The Constitution of a Traditional Society: Warriors (I)

Part II ⇒


This is part I on the role of the Warrior caste in a Traditional Society. Here Guido De Giorgio describes the role of the warrior caste and its relationship to the priestly caste. He then relates that to the Great War and and the Lesser War.

In the active life, they are the bearers of power and therefore constitute the second caste of traditional society whose duty is the maintenance of activity guided by virtue. We say power only in the arena of the active life because in the contemplative life, true power is manifested in its highest reality, from the invisible to the visible, from the divine to the human, and thus represents the supreme authority that belongs to the priestly caste. Power in the active life is realized by giving a sacred character to every manifestation; hierarchically organized, the Warriors sacrifice themselves in order to remove the purely contingent aspect from human activity and to make it a kind of need that is accepted by consciously sacrificing themselves for the fulfillment of divine reality. They are the hosts of the earth and choose the most difficult path in it, keeping the sanctity of the intent unbroken in the pang of the most intense activity by virtue of a continual ascesis that is a purification and a preparation for glory. Since the Warriors reach glory that makes them the victors of the time in perpetuity that is immortalized for ages and their name is preserved as the constant example of sacrifice. They choose to be victims to affirm the victory of man over death even where death reigns: voluntary and active victims, arbiters of their destiny, aware of the transience of the flesh and the perpetuity of their example. As everything pivots on the contemplative life for the Priests, so for the Warriors everything is based on the active life because they constitute its summit and its law. In fact, the active cycle reflects the contemplative, and as the death of the human is the prelude necessary to the fruition of higher states, so the Warrior lives in order to die in the awareness that everything is vanity except victory over death, which is also the seal of glory.

They obey a purely interior discipline that purifies the passions, exalts them, and directs them toward a single end, the affirmation of power in the intensive deployment of a force that acts materially, but has its origin in the world of Rhythms. As the spiritual and the noetic dominate in the Priests, in the Warriors the psychic dominates, the hidden network of Rhythms that heighten human possibilities creating the heroic turmoil which, like a flame, nurtures the great warrior virtues.

No one, more that the Warrior, is averse to Silence, to the world of the Spirit, because he voluntarily chose the active life in its most violent form to set his strength against it, to defeat it with his own violence, exalting his hidden energies and carrying the Rhythms to such a high tonality that it encroaches on the Forms and bends them integrally, surpassing them. We observe that this overflowing of strength cannot be absolutely effective without a true and proper ascesis, a self-denial in every moment for self- assertion only in victories, unless this assertion has the aspect of rhetorical jubilation, but rather it is like the blossoming of now equalized warrior virtues, recognized in the flower of all the activity precisely because surpassed and triumphant. While all other men compromise, they are the intransigents, those who make the obstacle the prize of their strength, for which the cement is the sanctification of man: they know that only death can placate them, so in confronting it, they escape it, and in escaping it, they confront it because it comes only when the peak of power is reached in the peak of abandonment.

In this sense, peace is their war and war is their peace. They are appointed by the Priests who sanction them the sacred character of their activity with the rite, which is uniquely directed to self-sacrifice as an offering of all of the active life on the threshold of contemplation, a sacrificial purge of the existence that is continued even after death, and even after death. While the contemplative death that is faced by the Priests can neither be seen nor understood by the masses of men who, as we said, believe but do not know, they do get a glimpse of, but do not understand, the degrees of integrative knowledge, while the death faced by the Warriors is visible to all; it reflects, in an active place, the former and is carried out, analogically like the former, with a sacrifice whose value for men is as much higher as it is more apparent. But while this sacrifice is fixed plastically for the masses that relive it in its most conspicuous phases, its secret rhythm and intimate character elude them. In the Warrior the active life asserts itself by exalting itself and in the fierce heroic heat, it denies itself: in fact, the force that animates the Warrior is love in its most destructive capacity and devotion in its most constructive form: love and devotion constitute the warrior cycle which is that of triumphant virility. While knowledge dominates for the Priests, for the Warriors, love dominates, because all their strength is a type of offering in a continuous dissatisfaction that is satisfied only with death. While they cannot know the divine world, they love it and tend to it, climbing over human limitations with a constant overcoming of Rhythms over Form, of the psychic over the organic that it sustains, it increases a hundredfold the resistance to the obstacle and the force that surpass it, establishing a formidable aura of secret flashes that the ancients symbolized with the real, but invisible, divine assistance of the heroes.

