Sample chapter from
The Prayer of Silence
© Bruce Fraser MacDonald, PhD
Chapter Five (p. 93-103)
Initiation – Getting to know the Watcher and the Self
As you practise the Prayer of Silence, you will find that a profound change
in orientation takes place in your life. This will not be merely a change in
ideas or in beliefs. By going beyond theory or the ideas in the mind, through
the actual practise of the Prayer of Silence, you will begin to see yourself and
the world differently. This is because you will begin to discover, in your own
experience, that there really is another world in which you can live – a world
of the Spirit.
In our everyday lives, we are usually oriented outward. We live there, act
there and have relationships there. Even when we read and think, we are not
actually looking at the world within -- we are only moving ideas around in the
mind, as if they are objects. Thus, we argue over the “objectivity” of our ideas
and our views. We want them to be as real as we think objects are.
In the Prayer of Silence, we enter another world -- the one within us. It
seems at first less real than the outer one but, in time, we learn that the insights
we gain there are of great value for our total life. As we persevere in our practice,
this inner world begins to blossom and the experience of this inner world
becomes rich and varied.
We usually think that the outer world is what makes us as we are -- that the
world is the cause of what is within us. The Prayer of Silence demonstrates,
in a very real way, that the opposite is true: we have mistaken the cause for the
effect. What we are within us causes the world to be as it is. That is because
the inner world is the source of all creativity from which we actually manifest
our experience in the outer world – positive and negative.
So, we argue here that it does not help to change the world without first
changing what is within us: in fact, it is impossible to change the world first.
The world changes when we human beings change within.
The Prayer of Silence, then, is a means of focussing within, focussing on
the real causes of life, so that, having found what is there, we can build on the
good we see within and correct the errors we find.
The inner world is very complex and the doors to the inner country are
hard to find without help and guidance. This book is a guide for finding the
keys to the doors of the Self.
The Prayer of Silence is taught first as certain ideas and techniques for
entering the Silence of the Self and the Silence of God. The word “Silence” is
used because, when we are in the Silence, we can leave behind the noise and
distraction of the outer world for a time and be aware of other dimensions of
our being. Once the techniques of entering the Silence have been learned and
made part of our awareness, we can then move on to build a sense of who we
are and who we can become.
This book also has an important aim beyond meditation techniques. The
ideas we hold in our minds and the beliefs we have about the world, have a
profound effect on our lives. For that reason, this book also explores a number
of important ideas which will make it easier for most readers to understand
what is happening to them as they progress on the inner way. Our introductory
discussion of the many aspects of the Kingdom of God in Yeshua’s teachings,
for instance, has given us a general picture of how the Prayer of Silence can
affect the whole of life. Now we need to put the theory into practice.
Although what I call “The Prayer of Silence” is similar to meditation and
draws on many meditative traditions, it is also a prayer, a conversation with
God, the Divine Reality and the Presence we find within and around us as we
enter the Silence. This practise of the Prayer of Silence moves us from our
usual feeling of separation from the divine, to an experience of, and then an
absolute certainty of our Oneness with God.
God, we will discover, is to be found within the Self -- or as Yeshua says,
“The Kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21). Where better than in the
Kingdom to find the “King”? But finding this kingdom is not about political
power, as suggested by the term “King.” It is qualified by parables which say
that the inner knowing is like experiencing the flavour which salt adds to food
or which yeast adds to bread. It is like the pearl of great price for which we
would give everything. It is like something we would clean our whole house
In order to overcome the sense of separation from God which most people
(even most religious people) experience, it is important to develop this interior
sense of the Divine Presence. This will likely take some time, but be patient:
it is entirely possible, in spite of our conditioning which often says that we
cannot possible know God.
Almost all our religious traditions have tended to place the Divine outside
of us, in a Heaven or Paradise or the sky or somewhere away from where the
most important aspects of our lives seem to occur. So, we think we have to go
to a particular place of worship to find God, or we have to listen to a particular
holy person to learn of God, or we have to leave our work and relationships
to find God, or we have to bow in a particular direction or sit just so, in a particular
way. And often we are taught that there has to be an “intermediary”
between us and God, whether this is a priest, a saint, a mullah, a rabbi, an angel
or even Yeshua.
This sense of distance from God is due partly to the way we use language
to describe our spiritual nature. We often think we “have a soul” which an
external God somehow “made” to be “inside” us. So we think of the Divine as
a controlling, creating force somehow separate and outside or above our physical
life, like a potter making a pot.
