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Cutting Through the Confusion of Life

“Half-hearted training will never do;

Half-baked philosophy is of no value;

Be sincere and creative in all you attempt;

Establish yourself physically and spiritually.”

~Awa Kenzo (d. 1939) Zen Archery Master

These words of great wisdom don’t come from an armchair philosopher. They are the fruit of sweat and blood – that’s why they have deep meaning. Their author was a true warrior. Not a soldier; a warrior seeking to perfect his own life.

What does it mean, “Half-hearted training will never do”? What do you do half-heartedly? Learning the skills you need, your workout at the gym, your spiritual life, your family relationships…?

In the mind of the man who wrote these words, every moment of your life is training… because your every thought and act conditions you to get certain results. If you give more to everything you do, you WILL get more back – more energy, better results and more satisfaction. Your cannot advance your own life or the lives of those you love by doing the minimum. And when you start to train whole heartedly, always stay focused, seeking to know yourself, to build harmony and balance into your life.

The man who wrote these words is Awa Kenzo (d. 1939), the Zen Archery master who taught professor Eugen Herrigel (author of the very popular “Zen in the Art of Archery”). You may remember Herrigel and his master from my best-seller, The 5 Pillars of Life. Kenzo was a typical warrior – he never did anything half way. Find someone who’s really happy and successful at anything, and you’ll notice the same trait. Might there be a lesson here…..?

Now let’s have a look at the rest of the passage…


You may be thinking, “Philosophy is for geeks. What’s this got to do with me or my life?”

What if “philosophy” here is a metaphor for your entire belief system, for that invisible “software” you use to run your life? Do you suppose if that software were wrong, your life could go off the rails?

The fact is, your results in life are largely governed by your beliefs, and most people’s belief systems are a conglomeration of unproven assumptions they’ve uncritically absorbed from their parents, teachers, the media and their society in general. What kind of a basis for personal success or happiness is that????

These hidden assumptions are all around you. They apply to politics, religion, health, money, moral values, what it means to be human and to the very nature of reality itself. My parent’s generation believed that all the food at the grocery store was either good for you, or at least not dangerous. Millions of them paid with their lives for that false assumption. Many a soldier has paid the same price for assuming his political and military leadership is both intelligent and honest. I’ve seen many a martial artist put on his ass because he assumed his martial art gave him an accurate paradigm about how real combat works.

Real life has a way of trashing our assumptions. And if we survive the fallout, we owe it to ourselves to ask some hard questions. When we teach people the ancient art and science of Warriorship, we show them they have a choice. They can build their life on a web of a thousand unexamined assumptions about life (most of which are plain wrong), or they can DECIDE what “software” or “philosophy” will run their life. Since the state of your health, the quality of your relationships, the size or your bank balance and your overall happiness are hemmed in by your belief system, do you suppose you should reexamine yours from time to time? How many unexamined assumptions about every area of life can you spot today? In yourself? In the media? From people around you?

Master Kenzo had no room in his life for unexamined assumptions. What about you?


We live in an age of unprecedented confusion. Some would say it’s a spiritual confusion. Really, it’s a confusion about who the human person is and how he/she is put together.

Kenzo wasn’t confused. Nor were other ancient traditions. They knew that training the mind begins with the body. Do you want to make meaningful changes to your mindset? Then train your body. Get in shape. Look after your health. Your most direct access to your mind and consciousness is through your magnificent physical form. What? It doesn’t seem so magnificent when you look in the mirror? That’s largely within your power to change.

And establish yourself spiritually. That, too, is within your power. Know the principles you stand for. Make sure they are noble, time-tested, spiritual principles that go beyond you and beyond your earthly life. Refuse to beat yourself up for your failings, but at the same time be definite and decisive with everything in your life. Be strict with yourself and indulgent toward others. Train your body and mind rigorously if you want to know inner peace and real happiness.

Do this, and you will understand the essence of Warriorship, the fastest route to personal RESILIENCE and astonishing results ever discovered.

~ Dr. Symeon Rodger 🙂

“Back-to-School Bomb-Proofing”

It’s that time of year again… sigh!  At least, that’s what most people seem to think of the end of the summer vacation period and the resumption of “business as usual”.

