The Four Archetypes of the Mature Masculine: The Boyhood Archetypes (Part I)

by Brett on August 23, 2011 · 38 comments

in A Man's Life, On Manhood

This is the second part of a series on the archetypes of mature masculinity based on the book King, Magician, Warrior, Lover by Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette. If you haven’t already, I highly recommend reading the introduction to the series first. Also, keep in mind that these posts are a little more esoteric than our normal fare, and are meant to be contemplated and thoughtfully reflected upon.

To understand the four archetypes of mature masculinity, we first need to explore their precursors. There are four boyhood archetypes which develop into the manly archetypes. Properly accessing and harnessing their energies is essential for a boy’s full development. These archetypes instill in boys a sense of wonder, play, and energy–traits that are essential for learning and development.

And these boyhood archetypes don’t leave us as we grow up, progress, and access the mature masculine archetypes. While each of the four boyhood archetypes gives rise to the four manly archetypes, they are not discarded once we reach them; the boyhood archetypes remain as building blocks in the structure of our manliness.

While Moore and other Jungians would encourage men to stay in touch with their boyhood archetypes, they’d argue that we shouldn’t do so at the expense of developing the mature masculine within us. According to Moore, one of the biggest problems facing men in the West is that most men are still ruled by boyhood archetypes and haven’t moved on to harnessing the mature masculine. As a result, we have a society of men who act and think like teenagers. They are, as Moore puts it, “boys pretending to be men.”

Exploring the boyhood archetypes is useful for two reasons. First, it’s a reminder that we should never lose touch with the energetic boyishness that resides in each of us. Accessing that boyish enthusiasm makes life enjoyable and allows us to relate to our sons or other boys we might be in charge of. Second, exploring the boyhood archetypes, particularly their bipolar shadows, will make us aware of any childish thought patterns we are still falling into, patterns which may be stunting our growth into mature manhood.

Today will we discuss two of the boyhood archetypes. And next time we will explore the other two.

The Divine Child

According to Moore, the Divine Child archetype is usually the first of the boyhood archetypes to develop. For Jungians, the Divine Child is the source of boyish enthusiasm for life. It’s the archetype within us that produces a sense of well-being, peace, and joy, as well as a zest for adventure. Whenever you have that feeling of excitement and desire at a fresh beginning, that’s the Divine Child archetype showing itself in your life.

The Divine Child is in many ways both helpless and all-powerful. Helpless because he’s still a child and depends on adults to meet his needs, and all-powerful because he consumes the attention of those around him. The attention that he garners is mutually beneficial: the Divine Child gets his need for attention met, while uplifting and inspiring others. If you’re a parent watching your child accomplish some milestone, you’ll understand this dynamic.

We see the archetype of the Divine Child reflected in various faith traditions and myths from around the world–the most prominent being the Christmas story. Christ is an archetypal Divine Child. His father is God. He comes to the world as a helpless babe, yet people look to him with awe and hope of a new beginning. He brings peace and order to the earth.

Similar stories exist in other cultures. The birth stories of figures like Zoroaster, Moses, Buddha, and Krishna feature miraculous or mystical events that foretold the great work they had to do upon the earth. These special babies had enormous potential, yet they were as vulnerable as any infants are.

If properly nurtured, the Divine Child archetype will mature into the manly King archetype. If neglected, the Divine Child could split off into one of his shadows and eventually mature into a shadow King archetype.

The Shadows of the Divine Child

Remember that every archetype has its bi-polar shadow split. These two shadows are the result of the archetype not being integrated into a boy/man in a healthy and coherent way. The two shadows of the Divine Child are the High Chair Tyrant and the Weakling Prince.

The High Chair Tyrant. Like the Divine Child, the High Chair Tyrant needs attention. But unlike the Divine Child, the High Chair Tyrant doesn’t give anything back. He doesn’t inspire–he just demands. And even when his needs are met, the care often doesn’t meet his unreasonable expectations, so he throws a tantrum. With Gus moving to solid foods and eating in a high-chair, this archetype is rather poignant for me. He’s hungry, so we give him food, but sometimes after a few bites he’ll start pushing your hand away and whining. And splattering food all over his dad.

