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THE CONQUEST OF FEAR
WITH A NEW INTRODUCTION BY
HENRY C. LINK
I. FEAR AND THE LIFE-PRINCIPLE
II. THE LIFE-PRINCIPLE AND GOD
III. GOD AND HIS SELF-EXPRESSION
IV. GOD'S SELF-EXPRESSION AND THE MIND OF TO-DAY
V. THE MIND OF TO-DAY AND THE WORLD AS IT IS
VI. THE WORLD AS IT IS AND THE FALSE GOD OF FEAR
VII. THE FALSE GOD OF FEAR AND THE FEAR OF DEATH
VIII. THE FEAR OF DEATH AND ABUNDANCE OF LIFE
by Henry C. Link, Ph.D.
_Author of_ THE REDISCOVERY OF MAN, THE RETURN TO RELIGION, etc.
There are many books which give some help to many people. There are
books which give a set of rules, or even one master rule, by which to
meet the problems of life. This is not such a book. It suggests no
simple recipe for the conquest of fear. Instead, it presents, what all
too few of us to-day possess, a philosophy of life.
Moreover, in contrast to the dominant thinking of our age, which is
materialistic, King's philosophy is spiritual and religious. Indeed, the
ideas in this book are so profoundly different from the commonly
accepted ideas of our times that they will come as a shock to many
readers. One purpose of this introduction is to prepare the reader for
such a shock.
I have said that the dominant thinking of our age is materialistic, and
by that I mean also physical. Let me illustrate this broad statement
with reference to the subject of fears alone. The conquest of fear has
gone on year after year chiefly through physical means. Physical pain
has always been one of the great sources of fear. Now ether and other
anaesthetics have eliminated the chief pains of major operations. Older
people can still remember their fear of the dentist, when killing a
nerve or pulling a tooth caused excruciating pain. Now local
anaesthetics even in minor troubles have made dentistry almost painless.
We have not conquered these fears of pain--rather their cause has
Twilight sleep, the artificial sleep to alleviate the pains of
childbirth, is the perfect expression of the scientific and
materialistic elimination of fear. By a chemical blackout of the mind, a
dimming of the conscious self, the person is enabled to escape the
necessity of facing and conquering fear through his own resources.
I am not condemning the physical alleviation of pain or the progress of
physical science. I am only describing a trend, and that is the growing
emphasis on the elimination of fears by science rather than on their
conquest by the individual.
Illness has always been a great source of fear, and still is. The dread
of cancer is one of the terrifying fears of our time and fortunes are
spent in cancer research and education. THE CONQUEST OF FEAR was written
as a result of the author's threatened total blindness. He faced a fact
for which there seemed no physical remedy--hence his great need for a
spiritual conquest of this great fear.
And yet, year by year, physical science has been eliminating or
reducing the dangers of sickness. Vaccines for the prevention of the
dread disease, small-pox, are now a matter of course. Vaccines and
specifics against the deadly tetanus, against typhoid fever, diphtheria,
syphilis, and other fearful diseases have become commonplace. The fear
of pneumonia has been almost eliminated through the discoveries of the
miraculous sulpha drugs. Science has done wonders toward the elimination
of such fears. A man need hardly conquer the fear of any particular
sickness--there is left for his conquest chiefly the fear of dying.
In addition to physical disease, our civilization has now developed
mental ailments of all kinds. These include a large category of fears
called phobias--claustrophobia, agoraphobia, photophobia, altaphobia,
Three fields or professions, other than religion and philosophy, have
sought to deal with these fears, the psychiatric, the psychoanalytic,
and the psychological. The medical psychiatric profession has naturally
emphasized physical remedies beginning with sedatives and bromides to
induce artificial relaxation and ending up with lobectomy or the
complete cutting off of the frontal lobes of the brain, the centers of
man's highest thought processes. Between these two extremes are the
shock treatments in which an injection of insulin or metrazol into the
blood stream causes the person to fall into a sort of epileptic fit
during which he loses consciousness. Through a series of such shock
treatments some of the higher nerve centers or nerve pathways are
destroyed. By this process a person's fears may also be eliminated and
he may be permanently or temporarily cured. In short, the person does
not conquer the fears in his mind; the psychiatrist or neurologist, by
physically destroying a part of the person's brain, destroys also
How strongly this physical approach has taken hold of people was made
plain to me through an article of mine on how to conquer fears. The
emphasis in this article was on how people could overcome their fears
and worries through their own efforts. To illustrate the opposite
extreme, I mentioned the brain operations and shock treatments by which
psychiatry now often deals with fears. Among the many people who wrote
to me as a result of this article, _the majority inquired where they
could obtain such an operation_! To such extremes have many people gone
in their desire to eliminate fear by physical means rather than conquer
it through their own spiritual powers.
The psychoanalyst deals with a person's phobias through what seems like
an intellectual or rational process. According to psychoanalysis,
phobias or fears are due to some buried or subconscious complex. By
daily or frequent talks with a psychoanalyst for a period of six months
or a year, a person's subconscious disturbance _may_ be brought to
light, and if so, the fear is supposed automatically to disappear. Even
if true, this process is a highly materialistic one, at least in the
sense that only people who can spend thousands of dollars can afford
The psychologist, as well as some psychiatrists who have studied normal
psychology, regard many fears as normal experiences which the individual
can cope with largely through his own resources and with very little
help in the way of visits or treatment. The trouble arises in the case
of those people who have no personal resources to draw on. Their lives
are so lacking in spiritual power, or so full of intellectual scepticism
and distrust, that they cannot help themselves. They have no religious
convictions or certainties by which to obtain leverage in their
struggles. They have no firm philosophy of life on which they or those
who would help them can lay hold. They are putty in the hands of the
fears and forces that beset them from without.
The psychologist and the psychiatrist both find it difficult to do much
to help such a person. And yet, this is the kind of person our
civilization and education tends increasingly to produce. By the
physical elimination of the causes of fear we have gradually undermined
man's inner resources for the conquest of fear.
This materialistic trend has received a new impetus from the fields of
political science, economics, and sociology. A dozen years ago economic
disaster threatened to stampede the nation. Millions who had lost their
jobs began to fear penury and want. Millions who still had jobs feared
that they would lose them. Other millions began to fear the loss of
their money and possessions. Rich and poor, becoming afraid that the
country was going to pieces, rushed to the banks to withdraw their
savings and brought on the nation-wide bank closings. Those were days
when everyone knew paralyzing fears.
History will record the fact that these fears were met, not by conquest,
not by drawing on the moral resources and inner fortitude of the
American citizen, but by a collection of wholesale materialistic
schemes. These schemes included such devices as inflating the dollar,
raising prices, expanding the government debt, paying farmers not to
produce crops, government housing projects, and many others. The fears
of unemployment and poverty in old age were to be eliminated wholesale
through a planned economy, a new social order. By an elaborate system of
book-keeping called Social Security, a whole nation was to win freedom
from want and freedom from fear.
But while we were building our smug little house of Social Security, the
whole world was crashing around us. Instead of achieving local security
we find ourselves now in the midst of world-wide insecurity. Far from
having eliminated the economic causes of fear, we now find these causes
multiplied many times. To the fear of losing our money is now added the
fear of losing our sons. To the fear of losing our jobs is added the
fear of losing our lives. To the fear of depression and inflation is
added the fear of losing the very freedoms for which the war is
At last we see, or are on the point of seeing, that materialism breeds
worse fears than it cures; that economics and sociology create more
social problems than they solve; that science makes it possible to
destroy wealth and lives much faster than it can build them. It took
years of science to achieve the airplane and to eliminate people's fear
of flying. Now, suddenly, the airplane has become the greatest source of
destruction and of fear on the globe. Cities which were decades in the
building are blasted out of being in a night. Millions of people must
regulate their lives in fear of these dread visitors.
This is the background against which the conquest of fear presents its
philosophy of courage and of hope. It is a philosophy diametrically
opposed to the dominant beliefs and practices of our materialistic age.
One hesitates to use the words spiritual and moral because they have
become catch words. Nevertheless, King's philosophy is a spiritual and a
moral one, and the reader will gain from it a clearer concept of what
these words really mean.
When I remember my reactions to the first portion of this book, I can
readily picture the impatience and even scorn of many intellectuals and
pseudo-intellectuals. Because of its emphasis on the religious nature of
the universe and on the spiritual power of the individual, it may seem
to them naïve. Because of its consistent condemnation of Mammon, of
materialism and the economic-sociological interpretation of life, it may
seem to them old-fashioned. Actually, the book is highly sophisticated
and is more novel to-day than the day it was written because since that
time we have strayed twenty years further from the truth.
One day I was having luncheon with a man who, during the course of the
conversation, remarked: "I want to tell you how much I enjoyed your
latest book,--" As almost any writer would, I pricked up my ears
"Yes," he went on, "I got a great deal out of your recent book, but the
book which helped me more than any I have ever read is a book called THE
CONQUEST OF FEAR, by Basil King. Do you happen to know it?"
"Know it!" I exclaimed. "I not only know it, I am just on the point of
writing an introduction to a new edition of the book. Would you mind
telling me how it helped you?"
He thereupon related how, at a certain period of his life, he had left
an excellent position to take a new one which seemed more promising. It
soon developed that the difficulties of this position were such as to
make his success seem almost hopeless. He became obsessed with the idea
that the people with whom he had to deal were "out to get him." His
fears of the job and of his associates grew to the point where a nervous
breakdown seemed inevitable.
One day his daughter told him that she needed a book in her school work
which he remembered having packed in a box that had been stored in the
attic and not yet opened. When he opened the box, the first book which
he picked up was THE CONQUEST OF FEAR. It was evidently one of those
books which had somehow come into the possession of his family, but
which he had never read.
This time, however, he sat down in the attic and began to read it.
During the course of the next year or so he read it carefully not once
but four or five times. "It marked the turning point in my life," he
told me. "It enabled me to conquer the fears which were threatening to
ruin me at the time, and it gave me a philosophy which has stood me in
good stead ever since."