While there’s no need to associate this transition with negative emotions – and we should all be careful to avoid that – there are certain facts we have to face: the pace of life will pick up at work, at home and in most every facet of your life.  Long story short, your personal resilience will likely be tested 😉

Interestingly enough, September 1 used to be New Years in the old East Roman (Byzantine) Empire and, in many ways, it’s at least as much of a transition point for us in the modern West as January 1st is.  In other words…

…it’s a great time to take stock, see where we are and clarify where we want to go.  With that in mind, here’s a simple process you can use right away to help significantly improve your results in life by the time New Year 2013 does roll around!  I would advise you to do this with pen and paper the first time – you can make a “good copy” later.   For the moment, you need to give yourself permission to scribble and be messy!

Step 1: Clarify What You Want

What would your life look like on January 1, 2013 IF you had a magic wand?  You can think of separate areas in your life, such as your health, your relationships, your career and finances.  Or you can use categories such as physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, relational and financial.  The important thing is to be very clear on what you want to see.

Keep in mind this is just four months away, so you don’t have to get into deep and heavy debates with yourself about your ultimate life-purpose.  This is a pretty short time-frame, but one long enough that you can do lots to change how well it works out for you.

Step 2:  Define What You Have to Accomplish

Using the vision you came up with of what your life will look like at the start of 2013, list all the goals you would have to reach to make this vision a reality.  For example, if you want to improve your health, you may decide that requires you to commit to a specific dietary regime.  And voila!  You have one goal to write down.  Or dealing with an issue that’s disrupting your relationship with your significant other might mean the two of you need some professional counseling.  So that could be a second goal.  Those are just some examples to help get you started.

It’s important to write these goals down as fast as you can.  Don’t over-think this part of the exercise.  You may well end up with a pretty long list and that’s just fine!

Step 3:  List Your Top 3 Goals

Naturally, it’s unrealistic to attempt changing everything in your life at once – you need to prioritize.  So ask yourself, “Which three goals, if I committed totally to them, would have the greatest positive impact on my life?”

I know, sometimes it’s not easy to prioritize, but it is definitely worth the effort.

Step 4:  What Actions Will Get You to Your Goals?

This is the dreaded “how-to” step, the one that leads to the most frustration when you realize that what you want to achieve may appear to be impossible or you may not have the slightest clue where to start.

It’s really important to keep it light with this step.  Don’t let yourself get scared or frustrated; just write down everything you can think of.  If you have no idea how to accomplish something, just laugh and then realize that someone somewhere does and all you need to do is find them.

Step 5:  Evaluate Your Mindset

Think over each goal separately.  As you do, use a scale of 1-10 to evaluate your resistance to that goal, where zero is no resistance when you think of that goal (i.e., you feel good about it) and ten is over-the-top total resistance.

Try this a few times for each major goal and preferably on different days.  Once you know whether you have significant emotional resistance to a specific goal, you are FAR ahead of 99% of the population.  First of all, very few people have ANY idea what they are trying to accomplish at any given time.  And even most people who do set goals, omit this critical step.

Step 6:  Remove the Resistance

If you DO feel significant emotional resistance to a goal that’s really important to you, despair not!!  This often happens and is not a bad sign.  And in most cases it’s not a signal the goal is wrong for you.  So here’s what you can do…

The easiest method for blowing away this type of resistance is through a meridian tapping technique, such as the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) or Thought Field Therapy (TFT).  If you don’t know either one, I would strongly suggest you find a practitioner local to you and arrange a session.  After one or two sessions you should be able to use the technique on yourself and remove resistance in a matter of minutes.

I can promise you that if you’ll apply this planning procedure, you’ll be far more clear on what you want to achieve and have a far more pleasant experience getting there!

Happy planning!!

~Dr. Symeon Rodger

Systema: Advanced Healing and Bodywork… and Lethal Martial Art


On Monday August 20, 2012, my son Anthony and I attended an all-day Systema workshop in Toronto.  In case you’ve never heard of it, Systema (pronounced see-STYEM-ah and meaning “the System”) is the martial art taught to the Russian special forces.  It is also a paradoxical system that refuses to teach you a series of combat techniques, the way most martial arts do, and whose stated goal is to lead you into a deep state of psycho-physical relaxation.  In other words, it’s also a world-class healing and resilience-building method.

