The King Archetype

The Sovereign or Inner King

It’s extremely difficult for a human being to develop to his or her full potential. I guess there are a lot of men in the world who might agree with that!

The little child, the “inner child”, within us is wounded and reluctant to give up his safety, however that may have been achieved. Often his safety strategies include isolation, anger, fear, pleasing others…. and a million other possibilities. This energy is a massive force holding us back from achieving our full adult potential.

But we can build – or reconstruct – the pyramids of boyhood and manhood that constitute the core structures of our masculine selves. Yes, step by step we can build, even in adulthood, our mature masculinity.

But before we go on, let’s recap. As you may know, the “Archetypal” approach to human psychology suggests the four main male and female archetypes are: King, Warrior, Magician, and Lover. (The Queen for women, of course.)

But what do these words actually mean, and what relevance do they have to the life that each of us is leading?

In effect, they are parts of yourself, each of which can be thought of as a discrete entity, or a composite of energy, which represents the characteristics, thoughts, feelings, and beliefs of a particular part of who you were, and are, at every stage of your life.

Most of us were emotionally wounded at some stage of our lives. This means the mature masculine, or the mature feminine is rare in our world. Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette wrote: “Man psychology has been a rare thing on our planet. It is certainly a rare thing today. The horrible physical and psychological circumstances under which most human beings have lived most places, most of the time, is staggering. Hostile environments always lead to the stunting, twisting, and mutating of an organism. Why this should be so is the stuff of which philosophy and theology are made. Let us frankly admit the enormous difficulty of our situation, for it is only when we allow ourselves to see the seriousness of any problem and to admit what we are up against that we can begin to take appropriate action, action that will be life enhancing for us and for others.”

There’s a saying in psychology that “we have to take responsibility for what we are not responsible for”.

This means that during childhood we are not responsible for what happened to stunt us and to fixate us in our early years when our personalities were formed and when we got stuck at immature levels of masculinity.

Yet when we are of age, it does us no good to blame others, our society, our ancestors, or anyone else. We must be responsible for who we are now, as adults, whether we are emotionally mature or not.

Many men do personal work –  in groups or individual settings – to help themselves overcome their emotional blocks. This is a great route to the development of the inner King. You can find details of all these workshops on this website.

What Is The Inner King?

Well, it’s a primal energy; it underlies the rest of the archetypes, for a good King is also good Warrior, a positive Magician, and a great Lover. And yet the truth is that for most of us, our King comes “online” last.

That’s not too surprising: the basis of the emotional wound in the King Quarter is the belief that “I am not good enough”. By definition, how could you possibly bring your King online fully when you haven’t dealt with the emotional wounds in the other quarters?

And yet some aspects of kingship develop throughout our lives. In fact, several lines of emotional development can take place at the same time, but there are certain emotional and psychological sequences of development which have to take place in all of us.

And developing the fullness of the inner King seems to be one of these.

Perhaps no wonder! Kings have always been sacred – King energy has always been incredibly important to the human race.

That’s because there’s always been something about the King that has been immensely organizing, ordering, and creatively healing. (At least, that is, when the King is in balance, and not inflated into a tyrant, or deflated into a weakling King – both symptoms of emotional wounding.)

Indeed, it’s the functions of King energy which make the transition from boy psychology to man psychology possible. The good King sits at the center of his world, and from this central place all of creation radiates his being, his values, his energy, and his essence out to the very frontiers of his world.

It’s no different for each of us: no matter what we see as our realm, our inner King is the one responsible for ordering and directing, for making things happen, and for choosing what is best for all of the citizens of our realm – including ourselves.

In fact, this is the function of the King: to receive and to take all his people, including all the other parts of yourself, where they need to go. That’s when the kingdom flourishes.

But when the King doesn’t live in balance, nothing will go right for his people, or for the kingdom as a whole. The realm will languish, and the center, which the King represents will not hold – the kingdom will be ripe for rebellion, invasion or destruction.

I think many of us probably grew up in dysfunctional families where there is an immature, weak, or an absent father – and as a result mature King energy is not sufficiently present: in situations like this, the families very often succumb to disorder and chaos.

And even when the mother takes over with her own sovereign energy, which can substitute to some degree for the King energy, at some level the boys in the family suffer because they have no role model to teach them how to develop their own inner King.

(In passing, let’s remark on the fact that civilizations have always seen the culmination of kingly energy as a creative partnership with the Queen – and indeed, it has usually been seen as the royal couple’s duty to pass their creative energies on to the kingdom in the form of children.)


