The Basics of Warriorhood:
We live in a time when people are generally uncomfortable with the Warrior form of masculine energy — and for some good reasons. Women especially are uncomfortable with it , because they have often been the most direct victims of it in its shadow form. Around the planet, warfare in our century has reached such monstrous and pervasive proportions that aggressive energy itself is looked upon with deep suspicion and fear. This is the age in the West of the “soft masculine,” and it is a time in which radical feminists raise loud and hostile voices against the Warrior energy.
What is interesting to notice, however, is that those who would cut off masculine aggressiveness at its root, in their zeal, themselves fall under the power of this archetype. We can’t just take a vote and vote the Warrior out. Like all archetypes, it lives on in spite of our conscious attitudes toward it. And like all repressed archetypes, it goes underground, eventually to resurface in the form of emotional and physical violence, like a volcano that has lain dormant for centuries with the pressure gradually building up in the magma chamber. If the Warrior is an instinctual energy form, then it is here to stay. And it pays to face it.
Basic History of the Prevalence and Importance of Warriorhood around the World
All we have to do is glance over the history of our species, a history which has been defined in large part by war. We see the great Warrior traditions in nearly every civilization. In our century, the whole globe has been convulsed by two world wars. A third and final one, despite the recent East-West thaw, still hangs over our heads. Something is going on here…
… We believe that the warrior should not be identified with human rage in any simple way — quite the opposite. We also believe that this primary masculine energy form (there are feminine Warrior myths and traditions too) persists because the Warrior is a basic building block of masculine psychology, almost certainly rooted in our genes.
When we examine the Warrior traditions closely, we can see what they have accomplished in history.
For example, the ancient Egyptians were for centuries a very peaceful, basically gentle people. They were safe in their isolated Nile Valley from any potential enemies; these enemies were held at bay by the surrounding desert and by the Mediterranean Sea to the north. The Egyptians were able to build a remarkably stable society. They believed in the harmony of all things, in a cosmos ordered by Ma’at. Then around 1800 B.C.E. they were invaded through the Nile delta by bands of fierce Semitic tribes, the Hyksos. These Hyksos warriors had horses and chariots — in those days, efficient and devastating war machines. The Egyptians, unaccustomed to such aggressiveness, were pushovers. The Hyksos eventually took over most of Egypt and ruled it with an iron hand.
In the sixteenth century B.C.E. the hardened Egyptians eventually fought back. New pharaohs arose from the south who united their native King energy with a newfound Warrior energy. They drove northward with tremendous ferocity. Not only did they crush the Hyksos power and take Egypt back into Egyptian hands, but they continued northward into Palestine and Asia and built a vast empire. In the process, they spread Egyptian civilization — its art, religion, and ideas — over a huge area. By their conquests, the great pharaohs Thutmose III and Ramses II not only secured Egypt again, but brought the best of Egyptian culture to a larger world. It is because of their discovery of the Warrior within themselves that Egyptian morality and ethics, as well as such fundamental religious ideas as judgment after death and a paradise beyond the grave in which righteous souls would become one with God, became a part of our own Western system of ethics and spirituality. A similar story can be told about the civilizations of Mesopotamia, which also, through the energizing of the Warrior, carried important human knowledge and insights into future civilizations.
Spiritual warriors abound in human history. The religion of Islam as a whole is built on Warrior energy. Mohammed was a warrior. His followers are, to this day, still drawing on Warrior energy as they wage jihad against the powers of evil as they define them. The God of Islam, even though he is addressed as “the Merciful” and “the Compassionate” is a Warrior God.
We see this same Warrior energy manifested in the Jesuit Order in Christianity, which for centuries taught self-negation for the sake of carrying God’s message into the most hostile and dangerous areas of the world. The man who is a warrior is devoted to his cause, his God, his civilization, even unto death.
