King (archetype)

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The Narmer Palette, dating from about the 31st century B.C.E., commemorating the unification of Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt into a single nation under a single king. A large, clothed King is depicted smiting his small, naked enemy in the act of ordering and unification celebrated in the image.

The King archetype—also called the Sacred King, The King In His Fullness, and sometimes Lord of the Four Quarters—is one of the four Jungian archetypes featured in Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette's 1990 book King Warrior Magician Lover and 1992 book The King Within.

As a component of the mature masculine psyche, the King represents the human configuration of the primate alpha male.[1] The King has two bipolar shadows: the Tyrant is the result of a human man identifying his own person completely with the King, and the Weakling is the result of a man's abdication of his kingship.

The boyhood equivalent of the King is the Divine Child, whose bipolar shadows include the High-Chair Tyrant and the Weakling Prince.

The King and the Alpha Male[edit]

According to Moore and Gillette, the successful primate alpha males

are usually mature and physically powerful. They display foresight, courage, and what can only be called "character"... Alpha Males surround themselves with male "knights" to help support their claim to power in their "realms." These males exhibit characteristics of what David Gilmore calls the "cult of manhood" in human males. Like their human counterparts, chimpanzee males are protectors and providers for the females and the young of their societies... They impose order on the frequent chaotic outbreaks in their "realms." They settle disputes, and at their best seem to inspire admiration and respect in their "subjects." In return they defend their subjects with great ferocity and at times pay for their efforts with their lives. Decision—over when to move the tribe to different feeding grounds, for example—seem largely to be theirs. Alpha Males enjoy the trappings of authority and wealth, often in terms of desirable females, for example, but often behave generously, even altruistically. We can see in the Alpha Male the primordial energic structures of the masculine Self.[2]

Similarly, with respect to the human king:

The King energy is primal in all men. It bears the same relationship to the other three mature masculine potentials as the Divine Child does to the other three immature masculine energies. It comes first in importance, and it underlies and includes the rest of the archetypes in perfect balance. The good and generative King is also a good Warrior, a positive Magician, and a great Lover. We could say that the King is the Divine Child, but seasoned and complex, wise, and in a sense as selfless as the Divine Child is cosmically self-involved.[3]

However, while the King as an archetype has been sacred historically, the individual mortal men who may hold kingship powers and responsibilities have been relatively unimportant.[4]

But the King is still essential to the nurturing and well-being of his people:

This is the energy that expresses itself through a man when he takes the necessary financial and psychological steps to ensure that his wife and children prosper... This is the energy that expresses itself through a father when he takes time off from work to attend his son's piano recital. This is the energy that, through the boss, confronts the rebellious subordinates at the office without firing them. This is the energy that expresses itself through the assembly line foreman when he is able to work with the recovering alcoholics and drug abusers in his charge to support their sobriety and to give them empowering masculine guidance and nurturing.[5]

Functions of the king[edit]

The four functions of the king are Center, Procreator, Transforming Vessel, and Structurer.[6]


The good king always mirrored and affirmed others who deserved it. He did this by seeing them—in a literal sense, in his audiences at the palace, and in the psychological sense of noticing them, knowing them, in their true worth. The good king delighted in noticing and promoting good men to positions of responsibility in his kingdom... Young men today are starving for blessing from older men, starving for blessing from the King energy. This is why they cannot, as we say, "get it together." They shouldn’t have to. They need to be blessed. They need to be seen by the King, because if they are, something inside will come together for them. That is the effect of blessing; it heals and makes whole.[7]


As the Center the King "constellates the axis mundi", which refers reconciling polar opposites and incorporating the sacred in the profane, the infinite into the finite, good and evil, etc.

