Elder manThe male hero of myth and legend is a young man who saves a victim or captures a great treasure. He seeks conquest and new horizons to control. He sacrifices himself for the greater good and is energized by the drives of Eros and the libido. The mature hero is a Warrior. The Warrior is one of the four archetypes of the elder man. The other three archetypes are the sovereign, the magician and the lover. These archetypes are found repeatedly in folklore, religion and literature. Men both young and old embody the energies of these four archetypes. However, elder men embrace the archetypes differently than younger men.

As a hero ages and becomes a Warrior, he begins to find a balance between his feminine and masculine energies. A more elder-like expression of a hero requires both the feminine and masculine energies be honoured. Less concerned with the aggressive pursuit of conquest, he is instead a guide and advocate. The libido’s power to compel the hero is moderated in the Warrior, who seeks spirituality and wisdom, a commitment to high values, and a closer relationship to the earth.

The archetype of the Sovereign is less known to a younger man. The Sovereign is a figure of authority and stands up for social order. He is a steward to life, one who directs and protects through wisdom and influence.

The mature Magician, rather than his young trickster counterpart, is a wise man and a crone. He can be crotchety, but also parental, protective and nurturing. The wise man and crone are mouthpieces of inner thought, wisdom, knowledge and ideas, rather than personalities or emotions. The elder Magician embodies intellect and its rational nature, but also has an eccentric quality that does not bend to social convention.

The Lover, on the other hand, is forever an adolescent. With energy that is emotional and actively spiritual, he is preoccupied with play and adventure. As we activate the deep maturity of the elder within, we may paradoxically experience an increasing interest in our child within. As we discover the sources of the spiritual, generative and wise expression that feeds elderhood, we find that playful, spontaneous, less politically correct behavior increases. Childhood archetypes like the Lover remain alive and accessible to us. In the search for more elder-like expressions we find that both the elder and the child within are together in the center of our psyche.

The task of the male elder today is to integrate into his self-expression the energy of each archetype in a balanced way. Both the masculine and feminine energies within him must also be balanced, along with the childhood archetypes that predispose the expression of the maturity and wisdom. Being a protector, provider and teacher in a way that matches the needs of the 21st Century is the task that faces the Warrior today.

Terry Jones founded the Elderhood Institute in 2001 when he retired from management of EASE, the mental health consulting firm he formed in 1979. His first book on elderhood, The Elder Within, was published through Bookpartners in 2001. © 2008, Terry Jones
image: Priyantha Bandara (Creative Commons BY-NC-ND)