A philosophy which marked the turning point in his life and which has
stood him in good stead ever since! THE CONQUEST OF FEAR offers
such a philosophy not only to individuals suffering from fears peculiar
to them, but to a world of individuals suffering, or about to suffer,
from the collapse of world-wide materialism. In this day of chaos and
uncertainty, here is the modern version of the parable of the man who
built his house upon a rock instead of on the sand: "and the rain
descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that
house; and it fell not for it was founded upon a rock."
H. C. L.
FEAR AND THE LIFE-PRINCIPLE
When I say that during most of my conscious life I have been a prey to
fears I take it for granted that I am expressing the case of the
majority of people. I cannot remember the time when a dread of one kind
or another was not in the air. In childhood it was the fear of going to
bed, of that mysterious time when regular life was still going on
downstairs, while I was buried alive under sheets and blankets. Later it
was the fear of school, the first contact of the tender little soul with
life's crudeness. Later still there was the experience which all of us
know of waking in the morning with a feeling of dismay at what we have
to do on getting up; the obvious duties in which perhaps we have grown
stale; the things we have neglected; those in which we have made
mistakes; those as to which we have wilfully done wrong; those which
weary or bore or annoy or discourage us. Sometimes there are more
serious things still: bereavements, or frightfully adverse conditions,
or hardships we never expected brought on us by someone else.
It is unnecessary to catalogue these situations, since we all at times
in our lives have to face them daily. Fear dogs one of us in one way and
another in another, but everyone in some way.
Look at the people you run up against in the course of a few hours.
Everyone is living or working in fear. The mother is afraid for her
children. The father is afraid for his business. The clerk is afraid for
his job. The worker is afraid of his boss or his competitor. There is
hardly a man who is not afraid that some other man will do him a bad
turn. There is hardly a woman who is not afraid that things she craves
may be denied her, or that what she loves may be snatched away. There is
not a home or an office or a factory or a school or a church in which
some hang-dog apprehension is not eating at the hearts of the men,
women, and children who go in and out. I am ready to guess that all the
miseries wrought by sin and sickness put together would not equal those
we bring on ourselves by the means which perhaps we do least to
counteract. We are not sick all the time; we are not sinning all the
time; but all the time all of us--or practically all of us--are afraid
of someone or something. If, therefore, one has the feeblest
contribution to make to the defeat of such a foe it becomes difficult to
But even with a view to conquering fear I should not presume to offer to
others ideas worked out purely for myself had I not been so invited. I
do not affirm that I have conquered fear, but only that in self-defence
I have been obliged to do something in that direction. I take it for
granted that what goes in that direction will go all the way if pursued
with perseverance and good will. Having thus made some simple
experiments--chiefly mental--with what to me are effective results, I
can hardly refuse to tell what they have been when others are so good as
to ask me.
And in making this attempt I must write from my own experience. No other
method would be worth while. The mere exposition of a thesis would have
little or no value. It is a case in which nothing can be helpful to
others which has not been demonstrated for oneself, even though the
demonstration be but partial.
In writing from my own experience I must ask the reader's pardon if I
seem egoistic or autobiographical. Without taking oneself too smugly or
too seriously one finds it the only way of reproducing the thing that
has happened in one's own life and which one actually knows.
And when I speak above of ideas worked out purely for myself I do not,
of course, mean that these ideas are original with me. All I have done
has been to put ideas through the mill of my own mind, co-ordinating
them to suit my own needs. The ideas themselves come from many sources.
Some of these sources are, so deep in the past that I could no longer
trace them; some are so recent that I know the day and hour when they
revealed themselves, like brooks in the way. It would be possible to say
to the reader, "I owe this to such and such a teaching, and that to such
and such a man," only that references of the kind would be tedious. I
fall back on what Emerson says: "Thought is the property of him who can
entertain it; and of him who can adequately place it. A certain
awkwardness marks the use of borrowed thoughts; but, as soon as we have
learned what to do with them, they become our own. Thus all originality
is relative." The thoughts that I shall express are my own to the extent
that I have lived them--or tried to live them--though the wind that
bloweth where it listeth may have brought them to my mind.
Nor do I think for a moment that what I have found helpful to me must of
necessity be helpful to everyone. It may be helpful to someone. That is
the limit of my hope. It is simple fact that no one can greatly help
anyone else. The utmost we can do is to throw out an idea here and there
which another may seize, and by which he may help himself. Borrowed help
has the awkwardness which Emerson attributes to borrowed thoughts. It is
only when a concept has lain for a time in a man's being, germinated
there, and sprung into active life, that it is of much use to him; but
by that time it has become his own. The kingdom of heaven must begin
within oneself or we shall probably not find it anywhere.
These pages will contain, then, no recipe for the conquest of fear; they
will offer, with much misgiving and diffidence, no more than the record
of what one individual has done toward conquering it. This record is
presented merely for what it is worth. It may be worth nothing. On the
other hand, someone may find it worth something, and in that case all
that the writer hopes for will be attained.
As a matter of fact, in my own case the reaction against fear was from
the beginning more or less instinctive. With the first exercise of the
reasoning faculty I tried to argue against the emotion. I remember that
as a little boy I was afraid of a certain dog that barked at me when I
went to a certain house to which I was sent perhaps two or three times a
week. The house had a driveway, and from the minute of passing the
entrance my knees trembled under me. But even then, I recall, it seemed
to me that this terror was an incongruous thing in life, that it had no
rightful place there, and that, if the world was what my elders told me
it was, there must be in it a law of peace and harmony which as yet I
hadn't arrived at. I cannot say that when the dog barked this reasoning
did more than nerve me to drag my quaking limbs up to the doorstep,
whence my enemy, a Skye terrier, invariably took flight.
During a somewhat stormy childhood and boyhood, in which there was a
good deal of emotional stress, I never got beyond this point. Specific
troubles were not few, and by the time I reached early manhood a habit
of looking for them had been established. "What's it going to be now?"
became a formula of anticipation before every new event. New events
presented themselves most frequently as menaces. Hopes rarely loomed up
without accompanying probabilities of disappointment. One adopted the
plan of "expecting disappointment" as a means of cheating the "jinx." I
am not painting my early life as any darker than most lives. It was, I
fancy, as bright as the average life of youth.
But, contrary to what is generally held, I venture to think that youth
is not a specially happy period. Because young people rarely voice
their troubles we are likely to think them serene and unafraid. That has
not been my experience either with them or of them. While it is true
that cares of a certain type increase with age the knowledge of how to
deal with them increases, or ought to increase, in the same progression.
With no practical experience to support them the young are up against
the unknown and problematical--occupation, marriage, sexual urge, life
in general--around which clings that terror of the dark which frightened
them in childhood. Home training, school training, college training,
religious training, social influences of every kind, throw the emphasis
on dangers rather than on securities, so that the young life emerges
into a haunted world. Some are reckless of these dangers, some grow
hardened to them, some enjoy the tussle with them, some turn their minds
away from them, while others, chiefly the imaginative or the
intellectual, shrink from them with the discomfort which, as years go
on, becomes worry, anxiety, foreboding, or any other of the many
forms of care.
My own life followed what I assume to be the usual course, though in
saying this I am anxious not to give an exaggerated impression. It was
the usual course, not an unusual one. "There's always something" came to
be a common mental phrase, and the something was, as a rule, not
cheering. Neither, as a rule, was it terrible. It was just
_something_--a sense of the carking hanging over life, and now and then
turning to a real mischance or a heartache.
It strikes me as strange, on looking back, that so little attempt was
made to combat fear by religion. In fact, as far as I know, little
attempt was made to combat fear in any way. One's attention was not
called to it otherwise than as a wholly inevitable state. You were born
subject to fear as you were born subject to death, and that was an
end of it.
Brought up in an atmosphere in which religion was our main
preoccupation, I cannot recall ever hearing it appealed to as a
counteragent to this most persistent enemy of man. In dealing with your
daily dreads you simply counted God out. Either He had nothing to do
with them or He brought them upon you. In any case His intervention on
your behalf was not supposed to be in this world, and to look for
rewards from Him here and now was considered a form of impiety. You were
to be willing to serve God for naught; after which unexpected favours
might be accorded you, but you were to hope for nothing as a right. I do
not say that this is what I was taught; it was what I understood; but to
the best of my memory it was the general understanding round about me.
In my fight against fear, in as far as I made one, God was for many
years of no help to me, or of no help of which I was aware. I shall
return to the point later in telling how I came to "discover God" for
myself, but not quite the same God, or not quite the same concept of
God, which my youthful mind had supposed to be the only one.
At the same time it was to a small detail in my religious training--or
to be more exact in the explanation of the Bible given me as a boy--that
I harked back when it became plain to me that either I must conquer fear
or fear must conquer me. Having fallen into my mind like a seed, it lay
for well on to thirty years with no sign of germination, till that
"need," of which I shall have more to say presently, called it
Let me state in a few words how the need made itself pressing.
It was, as life goes, a tolerably dark hour. I was on the borderland
between young manhood and early middle age. For some years I had been
losing my sight, on top of which came one of those troubles with the
thyroid gland which medical science still finds obscure. For reasons
which I need not go into I was spending an autumn at Versailles in
France, unoccupied and alone.
If you know Versailles you know that it combines all that civilisation
has to offer of beauty, magnificence, and mournfulness. A day's visit
from Paris will give you an inkling of this, but only an inkling. To get
it all you must live there, to be interpenetrated by its glory of decay.
It is always the autumn of the spirit at Versailles, even in summer,
even in spring; but in the autumn of the year the autumnal emotion of
the soul is poignant beyond expression. Sad gardens stretch into sad
parks; sad parks into storied and haunting forests. Long avenues lead to
forgotten châteaux mellowing into ruin. Ghostly white statues astonish
you far in the depths of woods where the wild things are now the most
frequent visitors. A Temple of Love--pillared, Corinthian, lovely--lost
in a glade to which lovers have probably not come in a hundred
years--will remind you that there were once happy people where now the
friendliest sound is that of the wood-chopper's axe or the horn of some
far-away hunt. All the old tales of passion, ambition, feud, hatred,
violence, lust, and intrigue are softened here to an aching sense of
pity. At night you will hear the castle clock, which is said never once
to have failed to strike the hour since Louis the Fourteenth put it in
its place, tolling away your life as it has tolled away epochs.
