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Tiptoeing Through Hell: Resilience through impossible times


How can we as human beings endure the unendurable?  And what if, in addition to physical hardship, the challenge comes from an unbearable social or political evil?  Among the many ways humanity has devised to torment itself, physical danger is often paradoxically the least stressful.  What really gets us is social inequity, whether personal injustice or the struggles of poverty or mistreatment by powerful institutions in our societies.


Nicholas Poppe, a renowned scholar of Mongolic languages, lived through arguably the worst times the human race has ever experienced – the complete insanity of the Soviet Union during Stalin’s purges of the 1930s, followed immediately by Hitler’s invasion of Russia during the Second World War. His memoirs are a remarkable testament to the achievements of a purposeful man with a strong sense of his own values and a lot of prudence in the midst of impossible situations.


Born in Shandong Province in China, son of a Russian diplomat, Poppe lived through the First World War, the Russian Revolution and the Russian Civil War in his youth.  Nevertheless, he managed to complete his linguistic studies and was by the early 1930s head of the Department of Mongolian Studies in the Institute of Oriental Studies at the Soviet Academy of Sciences.



Things Get Worse


Soviet academia in the 1920s had carried on almost as normal, despite the universal shortage of the necessities of life.  Books were still written and scholars still spoke their minds and interacted with their counterparts in other countries.  The 1930s brought an end to that, as denunciations and political tribunals became the norm and unqualified Party members were brought in to fill the places of scholars exiled to Siberia or shot.  Poppe witnessed friend after friend falling afoul of the Party and the secret police, and was himself interviewed by the latter several times.


If you’re asking how political a book on the Mongolic languages could possibly be, well, Poppe could tell you.  He had to rework his treatment of the history of Mongol languages because of a political fear that an obscure academic text written in Russian might spark a pan-Mongol political movement – Mongolia at the time was an abject client state of the Soviets.  If that seems ridiculous, one of his son’s schoolbooks was destroyed because someone thought that he could see the face of Trotsky in the tree on the cover.


But what really put him danger were his associations with foreign scholars and academic institutions – several of Poppe’s colleagues were condemned for their associations with “Nazi” or “Capitalist” institutions.


Through all of this, Poppe kept doing his job the way it was supposed to be done as far as he could, but careful observation and prudence allowed him to do this.  He was keenly aware of how the system worked, and so he covered himself wherever possible.  Though he was of German ancestry, he got identity papers which stated he was Russian, telling the authorities that his grandfather had been Czech.


He refused to serve as a translator for Soviet forces attacking Finland, saying that he was a scholar of Mongolian languages and knew nothing about Finnish.  He concealed his total fluency in Finnish from the authorities for several years.  Poppe liked the Finns, and managed to get an accurate picture of Stalin’s embarrassing attempt to subdue Finland by reading Iranian newspapers – the only foreign papers not heavily censored by the Party.


It was a situation in which carrying on with normal life seemed almost impossible.  One incident shows the absurdity of the times.  Poppe had been helping the Red Army find accurate maps of the frontier between Mongolia and Japanese -held Manchuria during the negotiation of a border dispute.  Afterward, he asked a Russian general if he would mind getting his troops to survey some of the scattered monuments on the Mongolian steppe.  The general was happy to oblige, but it never happened – he was killed in Stalin’s purge of the officer corps shortly afterward, along with the majority of generals.



Much Worse


When the Germans invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, Poppe, who had no interest in either the Soviet or Nazi causes, made it his priority to protect his family, and to find a way to get them to the West if possible.  His family had been on holiday in the Caucasus, and so he went there, escaping Leningrad barely in time to avoid the brutal siege that killed over six hundred thousand of the city’s inhabitants.  In the Caucasus, he tried to keep his head down until the Soviets were forced to withdraw.  They traded one evil for another.  Before their withdrawal, the Soviet secret police exterminated all of their political prisoners.  When the SS arrived, they began gassing Jews.


