Repetitive prayer and its esoteric meaning

One of if not the most important exercises suggested to me by my senior school colleague to whom I am most grateful for it was described in a little book The Way of a Pilgrim.
To repeat 1000x “Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me, a sinner”. In the Philokalia, there are several other shorter forms of it described, often without the end ‘a sinner’. or simply Lord/God have mercy. Anyone, who is genuinely interested can only benefit, never lose if doing it. But the esoteric dimension to the prayer is not known to the general public. Mr G told it to his students and so I am passing it to anyone, who practices this exercise to understand more about the mysteries of prayers.

The fundamental idea of all that you can do in the Fourth Way
and in this kind of school where we are trying to work, is that the
more conscious you are the greater will be the results of your work,
so that the result of one or another effort is always modified and
controlled by the consciousness of your aim, intentions and desires.
About the first method of exercises I have spoken many times;
I have spoken of my experiments with that and some other forms of
these exercises with reference to repetition. These exercises exist in
the Eastern Church and in other forms they exist in Buddhist and
Mohammedan schools. Some short prayer is usually taken and then
repeated continuously; and this repeating is generally connected
with breathing, listening to heart-beats and many other things, but
this is sufficient. It is necessary to remember that it is definitely
connected with breathing and that I do not advise it. And I think it
impossible because it needs complete solitude, at least for a long
time; one cannot do exercises connected with breathing when
among people or during ordinary work; one must have several
hours a day absolutely free and without any disturbance. I tried
these exercises long before I met this system, and in the beginning,
when I heard about this system, they helped me very much in
appreciating self-remembering and even in the first tasks that we
were given.
But this exercise, that is, repetition of a short prayer, needs
breathing and fasting, otherwise it very soon becomes too easy;
it slips over things without touching them. I mean that it awakes
attention only in the very beginning. So I replaced the short prayer
of seven words mentioned in the Philokalia by the Lord’s Prayer. I
heard about the use of the Lord’s Prayer for the same purpose, for
constant repetition, in Russian monasteries. It gave very interesting
results in the sense of keeping the attention, and attention was
much more awake when I did those exercises. But as it happened I
was busy over some things; I travelled and I went to Russia; and
then I met this system and I tried these exercises again. I varied
it—I took the Lord’s Prayer in Greek with school pronunciation, and
when it had become almost automatic I began to try to speak this
prayer with the modern Greek pronunciation; or I alternated them
because when the school pronunciation became automatic it was
difficult to remember to pronounce it differently. But in this way I
kept attention; when attention disappeared the repetition just
stopped, or it got mixed or went only in the way I had first tried it.
I tried several other things but will not speak of them here, but I
want to say that an exercise of this kind, I mean repeating a long
prayer, is used in many schools and, if it is used in connection with
certain ideas of the human machine it may be connected with very
interesting and important work. First of all
it can be connected with the study of the parts of centres because
you start in the intellectual part of intellectual centre, otherwise you
cannot do it. When you take a new thing you have to keep
attention, and when you keep attention you use the intellectual part
of the intellectual centre. But if it begins to repeat by itself or even
starts by itself and does not need any attention it means that it has
passed into the moving part of the intellectual centre. Then later it
can pass into moving centre and then into the instinctive centre;
and then by interesting methods it is possible to make it pass into
the emotional centre. This is the aim of these exercises, not for
