The Archetype Of The Masculine King

The Crown of Mature Masculinity

Harry J. Stead
Sep 27 · 8 min read

Robert Moore, in his book ‘The King Within’, examined the expressions of kingship throughout history, and discovered a consistent portrayal of the symbolic king across many cultures. The undying images of kingship, Moore believed, reveal the contents within the unconscious of the divine masculine; they allow men to distinguish those characters and traits which were most respected amongst our ancestors. This archetype of the king then symbolises the epitome of manhood, the ultimate portrayal of how men should be. Every man will feel an internal drive towards this symbol of kingship, and it is natural that he examines his life according to whether he is proving the king within him, for the king is the highest expression of the masculine energy — it is man’s most original state of being, and his highest orientation to morality.

Our ancestors accessed the archetype of the king through ancient mythology and folklore; they listened to poems and tales of King Arthur, Robin Hood and Beowulf, and there were older men, real men who had witnessed war, plague and horror, who told the youth about the days and traditions of old. They practiced rituals and rites of passage, they celebrated the coming of the summer months and they mourned the winter, they toiled in the dirt and gave the gift of language, beauty and symphony to the ineffable. Modern man, however, has no time for myth or ritual, for he calls himself a man of science; he could never entertain anything that exists beyond the limits of the observable.

All the while, owing to the narrowness of his mind, he fails to see the wisdom that hides within the ancient and classical stories. And so, he has abandoned religion and mythology, indeed he has turned away from the experience, the wonder, the imagination of life itself. But if there is no ideal that men, or indeed humanity can strive towards, men will suffer without guidance or direction on what it means to be a ‘man’. All the religions and the mythologies hold an idea of the divine masculine — Jesus Christ, Krishna, Buddha, Muhammad — but we, in Britain and Europe, have chosen to turn away from these symbols, quite possibly because we do not have the nerve to face them.

Historic Portrayals of Kingship

The Anglo-Saxons believed the king to be a descendant from Odin, a Germanic god most associated with wisdom, healing, death, royalty and battle. The Germanic king was the warrior chief of his realm and the messenger of the gods, for his divine ancestry gave him access to the heavens, and through communication with the gods, the king ensured the well-being of his tribe and his army. Likewise, the Rajas of India were the embodiment of Dharma, meaning that which upholds, supports, or maintains the order of the universe. The balance within the world was the Raja’s responsibility, and he guaranteed this harmony by drawing the souls of all living things towards the higher spiritual dimensions. However, because of his divine powers, he removed himself from the earthly world and communicated to his people only energetically, lest his majesty be undermined by the masses.

According to Christian tradition, Jesus Christ was the only incarnation of king energy, because he was chosen as God’s sacrifice for the good of humanity. However, during the medieval ages, European kings began to imagine themselves alongside the ancient ideal of kingship, believing that they were the chosen orator of God’s word. It was God, scholars believed, who gifted the throne to the king, and therefore, it was the king’s responsibility to serve the higher power of God, to be a servant of God and not a servant of his people. And so, by serving this divine power, the king presented himself as an incarnation of the highest ideal, serving as the middle way between his people and the divinity of God.

The mortal king himself, as Moore writes, was relatively unimportant, because scholars valued the king energy and the eternal sacredness of kingship more than a temporary mortal. Expressions such as ‘Your Majesty’ and ‘God Save The King’, as is the tradition here in Britain, are a recognition of the standing monarch, but most importantly of the unchanging symbol that the monarch represents. The monarch, therefore, sits beyond the earthly quarrels of politics and should restrain from any sentimental indulgences or declarations of opinion. For the monarchy is a divine duty sent from God to provide the common man with an ideal to strive towards; so the symbol should remain out of reach from the ordinary people in order to preserve its magnificence. A mortal monarch, then, must answer only to God, not the ordinary people.

The focus of the king is the maintenance of harmony in the spiritual world, or rather the depths of his own unconscious, for it is not the duty of king to demand principle and law from his people, but rather to live law and order in his own life; he should only enforce order when necessary. If the king energy is not present within the mortal king, if the standing king is too weak or absent, then the world will give over to chaos and sickness. A mortal king stands as the fusion between heaven and earth, and as he brings the two, a duality, together, he creates the third, a unity — the harmony and balance of his kingdom. The kingdom, then, is a reflection of the king’s inner world, and if his mind is troubled, then his people will be troubled also. This means that it is the king’s responsibility to live according to the divine will of God, the ‘right order’ of nature — otherwise known as the Ma’at, meaning truth and balance, in ancient Egypt, or the Dharma, understood as the cosmic law and order, in Hinduism and Buddhism, or the Tao, which symbolises the ‘the way’ or ‘the path’ of the universe in China.

