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The Hierarchy of Prayer: Understanding and Overcoming the Prerogative of the Idol


The world of spirituality is filled with diverse perspectives on prayer and meditation. Many people view these practices as distinct from one another, while others see them as complementary. Opinions on prayer and meditation differ not only between individuals but also across cultures and faith traditions. In this complex landscape, Aldous Huxley's seminal work, "The Perennial Philosophy," offers valuable insights that can help us better understand the shared wisdom underlying these practices.

In "The Perennial Philosophy," Huxley proposes that there exists a universal core of wisdom across all religious and spiritual traditions. This underlying wisdom can help bridge the gap between different practices, such as prayer and meditation, and foster greater interfaith understanding.

The Perennial Philosophy" by Aldous Huxley is a comprehensive exploration of spiritual insights that are shared across various religious and spiritual traditions. Chapter 16, titled "Prayer," delves into the significance, purpose, and various forms of prayer as a means of connecting with the divine reality.

Huxley begins by asserting that prayer is a universal practice found in all religious traditions. It is a means for individuals to communicate with the divine reality, seek guidance, express gratitude, and ask for assistance. He identifies three primary forms of prayer: petition, intercession, and mystical.


This form of prayer involves asking God for personal needs or desires. Huxley acknowledges the importance of petitionary prayer for many believers but criticizes it as being limited in scope. He argues that focusing on personal needs can inhibit spiritual growth, as it may perpetuate a sense of separateness from the divine and an attachment to material concerns.


This type of prayer involves praying on behalf of others, asking God to intervene in their lives. While Huxley sees intercessory prayer as more altruistic than petitionary prayer, he still considers it limited. He points out that intercession can often be driven by egoistic motivations, as individuals may pray for others to conform to their own beliefs or desires.


Mystical prayer is characterized by an inward focus and an intention to commune directly with the divine reality. Huxley argues that this form of prayer transcends the limitations of petition and intercession, as it seeks to dissolve the ego and establish a deep connection with the divine.

Having identified these three forms of prayer, Huxley further explores the concept of mystical prayer. He draws upon numerous religious and spiritual traditions to illustrate its significance and the diverse methods employed to achieve a state of communion with the divine.

“Alright Upaya, but what is this ‘The Divine’ you keep alluding to?” - You

Hush, I’m speaking for you, but I’m glad you asked. In light of the Foolish Ontology we find the concept of "The Divine" in the realm of Human Nature, the fifth layer of existence. This is the layer of imagination itself, and it encompasses abstract concepts and mental constructs that shape our understanding of the world and guide our actions. "The Divine" represents the myriad ways that different cultures and belief systems attempt to grapple with and give meaning to this important aspect of human experience. Through concepts such as God, Brahman, Nature, Allah, Chaos, dharma, and Tao, among others, people from diverse backgrounds have sought to articulate their understanding of this essential aspect of the human condition.

By exploring the various forms of prayer and their significance in different religious and spiritual traditions, we aim to provide a comprehensive analysis of the role of prayer in personal growth and self-awareness, while maintaining a respectful and inclusive approach to foster interfaith understanding for spiritual seekers from all backgrounds.

Hierarchy of Prayer: Understanding the Layers

We can divide the hierarchy into two main categories: idolatrous practices (confession, petition, and intercession) and meditative practices (adoration and contemplation). Idolatrous practices involve the division of the psyche and communication with a divine being, while meditative practices focus on inner reflection and self-awareness. It's important to understand that the hierarchy of prayer isn't like climbing a ladder, where you move from one rung to another in a linear fashion. Spiritual sophistication doesn't mean exclusively practicing the highest forms of prayer; it is achieved through a balanced combination of all levels, adapting to one's individual spiritual journey.


The term "idolatry" often carries negative connotations, particularly in religious contexts. Colloquially, idolatry refers to the excessive admiration and devotion to someone or something. However, in this exploration, we will approach idolatry from a more non-judgmental, literal perspective, focusing on its role as a descriptive term for certain prayer practices. Academic scholars use the term "idolatry" to describe the way one imagines God or a divine being to be, as distinct from how the divine actually is. As a non-Christian writer, I see no reason to “condemn” anyone for practicing idolatry. In fact, I believe it can be a useful spiritual practice under the right circumstances, as many christians have demonstrated.

