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Apr-08-2009 07:25printcomments

Prayer Vs. Magic

Those who have read The Blood of Christ, will understand the how and why of it all.

The people of Jonestown
The people of Jonestown
Photo: fortwayneright.files.wordpress.com

(PASO ROBLES, Calif.) - Prayer is a supplication, a humble and sincere appeal to God that may appear to be answered depending on the psyche of the person praying.

Magic presumes to control by manipulation supernatural forces for good or evil. Prayer is passive; magic impossible, unless Roman and Orthodox Christians say otherwise, for they alone reserve the right to intercede with God on behalf of the Church, as is done through the Eucharist involving transubstantiation [in Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox doctrine, a change in substance, from bread and wine to the body and blood of Jesus Christ at communion].

Those who have read The Blood of Christ, will understand the how and why of it all.

Is there power in prayer? I believe so, but only as a first-person psychological phenomenon. When faced with difficult circumstances, prayer can fortify a weakened spirit simply by “letting go and letting God” through the power of expectation.

The desire to endure can help one survive, or submit to the inevitable, if faced with it. Take, for example, the NFL players three of whom were lost, and one rescued, off Tampa, Florida, and anyone should be able to imagine their emotions. Benedictions and sermons preached at the communal level of like-minded people most often are intended to reinforce one’s “givens,” and to encourage common habits, unlike individual prayers.

Extreme religious posturing beyond the bounds of logic or reasonable expectation can produce an excess of emotion that is expressed in a variety of unusual psychic display when in company with others, unlike prayer offered alone and for personal reasons.

Prayerful poses combined with expressions of sublime rapture [eyes shut] and contortions emulating human-antennae to make a more effective connection between worshipper and God is useless. Psychologically induced convulsions or manifestations, and speaking in tongues are convincing to few, except the affected who allow themselves to become infected with the notion that emotion, not reality, is the engine that generates belief.

Jonestown and its mass suicide is the epitome of what can happen when people lose control, and become disciples of designing leaders who play on the emotions of those they purport to save. The list is long of evangels who have fallen from grace, but is no where near as dramatic as the consequence in Guyana, that ought to convince all of the danger of letting go and letting Evangelists decide how they should live and die.

Plato - centuries before Christianity - devised a scale of thought ranging from “opinion” as the least reliable, to “wisdom” as the most reliable “ideal” of perfection, but still unreal because, though it may seem perfect in conception, perfection is not found in reality. Besides opinion, faith is the only other source of our givens:

OPINION: an expressions of presumed knowledge [by leaders] that reflects what a person may want others to believe; stronger than impression, less strong than positive knowledge.

FAITH: an unbounded belief [by followers] in another's opinion, complete confidence in somebody or something open to question or suspicion.

Wisdom involves the following:

KNOWLEDGE: familiarity gained by actual experience; acquaintance with fact; the conscious-state of understanding a clear perception of truth.

INTELLIGENCE: the power or act of understanding; mental acuteness or sagacity; the ability to comprehend the interrelationships of presented fact [or fiction].

WISDOM: the quality of being able to judge soundly based on a profound knowledge and understanding of the world combined with intelligence and good judgment. What distinguishes Wisdom from Givens, is curiosity and effort.

Bob Woodward, in his book STATE OF DENIAL [Pp 334-5], speaks of Geo. W. Bush who made clear his feeling that a higher authority was guiding him. "I get guidance from God in prayer," he said. Prayer was an important element of his daily routine, and gave him comfort. "God," Bush said, "had placed on his shoulder the burden of his presidency," [and] he relied on God [think Evangelical Holy See of the GOP] actively to guide him,” as if Christ, symbol for Jesus, controlled his destiny that explains Bush’s sense of infallibility and obstinate resistance to change until Katrina showed his faith was misguided; he was used. He lost interest thereafter and was eager to leave the office.

Unfortunately for the American people, especially those sacrificed on his altar of faith in Iraq, Bush believed his life was a magical manifestation. When he accepted the guidance of the GOP Holy See, Bush abdicated his role as Captain of his Ship by relying on his givens instead of logic to bear his burden.

As the Active Voice of the Republican Party he was in the forefront of convincing Americans and the world of the indubitable righteousness of his cause. Political appointees were minions chosen by the Holy See, that continues to exist, who support GOP fabrications that concur with its agenda.

It is the Conductor that, even in defeat, decides how the symphony of future success, and the “failure” of Barack Obama, is to be orchestrated. Sarah Palin [AK] and Michelle Bachman [MN] function as percussionists whose fundamentalist rhetoric is in keeping with that of the Extreme Religious Right that caters to the Republican base. But. extremism eventually will invite its own reaction, and the more we know of Sarah, and hear from Michelle, the clearer it becomes to most, that the ending of the Concert will be another crescendo of defeat for the Party of “No,” that has lost its logical secular footing.

The President, and his Administration constantly repeated the same words and mottoes that drove their party’s propaganda machine, words or phrases meant for the choir, on the one hand, and to justify the fear planted in the hearts of dissenters on the other. The object was to allow the Religious Right and the president, to do as they pleased, a perfect example of the argument that says, it is not religion, per se, but those who use it to further their own cause that gives religion a bad name. And nowhere is America threatened more than by the Evangelical Movement.

