By Carol S. Pearson
Warriors generally are associated with two kinds of courage: (1) the ability to fight to protect themselves and (2) setting goals and developing the strength and skills to accomplish them. If we do not have enough access to the Warrior archetype, we may let other people push us around, lack direction, or fail to achieve our goals because we do not persist. Too much Warrior and every interaction becomes a contest—we want what we want and insist on getting it whatever the cost to others or to our relationships.
The Warrior archetype is very active in the world today, suggesting that getting it right is a challenge that is calling to many of us and to our social systems. The elemental Warrior plotline involves a hero and a villain to be vanquished. You can think of Warrior figures in stories that are literally about war or, in entertainment, conflicts between the good guy and bad guy, including Western shoot-em-ups, and battles against crime, often with lots of chase scenes. The major prop in these stories is a weapon of some kind, and the fight ends with one side being killed or captured.
The Warrior archetype has become so dominant today that in the U.S. we tend to use war story labels to define problems. For example, we’ve had a War on Drugs, a War on Poverty, a continual War on Crime, and now a Culture War—even though none of these are wars that can be won simply by going after the bad guys causing the problem. Considering our cultural differences as a war encourages citizens to identify with one side or the other (or check out), identify their group with the hero, and see the other side as the villain to be vanquished. Of course, this process makes reasoned debate difficult, as is generally true when the good/bad level of the Warrior is triggered. The Warrior archetype is not only active in all sides of this culture, but it is active in somewhat different forms within all of them—some more mature and developed than others.
Primal Warrior: From Hunter to Warrior
The Warrior as an archetype may have evolved from hunters turning their skills to new uses. For example, the abilities needed to hunt animals developed into those that helped hunter/Warriors conquer new lands for their people to inhabit and gain access to needed food supplies, water, or other necessities. It also helped those who fought back against these invaders, just as they would with fierce wild animals charging into a village. Modern imperialism is similar in its underlying pattern. Even today, some wars are imperialistic and some defensive, to protect against attack. At the same time, some Warriors are ruthless killers or mercenaries, while others fight for love of their country, go back for their comrades, treat those they capture with dignity, and prevent civilian casualties as best they can. Where any of us falls on our balance of self-interest and altruism affects this difference in degrees as well as in an absolute polarity.
At present, our war stories are evolving. The old idea of war as good country against bad country has eroded, and, even with comic book-style Superheroes, our good guys often are flawed and the bad guys have some good in them. The War on Terror is essentially a battle against networks of various kinds, not countries, and warfare has now begun to be carried out in cyberspace and in economic competition. It has been clear for some time that with the invention and proliferation of nuclear weapons, war must become an anachronism, if we do not want to end the world as we know it. In our personal lives, more and more of us—guys as well as gals—are growing up being told by our parents and teachers to use our words, not our fists, to resolve conflict.
Warrior Sports, Business, and Religion
The war story also exists as a metaphor in sports such as football, which mimics imperialist aggression, and in virtual wars (such as in video games of various sorts). Free market capitalism’s focus on competition can become warlike when people in business talk of making a killing, defeating the competition, hauling out the tanks, and so on. Corporate takeovers of other businesses sometimes have an imperialistic character to them, as one business conquers another and assimilates it into itself. As with soldiers, some Warriors in business are ruthless, seeking to make money and win at any cost, while others may be fiercely competitive yet concerned for the welfare of their workers, their communities, and the environment. If you or I get caught up and think we will die if we do not reach our goal or defeat the competition, we have been pulled into war story thinking.
Warrior Christianity teaches that there is a battle going on between God and Satan, and it is important to be on the winning side lest Hell await, and the Warrior side of all the Abrahamic religions engages in wars against evil on behalf of God. Whether we are religious or not, if we see ourselves as the moral winners engaged in a contest for the soul of our country against the forces of evil, we may find this a slippery slope into demonizing those we disagree with.
The Warrior Paradigm in Government and Public Policy
The Preamble to the United States Constitution declares that two purposes of our government are to “provide for the common defense” and “promote the general welfare.” The Warrior archetype specializes in the former. When a problem arises, Warriors identify the threats and then seek to eliminate them. In government, the Warrior generally is hawkish in international affairs, harsh on crime, and cares deeply about protecting national borders—in the extreme, viewing undocumented people essentially as invaders. Primal Warriors also emphasize the right of citizens to carry guns and argue that the way to maintain peace is through the deterrent of maximizing the nuclear stockpile and other weapons of mass destruction. In Warrior politics, the goal is to defeat the other party and, to that end, propaganda may replace truth, leading to the epidemic of fake news. However, the Warrior also can fight for values such as “truth, justice, and the American way.” The goal can be to preserve the best of the past or to move toward a vision of the future. In such cases, the enemy is not the other party; rather, it is ignorance, and the weapon is truth.
