Sunday, June 05, 2011

Praying for Yesterday | Paradox of Past and Destiny

1.
On the eve of the millennium, Dr. Leonard Leibovici, an Israeli professor of internal medicine in Israel and expert on hospital acquired infections, conducted a study of healing prayer's effect on nearly 4000 adults who had developed sepsis while in the hospital. He set up a strict protocol, using a random number generator to randomize the participants into two groups, only one of which would be prayed for, and throughout the study maintained impeccable blinding; neither the patients nor the hospital staff knew who was getting treated - or indeed even knew that a study was being carried out.

The names of all those in the treatment group were then handed to an individual, who said a short prayer for the well-being and full recovery of the treated group as a whole.

Leibovici was interested in comparing three outcomes between the prayed-for and not-prayed-for groups: the number of deaths in hospital; the overall length of stay in hospital; and the duration of fever. When calculating the results, he was careful to employ several statistical measurements to examine the significance of any differences. As it happened, the group that had been prayed for suffered fewer deaths than controls (28.1 versus 30.2 per cent), although the difference was not statistically significant (in fact regular medicine often also have similar range of statistical success when studied). What was scientifically significant, however, were major differences between the prayed-for group and the control related to the severity of illness and the time it took to heal. Those being prayed for had a far shorter duration of fever and hospital stay and, in general, got better faster than the controls.

The subject of Leibovici's research - the healing effects of prayer of course was hardly new. But this study offered one novel twist. The patients had been in the hospital between 1990 and 1996. The praying was carried out in 2000 - between 4 and 10 years later.

The study was meant to be a spoof. The British Medical Journal had published it in its Christmas 2001 issue, which is generally reserved for light-hearted commentary. But Leibovici was not joking. He was trying to make a serious point in the most graphic way he could. Leibovici had a particular affinity for mathematics and statistics, and used them repeatedly in his reviews and meta-analyses when evaluating particular procedures. He had even come to believe that diseases and success of treatment could be predicted through mathematical models.

I have quoted the above study from the book, "The Intention Experiment" by Lynne McTaggart (FSC + Harper Collins). Leibovici had the intention to illustrate that you simply cannot use the scientific method to explain subjective things like prayer. He wasn't so much for studying prayer in medical science, on the contrary he wanted to disprove it, but something different emerged from it. Larry Dossey, who has also written extensively on 'non-local' consciousness and healing, commented that, in a stroke, Leibovici had turned 'conventional notion of time and space, prayer, consciousness and causality' on their heads.

The writer goes on to comment: One of the most basic assumptions about intention is that it operates according to a generally accepted sense of cause and effect: the cause must always precede the effect. If A causes B, then A must have happened first. This assumption reflects one of our deepest beliefs, that time is a one-way, forward-moving progression. This assumption is reinforced every moment of our ordinary lives.

Indeed, the most tangible evidence of time's arrow is the physical evidence of our own aging; first we are born, then we grow old and die. Similarly, we believe that the consequence of our intentions can only occur in the future.

However, a sizable body of the scientific evidence about intention violates these basic assumptions about causation. Research has demonstrated clear instances of time-reversed effects, where effect precedes cause. Leibovici's study was unique among prayer research in that it was conducted 'backward in time'; - the healing intention was meant to affect events that had already occurred. But to many frontier scientists, this experience in 'retro-prayer' simply represented a true-to-life instance of time-displacement effects regularly seen in the laboratory.

Studies like Leibovici's offer up the most challenging idea of all: that thoughts can affect our things no matter when the thought is made and in fact, may work better when they are not subject to a conventional time sequence of causation. There have been other scientific investigation such as time displacement experiments that offer similar kind of past being effected even though intention was made in the future, even on living things such as cell of plant etc.

There are a number of quantum scientists who have studied the effect of observer or more accurately, the effect of consciousness when subject become conscious of the object. Reality and how it interacts with each other behave completely different when something is observed as opposed to when it is not. The famous double slit experience in the field of quantum physics is such an exciting, paradoxical look at how reality changes when consciousness is added into it.

