The Lie of War and the Truth of Love

March 23rd, 2015





“Peace will come with tranquillity and splendour

On the Wheels of Fire

But will offer no reward when our false idols fall

And cruel Death surrenders with its pale ghost retreating

Between the King and the Queen of Swords”


– Bob Dylan



These lyrics, forming part of the song Changing of the Guards has a timeless feel.[1] Dylan himself is quoted as saying the song “…is a thousand years old.”

What makes this particular passage stand out is its unique description of how age-old conflicts may be resolved in a new way.


It is in stark contrast to how conflict and aggression is currently positioned in our culture. The way we view conflict and its resolution has a profound influence on how our physical body reacts to it as well, as we shall see a little later. But first, some background context…




The war on everything


With the relatively brief exception of the counter-culture movement of the 1960’s till mid 1970’s in the West, the post cold war era has seen the progressive escalation of divisive and aggressive overreactions surrounding almost every social, political, sexual, religious and economic issue. Manufactured faux outrage to opposing opinion scars every debate and robs it of nuanced reflection or peaceful resolution.


More damaging are the simplistic solutions that arise out of such a toxic and inflamed environment:


  • The cynical declaration of a mock ‘war’ on everything from drugs to disease, terrorism, climate change and poverty
  • Survival of the fittest propaganda that ‘tooth and claw’ aggression is the hallmark of succesful evolution are placed side by side with metaphors of death: war, destruction, decay and barren, dystopian futures [2]
  • Spiralling military budgets diverting government funds that could otherwise benefit its own people and are curiously untouchable when budget cuts are discussed


The megaphone of media is complicit in this illusion and courts controversy for its own gain by using overstatement and outright lies to inflate the sense that conflict is constant and inevitable. Even the most trivial, fanciful or farcical of situations can be met with exaggerated levels of vitriol for little or no justifiable reason.




All these distortions serve to reposition exaggerated responses to everything as normal, human behaviour.


internet ‘manners’


Might there just be a correlation between a constant exaggeration of aggression and the widespread propagation of divisive, war perspectives on everything?



The myth of aggression


We are not naturally aggressive as many would have us think. Dave Grossman, author of ‘On Killing: The Psychology of Learning to Kill in War and Society’ states:


“In World War Two, it is a fact that only 15-20 percent of the soldiers fired at the enemy.”


It is worth noting that this statistic is taken from a target group specifically trained to kill. It would be logical to assume that the statistics for aggressive or lethal acts among ordinary civilians in peace time would be drastically lower. In other words, despite relentless media conditioning and the widespread availability (and even advocacy) of lethal weapons, the majority of us would still not choose a violent response.


Compare that with the last ten news reports, movies or video games you have seen. Do they accurately reflect our reality or do they try to make something that does not come naturally for most of us appear normal?



View from the body


When we are stressed or threatened our body secretes stress hormones. The residue of these also tax the body as they must eventually be removed. In the meantime we experience their effects:


  • A rise in heart rate and blood pressure
  • Stress burns fat, sugar, and muscle under normal circumstances

o   When it becomes recurrent and chronic stress however, fat is usually spared while muscle is taken

  • Excess cortisol impacts hunger and increases the urge for sweets and fatty food.
  • The ‘insulin effect’ in response to the chronic rise in blood sugar levels. This forces the body to store fat, particularly around the middle of the body
  • Stress, when chronic and persistent, affects brain chemistry in a way that changes behaviour. These behaviours are directly correlated to obesity and appear to be coming from more unconscious centres of the brain
  • Stress is also linked to lowered immunity. In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) this is linked to the circulation of Wei Qi by the liver (for more on this click here). The liver is emotionally linked to anger and aggression in this system just as it is physiologically linked to glycogen stores and its release as glucose (blood sugar) in the body




acute and chronic effects of stress


  • Regular exposure to violent acts via TV, films and video games depresses the emotional responses in the brain. In other words we become desensitised and more accepting of violence as ‘normal’. It also increases the likelihood of violent responses to a perceived threat.


We now begin to see how the constant bombardment of aggressive, stressful images and values serves to create a chronic level of background stress to which our body reacts and damages our health. The anxiety of feeling vaguely ‘unsafe’ triggers these primitive responses in the absence of an actual threat.


Left to our own devices however, we humans are actually quite peaceful and loving creatures…





The truth of love and our hidden secret of health


The physiology of romantic love is by now well documented. Romantic love provides a roller-coaster ride of pleasurable chemicals like:


  • PEA (phenylethylamine) – the intial excitement, attraction and attachment which begins the flood of other chemicals like
  • Norepinephrine – the sweaty palmed, pounding heart of excitement
  • Dopamine – anticipation and the selection of a mate
  • Oxytocin – the ‘cuddle hormone’ of bonding
  • Testosterone – the drive of sexual desire
  • Endorphines – the ‘feel good’ hormone that reduces anxiety and stress


There is more to love than romance and mating rituals however. We have said many times in these blogs that love is as much a state of conscious awareness as it is an emotion.


