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Jungian Archetypes for Men: Jesus


[Paul C. Vitz is Professor of Psychology/Senior Scholar at the Institute for the Psychological Sciences and Professor of Psychology Emeritus at New York University. He is our guest blogger for the month of January, and this is his first post].

            After Sigmund Freud certainly the most influential psychological theorist has been the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung. The two major concepts in his writings about personality are archetypes and the psychotherapeutic goal of individuation or self realization. Self realization proposed as the goal of Jungian therapy and indeed of life in general is certainly not for Christians where the goal instead is Christ realization. After all, the Gospels focus on \”not my will but God\’s be done.\” Instead, the original temptation found in Genesis is for each of us to \”become as God\”. Thus, to propose self realization as the goal of life or psychotherapy is a foundational error for any Christian. Jung\’s proposal is a modern form of salvation through special esoteric psychological knowledge and hence a Gnostic answer to the purpose of life. This critical understanding of Jung from different perspectives has been made by various authors. Some of the most interesting for Christians are \”The Aryan Christ: The Secret life of Carl Jung\” (1997) by the psychologist and historian of science Richard Noll; \”The Empty Self: C.G. Jung & the Gnostic Transformation of Modern Identity\” (1996) by Jeffrey Satinover a psychiatrist and former president of the American C.G. Jung Foundation; \”The Healing Presence\”, especially chapter 14, (1995) by a leader in Christian healing Leanne Payne. In my own writing I have also identified the serious conflict between Christianity and major assumptions of Jung in Vitz, 1994.          

The essential dilemma in Jungian psychology is to use the self to realize or individuate the self. This circular logic leaves the person trapped in subjectivity and narcissism and incapable of responding to the nature of external reality, to an objective moral system and much less to a transcendent God outside of the self. The Jungian purpose of life, self realization, in any case is not part of science but is an ideological, philosophical and even theological addition to his presumably more objectively based psychology.

Basic Jungian Archetypes    

As noted, besides self realization the other major concept of Jungian psychology is the \”archetype\”. Archetypes are proposed as actual psychological realities capable of being known and a great deal of the popularity of Jung\’s work derives from the many people who accept the reality of archetypes. Briefly, an archetype is an inherited mental structure with a latent content which is brought to a specific content by the person\’s actual experience in his or her family and culture. Most of the archetypes are characters such as the \”hero\”, the \”earth mother\”, the \”wise old man\”, etc. The primary four Jungian archetypes, however, are more abstract but even they are typically experienced as characters. For example, the persona archetype which represents the public mask or face of a person may be symbolized in a man\’s dream as a shallow salesman. The archetype of the self might be symbolized in a woman\’s dream as a car driving recklessly out of control. A person\’s shadow, the archetype of one\’s unknown and in part dark or evil nature might be symbolized by dreaming about a waitng spider or raging bear attacking others; the archetype of a person\’s animus or anima likewise would commonly be represented as a character. The animus archetype represents a woman\’s unconscious male personality and symbolic representations of men and likewise the anima is a man\’s unconscious female personality. Jungians often simply assume that each sex should get in touch with their animus/anima and integrate it into their personality. This proposal involves the assumption that such an inward looking often narcissistic preoccupation is a positive thing.  For a man to get in touch with his female archetype is to encourage androgyny at a time when men are commonly interpreted as not masculine enough. It seems far more reasonable that a man should start relating to a real woman outside of himself in order to appreciate women and femininity rather than cultivate some internal \”female\”. After all, just because men have nipples does not mean that they should take breast enhancement medicines.

 Jung did not provide a clear definition of an archetype so that one could reliably identify a new proposed archetype nor did he provide a standard list of archetypes, however, the concept has in a general way been accepted by many as valid. In proposing archetypes Jung was saying that in an important sense humans are born with  specific predispositions toward a limited set of human ideas normally symbolized and experienced as characters in dreams, myths, art and in stories found in all the worlds cultures.

