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fear and fearlessness (10)

A New Psychology: Fearlessness Psychology

This short blog is my simple introducing of the newly coined term in my vocabulary: "fearlessness psychology." For 30 years I have been studying fear and fearlessness. I eventually realized I was shaping a philosophy of fearlessness (now, fearlessness philosophy) [1] but there seemed something still not fully fleshed out in the philosophy which I realize I can better flesh out and make clear for people in psychology--at least, that's what I have recently figured out. But for various reasons (see below), I kept on the side the very close association of my work with Psychology (as a discipline). I didn't trust something about Psychology overall. 

Before I try to give a definition/meaning for fearlessness psychology, which is something really very complex and I won't be able to do it justice here because it still is in progress of being so conceptualized, there is some background to this conception of such a new psychology that is worth articulating. It will help with understanding its meaning as I am shaping and emerging with it an exciting discovery and potential. 

Psychology: A Love & Hate Relationship

My autobiographical reflections could go on and on about my relationship to Psychology (as a discipline of study and knowledge and practice). I cut my teeth in my growing up on natural history and then biological, behavioral, ecological and environmental sciences. My first careers and love. Psychology only entered very briefly into my early studies in youth because I was interested in people "values" and how they "behaved" in regard to treating Nature and the environment, and environmental problems so poorly. I intuited that I would need to understand human behavior to be a good steward and wildlife professional and environmental activist. I wanted to know how to change human behavior, for the better. But I never really studied it much, until in my Education degree and having to take courses, and having my first wife introduced me to depth psychology in the form of the psychology of Carl Jung, then William James, and on and on I began to study more and more on psychology as questions of human nature, the human condition and human potential really interested me, especially as I switched my career to Education. 

I learned that there are many kinds of psychologies, probably hundreds of varieties by names, like psychoanalysis, like behavioral psychology, cognitive psychology, developmental psychology, educational psychology, abnormal psychology, etc. I pretty much wanted to learn from them all and often still find them interesting to read. My biggest informing "metatheory" (and historical and philosophical perspective) on psychologies and the pattern of their evolution, role and nature in human societies came from reading about various classifications of them and most useful was the work of Ken Wilber (and, others in the transpersonal psychology movement of the 1970s-80s). Wilber and others had this overarching classification that pretty much all psychologies, could be classified, more or less, into four or five major "forces" or waves (movements) of Psychology: (1) psychoanalysis, (2) behaviorism, (3) humanistic-existential, (4) transpersonal. Some have said (5) Integral is the meta-wave and encompasses all the prior waves [2]. My favorite of these psychology forces have been (3) and (4) for many years, but all along I was reading Ken Wilber and eventually I totally got hooked on Integral Psychology (and philosophy) as my fav. and psychoanalysis all along has been growing in appeal and interest. The most popular psychology today is cognitive-behaviorism, the 2nd wave, as it has come to dominate and done so because it has most aligned with "sciences" (e.g., biological-neuro sciences). 

Critical Psychology: A Beginning Critique

Through my studies I found anthropology, sociology, cultural studies and philosophy etc. as having their critiques of "Psychology" and especially because Psychology more aligned itself with the Biomedical Paradigm (i.e., Medicine) and sought to be more and more mainstream and developed a dominance on the knowledges of "psychology" and started to control more and more of W. society (at least) in the last 100+ years. I paid attention to these critiques, and as well followed a good deal of the battles between the various forces (and schools) of psychologies. All I knew is that my fav. psychologies were more on the margins all the time and often weren't even studied in university psychology degree programs nor barely mentioned in the texts. I thought a wide diversity of psychologies was healthy, but that's not how textbooks were written nor how funding for psychological research was distributed. The "power" play and domination of some psychologies over others I found reprehsible and often unethical--a political game that was most unfortunate and still is. 

Then one day I discovered a field (very marginal as well) called "critical psychology" [3] and that was even more radical in challenging how "mainstream" psychology functions and biases the knowledge and practices of how we deal with human beings. Something was very wrong in my education background because I had never heard of this sub-field of critical psychology. I was positively attracted to an 'honest' and 'transparent' psychological approach that was critical of itself and saw its own limitations in terms of methodology and understanding and politics in its uses and ways. Critical psychology was more open that way. Then I found somewhere in all this study the work of James Hillman and archetypal psychology (a branch of transpersonal and spiritual psychologies). And there in Hillman's (1977) book [4] I found a masterful and sound articulation of critique of what Hillman called the whole domain of humanism and humanism's psychologies. I won't be going into his critique but to say in re-reading this book again recently it so inspired me and I realized much of my view of psychology and theorizing of psychology (and practicing psychologizing and therapy) has a lot of resonance with archetypal psychology, integral psychology, liberation psychology and feminist psychology and so on... I have a truly unique combination of psychologies (9-10 of them) and my own interpretations and creative expansions on all those too--and, what comes out of that is that I ought to label my own psychology (synthesis) after all these years of study. So, out came "fearlessness psychology" as my way to focus my own research, practices and writing on psychology but in this new way. Hillman's classic book I've mentioned shows that the very definition of psychology and therapy (for e.g.) really need to be reconstructed and aligned more with our ancient history as a W. civilization (at least)--and, again, that's a larger story I won't go into here. 

Fearlessness Psychology: Introduced

It will take many articles and a book or two probably in the future to arc out the architecture of this new psychology I am proposing. What is very evident is that it has come from 30 years of specialist study on my part re: fear and fearlessness--and what I started calling fearology and philosophy of fearlessness, etc. 

Fearlessness psychology at a minimum is a psychology that is (ideally) no longer based on the ego-centered view of psychology (i.e., human behavior). It is no longer fear-based because it is no longer ego-centered. And, thus, it ought to be called fearlessness centered [5]. My vision (meaning) for such a fearlessness psychology is that it would both critique all psychologies (including itself)--and, especially critique how "fear-based" they all (mostly) are, and how they have not near understood or been honest about the nature and role of fear in human psychology and even the discipline of Psychology and in the methodology we call "science" which Psychology so relies on more and more for its credibility and power. This fear-based psychology paradigm is what a fearlessness psychology critiques and at the same time also shows there is an alternative, more mature and liberated psychology awaiting for humans to develop and tap into for improving our current human state and crises of all kinds. 

I think that's all of what I want to share about my new psychology here, at this time. I look forward to talking with you all about it. 

End Notes

1. I also realized over the years I was shaping a fearlessness theory (and pedagogy) and I was making many connections of my work with critical theory (and pedagogy)--but that's a much larger story I won't tell here. 

2. See for e.g., Fisher, R. M. ((2010). The death of Psychology: Integral and Fifth Force psychologies. Technical Paper No. 36. Carbondale, IL: In Search of Fearlessness Research Institute. [available ERIC ED510303 pdf]

3. The first resource book on this was Fox, F., & Prilleltensky, I. (1997). Critical psychology: An introduction. London: Sage.

4. E.g., Hillman, J. (1977). Re-visioning psychology. NY: Harper & Row. 

5. A more complex technical point here is that I actually base my new psychology on a "fearless" standpoint which I have talked about in my work for decades. Fearlessness centered is also called "2nd-tier" consciousness (organization) in Spiral Dynamics integral technology theory and practice (see also Wilber). I won't go into this here. 

 

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Fiction, Non-fiction Dialogue

THE FOLLOWING (fictional, non-fictional) DIALOGUE (and image above) is created by R. Michael Fisher,  July 21/18... because, he was bored one night! 

Q: Have you heard of the book published recently that features the 40+ years of teaching experiences of Four Arrows (aka Dr. Don Trent Jacobs)? It is written up in an intellectual biography by Dr. R. Michael Fisher and specifically focuses on the teachings Four Arrows, an Indigenous-based educator-activist, has gained from studying and applying professionally many things from hypnotherapy to wild horse training, high-level sports coaching, and teaching in general. Four Arrows gains most of his wisdom from Nature and what he calls the ‘old ways’ of the Indigenous worldview.

A: Yes, I heard of the book. I’ve met Four Arrows many years ago and showed him my book.

Q: The emphasis of Fisher in the book is on seeing Four Arrows’ life and work through the lens of fearlessness. Fisher, a 40+ year teacher himself, from diverse backgrounds, connected over 11 years ago with Four Arrows and noted that “Fear” was a major topic in Four Arrows writing and teaching—and, that’s rare for any educator that he’s read or known.

A: Yes, “Fear” is potentially a powerful force.

Q: Fisher decided with Four Arrows to entitle the book: Fearless Engagement of Four Arrows: The True Story of an Indigenous-based Social Transformer.

A: Now in my 60s and having had a lot of wilderness experience, I can't say that I've ever become fearless. I'm not even sure that's a goal for me any longer.

Q: Do you think becoming fearless is a goal for a lot of people?

