“What is the difference between Prayer, Meditation and Magic?”
Tonata……..There is no short answer to this one!
There is considerable confusion in people’s minds about these three. They are not synonymous, although there are most certainly areas of overlap. So let me begin first by speaking about prayer.
The exercise of prayer is an exercise of spirit. Of course there is an expression within the physical and also a use of the mental but it is a spiritual exercise above all else. Unlike meditation or magic, prayer is essentially a state of being and not a point of doing.
Your Christian tradition is much about a dialogue with God, a pleading with God or an intercession with God. There is not much in the way of silence and the mystic. Yet prayer is the state of mystical being.
The difference between speaking to someone else and speaking to God is not a matter of direction. You speak to someone who is out there but you do not speak to God ‘out there’. That kind of thought and action is more an act of superstition. Prayer is also not just a matter of coming out with certain phrases or acts, for such a repeated act or ritual is no more than an empty outward action unless there is some real inner meaning for the actor within it. It is the same for repeated words or formularies. It is a waste of time to speak them unless there is meaning contained within the words for the speaker. The ritual will remain an empty act and the words will remain just a noise in the air, for prayer is something much more than any of this.
It is a state of ‘being with God’; it is a recognising or a practising of ‘being in the presence of God’. These are phrases that essentially mean the same thing for it is something within the person, something that they are being rather than what they are doing, that constitutes praying. Even in your main service of worship of Communion, at the central spoken prayer it is preceded by the words ‘lift up your hearts’ for prayer is about what is taking place within the person, within their heart, rather than just within the mind.
If a sensitive or clairvoyant looks at someone who is praying and compares what they see with someone who is performing magic, then around the magician there should be seen lines of energy or forces at play but around the person who is praying there may be nothing of this. There COULD be something but more likely there may NOT be something, for that shows the difference with prayer.
Of course one cannot really divorce the spiritual world from the physical or the mental, for a person is a whole being. The physical body is usually involved with either a particular act or adopting an attitude of prayer or posture, and it is hoped that mentally that is true also. It may be the physical act of raising flags or turning prayer wheels or lighting candles or burning incense. It may be looking into a flower or blade of grass or an act of your communion. In this situation the repeated act is part of that prayer, as are the words or thoughts associated with it. However it is the tuning into God or invoking of God or a looking towards God (again however you wish to describe it) that is essentially the inner part of being in a relationship with God that turns the act or action into prayer. The praying can be an expression of thoughts of anguish or peace or beseeching, pleading or praise. There may even be no words or thoughts at all, but it can all be part of prayer. In fact the deepest forms of prayer involve no words or thoughts but are just that acknowledgement of being in the presence of God – Being in God.
The trap, of course, is to make a superstition out of everything. Unless this act or that act is gone through in a particular way, and unless these words or those words are said, then the prayer is not a prayer. There has to be a kind of ‘signing off’, an ‘amen’, in case God catches some of the most naughty thoughts that pass through a person’s mind or flippant thoughts or thoughts just not worthy of being there with God. That is rubbish. God is far, far more aware of the deepest and darkest thoughts of a person than that person would ever care to admit to themselves. But in the praying there is a joining with God of the person’s desires, a voicing of the person’s desires, a voicing of their walk or path with God; and in that voicing and being with God there is a growth and delight for the person, and I am sure a delight for God as well. That is prayer.
A person can have a ‘ministry of prayer’ by holding up their heart’s concern to God. Because of their relationship with God there is an efficacious nature or a working out in some way of that prayer. Someone who has a great desire or concern, even if it were most laudable, but does not have this relationship with God may be just braying at the wind, a pouring out of their heart into the world around them. Of course God already knows their heart but prayer is an act of Will in the sense that the person actually prays, but it is essentially spiritual in that something of the spirit of that person is being with the Spirit of God.
That is not the case concerning Magic. Of course magic involves a person’s spirituality. What is this person going to use the magic for? What of their emotional and spiritual maturity? Straight away we can see that things of the spirit are involved with magic, but magic is above all else an act of Will, a state of ‘doing’ rather than a state of ‘being’.
Once more we see that there are physical things involved such as stance or a certain practice or repeated act or ritual. Of course there is also an attitude of mind, a tuning or preparation, as well as the spiritual aspects that I have just said, but magic is a using of the mental abilities. It is in part a sense of visualising. If a person cannot visualise they cannot really perform magic, because in the visualising there is an actual utilising of the energy flow. It may be a kind of direct line of sight phenomena that I have spoken of before, or the visualising of a resonance that is taking place. It could be a focusing upon a chakra or energy or icon of some kind, a symbol, but it is essentially a deliberate and mental act.
