Question: It seems perfectly logical to me that there must be a finer body such as you call the vital body, but is there any way that one may prove this to a friend who is very skeptical and argumentative? (Vol. II, #131)
Answer: "A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still," says an old proverb, and it is true. So long as your friend is still in the argumentative stage and not inclined to examine the proofs with an open mind it is a waste of time to try to change his opinion. We would suggest that you stop arguing; he may then become anxious and want to find out some more. When he does, there are a number of ways to prove the existence and reality of the vital body. We can mention a few. In the first place, there is the camera. Perhaps you can find in your town among the spiritualists one able to take spirit photographs. Though there are tricks well known to photographers whereby such pictures may be produced, it is nevertheless a fact that under conditions where there was absolutely no fraud, photographs have been taken of people who have passed into the beyond. They have been able to clothe themselves in ether, the material whereof the vital body is constructed, and which is visible to the eye of the lens. The writer himself (Max Heindel) was once caught by the camera when he traveled in his vital body from Los Angeles to San Pedro to see a friend off on a steamer. It so happened that he came between this friend and the camera of another friend who was just taking a snapshot of the ship, and the likeness was so good that it was recognized by a number of people.
Then we have the phenomenon of dogs following certain persons by the scent obtained from clothing they have worn. This clothing is impregnated by the ether from the vital body, which latter protrudes about an inch and a half beyond the periphery of the dense body. Hence also at every step we take the Earth is penetrated by this invisible, radiating fluid. But it has been found that blood hounds following the fleeing criminal were baffled and lost the scent because the fugitive had put on skates and made his way over the ice. This raised him above the ground so that the vital body protruding below his feet did not impregnate the ice and therefore there was no scent whereby the bloodhounds could trace him. Similar results have been obtained by a person walking on stilts from the place of his crime.
Then there is the case of the magnetic healer who draws from his patient the diseased parts of the vital body which are then replaced by fresh ethers that allow the life forces to course through the diseased physical organ and thereby effect a cure. If the magnetic healer is not careful to throw off the black, jelly-like, miasthmatic, etheric fluid which he has drawn into his own body, he in turn will become ill, and if there were no such invisible fluid as we speak of, the phenomena of the patient's recovery and the magnetic healer's illness could not take place.
Finally, we may say that if you can find the conditions and care to go to the trouble, there is one way and one condition under which a very large number of people are able to see the vital body for themselves. This is most easily accomplished in southern countries where the dead bodies are buried quickly after death. Select a time as close to the Full Moon as possible. Then watch the papers for funeral notices and go to the cemetery in the evening following the funeral of someone who has died within twenty-four hours. You will then probably see above the newly made grave, flickering in the moonlight, the filmy form of the vital body which remains there and decays synchronously with the body in the grave. This may be seen at any time by the seer, but it is only dense enough to be visible to ordinary people on the first night after the funeral. If you do not see it at first, walk around the grave and look steadfastly at it from different angles. Then you will probably get the most convincing ocular proof for your friend.
Question: What is prayer? Is it equivalent to concentration and meditation, or is it only a petition to God? (Vol. II, #135)
Answer: Unfortunately, as it is commonly practiced it is too often a petition to God to interfere on behalf of the supplicant and enable him to attain a selfish object. It is certainly a disgrace that people engage in violating the commandment of God, "Thou shalt not kill," and pray for victory over their enemies. If we measure the majority of prayers offered up today by the standard set by Christ in the Lord's Prayer they certainly do not deserve the name prayer. They are blasphemies, and it were a thousand times better they were never uttered.
The Lord's Prayer having been given us as a pattern, we shall do well to analyze it if we would arrive at an adequate conclusion. If we do so, we shall find that three of the seven prayers of which it consists are concerned with adoration of the Divine: "Hallowed be Thy Name, Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done." Then comes the petition for the daily bread necessary to keep our organism alive, and the remaining three prayers are for deliverance from evil and forgiveness for our shortcomings. From these facts it is evident that every worthy prayer must contain an overwhelming measure of adoration, praise, and recognition of our unworthiness, together with a firm resolution to strive to be more pleasing to our Father in Heaven. The main object, therefore, of prayer is to get into as close communication with God as possible, in order that the Divine Life and Light may flow into, illumine, and enable us to grow in His image and His likeness.
