The King and Queen: Archetypes of Ethical Social Behavior


During this post-election time in America it is fitting that we honor the King and Queen archetypes, rulers of the social domain. I dedicate the next several posts to them.
Our ultimate goal in society is to nurture the flourishing of all by creating lawful order and moral virtue.  Whether we interact with two people or two million people, everything we say and do has something to do with our basic need to nurture or be nurtured.  Because others are always involved when our instinct for nurturance is engaged, our nurturing behavior has ethical import.
The commonly agreed upon standards and values that are passed on from generation to generation within a group represent the morality or ethos of that group.  Moral codes vary from group to group, region to region, and age to age.  The more isolated the group and the more closely its members identify with its rules, the more everyone in that group tends to believe that their particular moral code is sacred, universal, and inviolable.
The two poles of the social continuum represent opposite but equally valid dimensions of nurturing moral behavior. Our inner King represents the masculine logos approach in group relationships, our Queen represents the feminine Eros (or mythos) approach.  Each has different priorities and a preferred style that determines the way he or she governs and nurtures. Both styles are appropriate for some groups and settings and inappropriate for others.  The trick is to use both in balanced ways that do not overdo or neglect either one.
The word “morality” has taken on a negative connotation in recent years because of self-righteous individuals who have slipped into a masculine moral extreme in which they unconsciously equate morality with their personal religious beliefs. The reason this extreme is associated with masculinity is because it is based on abstract, perfectionist ideals like justice morality and not on compassion or a felt sense of relatedness to others.
These extremists unconsciously project their own fears and obsessions onto a similarly uptight, self-righteous masculine deity of strict rules and uncompromising sternness.  What they fail to see is that a God who lacks mercy is not an authentic, moral God;  it is simply a flawed God-image arising from a fearful, self-important ego.  A religion that lacks compassion is not an authentic, moral religion;  it is simply a collection of stern man-made doctrines.  Likewise, a person who cannot accept her or his own flaws or forgive the flaws of others is not an authentically moral person, but simply a stiff and fearful puppet.  Authentic morality is not exclusive, restrictive, inhibiting, or judgmental.  Authentic morality, like authentic religion, is always freeing, accepting, merciful, and compassionate.
The King’s regard for hierarchical legal systems that enforce justice and the Queen’s understanding, caring and mercy are all traditional values, but when either archetype is over-valued and obsessive, unethical behavior results. Failing to constellate the King and Queen is equally irresponsible. This extreme is seen in parents who neglect their children, narcissistic, self-serving couples who have no time for nurturing anyone or anything else but themselves, or apathetic citizens who sponge off society without making any positive contributions of their own.  By developing respect for both the King and the Queen, we bring balance to our personalities, behave responsibly, and respect the authority and individual rights of all with whom we come in contact.
Healthy partnership between the Kings and Queens who govern nations depends on the integration of our inner Kings and Queens: on our ability to be just and caring, to respect the need for both hierarchical and shared authority, and to be flexible, creative, and forgiving in the ways we nurture others.  When we succeed in creating lawful order and moral virtue within ourselves we will have a real chance of making a positive difference in the world.
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0 Responses

  1. Elections tend to bring out a lot of fear and anxiety. Not to mention anger. I read this morning that a woman drove her car over her husband because she was furious that Obama won and her husband didn’t vote. Choosing our leaders, investing our hope for comfort and safety and security in them…this is all heavy duty archetypal stuff. Stay tuned. I’ll be touching on implications for the election in an upcoming post in this series.

  2. Thanks for giving words to an issue that is calling all of us to offer strong integrated personal energy. As I’ve been watching the unfolding drama of moral dilemma on TV, I’ve at the same time been reading a great suspense book with a similar plot while at the same time listening to calls from a distraught young cousin who is ranting about all the people in her life who “do her wrong” including me who according to her, “thinks she’s crazy.” It’s comforting to have an intellectual framework like the King and Queen, but it’s hard to move down into the heart and respond to real situations in a way that that is balanced. Dreams help. Last night I had what I call “coming together dreams.” The energy stayed with me when I received yet another call from my cousin this morning. I am thankful for dreams.

    1. This is such a thoughtful and important comment, Tallulah! Thank you back for reminding us that words and theories alone are not enough. They have to somehow make their way into the heart and be translated into meaningful images and mature behavior if they are to be of any help to anyone.
      In Healing the Sacred Divide there’s a section devoted to just this topic. For healing to occur, “word” and “image” are only one of myriad pairs of opposites that have to be integrated into a “mandorla” (as you, of all people know well, the image is of two opposite circles coming together and merging to form the almond-shaped mandorla in the center that is the holy place of transformation). Likewise, our waking and dreaming lives with their unique images and events also need to be integrated in us so that both sides can inform and influence each other. Your “coming together dreams” illustrate this point so beautifully!!
      This topic couldn’t be more relevant to the current election and its results. Republicans and Democrats are like two opposite circles that have stubbornly and rigidly remained separate out of profound fear of, and resistance to, the other’s “otherness,” and their continued separation is what causes not only anxiety, fear, and anger, but truly unethical behavior on both sides. Both sides need to be willing to merge, like the inner archetypes of King and Queen, into a mandorla place of at least partial union if the healing of ourselves and our country is to occur. The longer they remain apart, the more polarized we, as individuals and a nation, will become until fanaticism and paranoia destroy the whole system.
      Blaming others for our problems, predicting doom, and seceding from the “union” are the natural responses of frightened egos, but they only magnify the problem and move us closer to destruction. As Lincoln said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” I’m very heartened by recent comments from some of our more psychologically aware governmental representatives on both sides of the aisle which indicate that we may finally be opening up and moving in the direction of healing this crucial divide in our country today.
      Thanks again for your perceptive comment!

      1. P.S. To circle back to the point of your comment, having an intellectual framework from which to view our problems can be helpful, but they are not enough to heal the fear and anguish of your young cousin or the millions of disappointed voters. That healing will have to come from within themselves as they look within for the source of their divisiveness and the cure that will come from listening to their own souls (through attending to their dreams, for example), and opening their own hearts. Thanks again, Jeanie

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