Saturday, December 21, 2013
The stages of prayer -- a Saturday reprise
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.
(This post originally appeared in 2010.)