In Search of Fearlessness itself is a very intriguing phrase, which has spiritual (theological), mindful (philosophical) and historical import for humanity, as well as more practical psychosocial, cultural, and political and economic implications. I wish to begin a series of FM blogs on this topic with emphasis on the "research institute" of this name and its publishing and educational role of liberation. I am inspired to write this out and share it because most people in the Fearlessness Movement (and beyond) have no idea what my main project has been in this form of a research institute "In Search of Fearlessness Research Institute" (founded by me in 1991 and still going). A few years later, with my partner Barbara Bickel we led the non-profit organization (and eventual official "society") called "In Search of Fearlessness Centre & Research Institute" combination which had two physical centre spaces in the city of Calgary, AB, Canada (between 1991-1999). That's a much longer story, of which some of that history will unfold in this blog series and some of it is documented in various places on the Internet and in my publications if you do any searching.
The Generic Phrase: "In Search of Fearlessness"
My own prophetic vision for the use of this phrase came in late 1989 while going to university and getting involved with a woman, all of which is very intense and explosive in terms of my discovering deeper layers (mystical aspects) of "love" with another like never before in my life-time. I was 37 years old when the term and project "In Search of Fearlessness" appeared to me as my life purpose and my partner at the time agreed but she quickly bailed out of it all and the relationship ended by mid-1990. I kept at the helm to lead the ISOF Project (for short). Later, I would search the Internet and other places to see if anyone else was or has used this phrase. I found very little. Osho, a mystic from the East who came West and had a big impact in the E-W spiritual integration of the 1980s-90s etc. had used this phrase, which I find interesting and yet I am curious exactly what he meant by it and what his followers thought of it as well. But that's another research project to figure out, which I will not do here. But it is clear such a phrase has not taken off with anyone to any extent except myself.
What does it mean? Well "in search of fearlessness" means many things and it all depends on how you define fear and fearlessness for one. That's extremely complex the more you get into it, especially that is the case in my own transdisciplinary investigation of these phenomena and their interrelationship. Let's start with the criticism I have received over the years since declaring publicly ISOF and attempting to develop it into a viable community, organization, research vehiicle and place of practices for liberation. Most people, or many at least, thought it was too weak and not inspiring. They believed and judged "in search of" gives the project and name a kind of nebulous unknown with no fixed and certain vision of the end goal, the promise, the reward. I was accused of being a "wandering jew" by one person and probably others with Christian faith commitments have thought the same. There was no "god" or "goddess" either that was the ultimate leader of ISOF and of its principles and practices. They couldn't trust such nebulous unknowns and that one is always seemingly in this ISOF Project always "searching" and never satisfied or redeemed or enlightened. I thought that was then, and still now, very telling of the kinds of people and their developmental evolution of consciousness, more than it was an accurate statement about ISOF Project. Reality is, they had their criticisms about this weakness, if not folly, and yet understood very little because they were largely uncurious about the nature of the ISOF Project--for they sure did not talk to me about it, they merely preferred their speculative judgments from afar with little good information or dialogue. That tells me they are afraid to really know. They want their secure fixed already known safety and security in their belief systems and their faith practices etc. They want their promise of good reward.
In Search of Fearlessness as I articulated it was a movement from Fear to Fearlessness in an overall evolutionary developmental process. But it was a process-focused way of getting to liberation (or enlightenment or to 'heaven' if some prefer that term). Process-focused means there is always an emergent learning in and with the unknown and mystery of life/risk/death dynamics and no guaranteed outcome. One requires a larger scope and depth of understanding that the process of existence is such a variable and sometimes nebulous magnanamity that there is no way to fix and control and reduce it down to the guaranteed result one wishes for as ideal. ISOF can be an ideal way or path of life, a journey, but the ideal is not worshipped nor even fully known. I made the case early in this that "in search" keeps us humble before the ideals so that we don't let our fear of not getting to the ideal become such a big motivator that it distorts the path and the very qualities of the ideal (e.g., God or Perfection, Absolute). Most people don't have the emotional or existential capacities developed to adopt and stay with this "path of fearlessness." That is a socialization and educational problem of the modern era, which is another longer story I write and teach about in many places you can look up.
