P2: “This appearing can, in some cases, open only onto the virtual...” To a god who may or may not be listening.
P3: Nevertheless, this prayer to a virtual God...is not itself a virtual prayer, but an actual and real prayer....” Prayer is a fact, whether or not the target of the prayer exists or not. OK. But contrarians will object that it’s not to the point whether the prayer is actual or not, but whether the prayer can successfully target the object to which it prays. This is what would make prayer prayer, as opposed to meaningless pining in the dark of night. If successful targeting wasn’t necessary, then we could, for example, call the activity of a child making a mudpie “cooking”, and call that “cooking”, whether it dealt with edible or virtual ingredients, whether it resulted in an edible product or a virtual product, a fact. Is this an impressive fact?
The response could follow: but the act of prayer is swept up in a real social-cultural practice of religion that predelineates what counts and doesn’t count as prayer at least well enough to distinguish genuine prayer from prayer that is on par with the child “cooking” a mudpie. OK. But now we are relying social, cultural parameters that don’t depend on any god, virtual or otherwise. What happened to the religious of religion?
P4: Appeal to authorities that the religious is founded in and through prayer. Novalis & Feuerbach(!).
P5: Prayer as simple and fundamental and irreducible phenomenon. A phenomenon that is veiled by classifications that divide mental and vocal prayer. But more is required, C insists, for a prayer to be mental other than the withholding of speech. And if a real vocal prayer is always paired with a mental prayer, then classifying the two as separate varieties is problematized by their coincidence.
P6: “..in questions regarding the constitution of the meaning of prayer, the addressee is thoroughly essential.” The importance of the addressee is obvious. Interesting that we’re speaking of constitution here, because the possibility that the addressee may be nothing more than virtual should impact whether or not we would like to consider the meaning of prayer successfully, adequately, as you like, constituted.
C has a point that phenomenology, from its inception, refused the obligation to posit the existence of its objects of investigation. Should this methodological fact be used to avoid the hard question of whether a phenomenology of religion can survive on the thin soup of virtuality? C asks us to observe all the behavioral phenomena that accompanies prayer; the fear/confidence of the addresser, the faithful one.
P7: C disowns the task of describing the full range of this behavior, restricting himself to a treatment of prayer as a speech act. “And the guiding question will be that of the voice in this act.” Having claimed that prayer is the religious phenomenon par excellence, C suggests that vocal prayer is prayer par excellence. Again, an appeal to Feuerback(!) as an authority.
P8: “Still incomplete, a first description of prayer can situate it in an act of presence to the invisible.” The transition from a virtual relation to a real relation to the invisible. There is a manifestation here -- it’s the manifestation of the individual towards the invisible (presence) in which he believes. A “anthrophany”, a manifestation of man that “puts him at stake.” “Even he who turns toward the incorporeal does so corporeally.” The question begins to become, whether or not the invisibility is an essential (virtual) component of prayer. If it is essential, then C can begin to deflect objections that the phenomenon of prayer is object-less in the way that speculation about the details of heaven & hell is object-less (we don’t know, we can’t know, there’s no way of verifying although the details we describe “the heat of the flames”, “the sharp whip of Satan” demand verification along the lines of sensibility --- invisibility qua invisibility does not make the demand of verification). “The being before God of the one praying is an active self-manifestation to God.”
P9: “What do we see when we see a man praying?” C shifts the line of approach to the third person persepctive in order to impress upon us that not only is the act of prayer a unique phenomenon for the praying individual that believes, but also that we (believers or not) see that the praying individual is up to more than simply speaking softly to himself. A man speaking to God is not the same as a man speaking alone, or a man speaking to himself, in pure soliloquy.
P10: C digs deeper into the “functions performed by speech in prayer” by way of further elucidating the motivation for restricting his study to vocal (as opposed to silent/mental) prayer. Questions in order: (1) What are the functions performed by speech in prayer? (2) What is the importance of the address, of saying “you”? (3) Why give voice to it?
P11: One objection to monotheistic prayer (objection in what sense? that it successfully targets anything?): that an omniscient God has nothing to learn from us so what possible need could there be to speak our “secret” prayers aloud? The reply: that the meaning of vocal prayer is not to be found in the content that is communicated aloud from the praying individual to God.
P12: “We speak by addressing ourselves to another and by turning ourselves toward him, but it is we who are taught by this word, and it is on us that it acts.” In the act of address to God, it is the addresser, not the addressee, whom is affected. The self-affection that is only made possible in the address to the infinite other (contrast to self-affection made possible by self-address, masturbation) is the “first wound of the word.”
P13: Again, we are made manifest in prayer in a manner that is only possible because the manifestation is before God. The prayer that commences at our own impetus still relies on God for what becomes manifest in the anthopophany: “All prayer confesses God as giver by dispossessing us of our egocentrism...”
P14: “Prayer, says Saint Bonaventure, calls for the fervor of affection...” “The first function speech performs in prayer is therefore a self-manifestation before the invisible other, a manifestation that becomes a manifestation of self to self through the other...” [see Rilke: “Wer, wenn ich schrie, hoerte mich...?”]
P15: On the one hand, “prayer is a logos but is neither true nor false” (Aristotle). On the other hand, there is a question of truth and norms and rectitude insofar as prayers are determined socially. culturally, historically along certain lines. “But this concerns the problem of ritual more than the problem of prayer.”
P16: We say “Our father” in the Lord’s Prayer, not “My father.”
P17: Again, the rectitude of prayer cannot be reduced to simply a question of the rectitude of theological propositions articulated in prayer. The rectitude of prayer is caught up in the contest for truth in which prayer as a speech act engages.
P18: A moral objection against prayer: is not the prayer of the corrupt corrupt, and what need do the virtuous have for prayer? Reply: C insists that the moral objection is a red herring. Prayer is not a privilege reserved for the virtuous who no longer needed. Attentiveness to the phenomenon of prayer shows that it serves a function indifferent to the moral point of departure of the praying individual. Prayer “shatters us and reconfigures us” so what is the worry regarding the moral qualities of the individual before prayer as long as the turn towards prayer is genuine?
P19: The moral and immoral individual alike confront their lack of rectitude before God.
P20: “But it belongs to prayer itself that in it alone does the praying man learn that he does not know how to pray.” [see St. Paul] Similarly, the shortcoming of speech opens only in speech. The circularity: doing X in order to learn how to do X. Thus, we are thrust into the circularity with “no prolegomena or preliminaries.” C, following Proclus, claims that prayer does not fall into an infinite regress (doing in order to know how to do, in order to know how to do, in order..., etc.) because the act of wanting (to pray) and the act of prayer hold at the same time, not successively.
P21: “[Prayer] does not begin, it responds....” The circularity in which the praying individual finds himself means that he will not on his own powers master that fundamental ground which sets the circle circulating. Therefore, no prayer is a trigger, it is a response that situates one in the event of prayer. Summary of response to question (1): “This completes the first part of our description of prayer: the manifestation of self to the other by the word is agonic and transforming, for it is dialogue and conversation with the other in an encounter where our truth is at issue. Being before God is at stake only in and through prayer.”
P22: Again, the manifestation of prayer is agonic.
P23: What renders “these fortunate wounds of the Word” possible? “The address, allocution, saying “you.”” Or, “Thou” (Feuerbach). One objection via Karl Jaspers: that to address God is to reduce Him to a personality.
P24: Reply: that the “you” directed to God does not make excessively familiar by virtue of the infinite abyss separating the addresser from the addressee. A prayer does not collapse this abyss; a prayer draws attention to this abyss. Even the silent admiration of Greek & Roman prayer (which, unlike Jewish & Christian prayer, did not have a vocative form of the word ‘god’) is an act of silence, an allocution.
P25: The voice of silence. “The silence of prayer is here a silence heard by God...”
P26: “Only the second person singular can open the space of such an ordeal. It is only in saying You that the I can be completely exposed, beyond all that it can master.”
