The Four Archetypes of the Mature Masculine: The Lover

by Brett on October 4, 2011 · 30 comments

in A Man's Life, On Manhood

This is the third part of a series on the archetypes of mature masculinity based on the book King, Warrior, Magician, 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.

In our previous articles in this series, we focused on the archetypes of boy psychology. Today we take a look at the first archetype of the mature masculine: the Lover.

I originally planned on following how the book orders the archetypes by starting off with the King and finishing with the Lover. But Will, a longtime AoM Community member, suggested that I swap their places. Why? Because according to Moore and other Jungians, each archetype powers up at certain phases in a man’s life. The Lover (as we’ll soon see) is the archetype of youthful idealism and excitement and is usually the first of the archetypes to develop in a man. The King archetype usually power ups last and is a culmination of the other archetypes.

I thought this was a good approach, so that’s what I’ll be doing.  Thanks Will!

With that said, let’s get started analyzing the Lover archetype.

The Lover in His Fullness

When you hear the word “lover” you probably think of romance and sex.

But there are many types of love–a love for family, for friends, for God, and for life itself–and the Lover archetype passionately seeks after them all.

The Lover is the archetype of emotion, feeling, idealism, and sensuality. Like the word “lover,” sensuality is often exclusively associated with sex but really has a far broader application. Being sensual means opening up and using all of your senses in all areas of your life–touching, tasting, smelling, hearing, and seeing–or in other words–experiencing as many dimensions of life as possible, as often as possible.

Thus, when a man taps into the Lover archetype’s energy, he feels alive with vim and vigor and connected to the world and those around him. A man in touch with the Lover archetype feels deeply, whether those feelings are of joy or pain.

The Lover is attuned to the mysterious forces underlying our everyday existence; this is the archetype that fuels a man’s spirituality, and the one in which the Muses reside. When we get those flashes of inspiration or sparks of creativity, that’s Lover energy manifesting itself in our lives. A man who takes time to develop this archetype will experience those hunches, insights, and premonitions more frequently than men who don’t.

A man who has fully developed the Lover archetype in his life is also often adept at reading people and social cues. He’s empathetic with others and understands how to get along and connect with a wide variety of people.

Because the Lover is so alive and sensual, he enjoys all of life’s pleasures, whether it be good food and drink, beautiful art, or gorgeous women. This is the archetype that spurs our appetites. But these hungers aren’t just for “baser” pleasures like sex and food, but for a life of meaning and purpose. And in seeking the freedom to passionately pursue these ends, the Lover can see limits and rules as constraining.

This is why the Lover archetype has a unique relationship to the other three archetypes of mature masculinity. While the Lover’s energy seeks to be boundless, the King, Warrior, and Magician archetypes provide a man with structure and discipline. Thus the Lover’s passion fuels and powers these three life forces, and in turn, they channel and harness the Lover’s energy in a healthy way and towards worthy goals.

You can find the Lover archetype in myths and rituals that span culture and time. The Greek god Dionysus presents perhaps the most salient example. Dionysus was the god of wine, merriment, art, passion, and sex. His followers believed that when a man became so overcome with emotion that he appeared mad, Dionysus was to blame. The yearly festival held in his honor each spring was a ritual inspired by the Lover archetype: lots of drinking, lots of dancing, lots of theater, and lots of sex.

A modern story that exemplifies the Lover archetype is Zorba the Greek. Zorba is a man who lives life fully. He’s earthy. He loves good food and drink. He dances his heart out. Zorba understands that for a man to be truly free, he needs to have a deep emotional life; he needs a little madness:

That’s a man who has a healthy dose of the Lover archetype in his life.

The Lover archetype is usually the first that develops in a man. Look at most young men and you see that they’re often ruled by the passionate Lover archetype. They’re looking for new and exciting endeavors, they develop intense romantic and sexual relationships, and they’re filled with youthful idealism. Their experiences are marked by an acute intensity.

The Shadows

Remember that each archetype has both a pinnacle, which represents the fullness of the archetype, and a bi-polar shadow split.  These shadows are the result of the archetype not being integrated into a man in a healthy and coherent way. The two shadows of the Lover archetype are the Addicted Lover and the Impotent Lover.

The Addicted Lover

If the other archetypes do not harness the Lover’s energy, the Addicted Lover shadow can result.

