Secrets Of Fearlessness
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
The Self is Supreme and Immune. It is evident that a true fearlessness has its secret, for one thing, in the profound conviction that everything in the personal life is subordinate to the one supreme factor, the unseen and indestructible self, and that this self is or ought to be lord and master, and, in a state of harmony with itself and its higher environments, may be perfectly indifferent to any so-called evils that can befall the inferior factors, such as body, or mind, or life physical, or property. Just so soon as we become possessed of self in this sense, we shall banish all worrying fears in regard to dangers to what we call self, including the body, because we shall then know that such can never injure the real self within the body, while all that true instinct or reason may properly be in our life will still remain to us for legitimate self-preservation. One secret of fearlessness of things, then, consists in the deep assurance that self is master of self and immune to all real evil not self-induced, and that this immunity is the absolute reward of harmony.
The World of Nature is Good and No Enemy. If, now, this sense of supremacy and immunity is taken with a large belief in the goodness and helpfulness of the Universe in which we live, then, while reason must still act in self-preservation, the feeling of fear for innumerable things about us comes to be displaced by reasonable confidence. These suggestions must receive a fuller treatment later in the present chapter. My chief thought here is the age-long truth that discord is the mother of fears.
One basic assumption in our common thought seems to make Nature an enemy of man. This is really a relic of old fears and superstitions which have originated in the long struggle for right adjustment with Nature's laws. In perfect harmony with the Universe, or Nature, there can be no other fear than the normal warning against discord, and I hold this to be, in its proper action, the warning of instinct or reason, not of the fear-feeling as usually understood. The whole meaning of man's history is this: the race is slowly striving to find the centre of adjustment universal, or universal harmony, Instinctively it knows that safety lies there, and nowhere else. So affirms reason. But human ignorance antagonizes a Universal System which is determined that in harmony alone shall man realize fearlessness of, and freedom from, all danger. Hence the individual fear denies the racial instinct, and the great Mother-Friend, Nature, becomes in our thought the implacable enemy. I am unable to account for so many fears of things on any other supposition.
FORMS OF THIS FEAR.
The above preliminaries being now before us, it may be well briefly to survey the innumerable aspects of the fear of things. The monster is hydra-headed and very ancient. Every object of existence on earth has inspired fear in some human breast. We fear that stones may throw us; that nails will pierce our feet; that tools will injure; that poisons lurk in every eatable and drinkable thing; that the lamp may explode; that the gas may smother us; that chairs will collapse; that floors and roofs will cave in; that the house may catch fire; that the boiler may blow up; that machinery may break and slay; that trees and buildings may topple over; that meteors may strike us; that vehicles may give out; that the boat may sink; that the cars may slip the rail or be telescoped; that mountains will slide; that mines will close in; that rivers will rise in floods; that the swimmer will drown; that electric wires will come down; that hurricanes will destroy the town; that lightning may strike; that guns may go off, etc., etc. All of these things have occurred, to be sure; but has fear-feeling averted a single disaster?
So, also, every animal large enough to be seen by the naked eye has caused humanity a fright. The list of fears — or allied nervous conditions — reveals now some curious specimens. The smell of fish threw Eras-mus into a fever. One person always fainted at sight of an eel. A carp sent another into convulsions. Boiled lobsters caused another to faint. The great Scaliger could not drink milk, and Cordon hated the sight of eggs. An apple would induce nose-bleed in Francis I, which was also the fate of another on hearing a cat mew. Some people cannot endure the smell of flowers, while others dislike their beauty. Many are unable to touch silk or velvet without shuddering. A few have felt aversion for certain musical instruments. The Duke d'Epernon swooned on seeing a leveret. The famous Tycho Brahe feared foxes, and Marshal d'Abert feared pigs. Cases of inability to hear about surgical operations or accidents are numerous. Pepper, olive oil, bulls, beetles, hedgehogs, are unendurable to others. Fears for dogs, cats, horses, cows, snakes, mice and rats, frogs, toads, birds, fish, insects, are familiar to all. In all this we have traces of far-away human life holding over; evidences of maladjustment getting on the nerves. Has the feeling of fear brought about any cure?
Condition of health is also a prolific source of apprehension. It marks present-day progress that physical health is receiving such universal attention, but there is confessed danger that this general revival of health-culture may induce excessive consciousness of bodily states, Real health seldom thinks of itself. Such excessive consciousness is a danger in the sense that it may suggest the very conditions feared, and by suggestion induce them. In the sovereignty of mind, however, the tendency of continual thought about the body may be averted by the spirit of resolute vigor and the ability to throw the subject out of consciousness. Something of truth there is in the old lines:
"The surest road to health —say what they will,
It may almost be said that were one to catalogue all the objects, medicines, directions, plans and methods recommended for gaining or preserving health, some contrary declaration or experience might be written opposite every item in the list. We have become afraid not only of diseases, but of cures, and, in this chaotic state, are ready to conjure up a fear for all known existences having any relation to the body.
Apprehensions in regard to physical ills would be more numerous than diseases were it not for the creative power of suggestion. There is no known variety of food which some one does not fear. Fruit is harmful, vegetables are injurious, meat is deadly, pastry is unspeakable. Not a drink is used that has not been condemned. Venders of water and all other beverages assault the courage of the day with dire catalogues of disaster — if you indulge in any other than their own. Advertisements everywhere outrage one's sense of security. Even air is thrust into the fear-making machine of imagination. That of the city is baleful, that of the sea is too strong, that of the inland too dry or too moist, that of the valley too heavy, that of the mountain too rare. Air contains an excess of ozone or not enough. The sun threatens sunstroke, and the moon portends lunacy. One must needs go to jail in order to avoid draughts, and live like the owl to escape death by heat or maintain the balance of reason. There is death, also, in all physical exercise. It hides beneath the horizontal bar, and consumption dances in the prize-ring, heart-failure rides the bicycle, a broken bone is a. certainty on the ball-ground, a wrecked anatomy on the gridiron, exhaustion on horseback, fatty degeneration in the carriage, rheumatism and neuralgia in the rowboat, mutilation in the hunting-field, drowning on the fishing banks. People have been known to die in church. Systematic exercise is elaborately formulated — and scientifically criticised. We are fearful of all exercise, of no exercise, of too little and too much. Then, again, sleep is no longer innocent of wakeful hobgoblins. It may not be indulged on the left side, on the right, on the back, or "the other way up," as one in the "embarrassing presence" tried to say of swimming, nor omitted until midnight, nor permitted beyond this or that hour in the morning, nor during the day, nor before a meal, nor immediately after, nor in a closed room, nor in an open, nor with a bedfellow, nor without, nor with head toward the north, south, east, west, nor on an empty stomach, nor a full, nor just before a bath, nor just after, nor with too much light or clothing, nor with too little. We fear excess of sleep, insufficient sleep, sleep of every conceivable kind under every conceivable condition. But fear has never in this world accomplished anything other than make good the fear and breed some more.
Of course medicines are prime suggesters of fear-feeling. Only an age whose fears have swollen the pharmacopoeia could multiply fears for medicine. Fear warns against some medicines, too much medicine, too little, all kinds in toto. Hence, there are fearful diseases unknown in the past, and every pain suggests the death-rattle. A pain in the eyes conjures up a vision of surgery-loving oculists; one in the ear means a probing wrist; one in the tongue an operation for cancer; one on the left side a collapse on the street; one in the throat sanitary isolation; one in the stomach a growing tumor; one somewhere else appendicitis—a professional mining exploration for the significance in evolution of vermiform appendix; one in the lungs an experiment in some new theory; one in the head nervous prostration; one in the feet the gout; one in the back various complaints; one in the joints hardening of tissue; "that tired feeling" all the woes of earth.
No pain is there but awakens apprehension, no ill but causes a fear, no sickness but engenders anxiety. We are "fearfully as well as wonderfully made." The "sciences" which benevolence and money-getting have originated have themselves become fear-factories. Rational science frightens us with bacteria, bacilli, innumerable unescapable germs. The clubs that profess longevity hail the aspirant for membership with countless adjurations. Christian Science, Metaphysics, all sorts of isms, the occult forces, water-cures, nature-cures, allopathy, homeopathy, electric schools, all haunt the world with ten thousand prescriptions for ills them-selves have largely created by fructifying imagination until its power of microscopic investigation and infinitesimal analysis appears to be almost as attractive as a new possibility in the nature of the Almighty. It is scarcely an exaggeration to say that, afraid to die, we die in fright for fear of the fear of death. And every one of these fears has worked incalculable harm in our life.
I have drawn out the indictment against fear in this way because I wished to indicate the utter folly and uselessness of our perennial fear of things, Nature, her creations, forces and conditions. Let us have done with this insanity. There are no fears which may not be displaced by reason; none, therefore, that may not be destroyed and cast out of our life altogether. If, then, the foolishness of it all begins to dawn on the reader, we may now indicate, treating the matter suggestively, some of the