Customer Reviews: King, Warrior, Magician, Lover: Rediscovering the Archetypes of the Mature Masculine
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on August 6, 2011
I follow The Art of Manliness blog closely, and when it recently inaugurated a series on the "mature masculine archetypes" as described by Carl Jung and the authors of this book, I immediately ordered a copy. While I don't subscribe to much of it, I find Jungian ideas intriguing, especially the ideas of archetypes and temperaments and how the various kinds of both interact. The writer at The Art of Manliness pointed out that some of the ideas in this book are "New-Agey" and not for him, but he still benefited from reading it. Thus advised, I began reading my copy as soon as it arrived.

The central argument of this engaging and readable book is that men have been unjustly denigrated by a society suspicious of masculinity, and that society has therefore been increasingly drained of "the mature masculine," the qualities inherent in fully-developed men. This condition is partly the fault of overzealous feminists, but also partly the fault of men who have failed to mature and are trapped in "boy psychology" or "the immature masculine." In short, these perpetual boys have given men a bad name. But another problem is the lack of rites of passage whereby the immature masculine dies and is reborn as the mature, bringing a male from boyhood to manhood. Men need these rites of passage in order to mature, and the modern world has failed to deliver. I sympathize greatly with all of this.

The most interesting part of the book to me was that detailing the four archetypes that make up the masculine psyche. They are the four men of the title: the King, the archetype of wisdom and rulership; the Warrior, the archetype of aggression and vigor; the Magician, the archetype of knowledge and technical mastery; and the Lover, the archetype of all kinds of connectedness, romantic or otherwise. Each archetype exists in mature and immature forms, and each has "Shadow" forms that are negative aspects of the archetype.

For example, in boyhood a boy might be a Hero, possibly sliding into bullying or cowardice (the opposed "bipolar" Shadow forms), but after a rite of passage bringing him into the mature masculine, the man becomes a Warrior, whose Shadow forms are the sadist and masochist. The King exists first as the Divine Child, who can become a High Chair Tyrant or Weakling Prince, and even as a mature King must avoid the Tyrant and the Weakling. The Precocious Child, whose Shadow forms are the Trickster and the Dummy, matures into the Magician, who may become the Detached Manipulator or the Denying Innocent One. Finally, the Oedipal Child, who may drift between the Mama's Boy and the Dreamer, matures into the Lover, who must avoid becoming the Addicted Lover or the Impotent Lover.

Every man's psyche is composed of all four archetypes and the four relate to and interact with each other in different ways, strengthening and tempering each other to maintain a balance, a mature masculinity. A Warrior who lacks the Lover becomes a sadist, and when the Lover lacks the Warrior he is trampled into the Impotent Lover. This is the real meat of the book, the most fascinating stuff.

Like the writer who recommended the book, I benefited from reading King, Warrior, Magician, Lover, but the book has serious problems which kept me from enjoying it.

The book's "New-Agey" parts didn't bother me that much--they were easy enough to ignore in favor of the genuinely insightful parts, of which each chapter has at least two or three. The authors are at their best when discussing the dysfunction of the archetypes, whether the tyranny of the King, the weepy love-addiction of the Lover, or the manipulation of the Magician. They also describe each archetype well. Had they stuck to describing what each archetype is and what can go wrong with it, I'd have given the book four or five stars. It would also have been a much shorter book, because the vast majority of the book is made up of illustrative examples coming from the authors' experiences and from a wide swath of history, religion, and mythology. I don't have problems with the former, but the latter are almost always terrible.

One of the most important principles I learned in studying history and comparative religion was not to look only for similarities, but to look especially keenly for differences and what those differences indicate. Again, the "New-Agey" tone of the book didn't bother me, but in the authors' attempts to find support from every conceivable belief system--from Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Greek and Roman mythology, ancient mystery religions like Gnosticism, and even Zoroastrianism--they stretch too far and often do violence to the myths they invoke. In describing the King's "generative" function of fertility, they write that "[t]he Egyptian Amun-Ra had his harem in the sky, and Zeus's exploits are well-known" (59). Zeus is hardly a model King. He is an oaf in Homer and a bully in Ovid, and fits better the authors' conception of the Tyrant, yet here we see him invoked solely because his "exploits" as a provider of fertility (often to unwilling mortal women) fit their thesis at the moment. Elsewhere, writing of "the end of the Hero," they write that "in legend and myth, he 'dies,' is transformed into a god, and translated into Heaven. We recall the story of Jesus' resurrection and ascension, or or Oedipus's final disappearance in a flash of light at Colonus, or Elijah's ascent into the sky in a fiery chariot" (41). The authors miss the point of all three of these examples--Jesus's death, resurrection, and ascension proved him a god rather than made him one; Oedipus's mysterious death came not through his role as Hero but because he had reconciled himself to the will of the gods and stopped warring with fate; and Elijah must appear on this list for the superficial reason of his assumption into heaven, because as a prophet he was certainly not representative of the Hero/Warrior archetype.

