Forms of Transmission in Traditional Christianity
Confirmation is a type of “passing on” or transmission of authority and ostensibly the power of spirit-breath-consciousness. In Roman Catholicism and some other groups, the bishop stretches out his hand over the children and calls down the power of holy spirit. This gesture is patterned after the previous New Testament passages which is also used in other sacraments including the anointing of the sick and ordination of a priest. This gesture is also used during the consecration of the bread and wine at Mass, so that, as many believe, they become the body and blood of Christ.
One Catholic theologian says, “The effect of the sacrament of Confirmation is the special outpouring of the Holy Spirit as once granted to the apostles on the day of Pentecost.” However, if the kids reacted like the adults did on Pentecost, they’d be punished for being disruptive and unruly. Either we have unusually disciplined and restrained kids — or there is not much Pentecostal type transmission going on in Confirmation!
Indeed, many of these transmissions in traditional religions have, over time, become diluted and often impotent to affect consciousness except for perhaps being impressive ceremonies.
The meaning of ordination ranges from Apostolic succession to a way to recognize and set aside leaders in the church. Apostolic succession is the belief that all ordained clergy are ordained by bishops who were ordained by other bishops tracing back to bishops ordained by the Apostles who were ordained by Jesus. This would be a form of “transmission” if that were true.
In less formal groups, the prospective pastor or leader kneels while other “ordained” people pass by or gather around the ordained to pray. The model for this is the passages we have pointed out previously and others in the New Testament. The effect is usually less that a change in expanded consciousness.
Prayer meetings and intercessory prayer
Another common form somewhat indirectly related to spiritual transmission is the sharing of prayer concerns in church meetings, weekly prayer service, and crisis occasions of “sending thoughts and prayers.” Almost always, these are requests directed to God who then, we hope, does the transmitting!
However, this was not Jesus’ model of prayer. He said if a mountain needs moving, don’t ask God to do it, you do it! When in healing mode, Jesus transmitted healing, and is never once recorded as asking God to do the healing. He taught the apostles to do the same. He even gave us a tantalizing description of healing prayer when a woman touched him and was healed of her hemorrhages. Jesus said, “Who touched me? . . .Someone touched me for I noticed that power had gone out from me (Luke 8:46).” What an exceptionally clear and vivid description of transmission.
A beautiful exception to traditional intercessory prayer is Unity’s way of praying for others. Unity Worldwide Ministries states, “When we pray for a person, we pray not to God, but from a consciousness of God. In this consciousness, we see the wholeness and beauty and blessings already available to the person and we use our prayers to affirm and acknowledge and give thanks for this Truth about the situation.” http://www.unity.org/resources/articles/praying-others
Pentecostals and Charismatics
Something new has been happening in today’s Christianity since the early 1900’s with the rise of Pentecostalism and later in the 1960’s with the Charismatic movement. These are known for their transmission practice of praying for others to be “filled with the spirit.” In integral terms, this is a brief, immediate experience of subtle or causal altered consciousness that comes from the openness of the person being prayed for and the transmission of consciousness-raising energy from the one(s) praying. This experience can be quite dramatic and memorable.
In my earlier years, in various religious settings, I had the privilege of praying for hundreds of receptive people who, sitting, would sometimes fall out of their chair to the floor. If standing, they would often and suddenly, without anyone touching them, fall backwards to the floor. We learned to have “catchers” around to help them down gently. We called it “resting in the spirit.” Folks would stay on the floor from a few minutes to a few hours. Sometimes they would shake and tremble while laying on the floor, but most of the time, they would quietly rest in the higher consciousness of spirit-breath. In questioning those who had this experience I found it was always one of profound peace and spiritual release.
Yet, I have always been slightly uncomfortable with those events in spite of the obviously powerful way they moved others to a peak experience of expanded consciousness. It seemed too limiting in that the more reserved or shy people were understandably hesitant to be prayed for in such an unusual setting. This practice also attracted a few who, perhaps, liked the drama occurring in front of others a little too much.
In addition, the outer drama of moving into such a peaceful state that one could not stand up tended to overshadow the beauty of what was quietly going on inside those who rested in this form of elevated consciousness. “Oh, you’re going to that service where they all fall on the floor!”
So I searched for something that might be available for more folks. Eventually I saw that the contemplative setting of the WeSpace group was a beautiful venue for the catalytic effect of spirit-breath-consciousness.
Contemplative Transmission is different than Pentecostal/Charismatic Practice
I affirm my Pentecostal and Charismatic sisters and brothers in their courage to authentically transmit awakened spirit-breath conscious in their particular way Without criticizing but rather differentiating WeSpace contemplative transmission from other practices, here are two differences:
First, WeSpace transmission is from a group, not a charismatic leader, as gifted as those leaders can be. The democratization of spirit-breath transmission is the work of God in using anyone and everyone who is open to God in this way of blessing others. The New Testament points out examples of transmission from the hands of leaders. However, their worship times as described in 1 Corinthians show that worship from higher states of consciousness is also a transmitting environment. Today we see that even more new pathways open once we understand that what Christianity traditionally calls “the Holy Spirit” is phenomenologically describing both personal and universal human/divine consciousness at all its levels.
The enthusiasm and openness of charismatic worship can feel frightening to those not used to it. If you are at home with exuberant expressions of spiritual flow, bless you.
However, for the rest of us, the WeSpace setting of silent prayer and elevated awareness of God’s blissful, peaceful presence is an exceptional place to feel safe. There we can experiment in opening ourselves up to one another and the divine spiritual presences that can fill us and guide us.