Poppe, fluent in German, often interpreted for German army officers.  Life for most people was far easier and safer under the Germans, because unless you were a Jew or a member of some other group Hitler wanted to exterminate, they didn’t tend to care about you.  This was a very different situation from, for instance, the Ukraine, where the Slavic population also became subject to racial policies.  Poppe, who had become an interpreter by pointing out that the Germans’ interpreter was mistranslating, although he himself deliberately mistranslated when it could help people in danger.  Once when Poppe was accompanying German officers to a sanatorium for sick children, the administrator said that they had a number of Jewish children there.  Poppe translated this as ‘There are children of various nationalities here.’


Another incident involved an ethnic group known as the Tat.  No, you’ve probably never heard of them and you’re not alone!  In any case, they practiced Judaism, but Poppe put together historical and linguistic evidence that they were ethnically Persian, and had always been classified as such in Tsarist times.  Just to make sure, he suggested that the Tat community throw a big party for the German officers.  The Germans enjoyed themselves and pronounced that they didn’t care what religion the Tat practiced as long as they weren’t racially Jewish.  So Poppe very probably saved the entire Tat ethnic group from extinction.


When the Germans withdrew, Poppe knew from experience that anyone with any links to them would be imprisoned or shot by the Soviets.  He therefore took the opportunity to move his family geographically closer to his goal of living in a democratic country and went to Germany.  Working for the Germans as an analyst on Soviet and Central Asian political and cultural issues, he was already convinced that the Nazis were doomed.  He attempted to keep his son from getting conscripted into the German army – fortunately, his son’s unit, largely conscripted from occupied Alsace, surrendered at the first opportunity.


He nevertheless met many other people who had escaped Soviet oppression into the arms of the Germans, something that had been easy to do at the beginning of the war.  Poppe, like many others, believed that if not for Nazi ideology, the Germans could have had the wholehearted support of the Soviet population simply to abolish their own regime.



Are You Kidding Me?


Unfortunately, the victorious Allies did not at first distinguish between these refugees from Soviet oppression and supporters of Nazism.  Countless people were given back to the Soviets and faced certain death.  As a result, Poppe spent several years hiding from the Soviets while trying to care for his dying wife before he was able to find Allied officers who would clear the way for him to emigrate, first to Britain and then to the United States.


If he had spent several years waiting for the Allies to get over the idea that Stalin’s regime was a trustworthy partner just because they had been against the Nazis, Poppe arrived in America just in time for it to swing too far in the other direction with the advent of McCarthyism.  Once again, in front of a Congressional committee, he was asked to denounce one of his academic colleagues, this time as a Communist sympathiser, which he refused to do.



I’m just trying to live quietly over here…


In the end, Poppe and his sons did escape the insane situations they had been born into, and Poppe continued his prolific academic career at the University of Washington.  Through a lot of patience, principled persistence and prudence, he managed to navigate through some of the worst events in human history with his sanity intact.


What saved Nicholas Poppe and his family in the end were a few simple RESILIENCE principles that all Warriors should keep in mind:


1. Know the Signs of the Times:


“When it is evening, you say, `It will be fair weather; for the sky is red.’
And in the morning, `It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.” ~ Jesus Christ (Mt.16:2-3)


The fundamental principle here is to know and understand in depth the trends in thought going on around you.  All human cultures have their own blind spots and delusions, which evolve over time.  Do you see those of your own culture objectively?  Where are things heading on a societal level?



2. Know Your Enemy:


Because he could read the signs of the times, Poppe understood the psychosis behind both the Soviets and the Nazis.  And, because he had a keen analytical mind, he understood that the Soviets and the Nazis were completely different.  He did not make the critical mistake (which the West would continue to make for decades) of thinking they were the same.  By understanding the differences in their worldviews and motivations, Poppe was able to navigate his way through and play one off against the other.



3. Take Care of Yourself First:


You’re no good to anyone if you yourself are seriously ill or imprisoned.  Poppe understood his responsibilities as the head of his family and was very careful to ensure his own safety so that he could look after everyone else.



4. Know When to Be Defiant:


During the first purge of the Academy of Sciences, when all the other academics were cowering in fear before the Soviet Secret Police, Poppe’s wife, Nataliya, took the opposite tack.  Accused by them during a public meeting of being the daughter of a Tsarist general, she stood up, looked them right in the eye and said, “Yes, what of it?!”  Her accusers were so shocked that they backed down and never bothered her again!



