Can transformation exist without translation? What does this have to do with worship? Some thoughts:
When a caterpillar goes through the process of becoming a butterfly, it just knows how to go into its cocoon instinctually. While in the darkness it digests its own body and emerges transformed as a butterfly. The translational activity of cocoon building and butterfly becoming is not something it thinks about… it just does it. It does not read about mystic caterpillars of days past or meditate to encourage emergence of its internal butterfly-ness, nor even does it gather occasionally with like minded caterpillars for support on the path.
Humans are different. We apply our consciousness in ways that distinguish us from other living beings on planet Earth. We can be self aware. This self awareness comes at a price. We can choose to align with our butterfly-ness. In so choosing, we generally look to those who have gone before and successfully transformed to give us some guidelines that act as translational tools and encourage transformation.
Paradoxically, transformation cannot be made to happen, despite our choice to allow it, enable it, or move toward it. We have no instinctive ritual that is universally followed in order to bring us into alignment with the being side of our self that both transcends and includes all that we do. One can choose to practice any number of translational tools that have worked for others and never be guaranteed to have a transformational experience. On the other hand, one can be in a deep depression and suddenly wake up transformed ( see Eckardt Tolle) and one can be riding on a horse and get knocked off and be suddenly awakened (see St. Paul)… all without any significant “spiritual seeking”.
The rain of God (transformation) falls where it will and when it will, without regard to any practice or translational tool. Like the moment when the butterfly emerges– it suddenly is just there. All or nothing. Unexplainable. You either get it or you don’t, and just like a joke that someone tells that you do not understand– it cannot be explained and understood. It cannot be transmitted from one person to another, unlike tools that can be translated. It is highly individual and highlights the particular.
There is a saying in medical education with regards to learning medical procedures– anything as simple as venipuncture and as complex as heart surgery– See One. Do One. Teach one. This works for translational tools but not for transformation. Striving to be something other than we are not, or using a tool as a way to become something more than what we are is actually a barrier.
So what does this have to with worship? It seems to me that we worship what we want more of in our life. Sometimes there are discrete practices and gatherings (translational tools) that have the overt intention to worship. I believe the more important form of worship springs from who we are and tranlsates into what we do every moment of our life and this matches more with transformational change. Contemplation and awareness allow for us to open up a space for transformation to occur, and for us to recognize it when it does emerge. And so I fall back to paraphrasing St. Francis: Pray Always. Sometimes use words.
That may be the ultimate form of worship.