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Boris Sidis, Ph.D., M.D.




        While health cannot be separated from disease by a sharp line, the two are relative and fluctuating. Still, on the whole, the two can be differentiated by the criterion of hurt and dissolution. Any process or state conducive to hurt, and tending to dissolution of the organism may be regarded as pathological or abnormal. The same criterion should be applied, when differentiating the healthy, normal states of instincts and emotions from abnormal and morbid states of instinctive and emotional activities. Those states that further life activities are healthy, normal; those that hinder life are morbid.

        The same holds true of the fear instinct. Every form of fear which, instead of helping or furthering vigor of life, instead of stimulating living energy, instead of being a protection, becomes a hindrance, a menace to the organism, is accompanied with suffering and distress, and ultimately leads to destruction, should be regarded as essentially morbid.

        The following are the chief characteristics of morbid instinctive and emotional states:

I. When they are disproportionate to the cause.

II. When they are chronic.

III. When their feeling-tone is painful, distressing.

IV. When they are non-adaptive to the stimulations.

V. When the reactions are not adjusted to the external environment.

VI. When they are uncontrollable.

VII. When coming in recurrent or periodic attacks.

VIII. When the physical and mental reactions are of great intensity.

IX. When they are dissociative.

X. When they lead to dissolution.

        Fear is not a matter of belief. To regard fear as a form of belief, is fallacious, dangerous, and suicidal. It is as dangerous as to consider smallpox and cholera the result of faith. We must never forget that fear is one of the most fundamental of animal instincts having its roots deep down in animal life existence. To ignore this fact is suicidal.

        According to the great anthropologist, Galton: "Every antelope in South Africa has to run for its life everyone or two days, and the antelope starts and gallops under the influence of a false alarm many times a day. Fear is a fundamental condition of animal existence."

        The fear instinct in its healthy normal state is a protection and defense. As Ribot puts it: "The basis of fear exists in the organism, forms part of the constitution of animals and man, and helps them to live by a defensive adaptation." In fact, we may even go to the point of affirming that the fear instinct, like all other healthy, normal instincts, is absolutely requisite in the total economy of animal and human life.

        In man, however, fear should not be at the mercy of blind animal instincts and reflexes, but should be guided and controlled by reason, by reflection, by scientific, medical measures, by scientific sanitation, by physical and mental hygiene, and by the rational cultivation and development of all human functions and faculties.

        One of the greatest Greek thinkers well puts it: "Imbeciles, fools, and the mad alone have no understanding of fear. True education, true reason, and true courage consist in the knowledge of what to fear and what not to fear."

        Mysticism, occultism, and credulity act like virulent germs, fatal to man. "Metaphysical" cults anaesthetize the intellect, put judgment into lethargic sleep from which there is no awaking. Mysticism kills the most precious essence of man's life,―the critical sense of human personality.

        Occultism, mysticism, et id genus omne declare that "fear is a false belief, an error of the mortal mind." Mystics claim the "unreality" of the material fear instinct of which they are in "reality" in "mortal" terror. This zealous negation of fear is its strongest affirmation.

        As a matter of fact, fear is one of the most stern realities of life. The neurotic in denying disease, evil, and fear is like the proverbial ostrich which on perceiving danger hides its head in the sand. The "Love" of mysticism is the Fear of death.


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