The Code of the Warrior: In History, Myth, and Everyday Life
By Rick Fields. 
HarperCollins: New York, 1991.
339 pp. $15.00 (paperback).

An ancient Chinese curse says “May you be born in an interesting time!” This epithet hangs over the inhabitants of the twentieth century, an era where not only war threatens our existence, but pollution, greed, overpopulation, and disease can seem overwhelming enemies. Yet when we examine the situation more closely, the enemy is—as always—ourselves. With the world poised on the edge of destruction, the timing is just right for this probing book by Rick Fields, author of How the Swans Came to the Lake, and Tricycle‘s Editor-at-Large.


Cover of The Code of the Warrior.

Fields’ account of the warrior in history ranges from the origins of war in early agricultural societies to the development of the warrior in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and North America, and the emergence of contemporary warriors—the “businessman warrior” and the defenders of the environment. Subjects addressed span the records of humanity from early cave paintings to present-day urban technology, and Fields connects each period of military development to the dominant spiritual, political, and economic forces of the era. Relationships and interconnections are untangled to reveal impressive, intricate patterns of cause and effect. Fields not only examines the development of a warrior in a specific cultural context but explores the influences of clashing warrior cultures and the emergence of the path of the warrior as a spiritual “way.”

Figures emerge at a dizzying pace only to rest for a paragraph or two in this comprehensive, encylopedic history. Fields astutely analyzes the influences that shaped each of these warriors: economic and religious in the case of the medieval crusader, aesthetic and political with regard to the bushido code of the Samurai, and the meditative discipline essential to the emergence of the Tibetan “Shambhala” warrior.

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