The King ArchetypeBy Paul Murphy and Tim Drown
To understand the king archetype, we first need to understand the nature of kingship. This ancient and noble office is steeped in a rich history of tradition and myth that provides a stunning insight into the potential within each and every man. It can be hard to comprehend that we are kings in waiting. The pinnacle of masculine maturity is expressed through this, the king archetype. Throughout our lifetimes, the destiny of kingship beckons to all men. It torments us with the promise of that which is yet to come. From time to time we react to this inner-yearning and attempt to seize the throne, but all too soon. Kingship is not entered into lightly, neither so, prematurely. For the fullness of the king archetype to be activated, we must wrestle with the lover, warrior and magician and emerge unembittered from the many quests of life. The man who seizes the crown too early is destined to fall into the shadow elements of kingship and does so at great expense to the development of his own character and integrity.
We could write pages on the different traditions of kingship. Hebrew, Egyptian, English, and African cultures (to name just a few) provide a unique insight into the king archetype, and no archetype receives more attention in historic records. As with the other archetypes, Kingship is not an intellectual state. It is rich with the mystery, legend and intrigue that surrounds the kings of ancient times. It is the culmination of a soul’s journey that, having been undertaken consciously, brings about a confidence, wisdom and mastery of life that flows from beyond the mind and is not easily explained.
We have all experienced kings in our lives. These are the men who captured our attention and won our respect because they touched something deep within us. Men who, having grown into the fullness of their own power, have no need to second guess themselves, to spar with warriors are not shamed by jesters or uncomfortable with their shadow. They are men who are living in their full potential. Having entered fully into the king archetype in their own lives, their very presence stirs the dormant king within other men, inspiring them along life’s path.
The abandonment of spirituality, mystery and myth by the scientifically enlightened mind has caused the common view of the king to be dominated by the immature qualities of kingship. The contemporary notion of kingship is often limited to wealth, power, fame and influence. Not so the associations of ancient man. Egyptian Pharaohs were identified as gods and clearly recognised as divine. The king was not a servant of God, nor a mere channel for the power of God. Rather, the ancient notion of the kingship acknowledged the Divinity of the King Himself. Royalty was a divine lineage. Unlike the magician who served the gods, the king is a god.
This meant the king’s subjects existed through him; civilisations exist because he created them. The king held order, peace and justice in balance by his divine hand. Here we see the incredible power a man may enter into as the king archetype emerges. The integration and grasp of his own divine nature opens the soul of a man, allowing love, life and vitality to flow freely. Success is no longer a concern to the light King. Duality has run its full course and the king rests in the knowledge of the absolute – there is only success, wisdom and wellbeing. He has learnt the lesson of the gods – mankind cannot be controlled. Where there is no control, there is no responsibility. The king has discovered the freedom that comes with releasing responsibility for others and embracing in fullness, responsibility for self.
Peace reigns in the heart of the king. He no longer fears loss for he no longer has anything to lose. Life can take his throne, life can take his crown, but none can take the power and maturity he has entered into – for his kingship is internalised. As a great spiritual teacher once said “My kingdom is not of this world.”
Kingship is not obtained by every man, and neither do men always flourish in the empowered qualities of their kingship. Incredibly, the kings of more primitive cultures were robbed of their freedom and imprisoned by their crown. African tribal kings were often kept in compounds their entire lives, never allowed to leave lest their feet touch the ground. This same concept forms a basis for the red carpet that, in European tradition, was reserved only for royalty. The ancients feared that should the king’s feet come in contact with the earth, he would lose his divine energy and the world would fall into disarray. Some tribes would not allow the king to see the sun directly, as it represented competition for his divine power.
Here we see the king archetype functioning in its shadow. The well-known Arthurian legend of the Fisher-King portrays the fate of the wounded king, stripped of his power. The story of King David, from the Hebrew tradition provides a wonderful example of the struggles that exist for a man, even once this archetype has been activated.
