Generally I think that the first level of fears are concerned with the part of us which is in nature, the unconscious impulses that Freud talks about. And I think that there is a fear that if one lets go of rational control, surrenders that, one will be animal-like in the sense of antisocial impulses. I think that’s the first fear – that there are things in oneself that are ugly, untenable, unsociable and so on. That’s part of the fear, part of one’s own animal. The fear is the loss of the separate entity, the loss of one’s individuality, the loss of one’s identity, the psychological dying, the loss of the experiencer or the knower. That’s part of what that fear is.

Fear is perhaps a frontward or a front emotional reaction for man’s lack of readiness to deal with the higher energy states and higher input and output that is connected with these other states of consciousness. The fear is a protective mechanism in the sense that he experiences a kind of free-floating anxiety or ambiguous fear about it. And that keeps him from getting too close to it. He isn’t ready, or able to get close to it because he can’t do the necessary things to be able to live in those state of consciousness without doing destructive things to himself. He’s not pure enough.

I think fear is a result of impurity. And impurity means, thoughts that define oneself in a “profane” sense, that is, thoughts which define oneself as separate. As long as you are attached to those thought forms, you are going to fear, because it involves the extinction of that separate being, that separate conceptual entity. In my experience through guiding people through LSD experiences, there is the fear that many people experience as this chemical transformation that occurs in their bodies which leads them to the breakdown of all existing models that they had about how the universe works. As that happens there are many people who experience intense fear, which makes them want to hold onto the structure they had. And they could say, “I am afraid, I am going insane,” meaning I am going into another space that I don’t have any control over on this level. In general I would say, “Well, groovy, let’s go insane together. Here we go.” In other words, it is my feeling that the only thing you have to fear is fear, in that sense that to the extent that you have enough faith or trust to let it happen, you always go through the next one and the next one and the next one.

In the Tibetan literature they say, “Embrace your ten thousand horrible demons and your ten thousand beautiful demons.” You’ve just got to take it all and keep going. All your fears have to be embraced, entertained, honored, and you go on with them.

There is a qualitative difference in my life now, in that I do not experience a fear of death as a real fear when I get into situations where death seems a real possibility, or violence, or something like that. I don’t have any of the usual or earlier kinds of reactions of anxiety or fear and yet I do what is adaptive to protect the temple or body I’m working with. But I don’t do it out of fear, because the fear of death seems somehow to have flown the coop somewhere along the way in this game. It certainly changes the nature of my living experience every day because each day can be whatever it is, and it’s all alright.


-Ram Dass, 1970


Image Credit: Alex Grey