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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

Never Before Revealed: Resilience Secrets of the Hobbit…

[Spoiler Alert – book and movie!]

“In a hole in the ground, there lived a Hobbit…”

…and you find true resilience in the unlikeliest of places!

J.R.R. Tolkien created the hobbits to represent everything stable and ordinary and decent about rural Britain.  Hobbits tend their farms and eat too much and have fun, but are absolutely harmless and uninterested in adventures or the affairs of the Big People.

And yet, in The Hobbit, the fate of three kingdoms will hang on the actions of Bilbo Baggins, just as the fate of the entire world will hang on his nephew Frodo in Lord of the Rings.  It all comes down to a mysterious decision by Gandalf, the great wizard.  Thirteen dwarves intent on wresting their mountain kingdom from the evil dragon, Smaug, have need of the services of a burglar.  This dragon is a creation of Morgoth, a fallen higher being and the worst threat the world had ever faced; there are suggestions in the Silmarillion that dragons themselves may be spiritual creatures turned to Morgoth’s side.  Gandalf would know- he himself is a higher being, called into the world by Galadriel.  Having taken up human form, his mission is to protect the world from the next foray by the dark powers.  That means Smaug and his kind.  Gandalf’s answer?


Gandalf decides to back thirteen vagrant dwarvish warriors and their forlorn quest.  But, he emphasizes, the quest may depend on securing the services of someone even more formidable- a hobbit.  This decision to counter a fire-breathing dragon with a creature whose main concerns to that point had been eating, drinking, pipe-smoking and gardening might seem rather odd.  Even stranger, Bilbo’s role was to be The Burglar.  Not only was he no warrior, he most likely hadn’t stolen anything more than a few peeps at the neighborhood girls.

Bilbo certainly thought little of the idea: “We don’t want any adventures here- nasty, inconvenient uncomfortable things.  Make you late for dinner.”  Gandalf, however, would not take no for an answer and invited thirteen dwarves to dinner at Bilbo’s to make him listen to the whole thing.  You see, Gandalf knew that, once presented with the whole picture, Bilbo wouldn’t be able to bring himself to refuse.


But what made this hobbit ideal for his pivotal role?

Bilbo was stalled in his own personal development, so much so that he saw no need to develop.  But although stalled, he was neither corrupt nor cynical.  He had the values of an ordinary, decent person, and this is why he first embarks on and then sticks with the quest.  He doesn’t want to go- but the thought of turning down the opportunity to see the world and be part of something really significant was too much for him.  Although hardship does tempt him to abandon his friends, Bilbo chooses to stick with them when they are confronted with orcs and giant wolves, precisely because they don’t have a home to go back to as he does.  Bilbo was willing to sacrifice for his friends.

Zhuge Liang, Chinese strategist, administrator and polymath, once wrote, “Straight trees are found in remote forests; upright people come from the commons. Therefore when rulers are going to make appointments they need to look in obscure places.”  Gandalf certainly couldn’t have picked a more obscure place than the Shire and Bilbo is more “upright” – meaning he has more character and can be relied on to do the morally right thing where others would cave in to their own short-term convenience – than many of his fellow adventurers.


Bilbo’s second asset is his immensely flexible mindset.  Whatever circumstance he is dropped into, he reacts with presence of mind and does whatever needs doing to move forward.  If that means playing a game of riddles with a wizened schizophrenic cannibal in a dark cave, he goes along with it.  If it means charging a wolf to rescue his friend, he’ll do that.  If it means flattering a dragon silly to get it to delay eating him and reveal the chink in its armour he’ll do that.  If it means negotiating the dwarves’ mistrust and doubts with some hard-headed bargaining, he’ll do that.  If it means discussing the culinary vices of roast dwarf with three trolls until the sun rises, he’ll do that.  He keeps putting one foot in front of the other, and when he’s at his wits’ end, he changes the rules.  During the riddle game, Bilbo is one riddle away from being eaten and can’t think of another riddle, so he asks Gollum what he has in his pockets- breaking the rules of the game, but putting off being devoured.

