THE LOST SCIENCE OF PRAYER
From Gregg Braden’s “The Isaiah Effect”
For years, research into the ancient traditions has hinted at wisdom forgotten in Western societies. Lost after the time of Christ, the teachings of mystery schools, sacred orders, and esoteric sects all pointed to a lineage of wisdom lost approximately 1700 years ago. Perhaps the clearest evidence of these traditions is found today among the records of the mysterious communities – the ancient Essenes. One of the ancient manuscripts of the Nazirines, a sect of the ancient Essenes, stated that pockets of information had been strategically hidden by the Essenes during the first century A.D., to preserve the wisdom for future generations. Among the places clearly mentioned as a repository of such texts were the remote monasteries and nunneries of Tibet.
Persistent references to the Essenes eventually led Gregg Braden to a series of journeys in search of direct, tangible evidence of their teachings and their relevance in our world today. In April 1998, he facilitated a pilgrimage into the highlands of Tibet in search of such traditions. The purpose of the pilgrimage was to witness, experience, and document living practices of an ‘inner technology of prayer’ that was lost to the West nearly two millennia ago.
The key to such wisdom is to find records accurate enough, held by a people long enough to remain virtually intact and undistorted today. If there really were such a place, if it still exists today, Tibet would be a good place to begin. Isolated as Tibet has been from the rest of the world until 1980, many of the teachings and records have remained precisely where they were placed centuries ago. Tucked away high upon the “roof of the world”, in monasteries and nunneries 1500 years old, the wisdom of the ancient Essene lineage should remain preserved as the rituals and customs of the people living there.
Secret of the Prayer
When Gregg Braden asked the abbot of the monastery, “When we see the chants and mantras on the outside, what is happening with the person praying, on the inside?”, the abbot replied, “The outward motion that you see are movements and sounds that are useful in achieving the feeling. The object of each prayer is to achieve a feeling.”
The Abbot’s Message
“If there is one message that you could share with the people of the earth” -- Gregg Braden asked -- “what would you like for us to carry to the world outside of Tibet on your behalf?”
“Each time we pray individually”, the abbot said, “we must feel our prayer. When we pray, we feel on behalf of all beings, everywhere. We are all connected. We are all expressions of one life. No matter where we are, our prayers are heard by all. We are all -- the same one.”
“Peace is of the greatest importance in our world today,” he continued. “In the absence of peace, we lose what we have gained. In the presence of peace, all things are possible: love, compassion, and forgiveness. Peace is the source of all things. I would ask the people of the world to find peace in themselves, so that their peace may be mirrored in the world.”
The answers that the abbot shared were the same concepts, in some instances nearly the same words, as were recovered from the Dead Sea texts of the Essenes, written over 2,500 years ago! The Essene Gospel of Peace, for example, begins with the statement, “Peace is the key to all knowledge, all mystery, and all life.”
The Language of Prayer
Ancient traditions suggest that the effect of prayer comes from something other than the words of the prayers themselves. After the biblical edits of the fourth century, the language of prayer gradually faded from the traditions of the West, leaving only the words behind. Many began to believe that the power of prayer lived in the spoken word alone. Revelations from the pre-fourth-century texts, however, remind us that the secret of prayer lies beyond the words. Through texts such as the Dead Sea Scrolls, we are invited to live the intent of our prayers in our lives, for if the words are “spoken only with the mouth, they are as a dead hive…which gives no more honey.”
The power of prayer is found in the feeling that the prayer’s words evoke within us. Feeling is the prayer! In its purest form, prayer has no outward expression. Though we may speak a prescribed sequence of words handed down for generations, they must generate a feeling within us in order to touch the world around us. We experience on the outside what we have become (feel) the inside.
To change the conditions of our outer world, we are invited to actually become (feel) the conditions of our desire from within. When we do so, the new conditions are ‘mirrored’ in the world around us. To bring peace to this world, we must first ‘become’ that very peace: it must occur in our thoughts, feelings, and bodies.
What is the difference between ‘emotion’ and ‘feeling’?
Some dictionaries consider the two words nearly interchangeable, using each one to define the other. The ancients recognized a distinction between them. The Essenes made clear distinctions among emotion, thought, and feeling. While closely related, thought and emotion must first be considered independently, and then merged into a union of feeling that becomes the ‘silent language of creation’. These are the keys of the lost mode of prayer.
Emotion may be considered the source of power (energy) that drives us forward toward our goals in life. It is through the energy of our emotion that we fuel our thoughts. In itself, however, the energy of emotion may be scattered and without direction. It is in the presence of thought that the energy of our emotion is given direction.
Ancient traditions suggest that we are capable of two primary emotions: love (desire) – what we would like to happen and fear -- what we don’t want to happen.
(According to Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary:
- love is attraction based on desire; enthusiasm;
- to love is to feel passion; to desire;
- desire stresses the strength of emotion and often implies strong intention; conscious impulse toward something that promises enjoyment or satisfaction in its attainment.)
