How To Exercise True Masculinity

Rediscovering the archetypes of masculinity

The ideals of rationalism and science are slowly losing their grip over the wider world. There is now an understanding that there exist certain truths, forces and mysteries that lay beyond logic and experimental evidence.For too long we have neglected the intuitive, emotional wisdom of the subconscious, a treasury of deep knowledge that cannot be explained using plain words but must instead be told, as our ancestors did, through old stories and mythologies. For mythologies are not merely a study of history or literature, but instead, stand as a reflection into the soul of man.

It was Carl Jung who proposed that the human mind, or psyche, is not exclusively the product of personal experience, but rather contains elements which are universal and common to all. These elements he called the archetypes and he concluded that it is their influence on human thought and behaviour that gives rise to the similarities between the myths and religions of different cultures.

These archetypes reveal the presence of a universal memory belonging to man whereby elements of human history have fused and advanced to form the human psyche. Jung named this memory the collective unconscious. It is the source of all human history, the inspiration for all religion and art. And it is also the reason why diverse cultures share similar mythologies and stories.

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Archetypes extend beyond culture and nations. They are the deep-rooted components of the psyche that define our primordial and prehistoric nature.In this sense, archetypes represent the human psychological characteristics that are transpersonal, indigenous and inherited.

Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette studied, under the light of Carl Jung’s work, the presentation of masculinity throughout history. They found that past expressions of kingship all pointed towards archetypal structures that belong within the collective masculine unconscious.

These images and archetypes serve as a reflection into the unconscious of the masculine; they allow us to understand the patterns of life that have happened since the beginning of human history. And, by looking into these patterns, Moore believed, we can learn how to orient our masculinity according to the highest of ideals.

Moore argued that the problems we see with men today–violence, shiftlessness, aloofness–are a result of modern men not adequately exploring or being in touch with the primal, masculine archetypes that reside within them.

We should not, however, imitate a certain archetypal pattern or adhere to the demands of an archetype. It is foolish to romanticise the archetypes. We are human beings, we each have a unique energy, a vital connection to wholeness. The expressions of masculinity are as distinctive as the individuals themselves. For there is no single standard for being a man, no code or definition that one must follow to become masculine. Masculinity is already within us and we express its energy with our heart and soul. Each soul is unique and the exhibition of universal energies will be unique also.

Instead, the archetypes serve as a mirror for the ego. They allow us to distinguish where we stand in the world, to see how far along we are in the journey and how we must position ourselves in order to move towards the greater good. By becoming conscious of the archetypal energies that possess us, we have the chance to piece together what is broken and destroy only what needs to be destroyed. The knowledge and wisdom of the archetypal stories provide us with the chance to avoid potential future misery that we would have otherwise considered as a matter of fate.

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All men and women embody these character structures. Indeed, masculinity is not a reserve of the male. There is, however, a flip in the polarity since most men are more masculine than feminine and most women are more feminine than masculine. But, nevertheless, these archetypes will resonate with both sexes and are essential if both wish to develop their masculine energy.

Moore named the archetypes of the masculine the Warrior, the Magician, the Lover and the King. These archetypes surface in mythology, folklore and, in modern times, film productions. Most people nowadays will be able to recognise these characters in their favourite novels and movies. It is the instinct of the film industry to appeal to modern audiences by resonating with their primordial nature. These archetypes exist within each man, but some of them will resonate more than others according to the expression of the soul.

Now, the purpose of the Warrior is to create and support stability. The Warrior uses his energy to face threats of violence from outside and threats of chaos from within. He must calm his own internal kingdom before he can face the predators that prowl outside. And with a calm mind, he is able to act without hesitation or fear and maintain composure even as he stands under a barrage of missiles. It is his aggressiveness, his will to action, his mental alertness and strong stature that allows him to become the protector of his community.

The Magician within drives us to understand hidden knowledge and truth.The Magician is grounded and present; he draws energy from his body rather than the commotion of his mind, allowing his senses to enjoy the natural flow of the world. He is deeply in tune with his intuition and is sensitive to his surroundings. He notices the vibrations of people’s thoughts and feels the change in their emotions. The Magician was known in ancient times as the mystic, sage or alchemist — people who could channel special knowledge or talent for the good of the people.

