Friday, August 15, 2014

Review: When A Pagan Prays

Religion and prayer go hand-in-hand and paganism is no exception to the rule. Nimue Brown has here written a lengthy treatise on the place of prayer in pagan religion, and offers many useful insights. She discusses the ethics of prayer, its actual practice, the balance of prayer and action and its place in magic and ritual, to name just a few topics.

Brown began the work that became this book out of intellectual curiosity. She is a Druid, a member of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids (OBOD), and -- significantly for readers of this book -- a nontheist. She  rejects the label atheist because "it seems too much like certainty to me," but nevertheless, she does not include gods in her pagan practice. Her spirituality did not include prayer per se because, without deities, to just whom is one praying?

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When she became interested in prayer, she looked into Christian, Buddhist and Shinto practices among others to gain insight into how prayer manifests in various religions. An early and important revelation was in a book by a Christian author who wrote that prayer is "about entering a mystery, not getting a result." From there, Brown launched into a personal experiment with prayer, from which this book eventually emerged.

She explores each of her topics in considerable depth, and brings a great deal of scholarship to bear. Attempting to summarize it would not do justice to it, because watching her thoughts reveal themselves in full measure is one of the pleasures of reading this work.

As an OBOD Druid, Brown has a particular perspective, as would a Hellenic Reconstructionist or an Asutruar. "Pagan" has become too big a word to mean much specific; however, she says emphatically and frequently through the book that she is intending only to describe her thoughts and experience, not to issue proclamations that everyone should accept. With that caveat in mind, she has written an interesting and useful book.

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