5. Protect as Many as You Can:


Poppe didn’t just focus narrowly on protecting his own family – he helped everyone in danger he possibly could, no matter what side they belonged to.  And, as we’ve noted, he almost certainly saved the entire Tat ethnic group from extermination.



6. Get Out of Dodge at the First Opportunity:


There’s always somewhere on the planet where insanity is minimized and where you can live a normal life.  In the words of a Pakistani woman now working to improve the status of women in her native land, “Living in Canada taught me how right things could be.”  Once you’re “out of dodge” you can then decide whether you want to get back into the fray or not.



Most of us have had the incredible good fortune of growing up and living our lives in peaceful circumstances, but as Warriors we always have to keep in mind that there is nothing permanent in this world…



~ Dr. Symeon Rodger

~ Anthony S. Rodger, M.A.

What is Warriorship Really? Part 1

Warriorship has been an indispensable perspective for most if not all authentic ancient traditions, and remains the most neglected and perhaps most necessary foundational element of personal development today.  Unfortunately, it’s also one of those concepts that’s been so abused for so long by so many cultures that it needs to be completely rehabilitated before it’s of any use to anyone- and modern popular culture is no exception.

This series presents some of the most critical elements of warriorship through examples from film and television, as well as real life examples, showing where they get it right- and where our cultural ideas of warriorship go tragically wrong.


1. Patience, Humility, Self-Control

Great generals are not warlike

Great warriors do not get angry

Those who are good at defeating enemies do not engage them

Those who are good at managing people lower themselves

This is called the virtue of non-contention

This is called the power of managing people

This is called being harmonious with Heaven

The ultimate principle of the ancients

  • Tao Teh Ching


From Rambo to The Rock and from John Wayne to Jack Bauer, there is a brand of cinematic warrior that is not noted for patience, humility or self-control.  This brand of warrior wants action, now, no matter what, wants to show off, wants to assert control through demonstrations of strength.  This kind of action hero figure, fuelled by testosterone and adrenaline, is prevalent in our culture.

This tendency, however, represents precisely the opposite of authentic warriorship.  The warriorship of cultures with successful traditions of personal development is not only founded upon patience, humility and self-control- they have no concept of warriorship without these three elements.

Consider the Japanese warrior tradition, which defines patience as the restraint of the seven emotions.  Whatever else it may have gotten wrong, and there’s plenty, it was absolutely right in requiring patient self-control as the basic foundation of warriorship.  This quality manifests not only in unwavering endurance, but in constant and unwavering courtesy and control of emotions.  For a samurai to act out of anger if the action was not in harmony with their duty to their clan, or even to be impolite was considered a great failing.

Take Lord Toranaga, from James Clavell’s novel Shogun and the miniseries of the same name.  Toranaga is the most patient man in Japan.  He bides his time serving other warlords, waiting for the right opportunity to unite Japan under his own leadership.  He never reacts impulsively, unless doing so is strategically advantageous.  He curbs and directs the passions of his subordinates so that they do not interfere with the ultimate goal.

Katsumoto, of The Last Samurai, is a more down-to-earth example of self-control.  Whether before battle or in captivity awaiting execution, he remains patient, self-possessed, courteous.


2. Integrity and Alignment with Fundamental Principles

Personal integrity means everything to the warrior.  Integrity means, above all, being true to your own being.  Of course, this is meaningless if you have no idea of what you want to be, if you have no trajectory for self-cultivation, no understanding of your own bedrock principles.  Integrity does not mean simply following the rules.  It implies a deep moral centre, a willingness to stand by your principles, even in the face of opposition from people in authority.  It means that you avoid abusing whatever power and authority you have, and call out such behaviour when you see it.  It means putting principle ahead of personal interest, in some cases even ahead of one’s own life.  Integrity means seeking the truth and a commitment to standing up for it, as explained by Al Pacino in the clip below:


3. Compassion

There have been many codes of behaviour among warrior societies throughout the ages, some better than others.  The mistake common to most of these codes is summarised by Morihei Ueshiba, founder of Aikido:

“The Way of the Warrior has been misunderstood. It is not a means to kill and destroy others. Those who seek to compete and batter one another are making a terrible mistake. To smash, injure, or destroy is the worst thing a human being can do. The real Way of a Warrior is to prevent such slaughter – it is the Art of Peace, the power of love.” 