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The Lover is the archetype of emotion, feeling, idealism, and sensuality. His heart is open to the spirit of the world and he seeks to experience as many dimensions of life as possible, as often as possible. The Lover attunes himself to the mysterious forces underlying our everyday existence.

This is the archetype that fuels a man’s spirituality, and the one in which the energy of love resides. Those flashes of inspiration or sparks of creativity we feel within ourselves, this is the Lover’s energy displaying itself in our lives. It is the Lover that encourages men to relax into their emotions, to feel the spontaneous eruptions that are happening in their body.

A man in tune with his Lover will allow himself to feel happiness and pain, to fall in love and pursue boundless freedom without limitations or fear. This is, according to Moore, the most repressed archetype in the West.

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A man who accesses the King archetype in its fullness will also have access to the Warrior, Magician, and Lover archetypes. The King is a balance of the other archetypes; he directs and orders these images so that he can become a divine channel of goodness to those around him. He is grounded and decisive, he lives with integrity, he provides order, he protects his realm, he inspires creativity in others, as the feminine does also, and he blesses the lives of all who have known him.

The seat of the King is the heart. He is a servant to his people, but he does not serve the people’s selfish and foolish needs or their will, rather he serves a higher purpose. It is God who places the King onto the throne. And so, the King serves as the divine messenger and the earthly commander of God’s true spoken words. The purpose of Kingship, then, is to elevate the other archetypes to maturity and fullness. It is this divine purpose that allows him to master and intertwine the four corners of masculinity. But without the energy of the King, the other three columns become weak and brittle:

“In the absence of The King, the Warrior becomes a mercenary, the Magician becomes a sophist (able to argue any position and believing in none), and the Lover becomes an addict.”

― Robert Moore, King, Warrior, Magician, Lover: Rediscovering the Archetypes of the Mature Masculine

Notice also that there is a significant element of femininity within the King energy. Look at any depiction of Kingship, most notably Jesus Christ and Buddha, and see how they seem ambiguous in relation to their gender. Why do these men look like women? The most consistent ideal within the mythologies is the balance of the masculine and the feminine, of the mind and the body, of consciousness and emotion — the wholeness of the universe itself. And this ideal demonstrates itself in the image of the ancient King. For the King is he who maintains an aggressive tenderness, a humble intelligence, and a calm passion — he is the middle way between the excesses.

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This image of the King is remarkably similar across most cultures, both past and present. The kings of the Anglo-Saxons, the Persians, and the Indians were all presented as battle-hardened soldiers and creative masters with the destructive might of nature, but they were also viewed as high priests with divine ancestry and nurturers of their people. These are the characteristics of a king in his fullness, one who has danced with the four poles of masculine essence.

Unfortunately, men today are indulging in the shadows of these archetypes. And so, the word ‘toxic’ has been attributed to masculinity.But if the world is poisoned, it is no surprise that men have become poisoned also. It is not masculinity that is toxic. Rather, it is the shadow expression of masculinity that is toxic.

Brutalised children, born from cruel or absent parents, who are not taught how to deal with the conflict between their unconscious and their emerging conscious will become, in one way or another, brutal adults. These ill-treated children will grow to be, as Moore writes, fundamentally insecure. They will not be able to maturely express their masculinity and will never outgrow the self-centered and egoistic impulses of the child, remaining a prey for the shadows of the soul— for they are merely boys pretending to be men.

One who identifies himself excessively with the Lover will become an addicted Lover. He will be a clingy, co-dependent partner who constantly seeks validation or attention — his body may even roll forward slightly, almost as if he is reaching out for his mother. This man has not integrated the fullness of the Warrior, the strength to pursue his purpose, into his character.

Alternatively, a man who is out of touch with the Lover will be an impotent Lover, one who is never able to enjoy the dance with the feminine. He is without the ability to feel emotions of any kind. This man is too restricted and tense, his face may show signs of strain — the constant heavy pursuit of his occupation has worn him down.

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The shadow excess of the Magician is the detached manipulator. They will use their intuition and intellect for evil, rather than for the general good of inspiration and education. This shadow type is particularly destructive when involved in romantic relationships since the man or woman, usually a man, will try to control the other using all kinds of schemes and tricks. But it also shows up in high-pressure jobs such as bankers or politicians where competition is tough.

