Consider James Rhodes, whose April 26, 2013 article in the Guardian UK I stole for last week’s post:

I didn’t play the piano for 10 years. A decade of slow death by greed working in the City, chasing something that never existed in the first place (security, self-worth, Don Draper albeit a few inches shorter and a few women fewer). And only when the pain of not doing it got greater than the imagined pain of doing it did I somehow find the balls to pursue what I really wanted and had been obsessed by since the age of seven—to be a concert pianist.

Concert pianist James Rhodes, back by popular demand

That’s Resistance. That’s the definition of Resistance. Mr. Rhodes at that point was mired in a shadow career. He was operating as an amateur. Suddenly some force seizes him. He turns pro:

Admittedly I went a little extreme—no income for five years, six hours a day of intense practice, monthly four-day long lessons with a brilliant and psychopathic teacher in Verona, a hunger for something that was so necessary it cost me my marriage, nine months in a mental hospital, most of my dignity and about 35lbs in weight. And the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is not perhaps the Disney ending I’d envisaged as I lay in bed aged 10 listening to Horowitz devouring Rachmaninov at Carnegie Hall.

I love Mr. Rhodes’ testament not just because he’s my kinda guy, because he’s nuts, because he laid it all on the line, etc. etc. But because his story—and yours and mine—proves there is a God.

First given:

Resistance is a universal phenomenon of the human psyche. Everyone experiences it. (Trust me, I know from the thousands of e-mails I’ve gotten on the subject.)

Second given:

Resistance’s sole object is to prevent you and me from becoming concert pianists, writing bestselling novels, founding the follow-on to Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity.

In other words, Resistance’s purpose is to prevent good from entering the world.


Resistance is the devil.


If there is a devil, there must be a God.

Was all that work at the piano worth it, Mr. Rhodes?

And yet. The indescribable reward of taking a bunch of ink on paper from the shelf at Chappell of Bond Street. Tubing it home, setting the score, pencil, coffee and ashtray on the piano and emerging a few days, weeks or months later able to perform something that some mad, genius, lunatic of a composer 300 years ago heard in his head while out of his mind with grief or love or syphilis. A piece of music that will always baffle the greatest minds in the world, that simply cannot be made sense of, that is still living and floating in the ether and will do so for yet more centuries to come. That is extraordinary. And I did that. I do it, to my continual astonishment, all the time.

James Rhodes beat the devil. There’s no other way to express it. Something kept him going, just like something kept Rachmaninov going, and something keeps you and me going.

The Muse? The superconscious?

What name would you put to it?

My life involves endless hours of repetitive and frustrating practising, lonely hotel rooms, dodgy pianos, aggressively bitchy reviews, isolation, confusing airline reward programmes, physiotherapy, stretches of nervous boredom (counting ceiling tiles backstage as the house slowly fills up) punctuated by short moments of extreme pressure (playing 120,000 notes from memory in the right order with the right fingers, the right sound, the right pedalling while chatting about the composers and pieces and knowing there are critics, recording devices, my mum, the ghosts of the past, all there watching), and perhaps most crushingly, the realisation that I will never, ever give the perfect recital. It can only ever, with luck, hard work and a hefty dose of self-forgiveness, be “good enough.”

That’s a pro. That’s a man who’s in the trenches, fighting the war every day. That is a man, an artist, whose inner and outer worlds are suffused with grace and beauty and honor and courage—and who by his music and his personal example pass those qualities on to you and me.

So please, critics, spare me the “God is dead” manifesto. Not even the guys who thought that shit up believed it. They were battling Resistance every day, and they were receiving inspiration from the goddess.

I refuse to believe that we humans are alone and bereft in a meaningless cosmos. If we were, there would be no such phenomenon as Resistance. What possible purpose could Resistance serve in a universe devoid of meaning?

Hell exists, yes. But heaven does too.

James Rhodes is my hero because he found himself between the two and he chose the loftier and the nobler.