  • Morihei Ueshiba

We’ve mentioned principle as the foundation of a warrior’s life, but what principles?  There are some that are indispensible.  Truth is one; compassion is another.   A warrior is one who, in the words of Mr. Miyagi of the Karate Kids movies, has full respect for him or herself and for others, and acts accordingly.

The core values of a spiritual warrior- love, compassion, courage, hope, integrity, truth-seeking, simplicity, and everything that follows from them- are universal values by which everything else has to be measured.  An action is not good or bad because someone says so, but because it advances or inhibits these core values, not as an abstraction but in the living universe and between living beings.  By evaluating things in this way, a warrior not only develops independent moral insight and imagination, but the vision to value people and their actions independently of any institutional structure or goal.


4. Focus and Discipline

The Samurai were famous for using the principles of Buddhist meditation, and the single-pointed mental focus it cultivates, to improve their ability to do everything, from flower arranging and poetry to combat.  This same single-pointed focus, this ability to marshal all your attention in the present moment without unnecessary conscious thought, is exactly the warrior’s approach to every task in life- you will find that gathered attention in the present moment moves forward more incisively than hours of scattered thought.  Warriorship requires a conscious process of personal development in accordance with these principles, and as a result, on a day-to-day basis, purposeful living, purposeful actions, purposeful thinking.  Take, for example, this clip from The Last Samurai:


These principles of warriorship are indispensible for serious self-cultivation.  True, spiritual warriorship is single-minded dedication to life-giving principles.  It cannot coexist with conformity, ideology, undisciplined emotion, violent disposition or the will to dominate.  When you see or hear warriorship portrayed in the media, consider these principles, and decide whether what you are seeing is spiritual warriorship as advocated by all serious traditions of personal development, or a substitute designed to cater to adrenaline-charged emotionalism and provide normative support for some of the less enlightened aspects of our culture.  Tune in next Monday for the continuation of What is Warriorship Really?




“Spirituality? No, we don’t do that here.”- When Religious Institutions Go Wrong

In the spirit of our membership site’s upcoming unit on spirituality, we thought it was time for a little perspective on all the ingenious ways we humans find to avoid that very subject.  Religious institutions, or at least large parts of them, tend to become masters of the art of avoiding spirituality! 

The reason is simple- like many human institutions, religions often start with a powerful sense of purpose, but over time, people with vested interests make the institution less about that purpose than about them.  At that point, anything that might lead the membership to think that the institution is about more than the rules laid down by those in power becomes a liability. And spiritual life is the ultimate liability- after all, what person in power wants pesky little enlightened people popping up here, there and everywhere, upsetting the applecart and undermining their authority with inconveniences like truth, love and integrity?

That being the case, we thought we’d give you a short tour of some of the clever devices which religious institutions have come up with to avoid such a disastrous state of affairs.  As the saying goes, it is better to laugh than to cry, although we have to admit that sometimes it’s hard to know if these things are the product of Dostoevsky’s Grand Inquisitor in all of his diabolical sincerity.


Anyone who lives in North America has experienced moveable-letter church signs, from the pointed…


to the cringe-worthy…





to the laugh-out-loud hilarious.


We will be using these signs, along with a goodly selection of cartoons, to signpost our tour through the mind of corrupt religious institutions, and by extension, corrupt institutions everywhere.


The real danger to any corrupt institution is from within.  As the word ‘corrupt’ implies, the people occupying positions of authority are neither toeing the straight and narrow themselves nor are they particularly interested in finding out whether any of their peers are.  What they are all deeply interested in is making sure that no one else ever looks too closely, or if they do that they don’t find anything, or if they find something that they’re discredited, or if they’re not discredited that at least they can’t do anything about it.  To quote a much-loved British sitcom, “When you set the cat among the pigeons, you let the dog out of the bag.  If you spill the beans, you open a whole can of worms!”  In short, a sticky situation. 


