Fear Of Things
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
"Fear nurses up a danger;
"No weapons can hurt the Self of man, no fire will burn it, no water moisten it, no wind will dry it up."— Indian Veda.
AT THE outset in our present chapter it should be remembered, first, that my task is not to offer suggestions for self-protection against the ills and accidents of life, but to assist the fearful in their effort to overcome fear; and,secondly, that the fear-feeling is real only as we make it real, being always totally distinct from instinct and reason, which alone are legitimately to be relied upon against danger, actual or fancied. This does not mean that one is merely to deny the feeling of fear, or to give it some different name when it is present. No value issues from denying a fact. But when the fact of fear appears, it should never be recognized as reasonable or legitimate in any sense; its claim to right and necessity in our life should be totally refused. That which properly insists upon exclusive recognition and control is reason or instinct working in the interest of self-preservation. This being understood, we may scotch fear at its every appearance, depending upon these factors alone for all the benefits that lying fear may claim to represent.
THE SERENE SOUL-SEA.
My task is really this: to suggest that the human soul, sea of countless waves and tides, need never be crossed by the movements of fear as a feeling. In the old Gothic language the soul was called saivala, related to saivs, the "sea." "The sea was called saivs," says Max Müller, "from a root si, or siv, the Greek seio, `to shake;' it meant the `tossed-about water,' in contra-distinction to stagnant or running water. The soul being called saivala, we see that it was originally conceived by the Teutonic nations as a sea within, heaving up and down with every breath, and reflecting heaven and earth on the mirror of the deep."
Into this soul-sea have swept the disturbing forces of fear, so to speak, which are aliens, and never should have been permitted room or freedom. Had human life always been harmonious with itself and its higher environments, no fear could ever have arisen in the vibrant soul of man as a disturbing feeling. Discord has bred a brood of disastrous emotions curiously related which it will be interesting to study for a moment. Thus, the serpent was anciently called ahi in Sanskrit, echis in Greek, and anguis in Latin. The root of ahi is anh, "to choke, to throttle," and it lives in the Latin angina, "quinsy," angor, "suffocation," anxius, "uneasy," and also in anhas, Greek agos, "sin," agis, "fear," and the English "awe" and "anguish."
The "sin" of theology is really discord, or, rather, knowingly inharmonious action of the self; it is the known violation of known laws of known best personal estate. This it is which induces disaster, because it induces disharmony within the right conditions of human welfare, and this is the only power on earth that can essentially hurt the soul. "He, therefore, who knows the Self," say the "Upanishads" of India (with the meaning that Brahma, the Infinite, is the Self, which meaning we may ignore for our present purpose, regarding the Self as the human self) "after having become quiet, subdued, satisfied, patient, and collected, sees self in Self, sees all as Self. Evil does not overcome him, he overcomes evil. Evil does not hurt him, he burns all evil. Free from evil, free from spots, free from doubts, he becomes a true Brahman." In our Western thought we background on the Infinite, but are not the Infinite; nevertheless, the self is secure in itself if it really wills that no evil not self-induced (or consented to) can reach the self. The essential human spirit is immune to any evil not self-induced. But this, evil, disharmony, is the great breeder of fears. Innocent man, man at harmony with the self and its worlds, would still instinctively and reasonably act in the interest of wholeness and happiness, but he would never really fear, feel the serpent's "throttle," come to the anguish of fright. If consciously right,— on the rita or "straight line,"— how could he possibly have any of the emotions of fear, distinguished from the mere thought and action of self-preservation? The animal has all the self-preservative movements of instinct, but he is not anxious, he does not brood, worry, fret, and he never anticipates imaginary dangers for himself or for other animals.