May 28, 2008

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Introduction to the Male Archetypes – the sign post to who we are as men.

A lot of what I will write about here is tied to the concept of male archetypes, those innate aspects of men that just keep popping up over and over again. It is something that Carl Jung first touched upon as certain personality traits that imbedded within what he called the “collective unconscious.” They are traits that are just there and tend to bubble to the surface for a particular person over and over again.

The concept of an archetype is akin to electricity. You don’t fully know how it works but you know that when you flick a light switch the light will go on. Similarly there is distinct masculine behavior that will get tapped into in a particular set of circumstances. This “default” behavior, for want of a better term is referred to as masculine archetypes. Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette have done some ground breaking work in identifying four primary masculine archetypes that show up in literature and mythology thought the ages: the King, Warrior, Magician and Lover. For a more in depth, albeit slightly dryer examination of all this I highly recommend their book, King, Warrior, Magician, Lover: Rediscovering the Archetypes of the Mature Masculine

So here is my discertation on Archetypes 101

Each archetype has both

  • a mature (or light) side, which is creative and generative and looks to strengthen the broader community and fulfill a higher purpose, and
  • an immature (or dark/shadow) side, which is potentially destructive and focuses more on self preservation and satisfying the ego

We usually access the immature side of the archetypes when confronted with a sudden set of circumstances that we perceive to be life or ego threatening. Not surprisingly this comes up time and time again in childhood as young boys struggle to figure out how their bodies and ego will survive in a seemingly hostile world.

However, for most people we get to a place where survival is no longer an issue, or at least not a daily refrain. At that point, when life is good, we have the time to reflect on where we fit in the world and where we want to fit in. In other words we start to question our legacy and purpose. At these time we typically access the mature side of the archetypes

The Lover feels.

  • He savors feeling and embraces all the sensations and emotions of life, good or bad, joyful or painful
  • He is at one with life because he lives fully in the moment with all his feelings
  • His connection to the world is through his feelings and the passion that radiates out of him. He lives without boundaries and is not concerned with protocol or order.
  • He understands that only by opening to the depth of his emotional experience can he become fully ALIVE and this is his purpose.
  • He can access each of the five emotions: Joy, Fear, Sadness, Anger, and Shame and can empathize with them without drowning in any one of them.
  • His ego is strong and healthy. It allows him to carry forth ideals and inspire others with his passion to strive to pursue those ideals.
  • He can easily distill his personal experience into a universal concept.

The Slacker is the shadow of the Lover

  • He expresses himself in each of us as the extremist or the glutton and the addict.
  • The addict is enslaved by sensation and driven to excess to mask his pain.
  • His emotions are so raw he needs something to dilute them because he rejects the depth of his true emotion.
  • The extremist is actually numb to emotion and only feels alive when he’s overwhelmed by stimulation, not necessarily chemical so he may recklessly induce fear to precipitate an argument to force him to feel.


The Warrior acts.

  • He has healthy self esteem and can easily see and honor the strength of others
  • He is energetic, decisive, courageous, enduring, and loyal to some greater good beyond mere personal reward or acclaim.
  • He is committed to something greater than himself. He will fight the good fight to make the world a better and more fulfilling place for this and future generations
  • For a warrior to be in his power he must embrace a way of life and a specific spiritual path.
  • The warrior embodies selfless service. His joy comes from losing himself in giving. A better world is his only need and greatest reward. He becomes what he gives; pure devotion to a higher purpose.
  • The mantra of the warrior is “it is not about me.” He has no time for the stories of the past and no desire to place blame. He stands fully accountable for his every action.
  • He accepts that he controls nothing but his own emotions.

The Bully is the shadow of the Warrior

The Bully is challenged by a sense of low self esteem and a feeling of not being in control of his life.

  • He is either the Sadist some one who derives joy from someone else’s pain – to punctuate his illusion of superiority over others; or the masochist, someone who subjects himself to pain to prove to himself that he is truly “worthy” of power, status and preferment.
  • He is the unhealed child; the wounded boy who fears and hates his perceived inner weakness. He is the energy of the Warrior turned inward against himself.
  • He exudes self-judgment, self-hatred and self-punishment.
  • He is the outer manifestation of a man’s unforgiving inner shame of self.


The Magician seeks.

  • He has a healthy relationship with knowledge and the responsibilities it brings.
  • He is the mystic and the visionary.
  • He is the master of discernment, the great distiller.
  • His gift is that of insight and intuition.
  • Where the Lover feels and the Warrior acts, the Magician simply, yet profoundly “knows” and “is.”
  • The Magician sees clearly into the depths and darkness of other men’s souls because he has done so within his own. He is fully cognizant of his own dark side.
  • The Magician easily appreciates all that he doesn’t know and knows how to further a dialogue with the right question rather than posing the “answer”.

The Trickster is the shadow of the Magician

To the trickster knowledge equals power or responsibility

  • He is either the liar or the innocent.
  • The liar lies to mask his ignorance of the truth
  • To shield himself from the responsibility of owning what he says or believes, he uses phrases like, “this is the way it has always been done” or “I was just following orders”.
  • The innocent feigns ignorance to mask his grasp of truths he prefers to deny.
  • He will quickly say “I don’t know, what do you think?” to avoid the responsibility of making his own decision.


The King Gives

  • He holds the energy of the mature and masterful man, the fully actualized human being
  • He exudes an inner authority, bringing order to the world, creating and enforcing the code men choose to live by, and establishing guideposts within which men can earn and honor rank.
  • He stands as an ego-less mirror that reflects for other men the possibilities of their own greatness, radiating a peace and stability that allows for growth.
  • In the face of chaos and struggle, his decisions are clear, sharp and concise
  • To fully realize the true energy of a King, he must master or at least be able to recognize all the qualities of the other mature archetypes that of an accomplished warrior, an integrated magician and a great lover.
  • The King holds a healthy relationship with abundance. He doesn’t act out of a sense of obligation but from a place of long tem vision. He is willing to sacrifice in the short term to prosper in the long term.

The Spoiled Brat is the shadow of the King

  • He brings chaos to the order of the community be either demanding more than he needs (the tyrant) or failing to shoulder his responsibility (the weakling)
  • He is the little tyrant shouting out his needs, stamping his feet, angrily throwing away those things he rejects – he has an unhealthy relationship with abundance in that he seeks to horde all he can.
  • Or, he is the weakling, the quiet, shy, pale child that you are convinced will shatter if you so much as sneeze – he has an unhealthy relationship with abundance in that he equates taking anything with taking on obligation to return the favor.
  1. Brian said…
    So I just wrote this poem the other day about my shadow, calling myself a spoiled brat. But maybe I am more like a Slacker. Thanks for the post!

    cheers for Jung!