A man reading a book while sitting outside under a roof.

How are common masculine archetypes described in King, Warrior, Magician, Lover? What do Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette have to say about the male psyche?

The archetypes King, Warrior, Magician, Lover discusses encompass four major elements of the masculine psyche and how they can be expressed healthily or unhealthily. Looking at positive and negative examples of each, you can see how key balance is to maintaining a healthy mindset.

Read on to learn about these archetypes and more broadly about what it means to be masculine.

About the Book King, Warrior, Magician, Lover

Are modern men unstable and abusive compared to their ancestors? Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette say the answer is yes, and in their book on male archetypes King, Warrior, Magician, Lover they explain why it’s happening. Drawing on Carl Jung’s theory of personality archetypes, along with their own observations about modern society, Moore and Gillette explore why men today aren’t in tune with their masculinity and how that affects their behavior. 

Moore (1942-2016) was a psychotherapist and therapist consultant who specialized in Jungian psychology. Though he worked with people of all genders, Moore was best known for his research on male psychology and masculine gender identity—much of which he presents in King, Warrior, Magician, Lover. He was also the Distinguished Service Professor of Psychology, Psychoanalysis and Spirituality at the Chicago Theological Seminary, as well as cofounder and Director of Research at the Chicago Center for Integrative Psychotherapy

Gillette is a professional artist and author. His interests are psychology, mythology, and spirituality. He’s written numerous books on those subjects, as well as giving lectures and leading workshops. Gillette also worked as a pastoral counselor, which combined his interests in psychology and spirituality, though he has since retired from that role. 

This article on King, Warrior, Magician, Lover begins by presenting Moore and Gillette’s explanation of why modern men grow up without being taught to connect to their masculinity in mature and healthy ways, as well as the damage that causes to society as a whole. Then, we’ll explore the four psychological aspects listed in the title. Each aspect will be divided into three sections:

  1. What that aspect does when it’s healthy and fully developed—that is, what it’s “supposed” to do
  2. How that aspect presents itself when it’s not fully developed and matured—when it’s stuck as the boyhood version of itself 
  3. How that aspect can become imbalanced, leading to abusive and destructive (or self-destructive) behaviors

Finally, we’ll conclude by discussing two foundational requirements for healthy masculinity: balance and humility. 

Our commentary compares Moore and Gillette’s ideas to those of other psychologists, including the original ideas of Jung. We’ll also provide tools and actionable advice to help people connect with healthy masculinity, or help others to do so. Finally, we’ll discuss how many of these issues could be signs of an underlying psychiatric problem, which might need professional help to treat. 

Introduction: Healthy Masculinity in Decline

Moore and Gillette begin by saying that western society (meaning the US and western Europe) is suffering from the decline of healthy, mature masculinity. It’s being replaced with various forms of immature and abusive masculinity. This unhealthy masculinity takes various forms: It can be seen in weak and passive men, but also in the fact that modern society is run largely by angry, violent, domineering men.

(Shortform note: King, Warrior, Magician, Lover was published in 1990, and so it uses some outdated terms and ideas about gender. Most notably, Moore and Gillette equate sex with gender: They use “boy” and “man” to refer to all people assigned male at birth, along with “girl” and “woman” to describe all people assigned female at birth. This practice is no longer widely accepted in psychology. The authors also don’t mention other gender identities, such as people who are nonbinary. However, to stay consistent with the source material, this guide will continue to use Moore and Gillette’s terminology.) 

The King: Order and Judgment 

The first of the four masculine ideals is the King. According to the authors, this is the part of the psyche that maintains mental balance and stability; it’s a person’s internal voice of reason. Someone with a healthy King aspect can stay calm and confident, and make good decisions in stressful situations.

When properly developed, the King keeps the other personality aspects in check and unleashes them only when appropriate. For instance, when it’s time to stop thinking and start acting, the King allows a man to rein in his Magician aspect and bring his Warrior aspect to the fore. 

The Immature King: the Divine Child

Moore and Gillette say it’s a common misconception that growing up means getting rid of boyhood aspects of the psyche and replacing them with the four mature, masculine ideals. In reality, it’s impossible to eliminate any aspect of someone’s personality. Instead, as a man matures, he should view the boyish aspects of his psyche as foundations to build upon. 