A: I don’t know. On first glance it seems like a cool ideal—or some kind of ideal of youth.

Q: I have noticed “fearless” is used for branding all kinds of things these days, from hair and cosmetic products for women to you name it. Indeed young people are most attracted to the idea of it. It does seem a cool word in popular culture. Four Arrows and Fisher have something much more subtle in mind in how they use the term, and they actually use it in multiple ways, depending on the context.

A: As I mentioned, I can’t say that I’ve ever become fearless and I have no desire to attain it. Rather, fear seems to be part of my inner weather and as long as I have a self, I suspect I'll experience fear.

Q: Oh, I see. Do you ever imagine...

A: Actually, rather than becoming free of fear or conquering it, I work to learn to live with fear and to pay attention to what it has to teach me.

Q: So, you disagree with Four Arrows and Fisher? Have you read their book?

A: No, I haven’t. I’m just saying what’s right for me. I am not interested in becoming free of fear or conquering it.

Q: I’ve read their book, and they don’t talk about that. They have 80+ years of combined experience and concentrated study on the topic of fear and fearlessness. They actually define “fearless engagement” as something more than mere behavioral action of being without fear feelings or...

A: Yeah, well whatever. I know what’s right for me. Rather than becoming free of it or conquering it, I work to learn to live with fear and to pay attention to what it has to teach me.

Q: I’ve read your book on wilderness experiences and you write a fair amount about your fears at times.

A: Yeah, I do.

Q: And, I notice you teach courses on your book.

A: Yeah, I do.

Q: So, you really don’t see anything you are curious in about Four Arrows’ and Fisher’s expertise on this topic of fear to fearless(ness)?

A: I don’t believe there are experts; we all have our own inner-expert and all we have to do is learn to listen to it.

Q: Seems like you already know what you need to know about fear and fearlessness.

A: I don’t need another book to tell me... ah, fear teaches me, and so does Nature... it works.

Q: Basically, Four Arrows and Fisher say the same thing you are, they just have a more complicated understanding of Fear and therefore Fearlessness in quite interesting ways.

A: Uh, ha. I’m not that interested in complicating things that are really simple.

****

[Note: the above dialogue was inspired by an actual email correspondence with a very bright person (see A: parts)... and slightly modified to create a narrative story; the theme of this dialogue is something that RMF finds more than a little annoying but real and repetitive in his experience for decades on this planet]  

 

 

 

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The quote, "need to restore fearlessness to higher education" is a refreshing call, one that I cannot ever recall hearing in North America or the Western hemisphere for that matter. It comes from President of the Campus Contact (network) of 1100 colleges and universities both in the USA and Internationally. It is one of the largest such coalitions of promotion of higher education in the world. The President who said these words in a blog in 2016 is Dr. Andrew Seligsohn.

Seligsohn, talks of interviewing casually many in higher education today. "More than anything I hear fear." He writes of all the kinds of fears he hears people concerned about as priority in their campus lives, from students to top administrators. "Everyone is afraid," he wrote. And then continues with words that are gold to my ears: 

"... nothing is more destructive of the mission of higher education than fear....We need to restore fearlessness to higher education....We need to talk to each other [across our differences and conflicts and ideologies] about what would help us regain the fearlessness that makes higher education great." 

I highly recommend the rest of this article... 

FYI, as a resource (annotated bibliography), I have compiled most all of my publications since the mid-1990s on Education, Fear and Fearlessness in Tech Paper 77.doc, free for your download, and may this be used in educational institutions as well, because in the end we need to better understanding fear and fearlessness... not merely talk about them as words... as if we already knew everything there is to know about them. 

 

 

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R. M. Fisher: Concerned About the State of 'Fear' Studies -2018

Hi Folks, I am offering my latest technical paper here on the FM ning. It is one that is crucial to all my work in fearology, fearanalysis, philosophy of fearism, etc. The conceptualization of 'fear' (with ' marks) is not an insignificant gesture to distinguish it from the contextual discourses on fear that fill the mind and libraries of humanity. So rare few in my experience have acknowledged the postmodern and integral meta-contextual framing for 'fear' and thus are always attempting to reduce my work into their context of fear. 

'Fear' Studies, 12 Years Later: Progress and Barriers

                                              - R. Michael Fisher,[1] Ph.D.

                                                 ©2018  Technical Paper No. 74

Abstract

Fear became an evocative object/subject of the author beginning in late 1989. The massive and mediated (post-9/11) assertion of Terror(ism) into humanity’s experience and thought has spurred the author’s work to the point in 2006 of publishing “Invoking ‘Fear’ Studies” in the Journal of Curriculum Theorizing. Much has changed dramatically in the world and in the interest, across disciplines and in the populist communities, in regard to how to negotiate a relationship with fear(ism) and terror(ism). This article is the next-generation ‘Fear Studies’ invocation for curriculum theorizing in a postmodern and post-traumatic era. The purpose is to validate the growing significance and complexity of the Fear Problem and the many authors who contribute to better understanding it and undermining it.

 

[Author’s note: This article was turned down by the so-called progressive Journal of Curriculum Theorizing by the one reviewer and the editor because it did not, in their view engage the ‘canon’ of work that exists in the field regarding emotions, etc. And, my whole argument is that my work is not within the context of emotions, it is rather a meta-context beyond that reductionism, and so all their advice to me to integrate other literature on emotion was totally not what this article is about. As the one reviewer wrote, “while the author’s work is quite valuable, I feel that he leaned a bit too much on his own ideas without the complication of those ideas across fields in general or within curriculum studies in specific.” Clearly, the reviewer and editor wanted a totally different kind of article and couldn’t stand my own work as ‘leading-edge’ re: ‘fear’ (not as mere emotion). This is a sad statement on the conformist, clique-like conservativism that has invaded even the progressive wings of educational curriculum in the last 12 years. I now would add this very response of JCT as one more “barrier” to the progress of ‘Fear’ Studies in the future!][2]

 

 

[1] Fisher is co-founder of In Search of Fearlessness Project (1989- ) and Research Institute (1991- ). He is also founder of the Center for Spiritual Inquiry & Integral Education (http://csiie.org) and is Department Head at CSIIE of Integral & 'Fear' Studies. He is an independent scholar, public intellectual and pedagogue, author, consultant, researcher, coach, artist and Principal of his own company (http://loveandfearsolutions.com). Currently, he is developing The Fearology Institute to teach courses. He can be reached at: r.michaelfisher52@gmail.com

[2] Personal communication, Rob Helfenbein, Mar. 9/18.

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Myanmar's Violence, Hatred: Fear vs Fearlessness

"Aung San Suu Kyi [purple dress, says] "Attacks on Muslims, Not Ethnic Cleansing" (BBC News Interview, posted Oct.24, 2013] go to: 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rNVE_Ch_Q18

For a long time I have followed the oppositional leadership struggles of a political leader who espouses (Buddhist-based) fearlessness in much of her writing and speeches, of which she also won a Nobel Peace Prize for. She has always said that until we manage fear well, individually and collectively, including a healthy rule of law and democracy, there will be no real peace in her own country Myanmar (formerly Burma) or anywhere else for that matter. So, in that light I have written about her as one of the important leaders today of the Fearlessness Movement. 

In the last four or five years, and since she was released from house-arrest (for many years) to be in the public and run as head of the opposition party again, now she is being severely criticized by many in her own country and in the world, due to her seeming inability to stop what some call "ethnic cleansing" (referring to Muslims being targeted in this mostly Buddhist country). She has herself given a BBC interview on this topic (2013), which I recommend, as the interviewer pressures her to admit something she is not willing to admit nor agrees with the interviewers perspective. I am interested in this debate and how she handles it, and especially how she talks about "fear" and its role in this ethnic conflict in her country (which, could apply most anywhere with such conflicts, hatred and violence). I quote the poignant part of this interview below, and note how the interviewer pretty much disregards the impact of "fear" and wants to talk about disproportionate "numbers of victims" (especially on the Muslim side) as Kyi tries to emphasize a deeper issue--and ultimately, it is build social mistrust chronically because of the problem (I believe she would agree) from decades of dictatorship ruling in her country, and the violence between the two religions is really a symptom of this deeper Fear Problem. Here is her response (an excerpt): 

KYI : "The [radicalization of religion, violence, and ethnic hatred] problems arose last year, and I think this is due to fear on both sides, and this is what the world needs to understand, that the fear is not just on the side of the Muslims [victims], but on the side of the Buddhists [victims] as well.... There's fear on both sides and this is what is leading to all these troubles..."