When we talk of prayer, then, we often think of it as being directed to this
outside deity. We think we have to direct our prayers in a particular direction
so they will “get to” God, almost like tuning an aerial so that radio waves will
get to the divine receiver. Often we feel we cannot approach God in the darkness
of our life -- it wouldn’t be right, many think, to pray in a toilet or in a
barn while looking after the cattle!
But the experience of all the meditative traditions has been that God is to
be found within, wherever we happen to be. Even the most squalid prison is
an appropriate place to enter the Silence of God.
We can take this one step further. Not only is God always available, because
the Kingdom of God is always within us, wherever we go, but we need
to realize that we are actually an expression of God or a manifestation of the
divine reality. The biblical writers expressed this idea by saying we are “in
the image of God” (Gen 1:26).
If we are somehow an expression of God’s reality, however limited we
may think we are, then what Yeshua says makes sense, that the nearest place
to find God is within us. But additionally, if we are an expression of the divine
reality, then we cannot be as limited as we usually think we are. Somehow, we
have been led to believe we have limits which we really do not have. We have
been told over and over about our “sinful nature,” or about our “fallen nature.”
But the biblical insistence that we are “in the image of God,” asserts that we
do not have a sinful nature – rather, error is something which is added onto our
basic divine nature and error can always be corrected.
Again, part of our problem is language. Most languages are poor in their
vocabulary for describing spiritual things. I found over the years that many
of the available words did not adequately describe my experience in this inner
Kingdom of God, because the Christian tradition has tended not to accept
that God is within us and so did not develop the necessary words to convey
that idea. Finally, I had to look in a number of other languages and traditions
for words and concepts which would express what I was experiencing, as you
have seen in our discussion of the Greek word “gnosis” earlier in the book.
In order to develop a way of expressing this sense of the “Inner Kingdom
of God,” this feeling that is developed as we continue to enter the Silence of
the Self and find God there, I have found it helpful to adopt some words from
Sanskrit, an ancient language of India which is rich in words describing spiritual
When you say, “God,” there are so many different associations which arise
in the mind. Many people will not even use that word to speak of the Divine
because it is so loaded with other meanings and associations with groups, doctrines,
emotions, comparisons which they do not like. But I have not been able
to find an alternative to that word without confining myself to other traditions.
If I call the Divine by names from different religions, then I am trapped by
implication into those traditions. And I wish to be free of traditions and their
prejudices but still to talk of the Divine in a kind of shorthand, in a generic
way, using one word.
Therefore, in order to avoid misunderstanding about what I mean when I
say, “God,” in the following pages, and in order to understand what we will
be exploring as “the Watcher,” it would be helpful if we could begin to distinguish
between different aspects of our spiritual nature from the outset.
What I refer to as “God” is intimately related to what we are. But God is
not a person, in the way we think of a person, with limits in time and space.
We may be “in the image of God,” but we are also quite different in many
How can we talk about the “God within us,” and at the same time distinguish
other aspects of our inner nature? Since you will come across many
aspects of the self, including the Watcher, in your meditative explorations, it
would be helpful if I gave you a brief description of the “layers of self” you
For instance, we often speak of “body, soul and spirit” as if we had three
levels of being. However, it is more complex than that.
The next meditation exercise, the one I call your initiation, will put you in
touch with the most profound aspect of your awareness – the Watcher which
is an expression of what I will shortly explain is the Atman/Spirit. Other exercises
will get us in touch with different aspects of our bodies and the actions
of our bodies in the world.
However, we know we have emotions and memories which do not seem to
be aspects of our bodies. Ideas are related to our brains, but in meditation we
will find that they are also accessible from the Watcher aspect of consciousness,
and these memories are “stored,” not only in the brain, but in every cell
of our body. After the encephalitis, when my brain was badly damaged, I
discovered that memories are also stored outside of the body and brain and
can only be accessed in that case from the Watcher aspect of consciousness,
not from the brain at all. This aspect of the self is sometimes referred to as
When you become a little more experienced, you will be able to sense
a type of body around you which is not physical. It seems to be more like a
magnetic field and is referred to by some traditions as the “Astral Body.” In
our healing exercises it will be very important to perceive this body since it is
an aspect of the network or matrix I sensed as I was dying and as I was getting
the body ready for life again. It was by willing a connection between the matrix/
astral body and the “physical” body that I was able to get the “old machine
If we keep going in our exploration of the various “bodies” which we
have, we will become aware of something we might call “soul.” This is what
I described earlier as the self-conscious, magnetic field which moves from life
to life, adding to itself, developing itself, attracting its particular qualities to
itself in each lifetime.
