Saturday, 11 February 2012

Towards a theology of prayer

I am currently reading the excellent A Book of Pagan Prayer by Ceisiwr Serith.

The prayers in it are wonderful, and I shall certainly be using them for my own spiritual practice. I'd like to thank Ceisiwr for reclaiming prayer as a Pagan spiritual practice.

However, I am somewhat uncomfortable with the theology of prayer expressed in the opening chapters. To me, the deities are fluid, changeable, and not necessarily real. I tried to regard them as real and it only led to heartbreak and craziness.

Spirits of place are real, because our interactions with place are real. Mythagos appear and disappear as mind interacts with the land. (A mythago is an entity that emerges from the interaction of psyche and landscape; the word was coined by Robert Holdstock.)

So, my theology of prayer is that when we pray, we are communing with our innermost depths, which connect with the Divine within us. Such prayer can be wordless, or involve very few words; it may focus on an image, or the land itself. It moves beyond desire on the part of either the Divine or the one who prays, to a communion between the two. When we pray for other people, we hold them in our minds in a loving way, focusing on the idea that we all "live, move and have our being" within the Divine (this was originally a pagan concept). So we commune with them at the level below individual personality, in the collective unconscious.

As the Divine has many forms and faces, I think Pagan prayer can remind us of this, and also of the sacredness of the Earth, and the immanence of the Divine in the world. The only God I really believe in is the NeoPlatonic Divine source, which is manifest as the universe itself, Deus sive Natura - Spinoza's God. And then I perceive it as feminine, i.e. the Goddess. I like the idea of a deity that both includes and transcends all genders -- but I respond most to Goddess-talk.

I think contemporary Pagan spirituality would be deepened if Pagans started to pray; and if we extended our understanding of prayer beyond petitionary prayer (which has always been dismissed by Pagans as "passive magic" - and rightly so, in my opinion) towards contemplative prayer - which is losing the ego in contemplation of the beauty of the Divine.

No comments: