Sometimes people take the injunction to “pray without ceasing” to mean something like, “pray often.” This makes prayer into an activity, something we do, something that is separate from the rest of our lives. And yes, there are times when devoting ourselves to prayer, to the exclusion of all else, is appropriate. But even if you are a monk, there is a rhythm to life that includes eating, sleeping, caring for bodily needs, working, creating, interacting with others, learning, forming opinions, making decisions, resting, relaxing, entertaining or being entertained. What sense does it make to talk about praying without ceasing, if we have to cease praying to do one of these things? As long as prayer is seen as one activity in a list like this, it is impossible. So it has been suggested that prayer is more deeply a matter of being intentionally aware of the presence of God, whatever else may be going on. And this awareness has immense benefits, if we train ourselves in it. It is the secret to a peaceful existence. I said to a friend once, in a discussion about a difficult moment:
God provides a sort of a buffer between ourselves and the world, so we don’t need to calculate anything, but respond always to God, rather than react to what is around us. In this buffer zone is peace, humor, love, quietness, energy and thus we always can act from strength, whatever our weakness is. Even in the admission of weakness or failure, in that way there is still strength and ease of heart.
This requires, of course, the ability to perceive the presence of God in the immediacy of every situation. It is the intentional act of such perceiving that I would here call prayer, and to the capacity for such perception, I would assign the word: faith.
Comments are welcome.
The word for spirit in Hebrew and in Greek is the same as for breath, wind, air; and in both cases we are surrounded, immersed, in this on which we actually depend for our very existence. What makes us alive is not the spirit that surrounds us, but the spirit which enters into us and nourishes all of our inner being. It would be a completely artificial thing to somehow separate the two, as though the air in your lungs is of a different nature than the air in the room, but from within your lungs, there is a function being performed that can’t happen anywhere else.
It is in this way we can say that we are immersed in spiritual reality, but only benefit personally when the spiritual reality becomes our inmost source of being. Physically, we breathe…. inhale and exhale; and spiritually, we are continually filled with God and emptied of God.
He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all, and servant of all.”
To Another Poet
Write. Just write. Write your heart, write your soul. Write volumes and reams and write without scissors. Write blindly, without looking. Write what you feel, write what you know. And if you feel nothing, if you know nothing, then write what you see. Write, write, if you must, about me. Write, write, write. Write until you drop. Next week you can edit. Don’t stop.
I don’t know if this online friend had me in mind, or someone else —most likely someone else, she has many online friends, and not a few of them write poetry — but since she posted it in a place that she knows I read, I’ll take it as targeted in part, at least, to me. In any case, it’s good advice, and suggests something of the passion that is required for someone to undertake the foolish quest of turning the soul inside out, to reveal one’s heart to a cold and mostly unlistening world, or, more significantly, perhaps, to oneself. Continue reading
About a year and a half ago, I stood at the graveside of a near relative and tried to provide some inspired words of comfort for the gathered family and friends. At such a moment, short on sleep and feeling quite vulnerable, it pays to look to Divine inspiration rather than one’s own genius (although anyone who has admired the works of William Blake might well argue that the two are indistinguishable: a discussion for another day). Be that as it may, one of those curious things that happen from time to time occurred on this occasion also. As I spoke, groping for words, what seemed an apt image appeared before my consciousness, and without any time to analyze or filter it out, I just let the words come. I hope my readers will not be offended at the result, in which I compare the likes of you and me to, well, frogs.
What I heard myself say was that we as humans are a sort of spiritual amphibian, belonging both to time and to eternity, in more traditional terms to earth and heaven, but because of that, exclusively to neither. It is that image that I’d like to expand upon for a moment or two here. Call it a parable, or an imaginative metaphor. Let’s see where it takes us.
We live in time, and we are destined to live in eternity. Continue reading
The following tidbit from Carl McColman pretty much sums up the way I have thought about the whole eternal reward/punishment thing for years and years. It’s in the book, too: see if there is any divergence between the following comment and, say, John 3:19-21.