A man possessed by the Addicted Lover is, as Moore puts it, “eternally restless.” He’s forever searching for that one thing, person, or experience that will make him feel truly alive. But whether it’s because he has overinflated expectations, or because he doesn’t even know what he’s searching for in the first place, the vague hunger that endlessly hounds him is never satisfied.

The Addicted Lover falls in love with every girl he dates, and then wallows in despair when she dumps him. He’s constantly getting ideas for inventions or businesses that will make him rich, but he never works at them long enough to get them off the ground. His apartment is cluttered with junk he bought on a whim and never used. His passport is filled with stamps, but he doesn’t feel any happier than we he left home to travel the world.

The Addicted Lover is a collector–of experiences, possessions, or women. But without any structure, any overarching life philosophy to connect the things he collects, his life feels fragmentary instead of whole. Without a channel through which to run, the Lover’s energy dissipates into a million directions.

The flip side of this shadow is the man who takes all of the Lover’s energy and focuses it on one thing. He can become so obsessed with the objects of his desire that instead of bringing joy, they bring destruction and ruin. Perhaps you know a man who became so involved in a vice, a project, or even a hobby that it ruined him financially and destroyed his relationships. That was a man possessed by the Addicted Lover.

I think Jay Gatsby from The Great Gatsby (my favorite book, by the way), is a perfect example of a man possessed by the Addicted Lover. He longs for the wealthy Daisy Buchanan for his entire life. He’s addicted to the idea of being with Daisy and spends his life amassing a fortune through criminal activity just so he can be with her. But in the end, Daisy disappoints Gatsby. The real Daisy didn’t match the fantasy of her that Gatsby had obsessed about for years. If you read the book, you know what happens to ol’ Jay Gatsby in the end. Lesson learned: being possessed by the Addicted Lover leads to ruin.

The Impotent Lover

The Impotent Lover shadow arises when a man is out of touch with the Lover archetype in its fullness. While the Lover in his fullness sees the world in vivid colors and textures, the Impotent Lover only sees gray. Men dogged by the Impotent Lover archetype feel depressed, flat, and dead inside. Nothing brings them joy anymore. They’ve lost their passion for life. Relationships, whether romantic or platonic, struggle and falter for the man possessed by the Impotent Lover. Libido is non-existent in these men, as is their sex life.

While the Addicted Lover does not give himself enough structure, the Impotent Lover can arise in a man who disciplines himself too much. This is often the case with devoutly religious men, who, going far beyond the admonishments of their faith, laden themselves with overly prudish rules, and feel shame when “indulging” in life’s pleasures. The energy of the Lover archetype builds up behind this dam of limits, and without a healthy channel to pursue, sooner or later it bursts forth in destructive ways, like addiction to porn. The Impotent Lover becomes the Addicted Lover.

Accessing the Lover Archetype

According to Moore, the Lover is the most repressed and stunted archetype in men today. Men in the West aren’t encouraged to be “in touch with their feelings.” As men, we’re supposed to be coolly detached from anything and anybody. But the great men in history understood that emotion, properly harnessed, is what drives greatness. The ancient Greeks called this passion for life thumos. It’s a fire in the belly that propels a man to do great deeds.

So accessing the Lover archetype is vital to our success as men. But how do we do it?

The easiest way to tap into the Lover archetype is to take more time to really enjoy the stuff that brings you pleasure in life. The Addicted Lover is forever looking for the high that will last indefinitely. When he takes the first “hit” of something–whether a new drug, a new place, a new lover, or a new car–his brain lights up with pleasure. But our brains quickly get used to the same stimuli, and each additional hit brings diminishing returns. So the Addicted Lover will then take a bigger hit of the stimulus in order to feel the same pleasure he got the first time he tried it. But he’ll quickly get used to that “dose” too. And soon the Addicted Lover is stuck in a destructive cycle–restlessness and dissatisfaction plague him.

The answer to short-circulating this cycle and tapping into the Lover energy in a healthy way is something we have talked about a few times before: cultivating the virtue of moderation and being fully present in your life.

Instead of reaching for more, you stop to experience the things you already have and do in a deeper way, using all of your senses. You turn life’s little everyday activities into indulgent, pleasure-inducing rituals.

