Nearby is the country they call life. You will know it by its seriousness — Rilke
One of the archetypes that comes on-line when we begin to take life “seriously”, particularly our own life, is the spiritual warrior. My first experience of my warrior happened when I was in bioenergetic therapy – a body-oriented therapy. I was in a regressed state, feeling strangely like a very, very bad person. Bad to the bones in fact. Given that I felt like I was about two years old in this regressed state, it made no rational sense. What could I have possibly done in two years of life to feel this way? As I felt into my “badness”, I felt a protest begin to arise. You could call it my soul. It was something deeper than this ontological sense that I was a bad person. The voice sounded, in no uncertain terms, “I am not bad”. This was followed by rage and a profound sense of indignity at being seen this way.
Today, I call that voice my spiritual warrior. In Buddhism, they call this energy that arises to defend one’s dignity and fundamental right to be celebrated (and not denigrated) the Shambhala warrior. Our inner warrior orients, not from aggression and violence, but from a place of deep self-awareness, and a sense of the fundamental goodness of life, born of the right to be treated with dignity.
We can recruit the warrior when we are being mistreated. The mistreatment can be subtle—in situations, for example, where we feel like we are not being seen, heard, or taken seriously. It can be an occasion where we feel like we are being used instrumentally, as a means to an end—being objectified.
The reader will notice that this goes beyond the interpersonal realm, into office dynamics, advertising, education, etc. Turning humans into instruments of an ideological system was what Karl Marx was on about. His critique was of the capitalist system, but of course, the ideology of communism was perhaps worse in its denial of individuality. In the end, it is each person’s responsibility to summon the spiritual warrior in resistance to what philosopher, Emmanuel Levinas, called the “totality”—the societal and interpersonal pressure to merge with the herd, whether that is family, the state or the corporation.
This pressure is born of an unconscious spell that a system casts over us at birth. Trauma is intergenerational and it is perhaps the most effective trance-generator. Trauma, whether emotional or physical, is the enactment of violence against the individual resulting in a life-orientation driven by mere survival. The question becomes: what must I do to survive, and the answer is always give up your one true life. Individuals become automatons. G.I. Gurdjieff believed that “the work” could not begin until his followers absolutely got that they were not human, not free in any sense, but robots. Robots, of course, possess no inherent dignity. They were made to be instruments. But we were not.
Trauma work, therefore, becomes critical in that it requires a conscious awakening from the spell that has been cast. If we are not awake, we will not feel our dignity being undermined: we will put up with a friend being late for every meeting; we will tolerate our spouse’s disdain; we will remain underemployed by an abusive boss—all because being treated with indignity is the life-template we were given. We will not know that there is anything that can be done about it, because when it happened, there was nothing that could be done. This belief, “I am helpless” and “there is nothing to be done about it” is itself part of the spell. It’s not true now, but remaining unconscious, it hijacks us in the present.
Until it doesn’t. Until we see the forces at work. Until we see that those upon whom our life depends treated us like objects, with violence, with neglect, with the withholding of the one thing that brings us to life as human beings—love. Then the grief, the disillusionment, the coming to terms with reality, the not pretending anymore, the awakening to the suffering that was once unbearable, but is no longer.
Now, the spiritual warrior is summoned on our behalf, and s/he is not other than ourself. We will take it no longer. We will suffer poverty, we will banish “friends”, we will leave the marriage, we will walk away from family , we will do whatever it takes if the spell-casters refuse themselves to awaken. And we will find our community, our village, our people, those who are anything but perfect, but who are declared their intent to take life seriously, to take this becoming human seriously and this dismantling of any system (including our own personality) that doesn’t treat us as beautiful, radiant awake individuals.
The warrior’s posture is tall, spine straight, chin up, chest out—not in a gesture of artificial propping, but as a reflection of being made in the image of the Dignified One, the Dignified Ones, and therefore inherently worthy of love and respect. Like the true warrior this energy is as much an energetic that we transmit. Others take us seriously, because we take ourselves seriously.
The warrior also rises up to defend others, who are unable to defend themselves for whatever reasons: the child who is being beaten up by bullies, the woman on the receiving end of sexist jokes or behaviour, the child who is being beaten by a parent for whatever reasons. The warrior will intervene non-violently. This was the role of the prophet in the Jewish tradition, one who speaks truth to power.