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Friday, January 27, 2017

The Powers Of Prayer

Thomas Merton

I do not like essays and papers. They are much too long.
I don't like sermons for similar reasons.
But we are talking of prayer...

I create a world as I live and interact in my environment.

During this time, things emerge from the interactions between myself and my environment, then between myself and my world.

Some of the emergent things are the Powers of the world.
These are the inexplicable and miraculous which we believe to be -in some sense- greater than we are.

These powers are what most of mankind prays to, expecting answers.
These powers are the statues, the icons, the idols, the images in our minds.
These powers are not illusions, and some of them are intensely miraculous.

This is an ancient quest of intelligence, and I get a hint of it in William Ellery Channing's  works:
"... Whence come the conceptions which we include under that august name {i.e., God]? Whence do we derive our knowledge of the attributes and perfections which constitute the Supreme Being? I answer, we derive them from our own souls. The divine attributes are first developed in ourselves, and thence transferred to our Creator. The idea of God, sublime and awful as it is, is the idea of our own spiritual nature, purified, and enlarged to infinity..."
But not quite.
I do not think it derived from the soul, but rather from our worlding process. And I do not believe that we somehow forge it, render it, purify it, and finally shape it in an awful symmetry, but IT emerges together with us from the I-and-Thou mutual engagement between me and environment.
IT is the new synthesis between I and my world as I grow and age.

Here are the ancient gods, those gods to whom we pray and who answer us loudly, or ignore us with cutting chasms of despair.These emergent powers still have remnants of their birth from the intimacy between ourselves and the environment, for they are each different: St. Patrick does not tread on St. Anthony's domain of lost things; Joan of Arc spoke with St. Michael the Archangel, St. Catherine, and St. Margaret...
there are many distinctions and lines of separation.

Yet there is another step which we see within the Abrahamic religions and others,  and that step is the further emergence of God totally remote, yet totally intimate. God having no attributes other than a shining of infinity where all separations have lost their seams, and the selvage of all rugs has unwound, and the privacy of individuality has grown otiose under the spell of the One.

Thomas Merton:
“In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all these people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers. It was like waking from a dream of separateness, of spurious self-isolation in a special world. . . .

This sense of liberation from an illusory difference was such a relief and such a joy to me that I almost laughed out loud. . . . I have the immense joy of being man, a member of a race in which God Himself became incarnate. As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now that I realize what we all are. And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.

We have discovered at least 4 stages:

1) the closed self,
2) the opening self, (I-and-Thou)
3) the emerging Powers,
4) the undivided One

When I pray, I am usually back at stage 3, trying to cage favors from powers with faces and bodies and haloes and what not.
But when it goes good, we shine.

And when I pray, I think of prayer as an emblem, not as words.
Prayer is my ensign's uniform that covers me in the stormy quest to my daily, weekly, yearly harbors.
I wear it on my way to report to the Officer of the Watch.


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