This was by far the most exciting metaphor for me to read in The Hidden Spirituality of Men, before I even read it. As someone who has struggled with aggression in the past and learned to be passive instead this was something I needed to read. My image of a warrior was not a good one. I have repressed many of my warrior traits and here was a metaphor that spoke about it powerfully. There was some talk of the difference between a soldier and a warrior that intrigued me.
The Spiritual Warrior
When talking about a spiritual warrior you need to keep in mind the context of the "Great Work." The work is not something that we have chosen but a task that we must take. It is the task of moving modern industrial civilization from its present devestating influence on the Earth to a more benign mode of presence. This work can take many forms, but one must keep it in mind when learning about true warrior energy.
What is a spiritual warrior and why is it important?
The spiritual warrior is the metaphor that helps to answer 2 questions that have come up so far on our journey - what to do with male aggression and what to do with competition. The spiritual warrior teaches us how to steer both into healthy directions. So how does aggression usually show up in our world? It shows up in war, conquest ( including business or sex ), passivity, selfish competition and more negative outlets of aggression. Competition was part of that list and too often it shows up as selfish competition in our world. Competition where I have to win and you must lose. Though these traits and actions are often associated with warriors they should not. The problem arises from the fact that too many people have collapsed the term warrior with that of a soldier.
Warrior, soldier - what's the difference?
A soldier takes orders from other people while a warrior takes orders from the soul. You can see this represented in movies such as Dances With Wolves where at first he is a soldier following orders but he becomes a warrior fighting for what his soul knows is right. The same thing happens in real life when veterans go to war and come back home and march with their brothers against the war the themselves had fought in. The spiritual warrior also doesn't take orders from society when there is a "Great Work" that needs to be accomplished. Martin Luther King, Jr., Gandhi and Ralph Nader are examples of warrior spirits that take orders from their own souls instead of from society.
The warrior is in touch with his heart - the joy, the sadness, the expansiveness of it. The warrior, unlike the soldier, is a lover. The warrior is so much in touch with his heart that he can give it to the world. The warrior loves not only his nearest kin and mate but also the world and God. The warrior relates to God as a lover. This is different than the soldier who relates to God as Judge. This difference brings to mind a quote from the movie, The Man in The Iron Mask. In it D'Artagnan (Gabriel Byrne) tells King Louis XIV (Leonardo DiCaprio) about how Athos (John Malkovich) had taught him "Each time I draw my sword I should consider, not what I was killing but what I was allowing to live". I love that statement. In that statement lives the distinction between a soldier and a warrior.
Sounds great, how does one become a warrior?
The warrior fight begins with first overcoming yourself and your own demons. Some demons seems small, like the limitations we put on ourselves when we say "I can't." Other demons are larger, such as pride that has us go to battle over namecalling or someone stepping on your shoe. Martial Arts and meditations are two great was to begin to overcome yourself and your own demons. These disciplines are great places to study the 8 principles of a warrior: inner peace, tranquility, love, power, strength, honor, majesty, respect. Turn each of these 8 principles both inward as well as outward. Some principles such as power, strength and majesty often get perverted when they are turned inward only. If you want power, strength and majesty for yourself but you don't give it to others it leads you down a spiral away from the true warrior and into its shadow energy.
This doesn't mean you won't slip on your warrior journey. A warrior is human after all and it is important for a warrior to be humble. It is this humility that is part of another important aspect of a warrior - being non-judgmental. A warrior knows that others don't win every internal battle because they themselves do not win every battle. Judgment comes from inexperience, not having experienced losses against personal demons. A warrior has experienced losses, because he has fought battles, and thus does not judge others. These experiences make the warrior humble.
How do spiritual warriors relate to fear?
"In our tradition, we believe that fear is the door in the heart that lets evil spirits in. Thus all prayer is a strengthening of the heart to keep fear at bay."
Fear is built into our brains in order to keep us alive. Stay away from that ledge you might fall and die. That lion sounds hungry, it's best to stay away. These make sense on the level of physical survival. As our brains have developed fear has morphed beyond the death of our physical bodies and now shows up when our egos are threatened. It is the fear that comes up when our egos are threatened that gets in the way of our true selves. Our ego must die in order for our true selves to come out. Our ego is the biggest, baddest inner demon there is. It is always there and will never go away. For example, listening is a warriors art. In order to listen we must let go of the fear that our ego "who knows everything" will be destroyed if we listen to someone else (or to our true self). In order to truly listen we must give up the notion that we know everything and our ego fights us on that, but it is a battle we can easily win. The Kennedy quote on fear is an adaptation of the Buddha quote that sums it all up,
"There is nothing to fear. If there is anything at all to fear, fear only yourself!"