If something bad has happened once, it’s probably happened more than once, and if it’s happened more than once, there may be something wrong with the system, and if there’s something wrong with the system, the whole house of cards could collapse.  That’s why certain other corrupt systems (the USSR) made it quite clear from the start that it was alright to criticize, but never to generalize.  It’s never the fault of the system.  That kept a lid on pesky critical thinking for a few decades, but since religious institutions don’t always have gulags and firing squads to make sure the people are minding their manners, other, rather more painful processes for burying cans of worms have been found- specifically, denial.



The first thing degenerate institutions do to help them in the cause of denial is to deprive their people of a central set of principles by which to evaluate the central principles and mission of the institution.  In a religious context, this means leaving people without the tools to evaluate the contents of their religious traditions.  That way, traditions go from ‘golden thread of wisdom reaching down to us from the ages’ to ‘anything that one of us thought or wrote in the past, no matter how moronic or trivial,’ until you get


Some have gone so far as to declare war on reason altogether.  Of course, reasoned faith is quite possible- but letting your people expose their faith to reason might turn up all sorts of nasty little inconsistencies and moral problems with the gospel-according-to-you, and is therefore to be avoided at all costs.


Cognitive dissonance is unavoidable in these situations where one has to declare war on morality, sense common or otherwise, and critical thought of any kind. Even so, religious institutions have realized that this is hardly a showstopper.  After all, the key to the propaganda machines of all totalitarian regimes has been not to persuade people, but simply to say something so often that it is accepted as true no matter how laughable it is, because no one dares to speak against what everyone else accepts as obvious truth- in short, new-think.




Division is a favorite tactic of institutions throughout the ages.  In the 19th Century, nascent European nation-states started wars because they believed that it was the best way to cement national identity.  The surest way to demarcate “us” is by identifying all the evil “them”s.


Playing the victim is a derivative of this tactic of division, except that rather than attacking the enemy you’ve identified directly, you can talk about how much he’s oppressing you.  The advantage here is that you can treat any attempt on his part to express an opinion different from your own as further oppression.  If you’re particularly talented, you can get so much credit for being that victim that the more violent and unreasonable your reactions, the more everyone will bend over backwards to placate you.



One of the surest signs of a religious milieu gone bad is that it will attempt to dictate the politics of its members.



Closely connected with trying to dictate the politics of their members, corrupt institutions will often seek to colonize territory- that is, to make themselves as exclusive as possible in a given area and turf out all other influences and ways of thinking,

Church activist




which is why after just a small taste of government by the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the world population distribution of Coptic Christians now looks like this:


Fear is the ubiquitous weapon of all institutions-gone-wrong, but where bosses and bankers can only threaten your money, religious institutions have a somewhat broader repertoire.  Hellfire and brimstone is the old favorite…




because it seems people are easily intimidated and will do anything to spend eternity with someone when they hear he’s thinking about spit-roasting them.


Another tactic is the attempt on the part of a religious institution to divorce its clergy, and even its membership at large, from genuine understanding and contact with the society around them.


true confession 512

When all else fails, when you have nothing else going for you, when the cognitive dissonance between your agenda and any sort of objective reason and morality is enough to make even Andrew Jackson baulk, dispense with the implied intimidation and just threaten to kill them.


Of course, there are certain strategies which almost guarantee that your institution won’t survive.  It’s alright to predict the end of days, for example, but if you give an exact date, well, you’ve just put an expiry date on your viability.  Of course, originators of doomsday cults aren’t in it for the long haul- they just figure that people are less likely to guard their wallets while they’re waiting for the rapture.




All joking aside, the point is not to vilify faith or the faithful (although many atheists make a self-serving and one-sided argument in that direction) but rather to bring home the point that religion tends to include two of humanity’s most dangerous weapons- institutions and ideas.  It’s important to test both when you’re looking for a spiritual home.  The blessing is that even in the most decrepit institution, there are small, unnoticed islands of sanity and grace.



~ Dr. Symeon Rodger


The Only Solid Foundation for Personal Development

Before we embark on any sort of endeavor in personal development, from physical fitness through spiritual life, there is one foundational concept we must assimilate.  Authentic ancient traditions know it as warriorship, although its application to war is quite secondary to its application to lifeIt was realized long ago that the qualities that make warriors most successful in conflict have a surprisingly broad application to the rest of life.