The High Chair Tyrant is the embodiment of entitled, arrogant, narcissism. He wants attention, but he doesn’t want to lift a finger to get it. He thinks he deserves it just because.

We see the influence of the High Chair Tyrant archetype not only in boys, but men who have yet to move on to mature masculinity. As an infant, the world, or at least your parents’ lives, revolve around you and your needs. But as a man matures, he must come to realize that he does not actually reside at the center of the universe! Otherwise, he will not shed his infantile narcissism.

A grown man who is still ruled by the High Chair Tyrant sulks when he doesn’t get his way, fails to take responsibility for his actions, and is incapable of taking criticism.  His arrogance can blind him to reality and cause him to stumble. You can see the High Chair Tyrant manifested in celebrities and politicians who believe they are so special that they are not only entitled to indulge in things like infidelity and crookery, but that they won’t get caught either.

We also see the High Chair Tyrant in our lives when we expect nothing but perfection from ourselves and beat ourselves up if we don’t meet those self-imposed and unreasonable expectations. That voice in your head telling you that you aren’t good enough is the little annoying brat of a child inside of you slamming his spoon on the table and screaming. Ignore him.

The Weakling Prince. The Weakling Prince doesn’t throw tantrums like the High Chair Tyrant, but he makes his own kind of demands. He’s got no passion for life, no enthusiasm, and no initiative, and thus must be completely coddled. He plays the victim role superbly; when challenges or problems arise, it’s never the Weakling Prince’s fault, and his parents dutifully swoop in to save him. He’s the hypochondriac kid who always finds something to whine about.

The Weakling Prince archetype can still influence a man into manhood. It usually takes the form of the “Mr. Nice Guy Syndrome.” A man that allows the Weakling Prince archetype to rule in his life is listless and unmotivated. He can’t take the initiative to make his needs known, but gets upset when others don’t meet his expectations. He is the prince of passive aggression.

Accessing the Divine Child as a Man

Integrating the Divine Child into your life as a man ensures that even as you get older, you still remain young at heart; this archetype keeps life feeling fresh,  inspires you with a vision of your possibilities, fuels your creativity, and spurs you to adventure. A man who does not retain some of the Divine Child in him loses sight of his great potential and contents himself with being merely mediocre. Successful integration of the Divine Child archetype involves retaining a remembrance of your godlike possibilities, while at the same time having the humility to realize you’re only human after all.

The Precocious Child
The next boyhood archetype to develop is the Precocious Child. If properly nurtured, the Precocious Child will eventually develop into the mature masculine archetype of the Magician. The Precocious Child archetype shows itself when a boy is eager to learn about the world around him. Curiosity and wonder spring from this archetype. When your kid asks all those annoying “why” questions–Why is the sky blue? Why is the sun bright? Why do things die?–the Precocious Child is manifesting itself. Ditto for boys who read for hours, get really into an art project or science experiment, or work intently on improving their athletic skills.

The Precocious Child pushes us to develop our talents and gives us that manly spark to explore and investigate, to find out how the world works and what makes people tick. He ponders life’s mysteries and is reflective and introspective, although not anti-social, for he loves to share what he’s learned with others in hopes of helping them. A man who stays in touch with this boyhood archetype maintains his boyish wonder and curiosity about the world. He refuses to let cynicism rot his insides and jade him from the marvels of life.

The Shadows of the Precocious Child

The Know-It-All Trickster. As the name implies, this immature masculine energy is the place from which mischief in boys (whether innocent or devious) springs. It originates from a boy’s sense of superiority to everyone else–a superiority he feels compelled to prove and show-off in various ways.

The Know-It-All Trickster knows how to charm his way out of trouble. He’s adept at deception and manipulation and will gain the trust of those around him, only to betray it when they least expect it.

The Know-It-All Trickster is also the source of smart assery from young bucks. Boys (and some men, too) who let the Know-It-All Trickster rule their psyche are prone to running their mouth off. This can be a positive thing–the Trickster will point out mistakes and say that the king isn’t wearing any clothes when others are afraid to. But boys under the power of the Know-It-All shadow can be quite smug and enjoy intimidating others with their words.

