Vital Facts About These Fears
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
The vital thing may be brought out in an advancing form. The power of the ideas of the unknown and the overwhelming should be overcome and destroyed. The power of such ideas is evolved from three sources :
I — A false conception of Time;
II — An unduly active forepicturing of Conditions;
III — An abnormal expectation of events. We take up these factors in their order.
I. FIRST FACTOR: A FALSE CONCEPTION OF TIME. The first source of confusion to normal mental satisfaction, a false conception of time, is two fold.
One phase consists in a wrong view of time, the other in an apprehensive attitude toward time. The second phase is induced by the first, although the two usually exist as parts of one thought. The first phase demands consideration because of this fact; the matter is practical in bearing, however metaphysical in its nature.
We can best approach the practical element by a brief discussion of the theory of the time idea. Man is the only animal that is capable of this idea, since he alone is able to say, "I am identically myself through all the passing of activities whether within or without," thus rising to the idea of continuity amid change. Having the idea of identity, man makes action's continuance a measure for identity, and then calls that measure, time.
The false view of time consists in the fact that we get away, in our thought, from this measure-element of mere thought, and come at last to regard the measure of internal and external activities as an external reality in itself.
The idea of space, again, is a a mere-element in thought of external action or inaction — properly conceived; but here also we make a thought-measure to be an external reality.
In other words, we put a thought, "identity-action-continuance," outside ourselves, and call that, time; and we put a further thought, "external action or inaction," outside ourselves, and call that, space.
Now, let us observe certain facts concerning time and space. It is only necessary to compare the origin of various time-words and space-words with this present conception of time and of space, to discover precisely the process of putting the thought-thing outside ourselves and making it an outside reality-thing. The following list of words illustrates the fact that man began his life by really giving names to his own inner processes of thought, only later making those names to stand for things as though outside his thought. That is, however external things appeared to him to be, he began by naming his inner thoughts about those things. Thus, to select at random, we have:
Thing from the Sanscrit, Tak, "what is prepared or made an object." Prepared where? In thought about a something that acted upon the mind, induced a final mental action. You see, the action-upon is transformed by the responsive mental action into a thing.
Object, from Jet, "to throw" and ab, "against"—"to throw against." Throw against what? In last analysis, against mind, inducing mental action which is named, object.
Subject, "to put under," primarily, in a thought — necessarily so.
Reality, from Latin, Res, "a thing;" "what is pre-pared or made an object;" "what is thrown against mind."
Fact, from Latin, Facere, "to make, do;" "what is made, done." Do, from Sanscrit, Dha, "to place." Here, also, a mental action: "to place by thought." How could the placing be recognized except by thought?
Existence, from Sanscrit, Stha, "to stand," from As, "to breathe." The thing is placed in the thought induced by the thing thrown against mind.
Being, from Sanscrit, Bhu, "to grow, become." The mind perceives a something thrown against it as becoming or growing.
Life, "what remains;" the remaining seeming at the last simply in mind.
Action, from Latin, Agere, "to do;" what is being done as observed by and in mind.
Space, from Sanscrit, Spa, "that which is drawn out." But the drawing out must seem in the thinker to take place outside because he makes a thought-object an object of thought. The thought-seeming occurs in mind; the objective fact-seeming seems outside mind.
Distance, "stand apart." Where? In the thinker's inner observation. The stand-apart idea is there; not elsewhere; but as object of recognition, it is referred outside its origin.
World, "age of man;" Age, "a course;" Era, "a calculation." Here, again, we have the fact of inner mental processes receiving inner names, so that named things appear to have reality in themselves, but have their known reality in mind.
Time, referring to Tide, from Sanscrit, Day (Da, "to give"), "to allot." It is a measure-idea.
Year, from Ya, "that which passes;" the idea of passing being a mental conclusion, and the notion, year, being a mere mental measure-naming in conclusion.
In all this it appears that, however real things, space, time, may be as objects of thought, they can only be known in thought, so that in naming them man has simply named his own thoughts.
