An old Jewish joke, which I’m allowed to relate because I’m a Jew, is this: “What’s a Jewish dilemma? Free ham.” But here’s another dilemma for many of us: praying cats.
Yes, in case you didn’t know it, when your cat is off staring into space, she’s not just chilling, or contemplating an impending nap or meal: she’s praying! Or so says Dr. Pamela Gerloff, Ed.D, woomeister, and columnist at Psychology Today. I haven’t read that magazine for years, but it seems to be going the Deepakian route, with Gerloff’s columns (she’s nicknamed “Possibility Pamela” in her profile) doing everything they can to justify a supernatural world beyond our own. I deal with that on a daily basis, but the idea of praying cats, which Gerloff floats in a piece called “When cats pray: how our feline friends uplift the world,” is simply too much (my emphasis):
The other day, as I was dusting off a little glass shelf that had been my mother’s, I inadvertently bumped one of the tiny figurines on it–one of a set of blue and white china elephants she had once given me. The disturbance sent all the beloved creatures toppling. As I juggled to keep the whole shelf from falling, I felt a flash of frustration move through me; I might have been tempted to utter a censorable word, except that just at that instant my eyes caught Miss Kitty’s. Sitting motionless on the footstool next to me, her inward gaze shifted outward ever so slightly, just enough to neutrally observe my agitated state.
Instantly, the contrast in our inner experiences became palpable to me and I had a sudden insight. “Why, she’s praying,” I thought, as my mind fell into the calm oasis of her silent meditation. In that moment I recalled something my mother had once said many years ago. It was a musing-aloud about how maybe the world seemed to be in increasingly bad shape because there were fewer and fewer monks and nuns spending time in seclusion praying.
. . . Prayer, contemplation, and meditation done for extended periods of time naturally result in increased inner peace, which then radiates outward, positively affecting the entire environment. This is what I felt in Miss Kitty. As I paused to experience the stillness in which she was immersed, an image entered my mind–an image of a global feline force that daily nourishes and sustains us all. Millions of cats throughout the world quietly doing their spiritual duty, emanating peace and contentment.
. . . Humans of the 21st century have lost much of what comes more naturally in indigenous societies that live closer to nature. As a species, we seem to have forgotten the essential spiritual practice of being, which is perhaps the highest form of prayer. Fortunately, cats haven’t forgotten, even after thousands of years of domestication. If we want to know how a “culture of being” vs. a “culture of doing” might change us, we have only to hang out with our feline friends. What happens to us when we absorb their state?
What happens when we absorb their state? We start napping 18 hours a day and demanding that others serve our needs—bringing us food and cleaning our toilets.
I look forward to Gerloff’s next piece on Feline Woo: “When cats spray: how our feline friends teach us to leave our mark on the world.”
If you want other specimens of Possibility Pamela’s ridiculous arguments at Psychology Today, try her argument against atheism in another piece:
When you have the direct experience of Oneness with all beings and all so-called “external reality”–as I and many others have had–you cannot, strictly speaking, be atheist. You know from a different way of knowing that there is something more than what can be perceived with the limited sense organs of the body and left-brain mind.
I love the “so-called ‘external reality'” bit.
76 thoughts on “When cats pray . . . and psychologists lose it”
My cat brings in mice on a regular basis and leaves their disembowled carcasses lying around.
Would that be because “cats haven’t forgotten, even after thousands of years of domestication” that ritual sacrifice can appease the gods?
Ages since I fell off my chair laughing!
Maybe I’m an atheist because I have no cats?
You can find the answer as to why cats do that by reading Paul Layhausen’s book Cat Behavior
Send a copy to Gerloff!
Or send a copy to me! This book is madly expensive!
There used to be a Zen magazine called Cat’s Yawn; I think they understood the essence of felinity rather better than Ms Gerloff.
I agree though, animals definitely do things that humans do. For example, this summer I went out with my family for the day.
Upon returning to the car a few hours later we realised we had left our dog locked inside the hot car in the middle of the hottest day of the year. How could we have not noticed our dog was missing for so long?
Our dog was not at all annoyed though, in fact he was pulling a silly face, with his tongue hanging out, and he was clearly laughing REALLY hard!
Are you sure he wasn’t panting hard from extreme heat?
*whoosh* (sound of joke going over your head)
I dread to think what’s in that doctorate of hers. I wonder if it’s written in comic-sans?
Well it is a well known fact that cats send out sleep rays. If you (= I) sit with one asleep on you, or even sleeping near you, you inevitably doze off, too.
“…you (= I)…” The essence of oneness. Woo-oo-ooo-oo.
From the comments section of that “article”.
I can hardly wait.
Saki’s salutary tale about the cat Tobermory comes to mind http://www.readbookonline.net/readOnLine/465/
Excellent. Thanks for that!
Oh noes! When I think of all the kittens that god has killed because of me.