The Watcher aspect of the self which you will experience shortly is in
some ways independent of all of these. It is tremendously powerful. It is the
conscious, active, evaluative, creative and organizing aspect of our highest
Self – what is usually referred to as “Spirit.” The Watcher is the active principle
of Spirit, and Spirit is the “Being” aspect of our Divine nature. In our
meditations we aim finally to be aware of “Spirit” so we can see all of life from
the perspective of Spirit.
But where is God in all this exploration of our inner being? How do we
find God if we just look at ourselves?
To understand the experience of God in the Silence, we must first get a
sense of what this “Spirit” is that we are aiming at. In Sanskrit, Spirit is called
“Atman.” Since the word “spirit” has so many other connotations, including
vodka, I find it helpful to adopt the more exact word “Atman” or “Atman/
Spirit” to describe the highest aspect of our spiritual nature. It is at this highest
level that we are “One with God.” This is because this Atman/Spirit is the
way God manifests in us.
But remember the quotation from The Gospel of Thomas where Yeshua
said, “Split a piece of wood, I am there”? He was referring to the way this
Divine Atman/Spirit is present even in the simplest of things – present even
in the bread and wine of a meal together, which is why Yeshua’s statement in
introducing the “Last Supper” is so powerful. When he says of the bread and
the wine, “This is my body; this is my blood,” he is making us aware of how
God is present even in the simplest of things on the dinner table.
Of course, we cannot describe God’s Presence directly, because it is not
a thing of words but of our highest inner awareness. So we need to use metaphors,
comparisons or parables to understand what we are talking about.
Visualize your total, personal experience (everything about you -- body,
emotions, ideas, relationships, possessions) as rays of light shining from one
light-source within you. We name this Source “Atman/Spirit.” My body is
not Atman. My brain is not Atman. My emotions are not Atman. The life
source which surrounds and interpenetrates my cells is not Atman. When you
look at any aspect of your experience, you are not looking at Atman/Spirit
itself but you are looking at one of the rays shining, however dimly, from this
spiritual, creative centre.
Some of the rays of light are brighter than others. Some are completely
dark. Both the “good” and the “bad” are creative rays, but some of those rays
have been darkened to the extent that they do not seem to reflect the Divine
Source at all.
Now, take this comparison a step further. Think of everything in the universe,
including all the people, each having at its centre one of these Atman/
Spirit “Light Sources.” All your neighbours, the animals, the trees – all have
the Divine Atman Light Source at their centre. In fact, it is this Light Source
which makes it possible for everything to exist. It is this light “which lights
everyone coming into the world” as John’s Gospel puts it.
Think of all these smaller Light Sources, including your own, as being in
the image of the One Source, the Divine Light.
Then think of some of Yeshua’s parables about the Kingdom of God. He
says the Kingdom of God is like salt which gives flavour to our lives. It is
like yeast which a woman put in a lump of dough so that the whole loaf could
rise. It is like a pearl of great price which we would trade everything for if we
only knew it was there. It is a well of water springing up to eternal life. It is
the lamp which we should not cover with a basket. Notice how, in all of these
parables, the divine centre, what I have called the Light Source within us, is
described as the source of our life, of our vitality, of our value, of our purpose
in life. It is the Kingdom of God within us.
All of this is summed up in the word, “Atman/Spirit.” It is the Atman
which is the Light Source which is an expression of the Divine Source which
is the salt and yeast and pearl of our life. That is what we seek to experience,
so that we can also experience our Oneness with the One Source, with God.
I would take this even one step further. In the same way that our body
has a centre of consciousness which unites all the various aspects of it, so the
universe, all that is, has a consciousness which unites it. This Universal Consciousness
is another picture of what I call God. And we can communicate
with this Universal Consciousness through our own Atman/Spirit, which is an
expression in miniature of that greater Consciousness.