Architecture, ceremony and costume identify persons of particular religions, and even sects within them, for if one embraces the identifiable symbols, he or she will likely play the part. Protestant Evangelists use Christianity in no less dogmatic fashion than the Roman Church, sans the obvious appurtenances, but follow Rome’s example where tactic is concerned. Orthodox Catholics practice a purer form of Christianity and are less institutional and political than is Rome, but relies on [Matthew 28:18-20] to describe its mission as follows, as if Jesus is speaking:

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching [rather than force] them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Not very secular, but Evangelists are more into creating a Theocracy than supporting Democracy over which they apparently seek to control.

Prayer is not a cure-all for what ails one; prayers are personal and psychologically calming. If the effect were transportable, it would be the result of magic. If the recipient feels better, it is because of what he or she does, for manipulation of super-natural forces is impossible and implies more than what logically can be delivered. Imagine my amazement when a full-blown niece wrote me saying, “I asked God for a computer.” I asked her father if he was God, he said “no,” so I presume her note was meant for me, poor soul.

It is not entirely her fault, for there is a history of attempts to use magic, as a gimmick to prove a point, increase the appearance of devotion to one’s faith and become a worthy recipient of favors it has to offer. The model is based on the magic of opposites, the difference between good and bad. Eve connotes evil for having encouraged Adam to eat the apple of knowledge that the Church ever after has tried to use to its advantage, and Evangelists today are wont to convince congregations that “true Christians” accept in silence and without question the nonsense they preach. Intellectuals, they say, are instruments of the Devil. Spain is an example of how wrong Christianity was when it banished its intelligentsia - Moslems and Jews [non-Christians] - who contributed so much to Europe’s Enlightenment, because the Church was wrong.

The Mediterranean pronunciation of Eve, is Eva, and the opposite of Eva is Ave,

as in Ave Maria, to distinguish the good from the bad. Add appropriate music and it becomes an even more compelling symbol of goodness. The use of opposites to prove a point can run the gamut from the sublime to the ridiculous and even worse; the Odor of Sanctity tops the list.

The Inquisition looked for habitual and cultural conduct to identify deviants from the Catholic way who may have been baptized to escape banishment, but who secretly kept to the practices of their primary culture. Bathing, to Moslems, besides being good for them, was a virtual ritual that was used to identify and feed the Inquisitorial mill.

If a person smelled good they must be less than a good Christian, and those who paid the ultimate price became an example to all “good Christians” who, to save their lives, refused to bathe. How long one could go without, is questionable, but it didn’t hurt to let people know in which camp you belonged, even if sociability was compromised. A less offensive means might suffice; one could wear his outer-wear inside out, to prevent punishment; but why risk it when a curious sniff by the wrong person could be enough to ruin one’s day.

For people of faith, coincidence means little. A Canadian family called a preacher friend in Arizona to say a severe storm was expected, and asked him to intercede with Mother Nature so the storm would miss them. It did, and they called to express their appreciation for the magic done for them, assuming anything really was.

I used to do photography, and one of the first rules I was taught was to take credit, if a good picture was the result, of my mistakes, and I was the beneficiary of coincidence on more than one occasion, never dreaming it was God working his wonder through me who, I was taught, “looked after fools and little children.” I considered myself neither.

On the other hand, cousins in Minnesota who are fervent Christians believe their God is responsible for any and all good [God is Love, right?] and that human decency is attributable to Him alone. They rely on their faith, as did Geo. W. Bush, to get them through what others survive by good planning and careful preparation. Coincidence is a fantasy; life is played on a chess board, and their God is Master of the game. They resent hearing otherwise, are imprinted, and believe they alone have all the answers, that at their age is not so bad a thing after all.

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Kenneth G. Ramey was a 79-year old "writer without a Website" who is generating excellent, provocative articles on the subject of religion and world affairs. We are pleased that Ken's "lone wolf" presence as a writer in the world has been replaced by a spot on our team of writers at Salem-News.com. Raised in Minnesota and California during the dark years of the Great American Depression, Ken is well suited to talk about the powerful forces in the world that give all of us hope and tragedy and everything in between. You can write to Ken at:
darken1@sbcglobal.net




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Tim April 8, 2009 8:37 am (Pacific time)

You are a good thinker. Certainly you are better than I am. Plato's words on Wisdon are unknown to many people. Most only want to hear what he says about rationalizing. I wanted to point out two things: 1. The Orthodox do not believe in transubstantiation. That word was created by the Romans in the medieval period in an effort to describe the Eucharist in a way that was unknown in the East. 2. Prayer should be understood neither as a "magical" incantation nor as a self-motivating illusion. Read about Abraham when he interceded on behalf of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. He was not reciting a magical incantation. He was not talking to himself to make his life seem easier. He was simply speaking with God Himself. God is a PERSON. He is all-powerful and desires only good things for everyone. Abraham was simply praying on behalf of other people; he was participating in the life of God through dialogue. Of course, there is much to prayer that is a mystery. However, we should not reduce it or minimize it to an incantation with a robotic super-being that must listen to us when we do to correctly, or to some sort of self-therapeutic exercise.

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