War, Father of All: Heraclitus, Sun Tzu and Us
People will never be able to learn the laws of war, let alone employ them.
The knowledge of the art of war is a matter of life and death. It’s a road that will lead to either success or defeat. Consequently, the warrior needs an in depth knowledge of it and how to utilize it. Nowadays, one of the most ancient (if not the most ancient) treatise about war, is the work “the Art of War” by a Chinese general called Sun Tzu; which was written during the so called classical Chinese period allegedly around 400 – 320 BC. Sun Tzu is not your typical bloodthirsty, or stupid, general that you will come across in human history; on the contrary, he is one of the most enlightened ones.
From the first pages of his essay he defines war as the last resort and that a war should be completed as quickly as possible so as to minimize, for both sides, the losses of human lives, materials, money etc. ( take a look at the current case of the Middle East; does any of the involving parties, including the US, follow any of these principles?).
Moreover, during the past 2500 years many were the ones that have employed Sun Tzu’s suggestions; and succeeded.
What about today? Where could a war theory be utilized that has been developed 2500 years ago?
To begin with, the term "war" has various definitions besides the one that typically comes to mind.
Consequently, let us take a look at how Heraclitus defines war:
Definition 1: Armed collision of people, military etc. this is the typical understanding of how today’s people comprehend the term war.
Definition 2: An intense fight, or struggle, for dominance over competition / rivalry between sects, companies or spies.
Definition 3: An intense effort, or campaign, against something or someone like the nonsense that politicians say when they claim that they will fight corruption while the most corrupt ones are usually them.
War: the contradistinction of opposites (Heraclitus)
Heraclitus, besides of being considered one of the top philosophers of ever having walked on the planet Earth, recognized the universality of change and evolution, through internal opposites. He disagreed with Thales, Pythagoras and Anaximander (those three guys also belong to the pantheon of humanity’s top philosophers) in regards to the ultimate/final substance of nature; and proposed that the nature of all is comprised by change itself, through the contradistinction of opposites; by making use of the term fire (πυρ) in a metaphorical way (i.e. fire spirit).
This lead Heraclitus to the conclusion that, change is the truth while immutability is falsity.
For Heraclitus everything is fluid, hence his famous saying (in loose translation) “Everything flows, never staying the same”.
Heraclitus continued by suggesting that something is what it is, because something else is demarcating its nature. For example we know day because we know night, we know light because we know darkness etc. Hence, we define day as something that opposes night; if night would not exist than we would be unable to know day.
(Same goes with religions: if we want to have a god, we definitely need to have – or to create – a devil. See also Bush’s junior propaganda when he was preparing to invade the Middle East, by using expressions / words like axis of evil etc.; consequently in the human sub-consciousness he was creating a default situation: we are the good guys and they are the bad guys).
Heraclitus suggested that there would be no light without darkness, health without sickness and so forth; and concluded that everything is defined by comparison to others.
“War father of all”, another of Heraclitus famous sayings, which is directly related to the aforementioned saying (“Everything flows, never staying the same”) due to the fact that everything in the World is constantly in motion and in progression hence, in war. Specifically, for something to exist, and to be defined, it requires the existence of something else that in turn will express its identity in comparison to something. In simple words, what Heraclitus defines as war is the antagonism among opposites, like Fire vs Ice.
Things exist and are involved, or are interwoven, to something else. For instance, day is interlinked with night, cold to warmth, fluid to solid etc. This process is what creates the necessary balance that perpetuates the eternal existence of everything. Respectively, if inside creation there is no war, creation cannot exist (think of it as follows: assuming that the Big Bang theory is correct then our universe has been created due to a very violent occurrence in the past).
From an esoteric standpoint, excessive heat means excessive movement and consciousness. Excessive cold, means immobility and death (see what occult science suggests about it and the various levels of soul and spirit vibrations For more click here: "Afterlife and Death: what will happen to you when you die…" ).
All dogmas (without going into further details here) represent excessive cold hence, (spiritual) immobility and death which lead to dead systems tangling at the boarders of chaos. The ones that called Heraclitus dark, are practically the frozen ones, since ice is unable to comprehend the warmth and the radiation of light (let alone the depth of his philosophy).
Seemingly, wars may appear to have decreased (in reality they have increased), the weapons may have changed, but warlike human nature remains unchanged through the course of time.
Regarding, Sun Tzu’s treatise, it was first translated in a European language by a French Jesuit, called Jean Joseph Marie Amiot, in 1782; Napoleon and the “Dessert Storm” were obviously enough influenced by this work. Various Leaders, regardless of being good or bad, have claimed of being influenced by Sun Tzu’s work.
Consequently, as long as humans, or rational beings, will exist, the Art of War will always be one of strategy’s main reference points.
Sun Tzu’s Main Ideas:
War should always be the last resort. But if it is the only solution available, then the first attack that a clever general unleashes, should be against his enemy’s (fighting) spirit. The enemy’s spirit is the first to be manipulated (see propaganda and how the media is utilized today).