When Kyi is asked about all the "friends" who abandoned her during her coming out as a political leader over 25 years ago, she is gracious to accept this betrayal, and disassociation because of the danger of aligning with her, and she says, "... you cannot expect people to be brave and outspoken all the time." As much as I understand her position, I truly was disappointed in this interview clip that she did not teach about what fearlessness is... no, it wasn't even mentioned, as it should be, and as is core to the best of Buddhist teachings. Now, on the other hand, if you investigate what is going on in Myanmar today, there are conflicts between Buddhist senior monks and leaders, as to how to fight back against what is a perception (true or not, fear-based or not) of radical Islamic movements in Myanmar. I think this whole situation politically, religiously, culturally, in this country is one to watch in the future as it unfolds, because therein is a story of what happens when fear meets fearlessness, and the true Buddhists involved are going to be challenged by the Buddhist teachings of fearlessness--so, will they actually give in to fear and not utilize the teachings of fearlessness as their spiritual leader and others leaders have taught for millenium. This is a good test case for the world to watch. I encourage all, Buddhists included, to pay attention and return to the basics of the path of fearlessness, albeit, recognizing that fear(s) are going to increase in Myanmar but everywhere in the world. The spirit of the Fearlessness Movement must not be abandoned. I think general immature ("traditionalist" and "tribal") versions of ethnocentric consciousness (largely fear-based in "protectionism" of cultural and religious identities and institutions) will be showing up, and showing this consciousness is non-adaptive to a globalizing 21st century world.  

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The above book cover from Jon Young’s (2013) recent writing on what he calls “deep bird language” is an excellent read if you want to attune to what I mean by ecology of fear. Equally, and with the same implicit application, is the “philosophy of fearism” by Subba (2014). At least, that’s the hypothesis and interpretation I will present in this blogpost as it unfolds. As I have already spoken about Subba’s work here on the FM ning, where he says it in his book’s subtitle which gives away an entry point into understanding the meaning of ecology of fear: “Life is Conducted, Directed and Controlled by the Fear.” Another universal way of saying how important this subject matter is: Fear is the most powerful motivating force in Creation and especially human society. The incorporation of fear into the scholarly work on ecology is a relatively new and exciting concept, that I for one am studying.

I’ll focus on Young’s work. Herein, I both embrace the work of Young (an expert, Indigenous-based tracker and thinker, naturalist, birder, author and educator—and, a student of the internationally recognized Tom Brown Jr. tracking school) and I’ll critique it for what it neglects to say explicitly about the nature and role of fear in ecology and in the world of birds and Nature itself.

To give you a quick sample, let’s take how Young markets his book and the value of learning “deep bird language” based on bird’s behavior in the wilds and our backyards. He argues that if we attend carefully to the entire field of bird sounds and behaviors in any environment, we’ll learn more what is going on ecologically—from the very moment we step outside our house door. We won’t learn everything ecological there is to know from the birds. No, that would be foolish to assume. He’s more measured in his claim and says we’ll access a good deal of the major things happening with birds and mammals behaviorally. He says the benefits of this attunement to deep bird language involves developing our own primal animal-part of our brains, allowing a cross-species communication to give us cues and truths we ordinarily miss-- bringing that back to life to better work for us day to day; secondly, and the benefit will be “How can we access that [bird ecology] world through our awareness of deep bird language so that we can also see more wildlife?” (p. xix)

To attune to birds, Young suggests (and I believe he is right on, as I am a long-time birder), is the best thing we can do in any environment if we want to “see more wildlife.” And have a more enjoyable and intimate experience in Nature. Because? Birds are incredibly aware of what is happening because they have the best vantage point of view of any environment—equally, they are very vocal and relatively easy to watch and hear. They are the sentinels, the news-reporters and monitors of the goings-on in an environment. You pay attention to the birds and you’ll gain a tonne of information to what they are paying attention to that you likely cannot see nor even notice. To put it simply, as the Indigenous peoples know, they are your guides to the outdoors. Bird spirits and feathers are often used in Indigenous rituals.

Most people haven’t a clue that this is so and wouldn’t believe it. Young writes that we humans today, for the most part, “Have lost much of our sensory keenness [survival instincts], we are at a great disadvantage, but we can do much better” (p. xvii). We have an adaptive ecological-sensory system to maintain a healthy and quality relationship with environments. It keeps us “real” and “connected.” Walking the streets or driving a car, especially with an ipod or any electronic music or phone plugged into your ears is not the way to Natural attunement and connection. It is a Cultural connection but that’s all. The Natural world is ultimately the foundational one if you are about Life—it is more important to be connected to than anything else, Young, and Four Arrows and I would argue. The latter, is how all individuals and species “make it.” But, from all signs of our species great destruction of the environment and ecological system fragilities in so many parts of the earth, it seems we have lost our attunement and direction and need to pay careful attention to that instinctive living wisdom inside us. The birds can help us, says Young.

I’ll leave this sample clue to what I am going to talk about now, and have you sit with this notion of the importance of birds (and Young positions the common American Robin as the most important sentinel in most cases; although I won’t focus on that). I’ll let you also sit with thinking through why is it that we can “see more wildlife” when we pay attention to the birds. Clue: Because, Young is really saying that the problem of not seeing more wildlife comes about because we are frightening wildlife away from us way before we get to within visibility of them. He hit the nail on the hammer: “We are often (usually, to be honest) a jarring, unaware presence in the world beyond the front door” (p. xvii). Yes, “frightening” them with our “bird plow” effect as he calls it. I’ll return to this all later after I give more context to the ecology of fear notion.

Yet, let me quickly say what questions are driving this interest in studying birds (Nature) in order to be a better fearologist. A fearologist is someone, as I defined the term many years ago, who studies the nature of fear in relationship to life. The fearologist, following many psychologies [1] wants to know the best truth about fear that is possible so we can have the best fear management/ education. With that, we ought to then be best attuned to truth and reality, rather than letting excess fear lead us away from truth and reality and that creates disastrous problems. Now, the trick is to access that best information on fear and its management. How do we? What methodology? Where do we look to learn that? What might get in the way of us finding that best information?

So, after reading Four Arrows' work, whom you’ll see mentioned on this FMning several times, I thought to follow his basic premise in how to best understand fear in becoming what he called (as did Sam Keen) a “connoisseur of fear.” He wrote: “To survive and thrive, wild animals must be experts in Fear. Humans who wish to express their positive potentiality must also be connoisseurs of this great motivator [Fear]” (Jacobs, 1998, p. 156). Both Four Arrows (aka Don T. Jacobs) and I use a very broad definition of Fear, just to keep that in mind throughout this blogpost. Ha hah! There it was. The poignant claim from this Indigenous educator guiding us humans (i.e., primarily, he was writing to the urbanized non-Indigenous modern Westerners)—the claim that if we humans want to know best about the nature and role of fear (he capitalized Fear) then we ought to listen to “wild animals” as our teachers, and to Nature in general. I’m all for that because that is actually where I learned the most wisdom in my life since I was a very young child. My first career was a naturalist, both as hobby and as a professional Park Interpreter, albeit, the latter was only for a few summers. I learned to carefully and quietly observe Nature very carefully as a hunter/tracker—in the form of a fisherman, ever since my dad taught me to hold a fishing rod at about four years old.

It is my work on fearlessness since 1989 that has led to me expanding my own consciousness and exploring Fear (and fear management) along a spectrum of evolutionary spheres from Natural to Cultural to Spiritual—each distinct but overlapping and evolving in that order (at least, that’s a theory). If you are interested in that theory you may want to look at the first piece of writing I have done on ecology of fear (Fisher, 2012). I map out the Ecology of Fear components as part of Defense Intelligence systems universal in living organisms (p. 8). I won’t get that technical and philosophical in this blogpost. Also, one ought to note that there is a new postmodern poststructuralist discourse and philosophy around “ecologies” that is being applied from the original science meaning into the humanities and social sciences (a la Deleuze and Guattari), but that is all too complex to enter into here. Okay, time for more context.

In the early years of 2000, when I posited that we need a new ‘Fear’ Studies program in all schools (K-16) and societies in general, I was foregrounding the necessity to study fear (‘fear’ and Fear) from many perspectives, multi-, inter- and transdisciplinary. I noted there was a new movement being recognized in the study of affect, emotions and fear specifically that could be termed “a new scholarship on fear.” This historical and postmodern context is essential to understanding how I think about Fear and how I think we all ought to start thinking about Fear in new ways if we are to find better solutions to the Fear Problem. [okay, at this point, you can see I talk about fear, ‘fear,’ and Fear etc. Each distinct but interrelated. I don’t want to get into all that technical definition material that the fearologist has to consider; so for ease of reading I’ll use fear mostly unless I want to emphasize something beyond that normal configuration]

To write about the ecology of fear, say, rather than the psychology of fear is to raise the question of why most people have never heard of the former and would have no problem recognizing and understanding what the latter means. One is a weird term and the other is normal. Just right there begins the context for my critique of the dominating discourses of fear in our societies and the ruling disciplines (e.g., Psychology) that have controlled how we define, make meaning of, make normal, and develop rhetorics around fear and its management and education. I am convinced that the world will not make much progress in bringing the out-of-control fear cycle under some healthy management until we expand our critical literacy and vocabulary, and enlighten our imaginary for what fear (‘fear’) and the human relationship are all about.

