When we speak of the warrior of ancient culture, we are speaking, paradoxically, of the artist and the thinker. Egill Skallagrímsson, a Viking Age warrior known for his brutality, was also a poet — and the first to compose in Old Norse using end rhyme (rather than rhyming at the beginning of sentences). Likewise, as I’ve mentioned before, celebrated samurai Miyamoto Musashi was also a painter and a calligrapher.
Classical civilizations have found great depths in man — in spirituality, ritual, theology, in brotherhoods, in training for battle, in family, the arts, ethics, and so on — and outside of man — sacred sites where a god or saint had lived; in the classical and ancient belief that the world was Created by God; or created from the slaughtered body of a giant; in the Tao; in natural law as proof of God’s existence, and so on.
Classical and ancient civilizations, in other words, resolved the contradictions that exist within and characterize great men and women. And it resolved those contradictions by providing a type of education that embraced contradiction itself, teaching hard and soft arts — war and poetry, etc. — and making those who advanced on the Way larger than life as ordinary men understand it.
Moreover, it resolved the contradiction not only internally but between the internal and the external, between the great man and the world around him, which it presented as a living thing, a thing made by God or the gods. He looked out into the world and saw infinite greatness, the presence of Deity, of the great Goddess, a cosmic battle, and a great poetic revelation.
We see this union of great internal and external spirit in art and in literature. Consider Bernini’s sculpture the “Ecstacy of Saint Theresa,” whose faces is contorted in mystical and seemingly sexual ecstasy as her body is showered with beams of Light.
So, too, with the Sistine chapel and “The Creation of Adam” by Michelangelo. Adam looks at God and is about to touch him. God is not an “archetype” in the “collective unconscious.” Nor is he a “social construct” or a representation of a Freudian complex of some sort. God is not a theory. And the hero — on a spiritual or literal quest — does not exist inside of the mediocre.
We find cosmic intensity in other works of art, from the ancient to the modern — scenes of war; of heroes slaughtering foes, of beheading Medusa or giants, and so on.
Such things are against the modern world, and the modern world is against such transcendence in which Gnosis and Glory flood into one another.
Indeed, today, contemporary, “celebrated,” official, yet allegedly “edgy” and “controversial” art — the art of the major galleries and “prizes” expresses nothing of value, and seeks only to degrade anything and everything noble, and that has sustained and uplifted people and cultures throughout time: “Piss Christ,” Chris Ofili’s painting of the Black Madonna with elephant dung (“against the system” but yet sold last year for $4.6 million), and the “Mohammad Cartoons” are only the most obvious examples. Perhaps you don’t like Christianity, or perhaps you don’t like Islam. The point is that we cannot have glory of any kind, and, as such, we cannot experience real Gnosis — Bacchanalian, war-like, Ragnarok-like — that floods through the higher type of man or woman, artist, and warrior.
Instead of Gnosis or Glory, instead of great depths, the modern world offers us endless therapy, even in spirituality: The gods are not real, it is asserted, but exist as mere parts of our own psyches, parts of our “subconscious” or in some mass or collective “unconscious.” God did not create us or create the world, we are told; we invented God; the world is spiritless, an accident, nothing more. To go out into it is to go our into nothingness and more nothingness, made meaningful only by consuming the right products, speaking in stock phrases, and, once every few years, rallying, hysterically, to the lower type of man or woman elevated to political candidate.
We, the higher man, and the higher woman, reject all of this. For us, at least, the gods are absolutely real and exist out there in the wold — a world brimming with spirit and Mystery. We are seeking them. We are seeking the cosmic. We are seeking Glory — to shake off collectiveness and to become god-like.
Within us is Gnosis. It is the Gnosis of embracing our own contradictions, of becoming more muscular and more literary; more ascetic and more aesthetic; harsher yet more caring; more warrior and more artist.
Out there is Glory. It is the Glory of a world of absolute meaning and intensity; a world in which gods and goddesses are alive and present, and with which we cannot but interract.
We have not resolved the contradiction of ourselves and the world internally, inside of us, but in our very being, body as well as spirit.
We are not passive observers, wanting and waiting for society’s approval. We are forces — flames of the gods — drawing the like-minded towards us and upward to the what is beyond the material and the mediocre.