THEOSOPHY, Vol. 39, No. 5, March, 1951
(Pages 207-209; Size: 9K)
(Number 6 of a 10-part series)

[Compiler's Note: All 10 articles have the same name.]


"Toil is prayer."--Italian

THE theological dogma of vicarious atonement has done more, perhaps, to undermine the sense of responsibility in man than any other single idea since the dawn of human history. The belief that one can get something for nothing, that there is an outside being or power who can bear the burden of our sins, or that all one has to do is to send up a petition for that which he needs or desires, is the most palpable fraud that has ever been perpetrated upon the human mind and consciousness.

A primary function of the present Theosophical Movement is to strip every old doctrine of its false outer incrustations and reveal the kernel of wisdom beneath. Behind every dogma there must be a kernel of truth. Vicarious atonement, itself, is a gross perversion of one of the loftiest tenets of the ancient Wisdom-Religion -- the sacrifice of the Buddhas of Compassion. But just as we have to search for its truth one or more layers underneath its historical form, so with the concept of prayer. Nor are the two ideas unrelated, for prayer may be regarded as the modus operandi of vicarious atonement, the means by which the pious believer is supposed to obtain his unearned reward.

Toil is prayer! Why? Because it is a moving-in-the-direction of that toward which the individual aspires. Toil is work instead of idleness. It is the putting into expression, in all departments of one's being, of that upon which the heart is set. To send up mental petitions, while in the remainder of one's nature he sits in passive expectation, is to ignore the laws of justice and honesty, is to flout the very principles of the universe we have learned to use and respect in daily life.

In answer to the question: "Do you believe in prayer, and do you ever pray?" the theosophist answers: "We do not. We act, instead of talking." Outward petitions, addressed to an illogical God, separate and apart from man, are a waste of time. This does not mean that there is no truth behind the idea of prayer, of which the present forms of practice are perversions. True prayer is an act of the Will, an internal command rather than an external petition, and it brings into operation the recondite powers of the Self within. But for that Self to act through its vehicle, man, there must be absolute purity of motive, absence of every ill feeling or selfishness, and a sincere desire to benefit others -- even one's enemies. There must be effort on the part of the individual to achieve that which he would have come to pass.

Read and try to understand the Lord's Prayer, so-called, in the sixth chapter of the Gospel of St. Matthew. There, Jesus is shown to have no faith in church or synagogue prayers, practiced in public, and addressed to an outside Being. He prayed only to his "Father in secret," that "Father" being the universally diffused, infinite and divine Principle, which is everywhere, and therefore in man. The Lord's Prayer: "Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven," is a conforming of the lower man to the Higher, an invocation of the Divine Will, so that It may work in and through the lower.

The prayer continues: "Give us this day our daily bread." The supplicatory tone of this statement has led some to argue that Jesus asked God for food, and that it is therefore right and proper to pray for what one needs or desires. But not even the Master himself adhered to this idea in practice. Jesus was a carpenter and a fisherman, who worked for what he ate. And where is the Christian today, even the most devout, who expects his bread to be given him without work? Where is the individual who sincerely believes that "Thy will be done on earth" can be accomplished without toil? Prayer without toil, wishfulness without work, is as weak and ineffective as the expectation of receiving a pay check without earning it.

"Your Father which is in secret," says the Master, "knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him." Why, then, one may wonder, any external petition at all? One is forced to the conclusion that the Lord's Prayer is a meditation rather than a petition, a deep soliloquy carried on within the silence and sanctitude of the heart, rather than a verbal expression of words. Above all, it is an assuming of the position of the Higher Self, and a determination, through the use of Will, to make the god-like portion of one's being ruler in his life. Theosophy teaches that the intensity of one's ardent aspirations is an occult process, called "spiritual transmutation," wherein finite and conditioned thoughts and desires are changed into an almost unlimited Will-Power.

By reason of the duality of Manas, or mind, prayer is of necessity two-fold in its nature -- one side of it being low, selfish and degrading -- the other, high and ennobling above all other arts. Church-prayer was actually condemned by Jesus, as evidenced by his rebuke of the publicans who desired to be seen praying in public places. This lower form of "begging," addressed to something outside one's self, kills the Will and makes of those who practice it irresponsible, helpless beings, with greater and greater tendency to rely upon outside sources of help. Real Prayer, on the other hand, which is an invocation of the Divine within one's self, strengthens the Will, and enables the individual, through the exercise of that Will in work, to draw out and awaken the powers latent in the Real Man.

Many there be who lean upon the crutch of prayer, who make no effort of their own to bring the world to a sense of duty and responsibility. Some are of the opinion that work is the cause of their distress, that if they could only be relieved, peace of mind and heart would be achieved. Others seek their pleasure in idleness, hoping thus to reap the fruitage of a noble life. Thus deluded, they go from bad to worse. Is it not a well known fact that inactivity drives men mad? Has it not been proved by the lives of many scions of wealth that idleness leads only to atrophy and decay?

It is only in toil that real achievement can be found. It matters not what the nature of the task may be -- whether in organizing business, or educational concerns; whether of spinning, farming, building, or caring for the duties of home. Useful occupation of some kind is essential to the well-being of the soul. Work is the natural expression on the physical plane of that which, on the spiritual, we call the Divine Will. And unless that Will is used in the achievement of all needs, the principles of one's nature begin to disintegrate. Responsibility and purpose form the cohesive power of the soul, welding all parts of man's being into a unified, healthy, and efficient Whole. Fortunate the man who "loves" his work, who appreciates the privilege of duty, who finds his joy in the doing of necessary things.

"The mission of the Soul is work."

Next article:
"The reward of unlawful pleasure
is lawful pain."
(Part 7 of a 10-part series)

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