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Prayer and the Divine

Work as if everything depends on work. Pray as if everything depends on prayer.
G. I. Gurdjieff

I want to discuss the relationship between prayer and the divine, so I better start by telling you what I mean by prayer, and what I mean by the divine.

Gurdjieff spoke about prayer, in Ouspensky's In Search of the Miraculous. He was asked if prayer was useful, and replied that it was, if one dealt with it in a certain way. And the way he described directly related to the teaching he was giving—realize that it is an "I" that is praying, realize that we do not even understand what the words that we are saying mean, try to understand them, and so on.

It seemed undeniable to me that the technique described could be of some use psychologically, but it was a long time before I understood that it was in fact the means to prayer, at least on the fourth way.

We do not see ourselves, we do not know ourselves. We think we do, and as long as we think so, we can never see ourselves, let alone know ourselves. It may happen that we slowly begin to recognize a certain inconsistency, as if we were not quite a unity. Some extreme situation produces a reaction that we can only label as something like "that was not really me!" With persistent work, over the years, we begin to recognize almost everything as reaction, as automatic, unthinking, unconscious response. This vision, painful as it is, is a necessary preliminary to separating 'I' from 'not-I', and we come to see that we are not at all what we thought we were. In fact we seem to be nothing, except perhaps an almost unnoticeable, and unnoticed, awareness.

I am searching for some kind of image here, and what I come up with is something like an ice-encrusted window. The appearance of the window may be wonderful and complex, with the patterns created by "Jack Frost", but it only lets some light through in a distorted fashion. If we can manage, despite the cold, to clear off even the tiniest portion, we can begin to see through to whatever lies beyond. We begin to use that window for vision as well as light. Our conscious state is like that iced window. With enough work, friction properly applied, we begin to improve on it, perhaps sacrificing some of that design (personality) of which we were once so proud, and now begin to see it simply as an obstacle to be overcome.

Consciousness is divine, pure consciousness may be pure divinity. At least we can know that, relative to us, consciousness is divine. We may begin to see consciousness as not so much "ours" at all, but something more than that which we normally think of ourselves to be.

It is important to realize that calling consciousness divine does not reduce what divinity is—we cannot reduce what divinity is—though we may certainly underestimate what consciousness is.

So what are gods and angels? Consciousness. But are they personified, individual existences, with lifetimes and so on? Beats me. One thing I have come to understand is that from higher levels of consciousness we can understand lower levels, but from our habitual lower levels we almost cannot help but misunderstand higher levels. For us it may well seem a problem of just how to relate to, how to "address", higher consciousness. Really, no problem. Address higher consciousness from the attempt to be more conscious. And Gurdjieff's approach to prayer becomes obvious and profound.

But what can an angel do for us? Nothing, really. We have to do it ourselves. That is our work: to act by pure will, not because we are forced by desire, circumstance, or false personality. It may be part of the work of the angel to create conditions and to show us ways in which we can do true work, but it presents for us no easy solutions, no shortcuts. We have to do the work, and all that could ever be given us is the opportunity, perhaps accelerated, to work.

To truly pray is to fully inhabit our being, and be in relationship with the divine. It may be that as we penetrate more deeply into our conscious being, we find it is more and more like prayer. That consciousness is prayer. Just as it is conscience, compassion, sincerity, and so on. The gem of many facets. The pearl of all color.

We must continually watch as we pray.

"Watch. Sleep not."

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