Mastery of Fear:
from the Congress of Religions at the 1933-34 Chicago World’s Fair
Have you ever asked yourself, “where is the world going? what is civilization trying to accomplish? what if the actual reason for this terrific pressure of life?” If you ask these questions, you will get no answer. We know not where we go nor why. We are purposeless, drifting on the currents of impulse, laughing today and crying tomorrow, but absolutely without intent or reason. Tomorrow is only a vacuum into which we seek to shift the responsibilities of today. Tomorrow is no longer an opportunity; to most it is an impending fatality.
Tomorrow is pregnant with the reactions of yesterday. We fear tomorrow even as we regret yesterday.
Can you not realize how greatly, how desperately this modern world needs spiritual guidance? Exploited on every hand by dishonesty and selfishness, is it a wonder that man’s faith weakens under the strain of long suffering? If ever in the history of civilization we have needed an honest religion, it is now. We cannot fail this afflicted world. We must rise in new strength and with higher resolve, putting aside the small matters over which we have haggled, and rededicate our faiths and ourselves to this supreme human duty.
Fear is man’s basic weakness, and it is founded upon ignorance and oppression. Courage is the supreme strength in man and is based upon wisdom and justice.
A civilization which is established in fear will perish in fear, but a civilization which is established in the courage of conviction and upon the principles of justice will survive as long as the universe endures. All true progress points towards enlightenment. Enlightenment is the ultimate state of man and enlightenment is wisdom in action. The primitive barbarism in the human soul will ultimately be transmuted into a real and permanent civilization. Ideality must not only uphold this goal, it must point the way to the accomplishment of this end through practical example. The perfection of the race does not imply a final identity of purpose or action but rather a magnificent cooperation in purpose and action.
We look forward to the age in which all men, performing these labors most suitable and desirable to themselves, shall unite in a common admiration for all good works.
Religion must point the way in this new era, taking its stand firmly amidst the crumbling ruins of materiality. The spiritual codes of the earth must rescue the vision of the race from the obscurity which threatens it. There is no perfection of the part separate from the perfection of the whole. There is no single department of society which can function smoothly while the rest is in chaos. Man cannot be spiritually normal and at the same time physically disorganized. He must put his whole world in order in a Fellowship of Faith and a coordination of effort. Let us each according to our light, but with sincerity of purpose and honesty of heart, strive to preserve and disseminate those essential truths which are indeed the hope of the world.
“There is only one ambition that is good, and that is: so to live NOW that none may weary of life’s emptiness and none may have to do the task we leave undone.”