Today, I received a post from a friend,Larry, telling of giving up on prayer as he trudged through the jungles of Viet Nam in the midst of a pointless war. Lately, he developed a brain tumor and received multiple prayers from Earthtribers. His experience of being immersed in prayerful eco-fields has him reconsidering the validity of prayers since he has been deeply touched through a mysterious energy generated through a tribal practice of prayer. A healing energy, I suppose.
I know what he means, this reconsideration in the midst of a serious illness. Judith, my life partner, was diagnosed with breast cancer in March of this year, and now both of us are swimming our way through chaos toward coherence, a coherence of greater wholeness. Prayer seems to be integral to our splashing with purpose. The experience of having many of you pray regularly for me and Judith has me rethinking prayer. Earlier in this blog I wrote of rethinking thinking as a return of humans to the cycle of life, so here I am doing that very thing with a focus on prayer. It may take several posts, so off we go.
Me And Prayer: A Very Short History
Me and prayer, we go back a ways. The first prayer I recall was as an eight-year-old. I was hiking in a red rock canyon near my home on a late August afternoon. A brief summer thunder shower had come and gone, leaving behind the pungent greetings of a juniper forest. Suddenly, I was more alive. Even, now I can smell the crisp olfactory greeting of that canyon. I responded with giggles and wonder. In retrospect it seems like prayer to me.
Then, in my twenties, I momentarily abandoned my nature-base and practiced arduously Christian mysticism and its various forms of prayer. God was over there, and I was linked to the Divine through a Living Christ, who also was over there most of the time. But not all of the time. Sometimes, there seemed a presence, a very present help. In this model of prayer, I reached out through petition, confession,intercession, and gratitude. All human centered activity.
After a while emotional tangles surfaced that would not yield to that variety of mystic prayer and meditation, so I took a long hiatus from prayer, unless you consider profound encounters in psychotherapy (both as a provider and receiver) as sacred connection and, therefore, a form of prayer. Maybe so. In any case I stopped using the term altogether. It seemed an embarrassment to my post-modern sensitivities. Or maybe I was just angry with God because She/He didn’t seem to help with emotional contractions. The god of Western Civilization and mainline Abrahamic religions seemed mostly interested in repression, even of the sublime. It didn’t occur to me that there was a sacred presence in face-to-face therapy since the psychology of that era was allergic to the spiritual.
Inipi: Place of Spirit And Prayer
Then, in a return to ancient tribal practices, I sat on the ground around hot stones and allowed the sweat of my body to roll off, and, to my surprise, that act seemed to link me to something greater. At first we in the Earthribe practiced these ancient ways as a very hot form of group therapy. The intense heat cut through the B.S. But soon our utterances went far beyond our own psychological conditions. We found ourselves crying out in joy and gratitude as well as suffering and pain. The heat, the burning herbs, the glowing rocks, the fire, and the grass on our bare feet seemed to awaken a language beneath our usual rational expressions. Later, I would call this ceremony an experience of praying in the mother tongue, those utterances beneath the abstractions of modern languages.
Circles of Fasting and Prayer
Like many humans over the last 200,000 years, our return to the life cycle pulled us in the Earthtribe to sit in wilderness circles, fasting and crying for a vision over a 24 hour period. After a while, some intrepids fasted even longer. To my great surprise, visions appeared, songs were gifted, healings happened, traumas resolved, and creatures came bearing gifts and messages. Could it be, I asked myself, that my earlier versions of prayer were limited to sending messages outward? Could it be that prayer is actually a two-way conversation, a give-and-take, or a dialogue within creation?
If so, with whom or what?
To me, a process was developing, a relationship with the immediate environment that seemed to mediate an energetic presence. And the language of that presence was not transmitted through usual mainline rationality or common sense or abstract mysticism or even meditation toward emptiness. It all seemed like one piece of cloth to me, this intimate exchange. Something or someone was reaching out to me through an intimate environment. It wasn’t just a narcissistic exercise, and I was surprised by joy and, even happiness. Moments of ecstasy emerged from a sometimes realization that the universe was not a machine with a deity settled in some far-off place. The Universe–and the web of eco-fields where I happened to be—was alive, interactive, and brimming with intelligent exchanges I might well call prayer.