The Trickster has lost touch with the Divine Child, and thus does not feel that he himself has any degree of greatness. Because his sense of superiority is often not based on anything substantive, he is envious and insecure, and this is manifested in the need to brag, “one-up,” and tear down other people and their ideas. He loves to destroy things, but he does not build himself.

The Trickster is focused on maintaining appearances. Men who grow into adulthood still under the influence of this immature archetype turn into “$40,000 a year millionaires.” They don’t make much money, but they sure spend and act like they do. Again, it’s all an attempt to trick others into thinking the Know-It-All Trickster is better than he really is, and most importantly, that he’s better than others.

Mythology is filled with Trickster figures. Odysseus from Greek lore was known as a “man of many wiles.” His trickery helped him survive his long trip home, but his loud mouth also got him into troubles that made the journey longer. In Native American cultures, the coyote often takes on the role of the Trickster in their myths.

The Dummy. Boys under the influence of the Dummy shadow are seemingly uncoordinated, naive, lacking in boyish vigor, and slow on the uptake. According to Moore, “the Dummy’s ineptitude…is frequently less than honest.” He may actually understand more than he lets on, but plays dumb to deceive those around him and to avoid the risk of striving and failing. In short, the Dummy shadow has a secret Trickster shadow lurking within him. An archetype within an archetype.

Accessing the Precocious Child Archetype as a Man

A man who has successfully integrated the Precocious Child archetype maintains his curiosity about the world and is dedicated to lifelong learning. He allows himself to contemplate the mysteries of life and is always seeking greater knowledge. But he does not use the accumulation of this knowledge to feel superior to others nor to manipulate and deceive them. Instead, he is devoted to sharing his insights as a mentor and teacher.

The Four Archetypes of the Mature Masculine:
The Boyhood Archetypes – Part I
The Boyhood Archetypes – Part II
The Lover
The Warrior
The Magician
The King

{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Brandon Dorris August 23, 2011 at 12:02 pm

An archetype within an archetype! It’s Inception! Okay, I’m done now.

I love this article! It especially appeals to me since I am a lover of fantasy. My only complaint is that it was such a long wait between the introduction and this article. I look forward to the rest of this series; best of luck in writing them!

2 Lucas August 23, 2011 at 12:02 pm

I just want to say, I’m a big fan of these articles. I think their content and delivery is strong.

3 Rob August 23, 2011 at 12:46 pm

As a psychologist I cant say that Jungian archetyoes play much of a role in my work, or that of anyone I know. It is in essence impossible science. Not that is impossible or even improbable, just not the kind of thing that can be studied thoroughly with the tools science has to offer.

That said Jung and this brand of psychology have a lot to offer the humanities, these descriptions are great for understanding and developing characters, have plenty to say about possible psychic drivers of personality, and are, like The Red Book, extremely interesting.

4 NinGanja August 23, 2011 at 12:58 pm

Ever since i stumbled onto this site, i have been following the new posts, this one hits really close to home, as i’m still trying to figure out who i am and what i’m doing. I can’t wait for the followup!

5 Gabriel August 23, 2011 at 12:58 pm

I very much enjoyed this article, and I realize I need to take a long hard look inside . Thank you.

6 James August 23, 2011 at 1:41 pm

Fascinating article Brett. You have a great talent for communicating relevant concepts succinctly and clearly.

Rob, physcology is such a foreign subject to me and one I would love to know more about. Would you be able to point me in the direction of a good introductory text? As a practioner you say you don not use the Jungian archetypes, is this because it has been since disproved or superceded or another reason?

7 Carl August 23, 2011 at 1:45 pm

Fantastic work! I am looking forward to this series as much as I did the Switches of Manliness. When things like this are not in the front of our mind, it is often easy to let yourself slide. I have always been an advocate of self-improvement, but lately, I’ve hit a difficult period in my life. I am in a leadership position, and began becoming hard and uncaring, jaded to the wonder and challenge that drew me to the position in the first place. I blew up at a fellow team mate last night and after reading this, I’m somewhat ashamed that I had lost touch with my Divine Child. Losing patience when I should be encouraging development. Thank you for your always-inspiring work. Hopefully we readers can gain real insight and make real changes with it!

