January 6 and the Witness of Spiritual Warriors

We have been meditating on the Four Paths of Creation Spirituality as found in Howard Thurman and had just embarked on the Fourth Path–the Via Transformativa or work of justice and compassion–when the January 6th investigation began in Congress. 

Iraq veteran Sgt. Aquilo Gonell of the Washington DC Metropolitan Police weeps during his testimony to the Select Committee to Investigate the 1/6 Attack on the U.S. Capitol. Photo captured from House footage.

We turned to the powerful witness of the four policemen to courage, magnanimity, and healthy masculinity, invoking the teachings of Thurman, Aquinas, Hildegard and Soelle about the healthy vs. toxic masculine.  We continue our explorations here with reflections on the archetype of the spiritual warrior and the healthy masculine which those four men represent to all of us.

Every person is called to be a warrior. There is no warrior work without inner work.  The warrior has faced limits and death and does not hide from them or repress them. 

The Gangsta Gardener, Ron Finley, who fought to provide healthy food for all in south-central Los Angeles by challenging Los Angeles laws against vegetable gardens in public places . Photo by the New Zealand Embassy; public domain.

A warrior serves others, he does not kill others.  He serves others, not just his ego.  A warrior stands up for justice and the vulnerable and does so on principle, not on the guarantee of success, insurance policies or fame. 

The warrior has learned to steer his and her moral outrage into creative alternatives.  The warrior is aware and awake, not asleep and not busy mouthing tired shibboleths from the past.  The warrior acts and does not just imagine.  The warrior endures and perseveres.  He/she also preserves what is good and beautiful and sacred from the past and the ancestors.  He/she relates to the past and the future—the children.  The world needs more warriors and fewer soldiers.

Gathering of the toxic masculine: Redneck Revolt members at a Donald Trump presidential campaign rally in Phoenix, Arizona. Photo by Daniel Oberhaus on Wikimedia Commons.

The archetype of the spiritual warrior addresses the question: What to do with male aggression and competition?  How steer both into healthy directions?

Aggression after all is common to soldier and warrior, athlete and preacher, business person and taxi driver.  It is in all of us.  The issue is: What to do with it?  Aggression can show itself as war, as one-sided sex (sex as conquest), as passivity (beating up on oneself: “I can’t do that…”), as business one-up-man-ship, as healthy or unhealthy competition.  What to do with it?

A warrior is distinct from a soldier—this is the teaching in any indigenous tribe I have ever heard of. A Vietnam veteran named Broken Walk volunteered to go to war at seventeen and came back very broken.  He says this:

Veteran for Peace at a March on the Pentagon. Photo by Danny Hammontree on Flickr.

There’s a difference between being a soldier and being a warrior.  Don’t ever get these two confused.  When I was in the army I was a soldier.  I was a puppet doing whatever anybody told me to do, even if it meant going against what my heart told me was right.  I didn’t know nothing about being a warrior until I hit the streets and marched alongside my brothers for something I really believed in.  When I found something I believed in, a higher power found me.  That’s it.  That’s the story. 

This man found his soul again protesting war and going to jail for it.  So do those who resisted the destruction of our democracy at great personal cost on January 6.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, The Hidden Spirituality of Men, pp. 77f.

Banner Image: A veteran holds up a Veterans For Peace flag at a protest outside the Federal Courthouse in downtown Minneapolis. Protesters gathered on July 23rd, 2020 to protest federal officers being deployed to cities around the country. Photo by Chad Davis, Veterans For Peace, on Flickr.

Is there a spiritual warrior in you?  Has the witness of the policemen on January 6 and July 27 assisted you in developing your spiritual warrior and healthy masculinity (whether you be male or female)?

