The king, regardless of area, brings order and stability, as well as growth, to those around him. Through bringing stability, he brings a place for growth. To the other archetypes, he adds a sense of stability and authority. That is, if the healthy king rules, and not either of the shadows; the tyrant and the weakling.

The tyrant is a popular trope in movies and stories. It’s easy to make people dislike him, because of his very nature. The tyrant seeks power for himself, because it makes him feel good. In a way, he is similar to the manipulator, the active shadow of the magician, wanting to reap the reward without putting in the effort. He’s drawn to power, not to use it to create stability or to help other people reach further. For his identity to be, he has to be identified, although in a corrupted way, with the king archetype. Anything else would disappoint him, make him feel like he lacks worth. For him, the kingly energy is self-serving.

The weakling completely lacks the king energy. Anything the king is, the weakling is not; he lacks authority, he lacks stability, and he lacks the capacity to make people around him grow. This easily brings him to paranoia. Since he doesn’t have the collectedness and the center of a king, things will affect him in a way they wouldn’t otherwise. The weakling, like the passive shadow of the warrior, doesn’t have the defense to stand by himself against an adversary.

The king is a center, a point of gravity. He is dominance, but in a positive, reinforcing way, rather than being destructive and oppressive. In a way, he collects the three other archetypes into one, working as an umbrella. The first primal archetype is the divine child. The last; the king.

The four archetypes

At first glance, it’s easy to approach the four archetypes as “types”. As if we’re either a king, a warrior, a magician, or a lover, and that we’re somehow more inclined, or better fit, to “be” either of those archetypes.

Here’s the thing though. We can’t “be” one of the archetypes. Archetypes, by their very nature, are universal patterns in our psyche, and not something that we “are”. We can, however, to a greater or lesser extent embody and express those archetypes. The very idea about learning about it is to learn what primal patterns within us that need to be expressed, or tempered.

An era of boy psychology

In the final chapter of the book, Moore and Gillette discuss what prompted them to read the book. That, in our day, we see a culture that is based around boy psychology, and not that of the mature man. That, while the archetypes presented here are the ideals, far too often, we’re stuck in the boy archetypes, unable or even unwilling to move beyond them. But move beyond them we need.

In what areas are the final archetypes not developed, and in what areas do we fall under the shadows? Because regardless of what we want to think, we do fall under the shadows in certain areas. The trick is finding out where, and when that is done, work towards the healthy archetype in that area.


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