The first of these immature aspects is what the authors call the Divine Child. Whereas the fully developed King takes charge and makes decisions to help a man reach his full potential, this undeveloped aspect represents the man’s unrealized potential. The Divine Child is the part of the psyche that determines what someone wants to do or thinks he can do—but, in this immature state, it doesn’t have enough power to turn those wishes into reality. 

The Imbalanced King: Oppression and Surrender

While an immature personality aspect can stop someone from living up to his potential, it’s not inherently harmful. However, each aspect can become harmful if it’s developed incorrectly, such that it’s out of balance with the rest of the person’s psyche, or its abilities are used improperly; Moore and Gillette call this a shadow

The Oppressor

At one extreme of the King’s spectrum is the Oppressor. The authors explain that an Oppressor has authority, but lacks the calm confidence of a good King. The thing he fears most is losing his power over others. Because of that fear, he sees everything as a threat to his power, and he is utterly ruthless in crushing those perceived threats. 

Moore and Gillette add that, in the Oppressor’s mind, the greatest danger to his authority is the limitless potential of his children. He’s afraid that they’ll humiliate him by surpassing his accomplishments, and undermine his power as they grow up and stop listening to him. 

As a result, the Oppressor tries to overpower his family and force them into line by any means necessary. For example, he belittles their interests and accomplishments in order to destroy their confidence; he also quickly resorts to verbal, emotional, and sometimes physical abuse if he even suspects that a family member is defying his will. 

The Abdicator

At the opposite end of the spectrum is the Abdicator. Moore and Gillette explain that, while the Oppressor fights desperately to hold onto his power, the Abdicator willingly gives away his authority. He allows others to make decisions for him and passively submits to their whims because he’s afraid to take responsibility for his own life. In fact, someone with a strong Abdicator aspect often seems to have no desires or interests of his own and completely devotes himself to doing what other people want.

The Warrior: Action, Discipline, and Devotion

Whereas the King is the leader of a man’s psyche, the Warrior is the part that gets things done. Phrased differently, the King gives commands and the Warrior carries them out.

However, Moore and Gillette say that the Warrior aspect is about much more than just turning decisions into actions. The Warrior—like the idealized knights in King Arthur’s legends—is a symbol of discipline, strength, skill, and loyalty. 

The authors explain that, when a man has a well developed Warrior aspect, his first concerns are always self-discipline and self-control. This is because the greatest Warriors are those who master their own minds; by doing so, they develop the will, focus, and courage to accomplish incredible things. Therefore, someone with a strong Warrior aspect can act quickly and decisively, without getting distracted by stray thoughts or feelings.

The Immature Warrior: the Hero

Moore and Gillette say that the boyhood form of the Warrior aspect is called the Hero. The main difference is that, whereas the developed Warrior has overcome his fear of hardship and defeat, the underdeveloped Hero has never been afraid in the first place. Someone who’s stuck in the Hero aspect thinks that he’s invincible and his abilities are limitless. As a result, when he does fail (as he inevitably will at some point), that failure is a crushing blow to his self-image and self-esteem. 

The Imbalanced Warrior: Cruelty, Obsession, and Cowardice

Moore and Gillette explain that the Warrior is inherently detached from emotions (including his own) and from interpersonal relationships—remember that this aspect’s main concern is with taking action to support a cause. Because of that detachment, it’s especially easy for the Warrior to develop improperly or become imbalanced. As with all of the aspects the authors discuss, an imbalanced Warrior can manifest in two opposing ways.

The Zealot

First, a Warrior lacking discipline and self-control can become a Zealot. Unlike the balanced Warrior aspect, which takes well-reasoned and appropriate action, the Zealot is sadistic: He loves to cause pain and destruction, and he will do so at every opportunity. Like the members of the Spanish Inquisition, the Zealot is eager to fight against anything that he sees as an enemy to his cause, and he fights using the cruelest methods he can think of. 

The Martyr

At the other end of the Warrior spectrum is the Martyr. The healthy Warrior aspect is willing to endure hardship for a cause, but the Martyr suffers for no real reason. 

