The Conquest of Fear by Basil King
Chapter VI. The World as it is and the False God of Fear
Of all fears the most dogging and haunting are those connected with money. Everyone knows them, even the rich. For many years I was their victim, and will now try to tell how I got rid of them so effectively that I may call it entirely.
Having a good many responsibilities I lived in terror of not being able to keep pace with their demands. The dread was like a malign invisible presence, never leaving me. With much in the way of travel, friendship, and variety of experience, which I could have enjoyed, the evil thing was forever at my side. "This is all very well," it would whisper in moments of pleasure, "but it will be over in an hour or two, and then you'll be alone with me as before."
I can recall minutes when the delight in landscape, or art, or social intercourse, became alien to me, something to be thrust away. Once in driving through rich, lush, storied Warwickshire on the way to Stratford-on-Avon--once in a great Parisian restaurant where the refinement, brilliancy, and luxury of the world seemed crushed into epitome--once at a stupendous performance of Goetterdaemmerung at Munich--once while standing on the shores of a lovely New Hampshire lake looking up at a mountain round which, as Emerson says, the Spirit of Mystery hovers and broods--but these are only remembered high points of a constant dread of not being able to meet my needs and undertakings. There used to be an hour in the very early morning--"the coward hour before the dawn," it is called by a poet-friend of my own--when I was in the habit of waking, only to hear the sleepless thing saying, as my senses struggled back into play, "My God, can you be sleeping peacefully, with possible ruin just ahead of you?" After that further sleep would become impossible for an hour or two, such wakings occurring, in periods of stress, as often as two and three times a week.
It was the spiritually minded man whom I have already quoted as giving me the three great points as to God's direction who first helped me to see that, on the part of anyone working hard and trying on the whole to do right, the fear of being left without means amounts in effect to denial of God. Thinking this over for myself during the course of some years, this fear has come to seem to me of the nature of blasphemy. It is like the "Curse God and die," of the wife of Job. I shall not hesitate to speak strongly on the subject, because so few are speaking on it strongly--while the urgency is pressing.
I have already said that it does not seem reasonable that the Father should put us into His universe to expand, and then deny us the power of expanding. The power of expanding is not wrapped up in money, but in the world as it is the independence of the one of the other is not very great. "One of the hardest things I ever had to do," a mother said to me, not long ago, "was to tell my little girl that her father and I could not afford to send her to college." That is what I mean. To most of us "expanding" and "affording" amount to the same thing.
True, there are natures which transcend the limitations of "affording," and by innate strength do what others resign themselves to not doing. For instance, there are men and women who "put themselves" through college, doing similar things which bring out the best in their characters. These are the exceptions; and they are the exceptions precisely for the reason that, whether they know it or not, they are nearer than their fellows to the divine working principle. It is not necessary for us to be conscious of that principle in order to get much of its result, though consciousness enables us to get more of it. The strong are strong because of harmony with God, at least to some extent. They may misuse their strength, as we can misuse anything; but the mere fact of possessing it shows a certain degree of touch with the Universal. But I am speaking chiefly of the weak, of those who think first of all in terms of restriction rather than in those of privilege to come and go and be and do.
I repeat that though this privilege is not dependent on money, money expresses it to the average mind.
And what is money after all? It is only a counter for what we call goods. Goods is the word with which, according to our Anglo-Saxon genius for the right phrase, we sum up the good things with which the Father blesses His children. The root connection between good, goods, and God is worth everyone's attention, A hundred dollars is simply a standard of measurement for so much of God's good things. A thousand dollars represents so much more; a million dollars so much more again. But it is important to note that this is not God's standard of measurement; it is man's, and adopted only for man's convenience.
As for God's standard of measurement it is inconceivable that the Universal Father should give to one of His children far more of His "goods" than he can use, while denying to another that which he is in absolute need of. The Universal Father could surely not do otherwise than bless all alike. With His command of resources He must bless all alike, not by depriving anyone, but by enriching everyone. If everyone does not enjoy plenty it must be because of the bringing in of some principle of distribution which could never have been His.
The right and the wrong principles of distribution are indirectly placed before us by our Lord in one of the most beautiful passages which ever fell from human lips. Familiar as it is, I venture to quote it at length, for the reason that the modern translation makes some of the points clearer than they are in the King James version which most of us know best.