Perhaps one of the most critical roles of the King throughout history has been to bestow blessing. The truth is that being blessed has enormous psychological consequences for us. Research has actually shown that our bodies change chemically when we feel valued, praised, and blessed.

And young men today are starving for blessing from older men – starving for blessing from the place of older men’s King energy. Indeed, this is probably one of the reasons why so many young people can’t make their lives work.

And they shouldn’t be in this place – what they need is to be blessed; they need to be seen by the King, and when they are, something inside them comes together and “switches on”.

So a question comes up at this point for me: how much blessing did you, and I, and each one of us, receive from our fathers or other Kings during our childhood?

Most likely none. Perhaps a little. But never enough, never ever enough, to make us believe that we were good enough – giving us a lifetime’s personal work of reparation and self-exploration.

This is work to recover who we always were.

Rod Boothroyd’s explains in his book King Warrior Magician Lover  how the mature King archetype ensures order, integration and integrity in the masculine psyche. It’s responsible for stabilizing chaotic emotion and out-of-control behavior. It is the source of stability and centeredness and it brings calm.

There is also a power in it. An access to vitality and life force. It is the portal to joy. And it is responsible for our own sense of inner order, our own integrity and our essential calmness. It determines our mission and purpose in life and gives us a clear sense of identity and certainty about our masculinity. While firm and clear, it is also benevolent and supportive.

The King sees others as they are: he sees their weakness and their talent and worth. He honours them as they are and wants the best for them. He guides and nurtures them towards their own fullness of being. And yet he is not jealous, because he is secure, as King, in his own worth.

Such an attitude rewards and encourages creativity in us and others.

The King knows his power, too. He can access the power of his Warrior when order is threatened. He also embodies the power which comes from inner authority. He knows and discerns from speaking with and accessing his Magician, and he acts out of a deep knowingness.

Moreover, the King delights in us and others from his Lover, and he shows this delight in compassionate acts of service, and through words of authentic praise and concrete actions that enhance the lives of his subjects.

This archetypal King energy allows you to serve your kingdom from a place of strength.

In fact, a strong King allows you to express yourself calmly when everyone else is panicking and looking to a leader for strength and guidance. The archetype of the King is the place from which you can make clear decisions that will quickly sort out challenges or chaos in the family, at work, in the nation and even in the world.

And the Sovereign energy of blessing access joy. It also promotes a sense of care, support and nurture for all people, creatures, and the natural environment on which we depend.

The Tyrant And The Weakling King

But, as we know, things don’t always go according to plan. It’s certainly true that most of us have experienced at least moments of integration, calmness, and centredness – and perhaps we’ve even experienced blessing from a kindly uncle or grandfather, a boss, teacher, a priest, a therapist.

But the truth is most of us have very little experience of the King in its fullness.

Which is why this positive energy is sadly lacking in most men (think of the male politicians we see around the world….) Instead, what we experience is what has been called the Shadow King.

The tyrant, one aspect of the wounded and undeveloped King, is not creative.

He is destructive. He never knows when it’s time to step aside and give way to others. He exploits and abuses others, behaving ruthlessly, mercilessly, and without feeling. He pursues what he thinks of as his own self-interest but degrades others as he does so. He does not respect beauty or innocence or strength or talent or life energy.

And he behaves in this way because he lacks structure and he is afraid – terrified, really – of his own hidden weakness and his underlying lack of potency and strength.

In fact it is the Shadow King who makes war on his sons’ and daughters’ joy and strength, who diminishes their abilities and vitality. Perhaps he fears their freshness, or the newness of their being, or the life force surging through them – whatever, he seeks to kill it.

And as you know perhaps from your own experience, he does this with verbal assaults, and deprecation of their interests, hopes and talents. Or he may do it by ignoring them by turning his back on them when they are disappointed, or by registering his lack of interest when they offer something of themselves to him.

And of course his attacks aren’t always verbal or psychological: they may include physical abuse. Any father possessed by his tyrant archteype may exploit his children physically or sexually.

To what extent, I wonder, is the tyrant playing out in your life? And if it is, what are you doing about it from the place of the mature masculine?

Even if the place of the mature masculine within you is a potential rather than a reality, at some level you can still make a choice to step into your inner King.

Any man who is possessed by the tyrant is very sensitive to criticism – and will, at the slightest remark, feel weak and deflated. But while he may not show this, you will experience his rage, his rage which covers his sense of worthlessness, vulnerability and weakness.

For behind the tyrant lies the other pole of the King’s shadow – the weakling.