It’s impossible to be separated from God. Hell is not about being separated from God, it’s about choosing to resist the fire of Divine Love. Then, instead of making us incandescent, it burns. Integral consciousness recognizes that the key to heaven and hell lies within our heart. We are all predestined to spend eternity immersed in the presence of God, bearing the beams of God’s love. How we experience those beams — as heavy and burdensome, or as joyous as light — is, thanks to the free gift of grace, pretty much left up to us.
Reaching back 266 years for some timeless encouragement, this is from a German pastor in the eighteenth century.
Dearly Beloved Friend in the Grace of God,
You do well to practice prayer in your own manner. Continue on without ceasing and you cannot fail; God will make his own precious promise true for you. Pray and it will be given to you. No art is more simple and easier in the whole world than to pray incorrectly; indeed, it is no art. If we think that we cannot pray, it is a sign that we have not yet properly understood what it is to pray. Prayer is to look to the omnipresent God and to allow oneself to be seen by him. What is now easier and more simple than to turn our eyes upward and to see the light which surrounds us on all sides? God is far more present to us than the light. In him we live, we move, and we are. He penetrates us, he fills us, he is nearer to us than we are to ourselves. To believe this in simplicity and to think of this simply as well as one can, that is prayer. How can it be difficult to allow oneself to be looked after by so kind a physician who knows better what is troubling us than we ourselves know? We have no need to bring this or that, to present ourselves in this way or in that way, or to look too much, or to experience much it we wish to pray, but we need only simply and briefly to say how we are and how we wish to be; indeed, it is not even necessary that we say this, but we need only allow the ever-present good God to see. We are not to let him see only the surface but at every point we are to remain by him and before him so that he can see us correctly and heal us. We must not say anything to him or allow him to see anything other than what is in us. What will be is what he wills. If you find yourself disturbed, dark, with no spiritual experiences, simply tell God, and let him see your suffering; then you have prayed properly. Is there a natural laziness or diffidence at hand? Take heart but a little and turn again with humility to God. If one can remain awake standing better than kneeling, let one fight sleep in such a way; if one can do so better by looking in a book, this not forbidden him. In short, one must help oneself at a particular time as well as one can, so long as one does not disturb one’s chief goal by doing so, namely, prayer, but, rather, always turns oneself again to this task. Deny your own will and desires and you will pray properly and easily. For the Lord will work prayer in your soul through his grace. Remaining in weakness, your trustworthy friend.
Mulheim, December 4th, 1731
Time flies by without new posts, so here’s one just so both my fans will know I’m still here.
Not sure what to do about the accelerating pace of modern life; in thought experiments about relativity, Einstein tells us that subjective time slows dramatically the faster we go, so that when we accelerate to close to the speed of light and approach the event horizon it seems more and more like everything else is slowing down.
I don’t know about that.
Philosophickal Ruminations – Mystical Musings
Dragged from the archives just because….
Some observations, in the form of parables:
One: There is general agreement among the wise of many traditions that below the root or foundation of all that is, that which gives rise to the existence of all that is cannot be named as if it were among the elements of existence that have come into being. A shorthand way of saying this is that the name of God is unknowable, and any name used is at risk of becoming a blasphemy in short order. The Hebrews protected themselves from this danger by means of a prohibition (”thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain”) as well as the fact that both of those words, Lord and God, were descriptive titles and not meant to be names at all. The Pagans, or some of them, seem to assume a different tack: by naming or identifying a variety of gods and goddesses, they acknowledge that the Mystery that binds all into unity and gives rise to the diversity they celebrate, itself/himself/herself cannot be named.
Two: Everything in the Universe, and the Universe as a whole, is a manifestation or a revelation of the divine Reality that brings us into being and sustains us; each is in some sense a complete and definitive revelation and manifestation of the same, and wants nothing else; yet none can be said to be that Reality in fullness. That is to say, everything that can be said of God reveals some truth, yet at the same time falsifies that truth, if it is taken, shall we say, too seriously.
Posted in Integrity, Journal, My other stuff, Mysticism, Personal, Religion, Philosophy, & Spirituality
Tagged cosmology, divine reality, love, musings, Mysticism, reflections