"No man can be the bondservant of two masters; for either he will dislike one and like the other, or he will attach himself to one and think slightingly of the other. You cannot be the bondservants both of God and of gold. For this reason I charge you not to be over-anxious about your lives, inquiring what you are to eat or what you are to drink, nor yet about your bodies, inquiring what clothes you are to put on. Is not the life more precious than its food, and the body than its clothing? Look at the birds which fly in the air; they do not sow or reap or store up in barns, but your Heavenly Father feeds them; are you not of much greater value than they? Which of you by being over-anxious can add a single foot to his height? And why be anxious about clothing? Learn a lesson of the wild lilies. Watch their growth. They neither toil nor spin, and yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his magnificence could array himself like one of these. And yet if God so clothes the wild herbage which to-day flourishes and to-morrow is cast into the oven, is it not much more certain that he will clothe you, you men of little faith? Do not even begin to be anxious, therefore, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For all these are questions that Gentiles are always asking; but your Heavenly Father knows that you need these things--all of them. But make His Kingdom and righteousness your chief aim, and then these things shall be given you in addition. Do not be over-anxious, therefore, about to-morrow, for to-morrow will bring its own cares. Enough for each day are its own troubles."
In this passage there are two points, each of which may merit a few words as a means of eliminating fear.
The first point is the reference to what we are to make our "chief aim"--the Kingdom of God and righteousness.
I feel sure we generally miss the force of these words through our Caucasian sanctimoniousness. We can think of God's Kingdom and righteousness only in the light of the pietistic. The minute they are mentioned we strike what I have already called our artificial pose, our funereal frame of mind. I am not flippant when I say that in the mind of the Caucasian the first step toward seeking the Kingdom of God and righteousness is in pulling a long face. We can hardly think of righteousness except as dressed in our Sunday clothes, and looking and feeling wobegone. To most of us the seeking of righteousness suggests at once an increase in attending church services, or going to prayer-meetings, or making missionary efforts--excellent practices in themselves--according to the form of pietism we are most familiar with. Those of us who have no form of pietism feel cut off from making the attempt at all.
Oh, to be simple!--to be natural!--to be spontaneous!--to be free from the concept of a God shut up within the four walls of a building and whose chief interests are the sermon and the number of parishioners! The Kingdom of God is the Universal Kingdom, including everyone and everything--all interests, all commerce, all government, all invention, all art, all amusement, all the staid pursuits of the old and all the ardour of the young, all sport, all laughter, all that makes for gladness. It is the Kingdom of the bird and the flower and the horse and the motor-car and the motion-picture house and the office and the theatre and the ballroom and the school and the college and everything else that man has evolved for himself. He has evolved these things wrongly because nine times out of ten he has seen them as outside God's Kingdom, instead as being God's own undertakings because they are ours. All that we have to do to seek His Kingdom is to do what we are doing every day, with energy and fun, but to do it knowing we are His agents and co-workers. As a matter of fact, most of us are, to some extent, doing that already, getting food, shelter, clothing, and all other necessary things as our reward. What we do not get is relief from fear, because we do not understand that fear above all things is what He would take away from us.
The second point is a curious one, and all the more emphatic for being curious. Our Lord invents a false god. He names the false god of fear, who was never named before. Mammon is the word which the modern translator gives as gold. As Mammon it is translated in the Authorised Version, whence we get the familiar phrase, "Ye cannot serve God and Mammon."
But Mammon was never the name of an idol or other form of false deity. The word, which is Syriac, means money. Our Lord, apparently, made it the name of a false god in order to set before us, and make vivid to us, a false principle.
That false principle is in the belief that the material essentials for living and expanding are dependent on man's economic laws.
This is a point of vast importance to the individual who desires to strike out beyond the crowd, not only getting what he needs, but ridding himself of fear.
The law of supply and demand is the most practical which the human race in its present stage has been able to evolve. That it is not an ideal law is obvious. There are ways in which it works, and ways in which it does not. When the Christians began to act for themselves they established a community of goods, such as had obtained among the little band who gathered round our Lord. Almost at once it was given up, presumably as being too advanced for the existing world of men. I suppose we might say the same of the various systems of Socialism and Communism urged on us at the present day. However good they may be, we are not ready to put them into practice. That, I judge--without positively knowing--is the reason why certain great Christian bodies oppose both. These bodies, I assume, are not hostile to equal distribution in itself, but only to equal distribution before men are developed to a stage at which it would be wise.