Amid these surroundings a man ill, lonely, threatened with blindness,
can easily feel what I may call the spiritual challenge of the ages. He
must either be strong and rule; or he must be weak and go down. He must
get the dominion over circumstance, or circumstance must get the
dominion over him. To be merely knocked about by fate and submit to it,
even in the case of seemingly inevitable physical infirmity, began to
strike me as unworthy of a man.
It is one thing, however, to feel the impulse to get up and do
something, and another to see what you can get up and do. For a time the
spectre of fear had me in its power. The physical facts couldn't be
denied, and beyond the physical facts I could discern nothing. It was
conceivable that one might react against a mental condition; but to
react against a mysterious malady coupled with possibly approaching
blindness was hardly to be thought of. When one added one's incapacity
to work and earn a living, with all that that implies, it seemed as if
it would take the faith that moves mountains to throw off the weight
oppressing me. It is true that to move mountains you only need faith as
a grain of mustard seed, but as far as one can judge not many of us have
It was then that my mind went back all of a sudden to the kernel planted
so many years before, in my island home, in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. If
I become prolix over this it is only that I want to show how often it
happens to parents, teachers, and others who deal with children, to
throw out a thought which after lying dormant for years will become a
factor in the life. Had it not been for the few words spoken then I
should not, as far as I can see, now have such mastery over self as I
have since attained--not very much--but I should not be writing
My boyhood was placed in the times when Darwin's "Origin of Species" and
"Descent of Man" had thrown the scientific and religious worlds into
convulsion. The struggle between the old ideas and the new calls for no
more than a reference here; but the teacher to whom I owe most was one
who, while valuing the old, saw only an enrichment in the new,
explaining the Bible in that spirit. So it happened that he spoke one
day of the extraordinary ingenuity of the life-principle, which somehow
came to the earth, in adapting itself to perpetually new conditions.
Nothing defeated it. For millions of years it was threatened by climatic
changes, by the lack of food, by the ferocity of fellow-creatures. Heat,
cold, flood, drought, earthquake, and volcanic eruption were forever
against it. Struggling from stage to stage upward from the slime a new
danger was always to it a new incentive to finding a new resource.
Pursued through the water it sought the land. Pursued on the land it
sought the air. Pursued in the air it developed fleetness of wing, and
in fleetness of wing a capacity for soaring, circling, balancing,
dipping, and swinging on itself of which the grace must not blind us to
the marvellous power of invention.
In other words, the impulses leading to the origin of species proclaim a
resourcefulness on the part of what we call life which we have every
reason to think inexhaustible. Whatever the Fount of Being from which
the life-principle first came into the waters of our earth there is no
question but that with it came a conquest-principle as well. Had it been
possible to exterminate the life-principle it would never have gone
further than the age which saw the extinction of the great reptiles. The
great reptiles went, but the life-principle stayed on, with the ability
to assume, within our limited observation, all the forms between the
bacillus and the elephant, while as to what lies beyond our observation
the possibilities are infinite.
Long before it works up to man we see this amazing force stemming an
uncountable number of attacks, and meeting ruinous conditions with
daring contrivances. For one kind of danger it develops a shell, for
another a sting, for another a poison, for another a protective
colouration. To breathe in the sea it puts forth gills, and makes lungs
for itself when stranded on the land. In glacial cold it finds the means
of growing fur; when heat and cold assail it by turns it packs itself
with feathers; when climates become temperate it produces hair. For the
creature which keeps to the water it webs the foot; for that which takes
to the trees it makes the toes prehensile; for the one which learns to
stand erect and run along the ground it flattens the sole, making it
steady and supporting. To resist, to survive, to win through, is the end
to which the life-principle sets itself with such singleness of aim as
to unfold a wealth of potentiality astounding to us in looking backward.
This was the idea which came back to me that autumn at Versailles, and
from which in the course of time I drew my conclusions.
Briefly, those conclusions were to the effect that as individuals we
need difficulties to overcome, and that fear is a stimulus to overcoming
them. Otherwise expressed, fear loses much of its fearfulness when we
see it as the summons to putting forth new energies. Unless we were
conscious of the energies such a call would not reach us. The creatures
preceding man could have felt no misgiving, since they lacked the
imagination essential to a dread. Such fear as they were equal to must
have seized them in paroxysms of terror when calamities threatened to
overwhelm them. If they made good their escape no trace of the fear
remained behind, the brain having little or no power of retention. We
may take it for granted that the pterodactyl and the trachodon had none
of the foreboding based on experience which destroys the peace of man.
Fear, as we understand it, was in itself a signal of advance. It could
only have begun with the exercise of reason. Arrived at the rudiments of
memory the creature must have been able to perceive, however dimly, that
the thing which had happened might happen again. Adding the first
stirrings of imagination he must have constructed possible events in
which the danger would come from the same causes as before. With the
faculties to remember, to reason, and to imagine all at work we reach
the first stages of man.
Man was born into fear in that he was born into a world of which most of
the energies were set against him. He was a lone thing fighting his own
battle. The instinct for association which made the mammals different
from other animals didn't help him much, since association did not bring
mutual help as a matter of course, and never has done so. A man could
count on no one but himself. Not only were prodigious natural forces
always menacing him with destruction; not only was the beast his enemy
and he the enemy of the beast; but his hand was against his fellow-man
and his fellow-man's hand against him. This mutual hostility followed
men in their first groupings into communities, and only to a degree have
we lived it down in the twentieth century.
Perhaps this conviction that a man's strength lay in standing
single-handed against circumstance was the first small discovery I made
in my own fight with fear. Looking back on the developments which had
brought man into the world I saw a marvellous power of getting round
difficulties when you couldn't cut through them. Just as a river which
cannot flow over a rock can glide about its feet and turn it into a
picturesque promontory, so I recognised in myself an inborn human
faculty for "sidestepping" that which blocked my way, when I couldn't
break it down.
I left Versailles with just that much to the good--a perception that the
ages had bequeathed me a store of abilities which I was allowing to lie
latent. Moving into Paris, to more cheerful surroundings, I took up
again the writing of the book I had abandoned more than a year
previously. After long seclusion I began to see a few people, finding
them responsive and welcoming. My object in stating these unimportant
details is merely to show that in proportion as I ceased to show fear
the life-principle hastened to my aid. Little by little I came to the
belief that the world about me was a system of co-operative
friendliness, and that it was my part to use it in that way.
To use it in that way was not easy. I was so accustomed to the thought
of Nature as a complex of self-seeking cruelties, the strong preying on
the weak, and the weak defenceless, that the mere idea of its containing
a ruling co-operative principle seemed at times far-fetched. To the
common opinion of the day, my own included, the conception of a
universe that would come to a man's aid the minute a man came to his own
was too much like a fairy tale. It may indeed be a fairy tale. All I
know is that in my own case it is the way in which it seems to have
worked. I think I have caught a glimpse of a constructive use for that
which I had previously thought of as only destructive and terrible.
This is what I mean. The life-principle having, through unknown millions
of years, developed the conquest-principle by meeting difficulties and
overcoming them, the difficulties had a value. To man, especially, the
menace of Nature, the ferocity of the beast, and the enmity of his
fellow-man furnished the incentive to his upward climb. Had all been
easy he would have stayed where he was. He would never have called
mental powers to his physical aid, nor appealed to spiritual faculties
when the mental fell short of his requirements. Spurred on by a
necessity which grew more urgent in proportion as the life-principle
widened its scope, the conquest-principle became an impulse which would
brook no denying. Man grew by it; but the fact remains that he would not
have grown had there been nothing for him to struggle with.
To me it seems basic to the getting rid of fear to know that our trials,
of whatever nature, are not motiveless. In our present stage of
development we could hardly do without them. So often looking like mere
ugly excrescences on life they are in reality the branches by which we
catch on and climb. They are not obstacles to happiness for the reason
that the only satisfying happiness we are equal to as yet is that of
wrestling with the difficult and overcoming it. Every call of duty has
its place in this ideal; every irksome job, every wearisome
responsibility. The fact that we are not always aware of it in no way
annuls the other fact that it is so. Boredom, monotony, drudgery,
bereavement, loneliness, all the clamour of unsatisfied ambitions and
aching sensibilities, have their share in this divine yearning of the
spirit to grasp what as yet is beyond its reach. All of that hacking of
the man to fit the job rather than the shaping of the job to fit the
man, which is, I imagine, the source of most of the discontent on earth,
has its place here, as well as the hundreds of things we shouldn't do if
we were not compelled to. Whatever summons us to conflict summons us to
life, and life, as we learn from a glance at the past, never shirks the
It never shirks the challenge, and, what is more, it never fails to find
the expedient by which the new demand is to be satisfied. To the
conquest of fear that plank must be foundational. As far as we can learn
there never was an emergency yet which the life-principle was not
equipped to meet. When all existing methods had been used up it invented
new ones; when seemingly at the end of its new resources it was only
beginning to go on again.
The deduction I make is this, that a law which was operative on such a
scale before man had come into the world at all must be still more
effective now that we can help to carry it out. The life-principle is
not less ingenious than it ever was, while the conquest-principle must
have widely expanded. It is an axiom in all progress that the more we
conquer the more easily we conquer. We form a habit of conquering as
insistent as any other habit. Victory becomes, to some degree, a state
of mind. Knowing ourselves superior to the anxieties, troubles, and
worries which obsess us, we _are_ superior. It is a question of attitude
in confronting them. It is more mental than it is material. To be in
harmony with the life-principle and the conquest-principle is to be in
harmony with power; and to be in harmony with power is to be strong as a
matter of course.
The individual is thus at liberty to say: "The force which never failed
before is not likely to fail in my case. The fertility of resource which
circumvented every kind of obstacle to make me what I am--a vertebrate,
breathing, walking, thinking entity, capable of some creative
expression of my own--will probably not fall short now that I have
immediate use for it. Of what I get from the past, prehistoric and
historic, perhaps the most subtle distillation is the fact that so far
is the life-principle from balking at need, need is essential to its
activity. Where there is no need it seems to be quiescent; where there
is something to be met, contended with, and overcome, it is furiously
'on the job.' That life-principle is my principle. It is the seed from
which I spring. It is my blood, my breath, my brain. I cannot cut myself
off from it; it cannot cut itself off from me. Having formed the
mastodon to meet one set of needs and the butterfly to meet another, it
will form, something to meet mine, even if something altogether new. The
new--or what seems new to me--is apparently the medium in which it is
most at home. It repeats itself never--not in two rosebuds, not in two
snowflakes. Who am I that I should be overlooked by it, or miss being
made the expression of its infinite energies?"
What this reasoning did for me from the start was to give me a new
attitude toward the multifold activity we call life. I saw it as
containing a principle that would work with me if I could work with it.
My working with it was the main point, since _it_ was working with me
always. Exactly what that principle was I could not at the time have
said; I merely recognised it as being there.
The method of working with it was simple in idea, however difficult in
practice. It was a question of my own orientation. I had to get mentally
into harmony with the people and conditions I found about me. I was not
to distrust them; still less was I to run away from them. I was to make
a parable of my childish experience with the Skye terrier, assuming that
life was organised to do me good. I remembered how many times the Bible
begins some bit of pleading or injunction with the words, "Fear not."
Other similar appeals came back to me. "Say to them that are of a
fearful heart, Be strong I fear not." "Quit yourselves like men; be
strong." "O man greatly beloved, fear not! Peace be unto thee! Be
strong, yea, be Strong." When, at some occasional test, dismay or
self-pity took hold of me I formed a habit of saying to myself, in our
expressive American idiom: "This is your special stunt. It's up to you
to do this thing just as if you had all the facilities. Go at it boldly,
and you'll find unexpected forces closing round you and Coming to
 The Book of Isaiah.
 First Book of Samuel.
 Book of Daniel.
Which is just what I did find. To an amazing degree people were
friendly, while conditions became easier. Fear diminished because I had
fewer things to be afraid of. Having fewer things to be afraid of my
mind was clearer for work. Work becoming not only more of a resource but
more remunerative as well, all life grew brighter. Fear was not
overcome; I had only made a more or less hesitating stand against it;
but even from doing that I got positive results.
THE LIFE-PRINCIPLE AND GOD
It is obvious that one could not dwell much on the power of the
life-principle without coming sooner or later to the thought of God. As
already hinted, I did not come to it at once because my conception of
God made Him of so little use to me.
And yet, in popular phraseology, I had "served" God all my life. That
is, brought up in an atmosphere in which the Church was a divinely
instituted system for utilising God, I served the system, without
getting much beyond the surface plane of what were technically known as
"services." When trial came such services offered me an anodyne, but
not a cure.
The first suggestion, that my concept of God might not be sufficient to
my needs came out of a conversation in New York. It was with a lady whom
I met but that once, within a year or two after my experience at
Versailles. I have forgotten how we chanced on the subject, but I
remember that she asked me these questions:
"When you think of God _how_ do you think of Him? How do you picture
Him? What does He seem like?"
Trying to reply I recognised a certain naivete, a certain childishness,
in my words even as I uttered them. In my thoughts I saw God as three
supernal men, seated on three supernal thrones, enshrined in some vague
celestial portion of space which I denominated Heaven. Between Him and
me there was an incalculable distance which He could bridge but I could
not. Always He had me at the disadvantage that He saw what I did, heard
what I said, read what I thought, punishing me for everything amiss,
while I could reach Him only by the uncertain telephony of what I
understood as prayer. Even then my telephone worked imperfectly. Either
the help I implored wasn't good for me, or my voice couldn't soar to
The lady smiled, but said nothing. The smile was significant. It made me
feel that a God who was no more than what I had described could hardly
be the Universal Father, and set me to thinking on my own account.
I wish it were possible to speak of God without the implication of
dealing with religion. By this I mean that I am anxious to keep religion
out of this whole subject of the conquest of fear. The minute you touch
on religion, as commonly understood, you reach the sectarian. The minute
you reach the sectarian you start enmities. The minute you start
enmities you get mental discords. And the minute you get mental
discords no stand against fear is possible.
But I mean a little more than this. Man, as at present developed, has
shown that he hardly knows what to do with religion, or where to put it
in his life. This is especially true of the Caucasian, the least
spiritually intelligent of all the great types of our race.
Fundamentally the white man is hostile to religion. He attacks it as a
bull a red cloak, goring it, stamping on it, tearing it to shreds. With
the Caucasian as he is this fury is instinctive. Recognising religion as
the foe of the materialistic ideal he has made his own he does his best
to render it ineffective.
Of this we need no better illustration than the state of what we
conventionally know as Christendom. Christendom as we see it is a purely
Caucasian phase of man's struggle upward, with Caucasian merits and
Caucasian defects. Nowhere is its defectiveness more visible than in
what the Caucasian has made of the teaching of Jesus Christ. It was
probably a misfortune for the world that almost from the beginning that
teaching passed into Caucasian guardianship. I see in the New Testament
no indication on the part of Our Lord and the Apostles of wishing to
separate themselves from Semitic co-operation. The former taught daily
in the Temple; the latter, as they went about the world, made the
synagogue the base of all their missions. The responsibility for the
breach is not under discussion here. It is enough to note that it took
place, and that Caucasian materialism was thus deprived of a
counteragent in Hebrew spiritual wisdom. Had this corrective maintained
its place it is possible that religion might now be a pervasive element
in the Caucasian's life instead of being pigeon-holed.
The Caucasian pigeon-holes God. Otherwise expressed, he keeps God in a
specially labelled compartment of life, to be brought out for occasional
use, and put back when the need is over. It is difficult to mention God
to a Caucasian reader without inducing an artificial frame of mind. As
there are people who put on for strangers and guests an affected,
unnatural politeness different from their usual breezy spontaneity, so
the Caucasian assumes at the thought of God a mental habit which can
only be described as sanctimonious. God is not natural to the Caucasian;
the Caucasian is not natural with God. The mere concept takes him into
regions in which he feels uneasy. He may call his uneasiness reserve or
reverence, or by some other dignified name; but at bottom it is neither
more nor less than uneasiness. To minimise this distress he relegates
God to special days, to special hours, to services and ceremonials. He
can thus wear and bear his uncomfortable cloak of gravity for special
times, after which he can be himself again. To appeal to God otherwise
than according to the tacitly accepted protocol is to the average
Caucasian either annoying or in bad form.
I should like, then, to dissociate the thought of God from the
artificial, sanctimonious, preternaturally solemn connotations which
the Name is certain to bring up. I want to speak of Him with the same
kind of ease as of the life-principle. I repeat, that I never found Him
of much use in allaying fear till I released Him from the Caucasian
pigeon-hole to see Him, as it were, in the open. Once in the open I got
rid, to some degree, of the Caucasian limitations of thinking along the
lines of sect, just as in the infinitude of the air you can forget for a
minute houses with rooms and walls. The discovery--that is, discovery
for myself--that God is Universal, which is not so obvious as it sounds,
was, I think, the first great step I made in finding that within that
Universal fear should be impossible.
About the same time I chanced on a passage written by Joseph Joubert, an
eighteenth-century French Catholic, not so well known to the modern
reader as he ought to be, which impressed me deeply.
"L'âme ne peut se mouvoir, s'éveiller, ouvrir les yeux, sans santir
Dieu. On sent Dieu avec l'âme comme on sent l'air avec le corps.
Oseraije le dire? On connaît Dieu facilement pourvu qu'on ne se
contraigne pas à le definir--The soul cannot move, wake, or open the
eyes without perceiving God. We perceive God through the soul as we feel
air on the body. Dare I say it? We can know God easily so long as we do
not feel it necessary to define Him."
I began to see that, like most Caucasian Christians, I had been laying
too much stress on the definition. The Trinity had, so to speak, come
between me and the Godhead. I had, unconsciously, attached more
importance to God's being Three than to His being God. Seeing Him as
Three I instinctively saw Him as Three Persons. Seeing Him as Three
Persons I did not reflect that the word Person as applied to God must be
used in a sense wholly different from that in which we employ it with
regard to men. To get into what I call the open I had to bring myself to
understand that we cannot enclose the Infinite in a shape, or three
shapes, resembling in any way the being with digestive organs, arms, and
legs, which worked its way up from slime.
That is, in order to "dwell in the secret place of the Most High,"
where one is immune from fear, I was obliged to give up the habit of
embodying God in any form. I had to confess that what is meant by the
Three Persons in One God I did not know. Furthermore, I saw no necessity
for thinking that I knew, since such knowledge must transcend all scope
of the human mind. The formula, if you must have a formula, is one
thing; but the turning it into a statute of limitations and applying it
to the Illimitable is another.
 The Book of Psalms.
To make my position clearer, and to avoid the subject of religion, let
me add that, inferring from the Bible that there is a Father, a Son, and
a Holy Ghost, I did not feel it imperative on my part to go beyond this
use of terms. Merely to abstain from definition was like a load taken
off my mind. How the Son was begotten of the Father, or the Holy Ghost
proceeded from them both, or what eternal mysteries were symbolised in
this purely human phraseology, were, it seemed to me, matters with which
I need not concern myself, seeing that they passed all my comprehension.
Not the Trinity should come first to powers so limited as mine--but God.
It dawned on me, too, that God need not necessarily be to me what He is
to others, nor to others what He is to me. Of the Infinite the finite
mind can only catch a finite glimpse. I see what I can see; another sees
what he can see. The visions may be different, and yet each vision may
be true. Just as two painters painting the same landscape will give
dissimilar views of it, so two minds contemplating God will take of Him
only what each is fitted to receive. Water poured into differently
coloured glasses will take on the colour of the cup which it fills, even
though it be the self-same water in them all. If I find God for myself I
shall probably not behold in Him exactly what anyone else in the whole
world or in all time has ever beheld in Him before.
I saw, too, that from a certain point of view the stand of the agnostic
is a right one. We cannot know God in the sense of knowing His being or
His "Personality," any more than we can know the essence of the
life-principle. Just as we know the life-principle only from what it
does, so we know God only from such manifestations of Himself as reach
our observation. Everything else is inference. Because we see something
of His goodness we infer that He is good; because we experience
something of His love we infer that He is loving; because we behold
something of His power we infer that He is almighty. It is first of all
a matter of drawing our conclusions, and then of making those
conclusions the food of the inner spiritual man whose life is
independent of the mortal heart and brain. But a sense in which God is
"unknowable" to us has to be admitted.
I make this statement now in order not to be misunderstood when later I
may say that God must be this or that. Though I shall do so for the
sake of brevity it will always be in the sense that, if God is what we
have inferred from His manifestations, He must be this or that. In other
words, having to some degree worked my own way out of fear I must tell
how I came to feel that I know the Unknowable, doing it with the inexact
phraseology which is all I find to hand.
Reaching the conclusions noted above I was relieved of the pressure of
traditions and instructions. Traditions and instructions helped me in
that they built the ship in which I was to put to sea. The discoveries
had to be my own. The God of whom I had heard at my mother's knee, as
the phrase goes, had always been shadowy to me; the God who was served
by "services" had always seemed remote. A God who should be "_my_ God,"
as the psalmists say so often, must, I felt, be found by me myself,
through living, searching, suffering, and struggling onward a step or
two at a time. "That's pretty near free-thinking, isn't it?" a
clergyman, to whom I tried to explain myself, once said to me. "No," I
replied; "but it _is_ pretty near thinking _free_."
To think freely about God became a first necessity; to think simply a
second one. The Universal Father had been almost lost to me behind veil
after veil of complexities. The approaches to Him seemed to have been
made so roundabout, requiring so many intermediaries. Long before I had
dared to think of what I may call emancipation, the "scheme of
salvation," as it was termed, had struck me as an excessively
complicated system of machinery, considering the millions upon millions
who had need of it. In theory you were told, according to St. Paul, to
"come boldly before the throne of the heavenly grace," but in practice
you were expected to do it timidly.
You were expected to do it timidly because the pigeon-holed Caucasian
God was represented--unconsciously perhaps--as difficult, ungenial,
easily offended. He measured your blindness and weakness by the
standard of His own knowledge and almightiness. A puritan God, extremely
preoccupied with morals as some people saw them, He was lenient,
apparently, to the narrow-minded, the bitter of tongue, and the
intolerant in heart. He was not generous. He was merciful only when you
paid for His mercy in advance. To a not inconsiderable degree He was the
hard Caucasian business man, of whom He was the reflection, only
glorified and crowned.
It will be evident, of course, that I am not speaking of "the Father" of
the New Testament, nor of the official teaching of any church or
theology. To the rank and file of Caucasians "the Father" of the New
Testament is very little known, while the official teaching of churches
and theologies is so hard to explain that not much of it gets over to
the masses of those willing to subscribe to it. I refer only to the
impression on the mind of the man in the street; and to the man in the
street God, as he understands Him, is neither a very friendly nor a very
comprehensible element in life. Instead of mitigating fear He adds to
it, not in the Biblical sense of "fearing God," but in that of sheer
While turning these things over in my mind I got some help from two of
the words most currently in Christian use. I had long known that the
English equivalents of the Latin equivalents of the terms the New
Testament writers used gave but a distorted idea of the original sense;
but I had let that knowledge lie fallow.
The first of these words was Repentance. In these syllables there is
almost no hint of the idea which fell from the evangelistic pen, while
the word has been soaked in emotional and sentimental associations it
was never intended to be mixed with. The _Metanoia_; which painted a
sober, reflective turning of the mind, had been so overcharged with the
dramatic that sober, reflective people could hardly use the expression
any more. Repentance had come to have so strong a gloss of the
hysterical as to be almost discredited by men of common sense. It was a
relief, therefore, to remember that it implied no more than a turning to
God by a process of thought; and that a process of thought would
The other word was Salvation. Here again our term of Latin derivation
gives no more than the faintest impression of the beauty beyond beauty
in that which the sacred writer used. _Soteria_--a Safe Return! That is
all. Nothing complicated; nothing high-strung; nothing casuistical. Only
a--Safe Return! Yet all human experience can be read into the little
phrase, with all human liberty to wander--and come back. True, one son
may never leave the Father's home, so that all that it contains is his;
but there is no restraint on the other son from getting his knowledge as
he will, even to the extent of becoming a prodigal. The essential is in
the Safe Return, the _Soteria_, when the harlots and the husks have been
tried and found wanting.
I do not exaggerate when I say that the simplicity of these conceptions
was so refreshing as almost to give me a new life. One could say to God,
with the psalmist, "Thou art my hiding place; thou shalt preserve me
from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of
deliverance"--and mean it. One could conceive of it as possible to turn
toward Him--and reach, the objective. The way was open; the access was
free; the progress as rapid as thought could make it. One could think of
oneself as _knowing God_, and be aware of no forcing of the note.
"We can know God easily so long as we do not feel it necessary to define
Him." Once having grasped this truth I began to see how natural knowing
God became. The difficulty of the forced, of the artificial, of the mere
assent to what other people say, of which the Caucasian to his credit is
always impatient, seemed by degrees to melt away from me. No longer
defining God I no longer tried to know Him in senses obviously
impossible. I ceased trying to _imagine_ Him. Seeing Him as infinite,
eternal, changeless, formless because transcending form, and
indescribable because transcending words and thoughts, I could give
myself up to finding Him in the ways in which He would naturally be
revealed to me.
These, of course, were in His qualities and His works.
Let me speak of the latter first.
I think light was the medium through which I at once felt myself to be
seeing God. By this I mean nothing pantheistic--not that the light was
God--but God's first and most evident great sign. Then there was the
restful darkness. There were the moon and the stars, "the hosts of
heaven," as the Hebrews aptly called them, becoming more and more
amazing as an expression of God the more we learn how to read them. Then
there were the elements, the purifying wind, the fruitful rain, the
exhilaration of snow-storms, the action and reaction from heat and cold.
Then there was beauty: first, the beauty of the earth, of mountains, of
seas, and all waters, of meadows, grainfields, orchards, gardens, and
all growing things; then, the beauty of sound, from the soughing of the
wind in the pines to the song of the hermit-thrush. There was the beauty
wrought by man, music, painting, literature, and all art. There were the
myriad forms of life. There were kindness and friendship and family
affection and fun--but the time would fail me! God being the summing up
of all good things, since all good things proceed from Him, must be seen
by me in all good things it I am to see Him at all.
I had heard from childhood of a world in which God was seen, and of
another world, this world, in which He was not seen. I came to the
conclusion that there was no such fantastic, unnatural division in what
we call creation--that there was only one world--the world in which God
is seen. "The soul cannot move, wake, or open the eyes without
perceiving God." It is a question of physical vision, with spiritual
Seeing God breaking through all that I had previously thought of as
barriers, it was easy to begin to think of Him as Universal. I say begin
to think, because God's Infinitude had been only a word to me hitherto,
not a quality realised and felt. I do not presume to say that to any
adequate degree I feel and realise it now; but the habit of looking on
every good thing as a sign of His activity cannot but bring Him close
That is my chief point with regard to the Infinite--that it must be
_here_. As I used to think of infinity I saw it stretching to boundless
reaches away from me; but only from the point of view of present Good
being present God did the value of the Infinite come to lie in its
nearness rather than in its power of filling unimaginable space. On my
part it was inverse mental action, seeking God where I was capable of
finding Him, and not in regions I could never range.
But having grasped the fact that the Universal, wherever else it was,
must be with me the purely abstract became a living influence. I felt
this the more when to the concept of Infinitude I added that of
Intelligence. I use the much-worked word intelligence because there is
no other; but when one thinks for a second of what must be the
understanding of an Infinite Mind, intelligence as a descriptive term
becomes absurdly inadequate.
This was the next fact which, if I may so express myself, I made my
own--that not only the Universal is ever with me, but that it is ever
with me with ever-active concern. There was a time when it was hard for
me to believe that a Mind busied with the immensities of the universe
could come down to such trivial affairs as mine. Important as I might be
to myself I could hardly be otherwise than lost amid the billions of
forms of life which had come into existence through the ages. To the
Three in One, on the Great White Throne, in the far-away Heaven, I must
be a negligible thing, except when I forced myself on the divine
attention. Even then it was hardly conceivable that, with whole solar
systems to regulate, I could claim more than a passing glance from the
But to an Infinite Mind bathing me round and round I must be as much the
object of regard as any solar system. To such a Mind nothing is small,
no one thing farther from its scope than another. God could have no
_difficulty_ in attending to me, seeing that from the nature of His
mental activity, to put it in that way, He could not lose sight of me
nor let me go. When an object is immersed in water it gives no extra
trouble to the water to close round it. It can't help doing it. The
object may be as small as a grain of dust or as big as a warship; to the
water it is all the same. Immersed in the Infinite Mind, closed round by
it, it was giving God no extra trouble to think of me, of my work, my
desires, the objects with which I was living, since by the nature of His
Being He could do nothing else.
Having established it with myself that Universal Presence was also
Universal Thought I had made another step toward the elimination of
fear. I took still another when I added the truth of Universal Love.
I need hardly say that this progression was not of necessity in a
strictly consecutive order, nor did it come by a process of reasoning
out from point to point. I was simply the man in the street dealing with
great ideas of which he had heard ever since he had been able to hear
anything, but trying at last to see what they meant to him. My position
might have been described in the words used by William James in one of
his _Letters_ to indicate his own. "The Divine, for my _active_ life, is
limited to abstract concepts, which, as ideals, interest and determine
me, but do so but faintly, in comparison with what a feeling of God
might effect, if I had one. It is largely a question of intensity, but
differences of intensity may make the whole centre of one's energy
shift." I did have a "feeling of God" however vague; but I had more of
the feeling of a Church. I could dimly discern the Way, without going
on to the Truth and the Life which give the Way its value. It will be
evident then that if my "discoveries" along these lines were discoveries
in the obvious, it was in that obvious to which we mortals so often
During many years the expression, the love of God, was to me like a
winter sunshine, bright without yielding warmth. I liked the words; I
knew they expressed a truth; but between me and the truth there was the
same kind of distance which I felt to lie between myself and God. "It is
largely a question of intensity," to repeat what has just been quoted
from William James, "but differences of intensity may make the whole
centre of one's energy shift." My conception of the love of God lacked
just that quality--intensity.
It came, to some degree, with the realisation that the Universal Thought
must be with _me_. A non-loving Universal Thought was too monstrous a
concept to entertain. The God who "broke through" my many
misunderstandings with so much good and beauty could have only one
predominating motive. The coming of my spiritual being to this planet
might be a mystery wrapped in darkness, and yet I could not but believe
that the Universal Father was behind that coming and that I was His son.
I could rest my case there. The love of God, after having long been like
a doctrinal tenet for which one had to strive, became reasonable,
natural, something to be understood. Finding that love in so many places
in which I had seen mere physical phenomena, and in so many lovely
things I had never placed to its credit, I began to feel that life could
be infused and transformed by it, in proportion as my own perception
grew. So, little by little, the centre of energy shifted, as one came to
understand what the Sons of Korah meant when they sang, "God is our
refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore _will we
not fear_ though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be
carried into, the midst of the sea." With Universal Thought
concentrated in love upon oneself fear must be forced backward.
 The Book of Psalms.
And especially when you add to that the concept of Almighty Power. This
fourth and last of the great attributes is the one with which I, as an
individual, have found it most difficult to clothe the Infinite. I mean
that it is the one for which it is hardest for me to develop what
William James calls "a feeling," an inner realisation. I lay no stress
upon this. It is a question of growth. The Presence, the Thought, the
Love have become to me what I may be permitted to call tremulously
vivid. In proportion as they are vivid I get the "feeling" of
Almightiness exercised on my behalf; in proportion as they are tremulous
the Almightiness may remain in my consciousness, but it seems exercised
on my behalf but slightly.
In other words, the Infinitude of Thought and Love are, to some extent,
apprehended by my inner self, while the Infinitude of Power is as yet to
me rather an intellectual abstraction. What my inner self may be I am
not prepared to say, but I know that it is there, as everyone else
knows that it is in him. "Strengthened with might by the Spirit in the
inner man," is what St. Paul says, and I suppose most of us recognise
the fact that our inner self is stronger or weaker in proportion as it
is more nourished or less nourished by our sense of the Being of God. It
is largely a question of intensity. If I interpret William James aright
he means by "a feeling" an intellectual concept after it has passed
beyond the preliminary keeping of the brain, and become the possession
of that inner man which is the vital self. To this vital self the sense
of Almighty Power really used for me is still, to a great degree,
outside my range.
 Epistle to the Ephesians.
I make the confession not because it is of interest, but because it
illustrates a main deduction which I should now like to draw. It is to
the effect that God is with us _to be utilised_. His Power, His Love,
His Thought, His Presence, must be at our disposal, like other great
forces, such as sunshine and wind and rain. We can use them or not, as
we please. That we could use them to their full potentiality is, of
course, not to be thought of; but we can use them in proportion to our
ability. If I, the individual, still lack many things; if I am still a
prey to lingering fears; it is probably because I have not yet rooted
out a stubborn disbelief in His Power. If I succeed in this I shall
doubtless be able to seize more of His bounty. It is not a question of
His giving, but of my capacity to take.
The contrary, I venture to think, is the point of view of most of us. We
consider God somewhat as we do a wealthy man whom we know to be a miser,
forming the shrewd surmise that we shall not get much out of him. The
God who fails to protect us from fear fails, I believe, because we see
Him first of all as a niggard God. He is a niggard not merely with
regard to money but all the good things for which He has given us a
desire, with no intention of allowing that desire to be gratified. Once
more, He is the hard Caucasian business man, whom His subordinates serve
because they don't see what else to do, but whom they rarely love.
We shall not, in my judgment, overcome fear till we see Him as He surely
must be, generous beyond all our conceptions of generosity. Years,
experience, many trials, and some knowledge of the world, have convinced
me that we have no lawful or harmless cravings for which, _as far as God
is concerned_, there is not abundant satisfaction. I am convinced that
absolute confidence in God's overflowing liberality of every sort is
essential to the conquest of fear. If we don't profit by that liberality
the fault is not His but our own. I am tempted to think that the belief
of so many generations of nominal Christians in a God whose power was
chiefly shown in repressions, denials, and capricious disappointments is
responsible, in so small measure, for our present world-distress.
In my own case it was a matter of re-education. To find God for myself I
had to be willing to let some of my old cherished ideas go. They may
have been true of God as He reveals Himself to others; they are not true
of Him as He makes Himself known to me. The Way that leads _me_ to the
Truth and the Life is undoubtedly the Way I must follow.
Doing that I have found so much, mentally, emotionally, materially,
which I never had before, that I cannot but look for more as my
absorbing power increases. The process is akin to that of the
unshrivelling of the inner man, as a bud will unfold when the sunshine
becomes strong enough. The transformation must be in thought. There must
be first the _Metanoia_, the change of mind, the new set of concepts;
and then the _Soteria_, the Safe Return, to the high, sane ideal of a
co-operative Universe, with a loving, lavish Universal Heart behind it.
"To the chief Musician for the Sons of Korah:
"'God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Therefore will we not fear though the earth be removed, and though the
mountains be carried into the midst of the sea.... Come, behold the
works of the Lord.... He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the
earth; he breaketh the bow, he cutteth the spear in sunder, he burneth
the chariot in the fire.... _Be still then, and know that I am
 Book of Psalms.
GOD AND HIS SELF-EXPRESSION
It will be clear from what I have said already that I see no fundamental
conquest of fear that is not based in God. There may be knacks by which
fear can be nipped and expedients by which it may be outwitted, but its
extermination can be brought about, it seems to me, only in one way.
According to our capacity and our individual needs we must know God; and
knowing God is not as difficult as the Caucasian mind is apt to think.
It stands to reason that if knowing God, in the senses in which it is
possible to know Him, is so essential to mankind it could not be
difficult. The making it difficult is part of the dust the Caucasian
throws in his own eyes.
We know God through His Self-Expression, and His Self-Expression is
round about us in every form. Except through His Self-Expression there
is no way of our knowing Him. No speculation or theory will teach us to
know Him. It must be His own revelation of Himself, or nothing.
Such little knowledge of Him as has come to me came much more freely
when I began to look for that revelation not alone in solemn mysteries,
or through the mediumship of prophets, apostles, and ancient scriptures,
but in the sights and sounds and happenings of every day. Here I must
ask not to be misunderstood. The solemn mysteries have their place, but
it is one of climax. The mediumship of prophets, apostles, and ancient
scriptures is of unreckonable value, after I have done something for
myself. By this I do not mean that all cannot work together
simultaneously, but rather that it is useless for the soul to strike
only at the more advanced, having ignored the elementary.
As I write I look out on a street full of the touches of spring. The
rain-washed grass is of bright new green. The elms are in tenderest
leaf, the hawthorn bursting into flower. Here and there a yellow clump
of forsythia is like a spot of sunshine. Tulips are opening their
variegated cups, and daffodils line the walls. Dogs are capering about,
a collie, a setter, a Boston terrier. Birds are carrying straws or bits
of string to weave into their nests--or singing--or flying--or perching
on boughs. Children are playing--boys on bicycles eagerly racing
nowhere--little girls with arms round each others' waists, prattling
after their kind. Overhead is a sky of that peculiar blue for which the
Chinese have a word which means "the blue of the sky after rain," a hue
which only these masters in colour have, to my knowledge,
How can I help seeing so much beauty and sweetness as the manifestation
of God? How could He show Himself to me more smilingly? How can I talk
of not seeing God when I see _this_? True, it may be no more than the
tip of the fringe of the hem of the robe in which His Being is arrayed;
but at least it must be that. True, also, that beautiful as these things
appear to physical eyes they must be still more beautiful to spiritual
eyes--the eyes of those who have passed on, for instance--to say nothing
of the delight which God must have in them Himself. But even with my
imperfect mortal vision they are rapturously good, a veritable glimpse
of the Divine.
This is what I mean by the elementary--the common, primary thing, the
thing I look at every day and hardly ever accredit to its source. I am
not speaking pantheistically here, any more than when I spoke of light.
These things are not God, or part of God. They are expressions of God.
If I speak of seeing God in them I mean that in them, as well as in many
other simple things, we see Him as nearly as is possible to such
comprehension as ours. "No human eye," writes St. John, "has ever seen
God: the only Son, who is in the Father's bosom--He has made Him
known." He made Him known in His own Person; but He appealed also to
the everyday sights and sounds, the lily of the field, the blowing wind,
the sparrow falling, the children at their mothers' knees, for the
evidence to declare Him. As expressions of Him they may be
misinterpreted by the error in my physical senses, or distorted by my
limitations of spiritual perception; but even then they bring Him near
to me in the kind of radiance which I can catch.
 Most of the quotations from the New Testament are taken from a
recent translation, "The New Testament in Modern Speech," by R.F.
Weymouth and E. Hampden-Cook.
In order to banish fear I think it necessary to train the thought to
seeing God as expressing Himself in all the good and pleasant and
enjoyable things that come to us. This means forming a habit. It means
saying to oneself daily, hourly, "This is God," "That is God," of
incidents, persons, and things we have rarely thought of in that
relation. To do this is not as easy as it would be if our race-mind
worked that way; but unfortunately it does not. In general we take our
good things for granted, complaining that they are not better. The
things we lack are more vivid to us, as a rule, than those we have
acquired. Having hung, as it were, a cloud about ourselves we disregard
the uncountable ways in which God persists in shining through, in spite
of our efforts to shut Him out.
To try to enumerate the uncountable would be folly. You cannot reckon
the good which comes to every one of us through such channels as family,
home, friendship, income, business, amusements, studies, holidays,
journeys, sports, books, pictures, music, and the other hardly noticed
pleasures of any single day. We are used to them. To ascribe them
specially to God would seem to us far-fetched. That is, theoretically we
may ascribe them to God, but practically we dissociate Him from them.
Few of us, I think, ever pause to remember that through them He is
making Himself known to us before doing it in any other way.
And yet, it seems to me, this is the beginning of our recognition of the
Divine. I have little hesitation in saying that this is what parents
should teach children before they teach them to lisp prayers. The
prayers have hardly any meaning to the baby-mind, and not much more than
a sentimental influence on the later life, if they have as much as that.