The Forms, in heroic action, undergo a greater or lesser inflection in accordance with the intensity of the Rhythms that make them jump, by encroaching on them, replacing them, fringing them, so to say, with an imprecision that makes them more indefinable, while the Warrior himself is dragged, aware only of the sanctify of his sacrifice, in an always more overwhelming turmoil that is crowned, while filling up with death. But we can say here that love defeats death as glory defeats time, not in the absolute sense that is realized only through the knowledge and in the knowledge which dissolves every duality in the integral fulfillment of the divine.

It is necessary now to speak of the great and the small war to make precise the two fields of active contemplation and heroic activity.

The Great War is the development of the being in the surpassing of human conditions that are first confronted and then surpassed, destroyed, transformed, and resolved only in the divine sphere: the enemy to defeat is the man who must be struck centrally in himself: the field of action is his own heart that must be emptied of every dross: victory is that of truth over ignorance, of divine reality over cosmic and human illusion that is dispersed with the realizing knowledge just as the fog breaks up in the sun without residue, and that which disappears had never existed in reality. Victory in the Great War is Divine Solitude, the decisive summit of every ascesis where nothing remains except pure aseity and what in Him is absolute ineffability. The starting point of the Great War is the non-duality of the human and the divine: the destination is divine unity: but since what vanishes is not a reality but only ignorance, once this is dispersed, only what always was remains, that cannot be said of the transient, but only and uniquely of the eternal.

Now this victory, which is the only real and definitive victory of Life over death, which, for simplification, we say call the resolute peak, while in the reality of its development it is manifested as a difficult complexity of states, it requires such a concentrated force, a task so resolute of the whole being who must be transfigured in a succession of progressive realizations, from being able to be produced only in externally favorable conditions, not that these are the necessary principle, but practically they become so. Hence, the isolation of the Temple for the priest, of the remote place for the ascetic, the hermitage and finally an ensemble of conditions that favor and facilitate this which is the highest and the holiest of all rites, the most heroic of all actions, and the most perfect of all tasks, the killing of man in the Law of God, the real abandonment of Rhythms and Forms dissolving in the allness of Silence. Now evidently whatever type of action is contrary to a similar achievement, and every rhythm must be recomposed, every whirlwind assuaged for the achievement of the Great Peace that is the true Victory of the Great War. The enemies to defeat in fact are so numerous, so terrifying, the dangers to avoid, the states to revive so repetitive and successive, that only the integral cessation of every activity can make victory possible. It is about surpassing the human and the cosmic in all their forms and in all their rhythms, to remake the creative process in the reverse path, to lead to where God formed man with His breath, to be able to initiate the paradisiacal cycle. This is the model barely noticed for the Great War that constitutes the traditional secret, the sacred deposit held in trust by those who know, i.e., the Priests.

One can understand from that how much this caste surpasses all the others and is not, almost the truth, a caste, but a true and proper supercaste, because of its absolute preeminence. Thus its supreme authority, its consecrating, legitimating power, the dependence of the three castes on it, the justification of their existence, because nothing that is accomplished by men has value in reality if it is not sealed by the divine spirit.

Now the Warriors themselves are consecrated by the Priests, nor can they not be, without ceasing to belong to their caste since the war that they fight must represent a reduced version of the Great War in order to be legitimate, it must lose, i.e., the external character and conquer a deep meaning that justifies its attainment. The Warriors therefore submit themselves to an inner discipline, to a true and proper ascesis that will consist in their depassionalization so that by killing, they know how to kill themselves, by defeating, to defeat one themselves self, by considering the enemies as victims, in the sacred sense, and not as flesh from the slaughterhouse, by respecting them as themselves, by passing over the carnage with the love that redeems, over the contaminations with the purity that justifies, over death, and over atrocity of death with the consciousness that nothing can die because nothing can be born, only the eternal existing in its inaccessible reality.

