The racist, misogynist, rage-filled, working-class white male has long seen himself as embodying the American Hero narrative. But that hero is the toxic mimic of another, more mature archetypal figure. Jungians Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette envision a four-part masculine soul divided into the King (the image of order, blessing and fertility), Lover (relatedness and deep passion for life), Magician (awareness and insight) and Warrior (focused aggression and devotion to a cause). Each of these archetypes is divided into an immature, “boy psychology” image and a mature, initiated “man psychology.”
In this demythologized world, we certainly should not be surprised to read that “…most men are fixated at an immature level of development.” This is what we mean by “boy psychology,” and from an indigenous perspective, it is the source of all our current problems. Simply put, America and all of its institutions have been ruled for a very long time by uninitiated boys in men’s bodies. See Chapter Five of my book for a detailed discussion of this issue.
The immature form of the Warrior in the modern world is what we know as the hero. This macho man overcompensates for his insecurities, either bragging of his potency or smoldering in silence. He is brittle and easily provoked.
At bottom, he is deeply wounded, but his grief has no outlet other than rage. And it is yet another source of that grief and rage that American culture offers him almost no way to access his natural affinity – what indigenous initiation rites might have recognized in him – for the Warrior archetype. To imagine this dilemma in somewhat positive terms: the Hero, in his soul of souls, wishes to be recognized as the Warrior.
The warrior’s courage and discipline are intended for service. He hones himself into “an efficient spiritual machine…to bear the unbearable” for the express purpose of serving a transpersonal goal, not his own ego and certainly not white supremacy, celebrities or capitalism. The hero may vanquish the beast. But if he doesn’t enact the third part of the initiation story, returning with a boon for his community, his heroism becomes pathological and he remains a boy.
And here is the connection between the immature, American Hero and the King he can only serve through rage and demonization of the Other; between the foot soldiers of the alt-right and the oligarchs who actually subsidize their hate.
In all functioning, indigenous mythologies, the archetypal Sacred King is in relationship – to the realm, and to the divine queen, who is The Earth. Together, they personify that cause or community, which is composed of the entirety of its inhabitants, human, animal, plant as well as the unseen spirits and ancestors.
But archetypes can force their way into our lives in astonishing and destructive ways. Such iconic figures as Adolf Hitler, Marilyn Monroe and David Koresh were all seized by archetypes. In Jungian terms, these historical persons became identified with the archetypes rather than being conduits for their energies. And to the extent that we lack awareness, we become possessed by the shadow of that archetype. The King has both an active and a passive shadow, his uninitiated, immature aspects.
The active pole is the Tyrant, who cannot and will not create anything or bless others. He is concerned only with power, control and self-aggrandizement. Instead of channeling or embodying the archetype of the King, he believes that he is the King, literally the center of the universe. He is inflated, narcissistic, grandiose and entitled and assumes that conventional moral restraints don’t apply to him. Curiously, since he has a scarcity mentality, he objectifies all others and exploits them for his own purposes.
Greek myth acknowledged the damage that powerful but uninitiated men could do: Grandiose King Erysichthon cut down a sacred oak. Demeter cursed him with insatiable hunger, throwing him into a frenzy of consumption. He ate everything and everyone in his kingdom, ultimately consuming himself. The king who couldn’t bless ended up destroying the realm.
The passive pole of the Shadow King – the Weakling – lies just below consciousness. In this manifestation, he is indecisive, depressed, incapable of leadership or blessing and of course, extremely insecure. Underneath every blustering Tyrant is a Weakling, and underneath every cowering Weakling is a Tyrant waiting to explode.
He must embody that transpersonal cause, or his own image, like that of Narcissus, will become that cause, and his followers will be, for a time, obsessed with his “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.” Sooner or later, however, his great towers will unconsciously provoke the Dionysian Stranger who will puncture his grandiosity. And those towers will become targets, because his followers, angry at his inability to embody that Sacred King, will turn on him when he can no longer distract them with scapegoats to sacrifice. He knows this.
And this is the rage connection to his foot soldiers. Privilege is privilege, whether it derives from the illusion of racial superiority or from inconceivably massive wealth, because – like Dionysus himself – it leaks through the cracks of the ego and establishes itself in the core of one’s identity. But the shadow King is just as angry at his uninitiated condition as his followers are at theirs. Despite being at the center of the realm, emotionally he remains an outsider, and his followers, perceiving this, temporarily identify with him in their wounded state.
So any perceived threat to his authority and supremacy, his assumptions of entitlement (isn’t it curious that musicians are legally entitled to royalty payments?), no matter how minor, also threatens to puncture the bubble of his inflated grandiosity and release the grief and the rage at the core of his self, just as it does with them.
Donald Trump represents the logical extreme of uninitiated, man-boy rulers that has manifested progressively for centuries. His charisma lies in the fact (or the brand) that he genuinely appears to be as insecure, unstable and fragile as his followers. And, except for his classless style, I see no reason to believe that he is any different in essence – in the entitled grandiosity – of those who are far wealthier than he is.
Married or not, such men are utterly disconnected from relationship with the feminine. Together, in their implied hatred for the Earth itself, they compose an entire class of shadow Kings. They embody a condition that Paul Shepard identified twenty years ago:
We may now be the possessors of the world’s flimsiest identity structure where history, masquerading as myth, authorizes men…to alter the world to match their regressive moods of omnipotence and insecurity.
We are talking about psychopaths and sociopaths, men who speak with reassuringly sincere voices yet are completely amoral. Studies indicate that many corporate CEOs are actual psychopaths, who
…have a profound lack of empathy…use other people callously and remorselessly for their own ends… pathological liars, master con artists, and heartless manipulators. Easily bored, they crave constant stimulation, so they seek thrills from real-life “games” they can win – and take pleasure from their power over other people.
We are also talking about how, beginning with Lyndon Johnson, American Presidents began to take the “Commander-in-Chief” title quite literally and bypassed both Congress and their generals in deciding when to go to war. It was a new trend in which the nation has confused the two very separate archetypes of King and Warrior.
Of course, such men, well compensated as they are, merely work for the truly wealthy. But it seems natural to assume that it takes one to know one.
Perhaps we can understand men who sponsor torturers, climate deniers and drug smugglers (international drug trafficking has been controlled by the ultra-wealthy since the Opium Wars of the 19th century) only by comparing them to the original conquistadores. These men, writes James Wilson, lived “an apparently insoluble compound” of greed, cruelty, deceit, opportunism – and an absolutely literal, legalistic, church-sanctioned piety that assured them of their own salvation.
This is the bizarre logic of the modern Calvinists, regardless of whether or not they are overtly religious. In our mythology, their (usually inherited) state of infinite entitlement indicates without doubt that they are already saved, so evil deeds are irrelevant to their salvation. Since the “chosen” are above morality, they have no morality. They have the potential to be infinitely good or infinitely evil.
But their psychology – their underlying insecurity, grief and rage – determines the moral direction in which they move, even as they convince themselves of their perfectly benign intentions. What, we might wonder, is more important: the huge donation for a new hospital or art museum, the tax write-off or the fact that it will be named for them? None of this began with Trump. What are we to make of a Supreme Court Justice – Antonin Scalia – who publicly stated that there is nothing unconstitutional about executing innocent people?