This is a view diametrically opposite from the common idea of prayer, which takes the view that as God is our Father we may go to Him in prayer and He is bound to give us our heart's desire. If we do not get it the first time, we need only keep praying, and because of our very importunity, our wish will be granted. Such a view is repellent to the enlightened mystic, and if we bring the matter down to a practical basis it is evident that a wise father having a son able to provide for himself would naturally resent it if this son should appear before him several times a day with importunate requests for this, that, and the other thing, which he could easily obtain by going to work and earning. Prayer, no matter how earnest and sincere, can never take the place of work. If we work for a good purpose with our whole heart, soul, and body, and at the same time pray God to bless our work, there is no doubt but that the petition will be granted every time. However, unless we put our shoulder to th wheel we have no right to call on the Deity for assistance.
As said previously, the burden of our prayers should be praise to God, "from whom all blessings flow," for our desire bodies are formed from materials of all seven regions of the Desire World in proportion to our requirements as determined by the nature of our thoughts. Every thought clothes itself in desire stuff congruous to its nature. This applies to the thoughts formed and expressed in prayer. If selfish, they attract to themselves an envelope composed of the substance of the lower regions of the Desire World, but if they are noble, unselfish, and altruistic, they vibrate to the higher pitch of the regions of soul-light, soul-life, and soul-power. They clothe themselves in this material, giving added life and light to our spiritual nature. Even when we pray for others it is detrimental to ask for health, but not for economic prosperity. "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness" is the commandment. When we comply with that command we may rest assured that "all these things" will also be given. Therefore, when we pray for a friend let us put our whole heart and osul into the petition that he may permanently seek the Way, the Truth, and the Life, for having once found that greatest of all treasures no real necessity will ever be denied.
Nor is this theory, at all. Thousands of people, the writer included, have found that "Our Father in Heaven" will take care of our material needs when we endeavor to live the spiritual life. However, in the final analysis it is not the spoken prayer that helps. There are people who can lead a congregation in a prayer that is perfection both in language and poetical sentiment. They may even conform their prayers to the principles laid down by the Lord as enunciated in our opening paragraphs, and yet that prayer may be an abomination because it lacks the one essential requirement. Unless our whole life is a prayer we cannot be pleasing to God no matter how beautiful our petitions may be. On the other hand, if we strive from day to day and from year to year to live according to His will, then even though we ourselves know that we fall far short of our ideal, and even though we, like the publican in the Temple, are of halting speech and can only smite our breast saying, "God be merciful to me a sinner," we shall find that the Spirit itself, knowing our needs, makes intercession for us with unutterable groanings, and that our modest supplication before the Throne of Grace will avail more than all the flowery speeches we could possibly make.
You also ask: Is prayer equivalent to concentration and meditation?
Concentration consists of focusing thought upon a single point, as the Sun's rays are focused by means of a glass. When diffused over the surface of the whole Earth it gives but a moderate warmth, but even a few Sun rays focused through an ordinary reading glass will set inflammable material on which it is focused afire. Similarly, thought flitting through the brain as water runs through a sieve, is of no value, but when concentrated upon a certain object it increases in intensity and will achieve the purpose involved for good or ill. Members of a certain order have practiced concentration on their enemies for centuries, and it was found that misfortune or death always overtook the object of their disfavor. We hear among certain groups today of "malicious magnetism" applied by concentration of thought. On the other hand, concentration of thought power may also be used to heal and help, nor are examples wanting to substantiate this statement. We may therefore say that concentration is the direct application of thought power to the attainment of a certain definite object which may be good or evil according to the character of the person who practices it and the purpose for which he desires to use it.
Prayer is similar to concentration in certain points but differs radically in other respects. While the efficiency of prayer depends upon the intensity of concentration attained by the devotee, it is accompanied by a feeling of love and devotion of equal intensity to the depth of concentration, which renders prayer far more efficacious than cold concentration can ever be. Furthermore, it is exceedingly difficult for the great majority of people to concentrate their thoughts coolly, calmly, and without the slightest emotion, and exclude all other considerations from their consciousness. The devotional attitude is more easily cultivated, for the mind is then centered on Deity.
Meditation is the method of gathering by spiritual power knowledge of things with which we are not ordinarily familiar.
The Western Wisdom Teachings deal very thoroughly with the method of acquiring firsthand knowledge, elucidating these points at length.
This article was adapted from "The Rosicrucian Philosophy in Questions and Answers, Vol. II," by Max Heindel.