Wednesday, April 20, 2011


"Only as a warrior can one survive the path of knowledge." - A Separate Reality: Further Conversations with Don Juan, by Carlos Castaneda

Mystical literature is replete with references to the warrior. (There's even a school of Buddhist teaching that is referred to as "the sacred path of the warrior.") This has always fascinated me, for reasons that I've never really been able to parse. Having had exposure to and an affinity for the 'protect and serve' ethos at a relatively young age, I had at times wondered if the reference wasn't a call to service of sorts that a mystic, once sufficiently 'enlightened', was supposed to answer...

"A culture’s identity is defined by its deepest values: the values that its citizens believe are worth defending, worth dying for. These are the values that shape a society’s 'way of life.' And it is that 'way of life' that warriors fight to maintain." - The Warrior's Code, Prof. Shannon E. French, Ph.D., U.S. Naval Academy

And after all, a 'mystic' is in search of the highest truth, and a 'warrior' is bound to "a higher ethical standard than that required for an ordinary citizen within the general population of the society that the warrior serves." (q) As ideals to strive for, the two seemed compatible...

I came to understand though that the 'warrior' referred to in mystical literature was generally just a metaphor for a particular mentality - bravery in the face of fear. "The journey of awakening is known as the path of the warrior, as it requires the simple bravery to look directly at one’s own mind and heart." (q)

"What is a warrior anyway? It’s you and me, as we fight the daily battle against our inner demons of self-sabotage, self-betrayal, self-doubt and so forth—not to mention the real, external foes we must contend with in our art, our businesses, and our personal lives." - Stephen Pressfield, author of The War of Art (another book that has just acquired 'must-read' status)

"A Warrior is a person who, through objective and thorough self-examination, develops an understanding of personal talents and limitations. As a Warrior, you then achieve your goals using a combination of this self-awareness and willpower to overcome weaknesses, fears and limitations." - Wiccan Warrior, by Kerr Cuhulain
"“Warrior” should not be used to describe every individual who now fights, has ever fought, or prepares to fight a war. The term would have more strength if we reserved it to apply only to those war fighters who meet other important criteria, which may be less tangible, but ultimately more significant, than that of having taken up arms against an enemy. Before we call any collection of belligerents a culture of warriors, we should first ask why they fight, how they fight, what brings them honor, and what brings them shame. The answers to these questions will reveal whether or not they have a true warrior’s code." (q) (my emphasis) 

Of course, there are practical aspects to adopting a warrior mentality, though people differ in their views of what those aspects are...

"The most effective way to live is as a warrior. Worry and think before you make any decision, but once you make it, be on your way free from worries or thoughts; there will be a million other decisions still awaiting you." - A Separate Reality: Further Conversations with Don Juan, by Carlos Castaneda

"[A] warrior is always aware of what is worth fighting for. He does not go into combat over things that do not concern him, and he never wastes his time over provocations." - The Fifth Mountain, by Paulo Coelho

"A warrior takes responsibility for his acts; for the most trivial of his acts." - A Separate Reality: Further Conversations with Don Juan, by Carlos Castaneda

However the warrior remains primarily as the ideal of a particular mentality that is helpful in the search for 'enlightenment'. But what about the virtues of a mystical mentality to the warrior?

"So it is said that if you know others and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know others but know yourself, you win one and lose one; if you not know others and do not know yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle." - Sun Tzu

If you understand yourself, you will be less likely to react to the provocations of insult, for they will not touch the core of who you are. If you understand yourself, you will understand how taking a life damages you in the process, and you will be motivated to find another way to resolve the conflict. And if you understand yourself, you move that much closer to understanding the motivations of others, which in turn moves you closer to being able to peacefully resolve a conflict.

"By setting high standards for themselves, warriors can create a lifeline that will allow them to pull themselves out of the hell of war and reintegrate themselves into their society... The question can then be asked, if a warrior’s code is indeed crucial to the warrior’s moral psychology, is enough being done at today’s U.S. service academies to present our warriors-in-training with such a code and promote their internalization of it?" (q)

As noble as it sounds to want to "[b]uild confidence to lead, courage to stand up for one's beliefs and compassion to help others," the practical execution of such must empower the individual through self-awareness, rather than through programming, medication, or the enforced adoption of a code or creed, in order to instill those values at a level that will not waiver in the face of danger. (q)

Just as the mystic benefits from a warrior mentality, so too does the warrior benefit from the mystic prescription to 'know thyself'. And as our warriors benefit, so do we all benefit.

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