This past year, I was connecting with one of my friends about my job as an ocean lifeguard, and he made an interesting comment to me in our conversation:
“I sense such a clear and strong warrior energy within you. You’ve clearly mastered it, but I’d also wager that there may be king, magician, and lover energies within you as well, each ready to be awakened.”
His comment instantly resonated deep within me.
Although I didn’t want to admit it to myself, I knew he was right.
I was imbalanced as a man.
In order to be the best lifeguard I could possibly be, I’d spent many months intensely and intentionally developing the warrior within myself.
I’d worked day and night to perfect my ability to be as tough as possible in mind, body, and spirit, and I did a damn good job of it – I was stronger, faster, and had sharper senses than the majority of men that I knew, and I’d earned it by training intensely, day and night, for a significant period of time.
However, my friend brought up a great point, and it made me realize that in the intensity I devoted towards my mission, my spirit had perhaps stunted the rest of my development as a man. Sure, I was good at my mission, but I still had a lot of growth on my journey towards fulfilling my fullest capacity for manhood.
In that moment, when my friend made that comment, he was referencing a book titled King, Warrior, magician, Lover: Rediscovering the Archetypes of the Mature Masculine, by Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette.
The book is about the central archetypes of manhood, and the authors’ objective is to clearly identify the essential qualities that men focused on self-actualization must strive to embody in spirit, and the pitfalls associated with a failure to properly embody the archetypes in a virtuous and just manner.
I happened to have the book on my shelf at home. When I got home later that day, I began reading it. It’s an excellent book, and in the year since I read it, I’ve continued returning back to it ever since.
Now, nearly a year later, I find myself returning to the book, seeking wisdom in my continued development as a man. This time around, however, I’m approaching it from a scholarly perspective – I want to develop a deep understanding of the archetypes so that I can master them, and so that I may be able to speak intelligently about them towards other men.
We live in an increasingly lost world, and this information about our underlying archetypes is vital to the healthy development of all young men. Our world lacks clarity on what a righteous, potent, morally sound man looks like – our politicians, professional athletes, and celebrities are the best role models young men have, despite their glaring imperfections.
So, in my own effort to master these archetypes, I’ve decided to write a series of notes on the four central masculine archetypes as identified in the book King, Warrior, Magician, Lover. My intention is to distill the most essential and meaningful elements of each archetype, as quoted within the pages of this brilliant book by Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette.
The first archetype, and most important archetype, is “the King.”
Here are what the authors have to say about the King archetype:
The King energy is primal in all man.
It comes first in importance and it underlies and includes the rest of the archetypes in perfect balance. The good and generative King is also a good Warrior, a positive Magician, and a great Lover.
The King archetype comes close to being God in his masculine form within every man. It is the primordial man, the Adam, what the philosophers call the Anthropos in each of us. Hindus call this primal masculinity in men the Atman; Jews and Christians speak of it as the imago Dei, the “image of God.” Freud talked about the King as the “primal father of the primal horde.” And in many ways the King energy is Father energy. It is our experience, however, that although the King underlies the Father archetype, it is more expensive and more basic than the Father.
The mortal man who incarnates the king energy or bears it for a while in the service of his fellow human beings, in the service of the realm parentheses of whatever dimensions parentheses, in the service of the cosmos, is almost an interchangeable parts, a human vehicle for bringing this ordering in generated of archetype into the world and into the lives of human beings.
… Kings in the ancient world were often ritually killed when their ability to live out the king archetype began to fail. What was important was that the generative power of the energy not be tied to the fate of an aging and increasingly important mortal. With the raising up of the new king, the king energy was re-embodied, and the king as archetype was renewed in the lives of the people of this round. In fact the whole world was renewed. This pattern-this ritual killing and reviving-is what lies behind the Christian story of the death and resurrection of Christ, the Savior King. The danger for men who became possessed by this energy is that they too will for fill the engine pattern and die prematurely.
On the psychotherapist John W. Perry’s experiences with the King archetype in the dreams of his patients with schizophrenia:
There was something about the King — in ancient times and in the dreams and visions of his suffering patients — that was immensely organizing, ordering, and creatively healing. He saw in their visions the ancient mythic battles of the great kings against the forces of chaos and the attacks of the demons, and then the glorious enthronement of the victorious kings at the center of the world.
Authors Moore and Gillette then go on to make the case that the two central functions of the King in his kingdom are to be ordering, and to provide fertility and blessing.
On the King’s capacity to create Order from Chaos:
The King, as Perry says, is the “central archetype.”
The good King is at the Center of the World. He sits on his throne on the central mountain, or on the Primeval Hill, as the ancient Egyptians called it. And from this central place, all of creation radiates in geometrical form out to the very frontiers of the realm. “World” is defined as that part of reality that is organized and ordered by the King. What is outside the boundaries of his influence is no creation, chaos, the demonic, and non world.
This function of the King energy shows up everywhere in ancient mythology and in ancient interpretations of actual history. In ancient Egyptian mythology… the world arose from the formlessness and chaos of a vast ocean in the form of a central Hill, or Mound.
It came into being by the decree, by the sacred “Word,” of the Father god, Ptah, god of wisdom and order. Yahweh, in the Bible, creates in exactly the same way.
Words, in fact, define our reality; they define our worlds. We organize our lives and our worlds by concepts, by our thoughts about them, and we can only think in terms of words. In this sense, at least, words make our reality and make our universe real.
The Primeval Hill spread as land was created, and from that central ordering, then, arose all life, the gods and goddesses, human beings, and all of their cultural achievements. And with the coming of the pharaohs, the successors of the gods, the world, defined by the sacred kings, spread out in all directions from the pharaoh’s throne on the Primeval Hill. This was the account the Egyptians gave of the birth of their civilization.
Ancient peoples located the Center in many places: Mount Sinai, Jerusalem, Hierapolis,Olympus, Rome, Tenochtitlan. But it was always the Center of a quad rated universe, an orderly, geometrical universe. The Center of that universe was always where the king — god and man — reigned, and was the locus of the divine revelation, of divine organizing and creative power.
What this function of the King energy does, through a mortal king, is embody for the people of the realm this ordering principle of the Divine World. The human king does this by codifying laws. He makes laws, or more accurately, he receives them from the King energy itself and then passes them on to his nation.
This mysterious order, expressed in the kingdom and even in its palaces and temples (often laid out as representations of the cosmos in miniature) and in human laws and in all human societal order — customs, traditions, and spoken and unspoken taboos — is the manifestation of the ordering thoughts of the Creator God.
In Ancient Egyptian mythology, this was alternately thought of as the god Ptah or as a goddess called Ma’at, “Right Order.”
We see this idea carried forward in early Hebrew thought in the figure of Wisdom in the biblical book of Proverbs, and even in the Greek and later Christian idea of Christ as the Logos, the ordering, generative, and creative Word the Gospel of John talks about. In Hinduism, this archetypal “right order” is called Dharma. In China, it is called the Tao, the “Way.”
It is the mortal king’s duty not only to receive and take to his people this right order of the universe and cast it in societal form but, even more fundamentally, to embody it in his own person, to live it in his own life. The mortal king’s first responsibility is to live according to Ma’at, or Dharma, or the Tao. If he does, the mythology goes, everything in the kingdom — that is, the creation, the world — will also go according to the Right Order. The kingdom will flourish. If the king does not live “in the Tao” then nothing will go right for his people, or for the kingdom as a whole. The realm will languish, the Center, which the king represents, will not hold, and the kingdom will be ripe for rebellion.
In the same way, the Chinese emperors ruled by the “Mandate of Heaven.” Heaven here means, again, “right order.” And when they failed to live according to the will of Heaven, then, legitimately, there would be rebellion, and a new dynasty would be established. “The king is dead; long live the king!”
First, the mortal king, operating under the mature masculine energy of the King, lived the order in his own life; only secondarily did so enforce it. And he did so both in his realm and on the outskirts of the kingdom at the point of interface between the creation and the outlying chaos. Here we see the King as the Warrior, extending and defending order against the “asiatics” and the “Libyans.”
Interesting quote about the lack of king energy in the modern family unit that resonated deeply with me:
On a more immediate note, we see in modern dysfunctional families that when there is an immature, a weak, or an absent father and the King energy is not sufficiently present, the family is very often given over to disorder and chaos.
