Mystical Warriors

This post is obviously of particular interest to me.

Slightly over a year ago, I was working on an article for Soldier of Fortune magazine (never published). While working on it, I reviewed videos of al ‘Qaeda training procured from my friend and co-author, who reviews such professionally. My friend was unsure why terrorists, during their training, would reference Aristotelian elements–but I immediately recognized the elements of alchemy, an obvious tie to the Sufis.

This is not to to vilify the Sufis (who probably represent a more direct connection to the original Gnostics than I), but to inquire into the relationship between mystic and warrior. Ethical considerations aside, modern so-called “mujahidin” terrorists are obviously drawing inspiration from the older, Sufi-inspired Hashishin, incorporating Islamic prayer, alchemy, and other mystical practices in their martial training. Similarly, the shinobi of medieval Japan trained in many exercises familiar to the modern Initiate–from the four-fold breath to the five-element philosophy of Tantrism.

This should not be confused with the more passive exercise of prayer before battle; these are examples of conscious and willful efforts to improve the spiritual prowess of the warrior. How effective might such a regimen be? What ethical arguments might be made for or against such practices?

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