In India, a Warrior class, the “kshatriya,” conquered and stabilized the Indian subcontinent and set up the conditions for India to become the spiritual center of the world. Their cousins to the north in Persia — the Zoroastrian warrior-kings — spread the religion of Zoroaster throughout the Near East. This religion had a profound impact on the emergence of modern Judaism and Christianity and on many of the values and the basic worldview that inform and shape even our post-religious modern world. And through Western Civilization, as it has come to be known, Zoroaster’s teachings in modified form now sweep across the planet and affect village life and personal morality as far away as the South Seas.
The biblical Hebrews were originally a warrior people and followers of a warrior God, the God of the Hebrew scriptures, Yahweh. Under the warrior-king David, the benefits of this new religion, including its advanced ethical system based on the Warrior’s virtues, were consolidated. Through Christianity, which drew heavily on its Hebrew heritage, many of these Hebrew ideas and values eventually were carried by the European warrior classes to the four corners of the world.
Notes on King David’s battle analysis and understanding of his own capacities:
In the Bible, King David, up against the superior force of the armies of Saul, at first avoided direct confrontation with Saul’s troops, allowing Saul to wear himself out pursuing him. David and his ragtag band were guerrillas, living off the land and moving fast. Then David, evaluating his situation clearly, fled Saul’s kingdom and went over to the Philistine king. From this position, he had the force of thousands of Philistine soldiers behind him. He had put himself into position to checkmate Saul. Then, again through his accurate assessment of the situation at the time, David reentered Saul’s kingdom, gathered his own troops, and waited for Saul’s collapse. Sometimes, the maxim “Forward, always forward!” means shifting tactics. It means a flexibility of strategy that comes from razor-sharp evaluation.
The Roman emperor-warriors, like the learned philosopher and moralist Marcus Aurelius (161-180 C.E.), preserved Mediterranean civilization long enough for the Germanic tribes to become semicivilized before they finally succeeded in invading the Empire and rewriting all of Western history, a history that from the fifteenth century on increasingly become the history of the world.
Let’s not forget the tiny band of Spartans — the Greek warriors par excellence — who at Thermopylae in 480 B.C.E. defeated the Persian invasion of Europe, and saved the budding European democratic ideals.
In North America, Native American men lived and died with the Warrior energy informing even the smallest of their acts, living their lives nobly and with courage and with the capacity to endure great pain and hardship, defending their people against an overwhelming foe (the invading white people), and leaping into battle with the cry, “Today is a good day to die!”
Perhaps we need to look with an unbiased eye at the great twentieth-century warriors, among them, the generals Patton and MacArthur, great strategists, men of great courage, and men devoted to causes greater than their own personal survival…
On General Patton’s aggressiveness, from the movie Patton:
In the famous opening scene of Patton, the general, in full battle gear, pearl-handled revolvers on his hips, is giving a motivational speech to his army. Patton warns his troops that he is not interested in their holding their position in battle. He says, “I don’t want to get any messages saying that we are holding our position… We are advancing constantly… We are not interested in holding onto anything — except the enemy! We’re going to hold onto him by the nose, and we’re going to kick him in the ass! We’re going to kick the hell out of him all the time, and we’re going to go through him like crap through a goose!”
And then we may need to revalue the great Japanese samurai tradition and the ascetic, disciplined, utterly loyal men who built the nation of Japan, ensured the survival of its culture, and are today in business suits conquering the planet.
The Warrior energy, then, no matter what else it may be, is indeed universally present in us men and in the civilizations we create, defend, and extend. It is a vital ingredient in our world-building and plays an important role in extending the benefits of the highest human virtues and cultural achievements to all of humanity.
The essential questions about the Warrior:
We still have to ask ourselves why it is so present within us. What is the Warrior’s function in the evolution of human life, and what is his purpose in the psyches of individual men? What are the Warrior’s positive qualities? And how can they help us men in our personal lives and in our work?
The Warrior in His Fullness
The characteristics of the Warrior in his fullness amount to a total way of life, what the samurai called a do (pronounced “dough). These characteristics constitute the Warrior’s Dharma, Ma’at, or Tao, a spiritual or psychological path through life.
We have already mentioned aggressiveness as one of the Warrior’s characteristics. Aggressiveness is a stance toward life that rouses, energizes, and motivates.
It pushes us to take the offensive and to move out of a defensive or “holding” position about life’s tasks and problems. The samurai advice was always to “leap” into battle with the full potential of ki, or “vital energy,” at your disposal. The Japanese warrior tradition claimed that there is only one position in which to face the battle of life: frontally. And it also proclaimed that there was only one direction: forward.
(see notes on General George S. Patton’s aggressiveness in the movie Patton below)
Proper aggressiveness, in the right circumstances — circumstances strategically advantageous to the goal at hand — is already half the battle.
How does the man accessing the Warrior know what aggressiveness is appropriate under the circumstances? He knows through clarity of thinking, through discernment. The warrior is always alert. He is always awake. He is never sleeping through life. He knows how to focus his mind and his body. He is what the samurai called “mindful.” He is a “hunter” in the Native American tradition.
As Don Juan, the Yaqui Indian warrior-sorcerer in Carlos Castañedas “Journey to Ixtlan,” says, a warrior knows what he wants, and he knows how to get it. As a function of his clarity of mind, he is a strategist, and a tactician. He can evaluate his circumstances accurately and then adapt himself to the “situation on the ground,” as we say.
The warrior knows when he has the force to defeat his opponent by conventional means and when he must adopt an unconventional strategy. He accurately asses his own strength and skill. If he finds that a frontal assault will not work, he deflects his opponent’s assault, spots the weakness in his flank, then “leaps” into battle. Here is a difference between the Warrior and the Hero. The man (or the boy) accessing the Hero does not know his limitations; he is romantic about his invulnerability. The warrior, however, through his clarity of thinking realistically assesses his capacities and his limitations in any given situation.
See notes below on King David’s knowledge of limitations and changing battle tactics.
Modern fencing uses this kind of flexibility. Not only does the fencer train his body, he trains his mind as well. He learns to think with lightning speed, to look for the unguarded points in his opponent’s stances and lunges; then he parries, attacks, and scores his hits. A young college man reported that after he took up fencing his classroom performance improved. He was able to spot, with lightning-swift clarity, the major themes in a complex lecture, evaluate the weaknesses in the supporting arguments, challenge statements with a sharpness of vision and a self-confidence he’d never known before, and force his professors and fellow students to either talk sense or drop their arguments. He knew then what he wanted to learn. And he knew how to get it.
The Warrior traditions all affirm that, in addition to training, what enables a Warrior to reach clarity of thought is living with the awareness of his own imminent death. The Warrior knows the shortness of life and how fragile it is. A man under the guidance of the Warrior knows how few his days are. Rather than depressing him, this awareness leads him to an outpouring of life-force and to an intense experience of his life that is unknown to others. Every act counts. Each deed is done as if it were the last. The samurai swordsmen were taught to live their lives as if they were already dead. Castañeda’s Don Juan taught that there is “no time” for anything but meaningful acts if we live with death as “our eternal companion.”
There is not time for hesitation. This sense of the imminence of death energizes the man accessing the Warrior energy to take decisive action. This means that he engages life. He never withdraws from it. He doesn’t “think too much,” because thinking too much can lead to doubt, and doubt to hesitation, and hesitation to inaction. Inaction can lead to losing the battle. The man who is a Warrior avoids self-consciousness, as we usually define it. His actions become second nature. They become unconscious reflex actions. But they are actions as he has trained for through the exercise of enormous self-discipline. This is how Marines are made. A good Marine is one who can make split-second decisions and then act decisively.
Part of what goes into acting decisively in any life situation, along with aggressiveness, clarity of thinking, and the awareness of one’s own death, is training.
The Warrior energy is concerned with skill, power, and accuracy, and with control, both inner and outer, psychological and physical. The Warrior energy is concerned with training men to be “all that they can be” — in their thoughts, feelings, speech, and actions.
Unlike the Hero’s actions, the Warrior’s actions are never overdone, never dramatic for the sake of drama; the Warrior never acts to reassure himself that he is as potent as he hopes he is. The Warrior never spends more energy than he absolutely has to. And he doesn’t talk too much.
Yul Brenner’s character in the movie The Magnificent Seven is a study in trained self-control. He says little, moves with the physical control of a predator, attacks only the enemy, and has absolute mastery over the technology of his trade. That is another aspect of the Warrior’s interest in skill, his mastery of the technology that enables him to reach his goal. He has developed skill with the “weapons” he uses to implement his decisions.
His control is, first of all, over his mind and his attitudes; if these are right, the body will follow. A man accessing the Warrior archetype has a “positive mental attitude,” as they say in sales training. This means that he has an unconquerable spirit, that he has great courage, that he is fearless, that he takes responsibility for his actions, and that he has self-discipline.
Discipline means that he has the rigor to develop control and mastery over his mind and over his body, and that he has the capacity to withstand pain, both psychological and physical. He is willing to suffer to achieve what he wants to achieve. “No pain, no gain,” we say.
Transpersonal commitment (something touched upon in Gates of Fire:
The Warrior energy also shows what we can call a transpersonal commitment. His loyalty is to something — a cause, a god, a people, a task, a nation — larger than individuals, though that transpersonal loyalty may be focused through some important person, like a king. In the Arthurian stories, Lancelot, though fiercely devoted to Arthur and to Guinevere, is ultimately committed to the ideal of chivalry and to the God who lies behind such things as noble quests, “might for right,” and the lifting up of the oppressed. Of course, because of his love for Guinevere, Lancelot unwittingly acts to destroy the beneficiary of his transpersonal commitment, Camelot. But he does so because he has encountered the paradoxically personal and transpersonal goal of romantic love. By then, he has already lost his access to the Warrior energy and has ceased being a knight.
This transpersonal commitment reveals a number of other characteristics of the Warrior energy. First, it makes all personal relationships relative, that is, it makes them less central than the transpersonal commitment. Thus the psyche of the man who is adequately accessing the Warrior is organized around his central commitment. This commitment eliminates a great deal of human pettiness. Living in the light of lofty ideals and spiritual realities such as God, democracy, communism, freedom ,or any other worthy transpersonal commitment, so alters the focus of a man’s life that petty squabbling and personal Ego concerns no longer matter much.
The Warrior’s loyalty, then, and his sense of duty are to something beyond and other than himself and his own concerns. The Hero’s loyalty, as we have seen, is really to himself — to impressing himself with himself, and to impressing others. In this connection, too, the man accessing the Warrior is ascetic. He lives a life exactly the opposite of most human lives. He lives not to gratify his personal needs and wishes or his physical appetites, but to hone himself into an efficient spiritual machine, trained to bear the unbearable in the service of the transpersonal goal.
This devotion to the transpersonal ideal or goal even to the point of personal annihilation leads a man to another of the Warrior’s characteristics. He is emotionally distant as long as he is in the Warrior. This does not mean that the man accessing the Warrior in his fullness is cruel, just that he does not make his decisions and implement them out of emotional relatedness to anyone or anything except his ideal. he is, as Don Juan says, “unavailable,” or “inaccessible.” As he says, “To be inaccessible means that you touch the world around you sparingly,” with emotional detachment.
This attitude is part of the clarity of the Warrior’s thinking, too. He looks at his tasks, his decisions, and his actions dispassionately and unemotionally. Samurai training involved the following kind of psychological exercise: whenever, the teaching went, you feel yourself afraid or despairing, don’t say to yourself, “I am afraid,” or “I am despairing.” Say, “There is someone who is afraid,” or “There is someone who is despairing. Now, what can he do about this?” This detached way of experiencing a threatening situation objectifies the situation and allows for a clearer and more strategically advantageous view of it. The warrior is then able to act with less regard for his personal feelings; he will act more forcefully, swiftly, and efficiently with himself out of the way.