One practical example I can give of the necessity and demand of the "in search" commitment to ISOF is to be an inveterate learner (researcher) of the highest calibre in that you are endlessly pursuing information, knowledge, knowing and understanding, from one level of superficial to a deeper level of integration of wisdom and compassion, then pursue the search to learn again as much as you can about fear and fearlessness (as central topics)--and, then again pursuing the moving from a deeper level to an even yet deeper level of integration--potentially endlessly to one's death. For many, I found, they are not used to such disciplined learning and process-focused work in their growth and in their drive to find safety and security in existence, and they short-cut their way, by-passing their way, to find a quick fix solution to their fear, without really understanding fear (and fearlessness) very deeply at all. They die mostly in this shallow state of understanding and it is a loss I see because of its short-cut path to true liberation.
Of course, a whole set of lectures could be developed on what is liberation? That's another topic beyond what this blog is dealing with. The path of fearlessness, the ISOF Project are designed with a good deal of study I have made of liberation, and that is a critical integral perspective on liberation and not just some individualized psychospiritual liberation that I am referring to within the ISOF context. Liberation work is very complex and so far the world has made overall very little progress in my view and seems actually to resist liberation at the same time the instinctual impulse of the universe is liberation. Maybe, this is the point the brilliant psychoanalyst Erich Fromm was getting at with seeing the deep irony in the human condition where people en mass are controlled by others (dominating) because people are in "fear of freedom" (i.e., liberation). ISOF is the way to explore and understand and undermine that fear of freedom, you could say, which is based on fear of fear itself and so on. Learning what the spirit of fearlessness is and being open to learn more about it, same with fear, brings a whole new level (paradigm) to our quest for freedom, liberation, enlightenment, call it what you will. And, yes, you could say "Love" is the final goal, at least, a love purified (more or less) from the fear-based motivations that so quickly undermine love (and compassion).
Brief HISTORY of In Search of Fearlessness Research Institute
Since the moment of my own 'awakening' to the ISOF Project, and giving this name, I feel I have been guided by spirit to enact this in my life-time on this planet. No one is paying me a salary to do this. It is service, in serving as best I can the liberation work of which fearlessness is the great principle and path. After just over a year of working and living this path in relationship in the real world, and feeling all the resistance and betrayal and despair that goes with it, my personhood was transformed and more clarity came about the need for a real space and vehicle to perform the service. The Research Institute (1991-) was my newest way to go and it has been with me ever since to this day. It shows that In Search of Fearlessness is not just about individual personal growth and development and success. So many others in the Human Potential and New Age Movements of my time were into this individualizing liberation which I saw as a flaw and still do. It is corrupted for many reasons but that's a longer critique and story you can find in my other writing and teaching. Research Institute I take very seriously because I knew we had to research this new paradigm of fearlessness (today, I call it a "fearlessness psychology") based on theories and practices adopted and tried out for real. Then making corrections and keeping track of our findings, and publishing and educating on this so it could be effective. It was a great idea I still believe in but without funding it won't go anywhere fast and it hasn't done so. I have never figured out how to inspire people overall to donate (gift) to this cause, and to the very gift of fearlessness tradition which is found in the ancient Eastern wisdom and religious traditions. In the Western world where I live, this notion is rejected and fearlessness is often vilified as being pathological and dangerous to people and societies in general. I find that very oppressive and not very wise of the Western world to have been so ignore-ant of the Eastern roots of fearlessness.
In 1991 my partner Barbara Bickel came on board and her and I formed a non-profit Canadian publishing company "In Search of Fearlessness Research Institute" and have used that to publish several small books and booklets over the years with our own ISSN library catalogue numbers. We've pretty much stopped that in the last several years but ISOF Research Institute continues to publish my technical papers series and the journal I just founded (International Journal of Fear Studies). I am looking at finding a space again to start up the In Search of Fearlessness Research Institute (and Centre) but without funding it is hard to grow anything. I see that such a Research Institute can provide many things for the public in support of them reaching their potential but also being wise and compassionate, and this is all especially important in the coming crisis years we face as humanity (including near social collapse if not extinction on mass scale). Emotional resiliency as one example, is now getting more attention in the mental health sectors, but basically it is a way of managing "fear" (emotional anxiety, panic, etc.). I would like to promote the ISOF Research Institute as offering a much deeper approach to emotional resilience, as I argue "fear" ('fear') cannot be reduced to only an emotion as these clinical psychologists tend to do. They will only address symptoms, whereas ISOFRI will address much deeper causes--and set us back (potentially) on the course of liberation (via the path of fearlessness) from which we have long strayed as nations and peoples.
Okay, that's enough for this very beginning bit of history and clarification of ISOFRI and I trust you will find it useful in your own navigation of what liberation could mean. Feel free to contact me if you'd like more information and make Comments on this blog as well, so others can engage a dialogue with you.