The word “fear” has come up a number of times, and you have used the words “irrational and unfounded fear.” This leads me to believe that there must be a rational and a founded fear. We are taught here, for example, that fear has a negative connotation and stands for a destructive emotion. And then we read in Scripture that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” And also, in the Zohar (Book of Splendor) there is a comparison of love and fear of God to the wings of the bird. Can you speak a little about these two kinds of fear?
The Guide: These are two distinct questions. The answer to the first, about the rational versus the irrational fear is this: if you are in some kind of danger, your reaction to fear is healthy. It is like a signal, giving you the opportunity to do something about it, to save yourself from danger. In other words, it is constructive rather than destructive. Without this danger signal you would be destroyed. This is decidedly different from the psychological, unhealthy, destructive fears we generally discuss in our work.
As to the fear of God, this has absolutely nothing to do with the healthy protective fear we just discussed. Any reference to fear of God in Scripture is due to translations on a wrong and superficial level. But the deeper reasons, why such wrong translations could occur in this particular connection, have very much to do with the God-image, as well as with the fear of the unknown.
On the one hand, people need the strong authority who upholds the fixed rule because then they do not have to be self-responsible. On the other hand, an unhealthy fear is generated, which always happens when maturity and self-responsibility are not attained. Whether you fear an avenging God, life, other human beings, or yourself, it is all the same.
Outwardly, there is simply a misunderstanding about certain terms in the Bible; in reality the word “fear” means something quite different, perhaps best described by the words “honor” or “respect.” The respect paid to the highest intelligence, wisdom and love is beyond words.
In the presence of such unlimited greatness, all beings must be in awe – but never in fear! In coming across such wonder, one cannot help being in awe. It surpasses all understanding. That idea is conveyed in the word that was erroneously translated as “fear.” But it is not meant that way.
As you grow into emotional and spiritual maturity, you realize your own limitation in understanding the greatness of Creation and of the Creator. That is the awe or respect that comes out of wisdom. The wisdom, however, lies not in the unhealthy attitude of making yourself a small sinner, of flagellating yourself, or diminishing your own value. In so doing, you would diminish the value of the Creator.
Only the very immature, the spiritual infant, will abuse himself, not knowing that it cannot possibly grasp the universal mind: God. Knowing that is wisdom. As you grow, sometimes, perhaps in a few short moments in a lifetime, you will sense your inability to comprehend him. In the moment you become aware of this incapacity, you are already much greater than you were when you ignored it.
From the spiritual point of view, if you don’t actually commit a sin, though you are thinking about it, but out of fear do not execute the sinful act, does this still count as sin?
The Guide: Jesus said all there is to say on that topic. The difference between action, feeling or thought is not half as great as human beings want to believe. This happens especially when not committing the act is due to fear and not due to love and understanding. You know that you all have an aura. What you feel and think emanates from you and is somehow always perceived by others.
The higher the level of the other people’s consciousness, the more aware they may be of the emanation they perceive from you. The lower their level of consciousness, the less will they be aware of it, but unconsciously they would still know. Hence your “sin” affects others, even if it is not acted out.
On the other hand, if you repress these feelings and desires out of fear and guilt, the results are even worse. You will never get to the roots and you will not understand what makes you feel that way. You will not accept yourself as you now are and will deceive yourself into believing that you are a more evolved person than you happen to be. But if you freely admit your feelings and desires, if you acknowledge them in yourself and face them, then you can find the underlying causes. Thus you will do the one thing that will free you from fear and guilt.
The conquest of fear in Matthew is by way of faith in God. How would you relate that to your teachings?
The Guide: As you all know by now, faith in God, in a genuine, secure, profound and sincere way, can only exist if you first have faith in yourself. To the degree that you lack faith in yourself, you cannot have faith in God. Yes, you can superimpose it and deceive yourself about it, out of a need to cling to a loving authority. But it cannot be true faith unless you have gained the maturity of faith in yourself.
Now, how can you have faith in yourself, unless you understand yourself as much as possible? As long as you are puzzled and grope in the dark about what effect you have on others and the effect life and others have on you, you ignore some vital information about your own psychic life.
Ignorance is a result of your inner unwillingness to discover the truth, an unwillingness that is often unconscious. Overcoming the hidden resistance will make you understand yourself better and have increasing faith in yourself, and thus in God. Only in this way can you conquer fear.
It seems to me that the seven cardinal sins are a subtler explanation of the Ten Commandments, which are definitely based on fear, or create fear in their application.
The Guide: Yes. Every teaching, if misapplied and misunderstood, will create fear. A rigid commandment, if pronounced without the possibility of finding the underlying obstructions to following such commandments, will produce fear and guilt, and therefore hate.
Today it is no longer possible or even constructive for human beings to merely obey a commandment in their actions. Since this is not good enough, your innermost self will be fearful, even if your actions are entirely proper and conform to the commandments. The final authority is not outside of yourself, but embedded in your own psyche. There is a vast difference between the perfectionistic demands of your idealized self, and the productive life that your real self wants you to lead.