But my point is independent of all men's theories, and rests simply on the fact that, whatever the law of man, God is not bound by it.
If we can believe the Old and New Testaments--which, of course, some of us do not--He has shown on many, many occasions that He is far from being bound by it. Time after time He comes to the individual's relief according to His own law. We reject these occurrences as mythical on the ground that the laws of supply and demand--and some other laws as law is understood by us--do not support them; and yet it is in the power of the individual to test the truth for himself.
That is one of the burdens of both Testaments. The individual is implored to see the only real system for the distribution of "goods" as God's. It is not expressed in that way, but that is what it comes to. God owns and disposes of everything. He has not put us into His Universe and left us to fend for ourselves. He follows us. He cares for us. Not one is forgotten or overlooked by Him. It is personal watching and brooding and defence. He is our Father, not merely for the purpose of hearing us sing hymns, and forgiving our sins when we stop committing them, but for all our aims and objects. Nothing that concerns us is so small but that His Infinite Intelligence follows it; no need of ours is so large but that His All-Ownership can meet it. "Do not two sparrows sell for a half-penny?" is our Lord's illustration on this point, "yet not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father's leave. But as for you," He reasons, in order that we may understand the infinitesimal nature of God's care, "the very hairs on your heads are all numbered. Away then with fear!"
 St Matthew.
Away then with fear, because our first and over-ruling and all-determining relationship is to Him.
In eliminating money-fears from my own life that was the fact which helped me most. I had not only to seize it intellectually, but to get what William James calls the "feeling" of it, the apprehension of it in my subconsciousness. It was like acquiring a new instinct. The Metanoia, the re-directing of my thought, was a thorough and basic change.
It meant getting up in the morning with a new conception as to why I was working and for whom. I had taken it for granted hitherto that I was working for such and such a firm, for as much money as they would pay me. As much money as they would pay me was the limit of my expectation. Beyond the law of supply and demand I had no vision; and whenever the demand fell short fear was the result.
The change in my base was in seeing that working for such and such a firm, for as much money as they would pay me, was merely incidental. It was secondary. It was not what determined my position. It was not what determined my reward. It was a small way of looking at a situation which was big. It was a small way of looking at a situation which was big, merely to confine my objective to such selling and buying as goes on in the planet called the Earth. I was working for the Master of the Universe, who had all the resources of the universe with which to pay me for what I was worth to Him.
It is this last fact, as I have hinted already, which fixes my true value. To the firm for which I am working I am worth so many dollars and cents, and if for any reason I am unable to do their work they will get someone else who can. I am not essential to them in any way, however essential they may be to me. It is my part to "keep my job," since if I don't I may find it hard to get another. If I do get another it will be on the same principle, of being paid what I can be made to work for, and not a penny more.
But in working for the Master of the Universe I am working for One to whom I am essential. My "job" could not be "swung" by anyone else, since everyone else is essential to the swinging of his own. I am not "taken on" to do what anyone else could do as well; I am positively needed for this thing and for no other thing.
The nature of "this thing" for which I am needed may be seen in the obvious duties of my situation--as regards my family, my employers, and my surroundings, which sum up my responsibilities toward men in general. No explanation of myself can be independent of men in general, since my work is for them in its final aim. If I forget them I forget God, God expressing Himself to me through men in general, as through my family and my employers in particular.
Incidentally, then, I work for men, but essentially and consciously I work for God, and look to God for my recompense.
Now God is the most generous of all paymasters. It is natural enough that He should be so. He who delights in the grace of a bird or the colour of a flower must delight in a man in proportion to a man's higher place in the creative scale. As our Lord points out, that is no more than common sense. And, delighting in us as He does, God could not possibly stint us in what we earn from Him. Merely to suppose so is to dishonour Him. A large part of His joy must be in our joy.