Often in life, we need to “step back,” we say, from a situation in order to gain perspective, so that we can act. The Warrior needs room to swing his sword. He needs separation from his opponents in the outer world and from his own inner opponents in the form of negative emotions
The Warrior as the Righteous Destroyer:
The Warrior is often a destroyer. But the positive Warrior energy destroys only what needs to be destroyed in order for something new and fresh, more alive and more virtuous to appear. Many things in our world need destroying — corruption, tyranny, oppression, injustice, obsolete and despotic systems of government, corporate hierarchies that get in the way of the company’s performance, unfulfilling life-styles and job situations, bad marriages. And in the very act of destroying, often the Warrior energy is building new civilizations, new commercial, artistic, and spiritual ventures for humankind, new relationships.
When the Warrior energy is connected with the other mature masculine energies something truly splendid emerges. When the Warrior is connected with the King, the man accessing these powers is consciously stewarding the “realm,” and his decisive actions, clarity of thinking, discipline, and courage are, in fact, creative and generative.
At this moment we need only to think of Mikhail Gorbachev, warrior and king, struggling against the inertia of the Soviet system, standing in the Center, making war on the old and inefficient, generating new and more vigorous, shepherding his people into a new era they themselves would not have the courage to face without his leadership, without his access to these two mature masculine energies.
The Warrior’s interface with the Magician archetype is what enables a man to achieve such mastery and control over himself and his “weapons.” It is what allows him to channel and direct power to accomplish his goals.
His admixture with the Lover energy gives the Warrior compassion and a sense of connectedness with all things. The Lover is the masculine energy that brings a man back into relatedness with human beings, in all their frailty and vulnerability. The Lover makes the man under the influence of the Warrior compassionate at the same time he is doing his duty.
Alliance with the Lover produces other humane influences in the Warrior energy. Marcus Aurelius was a philosopher. Winston Churchill was a painter. The Japanese artist-warrior Mishima was a poet. Even General Patton was a poet; he recited one of his eulogies to General Bradley at the site of the ancient North African battlefield upon which two thousand years earlier the Romans had defeated the Carthaginians. Patton claimed in his mystical poem that he had been there then, and had taken part in the battle.
When, however, the Warrior is operating on his own, unrelated to these other archetypes, the results for the mortal man accessing even the positive Warrior (the Warrior in his fullness) can be disastrous. As we have said, the Warrior in his pure form is emotionally detached; his transpersonal loyalty radically relativizes the importance of a man’s human relationships. This is apparent in the Warrior’s attitude toward sex. Women, for the Warrior, are not for relating to, for being intimate with. They are for fun.
Being out of touch with the Warrior energy:
If we feel that we are not in touch with the Warrior, we will be possessed by his passive pole. We will be cowardly masochists. We will dream but not be able to act decisively to make our dreams come true. We will lack vigor and be depressed. We will lack the capacity to endure the pain necessary for the accomplishment of any worthwhile goal. If we are in school, we won’t get our assignments done; we won’t get our papers written. If we are in sales and we are assigned a new territory, we’ll sit and stare at the map and the list of all the contacts we need to make and not be able to pick up the phone and start calling. We will look at the task ahead and be defeated before we start. We won’t be able to “leap into battle.” If we are in politics, instead of being able to face the issues and the public concerns “frontally,” we’ll duck and dive, seeking a way out of direct confrontation.
As we do with all of the archetypes described in this book, we all need to ask ourselves in what ways we’re failing to access properly the masculine energy potentials available to us.
Properly Accessing the Warrior Energy:
If we are accessing the Warrior appropriately, we will be energetic, decisive, courageous, enduring, persevering, and loyal to some greater good beyond our own personal gain. At the same time, we need to be leavening the Warrior with the energies of the other mature masculine forms: the King, the Magician, and the Lover. If we are accessing the Warrior in the right way, we will, at the same time that we are “detached,” be warm, compassionate, appreciative, and generative. We will care for ourselves and others. We will fight good fights in order to make the world a better and more fulfilling place for everyone and everything. Our war-making will be for the creation of the new, the just, and the free.