This image of the king can be found in most of the ancient scriptures across the world, and here I will give one example. In the New Testament, the disciples tell the story of when they saw Jesus walking across the sea towards their boat and how they each expressed how astonished they were by his powers. In this story, Jesus is presented as the king of the world, as the son of God who remains peaceful in a place of chaos so that he can negotiate the storm with reason and care. Water is the symbol of the unconscious, of the emotions that rise when one confronts the unknown; and by remaining still, by having faith in the water, by not allowing his emotions to overthrow his balance, Jesus was able to float and guide his disciples to safety. This story is representative of the symbol of the king.

Accessing the King Archetype

Now, if one wishes to access the king energy, it must first be understood that it is a matter of conviction. A beast is led by his impulses, but a king is led by reason; for reason is the balance between the excesses, and thus the king is a balance between the two excesses of men: tyrants and cowards. In this age, cowards outnumber the tyrants, but they are also the most dangerous. A harmless man, as Dr Jordan Peterson writes, is one who has not integrated the devil within him, and has his evil only under voluntary control. A tyrant can be thrown in jail, but a coward is he who commits violence against himself. The thread that unites the two is fear — both the tyrant and the coward fear the responsibility of kingship, each cope with their fear differently, either by shrinking or lashing out.

The king, however, is not moved by fear. He refuses to be carried by his emotions, and he remains firm against the persuasion of the world. Nor does he waver or tremble in the presence of the feminine, for he is the divine masculine king, the consciousness, the presence of all that thrives and blossoms around him. But this does not mean that he represses his emotions, rather he rises above them, like Jesus when he walked across the water towards his disciples. It is the blessing of the king to take himself lightly, even though he may feel heavy — his heart is never overwhelmed by the quicksand of passion. The king holds a deep, grounded sexuality; his masculine vitality is married with the earth — he does not bury his energy in apathy, nor does he allow it to soar into the sky and be taken by the wind. He understands that true strength is never hysterical, destructive or uncontrollable — instead, it is humble and forgiving. Therefore, the king is in firm control of his prehistorical nature, and he gives his gift only when there is an opportunity for total and honest expression.

The ideal of kingship maintains that the king is able to create order from mayhem and harmony from chaos, and this creative power is born from the king’s energetic balance between the masculine and the feminine, between the mind and the body, between consciousness and emotion — the fullness of the entire universe. The character and personality of the king, then, is also a balance between the poles of the extreme. He carries an aggressive tenderness, a grounded enthusiasm and an unspoken intelligence — this balance is the origin of his creative powers. It is the force of kingship that pulls together the two elements in order to create the whole, for the king is he who has risen above the duality of the senses — he represents the union, the oneness of all existence. The grace of kingship does not move or flinch under pressure, it remains still and watchful, like the Sun round which the planets of our Solar System orbits. A king simply allows himself to ‘be’, to exist without conflict, to be one with God, to flow with the Tao or the Dharma — to live alongside that which moves the moon and the stars. He understands himself to be whole and undivided, and he has learnt that there is nothing he must do, nor anything — women, money, fame — that he needs in order to feel full.

It must be noted, however, that it is the archetype of the king that serves as the Sun, the true centre of the system — not the mortal king. When the ego becomes its own priority and identifies itself as the king energy, the tyrant will arise. Instead, men and women need to think of themselves as ‘stewards’ of the king energy, for this will create a psychological distance between the ego and the king archetype, which is necessary if we are to use the symbol of the king appropriately.

Only a tyrant, a warrior, a real troublemaker tries to submit the world to his will. The king’s world is within; thus he does not need to reach out into the world, because the world comes to him. He is at the centre of the entire kingdom. And if he keeps himself present and stable, as the air and the water, then the world around him will become orderly and peaceful too. For the king is the creator of the universe, he represents the magnetic force field that repels the immoral and attracts the moral. The king’s responsibility, then, is to trust a higher power, rather than his mind, which can only create questions that have no answers; and by becoming a divine channel of goodness between heaven and earth, he in turn provides stewardship and order for his people.


Thank you, Harry J. Stead

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