Sunday, March 13, 2016


The word ‘prayer’ troubles me a bit. I neither believe nor disbelieve in God. The belief-disbelief spectrum forms no part of my worldview or mindset, so even agnosticism is not an option for me. Besides, the traditional concept of God is contradictory, and I reject, as totally untenable, all notions of there being some all-powerful Creator to whom we can talk and who supposedly listens to, and will answer, our prayers. So, not surprisingly, I reject all forms of theistic, petitionary prayer.

However, there are many forms of prayer including affirmations of various kinds. We all pray, in our own way--even the atheist. In the words of an old hymn, ‘Prayer is the soul’s sincere desire, uttered or unexpressed.’ Thus, if you really want good health for yourself or some other person, or world peace, that is your prayer.

Does prayer work? Well, if sincere, a prayer can change the pray-er, and if he or she changes for the better, change may occur elsewhere as well. It all begins with the individual.

Here’s a prayer of sorts that was written by Dr Annie Besant [pictured above right] in 1923. I have made very slight changes to the original wording in the interests of gender inclusiveness:

O hidden Life, vibrant in every atom;
O hidden Light, shining in every creature;
O hidden Love, embracing all in Oneness;
May all who feel themselves as one with Thee,
Know they are therefore one with every other.

What powerful words!

We start with ‘life’--the fact of existence itself. Life is everywhere. It is omnipresent. In a very profound sense, life is omnipresence itself. Is it ‘hidden’? What is hidden about life? Well, we do not really see life itself. What we see is the out-picturing—the outpouring—of life. Life takes shape in innumerable forms. What we see are living things living out their livingness from one moment to the next. However, the essence of life—the very ground of being itself—is invisible to the eye. The dynamic, creative, inexhaustible and ineffable life-principle animates and sustains all living things—including you and me—but it cannot be seen. Yet it is ‘vibrant in every atom’.

And this word ‘Light’. When life becomes visible, in the form of innumerable living things living out their livingness, it is right to describe it as ‘light’. What is hidden about light? Well, as with the word life, the real light cannot be seen. It is in the nature of pure consciousness itself. Consciousness is non-physical, immaterial, and spiritual. A spiritual substance is something which, although real, is not perceptible by the senses. We only know 'it' by its effects. We cannot see electricity, but we see the light emanating from the light bulb. This inner light shines in every creature, including you and me, and it radiates outwards in a visible manner.

‘Love’. What is love but the givingness of life to itself so as to give rise to more life. The self-givingness of life. All around us we see the effects of the self-givingness of life in action, but the self-givingness itself is invisible to the eye--hence, once again, the use of the word 'hidden'. We see the phenomenon at work everywhere, whether it is in our garden or in the maternity ward of a hospital. This love does indeed embrace all in oneness. I am not advocating monism or pantheism. When I say that life is one, I am trying to say a couple of things. First, a single logic applies to all things and how they are related to other things. Secondly, all things exist on the same order or level of reality, and on the same ‘plane’ of observability. Call it the ‘interconnectedness of all life’ or, if you like, ‘InterBeing.’ The latter wonderful term comes from the Vietnamese Buddhist monk and teacher Thich Nhat Hanh [pictured above left]. I love that word ‘Interbeing.’

The bottom line is this. There is only one life manifesting itself in all things and as all things. The one is constantly becoming or giving birth to the many, but the one is inexhaustible. It is both manifest and unmanifest. Visible and invisible. Yet it embraces all multiplicity in oneness. In the words of Alan Watts, 'Every individual is an expression of the whole realm of Nature, a unique action of the total Universe.' And not just every individual, but every thing in existence.

The ‘Thee’ referred to in the invocation is not in the nature of a personal God. Annie Besant certainly did not believe in a God of that kind. She rejected all notions of an anthropomorphic God. And so do I. ‘Thee’ is not something or someone to be petitioned in the hope that He/She/It will answer our prayers. However, if you chose to believe in such a God, that is your business. The ‘Thee’ referred to in the invocation is the ‘Hidden Life’, the ‘Hidden Light’, and the ‘Hidden Love’. Those three things are a triplicity of sorts—different words for the same ‘thing’. The ‘thing’—actually, it is not a thing at all as we ordinarily understand that word—is the livingness, consciousness and self-givingness of life. When we come to feel—note that word ‘feel’—ourselves as one with that dynamic, creative life principle, in time we come to ‘know’—this is no intellectual knowing—that we are therefore ‘one with every other’. 

This ‘feeling’ is no warm and fuzzy thing. The word ‘feel’, as opposed to ‘think’, is used to denote a choiceless awareness of what is. There is no judgment, analysis or interpretation. Just choicless awareness. It’s the same with that word ‘know’. As I just said, it is not a matter on book knowledge or reasoned analysis. This knowledge is transrational. Not irrational, but transrational. As we read in The Voice of the Silence, ‘The mind is the great slayer of the Real.’ There is a place for the use of reason in our lives—a very great place—but the use of reason can never bring us to an understanding (again, not an intellectual thing) of what is truly ‘real’.

We live in a very troubled world. Has it ever been any different? We see politicians—well, some of them, at least, who are very much in the news at the present time—who seek to divide and pit one group of persons against another. That is not the way to world peace and harmony. It never was the way. I see plenty of division and conflict in our world but I also see plenty of evidence of an ever-growing group of people who, recognizing their common humanity with all other people, are working for the good of all and for the very survival of our damaged planet. They are the ones who rail against bigotry, racism, sexism and all other forms of discrimination. They are the ones who think deeply before following their nation’s call to take up arms against other peoples of the world. They are the ones who believe that climate change is real—which it damn well is—and who are advocating for climate change action at all levels. They are the ones for work for justice and equality for all, including refugees and all displaced and homeless persons. They know the truth of Dr Besant's prayer, even if they have never heard of her or the prayer the subject of this post.

Yes, these are the people who, often without any connection to formal religion of any kind, are ‘praying’ this prayer. They are praying in the only way that really matters—with their lives.


  1. Wonderful! Moving summation.

    1. Many thanks, dear Eric. I hope you and the family are doing well, and that all is on track on the career front.