            Although, the existence of Jung\’s archetypes has been questioned, it will be assumed for present purposes that archetypes do have some validity in that they exist as important innate properties of the mind  and that the major archetypes identified by Jung and his followers can  be given credence. There are, of course, dangers associated with this assumption some of which will be discussed later. Keep in mind that should archetypes be rejected by subsequent research and reflection then the proposed Christian interpretation of archetypes would become irrelevant. That is, Christianity itself is in no way affected by the truth or falseness of the archetypes.

Four Archetypes and Male Psychology

 Certain contemporary Jungians, active in what some call the \”Men\’s movement\” such as Robert Bly (1990), and especially Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette (1990), and Patrick Arnold (1992) have proposed four pri­mary archetypes as underlying male psychol­ogy. These are referred to as the archetype of the King, the Warrior, the Lover, and the Wiseman/ Magician. These archetypes are proposed as psychological representations of male personality that need to be experienced and reinforced in a  contemporary culture that no longer adequately recognizes and supports male psychological needs. Men have become confused about male identity in our androgynous or unisex society and need to get back in touch with these four innate masculine psychological structures.

            The first is the King archetype. By this Moore and Gillette mean a basic energy in men, focused on ordering-on the content of creating Right Order through wise ruling. The King archetype is also concerned with providing fertility and blessing. The King must have children and he must bless his Kingdom\’s children. The King symbolizes the life force and balance; he is also a mentor.

            The Warrior archetype stands for male energy and aggressiveness, clear thinking in the presence of death, plus training to develop aggressiveness in a disciplined way. The Warrior shows loyalty to a transpersonal ideal -his God, or leader, or nation or another cause.

            The Magician archetype is the knower and master of technology. He is usually an initiate-that is, part of a secret religious world. He is an archetype of awareness, insight, thought­fulness and introspective reflection.

            The Lover archetype stands for passion and love. The Lover is very aware of the physical world, of sensations, sensuality and feeling. The Lover\’s energies are close to those of the mystics. Artists and psychics represent com­mon professions of the Lover.

As described, any of these four archetypes can be distorted in a macho manner, or in a weak, wimp-like fashion. Moore and Gillette very clearly acknowledge that each of these basic male archetypes can be used for evil. They explicitly note that the King can be a tyrant or a weakling (macho or wimpo, if you will). They also admit that the Warrior can be cor­rupted into a sadist or masochist; the Magician can be a prideful manipulator or an envious weakling; the Lover can degenerate into an addicted, promiscuous Don Juan; or he can be impotent, depressed and uncommitted.

            The problem with this Jungian understand­ing of male archetypes is that however much these theorists decry the serious, harmful dis­tortions of these male archetypes, they offer no convincing method or model for avoiding the ways in which men have distorted these male tendencies to exploit or harm others-often women. These writers do attempt to give rationales in which the moral failures of men realizing their archetypes can be controlled but these moral positions do not naturally flow from Jungian theory and as noted above they are not convincing. A writer quite sympathetic to Jung, Morton Kelsey (1983) identifies the basic problem as follows \”The archetype must be honored for what it is, an image outside of the self that calls us to growth, change and awareness. In its negative form it can equally call us to evil and destruction\” (p. 8).

What is important and relevant here is that Jesus, who is our model of God the Father, is the perfect integra­tion of these four archetypes within a frame­work of servant leadership. This model also provides a clear answer to the moral issues raised by men expressing their archetypes. The moral framework is demonstrated in both his many actions and in his words about loving God and others, even one\’s enemies.