Thus, ecology of fear is one of many other[2] recently coined phrases, from the late 1990s (e.g., Brown, Laundŕe and Gurung, 1999; Davis, 1999), which begins to unravel the hegemony of the disciplinary fields of Biology, Psychology, Biomedicine and Psychiatry when it comes to understanding the nature and role of fear. These fields have notoriously kept “fear” located in the body and individual, in the Cultural sphere, usually restricted to the brain/mind as the primary source and place of meaning-making. There are many critiques one could raise, and I have along with others for decades. Yet, that is far beyond the scope of this blogpost. What is worth remembering is that a notion like ecology of fear immediately invokes a relational ontology, epistemology and understanding of fear dynamics in both the human world and also the non-human world and their environments.

Jon Young’s Contribution to the Ecology of Fear

My life-partner and I were at an Indigenous Wisdom and Sustainability conference recently where she purchased Young’s book. We were both interested in birds, albeit, I have taught her most everything she knows, not to be a smart ass about it, it is just a fact. My deep desire to know everything about birds grew out of my brother and I noticing birds while fishing, especially when we weren’t catching fish. My brother bought a cheap Radio Shack spotting scope and a bird guidebook when we were in our late teens. It was so cool being able to watch a bird so close-up and you didn’t have to scare the bird away by trying to get close to it and identify it. This was the opening into a whole new world for both of us, although he quickly faded in interest and I kept it going, to the point where it became part of my profession as a wildlife technician and naturalist. To this day, I still bird watch everyday, usually out the front window of our living room or from the back porch patio space.

When I read Young’s book in bits, it quickly attuned me that he was talking about a whole new way of seeing the Robin, and other small “dickie birds” as some would call them who were less appreciative of the small birds and who liked to focus on the big masculine birds of prey and game birds. I liked dickie birds from the start. They come in such a variety of colors and shapes and make amazing music. Anyways, Young’s book about “deep bird language” was somewhat familiar to me but not quite anything I had thought about consciously nor trained my ears for specifically. He had studied this way since a small boy. He mastered bird behavior and sounds. He could ‘read’ what they were saying, as best a human can interpret things like that. So, I was intrigued. I began practicing listening and looking in different ways when I was outside. I would attune, as he suggests, to what the birds are 'saying' and how their emotional state is, and whether or not anything is in their environment that they are going to signal you about its presence (e.g., a predator)--that is if you are attending carefully. Yes, birds are the best sentinels and some of the smartest of creatures in Nature. He wrote, “There’s nothing random about birds’ awareness and behavior. They have too much at stake—life and death [survival]” (p. xvii). Birds give you a quick monitoring index of the “state” or emotional “ecology” of an area, at least in a certain way. Ah ha! I thought, they are the Fear signalers in the ecology of an area.

It would take a lot words to articulate all of Young’s theory of “deep bird language” and so I’ll suggest you read his book or go online and read his writing or watch his Youtube presentations, etc. But, let me focus in on the jist of how I interpret Young’s work on “deep bird language.” He does not focus on Fear and an ecology of fear, but he does actually know about it and mentions it per se in an end note. Yet, everything I was reading (mostly) is that birds, when they aren’t making noises feeding and communicating to their mates, singing for pleasure, and/or singing to warn competitors (e.g., male birds on territories)—they are keen observers of potential risks/dangers in their field of perceptions. They cooperate with one another to notice and warn. They are the “siren” of the woods. That’s what Young was continually talking about from the first page of his book. He was talking about bird  “alarm signals” to use proper bird behavior terminology.

By studying these alarm signals and picking them up in vocalization changes in a field of ecology, Young said you can then quickly know (or guess) where there are other animals you may want to watch as well as birds—for your pleasure. And, he teaches course on doing this. He teaches people how not to frighten and alarm birds when walking outside. He says that will stop the “bird plow” effect. This is the effect of one bird being alarmed and that signals a chain reaction because most of the birds are listening to each other. Even mammals are listening to the birds as well for this early-sounding alarm system they offer in the ecology of the field. In front of the bird plow effect all the mammals and other birds are running away from you long before you arrive close enough to see them. They don’t have to wait to see you; they are guided by the birds’ vision and awareness and alarm calls. I read this and said, yes, I know that is true from my experience and I know it is important to not frighten any creature if you can help it, or at least minimize it and that way they don’t signal other creatures to also run away from you. It’s so much fun to see animals without them being frightened of you. Their behavior is more “natural” in that sense, “calm” and if feels like you are part of nature and their lives and not upsetting it and causing them to act in ways that are different and overly influenced by you.

So, when I or anyone walks out into the environment in a certain way—as Young say, in a stressed way, with a body language of anxiety or anger (i.e., fear)—the creatures mostly pick it up immediately—the birds being the first to spread the ‘word’ to the rest of the ecology of creatures that are listening and watching the birds. It’s all a matter of survival. Birds know you—a human being—is a potential threat. Humans are top predators and we have as a species evolved with birds for millions of years preying on them for food and feathers for hats and collections—and putting them in prisons so we can have them in our houses as pets. Yes, they have a good right to fear us. Now, I won’t say that a bird like a Robin who gives a mild alarm call when I go out to the garbage can is freaking out and in fear immediately. No, they are in cautionary mode—alert. That’s their evolutionary Defense Intelligence System kicking-in, mildly, unless they are further disturbed by seeing me carrying a rifle and pointing it at them, etc . Anyways, you get the general jist of what I am talking about no doubt.

Fear, and alarm behaviors, mild and/or intense, is such a primary functioning of the ecology of fear dynamics. If it was a cat walking out to the garbage bin area, the birds would likely even give a bigger more dramatic set of codes in their behaviors (like tail bobbing) and sharp alarm calls that are very loud. The whole ecology of the area in terms of behavior and emotional tone is affected by one species (a predator) moving through the territory. Note, I don’t want to overly project how humans’ experience fear (especially today, living in a culture of fear) onto animals that are non-human. Unfortunately, as I’ll show below, Young does this. However, at the same time, one has to imagine it is very likely that as humans are growing more and more anxious and afraid, as the clinical and research studies show, then we are also affecting the wild creatures (i.e., various ecologies), not to forget to include domestic creatures. Arguably, the fear-base-line is increasing and affecting everything—it is also called distress and trauma effects. I think of all the wars and what that does to animals. I think of the booming base weekend music and loud cars and trucks with loud stereos meant to ‘kill’ and mufflers meant to make more noise, and so on. What impact is that having on the ecology of fear of environments and ecologies? Is it not scaring us all to death, human and non-human?

Now, if you use the analogy of the “bird plow” effect where fear is spread so quickly from the detection of a predator and/or threat of some kind in a field of relations (i.e., an ecology), then imagine what an event like 9/11 produces, and/or any such other terrifying and traumatic dramatization. Even what happens in a household ecology with the contagion of a parent’s fear plowing through the environment, upsetting the ecology of cooperation, trust and harmony into an ecology of distress and conflict, competition in its worse ways of domination, etc. Social pschologists and others are writing about this contagion of fear effect, but they have not got down to usually talking about and conceptualizing an ecology of fear (like Davis, 1999 does for a whole city and region). There are more complexities of how to define and make meaning of the ecology of fear (i.e., very similar in my mind to the construct of culture of fear, or climate of fear). I will be working on better describing this rather nebulous notion of ecology of fear for many years, I have no doubt. Similarly, the architecture of fear, and geography of fear, and so on... as the new postmodern fear scholarship is expanding beyond the psychology of fear.

Now to the crux of this blogpost. Four Arrows, and others have been long suggesting that modern day humans need to learn from Nature as its best teacher on survival, on living with the laws of Nature, and causing the least harm in our thoughts and actions. I agree in general, that we ought to look to Nature, birds in the case of Young’s arguments, for expertise on safety/security, risk, threat, alarms—all of which are part of an ecology of fear, and all of which compose our Defense Intelligence System. I have argued in Fisher (2012) that the ecology of fear layer of our meta-motivational template is designed by evolution as the foundation for a healthy and sustainable existence. It is foundational, or a first principle of value if you want to stay alive and healthy, and once you accomplish the learning needed for a robust and mature ecology of fear, then you can reproduce and do the ecology of love well, and if that is done well developmentally, then you can access an ecology of freedom. All of that path of meta-motivational layers in human development and evolution are motivated by fearlessness. That’s my nutshell theory of motivation.