10 thoughts on “The Constitution of a Traditional Society: Warriors (I)

  1. Pingback: Understanding The Warrior Archetype - Social Matter

  2. I think there are some good scenes dealing with the relationship between the First (spiritual elite) and Second (warrior nobility) castes in the Japanese movie ‘Zen’ about Master Dogen. See, for example, the part starting from 1:28:24 and lasting until Dogen returns to his temple.

    https://youtu.be/8s5Uz8XSc-Y

    Notice how the Zen master’s non-acting spiritual power prevails over the Shogun. The warrior-leader had the power even to kill the master if he so desired, but in the end it is the latter who wields the purest authority and who, indeed, is the true master of the former in terms of the essential hierarchy, and who may save him when he goes astray.

  3. Gandalf in a powerful scene that was not included in the final movie adaption of “The Return of the King”:

    “A thousand years this city has stood. Now at the whim of a madman it will fall. And the White Tree, the tree of the king, will never bloom again.”

    “Why are they still guarding it?”

    “They guard it because they have hope. A faint and fading hope that one day it will flower. That a king will come and this city will be as it once was before it fell into decay. The old wisdom borne out of the West was forsaken. Kings made tombs more splendid than the houses of the living and counted the old names of their descent dearer than the names of their sons. Childless lords sat in aged halls musing on heraldry or in high, cold towers asking questions of the stars. And so the people of Gondor fell into ruin. The line of kings failed. The White Tree withered. The rule of Gondor was given over to lesser men.”

    In Tolkien’s world the race of Men represents the warrior caste, and the Elves the priestly caste. As the end of the world approaches, many men become corrupted by their own mortality which would have otherwise been a source of great heroism and glory, and the Elves do not wish to take action but prefers to withdraw and isolate themselves contemplating what is eternal as if no external events concerns them. The Elves come to believe that the worlds destiny is inevitable and that resisting it is pointless, however man at the brink of destruction, by remembering the meaning of death as a gift of men, sees that there is nothing to loose and everything to win, with the fate of men’s souls unknown even to the wisest. There are no shortages of battles, and even the “living dead” – believing in nothing – out of the despair of what they have become, are bound to answer the call of the Emperor where he to return. A role of the still remaining Elves includes awakening the King to his quest and to help provide the sign and means by which to conquer, reforging the broken sword that they have safe kept throughout the ages.

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  5. Personally, I find little reason to comment on De Giorgio’s writings because they are so full of wisdom I have nothing more to add than to just nod my head and learn from him.

  6. Di Giorgio is a genius, and those translation are a gift from the Holy Spirit. Thank you.

  7. Ever since reading that brief introduction to De Giorgio in Evolas’ “Road of Cinnabar” (under “My Explorations of Origin and Tradition”) I have hungered for De Giorgio translations of “outraged and aggressive letters, strewn with brilliant insights”. My praise extends to Cologero for his selfless task in making these works a possibility.
    I get that sense of magic once more when reading this mans work, whose absolutist spirit is most congenial to my own character.

  8. Seconded – I believe there is not much to add, and the meditation may take a lifetime. The Trinity is partially ordered after caste, with the Father as the archetype, or Person without which Godhood does not exist, the Son as the executor or warrior (this is more clear in Revelation), and the Spirit as the silent partner who upholds everything. A case could be made for switching Spirit and Son, depending on how you view it. If God has caste-like orderings, what hope do mortals have to escape from it?
    This was a beautiful translation.

  9. Wow! That was intense! Cologero, you mentioned in your earlier post that comments have declined by 50% since you started posting translations of de Giorgio. If everyone is like me, it may be due to being awestruck after reading materials like this. Thank you for making these translations available!

  10. Pingback: Warriors (I) | Meditations on the Tarot

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