This is Anthony’s blog post about the experience, as posted on his Strategy Blog:


Systema Toronto Seminar: Relaxing through Pain

While all martial arts are physical encapsulations of survival strategy, there is considerable variation in both the depth of the strategy and the time required to teach it to a useful level.  Systema, a martial art of the Russian Special Forces, is remarkable both for the depth of its teachings and the effectiveness and rapidity of its teaching method.  While many systems of martial arts promote physical, energetic and psychological well-being as well as teaching self-defense, this usually requires lengthy training cycles.

Systema tends to teach much more quickly, and the recent seminar in Toronto given by visiting masters Valantin Talanov and Major Konstantin Komarov was no exception.

Systema has no forms, no stances and few techniques. Its approach to life and to combat rests on two main teachings: natural movement and proper breathing, taught through a repertoire of exercises and drills.

How it Works

Well, it turns out that most people don’t know how to do either of these things properly, and Systema addresses that directly and immediately.  Students are taught methodically how to avoid and move around incoming force, how to absorb it and cushion even the most powerful punches, and how to move naturally even in the most unpleasant situations, such as while on the ground being kicked. Through natural movement and breath work, the practitioner maintains physical and psychological relaxation throughout the encounter, which, paradoxically, makes him or her a very difficult target.

Of course, cultivating natural movement requires deep relaxation and relaxation in turn requires that you be free from fears, doubts and anxieties.  Never fear, though – Systema has this covered too.  Since the two primary physical fears are falling and getting hit, Systema takes you through a series of exercises that let you experience these in a controlled way.  And it works – you really do lose any fear of falling or getting hit.

Furthering these principles, a great deal of Talanov’s morning session was spent on giving and absorbing energy from punches, as well as on detecting points of tension within your attacker and pushing or striking them.  This serves two purposes.  First, in striking a point of tension, the tension, along with the emotional energy behind it, dissipates, thus reducing the opponent’s will to attack.  Given this approach, it isn’t surprising that another of the exercises focused on the difference between defending yourself in a way that calms the aggressor down rather than further infuriating him. Second, the point of tension is the point at which you can cause your opponent to collapse with a shocking degree of ease, as you’ll see in the video below.

All of this, of course, helps you in several ways, by dispersing your own tensions and allowing you to learn to deal with a wide variety of different energies from different people.  You learn to take punches while relaxing through the pain enough to be sensitive to your partner’s points of tension.  One of the more interesting iterations of these exercises involved punching inside an incoming punch and then immediately punching to the torso; in other words, hitting two points of tension in rapid succession.  With the punches coming at you, there’s no time to think.  You just have to relax and be sensitive to your partner.

In combat, this gets really interesting: your opponent is on the offensive, tense and primed for combat, and convinced until the very last second that he’s going to win.  Then suddenly he’s in a heap on the floor, bewildered and wondering what happened.  Because Systema exercises train natural body movement, all movements in combat are ideally made without any thought and using very little energy – they happen naturally, and are thus very difficult to see or anticipate.  Humans are set up to react against hostile energy, which Systema movements exclude.  Systema’s punches and strikes rely on only momentary muscular tension- yet tend to feel like being hit with bricks when done right.

The amazing thing from our point of view was that so many of Systema’s basic principles resemble those of the “soft” or “internal” martial arts of China, despite external disparity in teaching styles.  The emphasis on relaxation during combat, the central use of breathing to remove tensions from the body, the use of posture and the role of attention all seemed familiar from Tai Chi.

The latter was particularly interesting.  A number of students asked Major Komarov about dealing with fear and accumulated stress, and his advice was to make a practice of regularly scanning your body from top to bottom for areas of tension caused by stress or fear.  Then you focus on and physically press on each tense area in turn while breathing into it to release the tension.  This develops your internal attention so that you’re always subconsciously correcting fear and stress through their physiological manifestations.  In other words, you train yourself to defuse fear and anxiety, tension and stress at their early stages, rather than letting them build up and run your life.

