Aloha — I’ve been receiving a lot of ideas about the path of a warrior, and I’ve felt a little hesitant to speak about it in those terms, because it seems like such a masculine cliché to think of oneself as a warrior. The Marine Corp Commercials (my dad served in the Marines, and I give them my utmost respect) and the old movie Conan the Barbarian often come to mind when one thinks of a warrior. But the spiritual Archetype of the Warrior is the gateway through which a person truly enters the spiritual life. The concept of Archetypes, I think, was first published by Carl Jung. Archtypes are concepts that exist in the collective unconsciousness and they help us define our role in life. They represent the embodiment of many negative and positive polarities that work together.
The notion of the Warrior archetype itself is quite ancient. Almost every ancient religion has a god dedicated to the warrior. Mars should come immediately to mind. But what is it about the Warrior Archetype that is so critical to our spiritual evolution here in our lives? When one thinks of a Warrior, one may think of a violent and brash individual who kills and then takes what he wants by force. We see warriors depicted as violent and ignorant men for whom the ends justify any means, and plunder is an acceptable end. This is the negative polarity of the Warrior, and it is what happens when a the “higher authority” a person surrenders to is a human authority.
But there is a more subtle and important understanding of the Warrior Archetype in the spiritual context. I find my favorite expression of this in the book “The Bowl of Light” by Hank Wesselman. The Bowl of Light is a brilliant book about Hawaiian spirituality, which is amazingly similar to the Taoism. In both of these ancient traditions, the original source of creation first split into masculine and feminine energies, and then after that came the three related aspects of creation: matter, energy and consciousness. The ancient ancestors of Hawaiian spirituality, and the Chinese masters of philosophy that go back 5,000 years to the Yellow Emperor, all landed on the same truths about the nature of the universe and what it means to be human.
The Bowl of Light details conversations the author, Hank Wesselman had with the Hawaiian “Kahuna” Hale Makua before the latter died in 2004 in an automobile accident. In this book, Hale Makua explains the basic six archetypes of human spiritual development. They go from Servant to Artist to Warrior to Scholar to Sage to Priest to King. Each of these stages is worth reading about. But the level of the Warrior is the true initiation into the spiritual life.
We all have, especially in the United States, great love for artists, and many of us think that the artist or scientist represents the highest level of individual development. The Artist creates and indeed is the highest level of self expression. This is the highest level most people will ever reach. But the true spiritual path starts with the Warrior, and as explained in the Bowl of Light:
We have mentioned that the positive polarity of the Warrior is persuasion, and the negative, coercion. The goal of the Warrior is ho’o māhua kala — submission to the higher authority–and his or her mode of operation requires ho’o manawa nui –perseverence.Bowl of Light, Hank Wesselman 2011, page 116
This is such an important concept. The Warrior lives in service of a mission, and to be of service, the Warrior must submit to a higher authority. In the human world, this can mean submitting to the higher authority of another person, and as many horrific wars and abuses have demonstrated, the negative polarity of this is violence and coercion. We see this played out every day in the brutality of war.
But the spiritual Warrior submits to the higher authority of the divine and dedicates his or her life to fulfilling the divine mission that they have received. Most people in our society, cut off from their divine connection, live their lives in the world of 10,000 things, seeking security and happiness and satisfaction from the pursuit of their material desires. At this level, one can be a great artist. Living that way, people basically avoid pain and seek pleasure, and their guidance comes from “keeping up with the Joneses”, or the modern day equivalent, living on likes and followers in social media. Cut off from any divine connection, the busy mind does not have any system of values to know what it should want, and so it goes about chasing the things it is told that will make it happy. People guided in this fashion spend their lives chasing their tails in a never ending state of Samsara pursuing worthless things that can never make them happy.
When someone starts to sense that there must be more to their life, they might start a spiritual pursuit. How many people are “spiritual but not religious” these days? I think that might be the largest religious identification now. But what does spiritual even mean? Spirit means that we recognize that our true essence is that of a spirit, and that our spirit is incorporated in this material body. This is the basic first step to understanding our true nature. The next step is then to restore the divine connection between our spirit and our source, through the seventh chakra, which has been severed completely in most people.
Once we connect to our divine source, we see that we have a purpose in our life. This purpose is often completely at odds with the material lives we have accumulated. We have jobs, debts, relationships, material possessions, an entire life, that was built by pursuing whatever guidance system we had in place of our divine channel. Our lives thus constructed, for the most part anyway, place value on all of the things that we will not be taking with us when we die. In other words, we have been living in the world of illusion chasing worthless things.
Upon having a “spiritual awakening” one realizes that their true nature is that of a spirit and that following the journey of a meaningful life is the only way to find any satisfaction. It might be very difficult to come to terms with the realization that your whole life was built on the pursuit of worthless things. Your higher self cares not at all for these shiny objects of the world of 10,000 things. Your higher self wants only to see that you have fulfilled your divine purpose in coming to this planet. This is your spiritual mission, and the only way to be happy and fulfilled is to … yes… wait for it… surrender to the higher authority and start taking orders from your divine guidance system.
This might cause a complete upheaval in your life, because you will be replacing your entire set of values. Things in your life that do not serve your divine mission will be stripped from you. The Path of the Spiritual Warrior is to understand that you are a spirit that is having a material experience in this world. That you have a mission to fulfill and that you live your life in service to a higher divine authority. Most people don’t want to wake up to this, so they just keep their heads down and keep running in circles. But there is no happiness or fulfillment to be found there. You might work in an office until you retire to a gated community in Naples, Florida and then spend the last few years of your life on a golf course with a gold watch. But you will never dance in the wind.
So these lessons about being a Warrior really are about how to find your connection to your divine source and then dedicate your life to obedience to your divine guidance.