In the account of King David, we see David’s raw and real struggle to be an adequate King, and the ease with which one slips from the light King to the shadow King and the consequences that arise.
David was a well-loved King and the myth of David suggests that his Kingdom extended the borders of Israel to their limit. His rule was known as a time of conquest and expansion. He experienced the pleasure of man and God. This is the experience of life when a man’s full potential is reached. He has come into his wisdom and power and the light King has fully emerged. The story of David’s life provides great insight into the male journey from childhood to kingship and a more in depth look at his personal journey foreshadowing the emergence of the king archetype.
Despite his personal empowerment and maturity, David fell more than once into the shadow King. The well-known story of David and Bathsheba provides a dramatic example of such a fall. This story is full of rich insight into the male journey. Here we see the struggles embraced as the king falls into shadow. Even in the fullness of maturity, we face the reality of the shadow self. Some men do not recover from these shadow experiences, and fall deeper into the shadow masculine traits such as aggression, denial, isolation and impotency. David responds differently. He journeys consciously into the shadow, grieving and mourning his guilt and shame, embracing the consequences that emerge in his life. This is the journey we are tempted to avoid. When the warrior will not let go, we struggle to enter the reality of defeat. But this is the transformative journey to kingship. Bringing our souls into submission with that which is greater than ourselves, identifying how powerless we truly are and embracing our pain is the pathway to kingship.
Bathsheba bore David a second son. He was named Solomon, and legends tell how the kingdom flourished under Solomon’s wisdom and rule. To journey consciously through the shadow is transformative, turning the straw of our lives into gold.
The initiation of the king archetype is both age appropriate and linked to life’s circumstances. The disempowered man, who fails to make peace with his shadow child is unlikely to enter into the maturity of the king archetype. The young man, no matter how proactive he is in life’s journey, will not enter the maturity of kingship until life’s passage has truly prepared him. There are no child kings. The most assured path to kingship is through a conscious approach to life and the guidance of an experienced mentor. Kingship is the unconscious destiny of every man and with self-awareness, acceptance and diligence, it is our guaranteed inheritance.
The Shadow KingBy Paul Murphy and Tim Drown
Men are notoriously remembered for their infamy as much for their great deeds and contribution to society. History is littered with expressions of the shadow king that have left deep scars on the hearts and minds of individuals and nations. The entire world still shudders at the mention of names such as Hitler, Stalin and many monarchs of English rule.
These scars bear witness to the tyranny of the shadow king. While many who blindly thrash about in the archetype of the shadow king are not in the position to shatter nations, they inevitably crush the hearts of those around them, inflicting deep wounds on those they proclaim to love. Apart from ourselves, it is our partners and children who suffer most under the tyranny of the shadow king.
History is not kind to the shadow kings of the world stage, but their stories offer us invaluable insights into the signs of this archetypes activity in our lives. The story of the Hebrew king, King Herod clearly outlines the work of the shadow king.
The hunger for power is a trade mark of the shadow king and will cause a man to do vile things. Herod began in the shadow, for he was not a rightful King. He had been strategically placed in office by the invading force of the Roman Empire, with the hope of appeasing the restless Hebrew people who had a long history of revolt against foreign government.
Herod had no true empirical power. He was a puppet of Caesar. Here we see the perfect environment for the shadow king to function. A true king has embraced his own power as he has wrestled with the trials of life. It has been the long, slow maturation process that has won him the respect and confidence of his people, as well as established in him an unshakable security and inner-strength. The man who attempts to grasp power prematurely, who has not stood the test of time and passed through the rites of passage that lead to maturity, has no real power. The people see him for the insecure boy that he is. His insecurity runs deep and drives his hunger for power, for he is under the illusion that this will bring to him the strength and legitimacy that he needs to achieve the sense of value and significance that he so painfully lacks.