Diplomacy is primarily based on corruption, fraudulently and deception (does it ring any bell to you?).
Victory by any means is the main goal of any war.
When you know your enemy well, as well as when you know yourself, you can take part in 100 battles and win all 100 battles. The apex of strategy is to win a war without giving a single battle. Consequently, what primarily matters in war, is not to attack your enemy directly but to attack against the enemy’s strategy.
A capable commander strives to take advantage of the (given) situation and does not seek to find victory from his vassals. The Leader chooses a few capable/worthy men and they, in turn, benefit from the situation that arises.
In times of war adaptiveness and flexibility is required. Disregard the usual practices; give orders by disregarding what others have done in the past (nothing is the same). In other words, be unique and authentic.
Move into space, enter the emptiness, avoid areas that the enemy protects, remain indecipherable like the clouds and attack your enemies like the thunder; where the enemy least expects it.
The essence of war is speed. During raids or plundering, sweep like fire. When immobile remain unmovable like the mountains. During fall-back be quick like the wind; nobody can pursue you when you are moving faster than the pursuer.
The heart is which a leader commands. Order or disarray, braveness or covertness, are properties that are ruled by the soul.
Make despair your ally and equip your troops with the power of despair. Wild beasts are most ferocious when trapped, they fight harder when in despair, and so do men. When they know that there is no other way, no escape, they will fight to death and follow any given order. The ones that are stripped of hope have nothing to fear. In situations like this, people are capable of turning a defeat into victory. When a general burns all (escape) routes his troops will feel trapped and they will fight desperately; similarly, if there is no way to (re)turn home, the troops will not be thinking of returning home and will be determined to fight a resolute battle.
It is demanded of a general to be calm and self-disciplined.
Remain indecipherable in regards to your next moves. Every war is based on deception. Every general should have the capability to keep to himself any plans (dark or not, legal or not) and to never reveal his plans to his officers, or men, so as for no one to be able to comprehend the (grand) plan. Nothing is more secret than cover-operations, and never forget, that in such manoeuvres always advantages and risks are present. A general should always change his methods otherwise his plans might be revealed. From all his troops the closest ones, to the general, are his spies, or secret agents. Secret agents are the ones that are rewarded the most; and nothing is more secret than the cover-operations.
When, without any previous communication, the enemy requests a truce; the enemy is plotting something.
Dust that rises high is a sign that the cavalry approaches; dust that remains low and expands is a sign that the troops are approaching.
I can predict which side will win, and which will lose, if you tell me:
Which side’s leader affects more his troops psyche (aka moral)
Which side’s general is more accustomed to the environment
Who’s general’s orders are executed immediately and without hesitation
Which side has the most trained, physically and mentally, officers and soldiers
Who handles rewards, and punishments, with the most creative and enlightened way
The five properties which are dangerous when defining a general or a leader
When overly audacious, the leader runs the risks of being killed
When coward, the leader may be captured
When petulant (aka touchy), the leader runs the risk of being ridiculed
When honor is excessively priced (aka egotripping), the leader may easily be slandered
When being compassionate, the leader may easily be surprised
In war the following 5 factors have to be taken into consideration
Mental Influence: Meant is anything that inspires people to love their leaders, to such extents, that will lead them to follow their leaders, through life and death, without fearing to risk everything.
Environment: For instance, cold and heat, winter or summer, night or day; in war-campaigns environment and weather are of imperative importance (For Napoleon and Hitler, the Russian winter has proven to be disastrous).
Predictability: Refers to the circumstances that you will come across. If the terrain can be crossed easily or not, if it has lowlands or mountains, if it has narrow passes and so forth (for Xerxes the narrow passes of Thermopylae have proven to be catastrophic). Another way to put it, is through Clausewitz’s "smoke of war" - by creating order inside chaotic circumstances.
Leadership: To what level the general/commander has evolved his virtues of wisdom, honesty, kindness, braveness and firmness.
Management: Refers to the fact of having control over affairs, of having established the correct hierarchy among your people, making sure of the constant resupply with the needed provisions etc.
There is no general who has not come across the aforementioned five factors. The ones who respect them, win; the ones that neglect them, lose.
If leadership is assumed by a general that follows my suggestions it is certain that he will win. Keep him! If leadership is assumed by a general who refuses to follow my propositions, defeat is certain. Expel him! Finally, the general who will follow my suggestions, it is required of him, to adjust them and to integrate these ideas in the most beneficial way for his campaign. - Sun Tzu
Some additional suggestions from Sun Tzu (integrate them into your life as you see fit):
Pretend of being inferior and encourage your enemy’s arrogance.
Appear as weak when you are strong and strong when you are weak.
When you surround your enemy, leave him an escape route.
The greatest art in war is to make your enemy submit without a battle.
To be invincible depends on your defense. The probability of victory depends from your offense.
Chances multiple as you seize them.