For example, do you like drinking coffee? Create a slow, relaxing, coffee-drinking experience for yourself a couple times a week. Take a whiff of the beans before you grind them, carefully create your brew in a French press, pour it into a mug you love, and slowly sip it on the porch, really enjoying the flavor.

Chew your food slowly and really taste the flavors. Enjoy touching and kissing your woman’s skin instead of just immediately getting down to the deed, take a walk after a rain shower and breathe in that fresh smell. Remember, the Lover experiences as much of life as possible, with as many senses as possible.

Another way to access the Lover is to take part in a hobby you’re passionate about, particularly ones that involves artistic skills or craftsmanship. Make it a priority in your schedule to spend time on that hobby. It doesn’t matter how silly it is. As long as it gives you joy, and offers you a creative outlet, do it.

A man seeking access to the Lover archetype should also make reading a lifelong habit. Immerse yourself in literature and writings on a variety of subjects to stimulate your brain and provide it with something to ponder other than whether to have a ham or turkey sandwich for lunch. Seeking knowledge will spur the Lover’s capacity for imagination and inspiration.

Spend time outdoors–hiking and camping. Nature helps you get in touch with the mysterious forces of life.

And of course you can access the Lover archetype by taking time for romance. Plan a surprise date for your wife or girlfriend. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive. And don’t just stop there. Write your woman love letters or, if you’re feeling particularly inspired, a love poem. Boom. Instant Lover access.

In addition to the above suggestions, Moore also provides a few techniques to access all the mature masculine archetypes more fully in our lives. These techniques require what Moore calls active imagination. 

Moore suggests admiring and learning about men who exemplify each archetype. For the Lover, you can read biographies and study the work of great artists you admire. Maybe you can spend a month studying the life of Leonardo da Vinci. Or if you’re a Hemingway fan, read all of Papa’s novels.

A final technique to access the archetypes in your life is to “act as if” you’re already accessing the archetype in your life. It’s the old “fake it until you make it” philosophy espoused by Aristotle. If you feel as if the Impotent Lover has taken control of your psyche and you’ve lost your vim and vigor, act as if you were passionate for life and were accessing the Lover archetype fully.  If art never really interested you, force yourself to visit a museum and really look at the art. Act as if you’re really interested and pretty soon you might find yourself no longer having to pretend.

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

{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Blake October 4, 2011 at 6:10 pm

I had a feeling that Gatsby would show up here. Thanks for the post, Brett! I’m really enjoying this series.

2 Daren October 4, 2011 at 7:44 pm

Yes! The lover! If ever there were a man who embodied this archetype, it is the Lover from the Song of Songs. He is an expert in his Lady’s unique brand of beauty, sensitive to its nuances, and alert to its subtleties: a glimpse of our possible selves as manly lovers.

3 Abraham October 4, 2011 at 10:08 pm

Wow, I’m amazed! This was written so wonderfully! I will honestly admit that I’ve found myself to be the Impotent Lover, Thank you for helping me realize this, and for providing me with means to help myself out of that Type. I will now focus my energy to becoming a true man. Thank you!

4 Kris October 4, 2011 at 11:23 pm

This somewhat reminds me of a model that John Eldredge used in ‘Way of the Wild Heart.’ But he adds more too it; from (flawed) memory he uses boyhood, cowboy, warrior, lover, king, sage to describe the different phases of a male’s life and how missing out on any one due to faulty or lacking parenting has drastic results later in life. Thanks for the post!

5 Cory October 4, 2011 at 11:28 pm

Father Price from Barbara Kingsolver’s Poisonwood Bible comes to mind as an example of an Impotent Lover. I highly recommend that book if you haven’t read it. Changed my life.

6 Leif October 4, 2011 at 11:34 pm

Impotent Lover?! Awww, jeez. I’m heavily in that category.

7 swells October 5, 2011 at 12:50 am

What a fantastic post – this is the type of stuff that keeps me coming back. At first discovery of the “lover archetype” in myself, i often wondered if my slow sips of bourbon, long draws on a cigar, or strangely observant nature was abnormal. doing all of these things together, alone, would certainly seem so. but they offer a great pleasure often overlooked in life – the ability to slow oneself, to enjoy, to be. i’ve always considered this one of the most masculine attributes of any man of the world. it’s unfortunate other men consider such indulgences as somehow feminine…

8 George P.H. October 5, 2011 at 2:34 am

Very cool post!