keeping the attention only but for the study of centres and parts of
You may remember that in some conversation described in
‘Fragments’ I came to the conclusion that the whole thing was to
awake emotional centre. Before that I had had some interesting
experiences and had come to the conclusion that one can have such
experiences only in a very emotional state, and I asked G. if there
was any method by which emotional centre could be roused. What
he answered and what this was I can say later. But it is quite true
that at a certain stage of the work it is necessary to make the
emotional centre work more intensively, and this is one of the aims
of this prayer of the mind; I mean a short prayer used continuously
with breathing and fasting because without breathing and fasting
short prayer does not give any result. The prayer of the mind in the
heart is described in the short book ‘The Way of the Pilgrim’—in a
fuller form it is described in the Philokalia, but I do not know of any
literature describing the other method of repeating a longer piece
which I have mentioned. I mean repeating a longer prayer and
making it pass from one centre to another. I have never read any
descriptions of this but I have heard such descriptions, and other
things I can speak of from my own experience. Whoever wished to
try this thing I would advise in the beginning not to think about
moving centre, emotional centre or instinctive centre but to do it
first of all for the purpose of keeping the attention, that is, not to
let it slip into becoming automatic, because the longer you keep
attention on it, the longer you keep it conscious, the easier it will be
manipulated and guided afterwards.
This can be done, for instance, by taking different pronunciations,
different languages or by counting. Suppose you take the Lord’s
Prayer in English. After a short time it begins to go so easily that
you do not notice it; but this is not interesting, so it
is better to take it in some other language, not exactly in a quite
unknown language but in one which you know slightly. Then do not
pronounce it without counting for a long time; count on the fingers
or on a rosary or in some other way, or simply by memory, because
by counting in this way it cannot escape attention. At the same time
it may be interesting. If someone wants to try it, to let it go on
automatically, but in this case no interesting results can be seen for
at least two years. It may be that in some lucky cases results can
be felt; when this automatic repeating will arouse attention by itself
by touching such sides of a man, such inner associations of inner
octaves that nothing else can touch. The idea of repetition in this
form is to create a new function which in the beginning is conscious,
and then in passing at a certain moment from one centre to another
it becomes unconscious when it is in mechanical centres and
conscious again when it is in higher parts of centres. And this higher
function can pass through all centres and later it can become the
means for passing into higher centres. But it is very dangerous to
let imagination go on this because one can imagine anything. I have
heard from people who have tried it that they have had such
wonderful experiences that could not have happened for at least
five years from the time they started; but they had them in two
weeks. So it is necessary to be very careful in this.
I can point out the exact degree of this penetration. You can say
that it has begun to pass into moving centre only when you can
read an easy book and continue to repeat your prayer. But not for
five minutes only—if you can follow the book it means that it has
passed the first stage and that repetition is going on in the moving
centre. The third stage is much further. You come to it when you
are able to speak without it stopping repetition. With different
people it happens differently. I mean that being able to follow a
conversation can serve as an indication of progress because some
people can follow conversation before they can read, but reading
and speaking are definite signposts. The first means that repetition
has begun to pass into moving centre, and the second means that it
has begun to pass into instinctive centre. But this is very far…..