Moore and Gillette say that this pointless suffering happens because someone with a strong Martyr tendency sees himself as powerless; he severely underestimates what he’s capable of. As a result, he doesn’t think he can do anything except endure whatever abuse comes his way. To give some examples, this aspect is common among people who stay in toxic workplaces or abusive relationships because they don’t think it’s possible to leave. 

The Magician: Knowledge and Wisdom

The Magician aspect is, in a way, the polar opposite of the Warrior. Moore and Gillette explain that the Magician is the deeply intellectual part of the psyche: It studies, learns, and seeks to understand obscure and complex subjects. This aspect is called the Magician because it grants insights and abilities that can seem supernatural—for instance, a skilled computer programmer could design software tools that boost his productivity to levels that other people would think are impossible. 

The Magician’s drive for understanding also includes understanding people, including the person whose psyche it’s a part of. It’s the part of the mind that analyzes people’s behavior and tries to discern their real intentions and motivations. As such, the Magician is a person’s internal lie detector and moral compass.

The Immature Magician: the Gifted Child

Before a Magician aspect is fully developed, it manifests as the Gifted Child. 

Moore and Gillette say that this immature version of the Magician first appears when a child discovers the joys of learning and of sharing his knowledge. Driven by a sense of wonder, the Gifted Child is excited to see and understand everything. As such, it’s the aspect that drives people to explore and experiment in the endless search for knowledge, including knowledge about themselves. 

In this case, the difference between the immature and mature aspects is experience, rather than mindset. The Gifted Child has the same urges to learn and to help others as the Magician does; he simply hasn’t gathered enough knowledge yet to become a fully realized Magician.

The Imbalanced Magician: Scheming and Inaction

Moore and Gillette say that, like the Warrior, the Magician is disconnected from human emotions—it’s concerned with knowledge, not with feelings. Therefore, it’s unfortunately common for a Magician to develop without the crucial drive to help others, which can lead to two different imbalanced aspects.

The Puppet Master

A Magician who uses knowledge selfishly becomes the Puppet Master. Instead of helping others, the Puppet Master manipulates them—for example, a politician who turns his constituents against each other so they don’t realize that he’s the one causing their problems. In other cases, a Puppet Master will help others, but he’ll charge extortionate fees for his services; this might manifest in doctors who refuse to treat uninsured patients, or a master craftsman who jealously guards his trade secrets until someone pays to become his apprentice.  

Moore and Gillette warn that the Puppet Master might seem useful from a purely selfish point of view, but a man under the influence of this aspect lives a fruitless and unsatisfying life. He manipulates others because he’s afraid to take action himself; instead of taking risks and experiencing life, he stays trapped in his own mind. The Puppet Master is so scared of making the wrong decision that he never makes any decisions. Then, as the end of his life draws near, he regrets all the things he never did.

The Saboteur

At the other end of the spectrum is the Saboteur. While the Puppet Master tries to get others to do what he wants, the Saboteur tries to stop others from accomplishing anything at all. 

Moore and Gillette explain that the Saboteur wants the recognition and respect that a great Magician earns, but he doesn’t want to do the Magician’s work of helping others. Like the Puppet Master, the Saboteur is driven by the fear of taking action (and, therefore, having to take responsibility for his actions). However, instead of using the Puppet Master’s underhanded tactics, someone under the Saboteur’s influence comes up with endless excuses about why he can’t or shouldn’t handle things himself. At the same time, he undermines other people’s work to make himself look better by comparison. 

The Lover: Desire, Passion, and Joy

All of the previous aspects were concerned with various kinds of control: control over oneself, control over one’s surroundings, or both. The Lover is the opposite—it’s the part of the psyche that wants to unrestrainedly enjoy all the pleasures that life has to offer. 

Moore and Gillette say this aspect is also unique because it’s motivated by emotions, rather than by intellect. The Lover fuels a person’s feelings of vigor, passion, and joy. It also drives him to fulfill his various needs and desires; this includes biological urges like food and sex, but also less tangible cravings such as joy, love, and a sense of purpose. Therefore, someone under the Lover’s influence wants to explore and experience as much as he can because he’s looking for ways to satisfy those desires.