Systema is a tremendous tool for psychological and energetic healing, a means of dealing with incoming stress from any source, and a deadly martial art that can become combat-effective very quickly.  Above all, it is a tremendous tool of personal development.  The principles you learn will help your relationships with everyone, even (especially) people attempting to do you harm.

 ~ Anthony S. Rodger, M.A.

The Many and the Few


After the enormous discussion generated by the recent series of posts on the concept of Thick Face / Black Heart, I couldn’t think of any better way to clarify a few of the questions that came up than republishing this article.  It originally appeared two years ago under the title “Can Leadership Be Taught?”


Before you begin reading this post, I must warn you it is not for everyone.  If you are someone who cannot bear a politically incorrect word or if you live life well within your own comfort zone, what you’re about to hear may very well offend you.

The words of this post will test your dedication to becoming a RESILIENT person.  What is a resilient person?  Quite simply, it’s someone who is on the way to becoming a true human being, to exploring and living out the full potential of a being created in the divine image.  And every resilient person is, in fact, a warrior, because no one can overcome the barriers that stand between mediocrity and resilience without great courage.

Every resilient person is also a leader.  First and foremost they are leaders of their own lives – they know who they are, what they stand for and where they’re going.   And it’s because and only because they know these things, that they’re fit to lead others.

Why is leadership so critically important for you?  Because it’s impossible to become a resilient person or to help others attain resilience otherwise.  Until you develop the qualities of a leader – on fire with an inspiring vision, living by noble principles, genuinely caring for others and dedicated to brutal honesty in all things – you’re as handicapped in your pursuit of a better life as a three-legged horse would be at the Kentucky Derby.

The Few

How do we recognize such people?  If you personally know even one or two such people, you’re truly blessed, because they are very few and far between.  You’ll recognize them because they will inspire and motivate you without even trying.  They’ll make you feel glad to be alive and enthusiastic about the challenges to come.  You’ll notice they serve a purpose far greater than their own self-interest, they live by principles rather than their own convenience and they can be relied upon one hundred percent of the time to give and demand brutal honesty and truth.  That’s why the cowards who surround them call them disruptive and “loose cannons”, considering them dangerous and inconvenient.

At least, that’s what they said about people like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela and many others.

Of course, the few are “dangerous”.  You see, the few have no interest in the artificial rules or the polite lies that all of society wallows in.  They’re completely committed to what’s real.  They have no interest in comfort, in playing it safe, or in avoiding the tough decisions.  No, they’ll jump in with both feet, knowing that audacity will always rule the day and snatch the victory.

The few don’t waste their energy trying to perpetuate ossified institutions or obsolete social structures and decorum.  Gandhi didn’t have the social standing to lead India to independence, nor did he have any interest in perpetuating the social evil  of untouchability.  The few are far too focused on the magnificent possibility they see in their mind’s eye to bother with such things.  And this passion that inflames their very souls is contagious – you can’t talk to one of these people about their passion without coming away with some of that flame yourself… if, of course, they think you’re worthy to hear about it.

The Many

The many are quite different.  Why do we call them “the many”?  Simply because at least ninety-five percent of the people around you fall into this category.  Now don’t get me wrong – the “many” can be perfectly nice people.  They can be your neighbors, your colleagues, members of your church and community and you can be very happy with them.  Yet however pleasant your social interactions with them may be, they are not leaders, no matter how prominent they may appear.

Despite this, they constitute well over ninety-five percent of the so-called “leaders” in our society – our politicians, our managers and bosses, and the leaders of our religious institutions.  And that’s only natural since, unlike true leaders, they actively seek the limelight.

Why is that?  Ultimately, it’s because they live for themselves, not for any higher purpose (despite any claims they might make to the contrary).  They’re not dedicated to any great and inspiring vision, which explains why, as “leaders”, they’re totally unable to inspire their subordinates to follow them.  Part of the reason is because they consider themselves superior to their underlings, they value control over collaboration and stability over results.  They’re really just functionaries, rather than leaders and, to them, the process is the product.

They live well within their comfort zones and see preserving the status quo as a sacred duty, even when the status quo is a total betrayal of the principles they make such a fuss about adhering to.  But that’s something they’ll never admit to themselves, let alone to you.  So life among the many leaves you swimming in a sea of lies and half-truths so bewildering it will have you questioning your own sanity.