Thought may be considered the guidance system that directs our emotion. It is the image created by our thought that determines where our emotion and attention are directed. Thought is very closely associated with imagination. Thought is “seeing” in our mind of possible outcomes.
In itself thought alone has little energy; it is only a possibility with no energy to give it life. In the absence of emotion, there is no power to make our thoughts reality. It is our thoughts in the absence of emotion that allow us to model and simulate the possibilities of life harmlessly, without creating chaos in our lives. It is only through our emotions of love (desire) or fear that we “breathe life” into the creations of our imagination. Without the emotional power to fuel our thought, it may exist indefinitely as a possibility (potentiality) in our mind. The potential of thought, in the absence of the energy of the emotion to fuel our thought, is known as a wish. For our thought to become empowered, we must give it emotional energy. Perhaps this is the answer to why our prayers sometimes appear to go unanswered. In the absence of the emotional power to bring our prayers to life, they may exist indefinitely as potential: well-intentioned wishes. It is our emotion that empowers our wish.
Feeling represents the union of the thought and emotion. When we feel, we are experiencing the desire of our emotion merged with the imagination of our thoughts. Feeling is the key to prayer, as it is our feeling to which creation responds. To have a feeling, by definition we must first have both a thought and an emotion.
We may choose love (desire) or fear as the emotion that fuels our thought. More often than not our perceived need for anything is based in fear. When we say “I need more”, “there is not enough”, or “we are running out of”, fear is generally the emotion driving such statements. When we merge the emotion of fear into the thought of ‘not enough’ what is the feeling that we get? For example, what does it feel like when you think that you have no money and your emotion is one of fear?
We choose the conditions of our lives through our feelings, the invisible union of our thoughts and emotions. As we imagine an outcome in our mind and become aware of the emotion (desire or fear) that is fueling our imagination, our feeling is created. When we ‘don’t want’ something – an emotion based in fear – our fear actually fuels what we claim not to want. To understand what we have created, we are invited to simply look at the world around us.
The Lost Mode of Prayer
The secret of the lost mode of prayer is to shift our perspective of life by feeling that the ‘miracle’ has already happened and our prayers have been answered. Now we have the opportunity to bring this wisdom into our lives as prayers of gratitude for what already exists, rather than asking for our prayers to be answered. The secret is that when we ask for something, we acknowledge that we do not have. Continuing to ask only gives power to what has never came to pass.
For example, in asking for peace to be present, we may unknowingly be acknowledging the lack of peace in our world, perhaps inadvertently reinforcing what may be viewed as a state of non-peace. From the perspective of the lost mode of prayer, we are invited to create peace in our world through the feeling of peace in our body.
We must first have the feeling of what we wish to experience. This is how we ‘plant the seeds’ of a new way. From that point forward, our prayer becomes a prayer of thanks for the opportunity to choose which creation we experience. (The “soup of creation” exists as a state of all possibilities. All of the components for all of the things that we could ever conceive of already exist as this state of all possibilities.) All possibilities have already been created and are already present. We are invited to choose which possibility we identify with, and live as if it has already occurred. Choosing an outcome through prayer does not guarantee that it will come to pass; our prayer simply opens the door to the possibility of that outcome.
Once we have created the image of our desire in our mind and felt the feeling of our desire fulfilled within our heart (body), it has already happened! Though the intent of our prayer may not have appeared in full view of our immediate senses, we assume that it is so. The secret of the lost mode of prayer is acknowledging that when we feel, the effect of our feelings has occurred upon some level of our existence.
Our prayer, then, originates from a very different perspective. Rather than asking that the outcome of our prayer come to pass, we acknowledge our role as an active participant in the creation of our experience and give thanks for what we have chosen to experience. Whether we see immediate results or not, our thanks acknowledge that somewhere in creation our prayer has already been fulfilled. Now our prayer becomes an affirmative prayer of thanks, fueling our creation, allowing it to blossom into its greatest potential.
Through their writings we know that the ancient Essenes believed that we commune with our world through our perceptions and senses. Every thought, emotion, feeling, or movement, or combination of any of these, was considered to be an expression of prayer. From the Essene perspective, as we sense, perceive, and express ourselves throughout our day, we are in constant prayer. If prayer is, in fact, the ‘language’ through which we choose the outcomes and possibilities of life, in a very real sense each moment may be considered as a prayer; in each moment of our waking and sleeping lives, we are continuously thinking, feeling, and emoting, and, therefore, contributing to the outcome of our world. Sometimes our contributions are direct and intentional, while at other times we may be participating indirectly, without even knowing of our contribution.
The key to choosing one outcome from among many possible outcomes is our ability to feel ‘as if’ our choice has already come to pass; we are invited to find the quality of thought and emotion that produces such a feeling, and live as if our prayer had already been answered.