EDITOR’S NOTE: Have you read this book yet? If you are a man – and nearly half of us are – it is highly recommended!
King, Warrior, Magician, Lover: Rediscovering the Archetypes of the Mature Masculine is a pscho-spiritual manual for masculine “hard wiring.” Personality traits, social structures, and even life patterns are traced throughout the ages as they are mirrored over and over again in mythology, poetry and art.
Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette have had great influence in the mythopoetic men’s movement, stemming from their original classic, King, Warrior, Magician, Lover. Since then they have completed the series with The King Within, The Warrior Within, The Magician Within, and The Lover Within.
In this seminal book, Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette provide a central focus to Men and Myth. The authors’ thesis is that the patriarchal structure of Western civilization, which victimizes men as well as women, is a result of immature Boy Psychology. The book presents four archetypes of mature masculine Man Psychology with the theory that men will be able to integrate the positive and negative elements of these four aspects into their own lives.
All four sides of the “archetypal pyramid” have one positive and 2 negative poles like a triangular side of any pyramid. For example, the positive lover archetype embraces the world with passion and a zest for life and is positioned at the top point of the lover triangle. The negative poles on the bottom are the addicted lover and the impotent lover, overzealous and disinterested respectively. The authors suggest that each man is hard wired with a preset pattern of behaviors somewhere between these three extremes.
Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette go into more detail in four follow up books including “The Warrior Within: Accessing the Knight in the Male Psyche,” “The Magician Within: Accessing the Shaman in the Male Psyche,” and of course books on the King and Lover within. Together, these books lay a sound groundwork for understanding how to experience the archetypal energy in our own psyches.
The King is the life giver and the dancer of the 4 quaters. The king is the conduit for spiritual energy from above, and is personally responsible for the safety and well being of his wards. Every society in known history has a king or leader who is entrusted with guiding his people to success and comfort. Whether it is the United Nations or the corner gang, every group has a leader and focus. Even troupes of apes have an “alpha male” who is empowered with priveleges and responsibilities above the rest.
The benefits and perqs of the king are many, but the responsibilities are many as well. Just as young Prince William was forced to endure the public spectacle of Princess Diana’s funeral in the full spotlight, the role of the king is a tortured one. And if the king fails in his duties he is traditionally disposed of in a highly unpleasant manner! The King is dead. Long live the King!
Often disparaged, seldom understood, the Warrior is the most controversial of the archetypes, because of the cruel acts perpetrated by its shadow side. Yet aggressiveness is an innate characteristic of our species — for men and women alike — and has been responsible for the achievements of our culture. They suggest that the razor-sharp clarity of perception that the archetypal Warrior stimulated in the post-Hellenic Assyrians is what gave rise to the Ego. Aggressiveness is not synonymous with rage or violence: these are expressions of overstimulated aggression. The Warrior, properly accessed, can do a great deal to empower us to live our lives, make our worlds, and protect, provide and create a just order on a perilous planet.
While capable of killing when necessary, the Warrior knows that the real war is within. A man appropriately accessing his Warrior draws on enormous resources of focus and self-discipline that enable him to live an empowered life in the service of his fellow creatures. The Warrior is an energy source that permits us to be assertive about our lives, goals, needs and causes. He gets us moving again after a period of stagnation.
The authors discuss the shadow side of the Warrior, for example in a form of cannibalism in New Guinea. This cannibalism was halted only when the Dutch settlers that were eating the bushmen were convinced that the bushmen, too, were people. The two shadow sides are the Sadist and the Masochist.
Self-discipline is the hallmark of the Warrior. The Warrior is a destroyer. He destroys the enemies of the true Self. He attacks whatever is wounding and damaging, whatever causes despair, depression, injustice, oppression, whatever is cruel or discouraging or making abusive demands. The Warrior’s destruction clears a space for renewal and a new, more just order. The final and most important, “seventh degree” of initiation of a Warrior is the honoring of a pledge — a commitment to steward this power for the good of an inclusive community, for peace with justice.
The Magician is the archetype behind a multitude of professions and “callings.” He calls us on into the unseen. He is the mediator and communicator of hidden knowledge, the healer, technologist, teacher, and contemplative. He keeps his inner eye fixed on the blueprint for the Self — “image of God” or “Diamond Body” we each have within us. Technology is the Magician’s specialty.
The shaman is the fullest expression of the archetype, as guardian of esoteric knowledge and technician of sacred power, because of the problems he is willing to take on. He has the King’s capacity to care, the Warrior’s capacity to fight and the Lover’s capacity to value someone enough to fight for them.
When the Magician energy manifest, you begin to quest. You may not have the slightest idea what you are looking for when you start. Then an initiatory sacred geometry unfolds and your whole life becomes structured according to the archetype of initiation. You then search for a transformative space, a place where initiation can be completed. The dynamic structure of sacred reality to which the Magician calls us involves the Call, the entrance to sacred time, and the Return. Only, when you return, you are a different person. We experience the Call through life-cycle changes or through trauma. We experience what Joseph Campbell calls the Belly of the Whale as the “dark night of the soul” or a “crazy time,” hopefully ending, if guided by someone like a therapist, elder or shaman, with a feeling of ecstasy and of being one with all things. There, you can modulate the grandiosity of your visions and find ways to embody your sacred revelations in your ordinary life.
The Magician may always have a tendency to become schizoid, cut off from the realm of deep feeling. This is carried to its logical extreme in modern society, with the threats of nuclear destruction and ecological devastation and mass extinction of other species reflecting the “power shadow” of the negative Magician.
The authors describe the shamanic potential in contemporary man, describe the seven stages of initiation, and outline five stages to accessing the Magician within. I won’t tell you what the stages are, because it is a Secret Tradition. You’ll have to read the book to find out.
What would happened if we embraced the world as lovers, lovers of life and lovers of the cosmos? Gilette and Moore’s Lover book asks these questions and explores the misunderstood and stifled aspects of masucline passion.
Phallus is here as well, both the physical phallos of the fully engorged penis and the spiritual phallus that drives a man’s enthusiasms and spirituality. While Western tradition has focused on eros vs. agape, the authors bring forth amor. While Joseph Campbell restricts this to physical and spiritual love between two people, when he exhorts us to “follow our bliss” he is speaking of a joy of feeling empowered by the Lover within to live our lives in amorous union with our own deepest and most central values and visions, and with others. And through union with others we are, finally, One.
There is much to contemplate in these books which are studded with historical, mythic and artistic examples. As a whole the evidence that men are indeed “hard wired” is overwhelmingly convincing. Even if the theories are little more than just that, the self reflection and spiritual exploration the books elicit makes them well worth reading.