The King... is the "central archetype." Like the Divine Child, the good King is at the Center of the World. He sits on his throne on the central mountain, or on the Primeval Hill, as the ancient Egyptians called it. And from this central place, all of creation radiates in geometric form out to the very frontiers of the realm. "World" is defined as that part of reality that is organized and ordered by the King. What is outside the boundaries of his influence is noncreation, chaos, the demonic, and nonworld.[8]

The location of the Center depends on the King:

Ancient peoples located the Center in many places: Mount Sinai, Jerusalem, Hierapolis, Olympus, Rome, Tenochtitlán. But it was always the Center of a quadrated universe, an orderly, geometrical universe. The Center of the universe was always where the king—god and man—reigned, and was the locus of divine revelation and creative power.[9]


As the Procreator the King incarnates libido by manifesting sexual and erotic urges and by beholding his subjects, blessing them[10], and dispensing riches to them

Transforming Vessel[edit]

As a Transforming Vessel the King renders divine energy humanly usable:

What this function of the King energy does, through a mortal king, is embody for the people of the realm this ordering principle of the Divine World. The human king does this by codifying laws. He makes laws, or more accurately, he receives them from the King energy itself and then passes them on to his nation.[11]

Essential to this transformation is by living as the embodied order himself:

It is the mortal king's duty not only to receive and take to his people this right order of the universe and cast it in societal form but, even more fundamentally, to embody it in his own person, to live it in his own life. The mortal king’s first responsibility is to live according to Ma'at, or Dharma, or the Tao. If he does, the mythology goes, everything in the kingdom... will also go according to the Right Order.[12]


As Structurer the King encourages the development of his subjects and translates the divine order into technology, theology, and philosophy. He also upholds divine order through human law and fortifies and protects the community against inner and outer enemies, chaos, and death.[13]

The King's role as Structurer, however, is most closely associated with his role in leading by example, and only secondarily by enforcing this order.[14] When this energy is not present, there will be disorder and chaos.[15]

The order which the King brings is not only behavioral but emotional:

The King archetype in its fullness possesses the qualities of order, of reasonable and rational patterning, of integration and integrity in the masculine psyche. It stabilizes chaotic emotion and out-of-control behaviors.[16]

Images of the Sacred King[edit]

Moore and Gillette avoid associating the King archetype with historical men, preferring mythological, religious, and legendary figures. While acknowledging ways in which King energy has been expressed through individual men, the sacred or archetypal King is almost always a transcendental figure in order to discourage identification with the King by living men, who tend to become "inflated" and "grandiose."[17] This was often accomplished by making the human king a "representative" of the sacred king in heaven.

Examples of the Sacred King include:

Additionally, the reverence with which most national leaders are treated by the majority of their people, even in democratic societies, is advanced as evidence of a kingship tradition living on.[30]

Accessing King Energy[edit]

Moore and Gillette recommend accessing King energy in a similar fashion to how Divine Child energy is accessed: by touching upon it without identifying with it.[31] This is because identifying with the Sacred King is a quick way to let the archetype usurp the individual and become the Tyrant.

[When] we are accessing the King energy correctly, as servants of our own inner King, we will manifest in our own lives the qualities of the good and rightful King, the King in his fullness... We will feel our anxiety level drop. We will feel centered, and calm, and hear ourselves speak from an inner authority. We will have the capacity to mirror and to bless ourselves and others. We will have the capacity to care for others deeply and genuinely. We will "recognize" others; we will behold them as the full persons they really are. We will have a sense of being a centered participant in creating a more just, calm, and creative world. We will have a transpersonal devotion, not only to our families, our friends, our companies, our causes, our religions, but also to the world.[32]

The primary means of accessing the King is through active imagination exercises.[33]

Other activities and expressions of the King include:

  • Working on your legacy
  • Developing practical wisdom
  • Becoming a mentor
  • Finding a mentor
  • Increasing the orderliness of your own life
  • Increasing the orderliness of the world around you
  • Breaking away from your mother
  • Developing traits of true leadership
  • Establishing your core values
  • Developing a life plan
  • Becoming more decisive
  • Avoiding corruption and living with integrity

The Shadow Kings[edit]

According to Moore and Gillette, for every Weakling there is a Tyrant and vice versa writing, "The man possessed by the Tyrant has a wounded vulnerability that causes him to hate and fear the weak men in his life, because these men remind him of his own secret underlying weakness. In their bipolar dysfunctional system, Tyrant and Weakling—usurper and abdicator—need each other to remind themselves of their other half.".[34]

The Tyrant Usurper[edit]

A man becomes a Tyrant when a man begins to identify with the King archetype, which proceeds to takes over his psyche.[35]

The Weakling Abdicator[edit]

A man becomes a Weakling when he withdraws or abdicates from the King energy completely. This happens especially when a man projects the King energy entirely upon another.[36]