Just as aggression programs our mind and body negatively so does love affect them positively. In TCM, love and joy are connected to the Fire element (for more on the fire element click here). Consider it as representing both our internal and external ‘sun’- our twin ‘Wheels of Fire’.




“Behind the clouds is the sun still shining” [3]




Despite the sun often being cloaked or obsucured by the clouds or the earth turning its back away it still maintains the same nuclear intensity and abundance behind the illusion of its absence. So too is our capacity to give and receive love often obscured in the propaganda of aggression, fear and images of destruction, decay and hopelessness. Illusion however, no matter how convincing and intimidating at times, is still just that: illusion.




The ‘Allegory of Peace and War’


Even in the midst of war there are sometimes cooler, wiser heads that prevail. Artist and scholar Peter Paul Rubens’s famed artwork ‘The Allegory of Peace and War’ proved to be a successful piece of diplomacy between Spain and England – it was a gift to Charles I as part of Ruben’s role as envoy to Philip IV of Spain.


The painting depicts a scene in heaven. The majority of the canvas is filled with festivities and peaceful play:


Pax, the goddess of Peace (in the person of Ceres, goddess of the Earth) is about to breast feed the baby Plutus, the god of Wealth;  Bacchus, the god of Wine and fesitivity is attended by one of his female companions playing a tambourine and a leopard who lies playfully on the ground among the women and children nearby. Hymen, the god of Marriage (union) holds a torch over a young family. All are peacefully engaged in loving and playful activity. Above, a putto holds an olive wreath, symbol of peace, and the caduceus of Mercury, messenger of the gods.




The only disturbance in this idyllic moment is the (unsuccessful) entrance of Mars, god of War and Alecto, the fury of war. The helmeted Minerva, goddess of Wisdom, refuses Mars entry into heaven and drives him away. Noone else seems to notice or care however. War and aggression have no place in the higher realms of consciousness where, to their surprise and confusion, they find themselves powerless and irrelevant.


The allegory in both Dylan’s song and Ruben’s painting is clear:


The victory of consciousness is not a military triumph achieved through aggressive, martial means. It is the ‘tranquillity and splendour’ of love revealing the ultimately powerless illusion of fear and aggression


Before this truth ‘the King and the Queen of Swords’ (representing war) and their attendant fear-illusion in the form of Death are reduced to their original form: a ‘pale ghost retreating’ from the light, peace and splendour in which they can no longer participate nor sabotage.



Giving peace a chance


Technohead. All rights reserved.

Technohead. All rights reserved.


Peace, love and joy lift our spirits and our conscious awareness with it. Not only that but our body benefits too. It is a much healthier and enjoyable experience to be saturated with endorphins and oxytocin than cortisol, adrenaline and other stress hormones all the time.


This love transfers to treating ourselves with love too:


  • Self-respect in the form of a healthier lifestyle
  • Joy in the form of enhanced creativity and spontaneity
  • Love in the form of service, appreciation, touch and receptivity to our and others feelings


By feeling love within ourselves we make our world a little kinder and gentler. Love is what makes the ‘false idols’ of materialism, power and its aggressive abuses fall into irrelevance. Fear and distrust of our own essential beauty and truth need not be undermined by a constant bombardment of negative propaganda that hysterically tries to convince us that our so-called darker nature could overtake us at any moment.


The truth is that we would not even be aware of our ‘shadow side’ were it not for an even deeper light within us to give contrast to it. The lie of aggression and war cannot hold a candle to those solar flames of love.


solar eclipse



Till no Sun – or Monday – can ever be eclipsed,






[1] ‘Changing of the Guards. Bob Dylan. Columbia records. 1978

[2] In his book Origin of the Species Charles Darwin only mentions the phrase ‘survival of the fittest’ twice while referring to love on ninety-two occasions. In any case, the ‘fittest’ was a reference to the ability to adapt genetically to changing conditions over time, not the ‘might is right’ argument that has since become a mantra of self-justification for aggressive acts. It is a very effective example of a lie being repeated often enough becoming an unquestioned ‘truth’.

[3] Henry Wadsworth Longfellow



© Jeremy Halpin all rights reserved. All images are the author’s own unless otherwise indicated or if the original source is unknown at the time of writing. You can subscribe to this blog by clicking the button in the bottom right hand corner of the page – or share it on the social media of your choice. If you have any wishes or questions regarding subjects to be discussed on this blog use the contact information below. Jeremy is also available for seminars, lectures and personal consultation:

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