P27: “A new characteristic is added to our description of prayer: the manifestation of self to the other by the word, that is, agonic speech that struggles for its truth, is an ordeal, a suffering God, a passion for God, a theopathy.” In the address to God, the voice is naked. What would be dress here? The correlate response responding to the call of the address, which provides a ready to hand meaning by which the call/response event can be tidily classified, labeled, and stored away. On the contrary, the speech addressed towards God lingers, is forced to weather the burden of an addressed address that outpaces the possibility of response in the same terms as the address.
P28: “...the divine wants to be prayed to and addressed.” “...the speech act seems to be made possible by the silence of divine hearing...” The asymmetry of human/divine is marked by an infinite abyss that is also a silence that, endlessly, invites speech. Without divine silence, no human speech. And so, many prayers include thanks for themselves. Prayer as giving thanks for the possibility of prayer.
P29: Again, “Thus we understand that this is also a gift of God, that we cry to God...” (Augustine). In terms of phenomenological description, the giftedness of the possibility of vocal prayer manifests itself against the backdrop of the Addressee who is always already there.
P30: (In opposition to van der Leeuw) Prayer is also adoration. C introduces the connection of desire and prayer as a means to unify different definitions of prayer.
P31: Of two definitions -- (i) prayer, as elevation of the spirit toward God, and (ii) prayer, as a demand that God grant what is fitting -- both suppose desire. If one construes desire broadly & equates desiring with praying, then one can venture that, “man by his very nature, namely, as will, is a religious being, a praying.”
P32: “When this desire for God appears to the man praying as a gift of God, when the very act by which he addresses a demand to God is in his eyes found in a space where God already answers for him, it is fair to describe prayer as a conversation or a dialogue with God, quite independent of extraordinary or supernatural events where one would hear voices or receive signs.” An exceptional dialogue, in which signs or voices are independent of that which makes the event a dialogue. The temptation is to say that nothing at all is communicated in this putative dialogue. But the event itself is given, and one finds oneself in the event, and one can, perhaps, concede that this sort of thoroughgoing self-manifestation is only possible through an act that puts one before an uncrossable limit (past which nothing of “mine” could slip away). “The response is in the call.” Here I am, thank You.
P33: Prayer as gift and task. Prayer is to the spirit as respiration is to the life of the body.
P34: ‘Circulation’ is further developed in this double sense: (i) the circulation of the circularity of prayer, and (ii) the circulation of the vital rhythms of respiration.
P35: Two decisive questions concerning the attempted phenomenology: already treated, (i) Why and how is prayer vocal? and, regarding the uniqueness of the speech used in prayer, (2) What exactly does it mean to “recite” a prayer? Is the word “recite’ suitable?...In what way does this appropriation of the words [composed by others, passed on by tradition, etc.] spoken happen?
P36: Humorous digression concerning the deaf god Mna.
P37: Literary and philosophical perspectives on vocal prayer throughout history: Aeschylus to Feuerbach.
P38: What are the standards for vocal versus silent prayer throughout history? In ages where vocal prayer was the rule, a quiet prayer could be called silent. Murmur as ambiguous border of vocal/silent prayer. Consider how the emergence of silent reading affected the line of delineation between vocal and silent prayer.
P39: In antiquity, prayer spoken aloud was the norm. “...a manifestation of self before God could not be purely spiritual and acosmic.”
P40: “Where does one manifest oneself entirely, if not is and through the voice, inseparably spiritual and fleshly?” C clearly shows his bias here in favor of the voice as the privileged unity of spirit and flesh. But why could we not make a related, though different, bid for the koerper/leib distinction fulfilling the same theoretical function? What, after all, is so fleshly about voice? One might, on the contrary, describe it as the reverberation of the flesh, but not the flesh itself. Perhaps this is close to C’s point: voice as the affection of the flesh, imbued with spirit.
See also: “Instead of being the simple exterior manifestation of an interior state -- an expression -- it becomes an effusion that collects and an offering that concentrates.” That is surely vague; the reverberation of the flesh in vocal prayer seems to bear some resemblance to this collection and offering. “The voice is not an instrument for itself.” OK, this is clear enough based on the voice’s function in communication. We needn’t vocalize to communicate to ourselves. But C wants to go further, I think. Because God is not someone to which we need to communicate -- He knows all already. What is performed in the vocal prayer is performed, through the possibility given by God, for ourselves, for awakening us to the fact of God’s greatness and immeasurability, for celebrating this in our body’s song.
