So much has been spoken and written of late in the interest of that excellent enterprise, the *' Don't Worry Movement," originated by Theodore Seward, of New York, with the hearty co-operation of many friends, that the deterrent influence of fear on human welfare has been discussed afresh, and we are glad to say is now being approached in a far more intelligent manner than formerly. There are various senses in which the word fear has been used and may still continue to be used, and it is certainly not against the idea of fear in its highest meaning, which is respect or reverence, that we intend to utter any protest. The common acceptance of the word today is not synchronous with its obvious intention in the Book of Proverbs, but it is popularly used precisely as it is employed in the first of the epistles of St. John, in those familiar words, the truth of which we can all endorse, "fear hath torment," and "perfect love casteth out fear." Fear and doubt are inseparable. If we feel that anything is left to blind chance, that chaos rules supreme, or that a malignant fate may be in charge of our destinies, we cannot do other than give place to serious misgivings as to the outcome of any undertaking, no matter how laudable the projected enterprise may be. On the other hand, if we accept the consoling optimism suggested in the well-known words attributed to Shakespeare, "There's a divinity that shapes our ends, rough hew them as we will," we have found a basis for a satisfying, restful philosophy, amply sufficient for any emergency which may arise. It is useless to counsel fearlessness without offering some substantial base on which to build courage. Edifices which repose on sand may be ever so fair to look upon, ever so graceful and ingenious in design, but because they lack a solid base they cannot endure the tempest. So it is with systems of thought which are often beautiful, but practically baseless fabrications; they rest on no solid perception of essential verity, but are tastefully reared on a summer's day to attract the beauty-loving spectator. Charming but untrustworthy must be every philosophy that bases its optimistic conclusion on an unsubstantial premise.
When Tolstoy wrote that much discussed book of his, "The Kreutzer Sonata," he narrated a good many plain facts and pressed home a good many practical truths, among which was the incontestable declaration that parents who love their children very dearly may find these darling objects of their tenderest affection sources of much more sorrow than joy to them on account of the entirely physical nature of the love they bear them. Apprehension of impending danger is the bitterest drop in the bitter cup which fear mingles when the dreaded intangible something menaces those upon whom our dearest hopes are set; and how can there be materialistic redemption from this fear when we see all around us abundant evidences of the uncertainty of material things? Endeavor to cultivate trust as we may, trust cannot successfully repose on an insecure foundation. For this reason, if for no other, the safe counsel of the gospel is everlastingly true, "Set not your affections upon the things of earth." This does not mean that we are to kill out all natural desires and seek to attain a rigidly ascetic mental attitude devoid of all human affection. Quite the reverse is the effect produced in us when we succeed in transferring our love from the perishable to the imperishable side of the object of our affection. There are two sides to every one of us, and mutual affection can surely exist and be well sustained on the higher, which is the abiding, instead of the lower, which is the evanescent, side. When we love attributes of character rather than exterior personalities, we feel instinctively immortal, for such love proceeds from an immortal center and is directed to an immortal object. Let no one be carried away with the totally erroneous impression, honestly entertained by some, that if we do not center our thoughts and affection upon our physical bodies and upon material possessions, we shall have to go weak and poverty-stricken. Experience proves the fallacy of so false a position in the persons of multitudes who resemble the women in the Gospels who had spent all their worldly substance in the vain hope of gaining health and had yet remained feeble, suffering, and constantly growing worse and weaker—in one case for twelve years and in another for thirty-eight years in succession. It has often been noticed that when a person supposed to be dying has made his will and peacefully resigned himself to the change which he and his friends regarded as inevitable, the cessation of fear, worry and anxiety left the body free to get well at the very moment when distress concerning its impending destruction had subsided.
It is not infrequently the case that when a priest has administered the sacrament of extreme unction, which is only given to those who are thought to be very near death, the sufferer recovers through the consoling effect of the sacrament, which is intended to allay fear and produce a state of spiritual tranquility.
