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Welcome to the website of

Bruce Fraser MacDonald, PhD

A Message of Hope for Troubled Times

Email: TheThomasBook@gmail.com

 

BACKGROUND TO THE SILENCE

 

 

Background to
The Prayer of Silence:  
A
 Complete Course in Spiritual Transformation

©Bruce Fraser MacDonald, PhD 2011

            The Prayer of Silence is built on the foundation of a Near Death Experience I had in 1966 after a serious industrial accident.  That experience demonstrated in a convincing way that human consciousness is not tied to the body and that it can exist apart from the body.  For many years after the NDE I wanted to re-enter that state of awareness because it put me in direct contact with areas of spiritual understanding which clarify much of what it is to be a human being. 

            It took many years and much searching before I finally discovered how to produce the Near Death consciousness in meditation and even longer how to teach others to do the same.  The reason the Prayer of Silence is so effective is that it makes it possible for those who have not had a NDE to enter into the type of consciousness that experience makes possible.  The Prayer of Silence also allows those who have had NDEs to enter again into that level of consciousness and benefit from the kind of transcendent awareness which underlies the NDE.

            Most meditation methods have as their ultimate goal to achieve “moksha” or “satori” or some form of transcendent consciousness.  They usually do this by finding ways of forcing the ordinary, everyday consciousness to retreat as the meditator repeats a mantra, a word or sound or series of words or chants, or by concentrating on the flame of a candle or the breath or on some bodily posture.  The Prayer of Silence sidesteps these stages and, starting with a daily awareness exercise, progresses rapidly to an awareness of the transcendent state through a number of definite steps which use ordinary bodily consciousness as the basis for developing spiritual awareness. 

At the same time, the Prayer of Silence uses emotional, physical and spiritual healing as a way of advancing spiritual awareness.  Instead of denying the body, as most meditative traditions do, the Prayer of Silence uses the body itself as a means of becoming aware of the Spirit.  And since everyone can be aware of the body, they can also become aware of Spirit through an awareness of their everyday life, not in spite of their everyday experience.  You do not escape from life into spiritual perception but use the body and its life as the vehicle to achieve spiritual consciousness.

            I grew up in India and saw many people meditating.  We lived for a time in the sacred city of Ujjain which hosted the Kumbh Mela, one of the most sacred gatherings in Hinduism, which is held every three, six, twelve or 144 years (each depending on different degrees of importance) in one of four locations, including Ujjain.  I remember as a small child being fascinated by the sadhus, the holy men, covered in ash, doing their meditations, and by the crowds of people seeking spiritual fulfilment.

            I went to school in the Himalayan Mountains, in the area which, for thousands of years, has attracted people seeking to transcend their ordinary lives in order to become aware of the presence of the Divine.  Thus, before the NDE in 1966, I had been exposed to a culture where spiritual questing is considered the ultimate goal of life. 

            I felt strangely at home in that setting, and found myself longing for spiritual awareness.  We returned to North America in 1959, and I felt the tremendous sense of loss, coming into the middle of a culture devoted to materialistic pursuits where there was no sense that spiritual union with God was possible. I lived in India in the 1940s and 50s, long before meditation became popular in the West.  

My father was a clergyman in the United Church of Canada.  I decided to become a minister as well, in order to “serve God” and become aware of God’s Presence.  I quickly discovered, back in Canada, that there was really no place in Christianity for meditation.  There was a place for prayer, but prayer and meditation are very different.

            Prayer seeks to talk to the Divine, to petition God for blessings or healing or favours.  It is word centred.  Meditation, on the other hand, seeks to become one with the Divine, and most Christian churches teach that it is not possible to become one with God.  Jesus is said to have done it when he said, “I and the Father are One.”  But that was taken as a statement of the nature of Jesus’ relationship with God, as part of the Trinity, one which ordinary people could not achieve.

            Since the focus of most Christian doctrine is on “salvation,” achieved by Jesus’ life and death, rather than on achieving oneness with God through one’s own inner growth, there is really no place in that worldview for any methods which do not depend on the “salvific” action of Jesus, either in his life or through his death.  In many churches that search for oneness with God is even seen as a form of evil!

            But I persisted in thinking that union with God must be possible.  The Biblical text suggested it was possible.  I sought to fulfil what Moses had done, in being able to “talk to God as a man talks to his friend.”  I also saw in Jesus’ statement of oneness with God, a fulfilment of what everyone should be able to do, in spite of the doctrines which said something quite the opposite. 

            I came from India, where meditation made sense, to the West, where meditation was seen as, at best, a rather exaggerated form of prayer.