And so, when man tries to find a "thing-in-itself," apart from his thought, he must fail in the effort, since the thing-in-itself, apart from thought, if found (impossible, of course), would then be, not apart, but in thought. And when he tries to find space independent of thought, he must also fail, for a similar reason: the non-thought space would then be an in-thought space.
What else could it be? Finally, when man tries to find time existent apart from thinking activities that pass in his mind, failure is inevitable, because the activities must first be recognized in mind, the passing must be observed in mind and the time-measurements, hour, day, year, are merely thought-names of units selected in mind out of the passing activities of mind.
The world of Nature as you know it or perceive it is really a thought-world which you have built up in your mind. There is an external world, but that world is by you perceived in your mind. You can never know any world other than your inner reflection (so to speak) of a something outside called the world because you name your thought. Thus with all things, objects, processes, combinations. You cannot get outside of yourself to know; you are compelled to know inside yourself the things that are outside yourself.
Space is a word that stands in our thought for relations of nearness and remoteness of things-ideas, and, since these things themselves are, as we know them, thought-reflections occurring within our minds, the word space stands for such thought-relations of thought-reflections. For example: you observe in the night sky a star far north and a star far south, and the two stars appear to occupy space. But each star, as you know it, is a thought-reflection in your mind, and the two are related in a thought, "remoteness-from-one-another." This sort of mental perception we call space because the relation between various thought-reflections of things seems "drawn out"—Spa.
Similarly, time is a word standing in our thought for relations of sequence between thought-reflections of activities. It is not a thing-in-itself; it is a certain mode of our mental action. This is also true of space. None of these considerations, of course, deny the reality of world, or of action, or of sequence. The conclusion is merely that the world and space and time, as we know them, are known only in the mind. "World known to each," and "space" and "time" are names which we really give to mental actions. Such mental actions are induced by activities outside the mind, but when outside activities become known in mind, the things known are the mental activities — signs of the external facts.
A mirror reflects whatever stands or moves before it. Here are two realities: the things and actions that are not the reflections, and—the reflections. If the reflection could be a knowing, the mirror would know, but the knowing could only be in the mirror. When we make the mirror to represent the mind, we see that knowing a world, space, time, is reflecting within mind.
The ancient, Plato, discoursed once in the form of a dialogue. He conceived of a man (in a talk between two speakers) confined in a cave, with his back to the cave's opening and his face toward the rear wall. You see, he, one speaker — and so, Plato — said, that if men, objects and animals outside the cave pass before the opening, the light of day will cast their shadows on the rear wall, and the cave-dweller will perceive and come to know the shadows. Although, through the shadows, he will know outside objects, his knowing will be of the shadows alone. In this sense he will know the outside objects, but only as reflected on the cave's wall. It is thus with our mind-knowing: we perceive only with the mind, on the mind's wall, as it were, So, a Universe is a complex thought in man's mind, and space and time are relation-thoughts which concern things and activities as thought.
When, therefore, the mind understands these truths, the fact becomes evident that the idea of time arises from mental perception of sequence in activities. The activities are the main thing, besides the feeling of personal identity. Self-identity erects a standard, a stationary post, so to speak, and the sequence of the activities makes the latter to seem to pass before us. Any now-passing is the present — our self-identifying consciousness. Then memory comes in to repeat mental activities that correspond with the items in the sequence, and we refer such items to a past. But then, again, reason and imagination enter into the process, and we believe that activities of some sort will continue to go right on indefinitely, and we call this to-be going-on a future.
But, of course, activities that merely have been, are now no more. They have ceased. What is left is simply a thought —" past." The past cannot be a thing-in-itself. It is only the "has-been" of activities which now are not.
And a to-be going-on of activities is not-yet, because it is "to be." Such activities have not occurred. They are merely imagined. This going-on sequence that is "to be" cannot be now and" to be" at once. The "to-be" is simply a thought —" the future."