8 Carl August 23, 2011 at 1:50 pm

James, I think what Rob means is that Jungian archetypes, and similar works, are a little “out there” and conceptual; not necessarily measurable by empirical science. I take it that as a psychologist he is used to dealing with the more physical side of the trade that can be proven and disproven, where this work is so subjective that a person really can only relate and understand it on a personal level. Ideas, and therefore never really concrete.

9 James August 23, 2011 at 2:28 pm

Thanks Carl. I think I get it, it’s an inherently abstract science but these theories still make useful frameworks.

Also, what’s the definition of a freudian slip?
It’s where you say one thing but mean your mother.

10 Andrew August 23, 2011 at 5:55 pm

I’m curious where these articles will go. I can identify that I have strongly developed the “Precocious Child” in me. I love learning. I am a web developer and the quick advancement and replacement of web technologies appeals to me. But I can also identify that the “Weakling Child” rules over the “Divine Child” in me. The precociousness leads to skipping around a lot of hobbies and jumping ship once I’ve reached a certain point because I just can’t dedicate to anything. “Mr. Nice Guy” is certainly an apt description for me. But this isn’t really new to me. If it took this article to make me see that, I’d really be in a bad place! I’m interested to see what you have to say about shifting away from these shadow archetypes.

11 Stephen August 23, 2011 at 6:17 pm

I’m glad to see these articles are being well received. I read King, Warrior, Magician, Lover, and Brett summarizes them clearly. It keeps getting better too. Once we hit the mature masculine archetypes men will be all over it identifying the different prominent energies within them. Looking forward to the next in the series!

12 James R August 23, 2011 at 8:01 pm

I enjoyed this greatly. I will have to try and pick up the noted book this weekend from the library so I can get a better grasp on this topic, however your summarized version is excellent. I feel this would make a great conversation.

Also, I can safely say that it often seems like I’m surrounded by high chair tyrants!

13 Clay August 23, 2011 at 9:27 pm

First things first, Brandon Dorris beat me on the Inception reference (actually KWML would make a good movie). Have been waiting for this second installment of the series, the introduction really sparked a great interest in me and the long wait for the next was really worth it. Should grab a copy of KWML. I like the way you are treating this topic Brett, as I see it this is not a matter of Jungian psychology or even psychology itself. These ideas can serve as a guide to assess growth within each one of us. It’s like knowing where you came from so you can get where you are going. Keep up the good work and looking forward for the continuation of this series.

14 Rickina August 23, 2011 at 11:42 pm

A guy friend of mine just recommended this blog cause I have 2 boys, and I’m glad he did. What a wonderful way to look deeper into the personality of them. I have one who is very strong-willed…and one who is more reserved. Great information thank you.

15 Mr Rui August 24, 2011 at 4:32 am

I’m an amateur online reporter, this is foreign language to me.
Persons output personality. We’re just being ourselves. But those characteristics can be input into characters.
Cheers from capital of Portugal

16 Jordan August 24, 2011 at 8:45 am

I read King, Warrior, Magician, Lover about a year ago during a camping trip. Brett, you are doing a great job communicating the essence of the book to your readers!

KWML is one of the most significant books I have ever read and I would recommend it to any man.

17 Jason Morris August 24, 2011 at 10:19 am

Hi everyone,

It is great to see discussion appearing in and around our journey toward becoming our own kings!

I wanted to just through this out there, as many of the comments I saw mentioned the fact that some readers trying to figure out who they are.

I urge all readers and the writers of this site to explore the Mankind Project – as this organization provides great context and an amazing avenue to begin your journey!

Thanks & keep up the great articles!

If anyone would like to learn more about MKP or my experience, please feel free to reach out!


18 CH August 24, 2011 at 10:49 am

Good article, looking forward to the next one…

19 Brigette August 24, 2011 at 2:46 pm

Great article, provided a lot of insight, speaking from a woman’s point of view.

20 Gerhard Botha August 24, 2011 at 2:54 pm

Really enjoyed this post! My first comment on your blog and I would like to web – ‘high-five/handshake’ you for these very informative reads! Well written with good substance has made this my favorite ‘go – to’ site.

I’m looking forward to the next archetypes!