The simplest way in which I can express it is that in consciously trying to work with God, not man, as our employer, things happen to us which, to the best of our foresight, would not have happened otherwise. Often they seem accidental, and possibly we ascribe them to accident till the coincidences become too numerous to explain by coincidence and nothing more. It constantly happens to myself, for instance, to find the whole solution of some tangled financial problem hanging on the chance turning of my steps to someone's office, and the chance turning of the conversation to some specific observation. Chance is the explanation which comes to me first, till I reflect on the finespun chain which brought me to that particular spot and those particular words. Leading is what I see then; and seeing it once I am more confident of being led the next time. The next time, therefore, I am the less afraid, having the definite experience to support me.
There are millions of men and women to whom life brings no more than the monotony of a treadmill round, year in and year out, with a cramping of mind, spirit, and ambition, who might have been free had they measured themselves by God's standards and not by men's. It is simply the taking of a point of view, and adjusting the life to it. In doing one's work primarily for God, the fear of undue restriction is put, sooner or later, out of the question. He pays me and He pays me well. He pays me and He will not fail to pay me. He pays me not merely for the rule of thumb task which is all that men recognise, but for everything else I bring to my job in the way of industry, good intention, and cheerfulness. If the Lord loveth a cheerful giver, as St Paul says, we may depend upon it that He loveth a cheerful worker; and where we can cleave the way to His love there we find His endless generosity.
In my own case this generosity has most frequently been shown in opening doors for me where I saw nothing but blank walls. He has made favourable things happen. It may be said that they would have happened anyhow; but when they have happened on my looking to Him, and have not happened when I did not look to Him, it is only fair to draw the conclusion that He was behind the event.
It may also be urged that if there was really a God who delighted in us He would make favourable things happen to us whether we looked to Him or not. So He does. Every life, even among those who never think of Him, is full of such occurrences. Every individual gets some measure of supply for his necessities, and in many instances a liberal one. God's sun rises on the wicked as well as on the good, and His rain falls on those who do right and those who do wrong.
At the same time there is a force generated by working consciously with Him which we have to go without when we disregard Him. It is not, I suppose, that He refuses to co-operate with us, but that it is out of our power to co-operate with Him. If His is the only right way to our success and prosperity, and we are, to any extent, taking the wrong, it stands to reason that to that extent we must fail.
It is doubtless for this reason that our Lord emphasises seeking His righteousness as well as His Kingdom. His Kingdom might be roughly defined as His power; righteousness as the right way of doing anything. But you never obtain power by going the wrong way to work; whereas by working in the right way you get your result. The conclusion is obvious.
It is often objected to the point of view I have been trying to express that so much weight is thrown on material blessing. God gives spiritual rewards, it is contended, not material ones. To expect the material from Him is to make Him gross, and to become gross ourselves.
And yet those who put forth this objection are doing their utmost to secure material comforts, and to make material provision for the future. Are they doing it independently of God? Are they working in a medium into which God cannot enter? Is it argued for a single minute that "goods" are not God's good things, and that money is not their token? True, the love of money is the root of all evil. Of course--when you separate money from God, as Caucasians mostly do; not when you take money as one of the material symbols for God's love toward his sons.
As a matter of fact, we dig a gulf between the material and the spiritual which does not exist. We have seen that modern physical science is showing us how near to spirit matter comes, while it is highly probable that further research will diminish even the slight existing difference between them. Matter may really be considered as our sensuous misreading of the spiritual. That is to say, God sees one thing; our senses see another. In the wild lily cited by our Lord our senses see a thing exquisite in form and colour; and yet, relatively speaking, it is no more than a distortion of what God beholds and delights in. It is a commonplace fact that, even within the limitations of the senses, our sense-faculties perceive few things, if anything, quite accurately. Matter may therefore be considered as our wrong view of what God sees rightly. Both for Him and for us the object is there; but it is there with higher qualities than we can appreciate or understand.
The situation is not unknown among ourselves. A picture by a great master hangs on a wall. Two men look at it--the one with an expert knowledge of painting, the other with none. The untrained eye will translate into daubs of colour and meaningless forms what the skilled understanding will perceive as a masterly setting forth of beauty. So the good things--the "goods"--with which God blesses us, as well as the money which is their symbol, may be taken as having to God a meaning which they do not possess for us, but not as being outside the sphere of His interest and control.