There is one major possible misunderstanding concerning magic, for indeed a manual on magic is likely to say that first you have to ‘be’ in order to ‘become’! This, however, is NOT ‘being’ in the sense that prayer uses the word but of visualising or identifying with the situation in which the magic is needed. This is one reason why there is so much confusion with prayer. When thinking about magic, ‘being’ is really the wrong word to use. The meaning behind ‘to be’ in order ‘to become’ is that you ‘be’ that person you are identifying with or you ‘be’ that object in the situation you desire. It is not a held state of being – ‘being in the presence of God’ as with prayer but an active doing or ‘changing into’ or ‘being’ the object or target of your magic. You ‘identify’ with or ‘be’ the tree or the creature or the person of the magical situation, and in that understanding or acknowledgement of ‘being’ then you can ‘become’ what you desire, either by the sending of healing or producing the miracle or whatever it is. Prayer may invoke a desired action but it is prayed that God will somehow fulfil the action, not the person praying.
Magic involves knowledge and the use of that knowledge. Prayer involves a relationship. So it is possible to have a person who is a very powerful magician but with a low spirituality, who can still perform great magic – but it is not prayer. Similarly you can have a person who has a tremendous prayer life or vocation in prayer but never seems to perform any miracles or magic at all. Ideally the two processes are present to some degree or other for the magician may also be a person of prayer and hopefully the priest will have some magical abilities, even if they are subconscious. However the magician may not be a priest and the priest may not be a magician.
Also take into account that the magician may take years to train, exercising for many, many hours over that time in order to become more proficient and a better or greater magician, but prayer is just being in the presence of God. You do not get ‘better’ at it. There is not a sense of earning anything in prayer as there is with magic although there may be a discipline of time associated with it. However you do not attain the status of Adept as a magician unless you have trained, unless you have put tremendous discipline of work into your life, but you can be a person of great prayer almost immediately in the matter of faith and atonement.
So what of meditation? Meditation is somewhere between the two. It is also an act of Will, but it is going beyond the thought and the thought processes and approaching the things of spirit, of that relationship, through a mental technique. It is a quietening of the mind alongside a quietening of the body. In that sense of quietening it is not the anguished prayer or the beseeching prayer but it is the being still in prayer.
Meditation is not an act of magic although it may focus on a chakra. It is not an act of prayer although it may focus upon things that prayer uses, a flame, a flower, a chant or sound, a wheel or symbol. Meditation, by focusing gently upon that particular object or thought, is the process when thought disappears. You go through the symbol or the sound into a state of being, but it is not the same state of being alongside God as in prayer, rather than a particular mental state.
The most forgotten part of the meditation process is the coming out of meditation!! This is part of the process and is when a stray thought, a feeling of discomfort, a taste or a distraction brings the person back to normal thinking, and so recognising that, they return to that point of focus, that mantra or icon. The relaxed going in and coming out of that mental state is meditation. It is not concentration for that is hard work. It is not a trance state for that is something yet again. It is a relaxed focusing that leads the mind beyond thought and back again producing a profound physical and emotional state of relaxation and stability opening the mind up to the reality that is all around, the reality of mind, body and spirit amongst the rest of creation.
One last point in the working of mediation is that an attitude of mind can be held alongside the mantra so that whilst meditating there is an awareness of or centring into the sacral chakra. If this is done, then as that chakra is mainly concerned with the emotions, there is a stabilising of the emotions and a forming of a strong emotional platform, which is most necessary if magic is to be seriously undertaken. Even if magic is never undertaken this attitude cannot help but produce an emotional stability and so is surely a thing to be greatly desired.
There can be many different outward forms of prayer and there can be many different outward forms or systems of meditation but the processes of both, although they both involve inward attitudes of awareness or ‘being’, I hope you can see, are different. In meditation there is just the sense of being or centring within oneself while with prayer it is the sense of being in the presence of God. Of course God is everywhere and so God is within people who are meditating but it is only in the sense that God is resting within the person. In prayer there is an active awareness of that presence and so, in this case, it is the other way around in that the person in prayer is resting within the presence of God, even if the prayer is of anguish or lament!
When people misunderstand the process and say they are meditating when they are in fact praying with no thoughts or just thinking prayerful thoughts then it is most certainly not a meditation no matter how much they believe and tell others that they are. Similarly those people who are meditating, if they say they are praying yet the process is not that of being in the presence of God then they are meditating and not praying. Just because they say they are doing something does not make it so.
The exponent of the spiritual path will undoubtedly be a person of prayer. I hope they would also have times of meditation and quiet and it would be wonderful if they also were able to exercise something of the gifts of magic. You can see how these processes overlap, for many a magical phrase may be said within the presence and awareness of God. Is that prayer or is it magic? When a person is meditating and in the stillness they find something of the God within, is that prayer or is it meditation? You can see how there can be these misconceptions, but essentially the three are separate practices.
I hope I have made all that crystal clear!!!!!