The Fear That Can Push Us Forward

“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.” The quote, attributed to Plato, reminds us that to varying degrees fear is with each of us from childhood.

Ordinary people feel fear. Great leaders sometimes fear. So do great warriors, great artists, great men and women who are leaders in other fields. For the higher man and the higher woman, I believe, the question is not so much can we overcome fear? but what is worth fearing? If we can answer that then we will live a life worth living. 

Some time ago, in my Kung-Fu class, I was asked to spar with a new student. I went very light. Then my instructor told me to me go harder. He was concerned that, if I went light, he might get a false sense of security in facing an attacker on the street, who of course wouldn’t hold back. After he told me to go harder on the student, (although far from using full force) I could see that he was nervous. But he immediately put all his effort into sparing with me, and landed some punches and kicks on me.

Most people see fear as a negative thing. But that depends on what we chose to be afraid of. Fear seems to grip us, to terrorize us, sometimes making small things into mountainous obstacles.

There are several reasons why most martial artists have a healthy outlook on life. Exercise causes the body to release endorphins, which makes us feel positive. (We’ve all experienced feeling stressed or low before working out, and then realizing that this has evaporated after just ten minutes or so of sweating.)

But I think the major reason is that martial artists have chosen to fear something greater. In choosing to fear — or to face — something greater do we overpower and destroy the ordinary fears that overwhelm so many people.

I’m not a Christian, but I always remember Proverbs 9:10: “fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Perhaps this is shocking in a world that wants everyone to feel “safe” and with no pressure to change or improve. This is a great trap, and a great loss to anyone who falls for it.

From a certain perspective “fear of the Lord” is one of the most important teachings in the Bible. Although no doubt misused by religious authority, the command is not to fear the priest, minister, churchgoer, or church establishment. It is to fear nothing other than God. 

And whether conceived as the Christian God, or Krishna, Kali, Buddha, as a pagan European deity, or as the Tao, or as Truth, etc. — if you fear “the Lord” — then you will not fear man. This is the essential lesson.

Fear is inevitable. But the higher man chooses to fear higher things. Yes, it is difficult, but we must choose not to fear the opinions of others, but to fear not speaking the timeless truth. We must not fear making a mistake, but not trying. We must not fear failing, but not pushing, developing, and elevating our understanding, our spiritual practice, body, skill, and character, forging ourselves into a our image of our higher and noble Self.

Angel Millar is the editor of The Spiritual Survival and the author of several books including The Three Stages of Initiatic Spirituality: Craftsman, Warrior, Magician (available for pre-order on Barnes&Noble, Amazon.com, and Amazon.co.uk.

The Romantic Outlaw

“But the Romantic Outlaw must have something to rebel against,” writes Camille Paglia, Sex, Art, And American Culture: Essays. As Paglia complains, though Rock music was once created by outsiders who “read poetry, studied Hinduism and drew psychedelic visions in watercolors,” today managers make sure to sanitize and repackage the music before it’s even aired.

The same can be found in probably every aspect of Western culture, including modern spirituality. Notably, my friend, author Mitch Horowitz, recently found himself at the center of some controversy over his study of Satanism — though he is interested in “Satanism,” not as a TV-style embodiment of evil, but in the Promethean, Romantic, literary, artistic sense (think Joris-Karl Huysmans and William Blake). 

The authentic rebel has a problem today. And, let’s be blunt. He has a problem because rebellion is built into “the system” — but only so much rebellion is acceptable. The modern spiritual practitioner (including the pagan) often either practices a soft repackaging of Christianity (minus the difficult theology and hierarchy) or a repackaging of politics (usually Left-wing but sometimes also extreme Right-wing). The focus is increasingly on “rights,” love, diversity, and acceptance. And, with that, conformity.

The true rebel (the man or woman of self-mastery and uncompromising vision, who is determined to elevate and to create themselves, and to create something of transcendent value (rather than emulating whatever is en vogue) is still an outsider, and, as such, is still perceived as a danger. 

Hence, it is not uncommon to find the modern pagan worrying more about political correctness that the transcendent. Or, in contrast to La Vey and Aquino, to find the modern Satanist saying that she is unable to defend free speech if it’s “not strategic.” Today, rebellion is more about imitation than authenticity. 

It’s difficult to be a romantic outlaw in a society in which everyone is posing as one. Despite what we might think, outlaws, or outsiders, tend to associate with each other and in a world of decoy outsiders no doubt it’s easy to get stuck in a group of poseurs.

But, nonetheless, the romantic outlaw can still exist as such, because it is not a case of having a tattoo or not, of smoking cannabis, or of listening to a certain type of music. It is an attitude that sees how society has gone too far in one direction and seeks to rediscover both the primal and the higher. 

To borrow a phrase from G.K. Chesterton, in an age of cookie cutter-rebellion, the authentic rebel is “a rebel against rebellion.”

To put it another way, it is about not being swept along in the fashion of the day — which is always rebellious (at first), but almost immediately filled with conformists, all of whom will move on to the next fashion when it comes along, changing their opinions as quickly as their clothing. 

The trappings of the romantic outlaw are on sale in every high street shop, but its spirit has to be constantly rediscovered within one’s being, to push one’s own creativity, to try something new, and to do the unexpected. The romantic outlaw can borrow the guitar riff, the clothing, the lyrics of the past, but what’s important is the attitude; the spiritual, mental, and emotional power; the curiosity; and the integrity that made their creation possible. In a sense, authentic rebellion is about self-mastery. It is standing up to the mob in one’s own being. 

Related to “Satan” of the Romantics, the Greek hero Prometheus is said to have stolen the fire from heaven, giving it mankind, and thus sparking the beginning of civilization. For his act of insubordination, Prometheus was punished by Zeus. Today, the rebel, who brings light to mankind, is punished mankind, especially by those collectives who think of themselves as rebels but who have merely swapped one dogma for another. 

Angel Millar is the editor of The Spiritual Survival and the author of several books including The Three Stages of Initiatic Spirituality: Craftsman, Warrior, Magician (release date: February 2020).