The physical body will get well, in many instances, as of its own accord, if it be only permitted to do so; the vital question as concerns the welfare of the fleshly tabernacle not being what to do to prevent dissolution, but how to stop consuming fear and restless anxiety so as to give whatever we vaguely call Nature an unfettered opportunity to act. Medicaments are unnecessary and often harmful in cases of profound exhaustion; it is not stimulation, but repose, which affords freedom for the healing energy in Nature to operate. For this reason, if for no other, a large number of so-called mental treatments are highly successful, which in one sense of the term are actually no treatments at all, but simply absence of treatment or relief from it. So far as abstinence from worry is concerned that is only the negative side of the great hygienic question with which we are all incessantly confronted. It is a negative good to drop care and let go of anxiety, and when we do so we *' give Nature a chance," but there are far higher aspects of sanitary science than these which need most serious attention. Bodies can scarcely be said to build themselves; they are buildings in constant course of erection and alteration, for they are never exactly alike two days or even two hours together. So rapid are the transformations of the human physique that physiologists of renown are now declaring that in three months, or even six weeks, the most radical changes are or can be effected in the system. The old theory that it takes seven years to remodel the entire frame, must, if true at all, refer to the osseous structure, which, of course, includes the hardest and most slowly changing bones. The flesh certainly changes with amazing rapidity, and the vital organs are the quickest of all to respond to mental emotions of every sort.
Fear deteriorates everything; it impoverishes the blood, breaks down tissue, destroys nerve cells, lessens resisting power wherewith the insidious attacks of disease can be repelled, and in every way wrecks the organism.
Fear and worry are diseases and must be treated as such; it is useless harshly to condemn those who suffer from these infirmities, and equally foolish is it supinely to declare that people who have inherited such tendencies are much to be pitied, but they cannot be cured. It is often difficult to rid yourself unaided of any bad habit to which you may have become a slave; there are, therefore, many cases in which the good offices of another are of priceless value, and the entire plan of suggestive treatment is based upon an understanding of the good of reciprocity and an intelligent perception of how to apply in the spirit of true co-operation the wise words of an apostle, "Ye that are strong should bear (remove) the burdens of the weak." It would be absurd to insist that strong people ought to become weak through taking upon themselves the infirmities of their frailer neighbors, but as bear means often to remove or carry away, we can readily see how weaknesses can be removed or borne away through the efficient agency of strength radiated from the stronger to the weaker.
When the public mind is fully delivered from that horrible nightmare—belief in something it is pleased to call malignant hypnotism—the path of the suggestive therapeutist will be much plainer than it yet is, and happily that miserable scarecrow is growing rapidly less formidable.
Creators or engenderers of fear in others can never successfully pose as healers or emancipators of the afflicted, for they are themselves suffering under the very delusion which is tormenting the victims they are seeking to release. Christian Scientists have often been heard to speak of "malicious mesmerism" and its direful consequences when the cases referred to that awful mystery of imagined evil were simply instances of some petty phase of hysteria which by rational mental treatment could have been very quickly relieved, and with a little sound teaching added to the treatment permanently cured.
Obsession, which is the modern equivalent of the ancient belief of demoniacal possession, is another horrid bugbear which occasions untold misery wherever its power is feared. It would be unduly presumptuous to say that the claim is altogether foundationless, or that the alleged phenomena never appear, but it is the fear of devils which gives power to whatever is diabolical, fully as much as the love of error which is of course the first producing cause of Diablerie.
The 23d Psalm has never been surpassed either for soundness of sentiment or beauty of diction, where it reads: "I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me." The composer of that canticle is so deeply imbued with a sense of divine protection that he neither can nor will give way to alarms. Enemies may surround him, but God prepares a table before him in the presence of those enemies, so that though the hostile troops exist he can eat and drink in peace and safety, even though a host of foes arc encamped around him, because he is in the blissful realization of the truth that greater is the power on his side than all contrary forces. There is always a balance of power somewhere; one host is always superior to the other, and it is everything to feel, in times of surrounding turbulence, that we are on the powerful and winning side.