Apparently, I’m an addicted lover moving towards fullness. One word in particular struck me as very accurate – hunger. People like me have it, and it’s what propels them forward. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; some of the most successful people today are propelled by a deep feeling of dissatisfaction and perfectionism.

But remember – you can’t live with that hunger forever. The lust for new experiences and sharper feelings can eat you alive. Just look at Mike Tyson, Diego Maradona, Jim Morrison: they and countless other people burned brightly at their peak but fell apart in the end.

9 Catherine M. October 5, 2011 at 10:42 am

I am a woman, but I subscribe to Mavotionals and enjoy reading them. I got more out of this one than most. It was helpful to me to see that a man with the characteristics of the impotent lover is really just a man who is not functioning in fullness, but who has potential to do so. My husband has come back and forth from that way before and it was frustrating not to understand it. I consider myself to be a very sensual being, as the word is defined in this article. I’m pretty sure that’s what my husband finds most attractive about me. I believe that we all want to be with someone who can help us access and appreciate the parts of life we’re not experiencing. It is also thrilling to be the one introducing new colors to someone’s world.

10 bMac October 5, 2011 at 10:47 am

Great post!! I see myself in there. And BTW – my favourite book? The Great Gatsby.

11 Peregrine John October 5, 2011 at 12:45 pm

Almost everything I was going to say has been said very well already by George P.H. in comment 8! Lacking the metaphorical structure of the Jungian archetypes, I’ve long known that my yawning hungers and curiosities, my strange flips between scattered attention and obsessive focus, and my perfectionism were aspects of the same flaw, and that some sort of rein had to be developed to harness the chaotic yet useful energy. I see now that my tendency is a lean toward the Addicted shadow even as I reach, if blindly, toward the Lover’s fullness.

The archetypes work not only in their most obvious ways, but also to bring out connections that make little sense without them yet which are functionally true. For example, as I slowly move toward the sort of savoring of life that swells (7) describes, I find a stabilization, a harnessing of energies with many apparently unconnected aspects of life. And notably, the calm, present awareness has brought me much more into alignment with the King archetype, in ways others noticeably react to.

12 Rob October 5, 2011 at 12:55 pm

Zorba = awesome lad. Wish I could be more like him – unfortunately, it’s just not my way!

13 Alex Becket October 5, 2011 at 6:48 pm

What a great series!! I have read Moore and Gilette’s work and am in training as a Men’s work Group moderator. Keep it up! This is great! A lot of folks shun this material because they think it is too “turtle neck wearin’ Robert Bly pansy stuff.” I say that it is much more like acting like a man and taking responsibilities for your actions!

14 Octavio October 5, 2011 at 8:42 pm

I’m not so sure how I feel about the “fake it til you make it” advice. I do believe in keeping an open mind, but that bit of advice sounds kind of unhealthy, especially since I was starting to feel better after reading this:
While I found the article helpful, the last paragraphs kinda regresses into some sort of 50′s housewife mentality. I mean, If after trying hard to like art (like the article suggests) I still don’t like it, does it mean that I will be falling into one one of the polar opposites? Wouldn’t THE LOVER be sincere with himself?

15 Shane October 5, 2011 at 9:33 pm

Great article, one person I think had a very good embodyiment of the Lover archetype would be John Huston, one of if not my favorite directors of all time. Watching a biography about him, you could just see the passion and fire for life and experiencing all life has to offer. Though he would definately lean towards the addicted lover in areas of his life, he still put his passions to wonderful uses. His love for life and adventure shows through vividly in his movies, which usually the main themes center around getting over being restless in life.

@Octavio – I don’t believe the advice about “fake it till you make it” was meant to be taken to the point of despair. If you try and fake the joy for something, but it never comes, then move onto another area. It’s all about discovering true joy in something you may never have thought you would actually find joy in, not pretending for your whole life. Fake it till you make it, for me, is a good lane to take for experiencing more of life, because you will inevitably find something that you didn’t know you could enjoy, even if it is just one thing wouldn’t that be worth it?

16 Holly Gooch October 6, 2011 at 3:20 am

Hi there. I am loving these posts on your blog. I came across your blog because I am doing an art work to do with the male archetypes, but am finding the posts useful beyond that too! Fascinating, and I love your writing style. Thanks.