A warrior in the sense we’re talking about is not a tough guy, not anger-prone or violent or selfish, nor is he a soldier following orders without question.  Rather, true warriors live  life according to principles greater than themselves, and for that reason are resilient in every situation.  Real warriors leave aside identification with the ego, and yet stand up unwaveringly for their core principles.  Warriors improve themselves through focus, clarity and concentration upon principled goals, and improve society with the same qualities.  Here are a few of the basic tools of warriorship that can help you in any area of your life where you choose to apply them.



The Samurai were famous for using the principles of Buddhist meditation, and the single-pointed mental focus it cultivates, to improve their ability to do everything, from flower arranging and poetry to combat.  This same single-pointed focus, this ability to marshal all your attention in the present moment without unnecessary conscious thought, is exactly the warrior’s approach to every task in life.  You will find that gathered attention in the present moment moves you forward more incisively than hours of scattered thought.


Principled Life

Unlike many moral codes you may be familiar with, the code of the warrior is not a legal one, but an existential one.  The core values of a spiritual warrior- love, compassion, courage, hope, integrity, truth-seeking, simplicity, and everything that follows from them- are universal values by which everything else has to be measured.  An action is not good or bad because someone says so, but because it advances or inhibits these core values.  By evaluating things in this way, a warrior not only develops independent moral insight and imagination, but the vision to value people and their actions independently of any institutional structure or goal.  What’s more, the warrior begins to value substance over appearance, to demand that everything in his own life be real and solid.

Personal integrity

Personal integrity means everything to the warrior.  Integrity means, above all, being true to your own being.  Of course, this is meaningless if you have no idea of what you want to be, if you have no trajectory for self-cultivation.  Integrity does not mean simply following the rules.  It implies a deep moral center, a willingness to stand by your principles, even in the face of opposition from people in authority.  It means that you avoid abusing whatever power and authority you have, and point out such behavior when you see it.  It means keeping faith with everyone who depends on you, being open in your dealings with them and not participating in secret, underhanded or manipulative behavior.  Integrity implies impartiality and honesty in all your dealings, a refusal to mislead or misrepresent, a refusal to stand for favoritism or nepotism.  It also means refusing to condone or collaborate with any undertaking that will damage the community in which you live or cause undue hardship to any group.  It is impossible to have integrity without embracing the logic of courage.  Integrity also requires judgment, however, in knowing when to keep confidences and avoid unnecessary friction.

Warriorship requires a conscious process of personal development in accordance with these principles, and as a result, on a day-to-day basis, purposeful living, purposeful actions, purposeful thinking.  Have you ever been in the middle of some task and asked yourself why in the world you’re doing it?  The warrior asks that question before every task, and thus builds step by step a purposeful direction in life.  If he can’t think of a good reason to do something, he knows that it is time to change course.


We have talked about the power of belief, and that is exactly why it is so critical to have the power of an integral and beneficial set of beliefs and principles to guide you.


The ideal set of such principles will:

  •  Help you to organize your thoughts and create feeling states in a way that will be helpful to your process of self-realization
  •  Mediate your relationship with the world in such a way that you will always feel that you are contributing to it
  •  Provide reliable and strong guidance regarding what endeavors you will, and will not, undertake

Notice that one of the roles of principle is to maintain a right relationship with other people and with the world.  Napoleon Hill’s self-confidence formula stipulates, “I will engage in no transaction that does not benefit all whom it affects,” “I will induce others to serve me because I will first serve them,” and, “I will eliminate hatred, envy, jealousy, selfishness and cynicism by developing love for all humanity, because I know that a negative attitude toward others can never bring me success.”

This is a key starting point for a principled, resilient life.


An Open Mind

Cultivate an open mind.  An open mind is not bound to any ideology, but seeks that which is true and that which works.  Ideology is about imposing a set of rules and limits which alone have dominion and alone designate truth in a given area.  Idealism is about who we are, who we want to become, the impact we wish to have on the world, one choice at a time.


