Originally I intended to finish my post about the “Our father” prayer, which, at first sight, can seem to be only a bunch of things asked from an omnipotent, antropomorph guardian, God, by some weak human. However, if you don’t take the words literally, they can be a somewhat wise couple of sentences aiming to help us. Since this is also a topic that theosophy discusses, and it does it in a far sophisticated way that I could, instead of talking about prayers by myself, I decided to quote this from The key to theosophy.
IS IT NECESSARY TO PRAY?
ENQUIRER. Do you believe in prayer, and do you ever pray?
THEOSOPHIST. We do not. We act, instead of talking.
ENQUIRER. You do not offer prayers even to the Absolute Principle?
THEOSOPHIST. Why should we? Being well-occupied people, we can hardly afford to lose time in addressing verbal prayers to a pure abstraction. The Unknowable is capable of relations only in its parts to each other, but is non-existent as regards any finite relations. The visible universe depends for its existence and phenomena on its mutually acting forms and their laws, not on prayer or prayers.
ENQUIRER. Do you not believe at all in the efficacy of prayer?
THEOSOPHIST. Not in prayer taught in so many words and repeated externally, if by prayer you mean the outward petition to an unknown God as the addressee, which was inaugurated by the Jews and popularised by the Pharisees.
ENQUIRER. Is there any other kind of prayer?
THEOSOPHIST. Most decidedly; we call it WILL-PRAYER, and it is rather an internal command than a petition.
ENQUIRER. To whom, then, do you pray when you do so?
THEOSOPHIST. To “our Father in heaven” — in its esoteric meaning.
ENQUIRER. Is that different from the one given to it in theology?
THEOSOPHIST. Entirely so. An Occultist or a Theosophist addresses his prayer to his Father which is in secret (read, and try to understand, ch. vi. v. 6, Matthew), not to an extra-cosmic and therefore finite God; and that “Father” is in man himself.
ENQUIRER. Then you make of man a God?
THEOSOPHIST. Please say “God” and not a God. In our sense, the inner man is the only God we can have cognizance of. And how can this be otherwise? Grant us our postulate that God is a universally diffused, infinite principle, and how can man alone escape from being soaked through by, andin, the Deity? We call our “Father in heaven” that deific essence of which we are cognizant within us, in our heart and spiritual consciousness, and which has nothing to do with the anthropomorphic conception we may form of it in our physical brain or its fancy: “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the spirit of (the absolute) God dwelleth in you?” (3) Yet, let no man anthropomorphise that essence in us. Let no Theosophist, if he would hold to divine, not human truth, say that this “God in secret” listens to, or is distinct from, either finite man or the infinite essence — for all are one. Nor, as just remarked, that a prayer is a petition. It is a mystery rather; an occult process by which finite and conditioned thoughts and desires, unable to be assimilated by the absolute spirit which is unconditioned, are translated into spiritual wills and the will; such process being called “spiritual transmutation.” The intensity of our ardent aspirations changes prayer into the “philosopher’s stone,” or that which transmutes lead into pure gold. The only homogeneous essence, our “will-prayer” becomes the active or creative force, producing effects according to our desire.
ENQUIRER. Do you mean to say that prayer is an occult process bringing about physical results?
THEOSOPHIST. I do. Will-Power becomes a living power. But woe unto those Occultists and Theosophists, who, instead of crushing out the desires of the lower personal ego or physical man, and saying, addressing their Higher Spiritual EGO immersed in Atma-Buddhic light, “Thy will be done, not mine,” etc., send up waves of will-power for selfish or unholy purposes! For this is black magic, abomination, and spiritual sorcery. Unfortunately, all this is the favourite occupation of our Christian statesmen and generals, especially when the latter are sending two armies to murder each other. Both indulge before action in a bit of such sorcery, by offering respectively prayers to the same God of Hosts, each entreating his help to cut its enemies’ throats.
ENQUIRER. David prayed to the Lord of Hosts to help him smite the Philistines and slay the Syrians and the Moabites, and “the Lord preserved David whithersoever he went.” In that we only follow what we find in the Bible.
THEOSOPHIST. Of course you do. But since you delight in calling yourselves Christians, not Israelites or Jews, as far as we know, why do you not rather follow that which Christ says? And he distinctly commands you not to follow “them of old times,” or the Mosaic law, but bids you do as he tells you, and warns those who would kill by the sword, that they, too, will perish by the sword. Christ has given you one prayer of which you have made a lip prayer and a boast, and which none but the true Occultist understands, In it you say, in your dead-sense meaning: “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors,” which you never do. Again, he told you to love your enemies and do good to them that hate you. It is surely not the “meek prophet of Nazareth” who taught you to pray to your “Father” to slay, and give you victory over your enemies! This is why we reject what you call “prayers.”
ENQUIRER. But how do you explain the universal fact that all nations and peoples have prayed to, and worshipped a God or Gods? Some have adored and propitiated devils and harmful spirits, but this only proves the universality of the belief in the efficacy of prayer.
THEOSOPHIST. It is explained by that other fact that prayer has several other meanings besides that given it by the Christians. It means not only a pleading or petition, but meant, in days of old, far more an invocation and incantation. The mantra, or the rhythmically chanted prayer of the Hindus, has precisely such a meaning, as the Brahmins hold themselves higher than the common devas or “Gods.” A prayer may be an appeal or an incantation for malediction, and a curse (as in the case of two armies praying simultaneously for mutual destruction) as much as for blessing. And as the great majority of people are intensely selfish, and pray only for themselves, asking to be given their “daily bread” instead of working for it, and begging God not to lead them “into temptation” but to deliver them (the memorialists only) from evil, the result is, that prayer, as now understood, is doubly pernicious: (a) It kills in man self-reliance; (b) It develops in him a still more ferocious selfishness and egotism than he is already endowed with by nature. I repeat, that we believe in “communion” and simultaneous action in unison with our “Father in secret”; and in rare moments of ecstatic bliss, in the mingling of our higher soul with the universal essence, attracted as it is towards its origin and centre, a state, called during life Samadhi, and after death, Nirvana. We refuse to pray to created finite beings — i. e., gods, saints, angels, etc., because we regard it as idolatry. We cannot pray to the ABSOLUTE for reasons explained before; therefore, we try to replace fruitless and useless prayer by meritorious and good-producing actions.
ENQUIRER. Christians would call it pride and blasphemy. Are they wrong?
THEOSOPHIST. Entirely so. It is they, on the contrary, who show Satanic pride in their belief that the Absolute or the Infinite, even if there was such a thing as the possibility of any relation between the unconditioned and the conditioned — will stoop to listen to every foolish or egotistical prayer. And it is they again, who virtually blaspheme, in teaching that an Omniscient and Omnipotent God needs uttered prayers to know what he has to do! This — understood esoterically — is corroborated by both Buddha and Jesus. The one says “seek nought from the helpless Gods — pray not! but rather act; for darkness will not brighten. Ask nought from silence, for it can neither speak nor hear.” And the other — Jesus — recommends: “Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name (that of Christos) that will I do.” Of course, this quotation, if taken in its literal sense, goes against our argument. But if we accept it esoterically, with the full knowledge of the meaning of the term, “Christos,” which to us represents Atma-Buddhi-Manas, the “SELF,” it comes to this: the only God we must recognise and pray to, or rather act in unison with, is that spirit of God of which our body is the temple, and in which it dwelleth.