The Four Archetypes of the Mature Masculine: The Lover
by Brett on October 4, 2011 · 28 comments
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.
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.