Prayer and Nonduality
by Jay Michaelson
Tikkun November/December 2009
Jay Michaelson is the author of Everything is God: The Radical Path of Nondual Judaism, from which this article was adapted. Michaelson advocates nonduality---God and us, everything indeed, are one. But prayer (we pray to God) clearly assumes duality (the twoness of God and us). This article addresses this problem of conflict between nonduality and prayer. The following quotes highlight the main points:
God does not exist---but is Existence itself.
"All is one."
Logically, if God is infinite, then everything is God.
Nonduality...But if there is no self, what is there?
A Buddhist would say everything is an empty play of conditions: ...genetics, ...learned behaviours, and so on. A nondual Jew or Christian uses the word "God" to refer to those conditions.
Not just the language of prayer but its fundamental assumptions are rigorously personalistic and dualistic; it implies, and sometimes actually states, that "I" am here and you, God, are there, and I am asking you to do things in the world.
...ready nondualistic answers to the traditional theological problem of prayer:
(1) In the contemplative mode: prayer fills the mind with salutary reflections on beneficence and grace, circumscribing the selfish inclination;
(2) ecstatic practice: prayer as uniting with God magically by means of words, song, movement...
But all this seems to miss the point of why we pray in the first place. Transforming prayer into meditation or magic or self-reflection turns it into something other than prayer, which has to do with the yearnings of the heart. ...prayer is, at its core, devotionalistic in nature. ...a time for the heart to open. ...Devotion implies a devoted-to. It implies duality.
...traditional prayer is intellectually incoherent. If everything happens as it must, rather than as it should, then what is the point of wishing really hard for it to be otherwise?
Ironically, when nondual contemplation actually succeeds...dualistic prayer language suddenly flows much freer...illusion of separation drops away. So too do inhibition and the pretension of knowledge. A great "I don't know" replaces the arrogant claims to metaphysical certainty. It is the negative theology of the Cloud of Unknowing, the limits of reason according to Kant, the limits of language according to Wittgenstein, the mystery of Being according to Hegel and Heidegger. The "I don't know" is the absurdity of Zen, the transrational of Ken Wilber...And so prayer flows from surrender---chiefly the surrender of "I." ...It is a Divine role play, ...This is nondual prayer...
"Prayer and Nonduality" 一文載於前進派 (progressive) 猶太教期刊 Tikkun。作者 Jay Michaelson 著有《一切皆是神：非二元猶太教的激進路徑》。他倡議非二元猶太教，即視神與人為一、一切為一。在非二元論之下，祈禱構成很大的問題，因為人向神祈禱明顯假設我、神二分之二元論。這篇文章就是要解決這個問題。
(This is a Chinese post at the forum of the Hong Kong positivistic philosopher Lee Tin Ming. This excerpt from an article by Erich Fromm says that religions can be divided into totalitarian religions and humanistic religions. The God of the Old Testament is totalitarian. The original teachings of Jesus were humanistic, but Roman rulers later turned them into a totalitarian Christianity. This article is very inspiring. 在《李天命網上思考》，有人貼了這篇文章，甚具啟發性。)
獨裁宗教與人本宗教 (Totalitarian Religions and Humanistic Religions)
Psychoanalysis & Religion
By Erich Fromm
Received the following story from a humanist email list. Later, someone points out that this story might be some 20 years old. Anyway, the student's remark is so simple and so true:
"Most...religions state that if you are not a member of their religion, you will go to Hell. Since there is more than one of these religions and since people do not belong to more than one religion, we can project that all souls go to Hell."
> HELL EXPLAINED BY CHEMISTRY STUDENT
> The following is an actual question given on a University of
> Washington chemistry midterm.
> The answer by one student was so 'profound' that the professor
> shared it with colleagues, via the Internet, which is, of course,
> why we now have the pleasure of enjoying it as well:
> Bonus Question: Is Hell exothermic (gives off heat) or endothermic
> (absorbs heat)?
> Most of the students wrote proofs of their beliefs using
> Boyle's Law (gas cools when it expands and heats when it is
> compressed) or some variant. One student, however, wrote the
> First, we need to know how the mass of Hell is changing in time. So
> we need to know the rate at which souls are moving into Hell and
> the rate at which they are leaving. I think that we can safely
> assume that once a soul gets to Hell, it will not leave. Therefore,
> no souls are leaving. As for how many souls are entering Hell,
> let's look at the different religions that exist in the world today.
> Most of these religions state that if you are not a member of their
> religion, you will go to Hell. Since there is more than one of
> these religions and since people do not belong to more than one
> religion, we can project that all souls go to Hell. With birth and
> death rates as they are, we can expect the number of souls in Hell
> to increase exponentially. Now, we look at the rate of change of
> the volume in Hell because Boyle's Law states that in order for the
> temperature and pressure in Hell to stay the same, the volume of
> Hell has to expand proportionately as souls are added.
> This gives two possibilities:
> 1. If Hell is expanding at a slower rate than the rate at which
> souls enter Hell, then the temperature and pressure in Hell will
> increase until all Hell breaks loose.
> 2. If Hell is expanding at a rate faster than the increase of souls
> in Hell, then the temperature and pressure will drop until Hell
> freezes over.
> So which is it? If we accept the postulate given to me by Teresa
> during my Freshman year that, 'It will be a cold day in Hell before
> I sleep with you,' and take into account the fact that I slept with
> her last night, then number two must be true, and thus I am sure
> that Hell is exothermic and has already frozen over. The corollary
> of this theory is that since Hell has frozen over, it follows that
> it is not accepting any more souls and is therefore,
> extinct.......leaving only Heaven, thereby proving the existence of
> a divine being which explains why, last night, Teresa kept shouting
> 'Oh my God.'
> THIS STUDENT RECEIVED AN A+.
Alex from UUHK