Five flaws that can be dangerous for a general: If he is reckless, his men will be killed. If he is a coward, his army will be captured. If he is quick-tempered, he will act based on his anger. If he is arrogant, he will be cheated. If he is tied with his men (referring to the fact of being too close with his men), he will hesitate during a crucial time.
He will win who knows / distinguishes when to fight and when not to fight.
Strategy combined with tactical manoeuvres is the certain road to victory. Tactical manoeuvres without strategy, is noise before defeat.
All war (and life some might add) is based on deception.
A warrior is strong when he forces his enemy to answer / respond. He is weak, when he answers / responds to the enemy.
If you wait long enough at a river’s bank, you will see your enemy’s corpses floating before you.
As the flow of water is formed based on the shape of the terrain, so shall the flow of (your) victory be shaped by your enemy’s actions.
Build a golden bridge so for your enemy to use it for retreat.
The principles of strategy are: to know the terrain of battle, to know the strengths (and weaknesses) of your enemy and to do something that your enemy will not expect.
The ancient warriors made themselves invisible. Then they waited for the moment when their enemy was vulnerable.
Do not occupy a location / post, which is isolated and cut off from resources.
If you are (too) far away from your enemy, make him believe that you are near.
A capable warrior makes (aka forces) his enemy to act – in accordance to the warrior's plans.
Survival depends on the actions we take. Chance for victory depends based on the actions of others (meaning, that you should observe your enemy’s actions and wait for an opening).
As voices cannot be heard during battle, drums and trumpets are used; and as soldiers cannot see clear, flags, shiny armours and banners are used (ideas that also reflect some basic principles of marketing / propaganda).
Some additional ideas after all that has been stated so far:
By observing Heraclitus’ and Sun Tzu’s propositions, ideas that have been proposed 2500+ years ago, it is amazing to realize that all of their suggestions are still valid, even today. Nowadays, human beings claim of being cultivated, refined and educated and sometimes, they become so arrogant by calling their ancestors as primitive.
It makes us wonder who in fact the primitive ones are.
Let us take for example the following 2 suggestions: “Father of all is War” and “all war is based on deception”.
If you take a look at our societies, regardless which region the societies are located in, it becomes apparent that our societies are practically based on competition; regardless of age, regardless of wealth, regardless of social status, regardless of education etc.
This competition has reached such heights that humans needed something to ease their incompetence; the incompetence of still being subject to their primitive impulses. So, humanity created all this nonsense about ethical behaviour and equality. Here is a question for you: do multinational corporations act ethical? Nope. Do religions, politicians, military forces, the media, the legal systems, the secret services, the educational systems etc. act ethical? The answer is NO; yet, humans insist in presenting themselves as ethical but in reality, they act unethical whenever a chance arises ( For more click here: "The Art of Leadership and How the Few Always Lead the Many" ).
"Reality is a constant reminder of humanity’s hypocritical behaviour in which their words and their actions contradict each other." - Dr. Nikolaos Sapounas
Similarly, human deception has nowadays reached such unprecedented heights as well. Just take a look around you: the media, the shows, fashion, human relationships, social media, behavioural patterns etc. Everyone is pretty much focused in deceiving others, by presenting a front about themselves that in fact has nothing to do with the real, or true, person that they are. Erwin Goffman called all this façade as dramaturgy.
Consequently, the continuous dramaturgical behaviours have created a mass of people that finds itself constantly under pressure of trying to keep up with the (fake) persona they have created. They are scared that eventually someone will see them as they truly are; but if their true nature contradicts their fake persona they run the risk of being criticized as deceptive.
Therefore, on the one hand, humans strive to be liked by others – thus, they constantly adjust their persona to others' liking, while on the other hand, they crave that someday they will come across someone that will be able to love them for what they truly are.
It should strike us as no surprise that the number of people that have mental issues, like depression, is constantly increasing; humanity gradually becomes unstable.
Why is this all happening? Because people do not know who they are, what they are and what they want from their lives; in other words, they have no self-awareness. This anger, which builds up throughout the years, eventually expresses itself through violence, bullying, depression, drugs, deceptions, “meaningless lives”, divorces, in seeking out pleasures of the flesh or becoming materialistic and… the list is virtually endless.
This leads us to the unfortunate conclusion that nowadays, humanity has not evolved when compared to its predecessors. Humans still remain immature as a species, they have no self-awareness, they act deceitful and egotistical towards others; and as things currently stand, peaceful and ethical times are completely out of reach.
Is there any evidence that supports the aforementioned statement?
Humanity uses all of its creativity, its energy, its strength and wealth, for dominance, for harm, for deceit, for pollution, for wars and pain. Instead of using all of these resources to solve fundamental problems and to advance towards an era that will allow humanity to conquer the stars; humankind still remains chained to its primitive impulses and strives for conflict and war.
Consequently, our civilization abides to the following doctrine:
War, Father of All!
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Published: November 02, 2016
Written For: Ancient Greece Reloaded
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