Recommended Reading

The Hidden Spirituality of Men: Ten Metaphors to Awaken the Sacred Masculine

To awaken what Fox calls “the sacred masculine,” he unearths ten metaphors, or archetypes, ranging from the Green Man, an ancient pagan symbol of our fundamental relationship with nature,  to the Spiritual Warrior….These timeless archetypes can inspire men to pursue their higher calling to connect to their deepest selves and to reinvent the world.
“Every man on this planet should read this book — not to mention every woman who wants to understand the struggles, often unconscious, that shape the men they know.” — Rabbi Michael Lerner, author of The Left Hand of God


Join Matthew Fox for a thought-provoking 7-week course: Answer the Call for an Uncommon Life Through the Mystical Teachings of St. Hildegard, Tuesdays, 6/15 to 7/27. While the course has begun, registration remains open, with recordings of past classes available. Learn more HERE.

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8 thoughts on “January 6 and the Witness of Spiritual Warriors”

  1. Avatar

    Jesus was a true warrior. His warned that those who “live by the sword will die by the sword.” Swords eventually morphed into guns, bombs, napalm…the global military industrial complex generates and deploys the weapons that allow rising wannabe dictators to maintain a ‘chokehold’ on democracy where so many citizens are marching in the streets shouting ‘we can’t breathe’ …

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Gwen, thank you for your comment. Jesus was a spiritual warrior NOT a soldier–big difference!

      1. Avatar

        Matthew’s quote from Broken Walk is a powerful case in point about the difference between being a soldier and a warrior. It reminds me God’s warning for the people of Israel who were begging for a king [1 Samuel 8-10]: “This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. 12]Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots.” I think of this now when I see the massive displays of armaments and thousands of soldier marching lockstep in front of today’s soulless Diktat/Kings. The be-knighted soldiers are trained and paid to attack their own enlightened blood-kin when they rise up to demand freedom, justice and democracy for the people.

  2. Avatar

    Thank you for this insight of warrior vs. soldier and for providing the current example of the four policemen who testified before the House hearing. The archetype and spirituality you describe ring a bell in me although I’m female. I want to continue pursuing the path of justice and helping others and your writing has given me new impetus and spirit to do so.

  3. Avatar
    Jeanette Metler

    The hardest thing for me personally, in identifying with being a spiritual warrior as a woman, is learning to rise above my very human emotional reactions and the many expressions of these… so that I could begin to learn to discern and then respond from a place of intuited wisdom. A spiritual warrior will indeed have to learn to deal with confrontation, conflict and crisis… but as you say in this meditation, without an unhealthy aggression, competition or ego based stance. The way of the spiritual warrior in my experience involves learning to be a truth-seeker, a truth-finder and a truth-teller… first within and with oneself. This requires alot of personal inner work first, before one is prepared, and matured enough to use these gifts of discernment, intuited wisdom, truth-seeking, truth-finding and truth-telling in response to the movements of the Divine Spirit whom teaches and leads one to learn to do so… rooted in love, compassion, mercy, forgiveness and justice for the greater good of the whole. Jesus in his humanness took the time and space neccessary to grow in the stature of these things, and he is a perfect example of that same potential of the spiritual warrior there within each one of us all… awaiting to be reclaimed… through right relationship with… which is what righteousness means to me.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Jeanette, it sounds as if you’ve gotten the gist of what Matthew is trying to teach on the difference between the spiritual warrior and the soldier. You write: “The way of the spiritual warrior in my experience involves learning to be a truth-seeker, a truth-finder and a truth-teller… first within and with oneself. This requires a lot of personal inner work first, before one is prepared, and matured enough to use these gifts of discernment” this is indeed true. We need inner work not “boot camp.”

    2. Avatar

      Thanks, Jeanette, for your comment. I agree — it’s the inner work we need to become strong, non-aggressive, truth-tellers. Especially in trying to have a discussion with my “soldier”-brother it’s frustrating. He’s not at all open to the warrior concept and mimics Trump’s mantra, “I hate weak people.” It seems he despises “weakness” that does not destroy the “enemy.” It leaves me cringing, so I just try to speak the truth and walk away. Although it feels inadequate, I hope it will bear fruit one day.

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