“This short word somehow touches about every aspect of our lives. It is an evil and corroding thread; the fabric of our existence was shot through with it. It set in motion trains of circumstances which brought us misfortune we felt we didn’t deserve. But did not we, ourselves, set the ball rolling? Sometimes we think fear ought to be classed with stealing. It seems to cause more trouble.” (P. 67:2, ‘Alcoholics Anonymous’)
Someone said to me yesterday: “whatever you reside in will manifest. If you reside in God, God will manifest; if you reside in fear, fear will manifest.”
Fear fear itself. There is a Jewish proverb, “to worry is a sin; the only permissible worry is that one worries.”
“Are we now ready to let God remove from us all the things which we have admitted are objectionable?” (P. 76:1)
To arrive at the conclusion that fear is objectionable (which is the prerequisite for asking for its removal with sufficient earnestness in Step Seven), I must first of all knock out the logical load-bearing structure: the justification for its elevation to dictatorial status in my life.
With resentment, there is a perverse satisfaction: the self-satisfaction of the august roles of prosecutor, judge, jury, executioner, politician, reformer, and minister sighing over the sins of the twenty-first century. Resentment also justifies itself with the assertion that the observation of ‘wrongness’ must necessarily be accompanied by a festering emotional reaction, as though to rid oneself of this useless chancre is tantamount to upending what is ‘wrong’ and declaring it ‘right’. Nonsense. The observation of wrongness (or possible wrongness—after all, my judgement is regularly flawed) can quite well prompt remedial action on my part without my having to experience smouldering resentment or explosive rage. In fact, taking correct and prompt remedial action typically relies on the absence of resentment, which will only distort my response and cut me off from the only source of true power, God. I am then left with self-will and its toolbox of, on one hand, argumentativeness, obstinacy, dominance, and control or, on the other hand, grace, charm, flattery, and manipulation (cf. p. 61).
Fear operates slightly differently. It justifies itself by saying it is merely the prescient caution that alerts us to danger so we can take remedial action. Nonsense. The prescient caution that alerts us to danger is not festering fear but the perspective of the eagle, rising above the Earth, able to see with unencumbered eye all that lies below, in the past, in the future, beyond the immediate temporal and spatial restrictions. From this vantage point, dangers will be spotted, but, with the sure knowledge of the omnipotence and universal accessibility of God, all true dangers can be averted. There may be a flash of fear, sure, but, once its motivational job is done, it must be transcended. Fear shouts: “LOOK OUT!” So, a person of faith and courage looks out, asks God for guidance and power to act, and sends fear scuttling back to its fetid lair. What I would say is, “Oh, hello fear! Why not come and join me, be my constant companion, whisper in my ear all day long, I wouldn’t want to miss any of your useful titbits.”
Fear massively outstrips its usefulness. I was once attacked in the street. The jolt of fear produced such an adrenaline rush that I ran unbelievably fast away from the attacker. This has happened to me just once in almost forty years. Yet the rush of fear was something I would experience day in, day out, for years. No attacker existed. No threat to my actual person. But always on guard, just in case!
So, we have tackled the ostensible justification for fear and started to deconstruct its supportive structure.
What ~really~ makes fear abhorrent—with any luck, sufficiently abhorrent to pray fervently for its removal—is not merely the observation of its relative uselessness but this:
Fear is the emotion that follows the prophesying of hell. I imagine the future scenarios which will bring pain, unhappiness, loneliness, frustration, separation, alienation, hopelessness, and despair.
The first idiocy of fear is that it makes manifest right here, right now, that of which I am afraid in my spiritual life. I become instantly disconnected and alienated, unable to relate to others, pained, unhappy, lonely, frustrated, separated, hopeless, and despairing.
The second idiocy of fear is even more pernicious.
“And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear. But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid. And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased. (Matthew 14:26–31)
The point of quoting this is not the literal truth of whether not, with sufficient faith, a person can walk on water. The point is the precise moment that Peter, who is already, by that point, successfully walking on water, begins to sink: it is the moment he becomes afraid.
As within, without; as without, within. Whatever resides in me will manifest materially. Whatever I am afraid of is where I am residing and I cannot help but make that manifest in my life. I will construct failure and rejection through fear of failure and rejection. I am not going to examine, here, the material and psychological mechanisms that account for this; I am more interested in the spiritual principle:
“the great truth that outside things are but the expression (ex-pressed or pressed out) or out-picturing of our inner thoughts and beliefs; that we have dominion or power over our thoughts to think as we will; and thus, indirectly, we make or mar our lives by the way in which we do think. . . . we have no direct power over outer things, because these outer things are but consequences, or, if you like, resultant pictures of what goes on in the Secret Place [the consciousness]. If it were possible for us to affect externals directly without changing our thought, it would mean that we could think one thing and produce another; and this would be contrary to the Law of the Universe.” (Emmet Fox, ‘The Sermon on the Mount’, Chapter Two)
As I cast back through my life, fear has always brought failure. Fear of unpopularity and rejection so saturated my being that I was unpopular and rejected. Fear of academic failure caused me to blank in exams. Fear of failure as a runner caused asthma (which only manifested when I was running competitively). And, as I look around me, those who are truly successful in any area are never those who are cowed.
Occasionally, fear will produce such acts of the will that a degree of victory is attained. Just like with resentment, however:
“As in war, the victor only seemed to win. Our moments of triumph were short-lived.” (P. 66:0)
The victory would always come at a terrible price: peace of mind and the desertification of other areas of my life—e.g. temporary material success founded on disregard for human relationships.
So, trains of circumstance are set in motion which bring us misfortune, but we set the balling rolling.
By embracing fear and its retinue of self-justifying arguments.
That is why fear is so damned foolish. We are typically afraid of unhappiness in the material world, so we place ourselves in spiritual hell. Nice going. Good plan. That worked out, well, didn’t it? And, once we’re in spiritual hell, we set about creating that of which we are afraid in the material, because the material cannot be but a reflection of the spiritual.
We are idiots. Damned idiots. The truth of fear—the self-fulfilling prophesy, the evil that lies in its own conception, the figment of its own imagination—is so precious to the ego (as it separates us from God) that the ego surrounds it with a bodyguard of lies.
Abhor the fear itself, not that to which it is pointing. Once you have achieved this abhorrence:
“We never apologize to anyone for depending upon our Creator. We can laugh at those who think spirituality the way of weakness. Paradoxically, it is the way of strength. The verdict of the ages is that faith means courage. All men of faith have courage. They trust their God. We never apologize for God. Instead we let Him demonstrate, through us, what He can do. We ask Him to remove our fear and direct our attention to what He would have us be. At once, we commence to outgrow fear.” (P. 68:3)