The Crisis:

In the life of every institution, community, group or team there always comes a crisis.  And crisis is most useful because it lays bare for all to see who is willing to call a spade a spade, to stand up and be counted, rather than cower in the corner and submit to a lie for the sake of personal convenience.

That’s why it’s so often said that you only know who your real friends are when things go wrong.

That’s what makes crisis such a great gift – it sorts out who’s who with all the accuracy of the “sorting hat” in Harry Potter.  It also explains why the literal translation of the word “crisis” is so bang on – you see, the ancient Greek word “Krisis” means “judgment”, and every crisis is precisely that.  It divides the resilient from the weak, the courageous from the cowards, the leaders from the functionaries and the visionaries from those who play it safe.

Of course, in rare cases a crisis can be the catalyst that propels a person to leave the many and join the few.  The Lord of the Rings is a tale about exactly that: Frodo and his fellow Hobbits did not have to take the one ring back to Mordor at great personal risk, and we watch their inner debates unfold as they’re tempted to rejoin the “many” by giving up and going back to the Shire.  Perhaps it’s the sure and certain knowledge that there won’t be a Shire left unless they persevere that saves them.

The Myth

Of course, our governments, corporations and educational systems don’t want you to know all that and the reason is quite simple.  Just ask yourself who runs those institutions…  Instead, they tell you that anyone can become a leader through training, by acquiring the right “skill sets”.  In fact, that’s totally erroneous.

The many are not the many because they lack certain life skills.  The many are the many because on a level deep enough to remain hidden from the world and usually from themselves, the many are unwilling to put their well-being, their livelihood and ultimately their lives on the line.  They have settled down to live with the mediocrity, the political correctness and the polite lies that pervade our everyday experience.  Yes, they may be raising fine children, donating to charity and volunteering their time, but when the crisis comes, you’ll see them for who they are.  And no amount of training will change that.

Take the typical corporate manager.  Training in leadership, change management, team building or whatever else can no more turn this person into a leader than it can change their racial DNA from Caucasian to Negro or Oriental to Caucasian.  You see, leadership, like resilience itself, is not primarily a skill set.  The “many” can never become leaders by learning “skills”; they can only become leaders by doing one thing…

Repenting.  That’s right.  Until such a person decides that personal integrity means more to them than life itself, they cannot be taught.  You see, the fundamental dividing line between the few and the many, between the leaders and the functionaries, is precisely a matter of character, of virtue.

The many can think of lots of things to live for, but only the few believe that there are some things worth dying for.

In the words of Star Trek’s fictional Klingon general Chang, so ably portrayed by the great Shakespearean actor Christopher Plumber, as he addresses a group of elite recruits:

“You have surpassed your peers to earn a place within this distinguished hall.  Yet I tell you now, this is not enough.  In the days to come, you will be tested, well beyond your current limitations.  I am not interested in the names of your fathers, nor in your family’s lineage.  What I am interested in is your breaking point.  How will you conduct yourselves in battle?  How far will you go to preserve your honor, to fulfill your duty?  These are simple questions that will decide the fate of our empire.”

The crises you will inevitably face in daily life – at home, at work, in the society around you – these will test you beyond what you think you can handle.  And every one of these crises will reveal one thing – whether you belong to the few or the many.  Your social status, your previous achievements are irrelevant.  Will you live with integrity or won’t you?  Will you boldly proclaim the truth or indulge the lies of the many around you?  Which will it be?  You can’t fudge this – it’s one or the other.  This is the battle.  Will you preserve your honor and fulfill your duty to yourself and those who depend on you or will you not?

And it is not only your own fate on the line, it is ultimately the fate of your country and your whole civilization as well.

The Challenge

Several years ago, a great financial scandal broke out in my Church, engulfing hundreds of communities throughout the United States and Canada.  My bishop here in Canada had the temerity to stand in front of his people week after week and proclaim that nothing was wrong, that there were simply some “administrative difficulties”.  By doing so he willingly participated in the cover up of a felony – the embezzlement of some two million dollars that had been earmarked for victims of 9/11, the Beslan massacre, the Armenian earthquake and similar tragic events.  He also publicly besmirched the reputations of several people who were demanding an open investigation into the financial scandal, calling them “trouble-makers”.