FTW. In that case, I need to brush up on my Kitteh Zen and absorb some of that state. Those around me might fail to appreciate my feline satori and resulting demands,though.
As for the article, how can the “Possibility Pamelas” of the world get published and taken seriously? Shame on Psychology Today for pandering to the LCD.
Psychology Today has a problem. It’s bloggers are driving the magazine’s reputation into the ditch.
Gerloff and Kanazawa should obviously write whatever they wish on their own blogs, but they are publishing their crap under Psychology Today’s masthead.
How does an average person reading Psychology Today distinguish between articles that are credible, and articles about praying cats or the “unattractiveness” of black women?
The creditable ones have references?
Although… maybe there’s a grain of truth here.. If priest spent more time in total seclusion praying, they’d have less time to spend in “almost” total seclusion, buggeri– nah, not gonna complete the thought.
Little known factoid: 87% of all cat prayers are asking that they can haz cheezburger.
Well I certainly agree that the more time nuns, and especially priests spend in seclusion the better!
Well, of course cats don’t pray. They’re gods. What god is stupid enough to pray? “Dear me, please do what I want to do?” Ludicrous!
Preying, on the other hand, they do a whole lot of….
As do priests, according to observations.
The difference seems to be priests don’t kill their prey immediately after playing with it.
One of my cats is obviously from the devil. The other day he was sitting motionless on my desk gazing at me with half open eyes, smiling inwardly, thinking of peeing down the side of the litter box again. I was filled with fear and dread, but he remained calm, knowing he was in control.
See, I can just make shit up, too.
Teh valley may be dark, teh shadows deep
But O, Teh Ceiling Cat guards His lonely sheep;
And thru teh gloom, He’ll lead me home
My heav’nly Kitteh watches over me.
She seems to think that the images in her head (i.e. imagination) reflect “so-called” reality. She really could use some help–maybe she knows a psychologist or two…
She should watch “Cats v/s Dogs”
There is seriously a grain of truth in here (not my jokey grain of truth from before) that a lot of us really suck at “just being”, despite the fact that it can be really worthwhile to take a moment and do so from time to time.
Very frustrating that people have to dress that up in the guise of prayer, though, or other mystical bullshit. And why someone would bother to point out that cats excel at “just being” is beyond me — of course they do! Haven’t a buzzing stream of abstract thoughts constantly coursing through your brain is only possible if you can have abstract thoughts coursing through your brain at all… just sayin’…
(I don’t wish to imply a sharp divide between our capability for abstract thought and other animals, but it’s undeniable that a cat couldn’t not “just be” even if kitteh wanted to)
That woman is nuts, cats don’t pray, they use the moggie-side of force to manipulate their human servants into providing for their every whim…
Teh Prayr Ov Teh Kat*
LORD, I R KAT.
IT NOT EGSAKTLY DAT I HAS SOMETHIN 2 ASK OV U!
NO– I ASK NOTHIN OV ANYONE–
BUT, IF U HAS BY SUM CHANCE IN SUM CELESTIAL BARN,
LIL WITE MOUSE, OR SAUCR OV MILK,
I KNOE SOMEONE HOO WUD RELISH THEM.
WOULDNT U LIEK SOMEDAI
2 PUT CURSE ON TEH WHOLE RACE OV DAWGS?
IF SO I SHUD SAY,
*Ivor Davies, Prayers from the Ark, The Prayer of the Cat, put through the lolcat translator
(Carmen Bernos De Gasztold wrote the poem in French, Rumer Godden translated to English, speaklolcat.com translated to lolcat)
There’s some key information from her first draft that inexplicably got cut. The original version stated:
I know “from a different way of knowing” that there is misery in this world because the daily prayers of cats and dogs are in perpetual conflict and god is confused as to which side to support. Thanks a lot,stupid pets!
To whom are the cats praying?
Why the xtian god of course! Isn’t it obvious?
I was hoping they offered prayers to other, less fortunate cats than themselves.
And positing the second question invalidates the premise of the first.
People get PhD’s for this?
.. at Harvard?
(Wait for it, wait for it …)
Please don’t equate an EdD with most PhDs.
Hmmm;as much as any of us hate to admit it, there are also some notoriously bad PhDs.
Just goes to show that even “Havaad” can have serious problems with one or more of its colleges; I suppose.
Even people with a C- average end up with the same degree as the straight-A student!
Wellll, not at the graduate level.
This is a joke, right? Is it April again?
If only. I am in regular contact with many people who enthusiastically subscribe to just this kind of bullshit.
I think of it as the Noble Savage on steroids. If we all would just put down our smartphones, stop checking our email, and forget about responsibility in general, life would be all butterflies and babbling brooks.
Umm, no. Not only do these folks ignore how brutal nature really is, but a “culture of being” rather than “doing” would be reprehensible. Feeling the pressure of responsibility is a good thing. Gah!
