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The Four Mature Male Archetypes

Let’s tie together this series on the King, Warrior, Lover and Magician by looking at a summary of these male archetypes and discussing the larger context of this work.

Before we summarise the four male archetypes, let’s look at their psychological background. This will help you appreciate their greater role and significance.

Background to the Male Archetypes

The four male archetypes of the King, Warrior, Lover and Magician were proposed by Robert Moore, a Jungian psychologist, and Douglas Gillette. Unsurprisingly, Jung’s work on unconscious and the collective archetypes heavily influenced Moore and Gillette. They help to explain the development of mature masculinity, since each can be seen as a switch that needs to be turned on so that men can feel fully masculine in adulthood.

According to Jung, archetypes are behavioural blueprints that reside in the collective unconscious, a level above our personal unconscious. They are deeply ingrained in our species and have been shaped and moulded over time according by our collective experiences.

There are many archetypes, and men possess both male and female archetypes (the animus and the anima, as Jung called them). That said, Jungian analysts have narrowed the male ones down to four fundamental profiles, the ones we’ve covered in this series.

All men are born with these four energies or patterns; each represents a different part of the mature masculine psyche. Unfortunately, in the postmodern era, the animus is often beaten out of males, while the anima is championed. I believe Douglas and Moore effectively identify the dysfunctional parts of both the animus and anima and point us towards a healthy, whole masculinity that is free of the their shadow sides.

On other hand, traditional masculinity often exhibits the dark side of the male archetypes, like bullishness, stubbornness and overt aggression: the unruly underbelly of the animus. In their work, Moore and Gillette capture this in their concept of the shadow or the unhealthy expression of the four archetypes, of which each archetype has two sides. This shows us a way to integrate all prior expressions of masculinity into a more conscious form.

It’s common nowadays to feel modern malaise. In men, this looks like reaching 30 or 40 years old and not feeling like you’re a man yet. You feel restless, purposeless. These archetypes point us towards healthy, empowered modern manhood: the result of integrating and activating the four archetypes is masculine confidence, power and inner security.

The Four Male Archetypes Summarised

Check out my articles on the King, Warrior, Magician and Lover by following this link.

Now let’s briefly overview each of the four male archetypes. Note that each has three components: its highest, purest expression, and its two shadow expressions, one addiction, one an allergy.

The King provides order and judgement; the Warrior brings action, discipline and devotion; the Magician is about knowledge and wisdom; while the Lover brings passion, joy and desire. Ideally we embody different archetypes in different moments or situations; we can flex between them.

These are archetypes of full manhood that develop after the boyhood archetypes. Our goal is to reconcile shadow aspects and attempt to embody healthy expression of each archetype.

The King

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, 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.

In my life, I see my King archetype show up most in Deep Psychology.

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.

The Warrior

The defining attribute of the Warrior is that it directs its aggression to a noble cause and does all it can to ensure it prevails.

The Warrior is courageous and if necessary will disregard its personal safety to bring a mission to completion. It’s aware of the finiteness of life and can face the cold the reality of death, meaning it has extra energy reserves to draw on when it matters most. It’s resilient and perseverant.

The Warrior’s cause is noble and transcends its own interests. Perhaps its cause is the safety of a city, or the freedom of a country, or a beneficial change in the law. In this sense, it’s different to the Hero, whose cause is self-centred. It stars in the role of protector or defender.

This archetype is an action taker. Buoyed by a strong sense of purpose, it’s able to persist and fight through obstacles when others would throw their purpose overboard. In this role, it doesn’t take no for an answer, and takes great risks in pursuit of its target.

The Magician

Fundamentally, the Magician desires to master a craft to an exceptional level, obtain secret knowledge and then put it into action, feeling the power this gives.

He spends many years learning, practicing and picking up knowledge, under the guidance of previous Magicians, until he’s able to begin experimenting, make his own discoveries, and add his personal touch to his craft. With time he’s able to advance the field, reach abnormal levels of skill, and make novel contributions that change the world.

He then becomes a holder of hidden knowledge, which blends conventional knowledge with his years of experimentation and discovery. He’s not just a master of the key skills, but a connoisseur, pioneer and rule-breaker.

The Magician is a master of technology, of the means and methods and tools he requires to perform his craft. When he wields his wand, he does so with extraordinary grace. When he plays his instrument, it looks effortless and innate, as though it were an extension of his body.

The Lover

The Lover is the first adult male archetype to develop, and does so at a time when the man is able to leave familiar constraints and explore without the confines laid down by authority. It brings youthful idealism, excitement, feeling and emotion. Life is infused with intensity. He enjoys pleasures of all kinds, not merely the basic ones like food and sex.

The Lover feels deeply. Whether it’s the pleasure he experiences from a meal, love shared with an intimate partner, or the multitude of emotions inspired by music, the Lover welcomes it in. He is emotionally, physically and viscerally open to all kinds of experiences. Both deep love and deep pain are welcomed as parts of the full repertoire of human emotion.

The Lover drinks in the multiplicity of life. He gets inspired by art, nature, music, science, literature, food, women, and any number of pursuits. This is a positive feedback look: these experiences only further fuel his inspiration and passion. They also fuel his creativity: this archetype inspires us to do our greatest work. He connects with the spiritual origin of all expressions of life.

Check out my articles on the King, Warrior, Magician and Lover by following this link.

My Experience of the Male Archetypes

Let me make all of this more concrete by sharing my experience of the male archetypes.

One thing I’ve noticed while coming of age in the early 21st century is that manhood and masculinity are being denigrated or eroded. The traditional man who is sole breadwinner, holds dominion over his family and wife, and bullishly asserts himself, is no longer valid in today’s society.

With no greater masculine archetype to embody, men don’t know whether to be assertive or subservient, self-serving or selfless. In many ways, manhood is being stamped out and repressed by modern feminists. It seems that unless we’re sensitive and communitarian, we’re being toxically masculine.

In my early twenties I got into meditation and spirituality, and I ended up being overly feminine and sensitive. Quite honestly, I became a timid, acquiescent doormat. Looking back, I realise I came to associate spirituality with femininity. Under the surface of the communities and books and teachings of which I partook, there was the assumption that masculinity was anti-spiritual.

Not often did I find an emphasis on developing healthy masculinity, or any good role models to that end. Sure, there were positives to exploring the anima, but I feel a whole, non-biased approach would have been better.

However, I feel I’ve integrated both now, thanks in part to learning about these four archetypes. I have a lot of the four archetypes online, but also with a touch of femininity, which helps me avoid the shadow expressions of the archetypes.

They have helped me understand what healthy masculinity is: I wasn’t sure for a long time! Whatever is happening and wherever it is leading, there’s no doubt that masculinity is undergoing a revolution, and the four archetypes can guide us in that journey.