So, the crux of argument is that we ought to learn about fear and fear management best from birds, as Young doesn’t say in his book. I critique his work in many areas of sort of coming close to saying this but then he gets distracted and talks about other things, like how we can start to see more animals if we pay attention to birds and not scare them. He doesn’t seem to get it that what a human is dealing with in nature all the time is an ecology of fear (it is not the only ecology). But Fear is a major foundation for all the other ecologies, if you define it as Defense Intelligence System. Also, could be called the Safety and Security System (which, Maslow sort of places as foundational on his hierarchy of needs model). Young doesn’t catch the importance of how Fear is the primary factor of his entire book and what he writes about and gets excited to learn about and teach about.

Young’s book cover is a clue to why I am saying his book is a great study in the ecology of fear (with birds as focal point in how that system operates in nature). If you look back at the cover illustration which I posted to start this blog, you’ll see the Robin in the middle of the ecological field, as the sentinel. You’ll see the connecting threads around it to other creatures, and notice, all of them are predators, other than the deer. Why is it? Because, his whole book revolves around predator-prey relations and how that is part and parcel of an ecology of fear.

My other critique of Young’s philosophy and writing in this book is that he imposes in several places the concept of “fear” or “anxiety” onto birds and the Natural domain, not realizing he is a highly Cultural domain being brought up in the modern cultural world—which, I and others argue, is actually a culture of fear. This latter context of human development is a powerful shaper of human identity, behaviors, thinking. Young ignores all that, and goes about saying things like:

“Of course, the Robin advises me about what seems to be its greatest fear: the deadly accipiters ... [i.e., bird hawks]” (p. xiv) or “After the Sharpie or Coopers [hawks] has left the stage, the terrorized birds act as if they are numb with shock (though considering how frequently this happens, they cannot possibly be in shock).” (p. 157) or “A nervous wolf—a nervous anything—radiates waves of tension that every other creature in the wild senses” (p. 163)

Exactly, my point: how could wolves be nervous when they live in the Natural world? They might only be nervous of humans who have systematically hunted and slaughtered them more or less in genocidal campaigns for a long long time. That’s another story. How can Robins be terrorized and in shock because of an attempt by a natural predator upon then in a Natural world—where, these species have co-evolved for millions of years in a healthy and sustainable ecology—an ecology of fear? No problem. No bird has to be terrorized, so why mention it? Because it is a projection of the human’s experience of being preyed upon—and, I mean, experience of contemporary life, albeit, there are likely traces of old memories from when we lived naturally as a species in the savannahs of Africa. Note, Young takes the comment about terrorized back in parentheses—perhaps, he unconsciously and subconsciously knew his statement was false or doubtful?

Humans are terrified because of living in a culture of fear that has systematically taught us to be terrified and to lose touch with our natural regulation processes of when stressed out (e.g., after a chase by a hawk that may be a jet bombing your village); naturally, you go into your natural de-stressing behaviors to calm down because the danger is not there, or is reduced. Every Robin knows this instinctively. It is all about de-stressing (what I have called the basic “spirit of fearlessness”)—and even healing if necessary. I won’t go into my long theory of healing and hurting, and coping and oppression—the latter, which is what has invaded and made up the Cultural sphere for a very long time—from a “departure point” as Four Arrows (2016) calls it. As a fearologist, I think Young is right to say we can learn so much about predator-prey relations from watching and listening to Nature (birds, especially). I think he is mistaken to call wild animals of any kind “terrorized” in their Natural interactions with other animals, even humans.

So, to end this sketchy blogpost of exploring thoughts... I want to say that I have found myself really enjoying thinking about environments everywhere, in terms of how there is an ecology of fear going on which is partly visible and detectable, and is also invisible largely and requires attunement and requires a new vocabulary to allows us to think about fear and its dynamics in environments differently. After what I have been critiquing in Young’s presentation (projections of human fear onto Nature), there is the inevitable critique that could be thrown at me and my writing here. Why am I calling this all an “ecology of fear”—is that not a projection of how humans and I experience fear? It may be. I am only using the expression “ecology of fear” because it is being used by many across different disciplines and it seems to have some value of expanding our imaginary in how we think about ecological relations in wild areas, domesticated areas, and so on. I applaud that work. In the end, it may be a misnomer. If we are aware of this, and make note of it in our writing on the concept of ecology of fear, then readers will know we are aware and it will make us be a little more cautious about our claims. Which is a good thing. Other than that, I’m curious to see where this whole sub-field of work on the ecology of fear goes.

I look forward to talking with anyone more on all this. We need better theory and then applications of theory in different environments to see if we can intervene in them and help produce less fearful environments everywhere, from the psychiatric hospital to our homes and schools, etc.

What can the plants and animals of this world teach us, foundationally, about fear (Fear) and courage and fearlessness, that may be very useful and relatively “cleaner” (free of fear-based distortions) from a lot of what human beings, who live in a culture of fear, are currently teaching about fear? Who can I trust most to be a teacher on fear management/ education? Who are the experts? How will we decide? This is a question not usually asked in the circles of those in the West (at least) who write about fear and courage, for example. So, let me end with a validating quote of my position in this blogpost. It comes from Four Arrows’ (2016) latest book:

“Socrates, like most philosophers who have shaped, rationalized, or been influenced themselves by the dominant [W.] worldview [3] did not rely upon other-than-human wisdom. Indigenous worldview sees courage [and fearlessness] as inseparable from a deep sense of relationship and reciprocity to all of life. ‘Other-than-humans’ represent the ultimate teachers of courage.... or fearlessness” (p. 56).

Young’s book is all about this, as I interpret it beneath the surface. The front cover of Young’s book reminds me of how it is all (or nearly all) about predatory-prey relational ecologies which are so Natural and important to learn about and attune to. They are foundational to any healthy and quality life that is connected. Four Arrows (2016) asks us to question our current ways of living, “... might we give more credit to other-than-humans for their displays of courage and fearlessness as a learned phenomenon...? (p. 57). Young and I say “yes,” indeed we must learn what the birds know and observe how they learn what they know in regard to predator-prey relationships[4] especially, because that is where we learn about the ecology of fear wisdom so critical to survival.

Notes

1. I want to be as transparent as possible as to my own biased approach to Psychology and psychologies. I am heavily critical of Psychology per se. I love the field too, but I am more of the camp called “Critical Psychology.” Yet, more deeply profound is my commitment to what I call the “Healing School of Psychology” (i.e., psychologies). This School parallels all the other five major schools (or waves) of psychology (e.g., psychoanalysis, behaviorism/cognitivism, humanistic-existential, transpersonal and integral). The Healing School parallels the Coping School (psychologies), sort of analogous to how I see the Indigenous Worldview parallels the Western Worldview—acknowledging both exists, and both have a purpose and value, yet, the Healing School (like Indigenous Worldview) are the only truly healthy and whole schools of thought. Very briefly, let me say that The Healing School is a large amalgam of many ways of thinking that put priority on fearlessness, more or less. They ask us as a coping society to face into the truth of what has happened over the millenium whereby we departed from being a healing society and adopted being a coping society. This has been a deadly replacement/displacement (as Freud’s defense mechanism theory would inform this). I call it the Blue Pill replaced the Red Pill, if you are someone who watched The Wachowski Brother’s blockbuster sci-fi trilogy films (1999-2003). I am not going to go into this in detail. I will say only that we overall, especially in modern societies, have ‘bought in’ and been ‘tricked in’ to buying that coping is better than healing when we look at how to exist in everyday society. This is a Lie of the greatest proportions but it feeds a lot of industries (e.g., drugs, pharmaceuticals, safety and security businesses, police and military, etc.). Coping will keep you in fear-based distress, more or less, with bits of relief based on what someone sells to you, or some relaxation technique that softens the symptoms of pain arising from hurts unhealed. This is the great chronic problem at the core of the Fear Problem—now, we are even afraid of healing—and have forgotten it is completely naturally built-in by evolution. We pay people to ‘heal us’ and so on. The coping industries, are the fearmongering industries. Now, that’s what we really need to change and disengage our many forms of psychologies that support coping over healing. 

2. There are other phrases being used as units of study and sub-disciplines, like architecture of fear, anthropology of fear, geography of fear, economy of fear, history of fear, sociology of fear, philosophy of fear, theology of fear and so on.

3. Western here, for Four Arrows is also much of the Eastern philosophies as he argues in his book—it seems the Western hegemony of thought has infected the entire world for the most part. He is referring to the time 9-10,000 years ago at least when the Western or Dominant worldview began to arise and over-take other worldviews to a large extent. Indigenous worldview for Four Arrows is the worldview of pre-contact days (before, Western colonization of Indigenous cultures and lands).

