“The history of mankind is the history of growing individuation, but it is also the history of growing freedom. Freedom, though it has brought him independence and rationality, has made him isolated and, thereby, anxious and powerless. This isolation is unbearable and the alternatives he is confronted with are either to escape from the burden of his freedom into new dependencies and submission, or to advance the full realisation of positive freedom which is based upon the uniqueness and individuality of man.”
On Wednesday evening, The Community of Radical Alchemists held an intimate and honest call on this months theme Transforming Fear into Love.
Our first call explored the loving presence that exists behind all fears. It can be hard to recognise that our fear originated from a loving intention trying to protect us. But when we do see the Loving Presence inside our fear, we can alchemise the fear in the moment. Fear says ‘you are loved, a loving energy wants to protect you.’
This week we shifted our attention to the radical aspect of alchemising fear. Since the beginning of human civilization, fear has been implemented as a means of social control. If you are fearful of authority, you are very unlikely to riot and very likely to work hard, to slave away at some externally imposed ideal of success, and consume lots .When we are born we are anarchists..the system makes us docile. Even our parents or guardians use fear as a way to protect us, to civilise us. The same is true in school: we are trained to be obedient citizens, largely through the threat of punishment, even or especially when that punishment involves the removal of love or connection.
As human civilisation advances, as people become more free from traditional ties or bonds (think the class, or caste system, or religious orders), they find themselves with a newfound independence and freedom. But as Erich Fromm writes in the brilliant Fear of Freedom, this new independence brings huge anxiety, which we tend to seek escape from by surrendering ourselves to authoritarian figures.
These authority figures don’t necessarily wear swastikas or look very angry. They might wear white coats, or have lots of letters after their name, or they might even have a very spiritual sounding name. The forms of power in modern civilisation are more subtle but still absolutely present. French philosopher Michel Foucault talks about ‘docile bodies’ to describe the subtle effects of these new forms of power. For example, we move from external public punishments -think the cane in school or the stocks - to more subtle hidden forms of punishment, largely achieved through careful observation, surveillance, and scientific knowledge. So, if you are naughty at school, instead of the cane you get diagnosed with ADHD and given Ritalin to control you.
Because modern power if often a more subtle form of power its harder to see. In a brilliant scene in the film version of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (if you haven’t seen this film you really, really must) McMurphy (played by Jack Nicholson) finds himself an inmate in a psychiatric ward, even though he he has his marbles. One day he realises that al the inmates are voluntarily in the psych ward. This is subtle power turning us into ‘docile bodies’. The attention economy is the worst form of this subtle power as it completely keeps us locked in a state of fear or inertia, and strips us of all the qualities we need to fight for what we believe in.
This subtle power is what William Blake called the mind forg’d manacles, handcuffs we wear that are in our minds and keep us trapped in ways of being that don’t serve us.
So, if you want to know what to do about these mind forg’d manacles, if you want to tune into the energy of ‘FUCK OFF’, then you can catch up on this short teaching and meditation by clicking the image below or downloading this link. If you just want to listen to the meditation, you can download this here to listen to at your own convenience.
And if you haven’t taken part in this month’s challenge and listened to Tim Ferris talk about Fear Setting here is your chance to do it now.
Don’t forget to join our community WhatsApp group where our monthly challenges will be shared and explored. It is fast becoming an integral part of this group. Please do email your number to firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to be a part of the group.
Working with Fear and Trauma by Tara Brach
Martha C. Nussbaum on how fear deforms our politics with The Ezra Klein Show
Much love to you all.
Louis, Alexandra & The RA Team xx