Bilbo’s no great fighter, nor does he have any non-culinary talent worth mentioning other than this ability to be dropped into any situation and come back again better than he arrived.  That last bit is important, because it isn’t just ingenuity that gets Bilbo out of tight squeezes – it’s the universe rooting for him.  He’s open to what comes his way, and while it can get him into trouble, it saves his life several times.  He isn’t relying only on himself, and it is for that exact reason that he always comes out of a situation a little better than he arrived in it.


There is a rather weak scene in the film where Gandalf attempts to explain to the beautiful Galadriel exactly why a hobbit is necessary baggage on this mission.  The truth is that Gandalf does not like to, and until his transformation into Gandalf the White generally will not, rely on great power or might to do his work.  Good, as he says, is found in the little people of the world, not in armies or empires, and in order to work for the good, Gandalf will always rely on a small and unlikely band of people armed with courage, faith and sharp wits (your mileage may vary) and bound by integrity over armies or magic.  That his closest friend among his own order is the bird dropping-adorned naturalist Radagast reinforces this bent in Gandalf’s character.


On the other side, of course, there’s Bilbo, middle-aged, comfortable, not accomplishing anything in particular when Gandalf shows up.  Gandalf has faith that given the opportunity, this anonymous little scrap of hobbit will rise to the occasion.  He doesn’t force Bilbo to go, but he has faith that Bilbo will, not for the gold, not to have his name remembered or even because he particularly wants to but because the dwarves have given him something to believe in, a chance to matter, an opportunity to help their whole nation.   Without that chance, and without Gandalf’s belief and persistence, he would have remained just as he was until the end of his days.  With it, his actions lead to the downfall of the enemy of all life.

Throughout Tolkien’s work, Hobbits are the poster children for resilience and the certainty that ordinary, decent people can do surprising, amazing things when given the chance to do something that matters.


Dwarvish Brittleness


The Dwarves are an effective counterpoint to Bilbo’s form of resilience.  While on the face of it, the dwarves seem in every way tougher and more resilient than the hobbit, the reverse is true.

On the one hand, the dwarves are strong, courageous, extremely determined and have kept their cause alive throughout long years of wandering and exile.  But this limited form of resilience is offset by a rigidity that renders them extremely brittle, particularly where their leader Thorin is concerned.


Thorin sets out with twelve loyal companions to recapture his grandfather’s kingdom, showing courage and faith.  But he frequently quarrels with Gandalf, a rather powerful being and his most important ally.  When Gandalf proposes they take Bilbo, Thorin disputes the choice, and will continue to doubt and quarrel with Bilbo throughout the journey, even once Bilbo has repeatedly proven his worth.  Thorin likewise does everything possible to avoid getting any help at all from the elves, near-immortal beings of immense knowledge, at least some of whom might have been willing to assist the dwarves.  Thorin is bitter that the elves who lived near his homeland didn’t charge into certain death in a hopeless attempt to save the dwarves from Smaug, and this feeling extends to all elves, including the ones who weren’t there.  This inflexibility will continue to get Thorin into trouble, to the point where his admitted virtues will not be able to save him (I did remember to put a spoiler alert at the top, didn’t I?  Anyway, read the book.)


We hear that Thror, Thorin’s grandfather and king-under-the-mountain, was corrupted by his love of gold and of the Arkenstone, a gem found within the mountain.  Thror was deluded into believing that his kingdom was eternal, and not only ended up with few friends in the outside world, but attracted a creature even more gold-hungry than himself.  After Smaug drove him out of his kingdom, Thror spent the rest of his life fighting hopeless battles until at last, even his armour-plated beard couldn’t save him.  The dwarves united to avenge his death, and though they won in battle against the orcs, the dwarves were severely weakened.  Perhaps it is no accident that when Thorin attacks Azog, the orc who killed Thror, the theme music is the same used for the Ringwraiths in The Lord of the Rings trilogy.  This pattern of rigidity, insularity, greed and general inability to get along with people who are on their side continues for the dwarves until Galadriel finally manages to get through to Gimli in Fellowship of the Ring.