On the King’s central role in providing fertility to his lands:
In conjunction with his ordering function, the second vital good that the King energy manifests is fertility and blessing. Ancient peoples always associated fertility — in human beings, crops, herds, and the natural world in general — with the creative ordering of things by the gods. It seems that in prepatriarchal times, the earth as Mother was seen as the primary source of fertility. But as patriarchal cultures rose to ascendancy, the emphasis shifted from the feminine as the source of fertility to the masculine. This was not a simple shift, and the emphasis never shifted completely. The ancient myths, true to actual biology, recognized that it was the union of male and female that was truly generative, at least on the physical plane. On the cultural plane, however, in the creation of civilization and technology, and in the mastery of the natural world, the masculine generative energies were most prominent.
The sacred king in ancient times became the primary expression for many peoples of the life-force, the libido, of the cosmos. Our Jewish, Christian, and Mosley God today is never seen as being in creative partnership with a Goddess. He is viewed as male, and as the sole source of creativity and generativity. He is the sole source of fertility and blessing. Many of our modern beliefs come from the beliefs of the ancient patriarchies.
The sacred king’s function of providing fertility and blessing shows up in many myths and in the stories of great kings. In the spiritual world, we see the great Father gods engaging prolifically in sexual relationships with goddesses, lesser deities, and mortal women… Zeus’ exploits [for example] are well known.
But it was not just sexual acts producing both divine and human children that showed the King energy’s capacity to fertilize. This capacity to be generative was also the result of his creative ordering itself.
The authors then go on to list further mythological examples of ordering through fertility.
As the mortal king went, so did the realm, both its order and fertility. If the king was lusty and vigorous sexually, could service his often many wives and concubines and produce many children, the land would be vital. If he stayed healthy and strong physically, and alert and alive mentally, the crops would grow; the cattle would reproduce; the merchants would prosper; and many babies would be born to his people. The rains would come and, in Egypt, the annual fertilizing Nile floods.
In the Bible, we see the same idea expressed in the stories of the Hebrew kings and patriarchs. Two things were required of them by Yahweh: first, that they walk in his ways, the Hebrew equivalent of being in the Tao; and second, that they “be fruitful and multiply,” that they have many wives and many children. We see with the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that if one wife could not produce children, she would find another wife or a concubine for her husband so that he could continue his fertility function.
We see King David taking many a woman of his realm, and having children through her. The point is that as these men prospered physically and psychologically, so did their tribes and their realms. The mortal king, so goes the mythology, was the embodiment of the King energy. The land, his kingdom, was the embodiment of the feminine energies. He was, in fact, symbolically wedded to the land.
Always, the king’s culminating ordering/generative act was to marry the land in the form of his primary queen. It was only in creative partnership with her that he could assure every kind of bounty for his kingdom. It was the royal couple’s duty to pass their creative energies on to the kingdom in the form of children. The kingdom would mirror the royal generativity, which, let us remember, was at the Center. As the Center was, so would be the rest of creation. (Page 60)
When a king became sick or weak or impotent, the kingdom languished. The rains did not come. The crops did not grow. The cattle did not reproduce. The merchants lost their trade. Drought would assault the land, and the people would perish.
So the king was the earthly conduit from the Divine World — the world of the King energy — to this world. He was the mediator between the mortal and the divine… He was the central artery, we might say, that allowed the blood of the life-force to flow into the human world. Because he was at the Center, in a certain sense everything in the kingdom (because it owed its existence to him) was his — all the crops, all the cattle, all the people, all the women.
On the King’s central role in providing blessings to his people:
It was not only fertility in an immediately physical sense or generativity and creativity in a general sense that came out of the second function of the King energy through the efficacy of ancient kings; it was also blessing. Blessing is a psychological, or spiritual, event. The good king always mirrored and affirmed others who deserved it. He did this by seeing them — in a literal sense, in his audiences at the palace, and in the psychological sense of noticing them, knowing them, in their true worth. The good king delighted in noticing and promoting good men to positions of responsibility in his kingdom. He held audience, primarily, not to be seen (although this was important to the extent that he carried the people’s own projected inner King energy), but to see, admire, and delight in his subjects, to reward them and to bestow honors upon them.