I salute you, sir. May we all find the grace and strength to follow your example.

  • Basilis

    A manifest!

  • Mary Doyle

    Amen Steve. This was the perfect follow-up to last week’s post – thank you.

  • Yes, Resistance is the devil.

  • That was an awesome piece that move my insides. Thank you.

  • Last week’s post occupied me for most of an afternoon listening to Mr Rhodes’s left hand- phenomenal- and this derived philosophy today is apt, and aptly timed.

    What might be called good thinking! So satisfying.

  • Your work is beautiful. Thank you very much for your work.

  • I agree Resistance is a terrible thing. But he seems to have gone over the cliff on the other end. Isn’t there any way to do this without losing a marriage, going into a mental hospital, losing weight?!? A bit extreme, but I do get the point.

  • When the muse, the goddess, the creator flows through your hands it is impossible, IMPOSSIBLE, to deny. As a solo chef on a yacht for the rich & famous I had to come up with new menu offerings daily. Countless times after the applause I would stand in the galley, baffled and bewildered as to how I (we) pulled it off. Now, as a writer, the same energy flows through my fingers, madly telling a story I didn’t know existed. And the devil still sits over there, with that bottle of Mount Gay rum, smiling. Waiting. “Good job, lad. Now come on. Enough of that. Time to Party!”

  • Barry

    Dec. 7th, 2013, at 46, I turned Pro. Before then (no need, that is The Resistance). Since then, God. Source. Consciousness. sent me Do The Work, which led to The War of Art (interestingly, Bagger Vance is one of my top 3 favorite movies of all time), which led to a book called The Tools.

    Since Dec 7th I’ve been doing the work everyday, no matter what. When The Resistance shows up, I say, “I see you, motherfucker. Bring it on!” while I keep doing the work.

    I salute you, Steven Pressfield. And I now salute James Rhodes, too. This website and blog gives me the feeling that I’m now facing The Resistance shoulder to shoulder with others up in arms against this relentless aggressor.

  • Ben

    This is where you tend to lose us atheists, Stephen. There is no God. But the muse, as a metaphor at least, I can believe in. And you’re right about absolutely EVERYTHING else, so not bad going! Keep up the great work.

    • Hee hee hee, put the fox in among the hens this morning I see Steven.
      I enjoyed your post and I share your conclusion, but I also see the point of the “culture club”. I suppose I take it a bit from a more Toltec sort of stance. The siren call of Resistance is for me a battle against character flaws in need of attention, as well as the many layers of culture that were infused into my mind and can act as a strangle hold on my creative action. Taking a question everything response has helped me immensely…but yes the core for me was being introduced to my muse and feeling her daily, touching the ether and being amazed and what gets channeled through me. I honour that as my Goddess/ my muse, my higher power. What ever. I know that just left to my own devices…my ego will choke the brilliance right out of me. When I open up to be a servant…the good stuff starts flowing…and I find that quite divine.

  • Martin Raim

    There are impassioned being like James Rhodes who (seem to) go it alone, persevere heroically and, in the teeth of fierce resistance, accomplish what they committed to accomplishing. For the rest of us (that means me) I get by with a little help from my friends. I’m a retired techie-turned-writer and stay focused on my writing not through sheer will-power alone (a la James) but from the direct encouragement of devoted friends who keep me on track. I return the favor by energetically supporting fellow-writers who have the courage to declare point-blank what it is they are setting out to accomplish. It’s a two-way street!

  • The problem with the word “God” is that there are so many misconceptions out there about what it actually means. Lots of folks are still caught up in the “oversized man in the sky” belief. But guess what, a woman named Mary Baker Eddy not only discovered what God really is, but she also nailed Resistance. And she did it in the 19th century! She even used the word “resistance,” along with animal magnetism, error, evil, devil, etc., to define exactly what you’re talking about, Steven. It’s amazing to think that she did this and hardly anyone noticed. I’m extremely grateful for “The War of Art” and all your other books for bringing this to light today…it’s more needed than many people realize!

