In The Life Divine, Sri Aurobindo describes the sevenfold ignorance which limits the human being. We live in a world about which we know very little, and we lack a complete understanding of the significance of our lives, the meaning of existence, or the processes of Time. As a result, we act as if we are separate beings living a separate existence and we react to what we do not know, or what we imagine, or what we perceive to be a threat to that individual existence with fear.
The basis of the fear reaction can be seen in the consciousness of the animal, and, as shown in The Secret Life of Plants, even in a very rudimentary way in the plant. In these cases, the perception of a vibration of threat, whether from a predator or some danger from outside, brings forth the reaction. We can see this in operation very clearly in the relation between a predator and its prey. The prey knows it is going to become food for the predator and begins to shake and exhibit all the symptoms of fear. These very basic reactions carry over into the human being, but they become accentuated through the process of our attempt to extrapolate in our ignorance by imagining what may happen, what could happen and what implications that has. This occurs not only in a true physical threat, but in virtually every circumstance of human interaction in the world.
Given the pervasive nature of fear in human existence, it is important to understand how to deal with it, so that we can not only function in our lives, but use the opportunity to grow and master this reaction. Sri Aurobindo, in his book The Mother, devotes a chapter to the question: He states: “To walk through life armoured against all fear, peril and disaster, only two things are needed, two that go always together — the Grace of the Divine Mother and on your side an inner state made up of faith, sincerity and surrender.” He explains these in depth as the chapter continues. The issue here is the shift from the ego-centric viewpoint to one that is ‘Divine-centric”. For a seeker of spiritual realisation, this is the ultimate solution to fear. As long as we remain rooted in the ego and the body-life-mind complex, we take ‘personally’ any threats to our existence or our well-being. Fear can be a paralyzing emotion, and for those not yet fully devoted to the yogic sadhana, it must still be addressed, one way or another.
The Mother observes: “Fear is a phenomenon of unconsciousness. It is a kind of anguish that comes from ignorance. One does not know the nature of a certain thing, does not know its effect or what will happen, does not know the consequences of one’s acts, one does not know so many things; and this ignorance brings fear. One fears what one does not know. Take a child, if it is brought before someone it does not know (I am not speaking of a child with an awakened inner consciousness, I am speaking of an ordinary child), — you bring it before someone it does not know, its first movement will always be one of fear. Only very rare children — and they have another consciousness — are very bold. It may also be a mixture of apprehension, a kind of instinct. When one instinctively feels that something is dangerous and hasn’t the means to remedy it, when one does not know what to do to protect himself from it, then he is afraid. There are, I believe, countless reasons for fear. But it is a movement of unconsciousness, in every case.”
“That which knows has no fear. That which is perfectly awake, which is fully conscious and which knows, has no fear. It is always something dark that is afraid.”
“One of the great remedies for conquering fear is to face boldly what one fears. You are put face to face with the danger you fear and you fear it no longer. The fear disappears. From the yogic point of view, the point of view of discipline, this is the cure recommended. In the ancient initiations, especially in Egypt, in order to practice occultism, as I was telling you last time, it was necessary to abolish the fear of death completely. Well, one of the practices of those days was to lay the neophyte in a sarcophagus and leave him in there for a few days, as though he were dead. Naturally, he was not left to die, neither of hunger nor suffocation, but still he remained lying there as though he were dead. It seems that cures you of all fear.”
“When fear comes, if one succeeds in putting upon it consciousness, knowledge, force, light, one can cure it altogether.”
Sri Aurobindo and The Mother, Living Within: The Yoga Approach to Psychological Health and Growth, Disturbances of the Vital, Fear, pp. 50-53