Friday, May 22, 2009

King, Warrior, Magician, and Lover

I mentioned in yesterday's post that I used to teach masculine psychology and someone asked how that differs from ordinary psychology. I suppose you could say it's about what makes men tick. In that respect, the only difference is the focus. But having said that, there's more.

Instead of Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, we talked about images of masculinity that are common cultural elements worldwide. C. G. Jung called these images "archetypes" and by that he meant, more or less, an unconscious template that influences conscious behavior. Our discussions focused on four particular archetypes, i.e. King, Warrior, Magician, and Lover. I'll try to give you a Reader's Digest version of these.

The King refers to a man's ability to order his life and nurture others. A well-developed King considers the consequences of his actions, accepts responsibility for his failings, and encourages his children to become their own best selves. The Warrior describes the energy of achievement and it is essential if a man ever hopes to accomplish anything of lasting value. The man in touch with the Magician is reflective and self-aware. Finally, the Lover gives passion to life and enables a man to dream.

There is no doubt one can find other ways of thinking about the male psyche, but images such as these help clarify traits and behaviors -- they get us "out of our heads" and into real life. They also help men visualize the kind of person they wish to be while confronting who they are.

In tribal cultures, the process of initiation into mature manhood brought these archetypes to life. We still have initiation rites though we call them by other names, e.g. graduation, bootcamp, and so forth. Ironically, our modern initiation rituals don't always result in persons who embody the fullness of the King, Warrior, Magician, and Lover archetypes. Women (yes, there are feminine counterparts to each of these) and men may seem adrift, uncertain, or bland. Disordered lives are fertile ground for addiction. On the surface they look fine, beneath the facade lies chaos.

Changing the leopard's stripes is what the men I worked with were all about and their drive and commitment to the process was wonderful to behold. It's what Dr. Rae Crane was about in Medicine Man. It may take a lifetime to achieve, but look at it this way, we all end up the same way, so why not end up better than we might have become otherwise?

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