P41: “A second aspect of vocal prayer, whether it be individual or collective, is its public nature.” The audibility of vocal prayer removes it from the realm of the private. Vocal prayer is offered to God, and offered in the world. In antiquity, murmured prayers were regarded as suspect. C also asks us to see that the publicity of vocal prayer still holds even if the praying individual is the only one who hears it. The vocalization of prayer alienates even the praying individual from the privacy of his own prayer -- both individual and the prayer are thrust into public view.
P42: What is the respective importance of the collective versus the individual prayer? Some traditions emphasize the superiority of collective over individual prayer.
P43: “No one prays merely for himself, and the collectivity also prays, also speaks for those who can no longer or can not yet speak.” C reframes the individual/collective opposition; it is not that the collective is superior to the individual prayer by virtue of being a greater number of individuals, rather it is superior because collective prayer affords the individual a greater opportunity to be surpassed as one expects to be surpassed in prayer by a force greater than one’s self. The surpassing is key. Collective prayer also seeks to surpass itself, by surrendering its speech to those that are no more or are not yet, on the way to God.
P44: “In Christianity, for example, all prayer is communal by essence...” Christianity is the exemplar for C; this is what Ricoeur will attempt to undo, or at least, if it is inescapable for one residing within a Judeo-Christian culture, draw attention to the tradition structuring our experience of religious phenomena. “Prayer thus founds a sui generis mode of community in and through speech.”
P45: “Another characteristic manifests this: the insistence on the fact that one has to pray for oneself, the prayer for oneself being the condition of the prayer for others.” The theme of surpassing in prayer does not make of prayer a blind mechanism of selflessness and self-alienation. One must have and hold onto one’s self in order to pray and in order to pray for others. Ego-centered spiritual life is not necessarily egotistical.
P46: Summary of results: “...that the highest intimacy with God is said in speech we do not invent, but which invents us,...,” etc. So with the citing of traditional prayers, we appropriate the words while the action of prayer appropriates us.
P47: Q, that the monk recites the prophet’s words as if they expressed the monk’s own feelings -- which they do.
P48: Assuming the authorship, in even a weak sense, of words not penned by one’s self on the basis of the feeling of ownership smacks of audacity. C objects that it is not pride, but rather the belief in inspiration (in-spiration) that lets the monk, for example, greet the words of the prophet as his own.
P49: The “life” of prayer, as it is said, is so said in recognition of the thoroughgoing existential involvement in truth and transcendence that the activity of prayer makes visible. “...the human voice, in what is unique and irreplaceable about it, is always hymnal and cannot speak without giving voice to all that has none, without bringing to speech all that remains mute or can only babble, without offering to God, with it and in it, the world as a whole wounded by the word...” “The human voice becomes a place where the world returns to God.” The scope of what is made manifest has widened from the praying individual, to include the community, to include those who are no longer or not yet part of the community, to include the whole world.
P50: Again, that silent prayer can only be defined and constituted by reference to vocal prayer. “...vocal prayer, in the full range of its forms, is something like the index of religious existence, leaving outside none of the phenomena that constitute religion.” Again, prayer is the religious phenomenon par excellence. “...it unveils to us our own condition and our own finitude...” C mentions finitude here; he did not dwell on this aspect of humanity, in contrast to divinity, although he might have. Finitude is implied everywhere.
P51: “Why call it “wounded word”? It always has its origin in the wound of joy or distress...” The prayer struggles in the agonic engagement with truth. An illumination in suffering to speak prayers that one knows not yet how to speak. The speech of prayer is yet wounded by wanting t give voice to all the voices that cannot be voiced, not yet or no longer.
P52: “This act of a word wounded by the radical alterity of him to whom it speaks is pure address.” ‘Alterity’, with ‘finitude’, is another word that might have arisen more often in this paper but did not. “[The praying individual] itself learns from this ordeal, and this is why this wound makes it stronger, all the stronger as it will not have sought to heal it.” The wounded word makes the one who speaks it stronger by illuminating defects within him which would have otherwise festered in silence.