21 Gerhard Botha August 24, 2011 at 3:22 pm

This confirms that most men these days are still boys. I see it everywhere, especially in gyms where they want to build up their bodies to be perceived as the alpha male, know it all guys that as you said are $40000 a year millionaires. The superficiality of the 21st century male I think is out of control, which some times makes it difficult for me to associate. Very little people I know can/wants to talk about art,food,politics,economics,nature and women while watching a rugby game on the telly.

It makes me wonder if all men knew these principles or phases of a developed male, how the world would have been a different place – the ego will sit aside when political and economical decisions are being made; choices in parenting and adultery and of course religion, which should only result in peace and love but is corrupted by man.

22 Edward August 24, 2011 at 4:22 pm

Brett, it’s articles like this that make AoM as brilliant as it is. More and more men should be reading things like this rather than mindless articles about how to have a threesome or get six pack abs!

23 Justin August 25, 2011 at 9:02 am

I was contemplating not just my personal view of my self but how to nurture my 3yr old son. I took him to a class I was leading as I had no child care. He had all the symptoms of a tired child, nearing tantrums where he could see no other direction to follow. It took some doing on my part but I couldn’t become focused on a specific action he had to commit to. It was entirely a damage control situation, I had some idea of what he needed and I employed coaxing as well as direction and incentive as well as distraction and redirection. He needed a nap and reflection

24 Boysen Hodgson August 25, 2011 at 9:51 am

Brett – Well done again!
I agree with what was said above in comments – these frameworks are hard to measure empirically – and thus hard to fit into a purely mechanical or scientific view of the world. But the beautiful thing is, humans aren’t convinced by science or numbers, we are motivated and captured through emotion, story and myth. ‘mythopoesis’ – the transformation of character through story.

Exploring these concepts by engaging in a full immersion experience can help a man learn where and how the golden archetypes and the shadow archetypes show up in his life. And in my experience, it takes the light of other men shining brightly on me to really reveal my shadows.

The New Warrior Training (click my name) takes a man through this exploration and integration of the archetypes. It’s also FUN and HARD. It’s a challenge for a man committed to seeing himself fully.

25 Rob August 25, 2011 at 1:55 pm

James, Carl is right on. I spend my day trying to “measure the weight of smoke” as one research methods text explains psychology. The concepts are abstract but as we have matured as a field (keep in mind the field is less than 150 years old) we have increasingly achieved success in measuring abstract concepts. I teach research methods in a college setting and I find this to be one of the most interesting part of psychology.

The work of Jung as well as Freud is largely based on concpets and assumptions that are not testable, largely because they can not be falsified (the gold standard of sceintific research. That is not to say that they cannot lay theoretical frameworks they just cannot be fully vetted.

While probably not the best David Meyers textbook Psychology is probably the most widely used intro text and if you should be able to find a used copy (especially an older edition) for a reasonable sum.

As for Humanities, while most psychologists do not use Jung as a major basis of their work his archetypes are taught thoroughly in English courses. Infact my wife is taking a compostion class this semester and her first week readings were all by Jung.

26 Munir August 25, 2011 at 2:23 pm

Hi Brett,
This is amazing work you are doing. I just ordered the book online and look forward to your next post. I highly value your contribution, it does make a difference.
It reminds me of the need to check in with yourself and that constant self improvement is an essential part of growth and self fulfillment especially the fact that it is challenging.
I think one of the most important messages in it is the importance of balance (i.e. do not be a bully or wimp).

27 Kevin August 26, 2011 at 1:45 am

I’m not sure if you’ve ever mentioned it here, but No More Christian Nice Guy by Paul Coughlin is an awesome book.

28 Brendan August 26, 2011 at 4:16 am

I don’t know how many times I keep reading this post. It’s 4:16AM and I decided to order this book.

29 Jason August 28, 2011 at 2:20 am

I’m so glad I found this website. I’m going to start sharing it with more than my best friend, dad, and little brother once I expand my network a little further. I can see plenty of examples of both shadows from both archetypes in my past, mainly from 16 to where I am currently at 22. I cannot give thanks enough for the mentoring and non authoritarian vibe running through this whole site.

30 Steve C August 29, 2011 at 2:17 pm

Well done, Brett. I read KWML many years ago as a young man. I believe I still have it somewhere in my library. Jung’s approach to psychology is much more akin to religion/ spirituality/ wisdom than to contemporary psychology. That is where it’s value lies. I found Jung’s concepts to be a wonderful translation into contemporary language of ancient wisdom about human nature. I spent nearly 20 years studying Jungian “psychology” and have found it tremendously insightful. It has been a great help to me in understanding what it means to be a man.

