Wonders of the subterranean world are fascinating. Several times, I've had the opportunity to explore deep caves. In the silence and darkness of the earth, it is easier to forget the outer world. Our breathing becomes more perceptible. Simple sounds, such as drops falling regularly onto the floor, make our inner being resonate to these magic sonic waves.
For the philosopher Plato, caves were representations of the physical world and our body. The reality is elsewhere. It can be found in the spiritual world and simultaneously in our inner being, which can be reached through progressive steps of consciousness. The symbols in this cave are all important. Stalactites and stalagmites are a powerful example of what prayers are capable of. Drops fall from the ceiling. One by one, they leave a small amount of calcium salts on the ceiling and on the floor, building a stalagmite progressively rising to the top. Eventually, the stalactite descending from the ceiling and the stalagmite ascending will unite, forming a strong pillar. This is the regularity and the constancy that allows this visual miracle to appear, which may take years or centuries.
On the spiritual level, mantras and prayers can be used in the same way. Each repetition of a sacred word or sound will progressively build an inner core, allowing you to rise to the divine. I am not talking here about hymns or declamatory prayers. I am talking about a precise and regular repetition of powerful sacred words. Depending on the tradition and practice, it could be either sounds, names, or short sentences. Like Mother Earth's work, these mantras can help you to accomplish this inner work of rising from the physical world to the spiritual realm.
Without serious training, visualization can be difficult to master. This is the same for breathing, meditation, invocations, etc. Learning complex techniques is always challenging and takes time. Everything here is simple and eventually works, as long as your determination and constancy are maintained.
Not surprisingly, specific techniques of prayers have been used in most religions that exist around the world. One of these I have seen since my childhood: the use of prayer beads. My Italian grandmother used prayer beads several times a day. After opening a portative silver representation of the Christ and his Passion and lighting a candle, she prayed using her prayer beads. Her look turned in contemplation to the divinity she was worshiping. It was as if she were opening a door to the spiritual world, and the spiritual light was perceptible. The names and prayers used are well known by everyone in the Christian tradition, but the daily mystical experience was real and intense. Others used the Christian prayer beads, usually called a "rosary," on various occasions throughout the year. It was my first contact with this wonderful and mysterious religious tool. Later, when I travelled around the Mediterranean Sea, I saw various prayer beads used in different countries and religions. It is the same in the Eastern religions. We can wonder when beads began to be used in such a way, but it is difficult to state because it is sometimes impossible to distinguish necklaces from prayer beads. However, we know that knots have also been used instead of beads.
Besides my Catholic education, I have been initiated in various Western traditions. Some of them I met a long time ago and are linked to the Judeo-Christian faith, whereas my main tradition is linked to pre-Christian traditions. I have been lucky enough to reach most of the highest degrees of several initiatic Orders. It is from this perspective that I have been able to investigate the past and current use of prayer beads. The Kabbalistic Order of the Rose-Cross and the Ordo Aurum Solis are two examples of well-known initiatic Orders that use mantras and prayer beads. For years, their initiates have experimented with several ways to use these magical tools, both individually and in groups. The miracle of this kind of practice is its efficiency. Something happens in few minutes, as the practitioner awakens an old, powerful divinity sleeping in a remote place.
But prayer beads are not randomly made. It is well known that the Western Tradition, since its emergence, has been composed of several religions and Initiatic Traditions. Each one has its own theology, mythology, symbols, and rituals. Each one uses various religious items and invokes sacred names related to its pantheon. Each one has its own hymns and prayers. Each one is a coherent world rooted on a lineage, a history, and a faith. All these aspects create on the spiritual level what is called an egregore. This invisible energy is not neutral and evanescent. It is a real power that sometimes reacts as it is personalized. It can be protective to the faithful, but dangerous for the one who works against this religious group.
An egregore is also strongly linked to the divinities that constitute the core of the system. Any believer or adept is eager to connect to this invisible power in order to be helped in his spiritual and material life. Building this invisible channel to the egregore of the tradition of which you are part is one of the main goals of your inner work. Another one, more devotional, is to develop an intimate relation with divinities, no matter the precise name you are using for them. This devotional practice is well known in India under the name of "Bhakti Yoga."
Prayer beads can be used in all spiritual and initiatic traditions. Their main purpose is to allow you to count the number of prayers or invocations you are performing. At first glance, you might think that anyone can make his own prayer beads and use it in his practices. This is both true and false at the same time. It is true if you consider that the only goal is to count your prayers. In this case, you would be able to choose how many prayers you want to use. It is false because, as I previously explained, religious and spiritual traditions are a coherent set of beliefs illustrated by symbols. Numbers are very often linked to symbols and have a specific effect on the psyche.
As an example, let us consider Qabalah and the Hebrew alphabet, keeping in mind this example is also appropriate for several other traditions. A sacred name is composed of letters. Each one is associated with a number. Consequently, each name has a value that corresponds to the total of each of its letters. So when invocations of this sacred name are performed, it is usual to see a link between the number of repetitions and the sum of its letters. It will be the same for the colors and sometimes even the material used for the beads. When employing prayer beads in the Hermetic Tradition, genuine turquoises are used. As a matter of fact, it is said in this Tradition that the God Hermes wrote the sacred texts on tablets of turquoise.
The number eight is also omnipresent and used in the Ogdoadic (Hermetic) prayer beads. In other traditions, such as Wicca, the cycles of nature are deeply linked to the numbers and symbols represented in the prayer beads. For example, the four phases of the Moon will be used to invoke the Goddess and the solar cycle of the Sun.
Some of the prayer beads presented in my latest book, The Magical Use of Prayer Beads: Secret Meditations & Rituals for Your Qabalistic, Hermetic, Wiccan or Druid Practice, were revealed to me during my training in initiatic Orders. They are not well known, even if their effect is amazing. Although initiates use prayer beads in a specific way, everyone can learn how to use them ritually with great benefit. In Western Traditions such as Wicca and Druidism, every practitioner will discover that the regular use of Prayer Beads will have a huge impact on his regular practice. In order to provide a real opportunity to fully explore this magical item, in my book I provided four levels of practice for each prayer beads: the first one is a meditation, the second one is an individual ritual, the third one is a ritual for a couple, and the fourth is a ritual in a group.
Do not forget that a prayer beads are also physical items. It is important to use precise rituals that will allow you to purify, cleanse on the astral level, and consecrate your prayer beads. I have already spoken about the specific materials, but there is also another aspect that is more energetic. When you are using such a ritual tool in your own practice, you will concentrate a specific energy into it. Day after day, year after year, it will increase its power as a battery does when you plug it in. This charge will also help you in moments of weakness.
As water dripping in the darkness of the cave, all these factors have a real effect on your soul. Taking your prayer beads and beginning to slide them between your fingers while invoking the divine will support you. This is a real magic that occurs when using this fascinating tool in a traditional way. Very often, simplicity is a synonym for efficiency. The magical use of prayer beads is exactly the demonstration of such a statement. There is no limit to the purpose of such use. From a sincere demand for your life to the deepest devotion, these traditional prayer beads will guide you all along your life. As a stalagmite, your soul will rise to the divine, with regularity and balance. This is how the magic happens!
Jean-Louis de Biasi Jean-Louis de Biasi is an author, lecturer, philosophical counselor, and coach.
His philosophical, religious, and spiritual domains of expertise are focused on early Mediterranean philosophy, Neoplatonism, Hermeticism, and Western religions.
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