  • Wow, powerful article. Thanks.

  • The Hebrews understood Satan as Adversary. I’m not sure I believe in a guy in red PJs with a pitchfork, but a force that opposes our individual and collective call from the sacred (AKA God). Yeah, I’m sure that exists. I’ve experienced it.

    • Satan is a prideful, fallen angel. That old pic of him doesn’t represent the ruler of this earth. Jesus defeated him on the cross. But he rules the earth. We choose to believe or not. God will honor our choice.

  • Bravo!! Bravo Steven!!!!

  • Steven, I greatly admire your work and have found a lot of value in your blog, but please leave the proselytizing out of it. I’m an atheist and I find this kind of post very alienating — was that really your goal, here? I hope not.

    • Real Talk

      You atheists are idiots.

    • Melissa M

      His blog, his prerogative to say what he thinks and believes and feels. Surely you respect him for that even if you don’t agree with his religious stance?

  • Hey Steven I love your writing, but this post didn’t really do it for me. I think the meaning of your post is more about the surge of emotional strength within you rather than an actual argument, but I’ll respond anyway:

    It starts with a faulty premise that things that prevent good from entering the world are the devil. A lot of things and people prevent good, that doesn’t actually make it the devil.

    Also, in terms of the purpose of resistance, we’ve evolved to not move unnecessarily and burn too many calories and starve to death. The key is adapting to our new world where finding food isn’t the problem, but overcoming a built-in “laziness” that stops us from doing other things.

    Anyway, I’m not trying to sound like a killjoy, I love The Gates of Fire, The War of Art, and your blog.

    • Sounds like you’re thinking of the devil as an entity, rather than what it is, which is just plain old evil. Take away the “d” and whaddaya have? Evil.

  • Outstanding, Steve! Many thanks.

  • You can’t get over this guy, and we are all the better for it. Thanks for bringing his story, and your take on it, to this site!

  • I want to disagree with the conclusion about God. But to do so honestly, I have to answer Steve’s core question:
    What possible purpose could Resistance serve in a universe devoid of meaning?
    Each of us has experienced Resistance. It’s a fact. Steve’e belief that it’s the devil leads to his conclusion that there’s God. We can deny his belief that it’s the devil, but need an alternative that steps away from the tautology in “devoid of meaning.”
    What purpose does Resistance serve in human experience? It must have or had one, that contributed to survival of the individual or tribe. If it’s written into our human genome, what did it do for us, why is it there?

  • James Rhodes is amazing and so are you, Steven. Indeed,we are all amazing human beings, if only we could believe we are. Kudos to the brave souls out there fighting Resistance on a daily basis, in order to manifest their true talents. Thanks for these past two posts, detailing the inspiring story about James Rhodes.

  • Grandmastersethy has a plausible explanation why Resistance is there.

    Another might lie in the structure of our brain, which evolved to detect, and create, patterns. To impute, constantly, cause and effect. Which might explain the explanations, Devil and God.

    The brain also evolved to keep us functioning as a member of the tribe. The cost of the creative (divorce, therapy, poverty) may be explanation enough for Resistance. Creativity is necessary for tribal success, but so is Resistance, otherwise all us Creatives would wander off and fail to feed our offspring.

    See Daniel Kahneman’s “Thinking, Fast and Slow.”

  • Gretchen

    This is where you lose me, Steve.

  • Patrick

    Steve, I came to the same conclusion recently, you said it better.

  • Jack

    Great post, Steven. I see a few butt hurt atheists whining on here. To them, I would say read this book:

    You might be stewing about the man in the sky demiurge, rather than the all encompassing being that upholds our very existence and that the vast majority of religions aspire to understand. Belief in a materialist universe is foolish and pathetic.