            I tried a variety of forms of meditation, but it took a long time for me to understand what I was really doing in meditation because I was essentially caught between the claims of two very different traditions.  I read Patanjali’s “Yoga Sutras” and the ideas of Shankaracharaya.  I read about and tried to practice some forms of Buddhist meditation.  I had to go to those sources because there are no complete maps in the Christian or Jewish traditions of how one might use a form of concentrated consciousness in order to transcend ordinary life and enter into a consistent transcendent state of awareness. 

            There are stories in the West of people who have stumbled upon some means which turned them into “Saints,” but there really is no consistent guide to meditation.  The “Spiritual Exercises” of Ignatius Loyola provide a system of “spiritual formation,” but they seemed to be too much caught up in thinking with the mind, in trying to form a basis for making decisions, rather that in forming an inner, spiritual awareness, free of words and mental concepts.

             My meditation practice really got going when I began using meditation to heal my body. I had tried a variety of types of meditation but found none of them terribly fulfilling.  Just sitting and meditating on a mantra seemed to take me nowhere.  And other forms of meditation also seemed to have little effect.

            But in the early 1980s I was admitted to hospital with suspected cancer of the pancreas.  I was also suffering from chronic pain in my back from the accident in 1966 which had crushed one of my vertebrae to half size and had badly fractured two other vertebrae.  I had three operations to correct the problem, but still I suffered constant pain. 

During that one week in the hospital I read about experiments that were being done with meditation and visualization for healing.  At the beginning I did not think any of that would work for me because, I reasoned, I had actual physical problems of bones and diseased tissues.  This was not a psychological problem which would respond to a change of mind.  It was based on solid, physical injury. 

            However, I adapted the exercises and was surprised at the results.  At the end of the week all the symptoms of the pancreatic cancer were gone and the pain in my back was gone.  If concentrated inner work could achieve that, I reasoned, then maybe in that kind of inner work, which was not involved with the repetition of words or ideas, but which was achieved through a particular kind of inner awareness, I could find the type of meditation which could bring spiritual fulfilment as well. 

            Meditation on the body led to spiritual perception.  Over the next few years I meditated on emotional healing and found that led to more spiritual perception.  I had met Jesus in the NDE.  In meditation I met Jesus again.  I became aware of the Divine Presence within me and realized that this was a fulfilment of Jesus’ claim that “The Kingdom of God is within you.”  In yourself you can find God, if you know where and how to look. 

            In 1991 I had a severe case of viral encephalitis which wiped out almost all my memory.  I could not remember people I had known for years.  I could not sign my name or copy numbers from one place to another.  All my professional memory was gone.  But I had been doing meditation for many years by then, had been teaching it and counselling people using meditative techniques, so I knew that if I was going to find healing, it would have to come through meditation of the type I had been taught through my own inner practice.  I had learned much of the Prayer of Silence from Jesus in the inner way and, when I put it into practice following the encephalitis, it led not only to healing but also to some profound discoveries about the nature of human spiritual consciousness. 

            All of these discoveries have been written into The Prayer of Silence.  It is very different from most methods of meditation, although it draws on anything which worked for me.  It is very practical.  It only includes what has worked.  I have learned from the insights of teachers from all traditions, from scientific discoveries about consciousness, from my own inner experience and from inner guidance.  Much of the book was written while in a meditative state, so that I could draw all of these insights together in a way that could be used by others to achieve the kinds of transformations which worked for me and which can make your life not only spiritually fulfilling, but also can help you to achieve your potential in all areas of your life. 

            And most important of all, you can become aware of the Divine Presence with you at all times.  You can do as Moses did, “talk to God as a man talks to his friend.”  You can work toward the state which Jesus achieved when he said, “I and the Father are One.”  You can experience the amazing sense of Oneness with God and with all things and all beings.

            All of this is achieved one step at a time, in exercises which you can do without withdrawing from the world.  The exercises are interspersed with passages of explanation or theory which are designed to help you understand the new perceptions you are having in your time of meditation and the new theories about what underlies those experiences. Since most of the perceptions in the book will be new to most people reading the book, I have tried to explain clearly the theory behind the practice.

            You can finally achieve the spiritual fulfilment which most of the spiritual traditions of the world are trying to achieve, but which so many people think is only available to the saints among us.  You can enter into the level of spiritual awareness achieved in a Near Death Experience without dying.  You can finally achieve “God consciousness,” enter “Heaven” and realize your Oneness with God while you are still in the body.

            And in the last chapter of the book I take you through an exercise in which you can enter “Nirvana,” the state of having all attachment “blown out,” when you can enter into the sense of oneness with God beyond the limits of the body.  But even more profound than that is the experience, also described in the last chapter, of the state of Union which is sometimes given as a Divine Gift along the spiritual path.  It is something to look forward to as you learn to live your life more fully through the daily practice of the Prayer of Silence.

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