In communicating with God, then, we are not trying to project our words
out to a great distance, because God’s Presence is actually the Light Source,
the centre of consciousness, which is within us. And in the same way as we
are centres of consciousness, and can express our feelings and ideas in words,
so too this inner Light Source is conscious and can respond to us. In that way,
we actually talk to God, not as a tiny part talking to the totality of God, but as
a tiny part talking to the part of God which is manifest in our own lives.
These have been attempts to describe what I mean by “God.” And when I
say we are “communing with God,” it is this sense of the indwelling, surrounding,
creative, loving Presence that we are communicating with. All of that
which exists has consciousness as its centre, to the extent that some physicists
say that the universe is more like a giant thought than like a thing. Everything,
in its own way, is conscious, and we can communicate with a part or we can
communicate with the Whole -- with God. My experience has been that God
will communicate in many ways, including in words which we can understand.
The communication with God can be as simple as a few words heard
by a child, Samuel, in the temple night, or as simple as the “still, small voice”
which Elijah heard, or which you can hear.
Of course, God is much more than we can ever hope to comprehend. We
need only get a glimpse of the stars and nebulae in the universe to know that
we cannot begin to feel close to the Cause of this infinite universe, much less
describe or understand this aspect of God with our earth-bound brains. But
God is also manifest in each of us in our Spirit, in Atman. It is not an impossible
task to know this Atman, and through that knowing, to know God.
So, when we talk to God in the Prayer of Silence, we are not directing our
words into infinite space or far away in a Heaven of some sort or toward some
point on the earth: we are communing with God in the most essential part of
our Selves. Atman and God, the Light and its Source, are One. As we become
aware of that oneness, we begin to experience the greatest bliss.
Different traditions have used other metaphors to try to describe this experience
of Oneness. Some say that Atman/Spirit is like a drop of water in the
ocean — distinct yet one with the ocean. In accounting for my own experience
in meditation, I find the metaphor of Atman/Spirit being a Ray of Light of the
Divine Sun helpful because, in visualizing this metaphor, I have the sense of
the Divine Sun central to my being, and then I can see my life as the shining of
that light to the world. The Jewish mystical writers speak of the Atman/Spirit
as being a Spark of the Divine Fire, with the whole universe as the Fire of God.
John’s Gospel draws on this ancient tradition when he says that the Divine
Light “was the true Light which lights everyone coming into the world” (John
St. Paul expresses it another way. He tells the Athenians, “For in him
[God] we live and move and have our being; as certain of your own poets have
said, for we are also his offspring” (Acts 17:28). Here Paul explains that we
live and move and have our being within God. But in writing to the Corinthians
he goes even farther by claiming that God is also in us: “Know you not
that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (I
Cor. 3:16). For Paul, God is in us and we are in God.
Paul expresses this idea again to the Colossians: “God’s plan is to make
known his rich and glorious secret which he has for all peoples. And the secret
is that Christ is in you, which means that you will share in the glory of God .
. . With all possible wisdom we warn and teach them, in order to bring each
one into God’s presence as mature individuals in union with Christ” (Col.
When Paul refers here to Christ, the “Christos,” he is not speaking only of
Yeshua, although he speaks of Yeshua as an expression of the Christos. The
Christos is the Logos, (see John 1) the essential Meaning, Light and Being of
God in the universe. It is through the Logos that the universe comes into being.
John says in his Gospel that Yeshua is the Logos, the Word. Paul makes
a further claim. Paul says that the Logos, the essential being of God, is within
us. We, like Yeshua, arise from Logos or Christos. We can, he claims, move
toward “union with Christ,” union with the Logos, the very essence of God.
For Paul, then, the spiritual process was one of bringing people into a gnosis
of, an experience of union with the Logos, the Christ. Yeshua and Paul are
not teaching a religion of correct doctrines and beliefs here. Rather, they are
leading their disciples to an actual awareness of God within and around them,
and that is what I wish to do through this book.
In these and other places, Paul explains in a variety of ways that we can
never be separated from God because we are of the very nature of God. What
we are here calling the Atman/Spirit as the expression of God in us, Paul calls
the “Christos,” the indwelling presence and being of God. Much of Paul’s
teaching involves the development and growth of this indwelling Christos (Atman)
to bring us to spiritual maturity.
But again, because the word “Christ” has so many varied meanings in so
many churches, I will still use the term “Atman/Spirit” to express this idea
of the Christos/Logos. There is an important distinction in philosophy in the
Most Christian churches (and other religions) teach that it is merely by
“believing in Jesus” or “believing in the power of the blood” or “believing in
the correct doctrine,” or believing in something similar to these, that we are
“saved.” What we believe certainly makes a difference in how we live our
lives, but beliefs in themselves do not somehow “save” us from ourselves.