By the light of the masculine sun-consciousness, [the King] knows his men. He recognizes them, and he is generative towards them. He bestows upon them his blessing. Being blessed has tremendous psychological consequences for us. There are even studies that show that our bodies actually change chemically when we feel valued, praised, and blessed.
Young men today are starving for blessing from older men, starving for blessing from the King energy. This is why they cannot, as we say, “get it together.” They shouldn’t have to. They need to be blessed. They need to be seen by the King, because if they are, something inside will come together for them. That is the effect of a blessing; it heals and makes whole. That’s what happens when we are seen and valued and concretely rewarded (with gold, perhaps, dropped from the pharaoh’s hand) for our legitimate talents and abilities.
The Characteristics of the Good King:
The King archetype in its fullness possesses the qualities of order, of reasonable and rational patterning, of integration and integrity in the masculine psyche. It stabilizes chaotic emotiona nd out-of-control behaviors. It gives stability and centeredness. It brings calm. And in its “fertilizing” and centeredness, it mediates vitality, life-force, and joy. It brings mainteenance and balance. It defends our own sense of inner order, our own integrity of being and of purpose, our own central calmness about who we are, and our essential unassailability and certainty in our masculine identity. It looks upon the world with a firm but kindly eye. It sees others in all their weakness and in all their talent and worth. It honors them and promotes them. It guides them and nurtures them toward their own fullness of being. It is not envious because it is secure, as the King, in its own worth. It rewards and encourages creativity in us and in others.
In its central incorporation and expression of the Warrior, it represents aggressive might when that is what is needed when order is threatened. It also has the power of inner authority. It knows and discerns (its Magician aspect) and acts out of this deep knowingness. It delights in us and in others (its Lover aspect) and shows this delight through words of authentic praise and concrete actions that enhance our lives.
This is the energy that expresses itself through a man when he takes the necessary financial and psychological steps to ensure that his wife and children prosper. This is the energy that, encourages his wife when she decides she wants to go back to school to become a lawyer. This is the energy that expresses itself through a father when he takes time off from work to attend his son’s piano recital. This is the energy that, through the boss, confronts the rebellious subordinates at the office without firing them. This is the energy that expresses itself through the assembly line foreman when he is able to work with the recovering alcoholics and drug abusers in his charge to support their sobriety and to give them empowering masculine guidance and nurturing.
This is the energy that expresses itself through you when you are able to keep your cool when everybody else in the meeting is losing theirs. This is the voice of calm and reassurance, the encouraging word in a time of chaos and struggle. This is the clear decision, after careful deliberation, that cuts through the mess in the family, at work, in the nation, in the world. This is the energy that seeks peace and stability, orderly growth and nurturing for all people — and not only for the people, but for the environment, the natural world. The King cares for the whole realm and is the steward of nature as well as of human society.
This is the energy, manifested in ancient myths, of the “shepherd of his people” and “the gardener” and husbandman of the plants and animals in the kingdom. This is the voice that affirms, clearly and calmly and with authority, the human rights of all. This is the energy that minimizes punishment and maximizes praise. This is the voice from the Center, the Primeval Hill within every man.
Wisdom for Accessing the King Energy:
The first task in accessing the King energy for would-be human “kings” is to disidentify our Egos from it. We need to achieve what psychologists call cognitive distance from the King in both his integrated fullness and his split bipolar shadow forms. Realistic greatness in adult life, as opposed to inflation and grandiosity, involves recognizing our proper relationship to this and the other mature masculine energies.
That proper relationship is like that of a planet to the star it is orbiting.The planet is not the center of the star system; the star is. The planet’s job is to keep the proper orbital distance from the life-giving (but also potentially death-dealing) star, so as to enhance its own life and well-being. The planet derives its life from the star, so it has a transpersonal object in the star for “adoration.” Or, to use another image, the Ego of the mature man needs to think of itself — no matter what status or power it has temporarily achieved — as the servant of a transpersonal Will, or Cause. It needs to think of itself as a steward of the King energy, not for the benefit of itself, but for the benefit of those within its “realm,” whatever that may be.
