Fear and Faith
written by Jake Alcott
“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past, I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”
- Frank Herbert, Dune Series
Fear is a topic that frequents those who march down a spiritual path. To find and understand the truest contents of an individual — be it their true will, their soul/spirit, their Atman, etc. — one must come upon versions and aspects of themselves and the world that are truly terrifying. What is it then, that keeps us from turning back? How do we find the courage to press on when faced against the greatest opposition this world has to offer? The answer is through faith.
Fear is a natural and inescapable phenomenon in life, especially for those who follow a path of faith*. This shouldn’t act as a deterrent, though daunting -like many prospects of this nature will be- fear will also act as a grounder, and if understood properly, as a protector and guide. Fear doesn’t come from nothing, and I believe it isn’t a manifestation of anything outside of the self either. Fear is an instinct, something that comes from deep within you to try to deter you from certain actions and situations.
There is no need to feel negatively towards fear, however. Too often people feel shame or even anger at their own fear, thinking it is something that shouldn’t happen. This is a mistake. Fear is a gift; those who feel no fear have nothing to gain from especially bold actions. They lack the markers that show them the gravity of their situations. Fear lets us adequately brace for what’s in store, as long as we use it only as a consideration, rather than a motivator. Without it, we are blind to the severity of what we face. To take it in Aristotelian terms, the golden mean falls in the realm of bravery. One who is brave still encounters fear, but chooses to push on regardless. A lack of bravery is cowardice: one who hides from and avoids what scares them. An excess in bravery is brashness: one who acts with zero regard to their fears; often leading to mishaps. It is important to act with this in mind, dealing with fears appropriately and with conscious effort.
The way to deal with this fear is head on. While there is no way to escape coming in contact with fear, there is a way to combat it; subduing it rather than succumbing to it. To tackle fear, to do the things that scare you with confidence and without turning away is the only way to overcome it. No one has ever idly overcome their fears through seeking comfort. What this does is hide the self from these fears, leaving them to fester inside of you and wait for you to drop your guard. Those who do not confront their fear will never be free from it but will feel it muted, always in the background.
This relationship with fear, however, seems to be a product of our time. It is a habit for us, forged by perpetual reward, to seek out what is most comfortable. This often comes in opposition to what is correct conduct**. Comfort can be an important aspect of a full life. A life abundant in comfort is one generally agreed to be a good one. But real comfort doesn’t come from actively seeking what comforts you. In this way, what you attain will be comfortable but unfulfilling. There is no growth in this type of life. Real comfort comes only from struggle and is most often birthed from a degree of strife.
Faith then finds itself in these moments as the backbone we so severely need in fearful times. What faith does for us, is show us a light at the end of the tunnel. This faith is one that is devoid of dogma or moral rigidity. Faith may mean many different things to many different people, the thing that connects them all is the goal in mind. Whether it’s faith and a higher power, faith in the universe, or faith in the self, all are giving a part of your self to the understanding of a better future. No one knows what the future holds, but through faith we can rest at ease knowing that, no matter the outcome, things will turn out how they need to.***
In order to overcome fear, one must learn to sit with it rather than hide from it. Fear is an emotional response just like any other and is ultimately separate from you. Once you let fear flow rather than getting in its way, it passes, and only you remain. The you that remains, then, is active and not reactive; it is an individual now able to learn from their experiences with perspective and grace. The one that remains is a step closer to finding what they seek.****
“A man goes to knowledge as he goes to war: wide-awake, with fear, with respect, and with absolute assurance. Going to knowledge or going to war in any other manner is a mistake, and whoever makes it might never live to regret it”
― Carlos Castaneda, The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge
*Faith as a nonsecular form of spiritual undertaking; i.e. faith in the betterment of ones life after following their individual path.
**Correct conduct being that which aligns ones self to their truest self, the culmination of their true will (in a thelemic sense).
***Faith in this specific context is the faith in fear relinquishing its hold over the individual that stands before it.
****Final Footnote: This is not to say that once conquered, fear will forever leave you alone. Fear, as stated above, is an important tool to use throughout your journey. It will, and should, appear in almost every important moment of your life. As one learns to work with fear, they become more equipped to handle it as it comes. Moments are never again filled with fear, but are only supplemented by its knowledge.