Examples drawn from actual history are just as clumsy. Ho Chi Minh is recommended as an object of veneration for those struggling to "access" their King archetype, and Pharaoh Akhenaten, who almost destroyed his kingdom through coercive religious reforms, is held up as a "beautiful" example of the King. Most of their information on Patton comes from the movie (one of the film's sources is listed in the "Selected Reading" but never cited in the book) and suffers, like the mytho-religious examples, gross misinterpretation. Referring to the famous slapping incident, they write that "Patton, for all his virtues, evidently had an underlying fear of his own weakness and cowardice. . . . Though he does not know it, what he has seen is the face of his own hidden fear and weakness projected onto another. He has glimpsed the weakling within" (68). Anyone familiar with Patton or soldiering in general recognizes this as wrongheaded. Even those who have seen the movie should recognize that, since in the very scene the authors describe Patton points out that it is shameful to have a coward use the same hospital as men wounded in battle--Patton's rage has nothing to do with himself, but with the men under his command whom he feels have earned better than to share such company.

Elsewhere the authors' historical information is just plain wrong--or made up. This reaches its apex in the section on the Lover, in which they recapitulate the old stories about how "Christianity, Judaism, and Islam . . . have all persecuted the Lover," going on to say that "Christianity has taught more or less consistently that the world . . . is evil, that the Lord of this world is Satan, and that it is he who is the source of the sensuous pleasures (the foremost of which is sex) that Christians must avoid" (126). True, this belief has been a pillar of some Christian sects, but only heretical Christian sects--it is called Manichaeism, and was imported from the dualist Zoroastrianism which the authors warmly commend elsewhere. In another instance, they repeat a purely fabricated story about Nazi SS trainees being forced to raise and kill a puppy in order to complete their training. (The same myth has been propagated about US Marines.)

That last example glances against a problem that exists throughout the book, which is self-contradiction. The authors lament--and I lament with them--the lack of meaningful rites for men in the modern world. As an example of what we're missing, they invoke the film The Emerald Forest, in which a boy, in order to become a man, "is seemingly tortured by the older men in the tribe; and forced into the forest vines, he is being eaten alive by jungle ants. He writes in agony, his body mutilated in the jaws of the hungry ants. We fear the worst," but come daylight he is greeted as a man and "takes on a man's responsibilities and identity" (4-5). But later they decry "the kind of sadism displayed in boot camp in the name of supposedly necessary 'ritual humiliation' designed to deprive recruits of their individuality . . . Far too often, the drill sergeant's motives are the motives of the sadistic Warrior seeking to humiliate and violate the men put in his charge" (90). Again, this is so wrong-headed as to defy belief. How, for instance, do the authors know that drill sergeants are only acting out of sadism but the village elders of The Emerald Forest are not? Military training is one of the very last great masculine rites of passage in the modern world--with elders guiding their young counterparts through obstacles to become a fully-realized member of their society, greeting them as equals at the end of training--and how the authors fail to see that I cannot understand. Elsewhere, the authors laud the Magician's Gnostic access to specialized knowledge which, like psychotherapists, they know they cannot share in full with the initiated, and within the same chapter condemn the Shadow form of the Magician, who will not share his specialized knowledge with the initiated.

Finally, there is also the issue of psychobabble. Fortunately there is very little of it in this book, which helps it immensely. The book is nothing if not readable, and avoiding jargon goes far in that regard. But in a few instances it does creep in, especially when discussing how to "access" these archetypes (which, incidentally, they never say how to do--it seems to just happen). In one absurd instance, when discussing Lovers as people who devote themselves passionately to hobbies, they write that "[s]team train buffs have a sensuous, even erotic, affinity for these great, shining black 'phalluses'" (130). I knew one enormously dedicated and widely published train enthusiast during graduate school and can guarantee his interest did not derive from a locomotive's fleeting resemblance to the phallus.

I've gone on entirely too long, but I really needed to give examples. I could go on much further. The book contains some good information, as I wrote above, and when the authors discuss things within their depth--staying out of history and leaving mythology and religion alone--they produce fascinating stuff. But they undermine every good point they make with pages of bad, false, misinterpreted, or wrong-headed examples, chosen for reasons of superficial resemblance.