It is the tendency to puts "goods" and money outside the sphere of His interest and control which has impelled us--and perhaps the Caucasian especially--to have one God for the spiritual and another for the material. We try to serve God and Mammon to an extent far beyond anything we are generally aware of. It is not merely the individual who is doing it; it is part of our collective, social, and national life. Our civilisation is more or less based on the principle.
It is a mistake to suppose that a formal belief in One Almighty, All-knowing, All-loving God has, to the immense majority of us, ever been more than an ideal. It is a mistake to suppose that because the false god is no longer erected before us in silver or stone he is no longer served. The world has never outgrown idolatry, the so-called Christian world no more than any other. "Dear children," are the words with which St. John closes one of his epistles, "guard yourselves from idols." He at least did not think that the idol had been forsaken because the use of his name was given up.
We may define as a god any force to which we ascribe a supreme and controlling power in our lives. It is of little consequence whether or not we give it name and personality, so long as that force rules us. So long, too, as it wields a power which the One God does not, so long as we make the false god greater than the true, and more influential.
This is no mere figure of speech; it is fact. We have never guarded ourselves from idols. We have never done more toward recognising the Father than the putting Him in the pantheon with our other gods. Even though we have inscribed the whole pantheon with His name, the other gods have been in it.
I have said that our whole collective life is based on the principle of one God for the soul and another for the body; and so it is. In what we call our temporal life God gets only a formal recognition, while Mammon is the referee. Beyond the controlling power of money we have no vision, and we see no laws. The sphere of material productivity being one in which, according to our foregone conclusion, God does not operate, we have to make the controlling power of money our only practical standard. It has its laws--chiefly the laws of supply and demand--within whose working we human beings are caught like flies in spider-webs. Though we struggle, and know we are struggling, we take it for granted that there is nothing to do but struggle, and struggle vainly. We take it for granted that we are born into a vast industrial spider-web, whence there is no possibility of getting out, and in which we can only churn our spirits rebelliously. In proportion as God is a God of love, Mammon is a god of torture; but such is our supineness of spiritual energy that we go on serving Mammon.
But I am writing only for the individual. I am trying to suggest to him that however much his race, his nation, his society, may serve Mammon, he is free to renounce the idol and escape the idol's laws. Escaping the idol's laws he comes within the realm of God's laws; and coming within the realm of God's laws he reaches the region of plenty.
He may be the poorest and most ill-paid labourer; but God will recognise his industry not in proportion to its technical skill, but according to the spiritual excellence which goes into it. Technical skill depends largely on the right man finding the right job; but as our world is organised at present the right man, more often than not, is put into the wrong job and has to do his best with it. God sees and estimates that best; and as surely as He makes His sun to rise and His rain to fall will give it its just compensation.
Our industrial questions are primarily spiritual. That is why they can never be settled on a purely economic basis, and why every attempt to settle them on a purely economic basis leads to conditions more confused than those from which we have emerged. The so-called purely economic basis is the basis where only Mammon's laws are considered, and God's are held to be impractical.
Quite so! But even then the individual is free. Working with God he is always master of the situation as it affects him.
The problem of Capital and Labour, for example, has, in one form or another, been before the world for thousands of years. The more acute it becomes the further we are from a solution, and were never so far from a solution as we are to-day. Poverty, again, is the canker at the heart of both Church and State, and has been so in every stage of our civilisation. In 1921 it is no more under control than it was in the days of Charlemagne or Attila or Xerxes. Charitable efforts to relieve it have proved as effective as tickling with a feather to cure disease. Or again, high prices and low wages, high wages creating high prices, resented conditions leading to strikes, strikes bringing confusion to both wages and prices alike--these things perplex the most clear-sighted among us, compelling us to wonder as to what new troubles we are heaping up. Or again, taxes crippling incomes and gnawing at the heart of industry vex us each year with a sense of the futility of all man's efforts for the common good, and the uselessness of our energies. These difficulties, with many kindred ones, are the working of the laws of Mammon. The case is simple. We shall never be free from the difficulties till we are free from the laws. The bondservants of Mammon will go on from misery to misery, till the will which opposes God is broken down. There is no other way. The colossal disintegration of the world now taking place before our eyes may be the beginning of this end.