17 Robert Weedall October 6, 2011 at 9:34 am

Not all of the Ancient Greeks would agree with you here, “The Stoics” weren’t called that because it was a great name for a band afterall.

Nevertheless its an interesting idea, and I am looking forward to the rest of the updates in this series.

18 Richard October 6, 2011 at 10:15 am

This is a great post! I see myself in it, and it really gives me something to think about and work for.

Thank you again.

19 Jimmy October 7, 2011 at 11:41 pm

Great read! I really love this website.

20 Sullivan Ballou October 9, 2011 at 4:57 pm

Nice work.

21 the October 9, 2011 at 5:14 pm

Indeed a great post, thank you for that!

The examples for vitalizing the archtype are what I stopped doing some years ago and thus feel now like the Addicted Lover. A time for change – a love note for my wife this week, perhaps?

22 Jeff October 9, 2011 at 5:54 pm

Great article! I read this book a few years ago as a 22 year old venturing forth into this conscious self-improvement game. I digested all this material and just moved on to the net thing that was going to fix me. I’ve started to realize the folly in that pursuit, and have simplified and work with what I have. This post, more than the previous ones, inspired me to pick up the book and go through the lover part again, to see what resonates. Also, did anyone else rock out to “Slow Ride” by Foghat after reading this? I know I did :-)

23 Kyle October 12, 2011 at 11:30 pm

This was a great post! I love how this archetype not only applies to women, (although it most certainly does) but how it talks about the love of life and self-enrichment. Men should have a passion for adding knowledge to their lives that will make their lives better, and the lives around them better. Never settle into the doldrums. Keep life interesting and keep the Lover archetype alive!

24 Antoine October 14, 2011 at 5:25 pm

This is a great series I enjoyed this and I have either been or have seen all these types talked about here it is very insightful, and I can tell you spent alot of time thinking about all of these types. I would like to say to you keep up the good work, and thanx for the eye opener brother.

God Bless

25 Carlos October 19, 2011 at 1:23 pm

Great Article, thanks!!
This is a great website.

26 Hickling100 October 21, 2011 at 1:36 am


I have only just discovered this site but already am totaly enamoured! (what a great word for ‘Lovers’).

This post has kicked me into re-evaluating all sorts of things about myself.

On another level I think that the Lover is strongly associated with the Romantic Movement. I have always considered myself a romantic but not in the way it is most often misused today. It is about experiencing your OWN emotional side. You don’t have to go around bursting into tears everytime you see a great sunset. You just need to be AWARE of how it makes YOU feel. It is about YOUR loves not the ‘other persons’. Being a romantic isn’t about finding an easy formular for getting women into bed (at least it shouldn’t be).

O.K. it is true that men who have and can express their passions are often found ‘intriguing’, ‘fascinating’ and even ‘attractive’ by women, but for me that is only a (even may I say distracting) side effect. Indeed I have enough women in my life already with a Wife, two daughters a Mother, two sisters and a very charming little bitch (yet another word which is too often misused nowadays) so I don’t need any more! However, of most value to me is that by understanding MY emotional landscape I am better able to understand (and not be intimidated by) THEIRS.

So in summary, great post, keep it coming!

- don’t follow me I’m just as lost as everyone else! -

27 Grant October 30, 2011 at 4:48 pm

A thought provoking post. Great read.

As an impotent lover archetype, this was a much needed kick in the … well… it was motivational. I think that it is very easy to sometimes get wrapped up in work or school, and leave other parts of your life to atrophy.

Having done this for a few years and later regretting it, I’ll leave this advice out there for my fellow young professionals: everything in moderation. Where you invest your time and energies will yield future dividends, but don’t forget about the ‘opportunity cost’ in ignoring other parts of your life.

28 michelle January 2, 2013 at 8:04 am

Since I am a female dealing with a wounded inner male, I appreciate this posting really inspiring!

thanks michelle

29 Kid May 28, 2013 at 6:37 am

Another point to the conflict between impotence and addiction would be that someone can get numb to something through addiction.

A general example for this would be men overindulging in mastrubation and not being able for real intimacy anymore through impotence or false expectations.

30 Pandora January 19, 2014 at 12:02 pm

So what happens to the man who can’t find a job?

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