How to become a warrior redux.
Warriorhood is a journey, not a destination. It is a journey that takes us on four different and intertwining paths. The positive path, the negative path, the creative path and the transformative path.
The positive path the celebration of life. The world is beautiful and the warrior is open to this beauty. Cynics focus on the lack of grace and generosity in the world, the warrior is thankful for all the examples in the world that he sees.
The negative path takes the warrior into the darkness so that he may see the light. He does this through solitude, facing internal demons and letting go of those demons. The warrior learns from this process who he is, is helps him be humble. the darkness also helps he on the positive path. After being through whatever hells the darkness may bring, the positive path can be enjoyed even more passionately.
The creative path, or rather creativity is the true weapon of a spiritual warrior. The very nature of the Great Work requires him to do something new, something he must create. Samurai warriors studied ikebana, a specialized form of flower arrangement as a practice to keep their weapon honed. A warrior is an artist who works for the people that they might live.
The transformative path is the path of self reflection. A true spiritual warrior is humble after all. The warrior is always checking to make sure what they are creating includes justice and compassion. Without this test, a warrior could easily tap into his shadow energy. The shadow energy could create something that looks like justice without compassion or compassion that gets nothing done. With both justice and compassion, real momentum can be made in the Great work. The way to the transformative path is linked closely with the creative and the negative paths. The warrior comes up with his great work, but then he must test it. Inside these tests he ensures that it is truly a Great Work of justice and compassion. He must look and see if there is a darkness to his work and revisit the creative path as he hones the idea further.
What is the shadow form of warrior energy?
Unfortunately there are many false prophets out there ( and inside ourselves ). They worry more about the destination and so they do not fully take the 4 paths of a warrior. Some give in to fear and let it guide them. Ultimately, what is missing is the Great Work - the TRUE Great Work. Remember, a Great Work is the task of moving modern industrial civilization from its present devastating influence on the Earth to a more benign mode of presence. Some works are big and seem grand but have they passed the test of justice and compassion? For instance, recently California's proposition 8 made it so that marriage in California is only between a man and a woman instead of between a man and a man or woman and a woman. In the most recent elections this big work to ensure marriage between is only between a man and a woman continued in other states with similar propositions. If we test this against justice, some might think it passes. However, when tested against compassion it fails miserably and thus is not a great work. If we look closer we can see that this work is guided by fear and fear is, as Buck Ghosthorse said, the door in the heart that lets evil spirits in. Despite this works religious core, it is not spiritual. But, warriors are out there making a difference using their creative energy. Just today I read an article about a man who is working on an initiative in California to ban divorce
. He isn't doing it because he truly believes it should be banned, but rather as satire of the importance of government protecting the sanctity of marriage.
So the warrior is an important part of the male psyche. I would say it isn't actually a metaphor but a true part of being a man ( and most likely of being human - though feminine energy might show up slightly differently ). Can you see the difference between the warrior and a soldier? Do you see the importance? I have mentioned a few well known warriors in this post, Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi and Ralph Nader. But there are many more out there. Who are the warriors you thought of as you read this? You might have thought of someone but discounted them because they won't be found in history books - if their work passes the test of compassion and justice is follows the description of a Great Work they most likely are a warrior. I'd love to hear who you see as a warrior or better yet when have you seen yourself as a warrior.
For myself, while rereading this chapter for the post I have seen the warrior show up internally, as it should at first. In my running I used it to finish a long run where mental blocks were keeping me from finishing. My creative side started playing music again. The positive path has had me enjoy music passionately for the first time in a long time. I like the warrior, it is good and powerful energy. It is for that reason that I have decided to make my men's studies posts on Wednesdays and call them my Wednesday Warrior posts. ( I also laughed at the idea of making a shirt that says ,"I'm a warrior" on the front and "...on Wednesdays" on the back )
Next we will take a look at the most difficult chapter/metaphor for me to be with the chapter on numinous sexuality. That is the chapter that I made up all sorts of reasons, both consciously and unconsciously, to put off reading for a few weeks. But I read it, and I'm glad I did. Now is the time to reread it for next weeks Wednesday Warrior post. Until then I wish you a powerful journey.