4. I realize for many readers of this, they may think that the reduction of Life to predator-prey relationships is a gross, harsh and overly competitive and nasty bruttish framing of Nature and Life. That’s a long argument. I merely want to say, that it seems so true that Life consists of co-evolutionary relationships, organisms with environments, organisms with organisms, etc. I have no doubt that cooperation and harmony in that sense is profound and core to how existence takes place. Yet, equally (at least) is competition for survival, which much of evolutionary theory has already well spoken to and it has been documented empirically. What I know, a prior (fact) is that when you really examine what is going on in the world of existence, it is everybody eating everybody, more or less. That’s a predatory prey ecology, and what a large number of researchers are doing today, across fields from bioecology to social sciences, are only recently investigating (which they have not really done so in the past) is “how the fear a prey has of being killed by its predator may affect the basic predator-prey interactions [behaviorally] as we understand them and how the resulting interplay in this two player game can cascade to other ecological effects. The incorporation of fear into ecology is a relatively new concept and is just now being explored more fully” (Laundré, Hernández and Ripple, 2010, p. 1). I am intrigued by the notion of what are called crises of “trophic cascades” in ecological literature. Someday, I’ll write out my own theory of how such cascades can come about when say the “ecology of fear” reaches such toxicity in an area or domain of existence, it can bring down all the gains of an “ecology of love” and “ecology of freedom” to their lowest common denominator of basically self-destruction based on toxic fear/distress. Then a whole system is in ‘big trouble.’ I think we are well heading into such a crises of cascading effects, and I am not the only one suggesting this is the case. The next 10-15 years will prove this out I predict. So, I say, lets really understand how this plays out, and do so by refining our meta-motivational theory of what drives human behavior via four basic ecologies (see Fisher, 2012).

References

Brown, J. S., Laundŕe, J. W., and Gurung, M. (1999). The ecology of fear: Optimal foraging game theory, and trophic interactions. Journal of Mammology, 80(2), 385-99.

Davis, M. (1999). Ecology of fear: Los Angeles and the imagination of disaster. NY: Vintage Books.

Fisher, R. M. (2012). Steps to an ecology of fear: Advanced curriculum for fearlessness.  Technical Paper No. 38. Carbondale, IL: In Search of Fearlessness Research          Institute.

Four Arrows (aka Jacobs, D. T.) (2016). Point of departure: Returning to a more authentic worldview for education and survival. Charlotte, NC: Information Age          Publishing.

Jacobs, D. T. (1998). Primal awareness: A true story of survival, transformation, and awakening with the Rarámuri shamans of Mexico. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions.

Laundré, J. W., Hernández, L., and Ripple, W. J. (2010). The landscape of fear: Ecological implications of being afraid. The Open Ecology Journal, 3, 1-7.

Subba, D. (2014). Philosophy of fearism: Life is conducted, directed and controlled by the fear. Australia: Xlibris.

Young, J. (2013). What the robin knows: How birds reveal the secrets of the natural world. NY: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

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I have had many encounters with 'men of the cloth' so to speak, from many traditions, over the years (East and West). Although, I rarely have ongoing dialogues with them about fear and fearlessness. Often we conflict and there's no interest on their part to continue connecting. I lament. I believe religious and/or spiritual leaders of all stripes are important 'voices' to engage and to explore how they "teach" fear management/education, among other things that are supposedly about some kind of liberation path.

On a website blogpost not too long ago, I included a rare trialogue with two priests, Terry Biddington and Emmett Coyne; now, I have begun a new dialogue with a Swami who lives in St. Louis, MO. To begin following (and/or participating) I recommend you first read "Toward an Integral Yoga of Fear" which is my long written response to attending a 2 hr talk and experiential session with the Swami in Carbondale, IL less than a week ago. So, since I wrote that piece, the Swami has graciously engaged me and wishes to carry on our inquiry, so, here below is the collecting of our recent emails (I will post any other exchanges in Comments section to this blogpost). Enjoy. -M.

Dear Swami Sankarananda,

In sincere gratitude, and with my own take on the "teachings" you presented, perhaps you would like to take a peek at my initial responses in a blog I wrote this morning "Toward an Integral Yoga of Fear". Feel free to pass this on, also feel free to sign-in to this blog, whatever the case... it will be what it is... and we'll go from there my friend...

 -best, Michael

Sept. 6/16

 

Hello dear Michael,

Thank you. I'm happy that you joined us and that our discussion provided something for you to work with. I understand your perspective, certainly the study of Fear and Fearlessness can be a productive engagement.

I agree with you regarding the cause for fear that you enunciate; I'll call it conditioning from past experience (as reflected in society... all is based upon past experience). There is a deeper cause though, these ancient teachings will point to our idea of being separate from the source of happiness (and from all of the objects). It is interesting that you seem to dismiss spirit, or spirituality (study of one's own spirit self, or soul). After all we live in a world in which self existence can be proven ("I am" is true) but existence of a physical world cannot be. Indeed even our thoughts are relatively more real than the physical world, for they are the cause for it. And, it is posited by the sages of Yoga, the cause for fear is separation from the Truth... and this separation is only perceived. It seems that if we dismiss the subjective truth (which can be proven, albeit only for the subject) for objects, which cannot be proven, that we leave out what might be the most important field of study. And, from my experience, the most fruitful, the only one that will actually provide us with complete peace and fearlessness (the same).

I love the topic you research by the way, most of the discourses that I am sharing are on the topic, "From Fear to Peace". There is one this evening at 7PM at Yoga 7even in Springfield, IL... not too far from you. And again in Normal, IL on Friday. Please join if you would like to discuss, or like some more grist.

Bless you dear one, Om Shanti. May all know peace.

Swami Sankarananda

"The way of peace is the way of love. Love is the greatest power on earth. It conquers all things."  - Peace Pilgrim

858-859-0523

www.fromfear2peace.org

Sept. 7/16

Dear Swami,

So pleased you took time to read my piece and respond so generously. No doubt we have some different 'takes' on some things... and, for the record, I do not leave "spiritual" and self-reflection out of an integral approach, so it is interesting you never picked that up in the piece, and, that's always a problem of interpreting only "parts" of one's writing... anyways, I'm digesting and reflecting on your further thoughts. At some point, I'll respond further, I suspect. Would you mind if I posted your response on the Fearlessness Movement ning (as a Comment) on my blog. This would be great for readers and members to see your views with mine. Let me know. (btw, you could also sign up on the FM ning and post it yourself).  -thanks, M.

p.s. I won't be able to attend your upcoming talks in Illinois but thanks for the reminder and I'll keep in touch with your various travelings so at some point we may meet in person again

Sept. 8/16

Om, good morning dearest Michael,

 Thank you. I've just read your piece again and I must say again that I quite like the focus on "from fear to fearlessness", this dialogue is so important, and I both appreciate and respect the perspective that you present. It is balanced and helpful. Yes, of course it is fine if you post the response, furthering the dialogue is also beneficial. A key point that I want to share is the view that it is possible to transcend fear. Now this can only be treated as an individual statement or theory for now, as it can only be transcended fully one person at a time. Coming into alignment completely with our own inner truth (which is said in the eastern teachings to be a common truth - this is my observation as well) is the way. The nature of That truth is fearless, and one who transcends the control of the subconscious mind to reside in the intuitive Self is indeed fearless.

Bless you dear one. I do intend to visit Carbondale again next year, God willing, and would certainly love to see and visit with you then, or any time. God bless you.

Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti

 

Sept. 9/16

Dear Swami,

And to you blessings ... thanks for this note, and permission to reprint this dialogue and continue the dialogue... I will say, in short, I agree vehemently with the "fearless" Truth you and your ancient tradition speaks of.  I had heard in your Carbondale talk you referred to meeting a saint in India or maybe it was your yogi teacher (?) and you said "he was fearless"-- I heard that and applaud such attainment; and, I have no doubts that is a claim you make, an interpretation, worthy of your naming it--albeit, there would be other factors I would bring into how we talk about "fearless"-- of which I also have both experienced momentarily and seen/felt/realized being around others (including archetypal beings) where "fearless" is the best word to describe what is going on... I also, theorize my work for research and educational purposes--writing about a continuum of developmental fear management systems that people move into and through, and transcend (that is, if all goes well and they are encouraged to develop so, and/or rare magical moments of 'grace' takes them through without seeming any willfulness on their part)... yes, all the way to "fearless" (which is a stage beyond fearlessness). Anyways, I have conceptualized a "fearless standpoint theory" to work as a referent for this scholarship and way of being--a view point of Truth, Real, even if we are relatively living a long ways from it in the worldly world of experiencing that tends to dominate individually and collectively. Again, further fodder for other dialogues...   -best, M.

Sept. 9/16

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New 7th 'Fear' Vaccine Added

The 'Fear' Vaccines as I have called them going way back to the early 1990s (In Search of Fearlessness Project or ISOF), are intended, just as they say, to counter the oppressive effects of 'fear' (and fear). I have written a good deal about these notions, including the distinction of "fear" and 'fear' (as a culturally modified fear patterning). I won't repeat that here and you may want to check out my other writings.

