Knowing existence, I think, creates a sense of what I call the ‘dread of existence’. It seems to me that it gets stronger the more aware you are of existence.
I first began to use the word ‘dread’ in the late 80’s. I always felt this ‘dread’ all the time, and still do. It was so strong I spoke of it as the ‘dread illness’. Looking back on it now, it was through the ‘dread illness’ that “opened the doors”, so to speak, to the awareness of existence. This shows that there is a close association with dread and existence.
Dread manifests itself in different ways for different people and at different times. In fact, I think that dread is hidden behind many people’s emotions. Some of the feelings of dread include:
- A sense of foreboding or doom.
- A fear.
- An anxiety.
- A worry.
- An apprehension.
In all these we see a trait of ‘recoiling back’. Basically, it shows that dread is a sense of self preservation. This shows that existence has with it a sense of a need to preserve oneself. In fact, I often feel that dread is based in the sense of self preservation that is going on continually, a constant awareness toward a ‘threat’ that may appear anywhere, anytime. It is the ‘ever-watchful’ self preservation element within us. Since it is concerned with self preservation it is associated with fear and worry, which is a reaction to a possible ‘threat’. In a sense, dread is the ‘lingering’ fear and worry that hides behind the ‘ever-watchful’ self preservation element that is within us. Because its ‘lingering’ we feel a sense of this fear and worry even know there is no apparent threat.
This ‘lingering’ quality of dread helps keep us ‘on our toes’ and ready to react to any ‘threat’ that happens to appear. As a result, dread has with it the quality of ‘ever-watchfullness’. Because of this, it makes dread a critical element in awareness . . . any awareness . . . awareness of self, awareness of the world, etc. To cultivate awareness, really, is to cultivate dread.
But it takes more than a fear or worry to make dread. It is much more than that. Dread has a number of qualities that make it unique:
- A sense of mystery. I often feel that a sense of dread is often defined by a ‘mysteriousness’. Dread has with it an ‘incompleteness’, as if there’s something unknown about it.
- It hits deep within a person. True dread hits a person to the core, to ones ‘soul’. In fact, this quality gives it a serious quality and makes it more ‘just an emotion’.
- Dread places you in the world, ‘in the fact of life’. There is no escaping it. To me, there is a strong sense of being ‘there’ with it. An emotion is just something experienced. With dread you are ‘there’. It seems to place you in the world, ‘in the fact of life’.
Dread is more than an emotion. In many ways, dread seems like a ‘half emotion’. In many cases, dread feels like an emotion half felt, half there, as if incomplete. This gives dread a unique quality. This ‘incompleteness’ gives dread a quality of ‘ungraspable’ or ‘unknowableness’ – of mystery. As a result, dread is critical for developing a sense of the ‘uknowableness’ and mystery of life. This ‘unknowableness’ of life is a sense of god, the ‘beyond us’. Because of this it hits deep within us it tends to be ‘religious-like’.
I tend to feel that its self preservation qualities creates several very important qualities:
- It places one in-the-world. To ‘self preserve’ there must be a sense of the world one is being preserved in. A person must know where ones at.
- It creates a strong sense of self. To ‘self preserve’ one must feel a self to preserve.
What this shows is that self preservation is crucial for a sense of self and the world. A sense-of-self-in-the-world I call ‘beingness’. As a result, dread creates ‘beingness’. Interestingly, this means that to develop the sense of self, the world, and beingness means that a person must feel self preservation, which means they must feel ‘threat’ in life. This is why I emphasize the need for conflict and pain in life and the importance of being open to it.
Because of its self preservation quality, dread is very much rooted in the I, the me, the self as well as a sense of being-in-the-world. It is, really, an experience of beingness. Because of this, dread is very much associated with our ‘core’, our ‘soul’. This is why to know ones ‘core’ or ‘soul’ dread must be experienced. In spirituality, this is usualy part of the conflict, ‘war’, and pain that is so needed in the spiritual life.
Dreads association with self preservation, mystery, ‘unknowableness’, a sense of being-in-the-world, and ones ‘soul’ makes dread a connection between the mystery of life (or god) and our ‘soul’. This makes dread critical for spirituality. In many ways, it is dreads association with the mystery of life (god) and a persons ‘core’ (‘soul’) that makes dread more than an emotion. It also is what makes it a critical element in life, particularly the spiritual life.