Yet the majority of our people were not outraged or overly concerned.  The “many” never are until it’s much too late.  The “many” are like sheep that an unscrupulous “leader” can lead straight over a cliff.  Only the “few” took action, often risking their status, their reputations and their livelihoods to tell the truth in the midst of endless lies, to demand openness in the midst of a cover-up and justice in the midst of criminality at the highest levels.  As for myself, I was only marginalized and effectively booted out of my own parish for speaking out.  Others suffered much more and for much longer.  In the end we were vindicated, though not necessarily reinstated or recompensed.

Events like this are distressingly common – they’re taking place all around you and you have a choice to make.  Will you tell the truth, live by your principles, and dedicate yourself and your energies to working toward a noble, inspiring and better future, or will you choose the easy way out?

Only you can answer that question.  Behold, I have laid the challenge before you.  Or rather, the challenge is constantly before you; I’ve simply brought it to your attention.  Time to make a decision…

~ Dr. Symeon Rodger

Why You Can’t REALLY Love Anyone Unless You Have a “Black Heart”

Welcome to the fourth and final installment on “thick face” and “black heart”.  If you’ve stumbled on this post and don’t have a clue what I’m talking about, be sure to read the previous three posts FIRST.

What an abhorrent concept!  What can possibly be good about having a “Black Heart” (BH)?  Doesn’t that describe a psychopath like Hitler, Stalin or Chairman Mao (the greatest mass murderers of the 20th century)?

Nope. Not the way we’re using the term here. Yes, they did use the same power of BH that you’re going to.  However, you’re going to use it for transformative purposes, not destructive ones.

There are three aspects to BH.  They all have one thing in common – they involve distinguishing between real compassion and false compassion. Let’s have a look at them:


Have you ever seen a parent whose child developed serious behavioral problems all because that parent was too spineless to say “no!” when it was necessary? Did the child then start to push the limits, disrespect the parents and shamelessly manipulate them? And did the parents let the kid get away with it?

If you’re nodding your head right now, you and I probably know some of the same parents!  And the parents’ excuse for this is always couched in terms of “compassion”, of not wanting to scar their child for life by denying him a candy bar, or not wanting to “impose their views” on their child, or wanting to let him “find his own way”.

This pseudo-compassion is a mental fiction covering deep emotional inadequacies.  It causes great harm to the child and to anyone that child will deal with over his or her lifetime.  It has devastating consequences, perhaps for generations.

As a parent, it’s your responsibility to train your child to be a polite, respectful and self-actualized person.  And that means saying “no” sometimes.  It also means challenging your kids, allowing them to make mistakes and get hurt, not shielding them from the nitty-gritty of daily life in the “real world”.  A false compassion would shield them.  Real compassion requires a “black heart”.  A BH means “tough love”, it means knowing when it’s more important to slap a hand than hold it.

In ancient Sparta, as in some native American societies, the tougher parts of the education were undertaken out of reach of the parents and especially the mothers, who wouldn’t have wanted to watch their offspring be put through hardship, even if that hardship was extremely beneficial in the long run.

It’s said that the 20th century Orthodox Christian holy man, Joseph the Hesychast, didn’t have a kind word for his disciples.  In reality, his disciples knew he love them deeply, but the feigned harshness of the old man was a vital element to help them discover the inner resources they would need to overcome their spiritual challenges later on.

Likewise, the great Taoist master, Wang Liping, always says he is deeply thankful for the unsparing, ruthless severity of his masters, because that’s what allowed him to achieve his extraordinary life.

Joseph the Hesychast and Wang Liping’s old masters were perfect examples of BH.  They know what needed to be done and they did it, regardless of the immediate discomfort of their disciples or of those who were “offended” by their way of life.  And, most importantly, they did it out of genuine love and concern for the welfare of those they were responsible for.

In essence, they were putting the power of BH at the service of those who were seeking to do the right thing.  Another scenario along the same lines is defending people who are unjustly attacked for doing the right thing. In the recent series of crises in my own Church, those of us who spoke up did so partly to protect others who had already stuck their necks out.