LUE 2:321 “The point is that there is no point in driving yourself mad trying to stop yourself going mad. You might just as well give in and save your sanity for later.” - Praised be Douglas Adams

It's essential to recognize that idolatrous practices, such as confession, petition, and intercession, can serve as necessary steps in our spiritual development. These practices can be especially helpful for individuals working to overcome the five barriers to peace of mind, as discussed in our previous article. Consider the analogy of training wheels on a bicycle: they might seem limiting, and they can create a dependency, but they have educational utility for children learning to ride and provide support for adults who need assistance. The ultimate goal is to ride without them, but their presence can be invaluable during the learning process.

These practices are considered less sophisticated, not because they are inherently bad, but because they involve a division of the psyche. The lower forms of prayer are only deemed "worse" than the higher ones for the simple and obvious reason that it feels better to contemplate how well one fits into the universe, rather than feeling guilty and ashamed for making mistakes and feeling compelled to confess. . The ultimate aim of psychological development is integration, however idolatrous practices can serve as crucial stepping stones towards that goal, helping individuals confront and overcome The Five Barriers. Although it may be uncomfortable, and at times even painful, it is a necessary part of the journey towards spiritual growth and integration. Pain and joy are both essential for our spiritual evolution, and we must learn to navigate and appreciate the entire spectrum of prayer practices.

By adopting a non-judgmental and descriptive approach to idolatry, we can better understand its role in the hierarchy of prayer and appreciate its value in fostering spiritual development. Recognizing the potential benefits of these practices encourages spiritual seekers to explore and engage with various forms of prayer, ultimately facilitating a deeper connection with the divine and overcoming barriers to inner peace.

SLTF 36:597 “Listen, bud, if I had one Altairian dollar for every time I heard one bit of the Universe look at another bit of the Universe and say ‘That’s terrible’ I wouldn’t be sitting here like a lemon looking for a gin. But I haven’t and I am.”

The Importance of Spiritual Guidance:

As we navigate the hierarchy of prayer, the role of spiritual guidance becomes increasingly crucial as we look lower on the hierarchy. Spiritual guidance is particularly crucial for those engaging in idolatrous practices, as they involve the division of the psyche and can lead to potential missteps without proper direction. Authentic "Fake Gurus" can not only help practitioners discern between helpful and harmful practices but also provide insights into how to integrate these experiences from their spiritual journey into their everyday lives.

As mentioned in our previous article on distinguishing charlatans from genuine "Fake Gurus", having trustworthy guidance can help us discern the most beneficial practices, avoid potential pitfalls, and foster interfaith understanding and shared spiritual experiences.

Without proper spiritual guidance, individuals may fall prey to charlatans posing as spiritual leaders, who could exploit their vulnerability for personal gain. Charlatans may try to take advantage of people's cognitive dissonance by preying on their guilt during confession or their desires during petition, and offer the practitioner liminoid experiences as a form of escapism. Genuine spiritual gurus can help distinguish between appropriate practices for a given situation and escapism, ensuring that individuals receive the support and guidance they need to navigate this level of prayer effectively and overcome the barriers to peace of mind.

By seeking genuine spiritual guidance, individuals can traverse the layers of prayer safely and effectively, ultimately fostering personal growth and a deeper connection with the divine. For a more in-depth exploration of finding trustworthy spiritual guidance and avoiding charlatans, see our article from last week.

The Idolatrous Practices: Confession, Petition, and Intercession

Idolatrous practices, such as confession, petition, and intercession, play an essential role in spiritual development. Although they involve communicating with a being other than oneself, they should not be seen as negative or immoral, but rather as necessary steps for growth. These practices help individuals divide their psyche and confront their flaws, assess their desires, and reflect on their relationships, often leading to personal transformation and growth.


Confession is the first level of idolatrous practices, where individuals confront their flaws and seek forgiveness. This process can be compared to a "come to Jesus moment," an expression that denotes a pivotal point in one's life when one must face a difficult truth or make a significant decision. In this context, confession is a means of rebreaking a psychological "bone" so it can be reset and healed properly.