    • I agree, Jack. When some people hear the word “God,” they immediately jump to the old theology conclusion, whereas even today’s physicists are starting to admit that all is Consciousness.

    • Reg

      I agree with you on this Jack.My same conclusion.

  • Angela

    As writer and creator, I know how to objectify. I understand the seeming otherness of characters, I know how to use devices, and I have many tools up my sleeve.

    It turns out I’m both a classical violinist who rebooted 10,000 hours of deliberate practice this year (had stopped playing after several decades, and had to begin again with a new, radical approach that makes some teachers wince.)

    I’m also a theologian who understands myth and archetype, and can philosophize religion vs. science all day long. Yeah, I believe in God too – but not the one I saw on the Sistine Chapel. I’ve been an atheist as well – so you see dear Steven I relate to your post all the way around.

    For years I began my day writing to “Mr. Fucker,” whom some call the devil. I know that devil is also my shadow, the amateur, Resistance. Thinking of Resistance as a being or object helps me deal with it appropriately! As you’ve covered how to do that, I won’t repeat. Off writing.

    Thanks for another good one.

  • Brilliantly expressed Steven and I couldn’t agree more! We are not here to play it safe. God wants us to go for “it” – whatever that IT is for us. He’s there to guide, help us along the journey, but we must take the first step – every day! They key is to DECIDE to enjoy the journey no matter how shitty it can seem at the time – it will always serve in the end. The beautiful thing is we discover how much we are really loved and supported when we take leaps of faith – that’s where the magic of life lives.

  • Marcy McKay

    Hell, yeah, Steven. Preach it. 🙂

  • I’m sorry, but I could disagree more.

    I totally understand your observation about the nature of the resistance – that it’s sole purpose is to keep us from following our higher intentions. And I do battle with the same thing everyday. But it’s an awfully big leap to say that must be the devil, therefore there must be a God. And I just don’t think it follows.

    The purpose of the resistance is easy to see in the context of human evolution.

    Our systems developed in a world of scarcity and danger. Being open and present and creative and all that is relatively new, and it’s scary to our lower selves. So the resistance is simply our more primitive evolutionary aspects doing what they’re designed to do – keep us safe.

    As I see it, there’s nothing mystical about it. It’s not an epic drama between good and evil. It’s just that we’re in a transition period between the world we’re wired for and the one we’ve created. So we feel the upper pull and the lower resistance at the same time.

    I know it feels bigger than that. I’ve struggled with the same questions for years. But seeing it this way has actually been very liberating and motivating for me. So I’m sticking with it. 🙂

    • oops. I meant “couldn’t” disagree more. sorry.

      • Ben

        ^Typical materialist imbecile.

  • Elizabeth Tomlinson

    Yesterday I was telling a friend about your work, and said that you don’t actually ever *say* that Resistance is evil, but it clearly is exactly that.

    Thank you so much for finally coming out with it! I really appreciate your courage to tell the obvious truth!

    As St. Augustine says, “Evil is a darkened image of omnipotence.” That’s Resistance.

  • Somehow I read this as a bit more tongue in cheek than the atheists who are disagreeing. What I got from this post is that we can’t underestimate the power of resistance and we have to be on guard all the time; even my Zen teacher, who is not a “God” person, considers resistance a life-sucking force. Whether you call it evil or use another term with less theological resonance, it doesn’t change the fact that it doesn’t go away.

  • Currer Bell

    I find this story a bit depressing. I really do. To suffer like that, I am not sure I am getting the lesson or is that resistance in me? Not sure.

    I don’t mind the God stuff, it is what Steve believes and how he expresses himself.

  • Thibaud

    A god m

  • Thibaud

    A god may exist and do exactly what you explain. Exactly I mean no more no less.

    in french:

  • Chris

    “Resistance’s sole object is to prevent.”

    Goddamned right.