Recommended for the good parts, which constitute perhaps four pages of every chapter.
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on March 10, 2002
I first read this book when it appeared in the early '90s, when the Men's Movement was everywhere (how long ago that seems). I have come back to the book many, many times for guidance and insight, finding relevance in different portions as I have aged, changed jobs, and faced new challenges. There is a reason why this book remains in print: it's an intelligent, clear, and well-grounded examination of the primary facets of men's selves and how men can use this understanding to improve their lives. The authors discuss each of the title's four archetypes in turn, explaining both the positive and negative aspects of each one, and how each can interact with the others. A particular strength is the authors' ability to describe each archetype in a vivid, three-dimensional (yet concise) way that enables you to *see* the archetype at work in yourself and others. I would recommend this book especially for readers who may be turned off by self-help works that are either too simplistic or too mystical. And, as other reviewers have pointed out, much of it would appear to be of interest to women as well as men.
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VINE VOICEon October 1, 2004
In such a slim volume, the authors did a splendid job of introducing the reader to their 4 male archetypes. They concisely describe these archetypes and provide some arguments for their theory and some applications of their findings. Moore is a Jungian psychologist and Gillette is a mythologist. It's an interesting and fertile collaboration of specialties. But, they simply cannot do justice to the 4 archetypes in one, tiny, volume. Thus, they wrote and published a volume on each of the 4 archetypes (5 books in all). Therefore, I'd consider this an introductory volume or prequel (a bit like the Hobbit to the Lord of the Rings trilogy). It's good in its own right, but better viewed as part of a much larger work. This larger work rates at least 5 stars. By the way, Dr. Moore has also produced numerous audio tapes for the C. G. Jung Institute of Chicago (I'm a life member) which you can buy (or rent if you join). He's a great speaker. In addition to listening to the tapes, I've heard him in person when he came to Maryland. Great drawl!

Later volumes were written for each of the 4 male archetypes: The King Within: Accessing the King in the Male Psyche,The Warrior Within : The Philosophies of Bruce Lee,The Magician Within: Accessing the Shaman in the Male Psyche, and The Lover Within: Accessing the Lover in the Male Psyche.
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on November 28, 1999
My brother lent me this book, and I was quite prepared to not like it at all - it seemed at first to be one of those sappy men's movement books.
However, once I started reading it I finished it in one long sitting.
The concepts are simple and make sense.
The core concept is that every man has varying amounts of King (representing the ability to bring order out of chaos, and a sort of benevolent use of power), Warrior( the ability to marshal resources, have courage, bear pain, make clear choices based on facts not emotions), Magician (or "alchemist" - concerned with knowledge and skill, and how to use it), and Lover (emotionally connected to others, having empathy).
Each one of these attributes has many good qualities; they can turn negative however, in both active and passive ways. The book cogently explains the symptoms of this - this was the part of the book that made me think the authors knew what they were talking about, in that I saw myself and my co-workers in some of the examples.
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on December 6, 2000
This is one of the most important books that I have ever purchased. I also read Iron John and feel almost as strong. It's been a year since I read KWML and I go back to it often. Since reading it more than a year ago, I have noticed that I now apply this knowledge, which benefits others around me, as well as myself. I can easily say that it has matured me in dramatic ways, opening pathways, giving me more confidence in my relationships with women on a personal level (the women I've dated) as well as on a professional level (the women I work with, for, etc.). It helps me to identify which men should mentor me and whom I should avoid. On a philisophical level, this brought new challenges in the face of a world unprepared or unwilling for the maturation of men. However, the rewards are great for you and those around you, because I now believe the greatest acheivement of man is his own maturation and I am confident that all your friends and loved ones, secretly cheer you on to that goal - the same way Arthur's kingdom flourished when he drank from the grail. Or perhaps how Christ calmed a raging sea. Seize this pearl.
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on January 11, 2004
I have no background in psychology, I am a tradesman. I read KWML about 6 months ago and found it to be the 'how-to' guide to repair and rebuild following a devastating personal loss. The four mature archetypes and their attendant immature 'shadows' were highly illustrative to me. The benevolent King, the courageous and disciplined Warrior, capable and knowledgable Magician, and the connected and loyal Lover all have their place, while the immature archetypes provide a guide for what really needs repair within the psyche. Moore is right: there are a lot of us who are still little boys in many ways. I regard this book quite highly, and will re-read it again after I recover it from the last person I lent it to.. This is one of the pivotal books of my life. It has its flaws, and could be twice its length, and still leave the reader wanting further study. I highly recommend it.
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on April 11, 2003
This book is the introductory shortest book of a five book series. The succeeding books treat each of the elements of mature masculinity (King, Warrior, Magician, Lover) in one volume each.
By far the most intriguing thought in the book for me is the authors assertion that what the problem with this world and men is that there is a overwhelming dominance of boyish, immature masculinity and hardly any mature, male masculinity.
To paraphrase the author: The world is full of boys pretending/playing to be men.
The book begins with a short intro in the difference between immature boy psychology and men psychology and some of their manifestations. Then Mythology and Jungian psychology are used to explain and highlight the King, Warrior, Magician and Lover. For each the author explains and differentiates between their full expression and their 'distorted' hyper-expression and under-expression which are both inferior and negative.
In general the focus was to much on the mythology part of the argument. I would have preferred a more psychology heavy treatment of the subject. But this is mostly a sign of the direction of my current interests. I would have as well wished there would have been more about how the boy vs men psychology manifestations differ and play out for each of the King, Warrior, Magician, Lover quartet.
But maybe more of that can be found in the 4 other books of the 5 book series.
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on November 9, 2006
King, Warrior, Magician, Lover is a great book.