There is no past save as thought of a has-been.
There is no future save as thought of a yet-to-be.
Only the present is real, and this is real because it is perception and knowing in mind of mentally reflected activities.
Having thus disposed of space and time and worlds (as subjects of thought), the two great remaining facts are — Agents and Actions. We now have our conclusions in regard to Fear. Putting these considerations together for our treatment of fear, we remark :
If we think of time as a thing-in-itself, how vast, everlasting, portentious! If we think of space as a thing-in-itself, this also looms up to overwhelm us. If we think of a mysterious Universe, apart from our little mind-world (which alone we can know), which alone need ever concern us, the idea grows on us until a sense of awe, bewildering and overloading, threatens to confuse and terrify consciousness.
But the human mind has no such concern with realities other than those revealed in its own thoughts.
The Universe is revealed in a System which is just as vast as a man's thought — your thought — and no vaster, so far as you know. This truth reduces the Universe you know to activities within your mental scope.
Space is revealed in the relation-reflections of a man's mind — your mind — and reduces to your comprehension, your comprehending mental activities.
Time is revealed in the relation or sense of nearness and remoteness of a man's thoughts — your thoughts - and reduces to your mental calibre.
In the field of the two great remaining facts, agents and activities, you take your place. Every other human does the same. To each there remain only activities - of the self and of the Not-self known by the self. Each man perceives various activities constituting his world, taking place in his mind-reflecting relations of space and time.
To each, then, nothing remains but activities in the sequence of his perceiving.
The idea of time, therefore (to drop the ideas of world and space), concerns a flow of mental activities alone. We come, thus, to our regimes.
REGIMES CORRECTING EFFECTS OF FALSE TIME-NOTION. GENERAL REGIME-NUMBER ONE: Minimizing the Time-Notion. You have shown commendable patience in pursuing this (really brief) discussion, but the reward is at hand. You have no foreboding about present time, since this you both have and know. It is only the future that seems to invite distress, and this, especially, as it looms afar, as it is conceived as more and more remote from the present — being, let us say, the future of another year, or of a decade hence, or of old age.
The remedy consists in remembering that there is no future in fact, and never can be; that all life is contemporaneous — of the "dead," of the living, of other beings in other conditions, — of Deity or of angels. Life is now only. The life of the past was then only, has ceased as of then. Life is now as fact, and forever will be: the now-life of all universes. Only the present is real. The host of intelligences, occupying even an infinite Universe, march abreast in ever-lasting now.
And this now is a now of action and actors. To you, then, the now is a now of activities alone. You are, now, in the midst of these activities. To the now-conditions of things you are invited to hold yourself adequate. The now is an instant — enough in itself. Any now is an instant, and enough for life. You should affirm, with the courage of the normal existence: "I am equal to the demands of the Now. Always shall I say this and be so equal. Thus there can be no imaginary coming "Now" in which I shall not be adequate."
This is precisely the attitude of normal mind in healthy body. The satisfaction of well-being involves courage for the now. The well-being inspires a feeling of now-confidence, which is the only felt need, since there never can be a real time other than a now-time.
GENERAL REGIME—NUMBER Two: Proving Adequacy to the Now. The condition indispensable to the preceding regime is that you make good the claim of now-adequacy. And make good now. If you maintain normal health of body and mind, and are doing and living the reasonable best in your relation to the world's now-activities, you are not apprehensive of any so-called future — unless you are under the tyranny of sheer imagination, which is purely a case for resolute will-power banishing a perfectly causeless notion. In the condition just above indicated, you are conscious of well-being and of well-doing, and so are necessarily optimistic. Optimism concerns the present far more than the future. Its spirit of hopefulness is vitalized by present satisfactions. Well-being and well-doing induce a satisfaction which, because of itself now, normally believes that itself shall continue. Hence the invitation that you assist yourself into normal conditions now, and that you do your reasonable best in all your relations to the world's activities now. With the consciousness that you are so doing, you are urged to combine the clear idea of time — of next year or of forty years hence—conceived as merely a measuring-thought of the now-activities around you. Life reduces to proving adequate to the present situation — more or less—in some satisfactory way. Life can never and will never be other than precisely that. When you maintain these two activities,— that of well-doing and that which makes time a now-matter,— you find apprehension for the future dying out because nothing remains of the vague unknown something on which apprehensions can feed and fatten. We come, then, to the second factor in thought supporting fear.
