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The Dark King: Archetype of an Emerging Masculinity

Our current culture has more opportunities for increased consciousness, personal growth, and collective healing than ever before imaginable. This makes the 21st century a potent time for actualizing a shared vision of healing for both men and women so that violence and traumas from the past need not be repeated but repaired on both local and global levels. In order for men to rise and meet their female counterparts as equals, however, I believe that many men must first make a necessary personal and collective "descent" - away from "acting out" of places of shadow power and dominance, or "acting in" through impotence and castration - and into the origins of these deep and aching wounds. This is the path that Robert Bly refers to as "the road of grief and ashes," and that I feel leads to a shared re-imagining of what it means to be in power with others, rather than under or over.

An archetype has emerged for me that speaks to such an integration and deepening of the shared capacities of the masculine soul. I envision him as a "Dark King," an image with archetypal roots planted deep in the mythic soil of East and West, and that represents to me the possiblity of an emerging masculine consciousness that acknowledges and respects the differences of others while remaining deeply sourced in his own integrated life force. This "dark masculine," or "Lunar King" is a re-imaging of the "Solar King" that we have known for centures: a king of light who supposedly casts no shadow, a savior, a religious leader or political figure-as-god, who wounds others unknowingly because he does not touch his own darkness, believing that he casts no shadow, and unconscious of his own life's wounds. This is a figure that we have all known too well, both culturally and historically, as well as in our own families, communities, and religious or spiritual organizations.

A "Dark King" represents a man who is master of his energetic and emotional domain. He knows his shadow because he has been re-born from within its dark, fertile womb. He respects women and honors the sacredness of the feminine because he has touched his own feminine essence and knows it as good. He is neither a "soft" nor a "hard" man, but a man who works toward integration: light and shadow, solar and lunar, masculine and feminine. He is a man deeply sourced in himself who can be of service and good to his family, his friends, and the world around him.

Archetypally, the resurrection and birth of a "dark masculine" King is foreshadowed in multiple mythologies. Osiris, a central Egyptian male deity, is killed and dismembered by his evil counterpart and brother, Seth, the god of the desert, only for his parts to be retrieved and "re-membered" by Osiris' goddess-lover, Isis. Their reunion results in the birth of a divine son, Horus, the bird-headed god, representing the Spirit of a new masculinity born from the union of a consciously re-membered masculinity and the healing capacities of dark feminine awareness.

Similarly, in the imagery of the Black Madonna of Eastern and Western European consciousness, a black son, the Christ-child, is presented on the lap of his Dark Mother. Here the union that births the divine child occurs between the Black Virgin, representing matter, embodiment, and the chthonic earth elements, and the masculine Spirit, who impregnates the fertile vessel of the dark feminine goddess, giving birth to a new masculine awareness represented by the black, or dark son.


In both instances, a son, manifesting as a young king, emerges from the union or re-membering of masculine and feminine, and represents new possiblities of what it means to be a man in relation to his "darker" aspects - embodiment, sexuality, and emotionality - rather than opposed to or repressing these fundamental aspects of life. This is a fertile masculinity born from the union of a man's conscious relationship to the dark aspects of the feminine as both Goddess and Mother, and his own archetypal relationship with Spirit. It is this constant interplay between matter and spirit, human and divine, masculine and feminine, that births a new and conscious masculinity in the souls of both women and men.

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