Personally, what I've found most interesting was the picturing of how men can manifest the archetype's energies in infantile manners. It's also very interesting how it maps the archetypes with certain myths and religions. Personally, I like the "all the different theories fit together" feeling it gives.

I would not say that this is a self-help book. But in times where children raising is so poor, the book plays its part in helping men become more mature. And that is very, very valuable.

That's it. Sorry for my bad english.
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on January 19, 2011
After becoming interested in the mythopoetic men's movement, I read Bly's Iron John, which has its problems, but it also drives with seriousness and passion-- the reader feels Bly's vision and introspection, and we are made better by reading it. After reading Bly's book, I wanted to move on and read more from the movement, so Moore and Gillette were an obvious next step because their popularity and seeming influence in the movement-- even Bly cites their work again and again in Iron John.
Instead of being a great source for personal reflections, I was let down by King Warrior Magician and Lover. As some other critical reviewers have noted, the book is filled with almost random movie and pop-culture references, which remind me of grading the work of college students-- you get the feeling the authors really just wanted to talk about their favorite movies. What's worse is that these films are now another generation old-- while Bly's work comes across as timeless, Moore and Gillette's comes across as dated. The book also contains reproductions of paintings that aren't discussed in the text, which also reminds me of reading college papers which are thrown together, asking the reader to figure things out for themselves (since the authors can't clearly explain what they mean) rather than a driving tour-de-force, like Bly's, where the reader trusts that the deeper one reads into any line, the more meaning they will derive from the author's thoughts.
Being interested in world cultures and religions, I would also like to call to question the validity of innumerable comparisons that Moore and Gillette make in the book-- they seem simply careless. They seem to write that Hindu myths can be simply lumped together to support this point or another, and that Chinese Daoist thought is interchangeably synonymous with some other belief system. What this book practices, over and over again, is essentialism; it is flawed in sociological, anthropological, historical and cultural analyses-- it has none of the delicacy that allows Bly to discuss how some truths can be existential and archetypal. The book is obviously more pulp self-help than a work that advances any academically sound arguments. The book's evidence for claims is shaky. The book's examples are at times daft and other times left almost completely unexplained, which gives the reader a nauseating feeling that the authors have brought up a billion topics though none of them have been made to touch the reader's experience.
This said, the delineation of archetypes is fascinating and the discussion of fully manifest masculine archetypes, shadow poles, and boyish attempts at these masculinities is fascinating. It is the very core of the ideas in the book that deserve a read, and it's these that we can learn from. While the authors don't help the readers make this material accessible to their own lives, the material itself is still valuable, and they do enrich the type of discussion that Bly builds such a passion for in Iron John. It is a shame that so much of this book's 150 pages are wasted on irrelevant examples and poor writing (and, of course, pictures!)-- one definitely wishes that all five of these books could be compressed into a single, serious volume. As is, this book left me curious as to the ideas included in the next four books, but with no desire to tolerate the authors' writing styles in order to actually get to these ideas.
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on May 24, 2010
As a woman, It was a fascinating and insightful dive into the archetypes of men. It was easy for me to evaluate which men in my life were mature and who was stuck in boy psychology. I would also recommend this book for parents who want to help their boys cross over to mature men and how women can be counter productive at the critical adolescent stage. It would also be a good read for any single young woman who wants to know what mature men should be acting like. For women, in an age of equality, you can see yourself as the female version of the archetypes, which will help you as you examine your roles with your male partners and how you can unite beautifully as you both rotate through the mature archetypes.
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