Kabalistic Prayer Part 1
by Jack Courtis
How many times have we prayed for something and it has failed to materialize? We are afflicted with doubt and quickly conclude that it does not work. Perhaps God is too distant and uncaring, or does not exist. It is rare for us to pause and consider whether, in fact, we are praying effectively. It depends upon our understanding of prayer. Normally we think of prayer as a shopping list of demands. Often, we believe that we are helpless and that we have to beg. We hardly imagine that we are powerful in our own right and that we are effective in the ordering of our lives.
This article examines the kabalistic interpretation of prayer and suggests that it is the deliberate setting into motion of the hidden processes of the kosmos. We should note, however, that successful or effective prayer can hurt, it can bring the "dark night of the soul." Pain in our lives is not necessarily the result of wrong thinking creating a bad reality. Right thinking can also lead to pain that brings release and spiritual awareness.
Kabalistic teaching suggests that the hidden processes were put into place when God uttered verbal commands and created a numerical sequence of consciousness or energy. This produced order in the kosmos by way of the 10 sefirot and the Tree of Life. This order is reproduced below by a number, the Hebrew word, the English translation of the word and the modern meaning of each word:
If we turn to the Bible and Genesis Ch 1, it has 10 statements of "God said". We can interpret the text to mean that it gives us the principle that God is creative and the method by which He creates. The number 10 is important because it takes us to the 10 sefirot. This is where the Tree of Life comes from. In the diagram, Fig 1, the sefirot are shown as circles. They can be thought of as centres of consciousness or centres of energy. The circles are connected by lines that are regarded as paths.
This brings us to the importance of words and language. The teaching suggests that the Hebrew word properly pronounced creates a direct channel to the principle that it represents. The method of effective prayer described in this article relies upon the concepts that are expressed by words. It should also be mentioned that the modern meaning attributed to the Hebrew words comes from the work of such people as Aleister Crowley, Paul Foster Case and others.
Let us refer to the paths between the sefirot. Three points stand out. If we return to Genesis Ch 1, we will see the words "God made" mentioned 3 times, "God saw" mentioned 7 times, with 12 single references to "God." This correlates to the paths in the Tree of Life, as there are 3 horizontal paths, 7 vertical paths and 12 diagonal paths. Genesis Ch 1 gives us the structure, source and origin of the Tree of Life. This relationship between text and kabala uses the Tree of Life to explain a kabalistic notion of effective prayer. The combination of paths, sefirot and their functions, constitute the hidden processes of the kosmos.
The Hebrew names and the Tree of Life are shown in Fig. 1. For simplicity and convenience the modern meanings will now be used. This helps us to focus on the intrinsic meaning of the names of the sefirot so that we can use them practically. For effective prayer we only need to understand the intrinsic meaning. We do not need to go into the Hebrew language. It is beyond the scope of this article to explain the workings of the whole Tree. We shall only look at part of it. The bottom half of the Tree of Life diagram is shown in Fig. 2.
We can view the kabalistic process of effective prayer scientifically, in that we expect a cause and effect relationship. Within this article, science and religion are not in conflict. They are two sides of the same coin.
Our starting point is Objective (Outer) Consciousness. This is the seat of our perceptions through the senses. It is the metaphysical place from which we explain our reality to ourselves. It is metaphysical because we are not dealing with materiality, only with the one truth, that consciousness is all we truly perceive directly. All else is the interpretation by our minds of external events.
Thus for example, if we hear a noise, sound waves strike our eardrum which by mechanical means transmits those vibrations to the inner ear. Other receptors then translate the vibrations to electro-chemical energy which passes via the nerves to the brain. By a process that is still mysterious to science, these vibrations are "translated" into sound, which in turn appears to be coming from outside ourselves. All of this is an interpretation of reality, as we are not perceiving it directly.
We are aware that we are aware and we are conscious that we are conscious. If we look at the second diagram, we stand at the place numbered 1 called "Objective Consciousness." This is where we are here and now. It is also the place where we make the decision to act. Our next step is crucial.
Modern western science has given us the theories of Freud and Jung. Their teachings suggest that we should go directly from Objective Consciousness to Sub-Consciousness. However, they would go to the hard place first. If we return to the diagram, it shows us several alternatives. The easiest is to go to Desire (No. 2). This takes us straight to our power house and the source of our motivation. In other words, the diagram suggests that we do things in a different order from Freud and Jung.
From Desire we go to Intellect (No. 3). This is the source of our beliefs. This is where we must examine our faith and our belief system. Next, we return to Objective Consciousness (No. 4) so that we can act with desire and belief. We can go to our Sub-conscious (No. 5), in order to resolve our problem areas. Only then, can we proceed to Kosmic Consciousness (No. 6), which is the true source of the inspiration to direct our lives. Successful connection with the kosmic is the key to effective control of our lives and is the key to successful prayer.
Modern psychology does not proceed beyond the sub-conscious. This is precisely the value of the kabalistic method, because it takes us to Kosmic Consciousness. However, we need to understand why the process of prayer (whether kabalistic or otherwise) can break down; and it can break down. Here are some possibilities:
1 - Objective Consciousness
Maybe we do not have all the necessary facts and so our initial decision is based on the wrong assumptions.
2 - Desire
Perhaps we are not truly motivated and there is no energy to make the prayer effective.
3 - Intellect
If we do not believe, how can it work? Faith is based on knowledge gained through the intellect. If there is no knowledge, there is no faith. Then there is no belief.
4 - Objective Consciousness
If we do not put our desire and belief into action, failure is guaranteed.
5 - Sub-Consciousness
Freud and Jung were right. This is the main problem area. This must be rectified and all the problems resolved. Otherwise we lose ourselves in a labyrinth and we cannot reach the source of our fulfillment.
6 - Kosmic Consciousness
This is a place on a completely different level from our objective and subjective nature.
According to kabala we must go through a form of the "dark night of the soul" experience to get to Kosmic Consciousness. How many of us truly want to do that? Is it any wonder that prayer does not appear to work? Are we doing it right? And yet the tragedy of our lives is that the system shown on the above diagram is functioning automatically. It does so because we are alive and because we are human beings. We are made in the image and likeness of God and therefore share in his nature and his creativity.
The Tree of Life is an image of God and we function in much the same way as the Tree operates. We correspond to an archetypal reality and the Tree of Life is an image of that reality. That is why we get exactly what we ask for. If we do not understand the way in which the Tree of Life functions, it operates automatically and brings to our lives everything that we create in our own individual realities by our own particular thoughts.
Knowledge of the kabala leads to the knowledge of the hidden processes of the kosmos and therefore, to paraphrase Christ, it leads to knowledge of "the way, the truth and the life," so that we may have life more abundantly. It is by exploring our own mind, with the help of the Tree of Life and the kabala, that we set in motion those hidden processes. The 6 steps shown and described above give us one means of praying effectively.
Prayer works! However, we need to understand how it works in order to use it effectively. Having been created in God's image, we are entitled to live life more abundantly.