Emergence (River of Sanity), art by Sufi Artist Michael Green

2.
From spiritual vantage point, God is Unity, One, Indivisible and God is Real and God is Truth and universe is an emanation from the Truth Itself. "I have created the universe with haqq (truth)" - declares Allah in the Quran. 

One of the greatest mystery that we have to deal in our existence is Time and the mystical tradition of Islam transmit a profound truth where God declares, "Children of Adam inveigh against Time, but I am Time (Dahr), in My hand is the night and the day" (on the authority of Abu Hurairah, from hadith qudsi). Other version of this sacred tradition mentions, "Do not inveigh against time (al-dahr), for Allah is Time", "Let not any one of you say, 'Woe to time,' for Allah is time." Allah Subhanuwata'la, Glorious beyond comparison, use time as one of His attribute. He who is indescribable, describe Himself by Time.

Through our limited grasp of reality the way we perceive time is only a fragmented view of this reality. Just like many others phenomena of the reality about which we only perceive through veils of illusion (maya) and fail to go beyond the maya. That is why the Precious Master of Mystics, Muhammad Mustafa used to pray, "O Allah, show me things as they truly are." This is because the default range of vision of our physical eyes and degree of comprehension of our conditioned mind, unless the eyes of the heart and inner vision is opened, remains to be extremely myopic. 

The experiment mentioned in the beginning of this post give us a rare glimpse of the fact that time is not fragmented but an indivisible continuum. And if that is the case, it can not be otherwise, then we can, not only affect the future but also the past. This may seem extremely paradoxical and contrary to our ordinary consciousness, yet this understanding is a necessity to unveil the maya that veils phenomena of time. Human being through his consciousness. And prayer is one of the most ancient yet most effective means which give birth to renewed consciousness by invoking the object of prayer which in turn works as seed of consciousness for which invocation is made. And one way of doing it is by awakening our consciousness or by focusing our attention (tawajjuh as it is known in Sufism, spiritual attention)

The reason why the most illuminated human beings who have walked on this earth have meditated, prayed in long prayer, have immersed themselves in undisturbed space and time of heart prayer is not because they wanted to achieve external piety or religiousness but because it is through the exercise of prayer, the consciousness of human being become heightened. And when such heightened consciousness arrive, and something is prayed for either of the present which is constantly moving towards the future - this also affect the past. Wait a second, your mind may stop you. How come past can be affected.

Here is a simplified illustration. Lets say you make a niyyah or an intention (which again is an exercise of consciousness) to pray about something, say you ask for a beautiful job. The moment you make that intention or the moment you make that prayer, since time phenomena is indivisible, your past will be affected and links would have already been made in the past thanks to the prayer in the future which will yield fruit only in the present and in the future because we are swimming in the current of time. So that is how past is affected by events in the future. This is contrary to how we ordinarily perceive the world, but this only confirms all the enlightened traditions of humanity. 

Another example would, lets say you are praying for your good health now, and if you do so, in the past things will be arranged in a way that your biological body will receive such conditions and your physical reality will be shifted in such a way that you will receive good health in the now and in the future. In countless medical research it has been found out that those who are spiritual and religious and observe a religious methodology enjoy much sound health than rest of us. Those who have heightened consume much much less medicine to cope with sleeplessness, anxiety and hundreds of other false diseases that we have invented and named only recently.

What we call destiny, qadr of Allah - the paradox of it is dissolved only by attaining an enlightened view of this reality.

Through the supplication (du'a) the Decree of God (qadr Allah) is changed.
- Saying of the Seal of Prophets (s)

Art by Roya Ma | Spirit Collage by Truth Works
 3.
The wise sage have been saying from the past, "You shall only reap what you sow."

The heir of the wise ones add, "The field in which you sow your seed, it's limitless boundary extends not only in the future, but also in the past. He who has ears to hear, let him hear."

For those who worked righteousness in this world, a good reward. God's earth is spacious, and those who steadfastly persevere will receive their recompense generously, without limits. - The Final Testament: 39:10

... their Lord responds to them: 'I will not let the deeds of any doer among you go to waste,  whether male or female - you are both the same in that respect .. The best of all rewards is with God.' - The Final Testament, 3:195


Sadiq M. Alam
Dhaka, June 2011


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