The Logic of Courage

Consciously discard the logic of fear in favor of the logic of courage, and learn to distinguish between them in every area of life.  Fear has the property of bypassing reason and provoking action – after all, the fight-or-flight response exists for situations in which there is no time to think.  The logic of fear promotes an existence in adrenaline-fueled survival mode, an existence of reaction and malice.  The logic of courage moves forward without wasting energy on the fear of anything that is not at hand, and actually relishes uncertainty, knowing that it will be victorious.


Love and Compassion

Cultivate compassion for the people around you and for humanity at large through specific actions, and preferably through prayer as well.  There is no higher calling or principle for a warrior than to serve love.  As you fall in love with love, you will begin to measure everything else by the criterion of love, since everything good and beneficial comes from and returns to love.


Straightforward Courtesy

Cultivate courtesy and personal straightforwardness.  These two may seem opposite, but as your vibrational level rises, you will find that this is not so.  Courtesy means responding to other people with respect for the divine spark that is within them and not according to our own external preconceptions or momentary feelings.  It means communicating encouragement, gratitude and respect whenever possible.  Straightforwardness means being honest and open about our feelings and intentions, as far as possible, and the reasons for our actions and decisions.  It is the property of a trustworthy person.



Have an idea of the person you want to become, the core values you wish to stand for, and how the two are related.  The difference between a true seeker living out an Authentic Ancient Tradition and everyone else is that the seeker knows that there are greater possibilities for realizing the divine potential of humanity than he or she has yet attained, and is moving toward attaining them.  Unless we are striving to grow in this sense, the rest of what we have said here is fundamentally meaningless.


A Call to Alignment

Warriorship is the art of aligning your whole being.  Just as the infantry phalanx of the ancient Greeks derived its power from having every man within it aligned with all the others so that it could move forward as a solid block, you can bring more of your personal power to, and derive more benefit from, any task or area of life when all your beliefs, mental, physical and spiritual powers are in alignment behind that effort.


As you focus on applying these principles to your own life, here’s a quick glimpse into the spirit of a true warrior.  Keep in mind that, although this particular warrior was also a martial artist, you can become a true warrior yourself even if you have no interest in anything combative:

 ~ Dr. Symeon Rodger

Winning Arguments and Seeking TRUTH in the Warrior’s World

We’ve all seen formal debates at one time or another, two rigid ideological positions locked in mortal combat.  You know in advance that neither party will be persuaded by the other’s arguments.  You can also bet that supporters of each side will post video clips of their guy from the debate on YouTube to support the point of view they already agree with.  Anyone watching who’s undecided will be presented with two polarized extremes, because neither side will soften or modify their position because of something the other side said – that would be showing weakness.

Debate is many things – a hobby to many, a ritualized demarcation of ideologies, an exercise in rhetorical skills that are sadly no longer taught in any other form – but above all, it is an illustration of how difficult it is to change your opponent’s mind through  intellectual argument.

It is human nature to embrace the opinions of the majority of whatever groups you belong to, and naturally you will believe that they are rational – after all, you’ve heard and thought about more arguments for than against them.  True intellectual integrity is bought at the price of an open mind – allowing yourself to release your ideological lines in the sand and follow the argument even if you don’t like where it’s going, take it on its own merits and only then think of ways in which it may be flawed.

But even this is not enough.  The core values of humanity – integrity, compassion and so many others that are at the core of who we are – do not come from rational empiricism.  If fact, rational empirical logic, in and of itself, cannot yield values or imperatives of any kind.  It is the imperatives that we choose that condition our logic.  We’ve talked before about the logic of courage versus the logic of fear.  Both can be perfectly logical and self-consistent and yet yield diametrically opposed conclusions.  The logic of the Newtonian worldview and the logic of personal development are likewise incompatible.  Positivist/materialist points of view and spiritual philosophies are ultimately speaking two different languages, and thus find it difficult even to find meaningful grounds of debate.

And that is exactly why rational argument is not enough.  All authentic ancient traditions hold that their core value is the development of the human person.  The criterion, therefore, for any truth that they profess can be verified through its positive impact on the state of human life.  The authentic teachings of these traditions are not abstract things thought up by the rational mind, but are deeply and inextricably linked to the essence and the proper functioning of the human organism in relation to the rest of the universe.  The teachings are verified by experience.