The 'Fear' Vaccines (which is really a process of "soft technologies") are intended to be practiced and studied. With time, patience and experience, they will counter-act to free you (and organizations) from any fear-based domination. They are essential "tools" in that sense to working one's way out of the 'Fear' Matrix (or 'Fear' Project, or fearism-t). These include 6 in their original configuration that evolved in ISOF (Calgary): (1) quality information on fear and fearlessness, (2) Liberation Peer Counseling, (3) Spontaneous Creation-making, (4) Community-building, (5) Sacred Warriorship, (6) Vision Quest.

The 7th vaccine has just been discovered in its latest form in the last 20 years or so by Dr. Don Trent Jacobs (also known as Four Arrows). I am currently writing a book on his life and work, but most importantly I have followed his work as a researcher and educator because of his discovery of a great model for working with decolonizing the mind, or de-hypnotizing ourselves from the dominant (and largely pathological) Western worldview. His model is defined in a mnemonic form: CAT-FAWN. There is a fascinating story behind the years of discovering this model, with roots of its "teaching" coming from ancient ancestors in remote Mexico and the shamans of the Raramuri there, as well as from the non-human spirit teachers-- and to be clear, it has not yet been put to full use (not even by Four Arrows), and I am just in the early stages of understanding it. I will write more on CAT-FAWN but not in detail here as I merely wanted to officially recognize it in my mind as the 7th 'Fear' Vaccine.

CAT-FAWN = Concentration Activated Transformation (CAT) and FEAR, AUTHORITY, WORDS, NATURE (FAWN). The basic principle behind this CAT-FAWN connection, as Four Arrows calls it, is that in any concentration state (subtle and light, or dramatic and heavy) we are in "trance" and in that state the human (and many animals) are highly susceptible to learning, for good or not so good. The point is to recognize with great critical awareness when one is going into a trance-state (i.e., CAT), it may be as simple as when you are watching TV too long, or driving a car, or working on an art piece or listening to music or when you have been injured and are fearful and/or terrorized... etc. By recognizing and predicting the high learning potential in this trance (CAT) state, you will be able to ensure you are not going to let Fear, Authorities, Words, or Nature be used against you and your current state, but be helpful as guides to move you along (in my words) the path of fearlessness of development.

More on all this as time goes... just also want to let you know that Barbara Bickel (my partner) has initiated with me to co-author a book on the 'Fear' Vaccines and all our years experience with them, and ensure they are documented for history. You can bet a final chapter will be on the latest addition of the 7th to the traditional 6 that we have the most experience with in the ISOF Community especially. Stay tuned...

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Remember the folk wisdom: Never judge a book by its cover. There's a metaphor there as well as a concrete and literal truth. And, of late with my discovery (below) one could add to this folk wisdom, and Never judge a philosopher by their books-- that is, unless you've really looked into them all in fine-detail. 

In the past couple days, due to meeting some interesting people and a project they have cooking in Murphysboro, IL (1), I've been researching in an area I have not looked at as intensely in the past as I ought to have. And, a good couple lessons it taught me: one of them being, that just when I thought I spent decades getting to know the literature in the field of Education, and thought I knew most of what educators (from scholars to practitioners) had and/or were saying seriously about fear and fearlessness (that's my speciality)... ahhhhh... 

I have to say I am a bit "shocked" that I have finally found a Western philosopher-educator, thought by many to be The Greatest Philosopher in America in the 19th-20th Century era--none other than John Dewey (1859-1952), writing a "holy rant" (prophetic) piece on fear and fearlessness.

My second lesson in finding this prophetic gem (quoted below), is that I have bolstered my respect for Dewey's life and work by a whole lot of positive notches. Fact is, I never liked Dewey (meaning his writing)--nor, did I like the male philosophers at UBC (my alma mater) who were so off-putting because they were Dewey experts and I hadn't read much Dewey. I tried getting into his work a few times in my undergrad and graduate years and later but... it bored me.

I should have read Dewey, after all I was in Education becoming a teacher and later a curriculum and pedagogy scholar and so you have to read John Dewey (it's part of the educational culture and W. canon)--but I preferred reading a lot of others and mostly I enjoyed reading the educational philosophy of Jiddu Krishnamurti (2) and others (primarily, Eastern type philosophers or my fav was E-W integral philosophers like Ken Wilber). I was not (still am not) a big fan of the philosophy of pragmatism he advanced in America during his life, with great success I might add--he had enormous impact in this country at many levels and I felt it the moment I moved here.

The Center for Dewey Studies was just one block away from where Barbara and I moved in to rent a house. And, part of the "awakening" in myself and others here is that SIU just bull-dozed that Center to the ground yesterday and relocated (3), with several disturbed people (myself included) taking pictures of the devastation. One by-stander told me "it is so violent" how the university administrators have only an interest in profit and have disrespect for history, and tradition (i.e., John Dewey). What they mean is there is an increasing disrespect for the Arts & Humanities in the current university system all across this country and many other W. countries. Yes, right here in Carbondale is one of the best collections of Dewey's work in the world. It attracts an ongoing stream of international scholars, and apparently Dewey has never been so popular in other countries around the world, while his reputation in America has fallen considerably since his death (albeit, with small revivals now and then). And guess what? I never ever went in that Center since I lived here, now 7 yrs. I rode by it on my bike many times, and looked in the windows, but could never get myself to go in, even though I thought of doing so. I should have but I had no calling strong enough. There were too many brewing arguments in my scholarly head, filled with complaints of why I didn't like Dewey's work (i.e., it didn't fit my way of thinking) (4). I suppose I was also ticked that Dewey got so much attention here and it felt like there was no philosophical room for my own views. All of that was part of my alienating feelings as a Canadian coming to live in the USA for the first time. A lot of mixed feelings there, as I have been an out and out critic of much of America's philosophy and politics (mainstream that is, Americanism as ideology, etc.). I didn't think Dewey's work was critical or radical enough. But now I realize that was a short-sighted judgment (5). Oooops!

Okay, my great excitement was to discover a passage published in 1922, from an interview with Dewey by Charles W. Wood, and I just thought of a great piece of art to accompany Dewey's Holy Rant on the role of fear and fearlessness in American education (then and now, as his rant so applies to everything today, 93 years later). 

Art work by Art Young (entitled: "This World of Creepers", c. 1907 [15 yrs. before Dewey's published Holy Rant on fear and fearlessness], published in a political magazine I found in the library stacks at UBC in my graduate years (unfortunately I didn't right down the exact reference info. and haven't been able to find it again). Oh, this image is slightly 'touched up' by yours truly as I added the 'ISM' part in the original version. I love that the artist (Young) was tapping into the climate of increasing fear and its consequences in the world (America) at the time of post-WWI, and it is rather earth-shaking, spine-shaking, to me the prophecy in Art Young's piece and John Dewey's piece (below). These are both markers of the history of fear and fearlessness that has been left out of the history books, I'm sorry to say, it is sad. I really need to write my own version of the history of these fascinating and important ideas/realities-- fear and fearlessness, and their dynamic relationship. Mostly, what is missing is the history of fearlessness! (I have found at least five good scholarly works on the history of fear). So, why the absence of a history of fearlessness (especially, in the West)? See my recent technical paper "What is the West's Problem with Fearlessness?" (scroll down the web page link to find a pdf). 

John Dewey on Fear & Fearlessness

[This is not the complete interview, nor the complete text from the summary of the interview by Charles W. Wood in 1922, just after Dewey had returned from a long visit to China; this article was originally published as Wood, C. W. (1922). Professor John Dewey on the hysteria which holds teaching in check. New York World, 27, Aug.; the current excerpt [reprinted version] below is from Boydston, J. A. (Ed.) (2008). Report of Interview with Dewey (by Wood, C. W.), In John Dewey, the middle works, 1899-1924, Vol. 13, 1921-22 (pp. 425-32). Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press]

[with bold added for emphasis] [Dewey:] "The greatest enemy to human progress is fear. People generally tell the truth unless they are afraid to--afraid of punishment, afraid of someone's opinion or afraid that some competitor will gain an advantage. A large percentage of human ills is due to greed, but back of greed lies the sense of insecurity and its accompanying fear. Fear is the soil in which wars are bred. Fear engenders hate. Individually and socially, wherever human life and human relations become inhuman, we are quite sure to discover that they have been poisoned by fear. Cowardice in public office, cowardice in business dealings, cowardice in international relations--we are all more or less familiar with the havoc wrought by these; but the most insidious poison I know of in modern society is cowardice on the part of those who are charged with the responsibility of teaching our youth" 


[that open's Wood's article, and Wood responds to it:] "Before I tell you who said it, I wish you all read that paragraph again. Find a flaw in it if you can."

