Many years ago when I was in the third grade, a new student joined our class one day. She was this beautiful girl with long dark hair and a smattering of freckles across her face. The teacher assigned her to an empty desk on the other side of the room and I remember shyly staring at her, totally smitten.
That afternoon after school, I couldn’t get my mind off the girl. I realized that somehow I needed to create the circumstances so that I could meet her and she would know who I was. I decided to pray – of course, in the manner that I understood it at that young age. First, I found a lucky four leaf clover and held it to my chest. Next, I laid back in the grass in our yard and stared up at the sky pleading with the old man God that I had heard lived up there to please intervene in my life. My request? Please, please somehow move the beautiful girl next to me in class.
To my amazement, the next day the teacher rearranged our seating and I ended up right next to the object of my desire. Unfortunately, I had not prayed for the courage to actually speak to her and my shyness kicked in. A few months later my family moved and I left the school. I don’t think I ever said more than a few words to this beautiful young girl who at the time was the “answer to my prayers”!
It’s funny to recollect this story and realize how I interpreted the concept of prayer. Through my life, my thinking on the subject has definitely evolved. Ultimately, I have come to the conclusion that some level every moment, every thought I hold is really a type of prayer.
Now, I realize in saying that, you might have some kind of reaction. What you think in response to the concept of all thoughts being prayers is a product of your current worldview.
As I have written about frequently, all humans develop or evolve through a certain common sequence of how they see the world. These viewpoints develop out of our response to our personal world conditions and as we master those conditions, new life conditions emerge bringing about a new worldview more appropriate for our new circumstances. These worldviews (which philosopher Ken Wilber calls collectively “structures” of consciousness and each worldview level he terms a “stage”) sit silently outside our awareness but impact our thoughts and beliefs. How you see the world (your worldview) determines “what” you choose to see and “how” you choose to interpret what you see. (For more information on this topic, check out my recent book Our Spiritual Evolution: Transcending the Third Dimension.)
Although there are earlier or “lower” worldviews or stages through which humanity individually (i.e.; each person from birth forward) or collectively (i.e.; historically through our evolution from cave dweller days to now) has evolved, our current modern society is primarily made up of the following three viewpoints. First, what we consider the traditional way of seeing the world; next the modern or materialistic viewpoint; and more recently the “cultural creative” pluralistic worldview.
At the traditional stage, one believes that God is this external being who somehow monitors and acts upon our personal requests. Prayer at this level is seen as a way for us to consciously stop and “talk to” this external God. God has the power, makes the rules and can honor our request if we meet “God’s conditions”. In a certain sense, we are subjective to or victims of “God’s desires”. (In the third grade, I suspect I was moving out of an earlier worldview that placed importance upon our control of magic (hence the four leaf clover) and into this traditional way of thinking.) From this level of consciousness, it would be hard for one to see what I am saying that every thought in every moment is truly a prayer considering how prayer is defined at this stage.
At the materialistic stage (which one moves into after developing beyond the traditional phase), one places all of their beliefs in rational thought and the scientific method. The only thing that is ultimately real is physical matter. To a degree, we are still victims but not to some old myth of a powerful God who ruled over us but rather to the mechanistic workings of the physical world. What is paramount is determining how all matter works so that we can control it as much as possible. The concept of God and of praying to this old man in the sky is simply an outdated myth which no longer serves humanity. Considering any of my idea of our thoughts as “prayers” or giving any power to our consciousness to create such as through the so-called “law of attraction” is seen as ridiculous at this worldview level, ideas to be lumped into the same magical thinking as all religious thought.
At the cultural creative-pluralistic stage (which one moves into after developing beyond the materialistic phase), one realizes that the universe is far too complex to be explained away totally as only physical matter. Yes, logic and the scientific process are useful tools but they cannot explain everything. There is an unseen world of energy and thoughts and personal experiences and consciousness that call out for greater ways of understanding. Here, one sees themselves as “spiritual but not religious” recognizing that there are many divine paths of understanding to inner awareness. At this level, one begins to see that our consciousness and our thoughts may have creative power. One at this worldview will begin to realize the validity of my belief that every thought every moment is potentially a prayer.
However, there are many spiritual seekers at this pluralistic stage who tend to feel so empowered with this new awareness of how their thoughts can create that they tend to overlook other factors at play in the creative mix and get discouraged when solely their thoughts don’t manifest their desires. I wrote about three of these major factors in the chapter on the emergence of consciousness in my recent book Our Spiritual Evolution – inconsistent thinking and acting, overlooking the power of our subjective thoughts and an incorrect understanding of what “Mind” actually is being used in the creative process. To understand those factors, I will refer you to my book. Here, I want to come at this “creative moment” and a frequent misconception about it from a slightly different angle.