The Lover is also highly empathetic, meaning that someone with a strong Lover aspect instinctively understands other people’s feelings and shares them. This can be very painful, but he finds joy even in the pain; to the Lover, all experiences are things to enjoy and celebrate. 

The Immature Lover: the Oedipal Child

Moore and Gillette say that a boy who didn’t have a nurturing masculine presence in his life, such as a loving father, is likely to get stuck in a boyhood version of the Lover aspect called the Oedipal Child. This happens when the boy grows up believing that all forms of love and care must come from women, since he never experienced them from a man.

The authors say that someone under the influence of the Oedipal Child longs for an ideal version of the feminine: a woman who’s impossibly loving, caring, and beautiful. This nonexistent woman is how he saw his mother when he was very young.

The Imbalanced Lover: Hedonism and Depression

The last psychological aspects we’ll discuss are the two versions of the imbalanced Lover. 

The Hedonist

The first of these is the Hedonist. Recall that the Lover’s purpose is to help the man satisfy his wants and needs; Moore and Gillette explain that, for someone under the Hedonist’s influence, there’s no such thing as satisfaction. Instead, he becomes obsessed with his own pleasure and spends his life chasing one whim after another.

The Hedonist usually arises because the Lover isn’t properly balanced by the psyche’s other aspects. As stated earlier, the Lover hates boundaries. That’s why it needs the King’s judgment, the Warrior’s discipline, and the Magician’s wisdom to keep it in check. 

The Unfeeling Man

At the opposite end of this spectrum is the Unfeeling Man: Whereas the Hedonist is lost in his desires, the Unfeeling Man doesn’t even know what his desires are. 

Moore and Gillette say that someone under the influence of this aspect has lost touch with his emotions. Without desire or pleasure to motivate him, the man soon becomes lethargic and bored. In short, he’s depressed—nothing excites him, nothing motivates him, and he doesn’t enjoy anything anymore. 

Healthy Masculinity Requires Balance and Humility

Now that we’ve discussed the four masculine ideals, along with their underdeveloped and imbalanced forms, we’ll end by briefly discussing how men can reconnect with their masculinity in mature and healthy ways.

Moore and Gillette say, first of all, that the King, the Warrior, the Magician, and the Lover help to balance each other. This means that, when one aspect of a man’s psyche has become imbalanced, the solution is often to engage other aspects to bring it back into alignment. For example, we’ve already discussed how the Hedonist can emerge when the other three aspects don’t set strong boundaries for the Lover. The reverse is also true: the Lover’s empathy prevents aspects like the Oppressor and the Zealot from taking control. 

The authors also say that one of the keys to healthy masculinity is being humble: A mature man admits when something’s wrong with him and takes action to fix the problem. This is crucial because nobody has a perfectly healthy psyche, and everyone’s aspects become imbalanced at times. Therefore, the sooner the man realizes it’s happening, the better things will be for him and for the people he loves. For example, horror author Stephen King has spoken about the years he spent under the Zealot’s influence (though he didn’t use that term). King’s obsession with his work nearly cost him his family, and he’s said one of his biggest regrets is that he didn’t recognize that problem sooner. 

Exercise: Think About How You Think

Consider how Moore’s and Gillette’s ideas about the male psyche and healthy masculinity present themselves in your life. 

Although King, Warrior, Magician, Lover was written with adult men in mind, you can gain insights from these questions regardless of your age or gender identity. 

  1. Which of the aspects that we’ve discussed (King, Warrior, Magician, and Lover) did you most strongly identify with? Does one of the four seem to be especially dominant in your personality?
  2. Which of those four aspects did you identify with the least? 
  3. Did you find yourself strongly identifying with any of the immature or imbalanced aspects? Which ones, and why?
Moore and Gillette on Archetypes: King, Warrior, Magician, Lover

Becca King

Becca’s love for reading began with mysteries and historical fiction, and it grew into a love for nonfiction history and more. Becca studied journalism as a graduate student at Ohio University while getting their feet wet writing at local newspapers, and now enjoys blogging about all things nonfiction, from science to history to practical advice for daily living.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *