THE DISEASE OF APPREHENSIVENESS
A large part of mankind is in bondage to that state of mind which is apprehensive of some sort of trouble or misfortune in the future. It is found among all sorts and conditions of men; it permeates every station, occupation and profession. The millionaire, with a comfortable bank account and a steady income from stocks and bonds and rentals, is no more likely to be free from it than the humble toiler who lives from hand to mouth. The physician, who should have confidence in his healing art, becomes apprehensive from the very fact of his researches into morbidity, and is fearful of the power of disease and of the omnipresent microbe. Even the clergyman, who of all men might be supposed to be most peaceful and confident, is apt to limit the goodness and love and omnipotence of the Being whom he worships as his God.
In general, we are prone to treasure the memories of our past failures and sorrows, which serve as a background on which are developed the distorted pictures of future unhappiness. We do this not only consciously, but unconsciously. Every experience in life leaves an impression in the memory structure. To this subconscious condition we keep adding by our chronic pessimism. We dwell upon the accidents and crimes and misfortunes of humanity; we look for the evil and neglect the good. Thus is established a powerful subconscious force that is ever active in shaping the course of our lives. This, of necessity, will manifest itself in some way, and generally progressively, from that miserable state of dread which is constantly crying, "What if ," or "Yes, but ," on to a physical manifestation of disease that may be learnedly labelled by the physician, but which the metaphysician recognized as the same old set of erroneous beliefs.
If we ask the cause of this widespread disease, we shall find its origin in a wrong conception of God. The root of it all is in the old idea that God is a jealous, vengeful personality, sitting in judgment over His children, and liable at any time to send visitations of His wrath upon them, or ready to condemn them to eternal punishment. Coupled with this is the belief that there is a power of evil ever striving to gain possession of men, and permitted by God to bring confusion and misery upon them. These two powerful opinions, coming to us from the infancy and ignorance of the race, are totally destructive of peace, harmony and health, and actively productive of the opposite conditions. Although as theological dogmas they are happily fast passing away, their offspring survives them, and their name legion.
Dread of disease and of "bad luck" is still common. We stand in awe of death because we dread the change and the uncertainty of the hereafter. Even the elements have been endowed with power of evil because God was said to have cursed the world on account of disobedience; one person dreads the winter, another the summer, another the night air or the east wind. If there is not a positive dread, there is negative unbelief, and the disease of apprehensiveness is born of both. We fail to connect cause and effect; we do not discriminate between reality and unreality; we live in the things of time and sense. The great "oversense" of faith is left out of our lives; we are apprehensive of what fate or fortune may bring. We limit our God and ourselves; we are apprehensive because we do not realize His Allness and our own oneness with Him, which brings to us the possibility of achievement, as well as the responsibility.
The specific forms in which this disease manifests itself are so numerous and so varied by the modifications of individual experience that we will not attempt to trace them all; but it will be helpful to mention some of the more common. The destructive forces of apprehensiveness frequently begin their work in the unborn child. Sometimes the mother's apprehensions, when caused by a specific experience, are marked upon the child in some frightful deformity, either of body or character. Again, if the maternal dread is more general, the manifestation may be less marked upon the child at birth, but the germ-cells have been poisoned . . . . and the effect will be none the less sure, resulting in stunted and distorted unfoldment of the child life.
Modern psychology and child-study have revealed the tremendous and terrible inheritance of fear and dread that parents hand down to their children. The dread of night, of being buried alive, of death and of eternal flames, are common among children; and they leave their impress upon the subconsciousness, even after the conscious mind has dropped them. From this source comes the tendency to be easily shocked, to sudden starts from slight causes, and to spontaneous flushing, which is common among children and grown people as well. Many parents follow their children through childhood and youth with anxiety and apprehensiveness that are surely reflected upon the formative mind, and bear fruit after their kind. As we advance in life, instinctively or from experience, we form new apprehensions. We are afraid of poverty, afraid of accident, afraid of public opinion.
This apprehensiveness takes all the sunshine out of life, throws a wet blanket over all our activities, sours our whole nature, paralyzes us. Just as surely does it react on the physical part of our being, by depressing the nerve centers and infusing morbid activity into the cells. The result is a torpid liver, a weak heart, a sour stomach, nervous prostration and paralysis. These things follow just so surely as two and two make four. Cause and effect, mind and embodiment, are inseparable.
There can be no doubt that the only danger from epidemic diseases lies in the dread of them, either conscious or unconscious. The germ theory of disease is being displaced by a more rational view, which regards the germs, not as causes, but as friendly subsequent activities that come in to bring a new form of life to a condition that requires them. It is the morbid and fearful thought that is fatal, not the germs. Even granting their causative power, physiology has shown that the human life-forces, when at their full tide of vigor, are able to cope with and vanquish all lower forms. The gastric juice and the white blood corpuscles are perfect germicides, when not lessened in quantity and deteriorated in quality by anxiety, dread and the depressing emotions.
Apprehensiveness is causative in crime as well as physical in disease. Many a man is led to steal because he dreads want or loss of social position. Men commit murder because they are apprehensive of injury from those whom they make their victims.
In political economy is not apprehensiveness a factor also? Confidence is the life of business. When it is weakened, credits are withdrawn, money is withheld from circulation, industrial activity ceases; we have "hard times." What is more destructive to confidence than apprehensiveness? Poverty and crime are diseases and apprehensiveness is a cause.
Anxiety about the future, confirmed by act, dulls the mind and retards the influx of spiritual life, for they who are anxious over forthcoming events attribute to themselves what is of the Divine Providence, and they who do this oppose the influx of life, and oppose the life of good and truth.
We have now considered cause and effect; what shall be the remedy? We know that no remedy can be effectual that does not deal with causes. The cause must be eradicated at once and forever. Many may question the possibility of human nature being free from anxiety and apprehensiveness.
Can man believe in an immanent God, an everpresent Help, an all-pervading, omnipresent Intelligence that is Life Itself, an All-in-all, and apply this belief to everyday life? This is one-half the problem. And can man then come to the full realization that he is in reality an individualized manifestation of that Life?
Firstly, then, a full realization of omnipresent spiritual Reality, an unchanging Goodness, of which the universe is an expression; secondly, an adjustment of all thought and all activity to this great proposition and to its natural consequence, that man, made in the image of this Supreme Spirit, is spiritual, and receives constantly an influx of life and good and truth that will lead him on to the fulfilment of his highest destiny: this is the mark, and we can answer unequivocally that it is universally attainable.
These statements of Being are the basis of the highest religious teaching. The most advanced science teaches the same; the universality of Life, the oneness of the Universe, the beneficence of Law, the supremacy of Mind. Thousands of people are solving the problems of life by these propositions, now, day by day. Life must be continuous; there can only be NOW. What is for one is for all. God is no respector of persons.
The removal of the cause of the disease of apprehensiveness is reduced thus to a simple change of mind on our part, to a different way of thinking, to a training of our mental activities away from ignorance and error, along the lines of cosmic truth, to include all that is good and beautiful. Our thinking faculties are our own to use as we will. Power is born of desire; we may drop all anxiety and apprehensiveness if we will. As we train ourselves to accept that view of God and His universe which accords with highest reason and science and intuition, there will be no place for apprehensive thoughts. As these disappear, we become more and more open to the influx of all that is true and wholesome and hopeful; in a word, of all that is Divine. Our fear is turned into courage; our faith is transmuted into works.
If God be for us, who, or what, can be against us? Thus we come to know the Immanent Life of the world, the ever-creative Love. We come to recognize ourselves as manifestations of this Life and Love, through the ideal manifestation that was in Christ. This is life eternal, an ever-progressive, ever-widening and ever-deepening life, from now, henceforth. In it, perfect love casts out fear, and thus the end of religion and of education is attained.