It’s about the folding green stuff:
Dignity is everyone’s birthright
The Miracle Zone
Oooh .. that last one IS in Comic Sans!
(And she sells audiotapes!!!)
“When you have the direct experience of Oneness with all beings and all so-called “external reality”–as I and many others have had–you cannot, strictly speaking, be atheist. You know from a different way of knowing that there is something more than what can be perceived with the limited sense organs of the body and left-brain mind.”
Yup, the supernaturalist claim that there’s “something more” depends on a different, non-empirical way of knowing involving direct experience, not public evidence. What drives me crazy is that the National Academy of Science, the National Center for Science Education, and other accomodationist science-supporting organizations *agree* with her that this other way has epistemic authority to pronounce on the existence of gods and other supernatural phenomena, and that science doesn’t! Do they have any coherent basis for this claim? Didn’t think so.
Yeah, well, in my experience, that “culture of being” stuff can get pretty damned destructive.
She needs to go to Harvard and ask for her money back.
Kittehs no pray. Kittehs smartr den dat. Onlee hyoomns has deh dum.
Whenever people start knocking on the “left-brain” you can tell there’s bullshit in the air.
It’s especially egregious coming from a psychologist, who should know better.
We have a feral cat in our backyard that we feed.
Our ‘own’ felines don’t like that one bit: they can just sit there and angrily stare at the intruder for hours.
NOW I know what they’re doing: they’re trying to “pray the stray away”!
“Why, she’s praying,” I thought.
How 19th century. Anthropomorphism at its finest.
Perfect comment. One of the earliest things that psychology taught us was about projection, and I’m amazed that people can engage in it so mindlessly and without any irony. We attribute all sorts of things to our feline friend, however, with the nods and winks of the secure knowledge of projection.
I followed the link to the second article, and followed a couple links on the side bar to other atheist related stories, and was pleasantly surprised by this article on militant atheism. Not bad.
Well, they certainly are deep in contemplation, I think we can agree to that.
Oh, and even when they are sleeping!
On my fridge is a magnet with a picture of kittehs and the motto “Thousands of years ago, cats were worshipped as gods. Cats have never forgotten this.”
Neither Cuddles nor Gypsy seem to be interested in having incense burnt in front of them, but offerings in the form of kitteh treatz are highly thought of.
That cat was thinking “you have too much shit on that shelf”
… or “why are you dusting that instead of stroking my chin?”
… or “please please please KittyGod, let her drop all those toys she won’t let me play with”
… or “is it dinner yet?”
Psychology Today has put some seriously scary wiggy stuff on their blog. It should be called Pseudopsychology today
The difference between cats and dogs:A dog looks at his human and thinks, “He feeds me, he gives me a warm place to sleep, he takes me for walks; he must be a god.”A cat looks at his human and thinks, “He feeds me, he gives me a warm place to sleep, he cleans my litter box; I must be a god.”
I wrote my reaction to this lunacy with comments on free will as well. Thanks for finding this article.
Here’s the shortlink: http://wp.me/p1Qz1r-1P
The author of the article actually replied on my blog. Look at the comments and you’ll see it as well as my response.
Psychology Today is published by the folks who print USA Today, isn’t it?
Here’s a very actively praying cat. (Actually, it’s our daughter’s cat, Bella. She’s done this since she was a kitten.)
I think it is a mistake to dismiss this as entertainment for our enjoyment. Tens of millions of Americans by into this stuff, and it is far more aggressively present in our news, education, entertainment, culture and social experience than legitimate popular science is.
As we sit back and mock, and bask in the decline of traditional religions, New Age crapology like this is taking over, and the public becomes more and more hostile, or at bests uninterested, in even the most basic science education and understanding.
We must stop letting this nonsense crowd out good sense, and we need to stop preaching to the converted. It’s clearly a lot more comfortable to snark here among friends. But, it doesn’t help to promote real science and critical thinking among our fellow *voting* citizens.
“New Age Crapology”
But why can’t we snark here in addition to ridiculing and exposing “Crapology” in other fora with broader audiences? I shared this on FB along with a sentence lamenting that money is being wasted on such “Crapology.”
And I don’t think anyone’s dismissing it as entertainment. I get the impression Dr. Coyne is taking Gerloff seriously. When any entity takes a “Deepakian route” it is a matter for genuine concern. I haven’t seen anyone here say it’s not.
Most of the big atheist blogs/websites/aggregators devote some effort to combating woo.
But that is preaching to the converted (pardon the religious metaphor). Deepakian/New Age/Anti-“alopathic” Crapologists don’t read “big atheist” or “big science” sites.
And I rarely if ever these days see serious physicists or evolutionary biologists in the popular, mass-media – or in reasonophobic social media. Victor Stenger on PuffHo being one notable exception, virtually drowned out there by the dozens if not hundreds of woo-woo pundits.
