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The King Archetype: The Culmination of Manhood

The King archetype is the central male archetype, the crown that caps a man’s growth into full manhood. It governs and coordinates the other three, the Warrior, Magician and Lover, and as such is usually the last archetype to come online in a man’s life.

In short, the King brings stability and calm to his kingdom, is balanced and in control, acts confidently, and helps companions and subordinates fulfill their potential. This language is metaphorical. Kings or not, all men have a kingdom, whether it be their family, business, or circle of friends. Look for your own Kingly characteristics, or lack thereof, in these spheres of your life.

To introduce this deep dive into the King archetype, let’s look at its two key functions.

Two Key Functions of the King Archetype

Again, I encourage you to look at these metaphorically. We use regal language since this archetype is called the King and it shares certain qualities with real-life kings, but ideally all men should embody this archetype.

Its two key functions are to bring order to the kingdom and to bless the kingdom. Notice that the mature King’s prime concern is the welfare of his people, not his own aggrandisement. He works for the good of all.

The King is the leader and provides order and coherence by setting standards for all to follow. He does this not to gain joy from watching subordinates conform, or to indiscriminately impose his will, but to maintain the kingdom’s safety and functioning. The King must be strong to direct his people in this way. If the king is weak, the kingdom is weak.

He also blesses the kingdom and its people through service and appreciation, a key role of kings in ancient times. He is a benevolent mentor who seeks to raise up fellow citizens and have them bring forth the benevolent leadership as he does. He appraises the contributions of subordinates and rewards those who are deserving, unafraid of being ousted by conspirators. This inspires them to seek honour by fully living out their own King.

Now that we’ve covered the two core functions of this archetype, let’s look closer at its core attributes.

Key Attributes of the King Archetype

The King harmoniously integrates the other three male archetypes and channels them towards a greater cause. It holds the executive role, both in ourselves and in the kingdoms over which we reign. If it can optimise the other archetypes and express itself in its full glory, the King helps us tap into our godly potential.


First and foremost, the King is a leader. In ancient times, the king’s dwellings would be in the centre of the city or population over which he ruled, and he would hold power over thousands if not millions of subjects. He owned all of the land. This role was charged with responsibility.

Yet the King is not any old leader. He leads with integrity and wisdom. He is a visioner and inspirer. His focus is on the greater good, not his personal interests. He’s decisive and ready to act if the kingdom is threatened, accessing his Warrior aggression if need be.

He forms plans and strategises to ensure the future success of the kingdom, using his experience and wisdom to illuminate the right course of action.

What’s more, he sets the rules. In the past, the king was also the lawmaker. In ultimate instance, subjects were loyal to him, rather than to an impersonal set of laws. So as mature Kings, us men must set standards and live them out in our behaviour. As mentioned, the mature King does this to create a container for his people to thrive, rather than to tyrannise them.

Centred and Grounded

The King is stable, solid and trustworthy. He’s both a model leader of the kingdom and a loyal servant to it. He sees ups and downs as a natural part of the order of things and remains a strong beacon in times of trouble, a guide for others. He doesn’t desert the throne to let his subjects fend for themselves. He doesn’t flinch in the face of threat, but seeks the best course of action and uses his sphere of influence to enact coordinated plans.

Moral and Principled

The king lives according to a solid set of principles, centred on the welfare of his kingdom. His public and privates lives form a moral whole, not a set of separate compartments. This keeps him grounded and focused, and sets the standard for his subjects.

Visioner and Inspirer

The king holds a broad, long-term perspective. Unlike the citizens, whose concerns tend to be short-term, he sees beyond the immediate and puts the kingdom’s viability and safety into a larger context. Where are our potential economic, political and territorial threats? What are the trade opportunities? This view encompasses much more his own reign and lifetime and includes the kingdom as an ongoing, thriving entity that transcends all its subjects.

Not only does his view go beyond the immediate, day-to-day concerns of the kingdom, the king has an inspiring vision for the future. He sees the potential of his people and land, and does high-level work to ensure it comes to fruition. In this way, his planning eventually unites his subjects’ energy towards a shared goal.

The King Archetype in Shadow

Each archeytpe has a bi-polar shadow, meaning it can exist in excess, in a deformed mutation, or show up in a half-baked, blunted form. One is an addiction, the other an aversion. The King is no different.

Addiction: The Tyrant, The Oppressor

The Tyrant is an inflation of, or addiction to, the King archetype. This is a leader that though powerful feels inferior, so goes overboard with shows of strength and power to compensate for it. He lacks the calm collectedness of the mature King, so attempts to project a veneer of it, but inevitably fails.

He is insecure. Believing power is finite, he fears losing that which he possesses, and tries to exploit it to grab what he can before he’s inevitably deposed.

He is a backstabber. He ruthlessly snuffs out threats and lashes out, whether his enemies are real or imagined, internal or external. Criticise him, and be prepared to be met with vengeful wrath.

As an example, in a family this is the dad who overpowers his wife and children, putting them into a state of fear and passivity to assuage his own insecurity as leader.

Aversion: The Weakling or the Abdicator

On the other hand, the Weakling or the Abdicator is a deflation of, or aversion to, the King archetype. It’s the man who’s in a position of leadership but feels inferior and unworthy of the title. This means he doesn’t step into his role and be the leader that others need him to be.

He is absent and invisible. He shirks responsibility. Rather than overpowering others with anger and aggression, he hides away. There’s no commanding, inspiring, grounding energy.

He willingly gives away his authority, submitting to others in the kingdom. He is the puppet king, only a king by name, not by action or honour.

How I Embody the King

I use a lot of metaphorical language above, and though it brings a royal, sacred tone to the text, it can also distract you from the day-to-day realities of living out the King archetype in your own life.

I see my own King archetype show up in two main areas: Deep Psychology and my meditation classes.

First, with Deep Psychology, I have a clear vision. I set the vision from the top down and guide others to it through my work, but I feel it goes beyond me or any one visitor or listener. It encompasses and engulfs the entire community, the thousands that use my work every month to understand their own psychology and actualize their potential.

Though this is my living, I don’t do it only for the material rewards. Those are secondary, and if I could do it without having to generate income, I would. It’s about the greater mission, and the passion and centredness it provides me.

Second, I notice I naturally live out the King archetype in the meditation classes I lead. I consider it a meditation community: we’re a group of people who’re committed to regular practice and the transformation it offers. I lead through my knowledge and set high standards for others because I know what is possible through this practice if we approach it with the necessary energy and persistence. I don’t lazily sit on a stage and preach to the masses: I set the example by meditating every single day.

I invite you to reflect on your own character and how well you embody the King archetype in your various spheres of influence. Are you a mature, fully-functioning King, a Tyrant or a Weakling? What steps can you implement to fully live out this archetype? This isn’t about perfection: aim for incremental improvement and transformation.