II. SECOND FACTOR : AN UNDULY ACTIVE FORE--PICTURING OF CONDITIONS. The second source of confusion to normal life's satisfaction and courage, so far as the future is concerned, is an unduly active fore-picturing of conditions. This book, it should be observed, does not concern methods for insuring satisfactory conditions in the future, except in the development of courage. That work is provided for in the other volumes of this Library. At present we have to do solely with fear that the future may prove unfortunate. This fear is altogether needless. Especially is worry about it totally gratuitous and always harmful. Worry never improves conditions of living, either actual or imagined; it always makes present conditions worse and prepares for other conditions of the same order.
Apprehension concerning future conditions of life infallibly proves two things: first, that the will has shirked, or been driven from, its duty of pushing and directing for personal well-being. When will acts normally in this regard, it asserts well-being, pushes on to well-being, directs for well-being, and by sheer activity and revealing of energy breeds courage and confidence. The appropriate invitation, therefore, is apparent: Banish all ideas save those of asserting, pushing, directing for well-being now.
GENERAL REGIME—NUMBER THREE: Will Promising a Good Future. You are, thus, urged, to arouse the idea of well-being, as present and as to come and continue, to the utmost vividness; that is, to think of yourself as well and prospering and as continuing so, with the greatest mental energy and confidence. This effort will infallibly arouse the will to a high pitch of resolute activity and determination.
The fact proved by apprehension concerning the nature is that the imagination has become unduly inventive and has been given liberty in unhealthful directions.
Imagination cannot become too active, or too full of invention if only it is controlled and applied to life in right practical ways, but it is always capable of exercising its powers in wrong directions and on unhealthful objects. The normal mind in a sound body, since it has the feeling of well-being or satisfaction that reports the fact of normality, tends to imagine only on the plane of its satisfaction in itself, and healthy imaginations therefore deal with happy expectations. When imagination sees time and space looming large and forbidding on the idea of a far future, and creates therein the shapes of portent, this is a sign of mind not normal. A cure for this brooding and foreboding imagination will be found in the will to be happy, the will to do one's best in present situations, the will to face all odds courageously. This cure may be presented as follows:
GENERAL REGIME-NUMBER FOUR: Will Counteracting Imagination. You are therefore invited to affirm, vigorously, confidently, and daily for long: "I will to be, and I am, full of good cheer and power now. I am now doing my best reasonably possible in work and life — and such always shall I do. Hence, I now will myself able to face whatever conditions may come to me. I am power now! I am prophet now of success to come!"
This assertion of will is doubly demanded because forebodings about the future usually spring from unhappy conditions of body or of mind. And one proof of need of the regime will be any feeling of distaste for it. If you positively dislike the idea or effort of willing as directed, that fact is imperative call for such willing. The regime will prove hard and unwelcome to the melancholy mood or temperament, of course. We see in different types of mind actual tests of the regimes' value. Said an acute thinker: "On meeting with a disaster, the man of melancholy temperament selects and indulges in the woful aspects of it, the phlegmatic man takes his satisfaction in the thought that such things must happen, the sanguine man his in hopes of repairing it, and the irascible man his in anger with the cause of it." The happiest man is the sanguine, but he needs not the present regime. The phlegmatic man is the most philosophical if he can also be sanguine. The irascible man adds disaster to disaster, for his anger breeds poison in his blood. The melancholy man above all needs to arouse his will just because he is what he is. Precisely the attitudes indicated will these types of men assume in regard to the future. A man's future in thought is only the reflection of his present. If he enjoys misery now, he will fill the future with unhappiness. But this tendency is his disease, and he more than others should inspire his will to assert the best to be, as well as select the best that is for his thought — in his thought of himself for all conditions of life.