Knowing existence requires a knowing of the dread. I tend to feel that dread is the foundation for which the experience of existence is based. It is, so to speak, the soil of existence, of which all else grows, including awareness, love, and the self. Dread, really, is the beginning of all this. In many ways, dread is like the dead leaves and plants in the soil that allow the new plants and trees to grow. But we must remember that the plants and trees grow from the ‘death’ of the former plants and trees. They use their ‘death’ to foster its own growth. So must we. Accordingly, a person must have a base in dread but must grow beyond and above it.
To persist in the experience of dread alone, it seems to me, is like persisting in a death. It makes a person anxious and desparing-like. It makes us gloomy and downcast and can lead to many other problems like depression and even suicide. It’s for this reason that its very important to rise above the worry, anxiousness, and fear of dread. But one shouldn’t abandon it. One must be aware of it and know it. There is a tendency to try to completely abondon and forget dread. This is because of the pain that is characteristic of it. But, as I said, it is necessary in life. It is the base for the self, beingness, and god. One cannot neglect it. As a result, dread creates a ‘dread dilemma’ in a persons life. This dilemma consists of the conflict of how one should accept, view, and perceive dread in ones life. It gets onto issues such as how we should view pain, despair, and bad in life. Much of life, philosophy, and religion, really, consist of this dilemma.
Another aspect of dread, that I’ve notice in me, is that dread is a fear of having to expend energy on something. In a way, I dread certain things (like work or things I don’t want to do) because they take a lot out of me. To me, this shows that dread is associated with the energy to live. This makes sense as losing energy is, really, death. The purpose of life is to live and to live requires energy. Losing energy feels like our self is being threatened. This ‘threat’, even though its small, is enough to initiate a sense of self preservation in us. As a result, we feel dread.
I tend to feel that to ‘love existence’ (embracing life, so to speak) a person must be aware and know the ‘dread’. This is because of the phenomena of polarity. That is, dread and love are like opposites and compliment each other as well as keep each other in balance. It seems to me that to ‘love’ requires an awareness of dread. But to dread a person does not necessarily need be be aware of ‘love’. This is because dread comes first. As I said above, dread is like the soil. ‘Love’ would be the plant or tree that is grown in the soil called dread. Like any plant or tree, it needs to be grown. If a person does not allow something to grow in the soil then nothing grows. As a result, if nothing is growing then all there is there is the soil or dread. Because ‘love’ is cultivated it comes after the dread and requires effort cultivating. As a result, ‘love’ is more of an achievement whereas dread is naturally appearing, its always there. This is one reason, I suppose, why we are often so quick to fear, despair, and worry. We must remember that if we do not cultivate the ‘garden’ (‘love’) then all there is left is the soil (‘dread’).
I’ve found that dread often creates an incredible sense of loneliness. When confronting dread one is truly alone in the world for, when we are here, we sense our self and existence – truly the ‘great loneliness’. But in this aloneness we confront ourselves and existence, not always an easy task. In many ways, it takes tremendous courage to perform this, I think.
Feeling dread fully, I think, also tends to make a person weep or cry. It can cause great ache and pain in a person. In fact, it seems to me that dread causes a natural ache and pain in a person. This is normal and should not be avoided. Unstead, it should be embraced and accepted. My feelings is that the tendency to weep or cry should be expressed. In other words, it shouldn’t be withheld or prevented. There is nothing wrong with weeping or crying if one is compelled to do it. In fact, I consider it very important. Why? Because it is a form of expression. Only in expression can the full weight of passion be felt.
I also have this tendency to think that dread, as I descrbed it, is felt primarily in the male. To this day, I have never seen it displayed in the female. My feelings are that dread is part of the male traits because it is the male who looks out and confronts nature. Even though we live in civilization humanity we are ‘designed’ to live in the wild. Because of this, we are still ‘programed’ for that. If we lived in the wild it is the male who would be the one looking out into nature, confronting it, dealing with it, and trying to live with it. He will be the one who walks out into it to hunt, look for things, and so on. He will be the one confronting the ‘horror’ and danger of nature. As a result, the male is the one that nature has endowed with the strongest sense of ‘dread’. It seems very lacking in the female.
Looking at it overall, dread seems to be a sensation created by the need to preserve oneself against the threats of life. In so doing it creates a number of strong senses:
- A sense of self.
- A sense of being-in-the-world
- A sense of mystery in life.
- An increased sense of awareness.
All these senses create a sense of ‘beingness-in-the-world’ which, therefore, are critical when trying to be aware of life and to grow in life. It shows that dread is critical for being a person in the world as well as developing as a person in that world.