 Specifically with respect to the archetypes themselves, that Jesus was a King is acknowledged in the liturgy at the last feast of the Christian year: Christ the King. At his birth, the Magi, and at his crucifixion he was identified as King. Jesus also is commonly referred to as our Lord. As a Warrior Jesus said that he had come to bring the sword; recall his attack on the money-changers in the Temple, his fierce crit­icisms of the Pharisees-all Warrior behaviors. Of course the primary battle that Jesus led was a spiritual battle. St. Paul frequently refers to our life as one of spiritual warfare, and so do many of the saints. That Jesus represents the archetype of Lover is essentially a \”no brainer\” as the expression goes. For Jesus the core of his message is one of love. In the Gospels that \”God is love\” is given prominence. He showed kindness and concern for the suffering of oth­ers so strong that it is no wonder that one of the great spiritual classics is titled \”This Tremendous Lover\” and a famous Protestant hymn is \”Jesus Lover of My Soul.\” He showed explicit love toward children-implicitly all children.

As for the archetype of Wiseman or Magician, Jesus was known as a rabbi or teacher who brought new teachings and who spoke with authority and great wisdom. He was also a frequent and great miracle worker.

 In short, Jesus represents, summa­rizes and integrates all these basic archetypes, most especially when he says \”I and the Father are one.\”  That is, the summarizing archetype for all men is that of \”Father\”. For a father is called to bring all four male archetypes together and live out all of them. He is the lover of his wife and children, a warrior for God and his family, a servant king within the household and at work, and a source of knowledge and wisdom about the world. So we see in these archetypes the model of Jesus as servant leader speaking to the needs and highest aspi­rations of male psychology. We also emphasize that Christian fatherhood is a genuine model for disciplining and controlling the strong tendency of men either to abuse oth­ers or to betray their masculine gifts through weakness and cowardice. Thus, the archetype of Father which combines the other four male archetypes and integrates them is the overarching male archetype to which all men are called. And, of course, in being called to the father archetype all men are not restricted to natural fatherhood with biological children. Instead, they are called to the role or archetype of fatherhood with its focus on strong, mentoring love expressed through the King, the Warrior, the Wiseman and the Lover. For example, Pope (which means papa) John Paul II was a father for millions but he had no natural children. 

Jesus and other male archetypes

            There are three other archetypes that are commonly mentioned in connection with male psychology: the Hero, Initiation Rites and the Wildman. The Hero sets out upon a quest going through three stages – separation, ordeal and return – all aimed at making a great contribution to society or his people through an extraordinary deed. Jesus clearly fits this model well. He begins his ministry with a forty day separation in the desert and then comes his ministry climaxing in the ordeal of the Crucifixion, followed by his resurrection and return in the Last Judgment.  And the enormous benefit for the whole world being Salvation. In short as a man he lives out the archetype of Hero to a kind of perfection. Finally, any serious Christian setting out on the journey toward sanctity or sainthood is also following the model of the Hero archetype.

            The archetype of Initiation is obviously found in the life of Jesus. (For this archetype see R. Rohr, 2004.) His first initiation was presumably at the age of twelve when his parents took him to the temple and later he was recognized as a rabbi or teacher by the Jewish community. His status as a rabbi was never challenged by the Jewish leaders. However, his specific Initiation Rite with respect to his ministry was his baptism by John the Baptist combined with his forty days of fasting in the desert. Representatives of these archetypical events also are present in the life of the ordinary Christian, for example baptism, confirmation, fasting and retreats.

            The last male archetype given some emphasis by the theorists noted earlier is that of the Wildman. This archetype represents a man\’s basic animal energy and contact with the forces of his own body and of nature without feminizing restrictions. For example, in a fairy tale, a boy might discover a hairy, terrifying wild man who lives in the forest. The Wildman\’s raw energy and closeness to animals and the natural world then entices the boy to leave his mother for exciting adventures in the wilderness.

            For all men the Wildman archetype may have appeal and it may be a good starting point but the other male archetypes and personality development require that the man learn how to control and move beyond the Wildman  although the Wildman\’s basic energy and freedom should always be maintained. After all, the King, the Wiseman, Lover and even the Warrior all demand freely chosen discipline and restraint.

There is one clear way in which Jesus expressed the Wildman. Jesus was at home in the natural world.  He was in a sense a homeless man without a place to call his own and thus he was wilder than the foxes and the birds who had fixed places to go \”home\” to.  He traveled by walking great distances, climbing to mountain tops, praying in deserted places, fasting in the desert.  In short, much of his last three years was lived outdoors. Also in freely choosing God\’s will he expressed an enormous amount of power but almost always in quiet and constructive ways, such as miracles.  In his words and actions he demonstrated a kind of power and freedom that created more revolutionary changes than any human Wildman ever did. For example, consider what he did to the money changers in the temple. However, the primitive often pre-human animal aspects of this archetype Jesus did not express. Hence Jesus is not a solid example of the Wildman.

(For female archetypes and the Christian faith see my next blog posting.)           


Arnold, P. (1991) Wildmen, Warriors, and Kings: Masculine Spirituality and the Bible. NY: Crossroad

Bailie, G. (199x)

Bly, R. (1990). Iron John: A Book about Men. Reading MA: Addison-Wesley

Kelsey, M. (1983). Companions on the inner way: The art of spiritual guidance. NY: Crossroad

Moore, R and Gillette, D

Paris, G. (1992) (Trans.J. Mott). The Sacrament of Abortion. Dallas,TX: Spring.(Original French edition 1990).

Payne, L. The Healing Presence.

Rohr, R. (2004) Adam\’s Return: The Five Promises of Male Initiation.

Satinover, J. (1996) The Empty Self: C.G. Jung and the Gnostic Transformation of Modern Identity. Westport CT: Hamewith Books

White, V. (1960). Soul and Psyche. London: Collins & Harvill.

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  1. Harold Jenkerson says:

    Dr. Vitz,
    I waited for your second blog before responding to this one.

    Even though I don’t have a background extensive enough to respond on the level of the subject of which you are addressing,I do find your articles very informing and stimulating.

    I would like to suggest another picture that I have taken from the Scriptures. That suggestion probably reveals my Protestant and Baptist background. I have been working on identifying types or characteristics of human beings from the Scriptures, with a heavy emphasis on the creation story. I will list them without comment:
    1. A creative being
    2. An informational processing being
    3. A religous being
    4. An organizational being
    5. An educational being
    6. A sexual being
    7. An social being
    8. A physical being
    9. A spiritual being
    10. An emotional being

    That which strikes me as unique about these types or characteristics is that they are human needs that demand expression. It seems that by definning these needs a counselor could identify some of the specific needs of the counselee.

    It seems that your archtypes are classifications of behaviors that emphasis some of these needs in each person. It appears to me that the identification of these archtypes is based heavily upon the observation of human behavior. Whereas, what I have presented is based more upon a declaration of what the Scriptures present in reference to human beings.

    Whether or not that we would agree on these areas, it seems that we are attempting to establish the structure of the human being and the functionality of that structure. It might be that this illustration will clarify what I mean: we all know how to drive the car and we are satisfied with that. However, if you want to repair the car along with driving it, you have to know how the enigneer designed it. If we don’t know the structure and the functional aspects of that structure we are at a lost to help others to grow and develop into a full blossomed image of Christ.

    Your articles have been very helpful and stimulating to me.

  2. Johann says:

    Interesting article.

    I would certainly agree with some of it, at least from the perspective that the four archetypes need to become unified into a single archetype – the whole point is integration rather than division.

    The one area which troubles me with your theory is that the image of Christ portrayed by many of the churches, (especially historically by the Catholic Church) is one of “gentle Jesus meek and mild”. Essentially an imbalance pushed towards the lover aspect. This has resulted in the “nice guy” syndrome that afflicts the majority of men in society and of course the upshot is a repressed warrior aspect which often comes out through deviant behaviour, extreme fits of rage during crises etc. These men struggle to deal with conflict and they have trouble standing up for themselves, always placing societies interests before theirs. Of course there is nothing wrong with such noble an ideal except when it creates frustrated and confused men. Yes, it’s good to serve, but you can only serve when you have taken care of yourself, established your boundaries etc.