Beware the Wimp
The Warrior calls us to man or woman up, take stands, work hard, and have a stoic willingness to suffer, if necessary, to get what we want or to defend ourselves or others when we need to do so. The Warrior values strength and fears being, or seeming to be, a wimp. Collectively, Warriors often share a belief that competition, sports, and military service build such strength. Beyond that, Warriors believe in the way boot camp makes wimps strong enough to be soldiers and, similarly, that people need consequences, or else they will wimp out and not work hard. That is why some Warriors are even against helping the poor or providing health insurance: people die in war, and in civic life, they also die if they do not work hard enough to meet their basic needs. For such Warriors, winning the economic war with other nations is signaled by growth in the GDP or a bullish stock market—even if more and more people are poor and suffer or die. After all, in an actual war, casualties are to be expected in the service of victory.
Warrior Evolution Through Archetypal Partnership
Warriors who also have access to the Sage archetype believe in taking action based on verifiable truth. They can view threats not so much as bad people doing bad things, but rather as systemic problems with multiple causation. The immediate threats they notice can then expand to include issues like climate change, pollution, or growing economic inequality. Similarly, they may view people who do harmful things in the context of their lives and of our society, looking to understand their motivations. For the prison population, they consider what a path forward might be for rehabilitation, just as they consider the issue of undocumented immigrants in the context of immigrants’ home countries, why they left them, their match with the needs of the economy, and what they can contribute or what harm they might do.
The Warrior with Caregiver cares about threats to the survival, health, and happiness of individual people and groups. In this context, the Warrior/Caregiver develops strength in our citizenry through capacity development—education and job training, health care, and mandating safe living and working conditions—as well as caring for all those who cannot care for themselves. The Warrior/Caregiver, overall, balances self-interest and altruism, thus promoting the Constitution’s goal of “promoting the general welfare” and delivering on the promise of “liberty and justice for all.”
In partnership with the Magician—for example, in the Star Wars movies—the bad guys are the fascist, cruel Warriors and the rebels are energized by the power of The Force (Magician). Wonder Woman’s magic infuses Warrior superpowers with love; her lasso makes people tell the truth, and her bracelets deflect aggression. In the 2017 Wonder Woman movie the Amazonian hero is caught up in World War I and becomes determined to kill Ares, the god of war, and thus end forever all the pain and suffering he causes. Although she does not use archetypal language, she learns that killing Ares does not end war because warlike impulses are embedded within people. In the language of this blog, this means that you cannot kill an archetype, but archetypes can evolve along with human consciousness. In her identity as Diana Prince, Wonder Woman ends the movie with this statement of her new mission:
I used to want to save the world. To end war and bring peace to mankind. But then, I glimpsed the darkness that lives within their light. I learned that inside every one of them, there will always be both. . . . Now I know. Only love can save the world. So I stay. I fight, and I give. . . . This is my mission now. And forever.
The idea of ending war through the power of love isn’t new. Jesus was on to it, as were many other wise spiritual teachers in various traditions. Most of us want peace on earth; the question is how to attain it.
In the 2018 film A Wrinkle in Time, Meg, a rather timid young girl, is called to save her father, who is trapped in the far reaches of the universe. Meg is told she must be a warrior, but not the “kill-the-enemy” kind. The enemy is “It,” a murky, dark power source that is transforming people into robot-like creatures living in prescribed ways, motivated by a lust for power. Meg’s little brother has gone over to the dark side, and her father is trapped there as well. The magical weapon that Meg wields is love, a love powerful enough to defuse “It” and turn her brother back into his wonderful, fully human self, while also freeing her father.
Love has always been present in the Warriors who are willing to die to protect the people they love, or even the road warriors who will work so very hard to provide for their families. The Warrior already has evolved into many new forms that do not involve killing one another, and right now, many are fighting for love as caring for others, along with the right to love who you love, for love of the earth, for love of truth, for love of the Divine and of country, even if we do not always agree with one another about what any of these demand of us.
The point here is that the Warrior, like any archetype, is not good or bad. However, some forms of an archetype are no longer appropriate for the times or for the quality of consciousness of people within a culture or subgroup within it. Some also are wrong or right for you or me. The current time offers us the opportunity to participate in the archetype’s evolution by how we choose to live it. In doing so, we can see that we do not need to be at war with others in our country. We are all on the Warrior team to some degree, playing different positions. We just need to talk with one another about what we see as the most pressing threats and where we need to use force, where we need to provide support, where we need to use our words, and when the magic of love is required to win the day for everyone.
The Warrior archetype evolves as we do, so:
- Do you need less or more Warrior to deal with a current threat or challenge?
- Where do you see the Warrior in yourself and in what you think and do?
- What forms of the Warrior do you see in yourself and people around you, and how is their influence affecting you?
- How might you like your inner Warrior to change and evolve in its attitudes and behaviors?
- How might this change affect outcomes for you and those around you?