[Dewey continues:] "And the boys and girls in our New York schools... are not getting half a chance. They are the victims of an inherent timidity, if not an active intimidation, within our school system. There can be no real education unless there is fearlessness, but New York teachers are not free to teach. The situation in this respect is worse, it seems to me, than it ever was before.... [re: his critique of "training" vs. true "education"] But the very basis of such training is fear of what they [the child] may do without it. When we are trying to draw out human intelligence , there must be no such fear.... the system is now additionally cursed by a set of silly laws conceived in fear and born in political hysteria [culture of fear] which seized this country during and immediately after the war.... The public now would like to return to sanity: But unless it provides some antidote for those poisonous [fear-based] laws, the minds of our children generally must suffer incalculably.... The school authorities, in the very nature of their organization, cannot be trusted with this task. They are, to say the least, timid. It is their nature [fear habit] to travel the beaten paths. They are afraid of innovations. They are necessarily afraid to run counter to the public wishes.... [and what we must do, he says] see to it that this haunting fear is eliminated from our school life [and society]."

******

If I am over-zealously reading Dewey, forgive me for my ignorance, and passion, it is just that it seems obvious this mild-mannered philosopher is going for the juglar vein, with no holds barred. That's prophetic pedagogy and philosophy of the kind very rare to see in the Western world, especially in the Education field. But it was the 1920s. I wonder if Dewey ever came back to these poignant points and arguments and fleshed them out? I am going to find out. I wonder if all the hundreds of scholars who have taken up to critique and follow Dewey's legacy, with multiple angles of interpretations, do they write about this interview on fear and fearlessness? Why have I never seen this referenced in my 26 yrs of researching on fear and fearlessness? I'm sort of thinking that perhaps no one has picked up on the holy rant of Dewey in 1922, which I am dubbing as John Dewey's Fearlessness Project. Again, I caution myself that perhaps I am overly reading into Dewey's grand philosophical and educational (and political) project... and, it then seems clear as a bell when I re-read and re-read his interview extracts here. Thank you Charles W. Wood (if you are still alive) for bringing this holy rant out of Dewey and publishing it. Thank you all the Dewey followers for reprinting it (note: in a book/journal issue published in Carbondale, IL by SIU Press in 2008). I haven't read it in the complete yet, and will do so soon. 

John Dewey's Fearlessness Project is not a label I use lightly, it is however one I am totally glad to apply and I am considering (after more research, perhaps) to end up including Dewey's movement in progressive education and philosophy in America (19th-20th century) as a contributing "Fearlessness Movement" initiative and add it to the Wikipedia on that topic. One outstanding question is can a pragmatist (6) like Dewey be prophetic (are they supposed to be, based on the definition of pragmatism and its history in American philosophy and as American philosophy)? I won't go on and on here with so many questions that arise, some very troubling as to the 'absence' of this holy rant in all my scouring the Educational field (albeit, I will say I have found other W. critical thinkers, and educators saying very similar things to Dewey in the above--but that's another article; I'm wondering if they had read Dewey's rant or it was picked up in them by osmosis--matrixial threads--unconscious collective archetypes?)--I trust some of you may like to comment on this. I look forward to hearing from you. 

Oh, one last (very interesting) thought, according to a Dewey scholar (Ryan, 1997, p. 80), it was Alice Chirman, Dewey's wife (1886 on) who gave Dewey three things he need, says Ryan, "The first was fearlessness about the ideas and opinions of the rest of the world" -- the other two things (note) follow from that gift... now there is a great feminist, womanist, feminine acknowledgement. See Ryan, A. (1997). John Dewey and the high tide of American liberalism. NY: W.W. Norton. 

End Notes

1. I am referring to a very interesting duo (and others), Prof. of Philosophy Randy Auxier, SIU and Prof. of Philosophy John Shook, University of Buffalo NY, who have decided to pool their huge libraries, each over 15,000 books, into a library and research center in Randy's home in Murphysboro, IL (a 5 min. drive W. of Carbondale, IL where I live). They are putting together a non-profit organization at the same time and already have other retiring philosophy professors donating their life-long book collections to their center. Auxier and Shook believe their project reflects, as a counter-response, to a growing disturbing trend of American higher education institutes in general, which have disregarded the best quality of philosophy from American scholars in history. They are more than a little perturbed at the "State" of funding losses in higher education from the public purse and the overly business attitude of administration in many universities today in N.A. I agree with their critique and I think it is fascinating they are taking their passions into their own hands and not depending on anyone else to secure the best of knowledge and wisdom. One could write an essay about this changing landscape of American higher education in the past few decades where institutions care more about "profit" than securing the wisdom of a culture, in particular through the academy. I think they are marking a trend of alternative learning centers. The place at Randy's will be available to the public not merely scholars. It will have a residential component for scholars as well. I am even putting together a proposal for such a year long residency (I'll talk about that later perhaps). 

2. My all time favorite education book has got to be Krishnamurti, J. (1953/81). Education and the significance of life. NY: Harper & Row.

3. The Dewey materials from the Center are now in the (cold and dark) basement level of Morris Library, SIU. Larry Hickman, Director of the Center for Dewey Studies has been demoted to a small cubicle in that basement and most of his budget for research assistants and graduate assistants sliced. This doesn't speak well of the attitudes of the upper administration in SIU. 

4. The almost repulsive quality I had built up inside myself for over 3 decades in the field of Education, can be summarized (albeit, a bit grossly) to what I read in his work as a functionalist perspective (even if he was somewhat a radical liberal reformer challenging the status quo) and not a conflict perspective (i.e., based in critical theory). This is a much longer argument of differentiation that I spent years in my graduate work sorting out and researching, to come to the conclusion I was a conflict theorist not a functionalist (pragmatist) theorist. It makes a big political difference. For those really keen to know more about this you can check out these terms online and a really good summary of the distinction is my daughter and her collaborator's chapter in a recent book I also have a chapter in, see Fisher, V., and Nicholson, S. E. (2014). Introduction: Developing a critical integral praxis for sex, gender, and sexuality. In S. E. Nicholson and V. Fisher (Eds.), Integral voices on sex, gender, and sexuality: Critical inquiries (pp. 1-12). Albany, NY: State University of New York Press. 

5. I still am not convinced his work is strong enough to bring about the transformation that I think America needs to go through before it destroys itself and the rest of the world with it. Thus, I am still rightfully critical he was not "radical enough" (you could say)--that is, he never was a good conflict theorist. Now, even that, as I age, is becoming a little more tenuous of a divide in my mind (despite E.N. #4). But that's a longer story, and I'm interested to study Dewey to look at just what kind of conflict theorist he perhaps was and/or he was an integral theorist and I just missed it and frankly, I haven't read enough nearly to even assess this anymore. 

6. I had read a scholar recently writing on Dewey's work and suggesting Dewey preferred to be called some working with the philosophy of "experimentalism" and yet, many have dubbed him working with the philosophy of pragmatism (along with William James, Charles S. Peirce, etc.). Albeit, Dewey is uniquely a pragmatist with a strong social philosophy (activist) bent; and his background in Christianity (which he left the church eventually) and as a social reformer connected with religious life in America (i.e., New England)--all this leads to him being "prophetic" (and I mean that, because of his confrontation of our society with its culture of fear and the need for fearlessness). 

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As Barbara and I have been on this sabbatical for five months in Canada, it has been our focus to embody the idea of 'artist-in-residence' wherever we go. Currently, we are in Winnipeg, MN, Canada for a few more days. We've stayed at Pete Sarsfield's apartment just off the Assiniboine River and near downtown. It is an exquisite location for us on many levels. Living (house sitting) in another person's dwelling, especially when you have never met them, and they are on holidays, is interesting. I have taken a rather anthropological (ethno- and autoethnographic) view to this ecology of experiencing, especially as Pete's apartment is so invested with his values, philosophy, care and aesthetic sensibility, as well as his politics. But this blog is not about Pete, rather it is all about the art I have engaged in while in his apartment and this area at this time in history. 

The most provocative images, in my view as artist and a/r/tographer come from experiencing the environment on the way into his apartment and then the art and books he has that line his walls and floors. Yes, I said floors. He has mounted art pieces on the floor in the living room, so, without more text at this time as I bring in my interest in fear and fearlessness into this art project at apt. 709, let me show the photos I've taken to accompany this blog and give you a more full aesthetic sense of the ecology of experiencing I have been involved in for the past 5 days here....

First, the hallway down to apt. #709, and we can see the touches that Pete has added to the architecture of a rather bland 1950-60s type apartment complex:

 


Next, we get a little closer to see the additions he has made to the hallway of which no other apt. has such a deliberate signature as this one...

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