The young man that fathers too early, or is promoted too soon; the leader who has not undertaken an inner journey and is driven by ego toward success and achievement; the stubborn and obstinate male who will argue his point rather than admit he is wrong, and the man who judges and belittles those around him – constantly criticizing his wife and children are clear examples of shadow kingship. His reign of obstinacy and terror is an unconscious attempt to disempower others that he may feel powerful, clearly revealing a lack of true strength. Such a man has not yet been initiated into the archetype of king.
The day came for Herod where rumour of a rival reached him. Astrologers had ventured into his province after a planetary alignment indicated the birth of a king. This was no ordinary king; he is prophesied to carry the redemption of the world on his shoulders. In the minds of the Hebrew people, to liberate them once and for all from the tyranny of foreign rule and unite their own divided ranks into one nation yet again. The narrative reveals the earth and celestial bodies celebrating this king’s arrival, but the shadow king has a different response. Herod is paranoid and enraged. His grip on power remains only as long as he maintains the appearance of submission to Rome. After deceiving the astrologers, Herod marshals his army and sends them out on a gruesome mission. Their orders are to kill every infant boy in the kingdom, thereby eliminating the threat to Herod’s rule.
As we delve into the narrative symbolically, we see the fear and insecurity of the shadow king attempting to stamp out new life, hope, creative energy, childlike innocence and beauty. The joy and celebration of new life in many homes collapsed overnight into grief and mourning at the hand of the shadow king.
So neurotic is the shadow king that he cannot take responsibility for his pain, his wounds and his insecurity. He has not faced them in the rites of passage necessary to become a true king. Instead, he has cowered his way through life, avoiding discomfort at all costs and embracing the quick-fix that reflects the egocentricity of childhood more than the maturity of the initiated man. So in this position of influence and with the appearance of power, the shadow king passes his pain on to the next generation. Rather than face his shadows, he employs them to burden the people over whom he has influence. Where there is a chance to increase his ill-gotten power, he will do so, and his world grows smaller and smaller around the often insignificant area of life in which he has found significance and expertise. For this island, however small and deserted, remains the evidence of his power and rule.
While we are familiar with the shadow king in the workplace in the form of the boss who has no inner compass to guide his decisions, and we frequently encounter the archetype in the form of trades people who arrogantly refuse to listen, mocking a customer’s inexperience to boost their own self-importance, the shadow king is most commonly and devastatingly deployed much closer to home in the father and son relationship.
The father who was raised by a shadow king will inevitably fall into this role. He will require his son to toughen up and stand on his own feet even while the child still requires support and nurture. A sure sign the lover has not been initiated within him. Although scarred from his own childhood, he will attempt to recreate the very rules and conditions that wounded him, under the illusion that “if it was good for me, it is good for him”. Without the magician employed, he has no capacity for self-awareness and transformation, no alignment with truth or spirit. The shadow king is always an uninitiated warrior, living instead as a hero, seeking moments of glory for personal gain rather than working toward the success of the whole. A hero will always seek to out-gun his closest competitor, and at many stages of a boys transition to manhood, his father will compete to affirm his supremacy rather than provide the affirmation the young man requires in journey to maturity.
Yet very few of these men truly wish their sons ill-will or harm. Most long to see their boys succeed and grow into the fullness of manhood. Our models of manhood are so skewed that we work hard to achieve very little. Most of these fathers would extend the love of their hearts to their sons, if they knew how. It is the shadow king that keeps them trapped, unable to love and communicate love. Without the initiation of all the archetypes, the true king cannot emerge.
A true King promotes growth and expansion. He lives in security and strength. He knows he will not hold his office forever, and encourages growth in others even when their abilities rival his own. His deep security comes from the intuitive knowledge that he will never be redundant. For his ability to give, his openness of mind and heart cause his inner kingdom to expand each day, and having reached the fulfilment of his time, he is transformed into the sage. This is One to whom great Kings turn and pilgrims travel weary miles to sit for but a moment in the bliss of his presence.
This is the blueprint of your own masculinity. This is the potential being stirred within you even now. You are much more than you have ever imagined, and we invite you to join us in the journey to masculine maturity.