The crude attacks on the letter of some gospel sentences, as we find them in King James' translation of the English Bible—mere quibbles and harpings upon an imperfect rendering of an occasional phrase—are entirely repelled by reading the much better and far more correct translation of the disputed passages in the revised version, which instead of leaving the text open to criticism with the words, "take no thought," substitutes with complete fidelity to the original Greek, "Be not anxious" and "take no anxious thought for the morrow." It is certainly true that we cannot do our business H we bestow no thought upon it, and it is also true that in many instances we have to think of the morrow in the affairs which occupy us during the present day. But necessary thought and anxious thought are by no means identical; they are as unlike as clean money and filthy lucre; the former thoroughly legitimate, the latter altogether disreputable. The difference between thinking rightly and thinking wrongly, of the same thing, is patent to every reasoner; and as we all have to think of our work in one way or another it is of supreme importance that we form and keep the good habit of thinking rightly thereon.
Even simple utilitarianism should suffice to set us and keep us right in this direction, for we have only to use common sense and be guided by practical outcomes clearly to behold the results of the two kinds of thought now under discussion. Anxious thought is decrepit and debilitates whoever indulges in it; it is moreover a magnet to attract adversity just as surely as bright, generous, hopeful thought attracts prosperity.
It is what you are in yourself a great deal more than what your accomplishments may be that actually determines the measure of success which in the long run you achieve. Our thoughts build our psychic or unseen bodies, and the radiations from these penetrate vastly further than does merely animal magnetism. Human electricity is a phrase which some writers employ to describe this subtle, clearly felt though unseen radiation from the psychic personality. Fear disintegrates^ while faith organizes; therefore, in the art of body-building faith and courage are two of the most important and influential agents possible to conceive. Faith compels success because of its intense organizing power, and courage, which is proverbially invincible, is so near of kin to faith that the two can scarcely even in fancy be disunited. We have these two pairs to consider: Fear and worry on the wrong side, to be overcome by faith and courage oYi the right side. If we have hitherto been subject to the sway of the twin fiends we can only banish them from our lives by invoking and securing the services of the twin angels, which are their direct antagonists. It is useless to say that we cannot overcome fear and worry, for though it may be true indeed that we cannot if we keep our thoughts fixed on those disastrous and destroying vices, we can assuredly escape from their clutches if we do but persistently concentrate our attention on the opposing virtues.
In this, as in all cases beside, affirmation, not denial, is the keynote to all successful undertakings. Denials or negative statements may have sometimes a secondary value as erasive processes, but there is absolutely no rest or satisfaction secured by seeking to combat errors as such, while nothing can be distinctly more self-evident than that errors are combated successfully and indeed entirely overthrown or finally eliminated by those divinely glorious affirmations which treat of the supremely " excellent things" upon which we need ever to fix our mental gaze. What teaching can be stronger in this connection than "perfect love casteth out fear"? Love comes in and fear goes out. We do not have to think about fear or fight fear ! We think of whatever most inspires sublime afifection; then as love is born within us fear is eradicated and evicted. It often seems difficult, if not impossible, to love what we feel we do not understand; therefore, when we are directed to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, we may sometimes feel like saying. But who or what is this God I am commanded to love?
If there be a Supreme Being, or Infinite Intelligence, directing and pervading the universe, alike immanent and transcendent, how can we love even though we cannot help standing in awe of this almighty power, this infinite living energy? Such questions are not irreverent, and they cannot be lightly dismissed. It is all in vain that we are told by theologic masters that God demands our love, and that it is our duty to love our Creator in return for our acceptance of the boon of life. Is life worth the living; is the game worth the candle? are queries which next arise, and the prevalence of suicide in many places, and the superabundance of pessimistic literature now available, suggest a very gloomy answer to these despairing questions.
