Spiritual Warrior as Distinct from Soldier, continued

Yesterday I cited two Native American soldiers who were in the Viet Nam war (one in the video piece) who taught about how different a warrior is from a soldier.  Robert Moore, in his book on men, confuses soldier and warrior, and in doing so cites General Patton more often that Gandhi, Martin Luther King jr. or Jesus in his effort to educate men about being men! 

The Weeping Buddha, an earlier, warlord incarnation of Gautama Siddhartha. Photo by cmiper on Flickr.

The confusion of soldier and warrior feeds militarism and excessive reptilian brain consciousness of “I win, You lose.”  It feeds homophobia as well.

Chogyan Trungpa talks about the “sad and tender heart of the warrior,” and this is very real.  The warrior is in touch with his or her heart—the joy, the sadness, the grief, the expansiveness of it.

The Sufi mystic Hafiz knew the difference between soldier and warrior when he exclaimed in one of his poems that soldiers “were dying all around him in excruciating pain”—for that is what a soldier does, deliver death or excruciating pain, or get it delivered to him. 

At the same time, Hafiz declares,

you can become a horseperson carrying your heart through the world like a life-giving sun, but only if you and God become sweet lovers.

The warrior, unlike the soldier, is a lover (i.e, a mystic).  The warrior is so much in touch with his heart that he can give it to the world.  The warrior loves not only his nearest kin and mate but also the world and God.  The warrior relates to God as a lover.

Boxing champion Muhammad Ali was arrested and convicted of resisting the Vietnam draft on the basis of his Islamic faith and civil-rights convictions. The conviction was later overturned. World Journal Tribune photo by Ira Rosenberg, on Wikimedia Commons.

How different this is from religious distortions of masculinity such as one finds in the Promise Keepers Movement where God is depicted as a judge and never as a lover.  Once again one can see how the confusion of warrior and soldier feeds unhealthy relationships not only to God but to self and to society. 

It feeds empire building—which may help to explain why it goes on and on.  The builders of empire would like nothing more than to enlist young men who imagine soldiering and warriorhood are always identical.

We cannot afford this ignorance and confusion any longer.  It is confusing our young people and is one reason why so many underclass youth end up in prison.  If soldier and warrior are the same, then to go to jail is to play out one’s destiny (so think many youth today).  Nothing could be further from the truth.

I asked Professor Pitt, a 32 year old African American film maker, rap artist and practitioner of martial arts, “Do you see a difference between a warrior and a soldier?”  “100%” he replied.  The difference? 

The soldier does what he is told no matter what.  And a warrior does what is right, what his heart feels.  A warrior should be connected to the universe, should be very reverent and connected to whatever people want to call God…As long as the warrior is connected to that, they are dealing with what’s right.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, The Hidden Spirituality of Men, pp. 78f., 82.

Banner Image: A protestor locks herself down to heavy machinery in an effort to stop Enbridge Line 3 Pipeline construction at the sacred headwaters of the Mississippi River. Photo by Felton Davis on Flickr

Do you recognize a distinction between soldier and warrior?  Do you recognize in the warrior a “sad and tender heart?” 

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 is over, recordings are available. Learn more HERE.

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9 thoughts on “Spiritual Warrior as Distinct from Soldier, continued”

  1. Avatar
    Jeanette Metler

    As a warrior I sometimes have found it difficult and challenging, with the words you speak of in today’s meditation.. those of the warrior “having a sad and tender heart.” In some of my darker moments this sadness has turned to despair and this tenderness has turned to broken heartedness. What brings me out of this darkness is ceremony. Personally I have experienced ceremony to be healing and transformational in so many various and diverse ways… especially when unfolding within nature. Our youth need to be mentored through the true meaning and value of traditional as well as new and creative ceremonies… like Vision Quests, and Rites of Passages. Through sacred ceremony we can help our youth become warriors and all that this is, rather than lost and wounded soldiers.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Jeanette, You speak of today’s meditation where Matthew talks of the warrior “having a sad and tender heart.” And then you say, “In some of my darker moments this sadness has turned to despair and this tenderness has turned to broken heartedness.” Then you tell us that “What brings me out of this darkness is ceremony.” Ceremony is a powerful experience. At Matthew’s school we did Native American dancing with the Native American Sister, Jose Hobday. I also did a class with a priestess of Oshun called “The Art of Ancestry Drama,” we circle danced with Starhawk and Joanna Macy and drummed with Bruce Silverman. We even learned how to do Techno Cosmic Masses.” Yes, ceremony is a powerful healer !!!

      1. Avatar
        Jeanette Metler

        Richard, I too have had the blessing and privelege of participating and facilitating many ceremonies from a wide range of spiritual and religious pathways both traditional that have withstood the test of time and new ones uniquely created. Indeed ceremony as you say, is a powerful healer and I might also add an awakener of so many gifts already given, there hidden within, awaiting our discovery. Thanks for sharing. Jeanette.

  2. Avatar

    I had an older friend who I did youth volunteer work with back in the day. He liked to refer to himself as Prince Condor when we embarked on adventures with the kids. He insisted on me having a nickname too for such trips as well. I suggested “Mr. Badger” and he said, “Perfect for you are a warrior!” I hesitated to be referred to as a warrior but he explained his own deeper meaning of the term (like today’s reflection). I have concluded that warriors embrace their divine feminine; humility, compassion, love and yet fiercely protective too. They answer only to Divine LOVE and our guided by Their Spirit. }:- a.m.

    1. Avatar
      Jeanette Metler

      PATRICK, I appreciate and totally relate with your comment that warriors embrace their divine feminine, humility, compassion and love.. and yet fiercely are protective too… and that they answer only to Divine Love and are guided by the Spirit of this. I too, hesitated for a time, as being referred to as a warrior… and I also learnt and continue to discover the true beauty of this. Thank you for sharing. Jeanette.

  3. Avatar

    I had and still have a problem with the term warrior. It relates too closely to a soldier, who in our society is the epitome of masculinity, violence and often a hero, protecting our “freedom”. I understand the difference made in this meditation. Even had a long discussion when attended UCS in Oakland. It helps some. Unfortunately, in too many instances the term Warrior is often misused even in many “religious” settings. Enjoyed the meditation and comments.

    1. Richard Reich-Kuykendall
      Richard Reich-Kuykendall

      Leonard, all I can say is that the distinction between warrior and soldier works for some and not for others. Some are bothered by anything that has “war” in it such as “war”rior. As long as you get the gist of what Matthew is saying, you’re doing fine, you don’t have to use the distinction yourself if it doesn’t work for you…

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