Many of you who post here at AOM are still young men searching for your masculine identity. I can remember when I was in your shoes. Unfortunately, the surrounding social environment has become much more hostile to healthy manhood than when I was young. Becoming a man has never been easy, but society used to support this journey better. It was much easier for older men to pass on manliness to younger men; not so much any more. Nevertheless, it is a journey you must take. Being a man is great and wonderful gift that is as precious as life itself. It is well worth the lifetime of effort that goes into realizing that gift.

So, pick up wisdom wherever you can find it. Reflect on what true manhood means. Then go do manly things. AOM is a good place to start.

31 The Young at Heart August 31, 2011 at 10:03 pm

thank you so much. i struggle a lot in my daily relationships. there are a lot of growing pains. reading this article, i’m identifying a big part of myself with the first of the bipolar shadow parts of these archetypes. it’ll help me be aware of my bad habits and keep myself under control.

32 Aaron September 9, 2011 at 1:49 am

im kinda scared of finding out about this archetype. but i think i am on the negative side of the archetype. me growing up is a disaster. im making up for it through deceiving others and feeling superior to others. which i think is wrong. that’s why i devote my self to learning more and growing up emotionally and physically so that i wont get stuck as a helpless little boy.

33 Jake September 9, 2011 at 11:50 am

One of the main things that struck me is the part about bipolar. I’m a fan of natural remedies over man made cures any day. When it comes to psychology, I favor redefininga piece of your inner self over taking a pill to fix the issue. One that I constantly battle with is bipolar disorder. Taking medication only works for so long, and then nothing.

From reading this article, I am starting to wonder almost to the point of blind convincement, that in order to beat bipolar disorder all I have to do is develope the extremes of each boyish archetype, incorporate them and find a healthy balance, develope the mature archetype, find the same balance, and then find a balance between the boyish and mature archetypes. That sounds like a lot of trouble, but nothing in a man’s life that was easy was worth hanging on to.

34 Zack September 12, 2011 at 4:21 pm

Good God I love these articles. I’m a huge fan of Jungian psychology and have been actively working toward individuation for some time now. I already loved this site, and now I love it even more. Can’t wait for the next one!

35 Mauro ramirez September 14, 2011 at 9:59 am

I´ve been using Jung theories to achieve my individuation too. I´m the son of a tyrant father and who buried his masculinity during the childhood, I grew incomplete in search of my real self. I naively projected all this inner material in homosexual encounters, which left me more empty and confused. I was never understood by my peers, nor I understood them. Masculinity became in something estrange and neglected. I knew that homosexual desires were just longings of finding my masculine-self in other men. It was just running away. Now, I´m trying to build my life with all this broken pieces in my hands. Thanks for the article.

36 Corey September 20, 2011 at 9:43 am

It’s been a while since I’ve delved into Jungian theory. This article provides an interesting perspective on the modern male dilemma of arrested development inflicting so many boy/men in their twenties. This is a good platform to not only develop our own masculinity but to develop those of our children as well.

“What is happening to our young people? They disrespect their elders, they disobey their parents. They ignore the law. They riot in the streets inflamed with wild notions. Their morals are decaying. What is to become of them?”


37 Jake April 21, 2013 at 6:49 pm

Thanks, Brett. I discovered this series at just the right time, as I’ve recently begun a program of self-analysis in order to grow as a person. Throughout my life, I’ve been one of the dreaded Nice Guys, seeking approval from others in order to attempt to make up for my lack of self-confidence. Fortunately, I’ve been given the tools to change myself from within.

38 Jason February 24, 2014 at 12:52 pm

Great article except for one part:

“Odysseus from Greek lore was known as a “man of many wiles.” His trickery helped him survive his long trip home, but his loud mouth also got him into troubles that made the journey longer.”

I would definitely say that Odysseus was not a know-it-all-tricker, but the classical King-Hero of Greek mythology. The description of him as a man of “many wiles” spoke to his resiliency and adaptability, not about his manipulative powers.

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