Alfred North Whitehead and Occasions of Experience
English mathematician and philosopher Alfred North Whitehead believed that change is a fundamental aspect of the universe and our existence and everything around us was in a state of flow. He believed that everything – including you and I – change from moment to moment. Our true essence was not static but more of a “process”, that we were continuously in a state of “becoming”. Whitehead felt that what was most real were our discrete “occasions of experience”. Think of these occasions as the current moment right now as you experience it. Each moment is brief and moves past you into “the past” as the next current moment arrives.
So what are the factors impacting upon this brief occasion of experience? Is our experience of the world in this moment totally predetermined by factors from the past as many deterministic materialistic scientists would say? Or, can we use the power of our conscious thoughts to totally override what may have come before in our lives as is proclaimed by many proponents of the law of attraction? Maybe the reality is not so black and white. Maybe it’s not either-or.
This from the Wikipedia article on Whitehead:
” For Whitehead, creativity/freedom is the absolute principle of existence, and every entity (whether it is a human being, a tree, or an electron) has some degree of creativity/freedom in how it responds to other entities, and is not fully determined by causal or mechanistic laws. Of course, most entities do not have consciousness, and do not have a high degree of creativity/freedom. Yet just as a human being’s actions cannot always be predicted, the same can be said of where a tree’s roots will grow, or how an electron will move, or whether it will rain tomorrow. Moreover, inability to predict an electron’s movement (for instance) is not due to faulty understanding or inadequate technology; rather, the fundamental creativity/freedom of all entities means that there will always remain phenomena that are unpredictable.”
“The other side of creativity/freedom as the absolute principle is that every entity is constrained by the social structure of existence (i.e., its relations) – each actual entity must conform to the settled conditions of the world around it. Freedom always exists within limits. But an entity’s uniqueness and individuality arise from its own self-determination as to just how it will take account of the world within the limits that have been set for it.”
In other words, according to Whitehead (and I agree) in every moment there are two factors impacting our experience – the constraints set in place by the past and our ability to introduce some newness or creativity. The wheels of the past contain not only the mechanistically determined actions subject to the laws of physics acting on matter but also our past beliefs and thoughts. Those things already in motion – both physical and nonphysical – will continue on their predetermined path unless something else comes into play. That something else is the other factor – our ability through conscious choice and free will to introduce a creative “new thought”.
Why Are Thoughts Creative?
And why is our thought creative? Mystic and spiritual teacher Ernest Holmes wrote that “when we speak of the energy back of thought, or the power of faith and prayer, we are not thinking of willpower, but of Original Power. The thought, or the prayer, merely uses an energy which already is.” He adds, “the energy back of constructive thought is Spirit; Spirit permeates everything, hence, constructive thought calls the best out of any particular experience.” Holmes goes on to say that Spirit and consciousness are ultimately one and the same.
Holmes as well as many other mystics and philosophers have stated that our universe and all of our laws by which it operates were created by some Original Power (or Spirit or God) which embedded itself within its creation. You and I and everything in the universe experience that creator (as well as tap into its power) through our consciousness. When we think using our personal aspect of consciousness, we are using that divine power. We are praying.
The Eternal Now and You!
Therefore, ultimately our experience of life is always in this present moment – “the eternal now”. This present moment is always determined by a combination of past factors playing out towards their logical conclusion coupled with our creative ability to set in motion a new direction through our conscious thoughts. When we are “unconscious”, we allow the past influencers to dominate our present experience. When we become “conscious”, we begin to tap into our divine power available through our conscious thoughts so as to shift control of our lives away from the limitations of the past. We are now able to move our lives towards their highest possibilities.
Can you see it? Wherever you are, right now, you are aware of this moment, this occasion of experience to be followed by yet another and another. What is creating each of your moments? Are they influenced more by the past or by your creative power of a new thought, a new idea of how to show up in life? Every moment, every thought is a prayer – an opportunity for you to use your creative abilities to create the life you are called to live.
Check out Mark Gilbert’s current books available at Amazon, including his recent one Our Spiritual Rights and Responsibilities. There he offers what he suggests are the 5 basic rights we all possess by virtue of our being these spiritual beings on planet Earth — and our 2 responsibilities we all hold in relation to one another!
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