A Further Record P.O.Ouspensky

The Lord’s Prayer is divided into three times three, but we cannot
call it three triads because we do not know their relation to one
another and we cannot see the forces. We can only see that there
are three parts. We must know how to think to find the meaning. It
is necessary to study. If we understand and can find more then we
will see more clearly: there is no question of guessing or hints.
Take each point separately and see which principles can be applied.
We can find a meaning in some, in others we cannot.
First Our Father—we must leave this to the end; it is the most
Hallowed be Thy name. We must think of the name of God. It has
a special meaning in many religious systems—Hebrew,
Mohammedanism and certain Christian sects. We can study the
literature on this subject. For instance, in Cabala the Tetragrammaton stands

for the four elements. In the Greek and Latin versions
the word used for ‘hallowed’ means ‘let it become holy’.
Thy Kingdom come. It is necessary to think of ‘Kingdom’—all it
can mean. Meanings are given in the ‘New Model’—and there may
be more than these. Many things are connected with this. It is
connected with the idea of miracle in the system. Miracle means
manifestation of laws of higher plane or world in lower world.
Thy Will be done. Necessary to remember all we know about the
will of the Absolute—how far the will of the Absolute can go and
why it cannot go further—because will itself creates laws which
make it impossible for it to go further.
Each word in Lord’s Prayer contains much meaning. I am only
trying to show you how to study it. Not by guessing. For instance,
people ask questions about the most difficult verse:
Forgive us our debts. Many principles are connected with this.
First of all ‘forgiving’: such as we are we forgive when we should
not and we do not forgive when we must. All identification,
sentimentality… . Forgiving is a function of higher emotion and is
connected with positive emotion. This is impossible for us.
Our debtors. If we had positive emotions we would be open to
higher influences which would do something for us. This is the
explanation of ‘forgive us our debts’. It refers to the idea of
changing the past which can only be understood with the idea of
recurrence. If we change to-day, we change the future for next life,
and if we change the future for next life, we change the past.
If we put these ideas together we see how impossible are
ordinary meanings given to Lord’s Prayer and how much is
necessary for even a glimpse of the real meaning. It is not possible
to understand by just keeping these words. I am only trying to
show you several principles: positive emotions, influences,
changing the past, recurrence.
Bread. Bread is food. It is necessary to remember all that we
know about food. To which food does this refer? What can be food?
Impressions, influences. . . higher kinds… for ordinary man B
influences are already this ‘supersubstantial’ food: for man with
magnetic centre formed, it is C influences.
Temptation. For us—all that is easy, mechanical; letting things
go; when we are angry—to express anger, when we are irritated—
to express irritation; the comfort of ‘letting things go’.
Evil. Evil is easily explained. When one resists temptation one
becomes proud, thinks one is awake, others are asleep; how much
better one is, etc. .. .
Forgiveness. Positive emotions (‘Love your enemies’). Result of
positive emotions. If you forgive, it opens you to higher influences.
Obstacles to higher influences—negative emotions.
If you try to love your enemies with ordinary emotions, you will
make more enemies.
Higher influences can change the past—and in connection with
These very big ideas are put in the form of a prayer. When you
decipher this idea of prayer, prayer i.e. supplication disappears.
Q. What is the difference between forgiving and being
MR. O. Subject and object. What do you mean? We cannot
be forgiven. We did something and, according to the law of
cause and effect, a certain result will be produced. We must
change the past by a very complicated process through higher
influences and positive emotions. The law of cause and effect
begins in World 6. We cannot change the law but we can become
free—escape from it. We can change the present, through the
present the future, and through the future the past. There is no
other way.
Q. ‘Forgive us our debts’ refers to the past?
MR. O. No. It means that we cannot be forgiven our debts.
We must pay them. By paying them we change the past, but
there are different ways of paying.
Q. I can see how ‘as we forgive our debtors’ must belong to
higher emotion.
MR. O. Only if we have positive emotions, not as we are.
There are several stages. This does not come at once.
Q. How is it possible for others to be our debtors?
MR. O. If we think they owe something to us they are our
Q. What are the different ways of paying our debts?
MR. O. Mechanically or consciously. We pay them in any
case. By waiting for the results of causes and paying thus, or
changing the past and paying in another way.
Q. Can we only change the past by coming back here again?
MR. O. How otherwise? Thinking will not help. We must
change it now. Not only by coming back. To-day is the result
of some past. If we change to-day, we change the past. If we
change the future, we change the past. The future will be past
after some time.
Q. Regarding the phrase ‘Thy will be done’. .. .
MR. O. Connect it with the idea of miracle, higher cosmos
and lower cosmos. This is not about us.
Q. Is changing the past struggling against the way things go?
MR. O. This is the beginning only. Positive emotions and
higher influences are necessary. We cannot change anything
without them.
Q. You said that nothing can change without positive
MR. O. Positive emotions don’t come by themselves. It is no
good sitting and waiting for higher emotions. It is necessary to
work. I have put some principles. It is necessary to see how we
can reach this.
A Record of Meetings P.D.Ouspensky

We happen to be in the live experiment, where some of us are exposed to the public’s last but one judgement. Those who seem to be just spectators and are not genuinely interested in the spiritual domain should be very careful. We are dealing with the sacred aspect of life and if not highly respectful of it, we may very easily lose life itself. Such is the price.

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