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I recently came across an abstract from a fellow presenting at the 2014 Jean Gebser conference. I was intrigued with its focus on the role of fear in cultural evolution (and consciousness itself). Although the abstract only gives a cursory view of the presumably Gebserian perspective presented on fear, it lays out some strong claims that I think we all ought to examine critically. Gebser, in short, is highly regarded as an important philosopher-theorist by many integral thinkers of today, especially Ken Wilber has honored and cited his work. So, here is the abstract which may bring up dialogue among us, notably, there is no discussion of fearlessness with fear in a dialectical sense. 

Excerpted from http://www.gebser.org/conference/

THE UNKNOWN, FEAR, AND THE UNCANNY

Rick Muller, PhD (2014)

Fear initiates human action. Humans at their core attempt to avoid fear by creating a world of comfort, safety and familiarity. That is why responses to fear, the unexpected and the unknown, are so overwhelming. Research suggests the residual effect of fear lasts longer than that of pleasure among humans. Is this a fundamental biologically encoded reaction? If so it initiates modern humans to move experiences and objects from the mental category of the unknown/feared into the mental category of the known. Doing so creates familiarity, safety, protection and the illusion of control. The historical artifacts of this process include rituals, taboos, social and familial structures, belief, dogmas, religion, law and science. All are reactions; all are protections from the ever-present inherent sense of fear, the unknown, the invisible and the ineffable.

To understand modernity or what [Jean] Gebser refers to as the mental rational requires one to have a greater sense of how the archaic/magic contributes to humanity’s response to fear. This paper suggests that fear is an initiating factor and an underlying foundation for human choice; one that affects the structuring of community, society, religion, values and ethics. One modern effort to covertly undermine the residual certainty of Gebser’s mental rational, of the Enlightenment, of Romanticism, of the Industrial and Scientific revolutions comes from within the mental rational itself. The uncanny, while predominantly mental and psychological in nature, continues to bore out of the core of modernity creating a space for the archaic, magic and mythic attributes to flourish within a fading western mental rational construction of the human world.

The ongoing disintegration of certainty frees the inherent fears from their protective structures to irrupt into individual human consciousness and everyday life. Fear, the unknown, the fear of the unknown and in modernity the fear of the perceived known continues to rattle the foundations of belief, creation, personal and collective behavior. Western anxiety is born of the social and cultural byproducts that were meant to protect humanity from fear. But do these protections and structures actually protect; if so, from what? What occurs when the protective membrane disintegrates, dissipates, becomes transparent? Death?

Rick Muller, Ph.D., is affiliate professor at Regis University’s (Denver, CO) Rueckert-Hartman College of Health Professions where he teaches accounting, finance and economics for the master’s degree in nursing program. His most recent publications include using the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® and Ignatian Pedagogy Model for Improved Learning in Jesuit Higher Education, May 2014]; Hitting the Financial Knowledge Target in Nursing Management, October 2013 and he provided editorial assistance for an article about the current issues confronting Venezuela (April 2014) in Winds and Waves, the magazine for the Institute of Cultural Affairs International.

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"Fear initiates human action. Humans at their core attempt to avoid fear by creating a world of comfort, safety and familiarity."

The prior blog I posted echoes these kind of claims, as the above quote, (typical of Desh Subba's philosophy of fearism; see my prior blogs), and sets the stage for human culture's use/management of "fear" to continue to motivate us--but in what way does it motivate us? When is it healthy? When is it pathological? How would we know the difference? The latter, is the more important question.

I am not saying fear does not motivate us. I have been writing about the down-side to this, particularly because we tend to (primarily) focus on fear and not fearlessness in history, development and cultural evolutions. If "fear is an initiating factor" and foundation for human choice, as Muller suggests (and Gebser must likely imply), we still have the problem unaddressed in this abstract as to what are we talking about when we use "fear" and is it as complete and integral enough of an understanding (and does it have a deconstruction-reconstruction critique built-in) to be useful to the 21st century and where cultural evolution seems to be going (or where it is perhaps enmeshed in a pathology that will take us all out)... just a few quick thoughts... Someone really needs to study Gebser's work and see what he directly has said about the role of fear and how that supports or doesn't a Subbaian philosophy of fearism. 

 

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