When we are asked the question "Do Theosophists pray?" I for one answer Yes and No; it depends upon what the questioner means by prayer. If he means getting down on bended knee and addressing a petition to a god outside of himself, purely imaginary, which the intellect has enormous labor in attempting to conceive of, and therefore which is not instinctive in the human heart as a reality, then we must answer: No, not prayer of that type. That is an abdication of the god within the individual denying its own rights and appealing for help outside itself. That is mere supplication, mere petitioning, a mere begging for benefits. It is purely exoteric.
True prayer is the rich, deep, spiritual humility of the human self envisioning the ineffably grand. It is a yearning to become like the heavenly Father, as Jesus phrased it: yearning to become a son of the Divine. It is almost a command of the man to himself to arise and pass on to higher things, upwards towards the Divine, of which a spark pulsates in every human soul. When we come into sympathetic relationship, into identic vibrational frequency, with this inner heart-beat, this pulsing of the divine, then our lives are made over, we are completely reformed, we become no longer mere men begging for favors, and thereby weakening ourselves. We begin to recognise our identity with the Divine. Dignity steals over us and enfolds us like a garment. And what prayer is nobler than this for the son to yearn to become like unto its divine parent?
This is the kind of prayer Theosophists love. I, for my own part, never sleep at night, never arise from my bed in the morning, until at least once. I have raised myself and attained the experience. And prayer of this kind is not merely an attitude of mind. It is a way of life, a way of living, clothing him who falls in love with it and follows it, with dignity, enriching his mind with understanding, making him sympathetic to all else that lives.
He prayeth best who loveth best
All things both great and small.
Yes, for this is a becoming at one with all around us. It simply means progressively making your consciousness greater, expanding every day a little more, to include a little more, to encompass, to embrace a little more of the world around us. Our consciousness, after this way of prayer, of living, of thinking, of feeling, grows ever larger, until finally some day we shall be in our thoughts and feelings able to encompass the universe. Then no longer shall we be merely men, we shall be god-men, and after we die we shall take our place with the gods, the cosmic spirits, archangels, angels, powers — if you like the Christian phrase.
What is the difference between the ordinary man and the genius? The ordinary man is one who lives in the small, circumscribed, shell of personal consciousness; he cannot go beyond it. He has no intuition, no inspirations. The man of genius is the man who has broken this shell. He wanders out in consciousness and feeling to the surrounding universe. He vibrates in synchronous frequency with the universe around him, and then comes inspiration and marvelous ideas. He sees, he feels — and men say, "A genius has arisen."
This then is the prayer that we love. It puts us in touch with all things. It gives us qualities that have been latent in us before but now have an opportunity to come out, to evolve, to unroll, to expand. And by true prayer we mean not only enlarging the personal consciousness towards becoming at one with the universal consciousness, but putting this experience into practice. And this is a pleasure just as exquisite: to practice what we preach. Otherwise we are but as tinkling cymbals and the rolling bellow of empty drums — Vox et praeterea nihil, a voice and nothing more. But when you practice prayer, then you reinforce your own powers by exercise. What you have yourself felt, you begin to practice. You see the light of understanding flash in the eyes of other men, a new and secret sympathy springing up between man and man. It is a new life-force. Thus this kind of prayer is likewise a way of life. It is likewise science; it is philosophy; it is religion. That kind of prayer we do believe in, and some of us practice it constantly.
We are children of the Infinite, of the Divine. Our Deity is intra-cosmic and yet transcendent, just exactly in the same way as a man is not only his physical body, and not only his mind or his spirit. He is body and feelings and emotions and mind and soul; but above these he is transcendent; there is something in him which is greater than all this. That is the spark of the Divine, the spark by which man is linked with the Invisible, with Divinity. That spark is the most important, the most powerful element in us. It is the predominating and governing factor in our destiny, and if we want to grow grander and greater and nobler and higher, we have to raise ourselves up towards that spark, we have to raise ourselves by living what we know. And then our life will become grand. And finally, when practice has become relatively perfect, the vision of genius will steal into the mind. For genius is cosmic wisdom. With genius, understanding grows and grows, and finally we begin to realize that we are not merely a man with perhaps a post-mortem life in heaven or hell, but that our destiny is the destiny of the infinite all: that we are endless, co-eval with duration, with cosmic time, that the boundless universe is our home; that we are here on earth merely for a day-night; that this is just a phase in our evolutionary journey upwards and onwards.
This is what we aspire towards, this is what we pray for: an ever-enlarging consciousness by aspiration, by study, by living the life we profess — an ever enlarging consciousness towards that Ultimate, a unity with the Divine. We pass through all the kingdoms of nature, grow from being a man to becoming a super-man; from a super-man becoming a demi-god; from demi-godhood to god-hood, to super-godhood, and so on and up the endless ladders of life. What a marvel! What a conception!
That divine spirit of which we speak so glibly — because it does represent an intuition, an answer to that yearning, that ineffable hunger within every normal man — we realize that that divinity was but our human conception of something still more wonderful, vaster, that we can never reach an end, that it is growth and advance and enlarging genius of consciousness for ever and ever and forever.
Do Theosophists pray? In that way we try to make our daily lives a prayer in action. We have the Ariadne's thread, we have the key, and we are trying to use it. And do you know what this key is? It is our own god-wisdom. And do you know what the lock is? It is man himself, taking this key. Inserting it into our own consciousness, turning it however slightly, magic streams forth from the slightly open door, from the ineffable mysteries hidden within, drawn from the cosmic font. No man can ever name it. It is nameless. Names but degrade it. Aspiration towards it always and forever — that is prayer. By living it we grow. What hope and what peace! What increase of understanding comes to the man who from within himself, from his own consciousness, has got the end of the Ariadne's thread. This, in its steadily progressing stages of experience and growth is what we call Initiation. He who hath ears to hear, let him hear!
Dr. de Purucker often spoke on the subject of Prayer and its Theosophical interpretation, and from among articles of this nature the Editors have chosen the above, which was given as a talk in the Temple at Point Loma some years ago.
The Theosophical ForumTHEOSOPHICAL UNIVERSITY PRESS ONLINE