But any child, from the very budding of the intelligence, could grasp
the idea of a great, loving Super-Father, who was making Himself visible
through gifts and care. If he prayed to Him later he would know to whom
he was praying. As it is, the later prayers are neglected, or definitely
given up, oftener than not, because this is precisely what the child
does _not_ know. He does not know it because he was never taught it; and
he was never taught it because his parents have probably not been aware
of it themselves.
I myself was never taught it. Notwithstanding all for which I am truly
grateful, I regret most deeply that so many years of my life went by
before I was led to the fact. I am willing to believe that the lack of
understanding was my own fault, but a lack of understanding there was. I
got the impression that God, so far from making Himself known to me, was
hiding away from me, and that I must have faith to believe in One of
whom I had no more than hearsay evidence. If I could do this violence to
such measure of reason as I possessed I could count on a reward in some
other world than this, though on little or nothing here.
Faith I saw as of the nature of a _tour de force_. You took it as you
took a leap. It was spiritually acrobatic. You didn't understand but you
_believed_. The less you understood the more credit your belief became
to you. The more hidden and difficult and mysterious and unintelligible
God made Himself the greater your merit in having faith in spite of
everything. I am far from saying that this is the common understanding
of Christians, or from holding others responsible for my misconceptions.
I speak of these misconceptions only because they were mine, and it was
I who had to work away from them.
For this reason, too, I speak of my reaching the idea of a God who had
been visibly smiling at me all my life while I had never seen Him, as a
"discovery." To me it _was_ a discovery; and it came at a moment when I
sorely needed something of the kind.
It was perhaps three or four years after the turning-point at
Versailles. The intervening time had been one of what I may call
spiritual ups and downs. It had not all been straight progress by any
means. I had got hold of what for me was a great idea, round which other
great ideas grouped themselves; but I grasped them waveringly or
intermittently. Nevertheless, during seasons in Boston, Nice, Cannes,
Munich, London, and Berlin, life on the whole went hopefully. The malady
I have already mentioned tended to grow better rather than worse; the
advancing blindness became definitely arrested. I worked easily,
happily, successfully. Returning to the New England city which had
become my adopted home, I bought a house and settled down to American
life once more.
I mention these facts only because they help me to make myself clearer.
For all at once my affairs, like the chariots of Pharaoh in crossing the
Red Sea, began to drive heavily. Trust in an all-conquering
life-principle which had meant much to me for a time no longer seemed
effective. Difficulties massed themselves. Business misunderstandings
sprang up. Friendships on which I had counted suddenly grew cold. Worse
than all, the working impulse gave out. There were two whole years in
which I slaved at producing little more than what had to be thrown away.
My active life had apparently come to another deadening full stop.
I reached the decision that there was but one thing to do--give up the
pretence at working, sell the house to which I had grown attached, and
resume once more the life of aimless, but at that time inexpensive,
European wandering. There came a day when I actually offered my
house for sale.
And yet that day proved to be another turning-point. On the very morning
when I had put my house in the market the chain of small events which we
commonly call accidents brought me into touch with a man I had never
seen before. During a first meeting, as well as in several that
followed, he made certain matters clear to me which changed my course
not only then but ever since. These explanations came under three
distinct headings, to each of which I should like to give a
Of these the one I put first is probably familiar to most of my readers,
but to me, I confess, it was new.
God among His other functions must be a tireless activity working
towards an end. Everything He calls into being works toward that end, I
myself with the rest. I am not a purposeless bit of jetsam flung out on
the ocean of time to be tossed about helplessly. God couldn't so will an
existence. It would not be in keeping with His economy to have any
entity wasted. As Our Lord puts it, the sparrow cannot fall without Him;
without Him the lilies are not decked; the knowledge possessed by His
infinite intelligence is so minute that the very hairs of the head are
numbered. My life, my work, myself--all are as much a necessary part of
His design as the thread the weaver weaves into the pattern in a carpet.
In other words, I am not a free agent. I am His agent. Not only am I
responsible to him, but He is responsible for me. His responsibility for
me will be seen as soon as I give up being responsible for myself.
It was upon this last point that I seized with most avidity. I was tired
of trying to steer a course for myself, with no compass to go by. I was
tired of incessantly travelling along roads which seemed to lead to
nothing but blind-ends. To change the figure to one I used not
infrequently at that time, my life seemed pitchforked, first in one way
and then in another, no way bringing me anywhere. It had no even tenor.
It was a series of seismic pulls and jerks.
But in the light of what my new friend told me I saw I had been too
busily engaged in directing my life for myself. I was like a child who
hopes to make a smoothly working machine go still more smoothly by
prodding it. I couldn't leave it alone. It had not occurred to me that
the course of that life was God's own business, and that if I could
follow the psalmist's advice and "commit my way unto him he would bring
it to pass." It had seemed to me that nothing would be brought to pass
unless I worried and fretted over it myself, whereas the same wise old
psalmist says, in words which our generation would do well to lay to
heart, _"fret not thyself_ else shall thou be moved to do evil."
"Trust in the Lord and do good," he goes on; "so shalt thou dwell in
the land, and verily thou shalt be fed. Delight thyself also in the
Lord, and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart."
This was nothing new; it was only new to me. To feel that I could give
up being responsible for results and devote myself to my work was in
itself a relief. If I tried to "trust in the Lord and do good"--by which
I suppose is meant doing my duty to the best of my small ability--He
would look after the rest. My position was somewhat that of a trusted
subordinate given a free hand, but having over him a supreme authority
taking charge of all consequences. I was not working on what our modern
idiom neatly summarises as "my own." _I was His agent_.
Thus it might be said to be to His interest to see that as His agent I
was sheltered, clothed, fed, and in every way kept in such condition as
to be up to the highest standard of His work. This provision would
naturally include those dependent on me, and without whose well-being I
could not have peace of mind. I need worry about them no more than about
myself. They, too, were His agents. In certain conditions He might
provide for them through me, or in certain conditions He might provide
for me through them; but in all conditions He would provide for all
The second point was this: those with whom I had had misunderstandings
were equally His agents. They might not be more aware of the fact than
I; but this in no way disqualified them as His trusted subordinates
given a free hand. Their work with me and mine with them, whatever its
nature, wrought one of the infinite number of blends going to make up
the vast complexity of His design.
It was, therefore, out of the range of possibility that under Him there
could be opposition or contradiction between one of His agents and
another. It would be inconsistent with His being that one man's
advantage should be brought about at another man's cost. Where that was
apparently the case it was due to both sides taking the authority into
their own hands, and neither sufficiently recognising Him. If His
trusted subordinates in being given a free hand played Him false, they
naturally played each other false, and played false to themselves first
of all. Where one was afraid of another and strove to outwit him there
was treachery against the supreme command.
Again there was nothing new in this; but to me it was a new point of
view with regard to those with whom and for whom I worked. For the first
time I saw their true relation to me, as mine to them, and something of
the principle of brotherhood. Up to this time brotherhood had been a
charming, sentimental word to me, and not much more. Children of one
Father, yes; but discordant children, with no restraint that I could see
on their natural cut-throat enmities.
But here was a truth which made all other men my necessary helpmates,
and me the necessary helpmate of all other men. I couldn't do without
them; they couldn't do without me. Hostility between us was as out of
place as between men pulling together on the rope which is to save all
their lives. If peril could bring about unity God could bring it about
even more effectively. God was the great positive, the solvent in which
irritation and unfriendliness must necessarily melt away.
The third point, involving my obvious first step, was to put suspicion
out of my own mind. I was to see myself as God's Self-Expression working
with others who were also His Self-Expression to the same extent as I.
It was in the fact of our uniting together to produce His
Self-Expression that I was to look for my security. No one could
effectively work against me while I was consciously trying to work with
God. Moreover, it was probable that no one was working against me, or
had any intention of working against me, but that my own point of view
being wrong I had put the harmonious action of my life out of order.
Suspicion always being likely to see what it suspects the chances were
many that I was creating the very thing I suffered from.
This does not mean that in our effort to reproduce harmonious action we
should shut our eyes to what is evidently wrong, or blandly ignore what
is plainly being done to our disadvantage. Of course not! One uses all
the common-sense methods of getting justice for oneself and protecting
one's own interests. But it does mean that when I can no longer protect
my own interests, when my affairs depend upon others far more than on
myself--a condition in which we all occasionally find ourselves--I am
not to _fret myself_, not to churn my spirit into nameless fears. I am
not a free agent. Those with whom I am associated are not free agents.
God is the one supreme command. He expresses Himself through me; He
expresses Himself through them; we all. I as well as they, they as well
as I, are partakers of His Sonship; and the Son--His Expression--is
always "in the Father's bosom,"  in His love and care.
 St. John
Having grasped this idea the new orientation was not difficult. There
was in it too much solace to allow of its being difficult. If I state
the results it is once more not because I consider them important to
anyone but myself, but only because they became the starting-point of a
new advance in the conquest of fear.
Within forty-eight hours, with no action on my part except the
_Metanoia_, the change in my point of view, all misunderstandings had
been cleared away. The other side had taken the entire initiative, I
making no advance whatever toward them. A telegram expressing their
hearty good will was followed by an interview, after which I was at work
again. I have not only worked easily ever since but with such fecundity
that one plan is always formed before I have its predecessor off my
hands. This says nothing of the quality of my work, which, humble as it
may be, is simply the best I know how to do. I refer only to its
abundance. I have found that in "working together with God," I am less
involved in conflicts of wills than I was before, and that the words of
Amos are literally fulfilled to me, "that the plowman shall overtake the
reaper, and the treader of grapes him that soweth seed." I say it
without knocking on wood, and with no fear lest my "good luck" will be
withdrawn, that from that time to this I have had plenty of work which I
have accomplished happily, and have never lacked a market for my
From all of which I have drawn one main inference--the imperative
urgency of Trust.
I had hitherto thought of trust as a gritting of the teeth and a
stiffening of the nerves to believe and endure, no matter what
compulsion one put upon oneself. Gradually, in the light of the
experience sketched above, I came to see it as simply the knowledge that
the supreme command rules everything to everyone's advantage. The more
we can rest mentally, keep ourselves at peace, _be still and know that
it is God_, the single and sole Director, the more our interests will
be safe. This, I take it, is the kind of trust for which the great
pioneers of truth plead so persistently in both the Old and New
 The Book of Psalms.