Marie Corelli has traced the prevalence of suicide in modern France to the spread of recent atheism and the use of absinthe as a beverage, and her points are well taken alike in " Wormwood " and "The Mighty Atom," but the public may be pardoned for inquiring further into what has led to the absinthe and the atheism. The Christian church has had a great opportunity in France for many centuries, and if Christianity in any one of its myriad forms is really capable of regenerating society, why has it failed to do so in the very countries where it has been officially encouraged and liberally supported? Without attempting to explain all the causes which have led to the seeming failure on the part of any Christian hierarchy truly to uplift the world and stamp out pessimism through the introduction of a sunny optimism, we cannot honestly shut our eyes to at least two of the many causes which might be faithfully enumerated. These two are: first, the lack of purity or spirituality in the practical life of the church itself (an admitted fact, despite magnificent individual exceptions to this rule); secondly, the overstatement of the harsher aspects of the Christian message and the consequent understatement of the milder, gentler, and in every way more winsome aspects of the Christian creed. When devotion to the Sacred Heart was formally introduced into the Roman Catholic service, no secret was made by theologians of the fact that this devotion was specially intended to emphasize the loving human side of divine nature and draw, with the pleadings of love, hearts which would only be repelled by the forbidding doctrines of retribution, which had long occupied a disproportionate place in the bulk of religious teachings, both Catholic and Protestant.
Faber's beautiful lines:
"But we make God's love too narrow
By false limits of our own,
And we magnify His strictness
With a zeal He will not own."
And then the glorious outburst of trust in infinite Goodness couched in the heart-satisfying words, "There's a wideness in God's mercy like the wideness of the sea, and the heart of the Eternal is most wonderfully kind," were addressed by a Catholic priest to his own co-religionists, and they also constitute a living, loving, inspiring message from a noble, saintly soul to all humanity. It is such teachings as these that truly uplift and glorify the vocation of the preacher, and on such high spiritual ground room is found for fraternal co-operation among the purest and wisest representatives of every cult beneath the sun.
We must either be ready to present a loving view of Deity to the Aveary world, or be content to see the masses sink into hopeless apathy or rise in violent revolt against a creed which seems nearly all head and almost no heart. The higher view we take of the Supreme Spirit, the loftier will be our own views of human worth and social relationship.
Nothing can be more pitiful than the barren thought that we are playthings of feelingless force, unless it be the dread of the sempiternal anger of an infuriated infinite potentate, and it is in consequence of the preaching of the "fear that hath torment" that the modern intellectual attitude is so largely atheistic or at least agnostic as it is. It is both interesting and encouraging to peer below the surface of even the most violently iconoclastic of modern utterances, and find at the root of every protest a struggle against the idea of cruelty and injustice enthroned in heaven or incarnate on earth; never is the outcry raised against what appeals to the human heart as either just or loving.
Prof. Park, an eminent teacher in a New England theological seminary, frankly replied to the questions of his class by telling them that salvation depends upon inward holiness, and that no matter what a man could or could not intellectually accept in the line of dogma, if he lived as holily as he could with the light he had, he was on the road to heaven.
We are particularly glad to call attention to such statements when they emanate from the strongholds of historic orthodoxy; because they clearly prove the healthy operations of the true modern Zeitgeist and give promise that the day is fast breaking in which there will no longer be a cloud of hateful fear hanging over the head of humanity and tormenting sensitive natures to become despairingly lawless, or else to sink into such melancholy as results in the death, to all appearance, of every fine and beautiful sentiment which leads to noble outward living.
Fear leads to recklessness and defiance, and it is an acknowledged passport to insanity, which is the ultimate of despair. It is a grave error to surmise that courageous people are reckless; they are, of all others, the most intensely cautious, though they are not careful in any other sense than cautious. Here again we are confronted with the differing uses of the same word producing embarrassed thought until we have swept away the difficulty with the broom of careful discrimination between higher and lower meanings. Carefulness is always eulogized as a virtue, while carelessness is condemned as a vice, and not improperly so if we only take into account the conventional meaning attached to these opposing terms. However, when we come across such sayings in the New Testament as "Be careful for nothing," and "Casting all your care upon Him, for He careth for you," we instinctively admire the suggestion of freedom from worry and anxiety with which such sentences are replete.
The freedom from toil of the lilies, and the free life of the birds, is a matter of gospel comment, but no sooner have we yielded to the charm of the sentiment "they toil not," and listened with speechless delight to the declaration that even Solomon in all his glory was not so beautifully attired as one of the care-free lilies of the field, than we are confronted with the incontestable fact that flowers and birds are intensely industrious. They do not toil, but they do work; they do not labor, but they are incessantly active. Herein consists the practicality as well as the beauty of the gospel message. We are to work but not worry; we are to be ever industrious, but anxiety regarding the outcome is to be always absent from our thoughts. If we do indeed consider how flowers grow and how birds build their nests and sustain themselves generally, we shall soon grow to understand that the feathered tribes of air, which make the groves bright with their splendid plumage and the fields melodious with their charming song, are like their less highly intelligent friends of the vegetable kingdom—workers but not worriers.
