Introspection on the Warrior Code
What is war, essentially? A man at war with himself is also at war with his surroundings. It is the war within the mind. This is why modern societies are usually at war; because of the tremendous level of internal conflict in the average human.
What I find as fundamental in a very trans-personal level is the principle of the Warrior Code. I think you may relate that I intuitively knew about the Warrior Code before I read it in any book, or heard about it from any person. It’s something so very intrinsic that I felt, though on a vague level at the time, during times of introspection. It’s similar to how it is said, “the virtues are what they are. No one will say that cowardice is a virtue, or that hypocrisy is a virtue.” It is very intrinsic. I say you may relate because several people are of the opinion that humans are born with a clean slate (or genetic predisposition) – and the rest of their growth boils down to instrumental conditioning. From personal experience, I find this far from true. I am reminded of a revealing moment in the film “K-Pax” where the psychologist asks the patient (who insists he is an extraterrestrial), “Hmm.. so, if there are no rules on your planet, then how do you know the difference between right and wrong?”
To which the “visitor” replies as if it’s the most obvious thing imaginable, “Everyone knows the difference between right and wrong.” But by god don’t we argue about it – if for no other reason but to convince ourselves otherwise when we make a wrong choice. I find this to be fundamental. We all know the difference – it’s making the choice that’s difficult, we sometimes turn into cowards when it comes to that.
“The 97th Aphorism in the Codes I was taught,” I said, “is in the form of a riddle: “What is invisible but more beautiful than diamonds?”
“And the answer?” inquired Labienus.
“That which is silent but deafens thunder.”
The men regarded one another. “And what is that?” asked Labienus.
“The same,” said I, “as that which depresses no scale but is weightier than gold.”
“And what is that?” asked Labienus.
“Honor,” I said.
– Vagabonds of Gor, Book 24, Page 305.
Which brings us back to the Warrior Code. I trust you are with me so far. The Warrior code works on the principle of a universal “knowing” of the difference between right and wrong – but more to the point, on the strength required to make the right choice. That, in essence, is all the code really is about. Courage to do the right thing. Courage to die for what you stand for, if it comes down to it. This is what defines a Warrior. There is an insightful truth I am reminded of: It takes far more courage to face an enemy within than it does to face a foe on the outside. The greater Warrior is the one who fights his inner demons. When you conquer what is within you, you naturally conquer what surrounds you.
A few years ago, I read Don Juan, the Yaqui Shaman, speak of a method of self-Mastery. To quote:
There are four steps to learning the Warrior Code:
Ruthlessness should not be harshness. Cunning should not be cruelty.
Patience should not be negligence. Sweetness should not be foolishness.
These four steps have to be practiced and perfected until they are so
smooth they are unnoticeable.
Ample introspection into those four steps (as well as the cautions) were incredibly revealing for me. Simply put, these four keys – or steps – exist as weapons against our self-delusions. For example, one must be ruthless with their sense of romanticism, because often it is mixed with a mass of half-lies. Romanticism on its own can be effective, but sometimes it can cause more harm than good. Often, when people make the wrong choices, they romanticize their reasons for the choice to fool themselves into feeling satisfied. This is where ruthlessness is necessary – alongside the other steps. So, in effect, one could say that the four steps of the warrior code exist to patiently wade through every lie we ever told ourselves when we made a wrong choice in our lives. And perhaps it was these lies that first created our “demons”.
Which inevitably leads me to mention a pivotal component in self-Mastery for a warrior, even a man. I brought this up once before, but not in connection to this fuller context. I first found this analogy in the Introduction to Thomas Cleary’s translation of the Art of War. I’ll quote:
According to an old story, a lord of ancient China once asked his physician, a member of a family of healers, which of them was the most skilled in the art.
The physician, whose reputation was such that his name became synonymous with medical science in China, replied, “My eldest brother sees the spirit of sickness and removes it before it takes shape, so
his name does not get out of the house.
“My elder brother cures sickness when it is still extremely minute, so his name does not get out of the neighborhood.
“As for me, I puncture veins, prescribe potions, and massage skin, so from time to time my name gets out and is heard among the lords.”
Among the tales of ancient China, none captures more beautifully than this the essence of The Art of War, the premiere classic of the science of strategy in conflict. A Ming dynasty critic writes of this little
tale of the physician: “What is essential for leaders, generals, and ministers in running countries and governing armies is no more than this.”
The healing arts and the martial arts may be a world apart in ordinary usage, but they are parallel in several senses: in recognizing, as the story says, that the less needed the better; in the sense that both
involve strategy in dealing with disharmony; and in the sense that in both knowledge of the problem is key to the solution.
As in the story of the ancient healers, in Sun Tzu’s philosophy the peak efficiency of knowledge and strategy is to make conflict altogether unnecessary: “To overcome others’ armies without fighting is
the best of skills.” And like the story of the healers, Sun Tzu explains there are all grades of martial arts: The superior militarist foils enemies’ plots; next best is to ruin their alliances; next after that is to attack their armed forces; worst is to besiege their cities.
Just as the eldest brother in the story was unknown because of his acumen and the middle brother was hardly known because of his alacrity, Sun Tzu also affirms that in ancient times those known as skilled
warriors won when victory was still easy, so the victories of skilled warriors were not known for cunning or rewarded for bravery.
This ideal strategy whereby one could win without fighting, accomplish the most by doing the least, bears the characteristic stamp of Taoism, the ancient tradition of knowledge that fostered both the healing arts and the martial arts in China. The Tao-te Ching, or The Way and Its Power, applies the same strategy to society that Sun Tzu attributes to warriors of ancient times:
Plan for what is difficult while it is easy, do what is great while it is small. The most difficult things in the world must be done while they are still easy, the greatest things in the world must be done while they are still small. For this reason sages never do what is great, and this is why they can achieve that greatness.
The warrior is the same. The most famous generals we know of are cited throughout history for the great battles they fought and won, with incredible skill. Yet the greatest generals are the ones who, with such refinement of their art, prevented the battle from ever taking place. And because of this, we will rarely hear of them.
But the real insight comes in applying this to the warrior’s inner battle. Self-Mastery and its refinement really begins to take meaning here. It is this principle that leads to the saying,
“While the sword is in its sheath it’s doing its work. When the sword is drawn, it has already failed.”
A little introspection begins to make it very clear that the very meaning of the word warrior is transient in any manner that it is used. After all, when we take these principles and apply it into a personal lifestyle, the nature of the warrior undoubtedly follows. It is this very applicability that makes it work. So, to return to the point, the Mastery of war essentially lies in preventing it. Any other alternative is a lesser kind. This makes sense, yes?
There is an aspect of refinement and introspection here that leads, without doubt, to one end: into becoming a better man. And the exuberant clarity of it begins to dawn, that the Warrior Code we all seem to have as our genetic makeup, is nothing more but the integrity of the Gods being reflected in our being.