That, in turn, gives us a leg up, because we know that to really reach someone does not mean to out-argue them.  It means changing the values and imperatives that they’re starting from, by demonstrating the alternative.  This means both living out that alternative, and demonstrating it in our approach to discussion.


Discussion is fundamentally different from debate in that it is not a contest (well, depending on your personality profile!).   It’s an exchange of ideas.  The exchange of ideas between open minds should give both parties something to think about.  Just because I am sure of my core values doesn’t mean that I’ve thought of everything, or that I can’t profit by taking in other points of view.  I reflect on what I hear, and, if warranted, modify my thinking accordingly.  This sounds so obvious, but the open mind is increasingly a lost art in our polarized society.  Above all, your ego should not be at stake in discussion.  It’s not possible to successfully make the case for philosophies advocating kindness while your ego is on the line.


When making your case, it is helpful to structure your arguments to reach not just the rational mind, but the inner person.  To do this, you have to realize the other person’s emotional investment in their own beliefs and programming.  That means going slowly.  First of all, give them only as much as they can digest.  Start them on a line of thinking now that you intend to fill in much later, so that their subconscious has time to chew on it.  Give them a reason to be curious, to want to learn more.  Once they start genuinely asking questions, they’ve let down part of their emotional defense mechanism.

To get past the rest, they have to get to the point of making the decision, “I will follow this line of thought even if it makes me uncomfortable or upsets my beliefs, so that I can objectively assess its value.”  From there, the next step is to approach the imperative or core value which is the real difference between your positions.  Even this can be done indirectly, through stories and examples.


Remember that people bring their own filters, emotional traumas, personal histories, social prejudices and personalities to bear on every argument, and what you are saying is not necessarily what they’re hearing.  In public relations and advertising, it’s proverbial that you should consult the people who know your audience the best.  You can actually recruit your audience by not trying to give them the full, comprehensive picture.  Answer their questions, but don’t take every opportunity to hammer your own point home.  Give them the pieces, but let them put the puzzle together.  Realizations that people come to on their own are more powerful than outside arguments, because the person knows how to express it to themselves.  In other words, you farm out some of the work of constructing your case to those to whom you are speaking (or writing).


These approaches to making a case are designed to give the other person the best chance of letting their own internal guidance system come into play.  Each person really does have within their own being the tools they need to measure the truth of any important position.  Truth is not an intellectual proposition, but a living thing, life itself, and we know truth because our health as beings depends on it.  Thus, these tools are intended to bypass the emotional baggage that normally drowns out that inner guidance system.

All of these approaches carry corresponding personal value for us.  By being willing to let down our own emotional guard and ideological preconceptions and take in points of view – the more diverse the better – that make us uncomfortable, we can use them to sharpen and adjust our own points of view.  One of the most valuable things you can do is to study history, because history teaches us the vastness of diversity in human points of view, values and imperatives.  “The unexamined life is not worth living,” Socrates said.  We owe it to ourselves as seekers of the truth to value the little bits of truth we can find almost anywhere, because what is true enhances our being and that of everyone around us.  We likewise owe it to ourselves to understand the traps that have led so many people, now and throughout history, to abandon truth, love, compassion, integrity and everything else that is at the core of human realization.


The truly open mind is a rare gift, and the mind of a seeker must always be open.  It is for that reason that so many seekers arrive at truths that cut across the grain of popular society.  They defy conventional science, conventional medicine, conventional psychology, and they make it work.  They transcend the political spectrum and countless other mechanisms that are used to divide and simplify society.  The seeker does not fear complexity, because he has an inner compass with which to navigate it.

So, in the end, the only path to complete inner integrity and self-knowledge (and the incomparable health and life benefits that come from that) is the path where you relinquish your emotional attachment to what you think you know and remain open to what is really true.  This extraordinarily uncomfortable place of UNKNOWING is something that all of us must pass through.  And it is then and only then that TRUTH can reveal itself to you.  And it will do so.  It cannot NOT reveal itself to you at that point, because universal law says it must.

Alas, very few people have a burning desire to discover TRUTH.  That burning desire is the only reliable mark of the true Warrior.

~ Dr. Symeon Rodger 🙂


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