What I do in meeting for worship

January 9, 2016 § Leave a comment

I have arrived at a fairly settled practice in meeting for worship involving the following steps or stages.

Deepening. First, I deepen using deepening techniques I’ve picked up as a student and practitioner of yoga and of Silva Mind Control, which is a sinister-sounding name for a pretty effective and benign pseudo-scientific, psychic healing, self-help program that is based on the first three degrees of Rosicrucian practice, which had a brief spin in the early 1970s, but is apparently still around. I used to teach Silva Mind Control, after using its healing techniques to miraculously psychically treat a couple of people, most dramatically, my son Raziel when he was just a baby.

Prayer. So I deepen. Then I pray. I commune with a couple of “angels”, I will call them, spiritual entities that have come through for me in ways dramatic enough to earn my spiritual regard. One of these is Jesus.

Jesus. This started when I was at Pendle Hill in 1991 when I became aware suddenly that someone in a very specific part of the meeting room was going to speak. Just after I had this clear intuition, I had a “vision” of Jesus standing behind this woman right there, as a kind of apparition, very much like the figure of Jesus in the painting The Presence in the Midst. Then the woman rose and spoke, as I knew she would, and Jesus stood there, just behind her and to the side a little, a comforting and strengthening presence, or so it seemed. Some time later, again at Pendle Hill, the same thing happened, though less dramatically.

Ever since then, I have chosen, as an act of faith, basically, to assume that Jesus is with us when we worship (as the scripture has promised, Matthew 18)—Jesus as spirit, as the Christ, essentially. And, feeling that I have been taught something, I now pray for Friends as they give their ministry, imagining Jesus there with them as he appeared in those experiences.

That’s a long time ago now, and no dramatic psychic experiences of Jesus since. But still, a vague sense of something, perhaps—of presence? I’m not sure what it is. But I hold to my faith, because it works for me. So I pray, and part of my prayer is to ask Jesus for his presence. And one time not too long ago, for only the second time ever, I felt compelled to actually get on my knees and ask him to be present out loud. Very out of character, and weird. But there you are.

The angel of the meeting. Three times I have had similar “visionary” experiences of the angel of the meeting I was worshiping with. I had learned from Bill Taber at Pendle Hill about the elder-days belief of some Friends that every meeting had an angel, a belief that stemmed from the second and third chapters of the Book of Revelation, in which the spirit of Christ addresses letters to the angels of seven churches in Asia Minor.

Like my experience of the present Jesus, these experiences combined a sense of presence with a strong eidetic image of a figure hovering in the meeting, usually in some rather odd mudra, or position relative to the body of the gathered meeting. And the symbology of the position and of other aspects of the figure presented a meaning to me, a sense of something that was going on in the life of the meeting. In the most dramatic case, this sense of the meeting was confirmed for me by several of its members. And this was the way Bill Taber said ministers in the elder days had used the angel of the meeting—to get a sense of a meeting when they had been called in to minister to it in some way, in some crisis they were going through.

So I try to commune with the angel of the meeting, even when it’s my own meeting and the chances of such communion are basically nil—because I think of the angel as a projection of the meeting’s collective consciousness, especially of its unconscious, and that means that my own consciousness is part of the collective consciousness of any meeting I worship regularly with, and it’s hard to see what you are yourself projecting, without some kind of exotic collective Jungian therapy. Like maybe a clearness committee of the whole. Well, on to the next practice.

Opening to need. After trying to commune with the angel of the meeting, I more or less systematically move mentally through the room, slowly, seeking to open myself to pain or need, hoping that I will “hear” the “prayers” of others, their inward groanings and callings-out. I hope to feel where in the room someone needs something. I rarely get any such indication, but I do it anyway, for it feels wrong not to do it, and you never know.

Continued deepening. After scanning the room in this way, I return to deepening. I use a mantra I learned as a student of Transcendental Meditation—37 years now I’ve been using that mantra. And I use another mantra with the Centering Prayer technique, because Centering Prayer as a technique works exactly like TM, except that you choose your own centering word rather than being given a mantra from the Bhagavad Gita by an initiator. For the Centering Prayer, I use “Amen”. I move back and forth between these two mantras, the TM mantra and Amen, using their shared technique for deepening.

More prayer. Then, when someone rises to speak, I pray for them. Specifically, I imagine Jesus standing a little behind and beside them, giving them strength and awakening and guiding their truth.

This started when I was at Pendle Hill in 1991 when I became aware suddenly that someone in a very specific part of the meeting room was going to speak. Just after I had this clear intuition, I had a “vision” of Jesus standing behind this woman right there, as a kind of apparition, very much like the figure of Jesus in the painting The Presence in the Midst. Then the woman rose and spoke, as I knew she would, and Jesus stood there, just behind her and to the side a little, a comforting and strengthening presence, or so it seemed. Some time later, again at Pendle Hill, the same thing happened, though less dramatically.

Ever since then, I have chosen, as an act of faith, basically, to assume that Jesus is with us when we worship (as the scripture has promised, Matthew 18)—Jesus as spirit, as the Christ, essentially. And, feeling that I have been taught something, I now pray for Friends as they give their ministry, imagining Jesus there with them as he appeared in those experiences.

Waiting and opening. Meanwhile, before the first person speaks and between speakers, I continue deepening with my mantras, but I also bring my mental focus to my center, seeking to open myself to divine prompting. “Amen” means, basically, “let it be”, and one of the reasons I use it in addition to the Sanskrit mantra is that I know its meaning and I like its meaning. I want whatever G*d wants for me then to be. I cannot describe this practice of inward focus any more clearly than this, that I seek to open myself to the Light within me, offering myself for service, as Isaiah did—”Send me, send me!”. 

Discernment. Sometimes, there seems “to be” something, after all, a seed of possible vocal ministry. So I begin to test it. When I started describing my process for discernment, my words started pouring out, so I’m going to leave that for its own page and I link to it here. On that page, I also discuss my practice while speaking my ministry.

Continued cycling. I continue to “rotate” through prayer, deepening, waiting and opening, maybe discernment, until meeting closes. I cringe when someone speaks of breaking meeting for worship.

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