On the other hand, people who deny the Magician within them are either those who think they know everything or those who pretend not to understand anything at all. The first is suppressing the Magician because of insecurity. Whereas the second betrays the Magician so that he can fit in with the culture around him.

A man too involved with his Warrior closes himself from the warmth of beauty and love. He thinks only with logic and theory, starving himself of the experience of nature. Here, the Lover has been repressed. Alternatively, without the Warrior, man is powerless. He becomes too attached to his vulnerability and refuses to assert himself into the world. This man has lost himself in the expectations and wishes of others. He does not know how to stand firm for what he truly wants.

And lastly, one who indulges in the King becomes a tyrant. For a tyrant is he who seeks to impose his will against everything that confronts him. The world may appear to him as an eternal threat and so, he will constantly be on guard against oncoming chaos, even if there is no cause or reason.

If a man stifles the King within him, he will refuse to take control of his life, he will never ground himself to the present moment, nor will he embrace his true gifts and knowledge. Other people will be able to see his insincerity; they see his immense potential, they see his power, but they also see how he cowers behind others and never accepts responsibility for his purpose.

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Moore believed that both shadows, excess and denial, coordinate with each other. It is rare that a man is ruled by one and not the other. One who identifies too strongly with the archetype is always overcompensating for a weakness in himself that he has repressed. However, those who deny the energy usually have immense quantities of it within them that they refuse to admit. Underneath every blustering tyrant is a scared Weakling. And underneath every trembling weakling is a tyrant waiting to erupt in violence.

The Shadow emerges from traumas suffered during childhood. These emotional wounds will gradually reveal their presence during adolescence and then they remain fixed in adulthood, often deciding which of the archetypes the man will grow to associate with most.

Of course, what we resist will persist. If we repress our wounds into the unconscious and deny them within ourselves, we become victims to shadow possession. The shadow longs to reintegrate itself back into the whole and when we suppress this attraction towards unity, we invite greater pain into lives. This is the premise that was the foundation of Carl Jung’s work:

“Unfortunately there can be no doubt that man is, on the whole, less good than he imagines himself or wants to be. Everyone carries a shadow, and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is. If an inferiority is conscious, one always has a chance to correct it. Furthermore, it is constantly in contact with other interests, so that it is continually subjected to modifications. But if it is repressed and isolated from consciousness, it never gets corrected.”

Carl Jung, Psychology and Religion

Every man, whether he admits it or not, will be able to feel one or more of the shadow archetypes within themselves. It is important that he does not become disgusted with this particular aspect of himself — he should not resist it or overcompensate for it by pretending to be someone he is not. The energy one feels is never wrong or right, it is neutral. But when one judges and resists the energy, it becomes perverted and ungrounded.

For example, if one resists his Warrior because he has come to view himself as a harmless and innocent bystander, which is often the case when one has grown up with overprotective parents, then the instinctive desire to impose his will becomes crooked and dangerous — he has judged his natural aggression to be sinister and immoral. But the energy remains within him, except that now it has become corrupt.

This man, who has repressed his natural desire, will show himself to be a passive-aggressive pushover. But this is an immature and often destructive declaration of masculinity. To achieve fullness, this person must realign himself with the natural masculine desire to thrust oneself into the world.

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If we do not confront the shadows within our psyche, we will be forced to face them in the outer world. To avoid projecting our evil onto others, it is necessary to reclaim the shadows as our own.

Only once we have taken responsibility for our weaknesses can we learn to defuse their destructive potential. When the shadow is integrated, we experience ourselves as richer, more abundant and more powerful individuals. The people in our lives will also become less repulsive and more human.

The archetypes play an immense role in the lives of all individuals. And if we become aware of these patterns and the symbols they manifest, we experience an expansion of consciousness. It is our responsibility to become aware of the hidden forces that press upon our subconscious. Our only purpose is to reveal the light within the darkest corners of our being.

In this time of information and awakening, we have the opportunity to fulfill the ancient longings within us, to balance the burden of civilisation with our most primitive nature. And by rediscovering the archetypes of man and the wisdom of our ancestors, we will be able to heal the health and reputation of masculinity.

Thank you for reading,

Harry J. Stead

harry stead