Two things are invariably necessary to successful work, no matter what its line may be: first, the love thereof; second, confidence in the success thereof Only as we love can we work beautifully, harmonically, courageously. Courage comes with love; it is love alone that makes tasks easy and fingers fly fast.
Drummond's exquisite statement, in his "Ascent of Man," that the story of evolution is a love story on a stupendous scale, has helped many a struggling evolutionist to see how thoroughly possible it is to make an agreement plain between the facts of natural science and the deepest truths of religion. The nineteenth century has scarcely been blessed with a more fervently religious writer than Henry Drummond, but his orthodoxy was of the heart rather than of the head. Right feeling is the root of all righteous speech and conduct. How can we love God if we do not love man, who is in the image of God? It is our view of human nature that really signifies; it is our estimate of human life that really counts. Whatever be true concerning the Ultimate Reality, we are human beings here and now mingling constantly one with another; and all our happiness, as well as all our success, depends upon what our social and industrial relations actually are. How can we feel confidence in others if we have no faith in ourselves; and if we can trust ourselves, why should we doubt our fellows, seeing that we are all essentially alike, however much incidentally we may differ? Love, faith, and courage must ever be a trinity in unity; these three are essentially and eternally one. Primarily Love, Faith, and Courage can be considered distinctively, but not separately. Courage is evidently the child of Faith married to Love. Love, as we all know from every sort of experience, is the root of all things. In love we find the fountainhead of all desire, resolution and determination. Love prompts to every effort of every sort; without its impelling force we should do nothing, for we should have no incentive to action. But love alone is ineffective; it must be united with wisdom, and it is wisdom which nurtures and cradles courage, for wisdom is the animating spirit of faith. Is it not a matter of world-wide experience that fear and ignorance go together in millions of instances? We dread the unknown; we are afraid of darkness. Light dissipates fears, because it reveals and makes manifest; and the manifestation of things as they really are, instead of adding to our terrors, emancipates us therefrom. How much easier it is to be brave in the daytime, when the sun is brightly shining, than through the dark vigils of the night! Knowledge, which is the soul of faith, gives us confidence in the night season.
Things are not worse, but far better than we have supposed. The revelation of the true state of a case will never occasion dismay, but to the quiet, thoughtful mind will always point a way out of difficulty and seeming danger. We are afraid of we know not what. The true healer is one who takes the timid child with him into the very midst of the supposed danger and proves that there is safety there, thus causing injurious as well as needless alarms all to subside.
When we ail agree to give up worrying we shall commence a new era in human progress, an age of infinitely superior enlightenment to the present, for all those mysterious psychic powers about which we hear so much today are perfectly natural, and only await the moment when they are allowed to assert their vigor and prove themselves our faithful servitors. It is an excellent piece of advice to counsel all nervous, timid, fretful, anxious persons quietly to discuss their fancied dangers and perplexities with some strong, experienced, well-nigh fearless friend, one who is sympathetic and comprehending, but noted for far more than the average degree of courage.
In the practice of Suggestive Therapeutics it is invariably proved true that the healthful radiation of force from a courageous person to one not yet so courageous is of inestimable benefit. Courage is contagious, and the same may be said of every conceivable virtue or mental and moral excellence. As the wise builder not only builds himself, but can inspire and teach others to build likewise, so can anyone who is himself or herself free from fear and full of courage, prove a powerful incentive to others to reach a like condition.
More in this category:« The Attractive Power of Thought—How We May Use It Most Effectively—The Influence of the Mind in Molding the Everyday Conditions of Life | The Influence of the Mind Upon the Body—The Science of Health, and What it Signifies—Becoming One's Own Physician and Thereby Physician to Others »
More Articles by This Author William Juvenal Colville
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