  • It might even be that Resistance waxes and wanes — everything else in our universe does — depending on needs of the tribe. Or just periodically. There seem to be times in history where creativity was especially pronounced: Italy in the 15th and 16 century, England and America in the 17th and 18th.

    Perhaps these were times of synergy, or perhaps these were times when the “threshold,” where Resistance is overcome, was lowered.

    There might be advantages to having the Resistance threshold higher at times: When the tribe would want fewer individuals forsaking tribal or individual survival necessities in favor of following the muse, whether to create cave art or catapults.

    At other times, the Resistance threshold might drop and we’d see a burst of new energy finding new outlets and expression and understanding.

    But individuals would always have to struggle against Resistance, because the fact that it’s a battle that many don’t win probably improves the output.

    (Sorry for the multiple posts. The Devil made me do it.)

  • Erik

    It is what it is and it rains equally upon the believers, non-believers, just and unjust alike.
    It’s all about freedom. It’s all about how bad you want it. It’s all about what drives you and what price you are willing to pay for glory.

  • Wonderful post! Love it and your books and your guidance through it all. God bless you!

  • I had to read this post twice. What made me read it twice is my resistance to believe in something that I cannot understand. But, today, I think it made some sense. Is God a consciousness ? Is God within or without? If resistance is from within, then the thing that fights it is also from within.
    Great post Steve. You always inspire me.

  • Nan Roberts

    Thank you Steven. I went back and read last week’s, too. Resistance, resistance, I’ve been battling it for ages and today was bad. I’m encouraged. I can do this. Geez, I have to remember that I did four eight-week sessions of Boot Camp last year, and I’m 62. If I can do that, I can write. I can get out of here, I can move across the country.
    And for anybody else reading this who commented above, I am a Christian, I know there is an enemy (that’s what “satan” means) and I know there is a God, and he won already. I win, too.

  • Eve

    Steven you move me… And I have angels around me which I have placed to help me with resistance. Because I will not write without an outside person that I’m accountable to.. I hired one. She teaches writing and I have to turn in homework every week.. so I must write. Ways to work my way around resistance.. I do whatever it takes.

  • Fred

    As Steven says (brilliantly) in The War of Art, Resistance is always lying and is always full of shit. His personification of the term is also the classic definition of the devil, which is now used in a secular way as well as a religious one.

    This is also what I understand as Illusion. And Illusion, by definition, doesn’t exist.

    To align oneself with Illusion, or the devil, or Resistance – whatever you call it – is to believe wholeheartedly in something that isn’t there.

    We just think it is.

    That’s why this is such an insidious War, one whose battles must be fought daily. Resistance only has the power we invest in it, but we are often more powerful than we realize.

    However, I disagree that Resistance proves the existence of God. As a believer, I know that God has no opposite, and therefore cannot be proved by the existence of one. (Certainly not by an illusion that doesn’t exist in the first place.)

    To even attempt to prove God’s existence is to demonstrate lack of faith, which is the only way by which God can be truly experienced or appreciated.

    As Bob Dylan once sang, “You either faith or you got unbelief, and there ain’t no neutral ground.”

    I personally believe that the spirit of God has inspired human beings since day one. (I also don’t believe that Resistance has ever helped a single human to do anything). But I would never tell a non-believer what to believe. That would deny their freedom and be a manifestation of my own Resistance.

    The best I can do is look my own shifty, lying devil in the eye and say, “You’re so full of shit, you don’t even exist” and get back to my writing.

  • John Anderson

    Wonderful post Steven. Thank you!

  • Thank you. I needed that. I’m fairly new to your website, but already look forward to Writing Wednesdays.

  • Joe

    First given: Resistance is a universal phenomenon of the human psyche. Everyone experiences it. (Trust me, I know from the thousands of e-mails I’ve gotten on the subject.)

    —-> ‘thousands’ of emails don’t make something ‘universal’. It might be quite common, but you can’t rely on this as a ‘given’ simply from thousands of instances of it happening. There are also thousands of instances of it not happening.