More people needto be talking about this.
The King energy exists within every man, waiting to be tapped into.
Our global affliction is that our leaders often aren’taren’t trustworthy, they don’t truly care for their people (and instead care about elevating their status and lining their own pockets), and they’ll sell out their supporters when it serves them.
As a result, many young men seem to be unfamiliar with how to properly identify and express this righteous, powerful energy within, and we’re left to struggle to identify a proper mode of being instead – a dififcult task, when proper role models are few and far between. Many of the men we’re supposed to look up to in our society aren’t righteous in their kinghood, but instead fall into the selfish, egotistical, arrogant, impotent ways of what the authors identify as the “Shadow King,” the concept of kinghood gone wrong. To discover more about this concept and the manifestation of the Shadow King in our modern age, I strongly encourage you to buy the book.
I have one last series of quotes to offer.
Growing up, I experienced an imbalanced power struggle between my parents. My father and mother both fought for the kinghood, and held it at different times.
King, Warrior, Magician, Lover has a few interesting quotes about this that deeply resonated with me and are worth sharing:
On a more immediate note, we see in modern dysfunctional families that when there is an immature, a weak, or an absent father and the King energy is not sufficiently present, the family is very often given over to disorder and chaos.
The other problem in accessing this energy, we’re suggesting, arises when we feel that we have lost effective touch with the life-giving King altogether. In this case, we may fall into the category o fthe so-called dependent personality disorder, a condition in which we projectthe King energy within (which we do not experience as within us) onto some external person. We experience ourselves as impotent, as incapable of acting, incapable of feeling calm and stable, without the presence and the loving attention to of that other person who is carrying our King energy projection. This happens in family systems when husbands become too attentive to their wives’ moods and fear to take initiative because of the attacking anger their actions may bring. It happens, too, with children when their parents do not allow them to develop sufficient independence of will and taste and purpose and the children remain under their wing.
This resonated deeply.
There were times, growing up, when my father wasn’t firmly rooted in his masculine, and would instead be at the mercy of my tyrannical mother – a fiercely intelligent woman, capable of emasculating men with her ferocity, in their moments of weakness.
You see, my father had unresolved “mommy issues” from his childhood (and I think he still does), and was raised by a single mother. Because his father wasn’t around, there was no dominant male in his life to embody and channel the King energy.
So, he grew up being used to his own mother embodying the King energy.
As a result, there were times when my father projected the King energy onto my mother, as if he were a little boy seeking mommy’s guidance, direction, and affirmation. Except, this time, he was treating his own wife like the “mommy king.” As a kid, it was extremely painful to observe this pattern in a way, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.
Now, I can see it. Clearly.
My father’s unexpressed and undeveloped masculine King energy left a vaccuum to be filled by my mother’s masculinity.
This was an unhealthy dynamic, and in my observations, it doesn’t seem ideal for the man of a household to embody anything other than the greatest amount of alpha, able-bodied, stabilizing, restorative, loving King energy he’s capable of.
Anything less, and he’s planting the seeds of discord and chaos within his own home.
I certainly experienced this in my own childhood.
My childhood was often chaos.
The lack of grounded peace, calm, and stability in my own household was extremely unhealthy.
My mother was often an angry, bitter, confused woman, and the polarity of my mother’s strong, unrestrained, unholy feminine storm-like energy was often far too strong to be matched by my father’s yet-fully-developed Kinghood.
This meant that the raging inferno of my mother’s rage and confusion rarely had an equally powerful grounding force.
I will raise my family differently, as best as I can. Although I want a powerful woman, I want to be as strong as I can possibly be in my power to ground her during her feminine storms.
I want to be the absolute strongest King that I can possibly be, for my family, my friends, and for the world at large.
I will continue to write about the King energy and how I seek to manifest it in my own life in order to create massive, positive change within the world. This is just the beginning.
At the moment, however, I’ll be spending time allowing this wisdom to marinate deeply within my subconscious.
Next up in this series is Part 2: Accessing the Warrior.
I’m excited for this one.
This has been my favorite archetype to channel.
Let’s dive in.