But I return to the point I have emphasised already, the only point to this book. The individual can act on his own account. He does not have to wait till the race as a whole gives up the service of Mammon, or even the nation to which he belongs. He can set himself free, and enjoy the benefits of freedom.
There must be many to whom, as to myself, the kingdom of heaven will really be at hand when they are delivered from the snares and entanglements of man's economic systems. Caught in those systems, imprisoned in them, more hopelessly enmeshed the more they struggle to save themselves, the suggestion that a change in point of view will take us out of them will seem to some of us too amazing to be true.
Nothing will prove it true but a man's own experience. Mine will convince nobody; no other man's can convince me. Demonstration must be personal before we can make anything our own. But the fact remains, as sure as the surest thing we know anything about, that the law of Mammon does not work, while the law of God does work, and will work for anyone who calls it to his aid.
No one who has ever seen the early morning trains into any great city vomiting forth their hundreds of thousands of men and women, trudging more or less dispiritedly to uncongenial jobs, can have felt anything but pity for so many lives squeezed into the smallest possible limitations. Admitting cheerfulness, admitting a measure of content, and a larger measure of acceptance of what can't be helped, there still remains over these hordes the shadow of a cloud from which they know they never will escape. Clerks, factory hands, tradesmen, working men and women of every stamp and occupation, they bow to the fact that they will always work hard at tasks which are rarely their own choice, that they will always work for little money, that they will always be denied their desires for expansion; that as it was with their fathers and mothers before them, so it will be with them, and so it will be with their children after them.
With the supineness of our race most of them force themselves to be satisfied with what comes. But here and there is a rebel. Here and there is a man or a woman who feels that joyless work, and small pay, and little or nothing to look forward to, are cruel elements in life, not fair, not just, on the part of God or man. But what can they do? They are in man's economic machine. The machine turns round and they turn with it. They can do nothing else but turn with it. They see no prospect except of turning with it till they die.
It is out of such men and women that our modern world breeds revolutionists, that exalted and yet dangerous band who seek redress from the laws of Mammon by appealing to the laws of Mammon, so making confusion worse confounded.
A revolution indeed is needed; but a revolution in point of view.
Political revolution, for the sake of righting governmental abuses, has been known to produce beneficent results.
Material revolution, the attack of the poor on the rich to take away their possessions, has never achieved anything. Many a time it has been tried, and many a time it has failed. Being part of the system of Mammon it could do nothing else than fail. The evils which Mammon has wrought Mammon will never remedy. There may be instances in history of economic cures for economic ills; but I think they are few. In general such cures are of the nature of our "settlements" of strikes. They settle to-day what is again unsettled to-morrow, leaving the work to be done all over again, and so on into a far future.
The revolution in point of view has these great advantages:
First, it contains within it the seeds of success, since it is revolution toward God, the owner of the Earth and the fulness thereof; Next, it takes place within the individual himself, doing no one else any harm;
Lastly, it does not run counter to man's economic laws; it only uses and transcends them. It directs and corrects them. Working along their lines it stimulates their fruit. Letting the inner man out of the economic trap it sets him in a world in which first, and last, and before everything else, he is God's servant in God's pay. God's pay being sure, and paid in the way we need it, we no longer have money-fear to be afraid of. Money-fear being set aside we can the more easily give ourselves to the knowledge that "the Kingdom of God does not consist of eating and drinking, but of right conduct, peace, and joy, through the Holy Spirit; and whoever in this way devotedly serves Christ, God takes pleasure in him, and men commend him highly."
 Epistle to the Romans.
And lest what I have said should seem fanciful or chimerical let me add that I am not saying these things merely on my own responsibility. To my certain knowledge there are hundreds of thousands--some millions--of people throughout the world who at this very minute are living according to this principle, and proving that it works in practical effect.
Neither am I speaking theoretically, as I have tried to make plain. To a degree that convinces myself I have made the demonstration. Where my life was like a dark and crooked lane in which I might easily be lost, it has now become as an easy and open highway; where money-fear was the very air I breathed, it is now no more than a nebulous shred on a far horizon. Money-fear comes occasionally; but only as the memory of pain to a wound which you know to be healed. It comes; but, like Satan out of Heaven, I can cast it from me with a thought.