Wednesday, February 4, 2009

on the question of prayer

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What is the nature of prayer?

Prayer is a search for relationship. A request for relationship, since it has a wish behind it: a desire to discover a new relationship which can help us to understand.

Prayer arises in a man when he sees that he doesn't understand. Generally speaking, he feels helpless in the face of confusing and difficult conditions and sees his own inadequacy. So from the narrow perspective of man's consciousness, prayer is often a way of trying to get something. The difficulty for we men is that prayer becomes a prayer from ego, where we want to grasp, rather than receive. We are blind to this factor in our own nature. So we usually don't see the grasping nature of our effort.

There is, however, a much larger context to view the question of prayer from. From the moment that the quantum level resolves itself into classical reality through an act of seeing, of observation, every packet of energy, every atom, every molecule, every vibration between them, is an engaged in an act of seeking relationship. That's the nature of energy in this universe; it seeks relationship. Energy is made that way. You can argue about why it's made that way and whether there is a motive force -- a "God" -- behind it all you like. It is a fact that energy seeks relationship. And, contrary to the laws of entropy -- which don't seem to function very well in many places -- that relationship organizes.

So prayer, in the form of seeking relationship, becomes an act of searching for a way to participate in order. Hence, even deducing from the straightforward physical properties of the universe, we arrive at a place where the way in which man uses prayer makes perfect sense. He uses it because he wishes to participate in order, and he doesn't know how. So he puts himself in the position of unknowing, and offers himself to that unknowing.

What's the point of that?

Well, for as long as we presume that we know what relationship is, that we know what is possible for us, we don't bother to open ourselves to possibilities that lie outside that range. We close ourselves. The many remarkable aspects of relationship and possibility that lie beyond our understanding are close to us, because we refuse to consider them. This is so typical of mankind it hardly bears mentioning, but I mention it anyway.

In the Gurdjieff work, we speak of becoming more open. In a definite sense, this action is an action of attempting to participate in the universal act of prayer which all matter and energy is engaged in. Without being stupid about it -- without believing in subjective silliness -- we attempt to connect with the organism, relax the barriers, become intimate with our perception and our sensation, and discover what we don't know.

The ego is frightened by what it doesn't know. It wants to be in control, and it wants to feel confident. It's quite sad that it doesn't understand that not knowing can be a wonderful experience. It takes the pressure off us. Instead of presuming that we are military commanders in charge of a vast operation which will succeed or fail based on our own efforts and intelligence alone, we discover that we are fragile, delicate creatures participating in a dance that spans the Cosmos.

That may sound sentimental and romantic, but there is nothing sentimental or romantic about it. This dance is not a dance to make nice. It is a struggle to create. There is a great deal of mercy, and love, and wonder in that struggle-- an infinite amount, in fact -- but that mercy, love, and wonder are exercised at levels much higher than ours, and in manners that we cannot hope to understand. Our perspective is too narrow.

Prayer, for us, assumes a more pointed role. In the structure of the cosmos, it is an inherent property. Its very inherency renders it passive and automatic. This serves, in the same way that so much of the universe is built to serve automatically and mechanically.

Once one reaches the level of consciousness, however, our level --this emergent property of matter which contains self-awareness-- a different set of responsibilities arise. Both the perception of and participation in prayer need to become more conscious. We can no longer just pray for the stuff we want, or salvation from trials. And we can no longer pray like an automaton, presuming that chanting a set of words will advance our inner cause. Prayer must become, instead, an effort that leads us to understanding.

Prayer becomes a matter of information. That is to say, it becomes an investigation that helps us to form something inwardly. This idea of information as something inwardly formed becomes quite important in the work. Every single event and circumstance we counter -- all of which are, according to this perspective, prayer -- is meant to help us form something inwardly. The act of relationship is meant to help us form something inwardly.

If we just let everything happen to us willy-nilly, and are passive as that goes on, very little is formed inwardly. If, however, we are more active in relationship to the prayer that takes place all around us constantly, if we form our own prayer in relation to it, then something begins to form inwardly that receives this impression of prayer at a deeper level.

That can serve as a point for the beginning of transformation.

May our hearts be opened, and our prayers be heard.

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