And when the weakling cannot identify with King energy, or doesn’t feel it, he believes he is nothing. And then he projects his own inner weakling King upon those who he sees as weak.

One example of this was General Patton in the Second World War: praised widely for his virtues of strength and fearlessness, courage and leadership, he too had a weakling King.

On one occasion he was visiting a field hospital going from bed to bed, congratulating wounded men, giving out medals – something the King in his fullness would do. But then he came across a man suffering from shell shock.

When Patton asked the man what was wrong with him, and the soldier replied that his “nerves were shot”, Patton flew into a rage and slapped the soldier across the face, calling a coward and sending him from the hospital to the front lines.

Though Patton did not know it, what he had seen in this man was the face of his own hidden fear and weakness, projected outwards onto another. He had glimpsed his own inner weakling.

And of course the inner weakling lacks centredness and calmness and security within himself. This can lead him into paranoia. He sees threats where they do not exist, he is tormented by fears of disloyalty. And in some ways he does have much to fear, because his oppressive behaviour, including cruelty, are powerful provocations which may lead to a similar response from other people.

Such thoughts and feelings lead to increasing tyranny and dictatorial behaviour, the accumulation of more and more power around an individual.

The Development Of The Tyrant

It’s so hard for parents who were not blessed themselves to bless their children right.

Moore and Gillette point out that to offer a child just the right amount of adoration and affirmation is difficult. Perhaps the parents mollycoddle them, and adore them, producing a “highchair tyrant”.

In fact a parent needs to allow the child down off the “highchair” easily and gradually into the real world, where gods cannot live as mortal humans.

Because if parents adore a boy too much and don’t help the boy’s ego form,  then he may never get down from his high chair, and remain inflated with the power of his infantile grandiosity.

That’s one way that the Shadow King is formed – and the other is when the parents abuse the baby or the boy, and attack his grandiosity and gloriousness from the beginning.

In these cases, as Moore and Gillette put it, the grandiosity gets “split off and dropped into the boy’s unconscious for safekeeping”.

And if it does, the boy will come under the power of his own weakling Prince. Later, in “adulthood”, functioning primarily from the place of the weakling King, his repressed grandiosity may explode to the surface, raw and primitive, unmodulated and very powerful.

Sometimes a man seems very nice and rational, but when promoted, let’s say, explodes into a different personality, a little Hitler. This is the Shadow King – a man for whom the saying “power corrupts, but absolute power corrupts absolutely” is entirely correct. (Here, I think of some “politicians” in our World.)

So on the one hand, where a boy was badly treated in childhood and disassociated from his King energy, he can become caught in his own King’s dysfunctional shadow and feel starved of King energy. This is the man who has no ability, no control, no power – or so it seems – to change his life.

On the other hand, a man may come to identify completely with kingly energy – but of an immature kind. He identifies completely with King energy, and has no commitment to others. He is his own priority. The true centre of the system is lost: and grandiosity rules, along with tyrannical kingship.

Projecting the King Outwards

Of course, as we are shown in life, what we don’t, can’t or won’t experience in ourselves, we project outwards onto others. And so it’s possible that anyone who has lost contact with his own inner king may seek it out in others.

He might experience himself as impotent, as incapable of acting, as incapable of feeling calm, without the presence and the loving attention of another person who carries his King energy projection.

This can happen with children when their parents don’t allow them to develop sufficient independence of will and action and purpose, and the children remain forever bound to their parents. It can happen at work, when we become too dependent upon the power of the boss.

And it can happen on a national scale too. In the 20th and 21st centuries we’ve seen many examples of countries where people saw themselves as peasants and turned all of their King energy over to some kind of Fuhrer. This abdication of one’s own power is just as damaging as the tyranny that it fosters.

Another way in which men can deal with their own lack of King energy is to become “King killers”.

This means a man attacks and tries to bring down the people who he sees as Kingly and successful. Maybe it represents an attack on their own inner King energy, which they repress, fearful of expressing it in the world.

The King In His Fullness

When we access our King energy correctly, we will manifest the qualities in our lives of the good and rightful King, the King in his fullness. Our warriors will drop to their knees, appropriately, before their Emperor within. We feel our anxiety level drop. We feel centred and calm, and we speak from an inner authority.

We have the capacity to bless ourselves and others, and care for others deeply and genuinely. We see others as the full persons they really are. We have a sense of being a centred participant in the world, creating a more just, calm, and creative world.

We have a transpersonal devotion to our families, our friends, our companies, our causes, our religions, and indeed to the world. We will also have some kind of spiritual belief system, and we shall indeed love our neighbours as ourselves.