Power and Fear

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Power and Fear

Post by zoofence »

Undoubtedly, everyone is familiar with Lord Acton's observation that "power tends to corrupt, absolute power corrupts absolutely". Today, I came across this twist on that, spoken or written by the Nobel Laureate novelist, John Steinbeck: "Power does not corrupt. Fear corrupts ... perhaps the fear of a loss of power".

Although it may be a case of hair-splitting, I think he's right. After three decades along the spiritual path, it is clear to me that it is virtually impossible for the separative egoic identity to escape fear in some form, and that it is our fear which determines and shapes almost everything we do. If we are afraid of the dark, we get a flashlight, and then our fear shifts to something else, say financial insecurity, so we win a lottery, and then the fear shifts to something else again, say of physical brutality, so we learn karate, and immediately our fear shifts once again to something else, and so on endlessly. Primarily and overridingly (if there is such a word), I suppose it is always at base fear of death. As UG insists, in the end it is always about survival.

And that may be the "litmus test" of a True Teacher. If we come across someone who has no fear whatsoever, that person is Free ... indeed, that person has transcended the separative egoic personality and is no longer "a person" (and of course never ever was, anymore than we are, despite the illusion -- in the words of the wondrous Nisargadatta, "There is no such thing as a person".). Think about it: Whatever other characteristics all the great Teachers may seem to share, one characteristic they all exhibit is a lack of fear.
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Post by anna »

Well said. If I may presume to round that out a bit.........

The prime directive to a personality, which is at base, a basket of thoughts, which indeed, IS the personality, is continuity, or its own survival. One could perhaps describe the opposite of continuity in this instance as fear of discontinuity of its thoughts, or death of those thoughts. (If you can't connect one thought to the next, then how does the next thought know "who it is or from whence it came?) Therefore, the personality, composed of all thoughts and the over-thought within each of us that says "I am me, and you aren't me, and my thoughts are me and your's aren't", controls and directs the actions of a body in every way possible to maintain its "self" and the continuity of its self, and it avoid its own death. The body is secondary, of course, to the survival of thoughts - indeed, I would venture to say that if thoughts could be guaranteed of survival without the body, that would probably be fine with them! This of course can be said another way, as survival of the personality.

So, therefore, fear of loss of power is another way of saying fear of loss of self, or fear of death. If power is simply another method toward survival, which it is, then fear of loss of power is indeed fear of death. You can see then, how devious the mind is in its pursuit of continuity.

Interesting isn't it, that with the death of personality or thoughts, or mind, there may not necessarily be the death of the body. Indeed, a new born baby has no personality whatsoever, and yet is vitally alive. By extension then, the impinging upon a baby of a personality -- all those myriad thoughts that are poured into that vacant vessel -- may or may not be a favor. I would suggest that this process is a kind of usurping of power: the new born infant is full of life, vitality, and power, and only by increments, as he is socialized and thought is encouraged to replace his basic vitality and sense of self or identity (whatever that may be in an unconditioned mind) does he begin to lose his innate power and vitality and shift his sense of identity to that of his personality (basket of thoughts accumulated through learning). By extension, you can observe the progressive loss of vitality, spirit, and joy and spontaneity within the human being as he ages. Perhaps we (the body) could live eternally if we hadn't given away our power to thought? Hmmmmmm. :roll: