THE WARRIOR: Living the Fourfold Way

By Angeles Arrien (Wisdom Circles CD series, 1996).

Reviewed by Claude Whitmyer for AHP Perspective June/July 2000.

The Fourfold Way

  • Show up.
  • Pay attention to what has heart and meaning.
  • Tell the truth without blame or judgement.
  • Be open yet unattached to outcome.

These are the challenges laid at our feet by anthropologist and organizational consultant Angeles Arrien in her book The Four-Fold Way: Walking the Paths of the Warrior, Teacher, Healer, and Visionary (San Francisco: Harper, 1993).

Arrien has also developed a four-part CD set of guidance, invocations, and practices, with one CD for each archetype. These CDs, as with the book and much of her work, are inspired by the wisdom ways of the world’s indigenous peoples.

It has always seemed strange, and a little inappropriate, to witness people of Western European heritage attempting to practice indigenous folkways of other areas. I wonder why the Slavic, Baltic, Celtic, Germanic, Greek, or Italic cultures’ practices, for which Western Europeans already have a natural affinity, are not also worthy of our attention.

Frankly, few things look more ridiculous than a white dude in a fringed leather jacket throwing blue cornmeal to the four directions to bless the launching of a pleasure boat on San Francisco Bay. Interestingly, though, I have never seen this experiential dissonance between person and practice in the presence of Angles Arrien. Dr. Arrien has a unique way of telling and showing her interpretations of indigenous practices and how they might apply to special moments in our modern lives.

Whether in her workshops for aspiring neo-shamans or before an international gathering of engineers and executives meeting about total quality management, the hypnotic cadence of Arrien’s voice and the clarity of her thinking ring true every time.

Her Wisdom Circles CD Series provides music, narrative, and instructions to guide the listener in exploring the four classical archetypes of warrior, teacher, healer, and visionary. The Warrior CD contains:

  • a ritual for opening and closing a circle
  • a meditation on the power of one’s name
  • insights into what it means to be a Warrior
  • guidance in how to call forth the courage to lead in oneself and others
  • invocations for bringing the Warrior spirit into a wisdom circle and for learning to work with spiritual allies
  • reflections for developing the Inner Warrior
  • exercises for simple singing and dancing

The “Warrior’s Way” is the practice of discovering and exercising one’s leadership skills.

The dominant metaphor for leadership today is one of military-like command and control. But a new kind of leadership is emerging, made up of stewardship and diligent followership.

Stewardship helps us uncover our shared visions, leading us toward the common-sense preservation of the environment and proper care of individuals, organizations, and communities.

Diligent followership is a role we can all play: by implementing our shared visions under the guidance of our leaders and by holding them accountable and encouraging them to lead us in the stewardship way, rather than for personal gain.

Here is Arrien’s list of Warrior leadership skills:

  • To honor and respect
  • To align words with actions
  • To respect limits and boundaries
  • To be responsible and disciplined
  • To demonstrate right use of power

The three “Don’ts” of power:

  1. When there is much to do, don’t be afraid.
  2. When there is nothing to do, don’t be hasty.
  3. Don’t talk about opinions of right and wrong.

Arrien says we must acknowledge and respect the Warrior’s shadow aspects too. These can include:

  • rebellion
  • problems with authority
  • patterns of invisibility
  • hiding or holding back
  • working behind the scenes
  • riding the coattails of powerful people

The practical and literal inclination of the Western mind can sometimes make us resist the kind of active imagination and inner work that this CD encourages. We may also struggle to see the cause-and-effect relationship between listening and practicing this material and the changes that result in both worldview and behavior toward others.

My friendly advice:

Approach this CD with patience.

Notice how the placement of each teaching tool affects your body.

Pay attention to Arrien’s use of dramatic narrative, music, rattle work, dancing, meditation and reflection.

Although I can only speak for myself and for the few students I have introduced to Arrien, these practices do work—whether you want them to or not—provided you take the time to listen.


CLAUDE WHITMYER is founder and director of The Center for Good Work, offering career guidance to individuals, businesses, and nonprofits who aspire to right livelihood; Co-founder of The University of the Future, LLC; and author of several books on work and community.

Copyright © 2000 by Claude Whitmyer. All rights reserved. Originally published in AHP Perspective, June/July 2000. Permission is hereby granted to link to this page, but not to copy or reproduce this content in any form electronic or otherwise.