    Other than that, if someone practices Christianity with this balanced outlook I think it could certainly work out very well for the individual concerned. I’m personally not a Christian, but I’m not against Christianity provided these kinds of imbalances are acknowledged.

    Otherwise and interesting theory. Thank you for your insights.


  3. Justin says:

    I like and agree with much of what is said in the above comments: and I would like to add my comments; which are derived from actual experience (that is, a direct and vivid visual encounter)of the archetypes.
    It is not that ‘The Father’ archetype is the embodiment of all four male archetypes. That idea is a particularly Christian fixation. What it truly is, is that each one of us already has a True Self (guided to which by the unconscious mind and then directly encountered through the conscious mind: and that True Self – be it Lover, Magician, Father, or Warrior, embodies for us all of the other three. That is because we have to, in effect, become the other three in order to encounter (and therefore ‘Know’) our True Self.
    Therefore, if one’s True Self is – for example – the Lover, we will have to embark on a journey in which we will – for a time – become the Warrior, and become the Father, and also become the Magician.
    It is not that one archetype is in any way above or superior to the others, as seems to be the case in some of the above conclusions and theories. It is the finding of our True Self (one of the archetypes) via the eternal procedure of becoming all of the other three in order to literally encounter (and so, in time, become)the one archetype that each one of us already is, yet is not fully and consciously aware of.

    From my long journeys and difficult doings that is what I have understood.


  4. Tom Clement says:

    I work for a faith based non-profit the works with troubled boys. Much of the message we convey to them is based on research done by Moore and Gillette. Our goal is to show them the mature and immature (shadow) side of the 4 main archetypes. By presenting them with the facts about mature and immature sides, we can demonstrate how a mature good man uses his inner power to better himself and those around him. I do tend to believe that the male archetypes can be represented by a 3 sided pyramid, with actually the King at the top. The mature King is the culmination of the mature Warrior, Magician and Lover, in balance. My view is similar to Professor Vitz, in that Jesus was the epitome of the mature male archetypes.

  5. Derek Shirley says:

    Prof, I disagree with the assertion that realising the true self is antithetical to Christian maturing, and with your proposition that it does not constitute a valid goal of spiritual growth, therapy, or life in general. In support of my view I could cite the works of Watchman Nee and Thomas Merton, inter alia. The thesis is this: The true self is not in any respect some rarefied version of the ego, or an over-identification with any archetype, but rather a largely contra-factual end-point of a journey of transcending any particular archetypal influence or any particular egoic identification – the true self in this view is more like a state of submission to the divine, to the transcendent Christ Jesus: the man that is identical with God and the Holy spirit and the Father. In this sense realisation of the self is always ahead of the ego, as this realisation represents the distant hills of the Lord, for which our incarnate hearts burn. The ego does not become a realised self: it is relativised in the process of self-realisation, and ultimately lost in the dissolution of death, and the mergence into divinity that is sometimes seen in living saints. I do not believe that I am entirely out of synch with Jung’s thinking here, and certainly not with that of Merton. Of course, the view has some heterodox elements,contrasted with patriarchal Christianism, though. And it is phenomenologically coherent in my own life. Thank you for the opportunity to put this out there, and thank you for your evocative blog.

  6. Laurel says:

    Question. This all seems complicated to me so forgive me! I am a Christian Holistic physical therapist. I have been invited to go on a retreat that involves archetypal education with Jung’s influence and an instructor who is also into reiki. The title of the retreat is “Exploring the Mind / Body from
    an Archetypal Psychology and
    Five Element perspective, utilizing
    sound healing, yoga principles
    and essential oils.” I am wondering if this is going to be not a good choice being that I am Christian? I’m not sure where this type of pyschology really stands in terms of Christianity? If anyone has a clue and could help this simple minded PT that would be amazing! Thanks so much!

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