Introduction to Prayer feature

Prayer and meditation both consist of a deliberate focusing of the powers of the mind. Prayer focuses intention; meditation focuses attention. The intention is for what one wants their world (and the world of others) to be; the attention is on what the world of consciousness really is. Focusing intention is a tricky matter. For it seems that prayer truly has power to change things. And when human beings start changing things they often screw them up. This is the meaning of the aphorism from the New England Transcendentalists (a rather gay bunch, you know) "Be careful what you wish for; you may get it."

Intentions are double-sided: the intention that I be rich unwittingly contains the intention that others be poor; the good intention of affirmative action for Blacks contains the consequence that whites be "discriminated against"; and because human thought is shot through with the notion of non-contradiction and belief in competition, for me to be "right," other people have to be "wrong." Intentions are slippery; they have more than one way of becoming true: the intention that there be no death by hunger by the year 2000 would clearly be satisfied by a plague that kills 60% of the population thereby increasing the availability of food.

Perhaps putting out intentions to "God" or to the Creative Mind or into the roil of karmic patterns is like voting. It works by generating self-fulfilling prophecies in the collective consciousness and by directing the powers of creation in the collective unconscious. Anecdotal - and even some empirical - evidence shows that intentions ARE realized. Prayers (especially regarding healing) ARE answered. But maybe not by a wise, personal consciousness that knows which prayers to answer and which to ignore. Maybe prayers are answered because the practice of deliberately focusing intention gives weight to those votes (like chanting loud and in unison during a mob rally voice-vote).

Because most people's intentions for themselves and for others are muddled and confused and misdirected by judgment, opinion, and misinformation, most of the "votes" are being cast willy-nilly, so that the slippery, double-sided nature of intention is free to screw things up. The intention that the "Church-going, Christians" prosper contains a highly judgmental opinion about who is good and upright and a harshly negative and biased intention about who should receive the benefits of life. "Good Christians," intending that there be no homosexuals, then perhaps inadvertantly willed a plague like AIDS on those they deemed sinners and worthy of punishment. (American Christian society certainly structured the health care industry with self-fulfilling prophecies that allowed HIV to spread to "sinners" before ever being addressed.)

Meditation focuses attention on what consciousness really is. It sidesteps the slippery, double-sided nature of intention by simply observing things as they are, accepting them, and letting go of them, letting their karmic influence dissipate. Such an attitude, in fact, puts out intentions, but they're all unpointed and non-judgmental. They are simply intentions for the expansion of consciousness, i.e.,"good vibes." Buddhist meditation practice teaches that the natural abode of the mind is in the attitudes called The Four Immesurables: compassion, lovingkindness, joy in the joy of others, and equanimity. These attitudes take the sting out of religion; they ease the judgmentalness and opinionatedness. And they are born out of the experience in focusing attention that in some way all of us share the same consciousness. This was, of course, JesusÕs primary teaching: Do unto others as you would have them do to you; Love your neighbor as yourself, because your neighbor IS your Self.

Gay Liberation - and the Sexual Revolution, in general - rise out of the third Immeasurable: the deliberate choice to feel joy in the joy of others, to be happy for other people instead of resentful, judgmental, and ill-wishing (as so often happens around the experience of other people having sex). The wonderful cartoon on the cover of this issue generously contributed by Donelan was supposed to go on last quarter's issue on the Faerie Movement. It arrived too late. It has an appropriateness for this issue with its feature section on prayer. The magical Fairy with all his smiling goodwill carries a political sign (that is also a thrysos, as David Cohen will tell us about) that is an example of prayer-in-action, and prayer based in compassion. The intention that rises from attention on the pink triangle is the reminder Never Again. And the little Fairy, politically correct in the best sense of being conscious of the consequences of one's actions on others, signs in ASL the attitude of lovingkindness, the proper basis for all intention. There are some wonderful essays in this issue, some interesting insights into the nature of prayer and meditation and focus on the greater spiritual reality. (I especially like Matt Link's metaphor of prayer as "uploading and downloading" to and from the mind of God.) This is, I believe, what us gay folk are supposed to be doing in this life - helping to transform religious consciousness for a world whose myths no longer make sense. We're the wise men and wise women telling the tales of spiritual reality in the context of the new story of the Universe that modern science is crafting and in the face of global overpopulation.

And we're especially gifted with this role because the very recognition of our place in the scheme of things reveals the inability of the traditional religions to keep up with the evolution of consciousness. We're the "sign of contradiction" that, in proving "them" wrong, opens the way for a more loving, compassionate, politically-correct, modern, psychologically-sophisticated spirituality beyond the antiquated cultural confines and misinformation of the religions of the past. We demonstrate how to live contributing, transforming lives without reproducing offspring.

Gay Power, i.e., the exercise of influence beyond the dualities (of male and female, right and wrong, light and dark) IS the thrysos to lead humankind forward in its evolution into "God." Let us pray.