Black Heart also refuses the false compassion that would allow people doing evil to continue to harm others and wreak havoc.

There are many wonderful features of life up here in Canada. The criminal justice system is NOT one of them. Enslaved for decades to absurd ideas that the criminal is the “victim” of society, our system has a nasty habit of letting violent criminals go free. The penalties for real wrong-doing are a bit of a joke.

In her book, “Thick Face, Black Heart,” Chin-Ning Chu illustrates this with the true story of two ancient Chinese warlords.  One was the emperor of the time and the other a peasant and rebel leader trying to overthrow him. The emperor captured the rebel leader at one point, but refused to deal with him harshly, considering him a worthy opponent of sorts.  This allowed the rebel leader to escape, muster his army again, and overthrow the emperor.  Chu points out that this act of “mercy” simply prolonged the civil war and the slaughter of innocents.  So the emperor’s “mercy” was self-indulgent and counter-productive.  Likewise, nearly every great tyrant of the 20th century was in jail at some point, and some damn fool decided to release him.  Hitler even wrote “Mein Kampf” in prison, explaining in detail his insane plans, and they still let him go!

One of my favorite examples comes from Star Trek: The Next Generation, where Captain Picard has a golden opportunity to destroy the Borg (the single most dangerous and sinister threat to civilization any sci-fi author could possibly invent).  Yet, he hesitates and finally doesn’t do it, rationalizing his stupidity by comparing the act to “genocide”.   Excuse me.  Time out!  What about the hundreds of billions of people whose lives will be destroyed in the near future when the Borg overrun their planets, and all because of your bogus compassion, Captain Picard?  I guess your “compassion” didn’t extend to them.

If you look carefully, you’ll see bogus compassion is all around you. In our Church, we were too soft-hearted to sack ALL the bishops who tried to cover up the financial scandal.  Instead we only sacked the top guy.  That has already come back to bite us.  Real compassion involves cutting off evil – suddenly and definitely.  That’s the essence of BH.  BH accords well with the old saying, “All that’s needed for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”


The “killer instinct” is muted in our society.  It’s sublimated into other outlets like watching professional sports and playing video games.  People who like to talk about inner peace may be horrified by the mere mention of killer instinct, considering it something to be programmed out of human beings.

Great spiritual traditions thought otherwise.  They knew that the same power that you could use egotistically to kill someone who merely disagrees with you is the very power that you need to harness to overcome your inner obstacles.  Paradoxically, there is a war to be waged for inner peace.

Obviously, that same killer instinct is instrumental in “thick face” – it’s the inner power that allows you to develop a powerful self-image, stick to your guns and resist the criticism and opinions of others.

It’s also the power that allows you to become DEFINITE about your lifestyle, about who you are and what you stand for.  It’s the very power that brings clarity.

If you’re a man, a male human being, you are a hunter and a killer by nature. Yes, society’s gone to great lengths to program that out of you, to tell you you shouldn’t have those feelings or act that way or think that way. Ancient Traditions took a different approach – they taught you how to harness and redirect that power, not repress it.  Repressing it leads to neurosis and boredom.

And women need this too. It simply expresses itself differently. But find a mother protecting her child from physical danger and you’ll see true killer instinct.


“Thick Face” and “Black Heart” express the reality of your mind-body organism. In your natural state, you’re impervious to the opinions and agendas of others, you’re definite with your life and clear on your purpose, you are “brutal” in defense of the good and “ruthless” in crushing evil.  These are divine traits within the human being.

Yes, they can be perverted, as they have been by tyrants, corporate executives and jihadists throughout history, as well as by fascists and religious fascists of all kinds.  That, however, is irrelevant.  You already possess the energies of Thick Face and Black Heart within you. They will come out somehow.  It’s up to you to channel them in ways that transform your life and the lives of those around you.   And when you do that, you’ll be well on your way to attaining true personal resilience, which is both your birthright and your natural state as a human being.

~Dr. Symeon Rodger

P.S. I hope you’ve enjoyed this series on the concepts of “Thick Face” and “Black Heart”. Feel free to leave your comments below!

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