by Michael Maciel
The word “aggression” has earned a bad reputation. It has been equated with “the intention to do harm.” But it also has a positive aspect. It is rooted in our will to survive, to achieve, to excel. In the Kabbalistic Tree of Life, it is the essential nature of the Victory sephiroth. In the Bhagavad Gita, it is the words of Krishna to Arjuna as they are about to engage the battlefield. It is pivotal in Christ’s encounter with Satan in the desert and in Buddha’s faceoff with Mara at the moment of his enlightenment.
My sports background centers around alpine ski racing and motorsports (car and motorcycle racing). In ski racing, especially in the downhill event where speeds can exceed 70 mph, it’s just you, the mountain, and the laws of physics. It’s unbelievably intimidating. People have died in this event. It can be, as they say, as serious as a heart attack.
This is an interesting figure of speech because it takes heart—courage—and unless you attack the course, it attacks you. And it will destroy you if you let it get the upper hand. You’re trying to defeat the other racers by going faster than they do, but your immediate opponents are fear, lack of confidence, and the limitations of your skills. A defensive skier won’t do well. He or she MUST go on the attack. But it’s a skillful attack—measured and competent. Anything else leads to disaster.
In spiritual symbolism, aggression is represented by the Sword—a weapon. And as it is with all weapons, it should never be drawn if one is not willing to use it. Swords are not defensive weapons. Those who fail to recognize this die by them.
So, as a symbol, the sword represents an unconflicted commitment. In Kabbalistic terms, it is “the will to do.” Within its meaning is the understanding that action is both constructive and destructive—two-edged. In alchemical terms, it is “Solvae et coagulae”—to dissolve and reconstitute. And in speech, it is “yes” and “no”—not casual speech but speech as in your word. It must be resolute, “even unto death.”
In other words, what are you willing to die for? What is more important to you than your physical safety? Unless you know what that is, your life will be ineffectual. At the crucial moment, your hesitancy will bring failure. There is either full-on engagement with life’s obstacles or the patient waiting for the right moment, the right place, and the right resources. Either way, it must always be action, never reaction.
And as Sri Ramakrishna said, “Do not seek illumination unless you seek it as a man whose hair is on fire seeks a pond.” This might sound like desperation, but picture it—if your access to the pond was obstructed by a crowd of people, how polite would you be as you made your way to it? This resonates with Jesus’ saying, “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” If you put anything between you and God, you will never find God.
It takes courage, perseverance, and a kind of ruthlessness to pierce the veil of matter, to slay your illusions when you meet them “in the road.”
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For a deep dive into Kabbalistic Symbolism, visit Gates of Light by Margot Whitney.