Mythology of the Warrior Quest

Mythology :

Myths are stories (old and new) that often have a strange appeal, but you're not always sure why. The purpose of these stories is to teach us about the challenges of life, and give us guidance and insight.

The Hero's Quest :

Stories about the Quest of a Spiritual Hero have existed in many cultures throughout history. And regardless of the differences in culture or age of the myth, these stories highlight a common theme : 1 ) departure 2 ) trial and realization, 3 ) then a return.

Some examples of this story include Jesus, Moses, Bhudda, Mohammed, and even the Knights of the Round Table.

In a typical hero myth, the Hero can be male, female, or even an animal. Invariably, the story begins with the Hero leaving home to enter a strange unknown place ... usually a dark forest or cave, or a desolate wilderness.

As the story unfolds, the Hero endures a series of difficult trials and obstacles. And as a result, they are transformed by the experience.

Eventually the Hero attains something very valuable, then brings it back to the group.

The Hero's Quest for Fire :

In this particular style of myth, the hero either enters a strange place deliberately, or follows something else ( an animal ) that leads them into the strange place.

The Hero then endures a series of difficult trials and obstacles to attain fire, and is transformed ( burnt, discoloured ) by the experience.

In some forms of this myth the hero brings the fire back to the group, only to discover that most of the people can only see a pile of ashes. They are blind to the burning embers that are glowing deep within the ashes.

Now let's look at that overall theme more deeply :

• the hero undertakes a journey into a strange place, which is actually the potential of the unconscious mind

• along the way they endure a series of trials and obstacles, which is actually the confrontation of the Self

• and as a result, they are transformed (psychologically changed)

• they attain something very valuable (a state of higher consciousness)

• then they bring it back to the group (a power that will benefit others)

• but not everyone can understand the gift ... they cannot recognise the potential of what is being offered.

The Warrior Quest :

The warrior quest is a version of the Hero's Quest... but in a warrior theme. And one of the oldest European examples is the myth of the Knight who slays the Dragon.

In the Oriental cultures the dragon is generally a positive aspect, and represents "the vitality of life." But in the European cultures, the dragon is a negative aspect, and represents a suppressed vitality of life.

The European dragon lives in a dark cave in some strange land, and usually guards things that it has no way of ever using. Typically, this is gold or a virgin.

Then along comes a knight, and he sees that on every scale on the dragon's body are the words "Thou Shalt ". And after a fierce battle, the brave knight kills the dragon, and carries off the treasure.

Now let's look at the psychological meaning of that particular myth :

• the knight undertakes a journey into a dark place, which is actually the potential of the unconscious mind

• there he confronts an obstacle... a dragon with the words "Thou Shalt" on every scale... which represents the social conditioning of his particular reality

• the knight endures a fierce battle, which is the confrontation of the many social beliefs and values that have defined who he is, what he should do with his life

• he defeats the dragon, which means he overcomes the "Thou Shalts " and discovers his full potential

• and carries off the treasure, which is a state of higher consciousness.

Modern stories of The Quest :

The movie "The Matrix" is a modern example of this style of myth :

• the hero follows a series of clues that take him on a strange and mysterious adventure

• he endures a series of dangerous trials and obstacles

• along the way, he is assisted by others who walk the same path

• but his efforts are resisted by people who prefer illusion over reality

• eventually he emerges from the illusion of the Matrix with a state of higher consciousness

• and then begins to free all humans.

The Star Wars Quest :

The Star Wars movies are another example of this style of myth. The cast of characters includes :

Luke Skywalker... the apprentice warrior

Obi Wan Kinobi... the Teacher, similar to a Japanese Sword Master

Yoda... The Enlightened Master

Hans Solo... a mercenary Warrior, similar to the Japanese Ronin

Princess Lea... a noble leader

Darth Vader... a Warrior who has been corrupted by the dark-side

• and The Emperor... Master of an evil Empire.

Obviously, the trials and obstacles that Luke Skywalker confronts are the central theme of the movie's Quest, however the other characters also represent aspects of the journey :

Obi Wan Kinobi... who trains the apprentice in the Way of The Force

Yoda... who highlights that the power of The Force is within you, and that the only obstacles you face are the ones in your mind

Hans Solo... who didn't seek to undertake the Quest, but inadvertently ends up being a hero

Princess Lea... who represents the more noble aspects of humanity

Darth Vader... who has lost his humanity, and allowed himself to be corrupted by power

• and The Emperor... who is willing to destroy anyone or anything in his quest for ultimate power.

The Quest of the Martial Artist :

If we look at the martial arts community through the Star Wars myth, we can see a larger cast of the same sort of characters :

• apprentice warriors ( students ) who willingly start to confront the Self

• and apprentice warriors who resist confronting the Self

• warriors ( black belts ) who are on the journey, and continue to embrace the confrontation of Self

• and warriors who start the journey, but then stop the confrontation

• Teachers who have undergone a psychological change through the constant confrontation of Self

• and Teachers who have undergone no psychological change

• Masters who have achieved enlightened insight through the constant confrontation of Self

• and Masters who have achieved no enlightened insight, or who are motivated by power and greed.

Any martial art has the potential to be a vehicle for the Warrior's Quest. But simply starting a martial art does not automatically mean you have begun. You have to start, then continue confronting the Self.

This means confronting :

your past ... memories and events that have shaped your personality

your present ... which highlights all that your personality can create

your future... which will be the same as your present... unless you start to do things differently.

This is no easy task. It requires a warrior's courage and discipline. Along the way you will confront some daunting fears and challenges... all of which are perceptions in your mind.

However these trials and obstacles exist only in your mind. They are your fears, and any negative beliefs or values that create low self-esteem and doubt.

During your Quest, you will be guided and helped by others who are on their own Quest. But you will also encounter resistance from people who prefer illusion over reality. These people can be family members, friends, or workmates. And the confrontation of Self that you embrace may be frightening to them.

And who knows, if you eventually emerge with a state of higher consciousness, you may even offer your enlightened insight to others ... only to discover that many of them cannot understand what you're saying. Your words will express a wisdom that they are not yet ready to embrace.

But that's all part of the Quest.  It's always been like that.

"So why do it ?" you may ask. Well the main thing to remember is that you don't undertake the Quest so that other people will think that you're special. Most of the people you know won't understand or appreciate what you're actually doing.

You undertake a Quest for personal development ... to go beyond who you think you are ... to discover your full and natural potential as a human being.  It's a personal journey. And Ninjutsu is the vehicle that takes you on that journey !


Copyright 1981-2008 © Wayne L. Roy.
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