29 March 2016

Review: "King, Warrior, Magician, Lover - Rediscovering the Archetypes of the Mature Masculine" by Robert Moore and Doug Gillette

This is the first book in my journey to decipher the masculine me. And with such lofty a title, I couldn't go wrong–or could I? Let me state right off the bat, that I have yet to be convinced that Psychology is a science. That, of course, takes its potential usefulness out of question. I see Psychology as a set of tools that categorises patterns in human behaviour and in doing so, may be beneficial. Thus, when recommended this book in an article of a trusted media outlet as a "spiritual guide to masculinity", I tried entering it with an open mind. But, as I had to discover, not only was the descriptor wrong, it really has nothing to do with spirituality as I understand it.

What this book actually is about, is the mature masculine as viewed through the eyes of Jungian Psychology, and how one sheds the infantility of a boyhood psyche. Since I am no scholar of Psychology and have had no great interest in pursuing it thus far, the school of Carl Jung only peripherally entered my perception over the years. I therefore may not be up on the jargon, but as far as I can tell, most of the metaphors used in this book are to be understood as such.

Moore and his co-author Gillette identify maturation rituals as necessary to form an adult psyche. These, they write, have been successfully used throughout human history and across all cultures, but which we are now seriously lacking. The book is not too short on history and mythology as prime example-givers and intends to serve its reader as a wholesome practical guide to the male psyche in this masculinity-deficient modern world.

The authors propose that within all men exists a duality of so-called boy psychology and man psychology--both with their own four archetypes. Each individual archetype can be seen as a triangular pyramid, at which top sits the archetype in its fullness, and its bipolar, dysfunctional shadow aspects at the bottom ends. A mature male has to outgrow the archetypes of boy psychology and give rise to the archetypes of man psychology. To then bring each into accordance, is what makes the mature male.

The four archetypes of man psychology are the eponymous King, who is an ordering and reorganising energy, the Warrior, who creates, defends, and extends, the Magician, who uncovers and shares hidden knowledge, and the Lover, who promotes aliveness and passion. To stray too far from any of them, or to let oneself be occupied too much by a single one, invokes their bipolar shadow aspects. A Shadow King, for example, may manifest himself either in the Tyrant, who seeks to cover his own shortcomings by abusing others, or the Weakling, who has lost touch to the archetype to such an extent, that he projects the king unto others, thus possibly giving in to a "Führer"-figure.
For lack of the aforementioned maturation rituals, the authors leave it up to the reader to acknowledge and identify potential deficiencies in their masculine psyche and treat to them. They propose four different exercises in the closing chapters of the book, which may help access them. It is then in their hope, that by giving each of these "board members" their fair say and thus throwing out the root cause of patriarchal oppression (infantile boy psychology), both the masculine and feminine world will be better for it.

In the end, "King, Warrior, Magician, Lover" is too vague an offering for my tastes. The metaphoric nature of its content leaves me longing for more scientific inquiries on the behavioural issues presented. That is not to say, that it wasn't a good read and I got no value out of it. I often found patterns of myself in some of the shadow aspects, which also happened to excite me the most as a reader.

So strictly speaking, as a tool for introspection, it does a formidable job, even though I am doubtful if what comes out of the self-treatment excercises conforms to an "archetype in its fullness". Nevertheless, it did kindle my interest in Jungian psychology, which certainly is of value. And even though I am still more inclined towards the neuroscientific approach to human behaviour, it is a book I might need to get back to with a more wholesome understanding of the subject matter.

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