Trust, then, is not a force we wrest from ourselves against reason,
against the grain. To be trust at all it must be loving and spontaneous.
It cannot be loving and spontaneous unless there is a natural impulse
behind it. And there can be no natural impulse behind it unless we have
something in our own experience which corroborates the mere hearsay
testimony that there is a Power worth trusting to. Job's "Though He slay
me yet will I trust in Him," could only have been wrung from a heart
which had proved the Divine Good Will a thousand times and knew what it
was doing. Some experience of our own we _must_ have. It is an absolute
necessity. Desperate hope in another man's God may do something for us,
but it cannot do much. A small thing which I have proved for myself is a
better foundation for trust than a Bible learnt parrot-like by rote and
not put to the practical test. Once I have found out for myself that to
rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him is the surest way to
security and peace I have the more willing confidence in doing it.
GOD'S SELF-EXPRESSION AND THE MIND OF TO-DAY
To the mind of to-day trust would be easier were it not for the terror
lest God's plans involve us in fearful things from which we shrink. We
have heard so much of the trials He sends; of the gifts of Tantalus He
keeps forever in our sight but just beyond our reach; of the blessings
He actually bestows upon us only to snatch them away when we have come
to love them most--we have heard so much of this that we are often
afraid of His will as the greatest among the evils of which we stand
In many cases this is the root of our fear. We cannot trust without
misgiving to the love of God. What is there then that we can trust to?
We can't trust to ourselves; still less can we trust to our fellow-men.
Those whom we love and in whom we have confidence being as weak as
ourselves, if not weaker than we, establish our spirits not at all. If,
therefore, we mentally poison the well of Universal Good-intent at its
very source what have we to depend on?
I have already referred to the God of repressions and denials, and now
must speak a little more freely of this travesty on "the Father," as
expressed to us in Jesus Christ. Of all the obstacles to the rooting out
of fear the lingering belief in such a distortion of Divine Love is to
my mind the most deeply based.
I often think it a proof of the vital truth in the message of Jesus
Christ that it persists in holding the heart in spite of the ugly thing
which, from so many points of view, the Caucasian has managed to make of
it. Nowhere is the cruelty of Caucasian misinterpretation more evident
than in the meanings given to the glorious phrase, "the Will of God." I
do not exaggerate when I say that in most Caucasian minds the Will of
God is a bitter, ruthless force, to which we can only drug ourselves
into submission. It is always ready to thwart us, to stab us in the
back, or to strike us where our affections are tenderest. We hold our
blessings only on the tenure of its caprice. Our pleasures are but the
stolen moments we can snatch from its inattention.
As an example I quote some stanzas from a hymn frequently sung where
English-speaking people worship, and more or less expressive of the
whole Caucasian attitude toward "God's Will."
My God, my Father, while I stray
Far from my home on life's rough way,
Oh, teach me from my heart to say,
Thy Will be done.
Though dark my path and sad my lot,
Let me be still, and murmur not,
Or breathe the prayer divinely taught,
Thy Will be done.
What though in lonely grief I sigh
For friends beloved no longer nigh,
Submissive still would I reply,
Thy Will be done.
If thou shouldst call me to resign
What most I prize, it ne'er was mine;
I only yield thee what is thine;
Thy Will be done.
These lines, typical of a whole class of sentimental hymnology, are
important only in as far as they are widely known and express a more or
less standardised point of view. The implication they contain is that
all deprivation is brought upon us by the Will of God, and that our
wisest course is to beat ourselves down before that which we cannot
modify. Beneath the car of this Juggernaut we must flout our judgments
and crush our affections. As He knows so well where to hit us we must
stifle our moans when He does so. As He knows so well what will ring our
hearts we must be content to let Him give so that He can the more
poignantly take away. The highest exercise of our own free will is to
"be still and murmur not"--to admit that we need the chastisement--to
crouch beneath the blows which we tell ourselves are delivered in love,
even though it is hard to see where the love comes in.
I know nothing more tragic than those efforts on the part of
heart-broken people, coming within the experience of all of us, to make
themselves feel that this terrible "Will of God" must be right, no
matter how much it seems wrong.
A young man with a wife and family to support is struck down by a
lingering illness which makes him a burden. All his Job's comforters
tell him that God has brought the affliction upon him, and that to bow
to the "Inscrutable Will" must be his first act of piety.
A young mother is rejoicing in her baby when its little life is suddenly
snuffed out. She must school herself to say, quite irrespective of the
spirit of renunciation which inspires the words, "The Lord gave and the
Lord hath taken away; blessed be the Name of the Lord."
A woman is left a widow to earn a living for herself, and bring up her
children fatherless. She must assume that the Lord had some good purpose
in leaving her thus bereft and must drill herself into waiting on a
Will so impossible to comprehend.
Storms sink ships, drowning passengers and crew; lightning sets fire to
houses and strikes human beings dead; earthquakes swallow up whole
districts destroying industry and human life; tidal waves sweep inland
carrying away towns; and our legal phraseology can think of no better
explanation of such calamity than to ascribe it to "the act of God."
It is needless to multiply these instances. Our own knowledge supplies
them by the score. Our personal lives are full of them. God's Will,
God's Love, God's Mercy, become strangely ironic forces, grim beyond any
open enmity. They remind us of the "love," the "pity," the "mercy," in
which the orthodox sent the heretic to the hangman or the stake,
destroying the body to save the soul.
It is a far cry from this appalling vision of "the Father" to the
psalmist's "Delight thou in the Lord and he shall give thee the desires
of thine heart." How could anyone delight in the Caucasian God, as the
majority of Caucasians conceive of Him? As a matter of fact, how many
Caucasians themselves, however devout, however orthodox, attempt to
delight, or pretend to delight, in the God to whom on occasions they bow
down? Delight is a strong word, and a lovely one; but used of the
Caucasian and his Deity it is not without its elements of humour.
Naturally enough! It is impossible for any human being to delight in a
God whose first impulse in "doing us good" is so often to ravage our
prosperity and affections. So long as we believe in Him fear will rule
our lives. It is because the Caucasian believes in Him that he lives in
fear and dies in fear. To attempt to eliminate fear and retain this
concept of God is vain.
Understanding this the average Caucasian has made little or no effort to
eliminate fear. He would rather live and die in fear than change this
concept of God. It is dear to him. He finds it useful. To its shoulders
he can shift the ills of which he is unwilling himself to accept the
responsibility. Where God is a puzzle life is a puzzle; and where life
is a puzzle the Caucasian gets his chance for making the materialistic
ideal the only one that seems practical. In a world which was to any
noticeable degree freed from the spectre of fear most of our existing
systems of government, religion, business, law, and national and
international politics, would have to be remodelled. There would be
little or no use for them. Built on fear and run by fear, fear is as
essential to their existence as coal to our industries. A society that
had escaped from fear would escape from their control.
In this present spring of 1921 we are having an exhibition of fear on a
scale so colossal that the heart of man is dazed by it. There is not a
government which is not afraid of some other government. There is not a
government which is not afraid of its own people. There is not a people
which is not afraid of its own government. There is not a country in
which one group is not afraid of some other group. All is rivalry,
enmity, suspicion, confusion, and distrust, "while men's hearts are
fainting for fear, and for anxious expectation of what is coming on the
world." All statesmen, all ministers, all ambassadors, all politicians,
all bankers, all business men, all professional men, all journalists,
all farmers, all laborers, all workers in the arts, all men and women of
all kinds--with the exception of one here and there who has reached the
understanding of the love which casteth out fear--live and work in fear,
and in mistrust of their colleagues. From the supreme councils of the
Allies down to the crooks and conspirators in dives and joints everyone
is afraid of being double-crossed. There is so much double-crossing
everywhere that we have been obliged to invent this name for the
operation. England is afraid of being double-crossed by Germany, France
by England, Italy by France, the United States by Europe, and Japan by
the United States, while within these general limitations minor
double-crossing interests seethe like bacteria in a drop of poisoned
blood. The nations are infected with fear because they elect to believe
in a God of fear, and the Caucasians more than others because they have
chosen to see a God of fear in Him who was put before them as a God
I see no way out of all this except as one of us after another reaches
the _Metanoia_, the new point of view as regards God. Other ways have
been sought, and have been found no more than blind alleys. Much
reference is made nowadays to the disillusionment of those who hoped
that the war would lead to social and spiritual renovation; but any such
hope was doomed in advance, so long as the Caucasian concept of God was
unchanged. When you cannot trust God you cannot trust anything; and when
you cannot trust anything you get the condition of the world as it is
to-day. And that you _cannot_ trust a God whose "love" will paralyse the
hand by which you have to earn a living, or snatch your baby from your
breast--to say nothing of a thousand ingenious forms of torture
inflicted just because "He sees that it is best for you," after having
led you to see otherwise--that you cannot trust a God like that must be
more or less self-evident. If you are part of His Self-Expression He
cannot practise futilities through your experience and personality. He
must be kind with a common-sense kindness, loving with a common-sense
love. Whatever explanation of our sufferings and failures there may be
we must not shuffle them off on God. "Let us hold God to be true," St.
Paul writes, "though every man should prove false." Let us hold that
God would not hurt us, however much we may wilfully hurt each other or
 Epistle to the Romans.
I should not lay so much emphasis on this if so much emphasis were not
laid on it in the other direction. God has so persistently, and for so
many generations, been held up to us as a God who tries and torments and
punishes that we can hardly see Him as anything else. Torture comes, in
the minds of many of us, to be not only His main function but His only
function. "I am all right," is the unspoken thought in many a heart, "so
long as I am not overtaken by the Will of God. When that calamity falls
on me my poor little human happiness will be wrecked like a skiff in a
cyclone." This is not an exaggeration. It is the secret mental attitude
of perhaps ninety percent of those Caucasians who believe in a God of
any kind. Their root-conviction is that if God would only let them alone
they would get along well enough; but as a terrible avenging spirit,
like the Fury or the Nemesis of the ancients, he is always tracking them
down. The aversion from God so noticeable in the mind of to-day is, I
venture to think, chiefly inspired by the instinct to get away from, or
to hide from, the pursuit of this Avenger.