Consider the Following


We all know a great many “hobbits” and a few “dwarves”.  In this world, the “hobbits” are not only looked down upon, they are taught to look down on themselves.  How many do you know that are ripe for new challenges and a more meaningful life?  What can you do to help?  How many people around you could do something extraordinary if given the chance?  How many are so far gone that they wouldn’t even believe in the possibility?  How can you help to restore their faith in themselves?

On the other hand, how many people do you know who have fallen prey to the tendencies which dog Thorin, and are suffering for it, some without even knowing it?  Chances are, a number of them are in leadership positions, and a number of others are collapsing into a state of bitterness.  What can you do to help them?


The Hobbit and the Dwarf, in fact, represent two sides of the resilience coin and both are necessary.  Another way of describing this that we’ve used before is the “Yin” and “Yang” of resilience:

The Dwarves are all too much “Yang” in their approach – they have the determination, ferocity and bravado, as well as the physical skills to match.  Yet they’re not entirely in charge of their own thinking – all too easily they’re carried away by their own prejudices, assumptions and preconceived ideas.  They allow their own eyes to deceive them.  And they don’t always have the character to do the right thing even when that’s damned inconvenient.

The average Hobbit, being much more “Yin” in his approach, does have that character and, when the moment arises, that character is what allows him to rise to the occasion in an astounding way.  He is far less the prisoner of his own limited vision and his temper seldom gets the better of him.  Now, let’s be clear; Bilbo could use a healthy dose of the Dwarves’ warrior skills, no doubt about it!  However, those skills can be taught and learned much easier than character and mastery of one’s emotions.

As we cultivate our own resilience day in and day out, we need to be conscious of precisely this “yin-yang” balance in our approach.  Some of us think resilience will come entirely from working out at the gym.  Others of us expect it to come exclusively from our meditation sessions.  In both cases we’re fooling ourselves – we need to strive for this balance in our training.

~Dr. Symeon Rodger 

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 🙂

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!

Honor – the Heart of Resilience

Continuing with our series on the three key virtues of the Warrior, the three that make for an exceptionally resilient life, we arrive at honor.  

Anyone familiar with Star Trek’s Klingon Empire will have heard that word thrown around a lot.  Unfortunately, not all of Star Trek’s writers knew anything about Warrior cultures and how they function, so the ideas of honor they sometimes wrote into scripts for their Klingon characters were terribly misleading.  Fortunately, General Chang is one Klingon who hits the nail on the head:

As I said, the concept of honor has been perverted just as often as duty has, and not just in the Klingon Empire, but in real human cultures.  The Samurai fell into the trap of equating defeat with dishonor and with an unbearable shame on an entire family.  Some religious perversions talk about honor killing to avenge a perceived slight.  And, most common of all, the totally false notion that honor, like duty, involves blindly following orders – the infamous defense of Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg.  Of course, we’re not interested in those false ideas of honor. 

Establishing Your Honor

Before you can guard your honor, you have to establish it.  You can’t protect what you don’t have.  Establishing your honor comes through a determination to do the right thing, even under the most difficult circumstances That’s why Chang calls it, “the absolute, unselfish dedication to all virtues; to truth, to courage, to forthrightness.  It encompasses all these, and yet it is greater.”

So, if you want to have honor, then:

1. Speak the truth… and demand that the whole truth be told, boldly and bluntly

2. Do your duty to the utmost of your ability 

3. Do not allow yourself to be dragged into the disgraceful conduct of others

In our public life we’re now living in a time when honor seems to be vanishing.  Despite the many fine, unselfish people we have the good fortune of knowing in our personal lives, our public life is increasingly marked by lies, deceit and manipulation.  It’s a shadowy world of half-truths designed for the advantage of the unworthy and the unscrupulous.  Yet without a commitment to honor as individuals and as a civilization, we cannot survive… nor would we deserve to.  

So part of honor is to oppose the lies of public life, to speak the truth and demand that the whole truth be spoken.  Not an easy task, and one that’s sure to get you into trouble.  Do you have the guts for that?  Every Warrior must.  Kapla!

~ Dr. Symeon Rodger

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