    Second given: Resistance’s sole object is to prevent you and me from becoming concert pianists, writing bestselling novels, founding the follow-on to Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity.

    In other words, Resistance’s purpose is to prevent good from entering the world.

    —-> why does resistance have to have a ‘purpose’? It can have an effect, but there’s no intention here. It’s not a conscious entity.

    Ergo: Resistance is the devil.

    —-> this is such a huge leap I don’t even know where to start. Perhaps I should just point out the simple logical error. Even if we accept the premise that “Resistance’s purpose is to prevent good from entering the world” and we add the assumed premise “The Devil’s purpose is to prevent good from entering the world” it’s a logical error to equate Resistance and the devil. For example:
    “My cup of tea will quench my thirst”
    “My glass of wine will quench my thirst”
    does not equal
    “My cup of tea is my glass of wine”

    Ergo: If there is a devil, there must be a God.

    —->another huge mistake. Even if we accept that all your bonkers logic has brought us to the conclusion that there is a devil, that tells us nothing about the existence or otherwise of a god. This assumes so much about the nature of the particular devil you’re arguing for, including all the storybook properties about that devil entrenched in western culture. Unfortunately, this is the same argument: If there are rainbows, there must be leprechauns hiding gold at the rainbow’s end.

    “I refuse to believe that we humans are alone and bereft in a meaningless cosmos. If we were, there would be no such phenomenon as Resistance. What possible purpose could Resistance serve in a universe devoid of meaning?”

    —-> why does resistance have to serve a purpose? And if it does have to serve a purpose, or at least have a function (which it absolutely does not) evolutionary biology can easily furnish us with one. Fear of failure is a healthy survival instinct when it comes to existing in a world that contains dangerous things like cliffs, fire and predators.

    Writing or creating or performing anything requires huge and wonderful creative risks. It can feel like jumping off a cliff. The survival instinct might kick in and stop you from taking on that task at first. But if you can overcome it and act without fear (of failure, of judgement, of a mythical ‘god’ or ‘devil’ figure) then you can create amazing things.

    Own that creative purpose. There is no devil stopping you. It’s YOU. And you can overcome that resistance in this marvellous, beautiful, meaningless and godless universe. The human brain, human creativity, human good and evil… these are the things that we grapple with every day.

    This is fantastic blog and all the encouragement to creativity and beauty is special. Please keep doing what you’re doing. I only wanted to address the logical mis-steps because I consider creativity to our, human responsibility. No devil is to stop you creating and no god is going to take the credit. Own it.

    • LOve this

      Own it!!

      Right on brother!!

    • “There is no devil stopping you. It’s YOU.”

      Well done.

  • bettylion

    I enjoy Pressfield’s writings a lot, and they sure help with motivation, but this post lost me a little bit because I think it makes a big leap. I, too, would love to believe that we are not brief, pointless specks of dust in the cosmos, but my logic fails to make the leap of faith. I see Resistance more as a normal human trait, of laziness specifically. We are biologically programmed to seek the path of least resistance, to choose pleasure over pain. Delayed gratification is something that all humans struggle with. It is much easier to choose an hour of ‘pleasure’ relaxing in front of the TV than it is to battle your self-doubt in front of a blank piece of paper.

  • matthew

    The sun does not revolve around the earth and the world is not flat. We know so much more now. C’mon Steve.

  • Erik

    Mr. Pressfield realizes that there is a power and will greater than himself by identifying a force that operates contrary to his own will. “Resistance” is not the devil; nor is it proof for the existence of God. Resistance is proof that God is actively involved with our development.

  • Erik

    There is a “Catch 22” law in our Universe:

    When you do the math you will find that you did not do the math.

    Guess who did the math?

  • Erik

    Resistance is our own will.

    God’s will is that we know God and become as God.

    So who is God?
    All I can tell you is that the “Fat Lady” sings a love song 🙂