This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

NOTICE:
This Dark Age is now available in paperback on Amazon. The print version is MUCH cleaner than this online version, which is largely unedited and has fallen by the wayside as the project has grown. If you’ve appreciated my writing, please consider leaving a review on the relevant paperback volumes. The print edition also includes new sections (Military History, War Psychology, Dogmatic Theology).

Volume 1 | Volume 2 | Volume 3| Volume 4 | Volume 5 | Volume 6

War spiritually distorts everyone involved

War is an opportunity to surpass oneself and to become more than we would ever be if we stayed within the bounds of a comfortable existence.

Some men join the military to ‘be all that they can be’, and for some this promise holds true. But we can also see that resistance to evil by force is a treacherous path, and that everyone who walks this path suffers, including even the noble warrior, and that he suffers even when he is victorious. In fact we could say that he suffers more in his victory, since through death he would have received immediate purification but in victory he must live with the stain and find a way to cope with the inner distortions that follow from his actions.

It is obvious to any religious person that what we do in life changes who we are, that we are body and soul and we cannot do things with the body and pretend they do not change what we are morally and spiritually. To push, strike, cut, and kill are actions that effect more than just the arm that swings the sword. They involve the whole mind and free will of the one who fights. The consequences, for such a one, are vast and long-lasting.

This holds true for the judge, the policeman, and the solider, when these each perform their function of forceful resistance. It is also true for the society as a whole when war makes unusual demands on it physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

War sets us up for certain contradictions. Certain emotional responses that are good for man in general are destructive during combat. These good things must be suppressed either systematically through training, or individually by sheer willpower. And on the other hand, sentiments and habits that are very anti-social become desirable in the heat of battle and so they must be instilled, encouraged, and edified so that the solider can perform his function with some success. A whole range of attitudes and impulses are encouraged during wartime that must afterward be extinguished, if they can be extinguished at all.

It is entirely understandable that a hardened veteran might experience a kind of excitement in killing, and that he might develop instincts that we would call ‘bloodthirsty’. Provided this is kept within limits and does not offend justice, it is not wrong and is the only way that things can be. But what comes afterward? What does the ‘bloodthirsty’ warrior do with all of this when it is no longer needed, in the interim between confrontations?

Here is where the modern purely secular approach to war breaks down almost completely. Traditionally it was understood that the trauma of war is physical as well as spiritual. This trauma cannot, therefore, be effectively healed without incorporating spiritual means. The modern military knows little of this, even it does of course employ chaplains. This is partly because even modern religious thinking does not adequately grasp the nature of the spiritual means in question.

Traditionally, the solution was to situate the entire vocation of the warrior within a spiritual context, and to make his training and his mission and his return from the field a matter of spiritual preparation and then spiritual purification—and make no mistake, a purification is always needed regardless of the goodness of the cause. This is the whole meaning of the chivalric orders of the medieval period, wherein the line between monk and knight was blurred.

Modern man is horrified at the thought of waging any war in the name of God or for openly religious motives. He shies away from any religious preparation for war, and today’s soldiers are sent out into the field spiritually naked or, in the best of cases, left to his own devices since, in the secular world, a man’s spiritual life is his own private affair.

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