Rosicrucian Writings Online
THOUGHT OF THE MONTH
By THE IMPERATOR
[Ralph M. Lewis]
[From The Rosicrucian Digest May 1948]
A COMMUNICATION recently received reads: "We are inclined to think, to believe, that our own emotions are unique and so, when we encounter in ourselves, frightening emotions, we wonder if we are exactly normal and what causes these feelings or urges. Would not one be better armed against fear and doubt if he were at least aware of these basic human and animal emotions and instincts and able to recognize them in himself?"
So much has been written about fear, from both the poetic and religious point of view, that many have come to believe that fear has no advantage whatever to mankind and should be completely stamped out. Fear, like other emotions, such as grief, mirth, and joy, can become exaggerated and distorted. Therein lies its danger. It is necessary to distinguish between normal fears and abnormal ones. This statement implies that certain fears have a rightful place in the so-called state of normalcy. Since fear is one of the emotions, it might be asked: What are the emotions from which fear springs? Further, what is the relation of the emotions to the instincts, since the two are so often commonly confused?
Instincts are the result of basic adjustments in an organism that have caused it to acquire a certain behavior. Such adjustments are often mutations, that is, alterations of the genes, that part of the living cell which transmits the hereditary characteristics. We know all too well that all of our actions have not been premeditated. We are caused to act involuntarily and to respond at times in various ways. We know that there are often urges which are overwhelming. It is some of these urges that are commonly known as the instincts.
In his primitive state, for eons of time before he had the ability to think about his environment and analyze its effects upon him, man must nevertheless have responded to his surroundings. There must have been numerous conditions with which man was confronted and whose effects produced similar sensations within him. The continual impact of such impulses, which cause sensations of a similar general nature, eventually brought about an alteration in the neural (nerve) pathways of man's nervous systems. A pattern of behavior was then established, just as when water, flowing over a certain terrain, gradually wears away the soil to form its own channel.
Gradually, after untold generations, according to the laws of genetics, the genes were altered by such behavior. The offspring would then acquire this pattern of behavior. Whenever the offspring were subject to conditions that caused the original stimulus, the organism would then have the tremendous urge to respond in the accustomed way. To oppose this "path of least resistance" causes a nervous chaos and an irksome feeling. To gratify these urges is satisfying. Consequently, there was a tendency to continue to pursue them. Instincts have been called unlearned adaption. In other words, the organism was originally not conscious of adapting itself, of learning a way or a method to meet a condition. Subsequently, the lesson learned became wholly subjective. It was rooted deep in the genes and we cannot possibly know objectively how it came about an untold number of years ago.
There are certain patterns of behavior that are common to life. They apparently were essential to the continuation of life then and are now. Such, for example, is the instinct of self-preservation.
Sensations and InstinctsWe shall take the position that emotions are the sensations which arise out of the instincts. They are often confused as sensations can be. To better understand this, let us compare the instincts to the primary qualities of our receptor senses. Agencies outside of us, external forces, by means of their vibrations, act upon our faculties of sight, hearing, tasting, and so forth. As a result, we experience such sensations as color, form, scent, sound, and the like. There are agencies or vibrations which act upon us from within as well. Within each cell, there exists a state of balance, a harmonium. These conditions of stability must be maintained. Hereditary development has determined what particular nature that stability shall assume. It must follow the pathways which have become established for it. Whenever this equilibrium is disturbed, the neural systems respond. They produce their internal vibrations. These internal vibrations are the instincts. The instincts in turn produce in our consciousness sensations just as the vibrations of matter do. These sensations, however, are the emotions.
Someone may advance the argument that sensations, such as colors and sounds, cannot be separated from the external factors that cause them. We cannot, for instance, see the color red externally or apart from some image. Neither can we detach the sound of a shrill whistle from that which causes it. On the other hand, this critic may contend, we can experience instincts apart from the emotions. Therefore, they must be separate. But do we experience them separately? Is not the instinct of curiosity, for instance, always intermingled with emotions? Does it not also constitute, at times, a feeling of fear and then again a satisfaction that is unmistakably enjoyable? The maternal instinct likewise cannot be separated from a matrix of emotions, such as fear, joy, and anxiety, depending upon how it is aroused.
At times an instinct is more dominant than are its sensations or the emotions which follow from it. Then, through a lack of thorough self-analysis, we think that the instinct stands alone. At other times, the emotions are so dominant and the motivating instinct so subtle that we are inclined to believe that the former stand by themselves. The emotions are thus natural to man. They are not wholly, as the ancient Stoics stated, a disease of the mind.
A Motive for EscapeHow does an emotion or sensation of the instinct, such as fear, serve man? Fear is a motive of avoidance. It is an escape from an unpleasantness that may become a danger--that is, threaten, for instance, the security of life. Pain is repugnant to life. That which pains us causes our fear of it. In a general sense, what is it that we fear? Is it not pain, mental or physical, and everything that may strike at our continued existence? No matter what may be the object of fear, the avoidance of it is prompted by these factors. Fear thus provides an opportunity for retreat from danger.
The individual who would be absolutely devoid of fear would undoubtedly be likewise without any sense of prudence. He would be inept in evaluating such circumstances as might entail undue risk. Such a person's life expectancy would be far less than that of anyone possessed of normal fears. We look out upon our world and we see many things occurring that threaten disastrous results to the ego, to the self. They may take our life, our health, or the lives of those included as part of our ego--our loved ones. These observations stir the instincts and sensations arise from them such as the emotion of fear. This does not mean that we shall necessarily be terrified. It does mean, however, that we shall be obliged either to avoid such circumstances or take steps to bring about their surcease.
From this we can see that suggestion plays a prominent part in arousing fear. A combination of events or things may appear threatening. If careful observation is possible before we act to escape the impending things, we should undertake it. Subsequent inspection and reason may prove that there are no grounds for fear. If such an observation is not made, there is a probability that we may continue all through our life to retreat from similar things which are quite harmless. In fact, such an experience may develop into an obsession and abnormal fear.
Various CausesMany morbid fears and phobias are caused by extreme fatigue, the result of excessive exertion or illness. For us to think, to reason extensively, to resort to any form of mental concentration, requires the exertion of will power. The desired ideas must be kept dominant in the consciousness. Thus, when an experience or some form of ideation arouses the emotions, will must be exercised to analyze them. If they do not warrant emotional expression, the intelligent, strong-willed person suppresses the prevailing emotions. When one is seriously ill and consequently weak, his emotions, as most of us know from personal experience or observation, get the better of him. Whatever causes the fear at such a time may become a dominant idea. There is an inability to come to a logical conclusion which might subdue the idea. Latent thoughts are released which normally would be suppressed. They become associated with and fortify the central idea of the fear. The unchecked emotional stimulus implants with tremendous force the ideas causing the fear in the subjective mind. Thereafter, all similar experiences release that idea from the subjective mind. There is then caused a recurrence of the tremendous emotional stimulus that was originally associated with the idea. This, then, is a phobia which is removed only with considerable difficulty.
When one becomes extremely fatigued from exceptional exercise, he is likely to develop a state of anxiety. He begins to worry about things which normally he would oppose with logical explanation. He is unable to marshal the necessary bulwark of rational thoughts, and fears begin to grip him.
Neurasthenia is a state of nervous exhaustion that results because of conflicting emotions. It may become a vicious circle. The nervous exhaustion and depression contribute to fear, worries, and the anxious state. These, in turn, keep the nervous energy at a low ebb. When you find yourself becoming extremely nervous, with a quivering in the region of the solar plexus, you will experience emotional instability; a sensation of excitement intermingled with indistinct fears will be had. These are not normal fears as we have explained. They are engendered perhaps by a physical deficiency of some kind. Prolonged insomnia will often cause such phobias and fixations. The mind is incapable of proper rationalization. A return to physical normalcy will frequently cause the disappearance of these fears. Persons who are afflicted with extremely low blood pressure experience waves of ungrounded fears.
Immortal KnowledgeLet us remember that an instinct is a form of immortal knowledge, for most certainly it lives on in the vital life force of each gene. The Cosmic provides the substance. We, by our living, make the mold. We have formed the instincts.
The version of the nature of the emotions and instincts, as given here, is primarily a Rosicrucian conception. In fact, it may not be wholly acceptable to orthodox psychology. Current investigations, however, point toward its confirmation, which will then support another original conception of the Rosicrucians.
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Each man has within himself all the energy he needs for any great accomplishment; but he must learn how to handle and use this great power for the good of all.--Mary A. Christoe, F.R.C.
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