Paul’s message, and the message of the Prayer of Silence, is that we actually
“become Christ.” We become one with God as we seek daily, throughout
our lives, to allow the deeper Love, Joy and Peace of God, the Atman/Spirit
which is at the centre of our being, to shine like a Divine Sun into our lives and
into the world around us.
All these metaphors assert that it is from the very life of God that we
spring. So it is not so difficult for us to find God as “Our Father,” (to use another
metaphor) as Yeshua instructs. “Our Father” is closer to us than the skin
on our fingers, since we are, in our innermost being, God. Or as Yeshua says,
“Know you not that you are gods” (John 10:35).
You can see why it is important to get an exact sense of what I mean when
I say, “God,” since there are many other understandings of what or who God
is and what our relationship to the Divine is like. In entering the Silence, in
carrying on this inner communication, we can “talk to God,” not as talking
to ourselves and not as talking to some being separated from us in a different
realm, but as talking to the very Source from which we have come and to
which we return and which we are.
However, in the beginning we will start more simply than this. We will
deal with our bodies and feelings and ideas and relationships. They are an
expression of what we have done with the inner Light of Atman as it shone
through our being. Sometimes we will find God in our lives, but often we will
find that we have darkened the Light until it is unrecognizable as the Ray of
God’s Light. So we have to continue on the road back to the Light.
Meeting the Watcher for the first time
In most of the chapters, I suggest a variety of exercises which will gradually
bring you to a realization of your spiritual nature. These exercises are
designed to gently awaken a particular awareness of your inner being. It is
important that you practise them and not just read about them. Reading will
only give you episteme: practise will give you gnosis. Of course, you may
want to read the whole book to get an overview of the ideas, but then make
sure you come back and practice the exercises. This book is not just about
You may also think that since you have used other meditative techniques,
you can skip these. I have taught the techniques included here to people who
have spent many years using other methods and they have found that what is
presented here has added a great deal to their practise. These exercises are
actually designed to open certain spiritual abilities and senses gradually and it
helps if you do them in the order suggested here. They are not just haphazard
You should especially do the exercise which introduces you to the Watcher.
The rest of the book will be meaningless without the actual experience
of entering into that central consciousness, because the rest of the exercises
depend on it. Even if you only succeed a little bit in becoming aware of the
Watcher, that will be a help. Most people will find it quite easy to enter into
that level of awareness.
You have been gradually becoming aware of the way you spend your day
and night by doing the exercise designed to bring that into focus. However,
at the same time you have been learning about the day, you have also been
developing an ability to relax and to focus your attention on memories, feelings,
ideas and events. It may look like you have been looking outward but
you have actually been looking within yourself. Some of you may even have
found things which needed changing and so your lives have changed through
this process of inner reflection.
You have also been able to stop for a moment in your day and have learned
to project your awareness outward into the natural landscape or into a room
full of people. You have thus learned another way of being aware of the world
around you and you may have begun to perceive things about the world which
you could not have perceived without stopping in that way to sharpen the focus
of your awareness and to expand it beyond yourself.
Now I would like to introduce you to the Watcher aspect of your consciousness,
the same aspect I encountered in the Near Death Experience. Just
to remind you, this is the “centre of consciousness” from which I observed all
that was happening to my body and memories and feelings as the physical part
of the life which had been Bruce came to an end. It was also the “centre of
consciousness” from which I was able to put the memories and life force back
into the body to get “the old machine” to work again. It is both an observer of
events in our total being as well as the source of tremendous creative power,
as you will find in exercises later in the book.
The Watcher is actually intimately related to the exercises you have already
been doing and they will make it easier for you to perceive this centre of
awareness within you. One of the great philosophers of the Hindu tradition,
Shankara, who taught what is known as “Advaita” (non-dualism), was very
aware of this Watcher aspect of the self. He called it Atman, as we have been
doing. Someone asked him one day where this Atman was to be found and
he said, “You use it all the time, but are not aware of it.” Most people do not
become aware of this aspect of consciousness (often because their teachers are
not aware of it), until they have spent many years in meditation. Many other
traditions are obviously not even aware that there is anything like the Watcher
to discover, even though it is the most used aspect of our being.
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