GENERAL REGIME—NUMBER FIVE: Substitution of Happy Imagination for Unhappy. If the future in our thought is but a reflection of the present in our mind, imagination full of possible unhappy events, or imaginaton. Nunning in the direction of such events, is a demand in itself for substitution of precisely the opposite con-tents and directions. So long as you dwell on this trouble-fear, so long do you make unhappy imaginations the subject of your thoughts — and thus vitalize them. The tendency and the thoughts should always be suppressed by ideas and pictures of well-being and adequacy and success. You are therefore invited to re-solve that when unpleasant anticipations occur in mind you will instantly banish them. You are urged to will at the required time, immediately, such forebodings out of mind. And you are invited always to keep your mind active on plans and pictures of good work, good results, good fortune — surely coming welfare.
Had Plato's man in the cave possessed a keyboard so connected with outside objects that he could manipulate the shadows on the wall, he would certainly have pressed, or permitted to be pressed, only those keys which controlled happy scenes before him. Thus with imaginations about the future. You possess the keyboard. You may not altogether control events — that subject is not before us. You can control your attitude toward the present, and, above all, you can accustom the mind to respond only to, to throw up on the imaginary wall of the future only, objects and events which shall accord with the normal mind's satisfaction in itself. This brings us to the third factor of confusion.
III. THIRD FACTOR: AN ABNORMAL EXPECTATION OF EVENTS. The two preceding regimes dispose, in a general way, of the third source of confusion to normal satisfaction in life — that which is here indicated. Our question is, always, it should be remembered: "How to overcome fear concerning the future."
Events will come to pass, and some of them will be unpleasant. These two facts are certain.
"Into each life some rain must fall."
Nevertheless, in the living world, man tries to be ready for evil and for good, and in a normal state he is conscious of reasonable adequacy and courage concerning the future. Our purpose has to do with mental conditions in which apprehension creates all sorts of possible disastrous happenings. These apprehensions may be displaced by their opposites, which suggests
A Certain Fact and A Certain Law Working In-fallibly for Your Assistance.
(1) The Fact is that the word "mind" is merely a name for a "bundle" of regularly established activities (see "Practical Psychology"), each expression of which, when it ceases, leaves nothing whatever in mind except its characteristic tendency. You do not "store" thoughts; by thinking you merely develop tendencies toward thoughts. There is nothing in mind save action and its mental meaning. (In fact, the meaning is the action). This is the fact referred to.
(2) The Law is that the activities and their tendencies, when they become definitely habituated, can only be eliminated by substitution of their opposites. ' Only optimistic expectations can eliminate forebodings, and they can do so by substitution alone. You cannot will mental activities to cease except by thinking thoughts that drive apprehensions out of mind. If apprehensions, then, are habitual with you, you have a tendency to think in that way, and you must develop a tendency to think in the opposite way. Since mental activities are nothing when they cease ,—leave nothing "stored" in mind, — you see that your task is not to throw out fears but to think hope and courage in terms of actual good fortune expected. The tendency so to think will infallibly be developed if you will from now on engage always in happy thoughts about the future and in nothing contrary whatever. The method is simple: Never think evil; persistently think good pictured concretely in imaginary experience, by filling your mind with scenes in which you are invariably fortunate and surcharged with the feelings of success.
You are invited, therefore, to cultivate habitual expectation of a bright future by always calling to mind and dwelling upon — without exception — ideas of your own power, ideas of efficient work, ideas of fortunate outcomes from whatever you may undertake.
These general regimes introduce us to further considerations of the satisfaction of normal life which are preliminary to our special regimes to be given in the next chapter. We touch, now, some very quick spots in human nature.