Friday, June 11, 2010

The stages of prayer

I try not to repeat myself too often here, but some repetition is inevitable. Having published millions of words in books, articles, newspaper columns and blog, I sometimes wonder if I have anything at all left to say. Perhaps now, on the sixth anniversary of this blog, it's time to just shut up.

Previously, here and in When God Is Gone, I quoted the "five stages of prayer" that the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge jotted down in his journal:

First stage -- the pressure of immediate calamities without earthly aidence makes us cry out to the Invisible.

Second stage -- the dreariness of visible things to a mind beginning to be contemplative -- horrible Solitude.

Third stage -- Repentance & Regret -- & self-inquietude.

Fourth stage -- The celestial delectation that follows ardent prayer.

Fifth stage -- Self-annihilation -- the Soul enters the Holy of Holies.

Which I translated like this:

First stage -- Help!

Second stage -- Here I am!

Third stage -- Oh my God I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee...

Fourth stage -- Gee! -- followed by -- Wow!

Fifth stage -- silent attention.

Which pretty much summarizes my own religious evolution.

I should by now have reached the fifth, silent stage. The essayist Pico Iyer says: "Silence is the tribute that we pay to holiness; we slip off words when we enter a scared place, just as we slip off shoes." But perhaps I'm not there yet. I find myself still saying "Gee!" and "Wow!", which is pretty much all I do on this blog. So I might as well keep doing it for a while longer -- until I find the Holy of Holies.