Delve a bit deeper into the encouraging stats that show more and more in the US rejecting traditional religion, and you find vanishingly small numbers of them who take a rational, scientifically-informed approach to the world. Most drift from dogmatic monotheism to dogmatic quantum quackery.
One of the results is a dramatic increase in irrational, magical thinkers on the political Left, nearly mirroring the increase in irrational, magical thinking on the Right, with people of reason – who used to be able to span a wide range of the political spectrum – crowded into a “muddled center” instinctively rejected by the True[tm] Believers.
Thinking that the political struggle in the US is between forces of insanity on the Right and forces of relative sanity on the Left is a short-sighted view. The trend more clearly shows that the Left merely lags a bit behind the Right in its embrace of magical thinking and its rejection of science and reason – mostly because the Right’s form of insanity is based on traditional religion, which has had more time to establish itself, while the Left’s form of insanity is based on “Postmodernism”, “Relativism”, “Quantum Spirituality” and other new age pathologies.
This time, we will have an election between an insane candidate (no matter who wins on the GOP) and a rational president (ignoring for a moment whose politics one favors, clearly the GOP candidate will be an advocate of creationism & global warming denialist who rejects science, while Obama, whatever you think of his politics, is a strong supporter of science, reason, science education and critical thinking).
Next time, or the time after that, the contest will be between two competing forms of irrational, anti-scientific insanity.
If we don’t act, it’s only a matter of time. The same is happening in the Senate and the House. Science and reason are losing votes everywhere.
Throughout US culture, nuanced approaches to complex circumstances, thoughtful moderation and contingent opinions (all essential characteristics of a rational mindset) are considered evil – in fact, “moderate’ is now widely, pan-culturally used an epithet in the US, not just in the political arena but everywhere. Changing one’s mind in response to changing data or growing understanding is considered a weakness. This is true no less among the “non-religious” than among the religious, at least in the US.
If we do not teach our citizens HOW to think, they *will* follow those who tell them WHAT to think.
That scenario inherently benefits those who know the answers with utter conviction, never having even asked the questions, never seeking to explore, investigate and learn, never having the humility of saying, “We don’t know – yet”. As Yeats wrote,
And that will, eventually, end us.
Huh? Stephen Hawking just had a blockbuster full-length TV show on the origins of the universe, a show that was hyped by the popular press. Neil DeGrasse Tyson is always on the TV, including The Daily Show. Richard Dawkins is a bestselling author who’s also cranking out the TV specials. Carl Sagan, David Attenborough….
Really, I’m not sure where you get this idea. If I were to make a list of the most loved, best-known scientists today, the list would be dominated by astrophysicists and evolutionary biologists. I’d be hard pressed to come up with a chemist or a geologist to put on the list…the only oceanographer I can think of off the top of my head is long since dead….
You really compare the US audience/readership for Hawking and Dawkins to the US audience/readership for Oprah and Chopra?
Sagan and Attenborough? Really?
When is the last time you watched prime time US TV, Ben? 😉
We in the US tend to focus most of our attention, and most of our public communication, combating dying traditional Christianity.
Meanwhile, we mostly ignore the rise of mystical anti-scientific-pseudo-scientific woo-woo amongst the very audiences we should be reaching out to the most – young people alienated from the traditional religions of their birth.
So, Deepak Chopra, “Awaken the Dreamer”, Oprah, “alternative medicine”, and the whole “Saga of Evolution and Emergence” New-Age “purpose-filled universe” crowd (which is incredibly well-funded now thanks to the very deep pocket of well-intended but naice billionaire funders and careless endorsements from prominent skeptics who should know better) eat far more young American brains than the Pope.
Traditional religion sets them up, and New Age Crapology bowls a strike, and we sit here snarking about how smart we are, while funding for science and science education dries up, critical thinking is not even a pretend part of the public education curriculum, and an increasing number of Americans cannot distinguish between reality and “reality” TV.
Is it any wonder vaccination numbers are down, conspiracy theories are up, and fewer and fewer people bother to vote – and, of those that do, at least half vote against even their own self-interest, never mind the collective interests of the society they benefit from.
Good news is, this is a remedial situation.
Bad news is, most science and critical thinking advocates are ignoring the threat of the woo woo indoctrinated and focusing on Christian faitheists.
If science doesn’t speak up in the US – loudly, publicly, in hostile forums, all over the damn place – science will find itself outsourced. To our significant loss.
Fabulously entertaining, exctingly intelligent, and “oh.. so not” inspiring 18 hours of napping.
My cat seems to think he rules the world, at least ours. I will closely watch for what he prays for. I could be in big trouble.
ie: Be cautious for which that you wish/pray for…
something tells me that this person spends a lot of time alone in kitchens at the parties she attends.