When we hear the name
“Socrates” we think “wisdom.” How appropriate it is that the young Dan
Millman uses this name for a remarkable teacher in this autobiographical
story. As the author tells of his eight years under the tutelage
of Socrates, we see much more than a series of events. Rather, the
story becomes the characterization of the inner transformation that
occurred in Dan Millman over those years.
While the remarkable
inner changes that Dan goes through are fascinating and inspiring, the
extraordinary value of this book lies in the actual teaching that
Socrates gives to Dan. As Socrates teaches his young pupil, he
teaches us as well. For example, Socrates discusses the subject of
Mind is an illusory
outgrowth of basic cerebral processes. It is like a tumor.
It comprises all the random, uncontrolled thoughts that bubble into
awareness from the subconscious. Consciousness is not mind;
awareness is not mind; attention is not mind. Mind is an
obstruction, an aggravation .... [For example], you have an angry thought
bubble up and you become angry.
It is the same with all your emotions. They are your knee-jerk
responses to thoughts you can’t control.
As a reader and
receiver of Socrates’ teaching, I was better able to recognize bubbles
of anger that pop up in response to memories of past events or
fantasies, and to stop the draining prolongation of the reaction to
In another group of
passages, Socrates helps us to expand our awareness:
Refine your senses a
little more each day; stretch them, as you would in a gym.
Finally, your awareness will pierce deeply into your body and into the
world. Then you will think about life less and feel it more.
You’ll enjoy even the simplest things in life ...[if you] cultivate
a simple lifestyle of few desires...[and if you give] full attention to
The direct experience
of working toward inner freedom encourages the reader to reawaken dreams
that perhaps he has not thought of since his adolescent years, and to
rekindle the effort toward their fulfillment.
Parables throughout the
book provide the reader with images and ideas for meditation. A
particularly poignant tale of sacrifice and offering follows:
A saintly woman was
walking along the edge of a cliff. Several hundred feet
below, she saw a dead mother lion, surrounded by crying cubs.
Without hesitation, she leaped off the cliff so that they would have
something to eat.
This is an intense and
moving book for many reasons, but what primarily touched me was the
absolutely real possibility of my own inner transformation; not only
that, but the necessity of it, the urgency of it. At the same time
I felt no pressure or anxiety to become a “peaceful warrior.” On the
contrary, I felt good reading the book, as if someone were really
talking to me, talking about life as it is. Listening to “straight
talk” is liberating and energizing. However, while that experience
is powerful, it lasts only as long as the book. For the way of the
warrior is action. The action of working inwardly and outwardly to
transform oneself---each person has to traverse his or her own road. Way
of the Peaceful Warrior is not just
a book; it is a door. When you read this book you open the door,
and you are invited to walk through.
The book review was published in Volume VII, Number 3 of Seeds (1990).
In 2006, the movie Peaceful
Warrior, based on the book, came out. For a review of the
movie, click here.