Masculine Archetypes

Many thanks to my long-time colleague Richard Hartnett for the following post.

Today a great football coach gave his resignation speech from an organization that he had been a part of for 15 years. At several points in his presentation, he had to stop because he was overwhelmed with emotion.   It was obvious that he loved his job, loved the men who played for him and loved the people he worked for. This moment was a stark contrast from his departure from the previous organization where he coached. When he was fired by that organization it was due in large part because his players hated his “hard ass attitude”. What had changed this man into a sensitive and honorable man?   The shift for this man started when one of his players came up to him and said, “I love you coach”. That simple statement compelled him to reconsider the profound influence of his position.  

It may seem strange to find deep emotions expressed in a game that is essentially a forum for violence. Yet, it starts to make sense when you understand the intention of this coach changed from simply being focused on winning to developing character in each of his players that would not only motivate them to win, it would become the cornerstone of the success in their lives beyond football. Football has always been a place where men are given the opportunity to develop their warrior nature. Like it or not, it is essential that we have a healthy warrior nature. It is one of the four important masculine archetypes.

Courtesy John Martinez Pavliga, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license

The abuses of our masculine warrior nature have brought forth a significant amount of scorn from those who were previously oppressed and exploited by it.   This persecution of the masculine is understandable. There is still way too much violence caused by men. It is necessary that we challenge our bad behavior, but as is often the case, we assume that we must get rid of masculinity completely rather than master its expression. Masculinity is not the problem; the problem is the distorted expression of masculinity.   Distortion is a consequence of not fully understanding an archetype.  

To begin to understand masculinity must first ask, “What is an archetype?” an archetype is a universal energy that we must all deal with in one form or another. Each archetype has specific characteristics and each offers unique skills and talents to master. Each of the archetypes, challenge us to learn about ourselves, and our place in the greater reality of our universe. In order to be successful in life, one must come to understand these influences if not outright master their use. Working with archetypes is something we all do because archetypes are universal.

There are four key Masculine archetypes. They are: The King, the Warrior, the Magician and the Lover. Each represents an important vehicle for assertive masculine expression. If you want to fully understand these archetypes, I would strongly recommend reading the book, “The King, The Magician, the Warrior and the Lover” by Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette.

Archetypes are influences that exist in all cultures but have different images and names associated with them. Rulers are called kings, presidents, sultans, emperors, chiefs, lords, sovereigns, and even potentates. The archetype represents the common elements that all rulers share. All cultures have stories about the qualities and characteristics that rulers have. Each Ruler may be different in how their power is applied but they all share in common that they are the Ruler of their kingdom. The archetype represents the essence of rulership itself. All Rulers will fall short in their application of ruling because they have to deal with the challenges of this limited material world and because our understanding of the archetype of rulership is still evolving. It's important to recognize that no matter how successful any Ruler might be, there will always be more to learn. This is equally true for the warrior archetype as well as the others.

The book, by Moore and Gillette, explains both the appropriate and distorted expressions of each of the archetypes. Now that concept alone makes the book worthwhile. You will find a great deal more in this book that will help you to understand masculinity in all its forms.

One of the key concepts these gentlemen convey is that distortion has two forms of expression. Either we can express too much or too little of an archetype. Each is equally toxic but for opposite reasons. This coach was initially guilty of applying too much masculine aggressive behavior, yet it would be equally dysfunctional for him to apply too little. Somewhere in his transition into the second organization he began to find a healthy balance.

A coach is for all intensive purposes the embodiment of the King archetype.  He rules his players who embody the warrior archetype. One of the functions of a king is to convey a purpose to motivate the warrior. The key difference between an appropriate warrior and an inappropriate mercenary is their motivation. A warrior serves a higher cause, which in this case is the pursuit of excellence. While a mercenary fights for no other cause than to serve himself; whether it’s his desire for fame or money, his behavior is always selfish.  A mercenary has little regard for his opponent, the integrity of the game or even how his behavior affects his teammates.  There is a great deal of mercenary behavior going on in professional sports.  Yet, every once in awhile you hear about someone such as this coach who rises above the limitations of the past and brings forth a new understanding of an archetype. Every man who struggles to find his place in the world needs to understand that these archetypes are always in the background influencing the events of our lives.  It is always in our best interest to study and to master the appropriate expression of an archetype.  To ignore them does not make them go away, to persecute them only drives them underground where their expression ends up coming out in a distorted or perverted way.

This forum is devoted to the exploration of masculinity.   You will find that studying masculinity will transform your life in ways that you cannot imagine.  I encourage all men to read the aforementioned book and to celebrate their manhood by finding the best way to become a man of integrity.  Our greatest hope for the redemption of our society is to find the proper motivation for our masculine expressions.  Yet, we must always remember to honor and respect the feminine in all of its forms while we are expressing our masculinity.  Finding our appropriate motivation by serving a higher purpose than selfish desires, will transform not only our world, it will transform our relation with ourselves.  Let us all find the way to walk forward together as newly evolved men into a brave new world.

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