The Inner Scientist Wants In The Circle
In addition to being a psychologist, my hobby of quantum physics had by this time taken a more formal direction in inquiry and graduate research. It soon became clear that I had to find a way to include the inner scientist in the conversation. If not, I would continue with civilization’s split between spiritual experience and scientific thought. There had to be a way because these conversations—prayers if you will– in the mother tongue were moving me toward greater and greater wholeness. As I talked with clients and students, I discovered that all of us have introjected an inner scientist/skeptic whether we are aware of it or not. These inner scientists are crucial players because they can put the kibosh on interactions I was thinking of as prayer. Plus, I knew I needed an inner scientist to balance out the wild-hearted, shamanic practitioner. In daily practice I was benefitting from the confluence of 21st Century science and ancient wisdom. In fact, the motion of that meeting place itself is a form of prayer.
The Quantum World As Prayer Context
As I probed 21st Century science, I found that there is compelling support for a cosmic map of an underlying reality, an implicate order, out of which all our perceived reality emerges. In quantum physics there is, according to physicists Amit Goswami, David Bohm, and Ilya Prigogine, a science based on the primacy of consciousness. We are aspects of that consciousness, is the daring proposal of newer scientists. All the world of experience, including all the creatures around us, are manifestations of this underlying and overreaching consciousness.
See what I mean: I am discovering a new way of thinking. The quantum way, and what I am experiencing might be called quantum prayer.
Quantum Fields, Information Exchange, and Prayer
Wholistic Consciousness employs an intermediary of a system or web of fields to link in such a way that everything is connected to all else within the Universe, called quantum entanglement by scientists. The technical definition of a field is a region of non-material influence, such as the gravitational, the electromagnetic, and strong and weak nuclear fields. Let’s see briefly how this notion relates to prayer.
Imagine for a moment that an underlying consciousness—what Bohm calls the implicate order—sends forth wave after wave of pulsations through the fields eventuating in the common sense world, including ourselves. As I said in my last post, this common sense world appears to be fixed and solid, but under further scientific scrutiny there is widespread motion wherein pulsating waves birth particles that in turn make up the domain of matter.
Tiny sub-atomic particles come into being as steep waves collapse under certain conditions such as human, experimental awareness. Quantum scientists have convincingly demonstrated the sensitivity of the wave/particle continuum to human awareness. As such there is now a consistent quantum proposal that the wave/particle dance demonstrates an interactive awareness/sensitivity to humans and, perhaps, many aspects of creation.
Do you see where I am going here? The Universe is fundamentally interactive awareness wherein there is constant exchange of information. Such a proposal sets the table for what I am calling quantum prayer.
In a series of well-known experiments, Alain Aspect, a French physicist, provided strong evidence that a quantum event at one location can interact with another event without any known mechanism for communication between the two locations. A photon that has been split(through a beam splitter) has an affinity of interactive information with its twin if that twin is in the next room or across a galaxy.
Simply expressed, there are information exchanges between tiny particles across space and time. You and I are—don’t forget—made up of waves-becoming particles, becoming molecules, becoming cells, becoming organs, and so on.
I am not reducing all prayer to quantum exchanges of information, but I do find it quite helpful to note that a shift in my consciousness(since I am, among other identities, a field of photons) links with and sends information through the fields that has the potential to influence particles, molecules, cells, organs, people, societies, nations, solar systems, and distant galaxies. It now appears that the butterfly effect closely describes the actual quantum domain. It is not just new age jargon.
Revisiting An Eight Year Old
So the circle closes, and I return to the wisdom of an eight-year old. The juniper forest and the passing thunder storm sent packets of information to me in the form of soul-stirring sights and smells. I responded with a sense of wonder, awe, and laughter. It was as if the locale was calling me to something greater. And, as best I could, I said,”Here am I send me.” In a time of trouble this seems like a path through chaos and disorder.
“…the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started
and know the place for the first time.” T.S. Eliot
Let’s take this conversation on quantum prayer to the next level when next we meet.