Storied Fear

Fear not only plays a major part in the stories written by our most revered writers it is an ever-present experience in all our lives. But the “story” or experience of fear in P-B and the experience of fear in P-A are radically different—in P-A fear does not exist. Now that we have your attention we will introduce you to the topic of this essay. The distinction between the relative and the Absolute is paramount at this point in the evolution of human consciousness. We must find the courage to entertain questions that make us uncomfortable.

Here’s an uncomfortable question: How can an afflictive emotion that we experience virtually every day not exist?  And the Simple Reality answer: It does not exist because the “I” who experiences fear does not exist. Remember—there is no “I”—the ego is an illusion. Therefore, in Simple Reality, we experience the sensation of fear but we do not identify with that sensation.

Fear, we must remember, is impermanent. It comes and it goes. Our Essence, our True self, on the other hand, is permanent and cannot be destroyed or injured or even frightened for that matter. That is why, in P-A, we can say that we live in a friendly Universe—not because bad things can’t happen to good people—but because we are not the people that they happen to. We recommend that you read the following wonderful stories which provide a fascinating insight into the distinction between P-B and P-A and what fear is and what fear is not.

The Machine Stops (1928)
by E. M. Forster ((1879-1970)

There is only one nemesis for humanity and that is unconsciousness or the inability to live in an awakened state. Therefore, the machine in Forster’s story could represent unconsciousness. At the time this story was published many people were concerned with the direction unfolding historical events were taking them. Writers and social activists began to project their anxiety onto some imagined threat instead of understanding that the many problems they feared were caused by the inability to see profoundly into the nature of reality.

For example, automation became a 20th century threat. Some felt the threat was the conformity forced on the “organization man” demanded by the faceless corporation. Machines such as UNIVAC seemed to be able to “think” and these and other ideas found their way into stories such as Huxley’s Brave New World and Orwell’s 1984. We must remember that such “forms” as those cited here are always symptoms of human unconscious behavior never the causes of human suffering.

The Machine Stops is a science fiction story by a master storyteller. The “Machine” controls all of the people of the world enforcing a mind-numbing conformity just as P-B does in the world today despite the illusion of freedom. The false self is universally the same regardless of the nation, ethnic group or culture that might contain it. Human suffering has the same genesis regardless of where it occurs. We are kindred souls in that respect.

In this story the people live underground—a favorite locale for many modern futurist writers—which can mean metaphorically “below the level of awareness.” “Ideas? Scarcely any.”[i]  In short, it is a “mind-numbing” experience. In P-B there might as well be no ideas because ideas in an illusory paradigm are ineffective in dealing with human suffering because they are divorced from the reality of any given situation.

And now for the author’s (Forster) intuitive insight in this our first short story on the subject of fear. “Vashti was seized with the terrors of direct experience.”[ii]  Since the people in the underground world are in the mesmerized state associated with P-B, any unusual experience, including awakening into the NOW is very disturbing. Reality can be unsettling because they (we) have left our security, our false-self survival strategy, behind. The energies of the security, sensation and power energy centers are unavailable and unnecessary in the present moment. The still small voice can sound very loud in the silence of awakening and in this story “all unrest was concentrated in the soul.”[iii]  Forster couldn’t have known, of course, but there is no unrest in the soul or True self.

The creation from childhood of the survival strategy is a necessary developmental stage for all human beings but humanity is stuck in that stage and needs to move on to the next stage, the stage of human awareness. “We created the Machine, to do our will [but] it has blurred every human relation and narrowed down love to a carnal act, has paralyzed our bodies and our wills, and now it compels us to worship it. The Machine proceeds—but not to our goal.”[iv]

The “Machine” provides our basic needs, i.e., security, sensation, and power, but there is no profound satisfaction in having these needs met. “Is that all there is,” is the appropriate refrain that describes the universal human emptiness that our unconscious story delivers. “The Machine feeds us and clothes us and houses us; through it we speak to one another, through it we see one another, in it we have our being. And so we are stuck in our state of denial. To such a state of affairs it is convenient to give the name of progress. No one confessed the Machine was out of hand. Year by year it was served with increased efficiency and decreased intelligence. But humanity, in its desire for comfort, had over-reached itself. It had exploited the riches of nature too far.”[v]

And so we sit, afraid to move forward (within) to the “silence” and yet we are aware that staying where we are is unsustainable. “Then she broke down, for with the cessation of activity came an unexpected terror—the silence. She had never known silence, and the coming of it nearly killed her—it did kill thousands of people outright.”[vi]  We have no choice but to embrace the silence, solitude and simplicity that characterize the new narrative and that will move us forward to self-reliance and serenity. No, it will not kill us—but failure to do so probably will.

The Second Tree from the Corner (1947)
by E. B. White (1899-1985)

How does it feel when we have the insight that fear is no longer part of our identity? E. B. White captures that feeling when his protagonist, Mr. Trexler, leaves the session with his psychiatrist. Before he has this realization he reviews the experience and gradually appreciates what has just happened. The doctor has identified what we call existential anxiety. We are afraid because we are alive and contained in the narrative that tells us that we should be afraid and conditions us to be so. “The doctor reassured him that his fears were the cause of his sickness, and that his fears were unsubstantial.” [vii]  Wow! What a diagnosis. There are seven billion people on the planet today that would like to talk to that shrink.

He is right of course. Not because people should ignore their “unsubstantial fears” which they cannot do in P-B but because the fears are based on an illusion, that is to say, they are not real, or as the doctor said, they have no “substance.” What human beings usually do with their fear is to repress it or medicate it or react violently against it. And here is what that experience of anxiety is like for many of us. “Each session would begin with a résumé of symptoms—the dizziness in the streets, the constricting pain in the back of the neck, the apprehensions, the tightness of the scalp, the inability to concentrate, the despondency and the melancholy times, the feeling of pressure and tension, the anger at not being able to work, the anxiety over work not done, the gas on the stomach.”[viii]  Such is the human condition.

Or, if we are lucky, we can find ourselves in the present moment feeling the joyful freedom of being contained in P-A. “Trexler felt invigorated. Suddenly his sickness seemed health, his dizziness stability. A small tree, rising between him and the light, stood there saturated with the evening, each gilt-edged leaf perfectly drunk with excellence and delicacy. ‘I want the second tree from the corner, just as it stands,’ And he felt a slow pride in realizing that what he wanted none could bestow, and that what he had none could take away. He felt content to be sick, unembarrassed at being afraid; and in the jungle of his fear he glimpsed (as he had so often glimpsed them before) the flashy tail feathers of the bird of courage.”[ix]  Bravo! Insights do not get any more profound than that.

Trexler relaxed into the present moment and allowed his heartfelt wisdom to emerge. He intuited the truth and that truth was beauty, the beauty that is always available in nature, the beauty of “the second tree from the corner.” He stopped resisting reality and the fear fell away. He was momentarily in P-A where afflictive emotions cannot exist; he was free from the gravity of neurosis, a bird on the wing.

Storied Fear

[i]     Forster, E. M.  “The Machine Stops.”  The Eternal Moment (and other stories).  Sidgwick & Jackson, 1928, no page.

[ii]     Ibid.  

[iii]    Ibid.  

[iv]    Ibid.  

[v]     Ibid.  

[vi]    Ibid.

[vii]   White, E. B.  “The Second Tree from the Corner.”  The New Yorker. May 31, 1947, page 22.

[viii]   Ibid.  

[ix]    Ibid.

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Find a much more in-depth discussion in printed books by Roy Charles Henry.

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