«By CAROLE ANNE HAMBY A thesis submitted to the University of Birmingham for the degree of DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY Department of Theology and Religion ...»
For Fox, and other early Quakers, including Penington and Barclay, the significance of the two-step process of worship is to ‘turn within’ and then to ‘stand [be] still’. For this to be possible a steady attentiveness was necessary. For early Friends, whose worship practice often lasted for many hours, this seems to have been without 51 problems.225 Thus fulfilling Fox’s concern that worship formed the basis of the Quaker Way.226 Attentive Presence has been designated as an important concept for progressive practice and the move towards Unity, which, it has to be remembered implied unity, primarily, with God. For all Friends in the inception of Quakerism the intention was to find God within the self. Corporate spiritual practice, in the manner of Friends, focussed initially on the Christian teaching and ‘called upon’ God to be with, or among, the worshipping group; for this reason, God Focussing is designated among the Elements of Quaker spiritual practice.
Selection of these other concepts has required further detailed examination of texts in order to confirm their validity in explaining the means of entry into Inwardness. As Fox makes it clear, Quaker worship was ‘new’ in the sense that it was worship ‘in the Spirit’.227 This emphasis provides a view of worship which necessitates direct and unmediated opening to God within the self (attentive presence) and, in turn, discernment that is pure, focussed one-pointedly on a purpose that Love alone can fulfil. It is likely that Love is the cornerstone of a developing relationship with God – a ‘love that flows out of Truth’.228 In the context of this discussion, this love qualified as universal and Divine, is considered with reference to Heart Awareness. It is felt rather than thought, savoured rather than analysed, and it contributes in very large measure to the fullness of Friends’ spiritual practice. It is shown in many of the early Quaker writings that a loving relationship with the self, others and God is essential to the development of God Focus. Such focus to God is thus attained by a uniquely bonding and prayerful attention.
225 Quaker Meeting for Worship lasted many hours, see Quaker Faith and Practice (London: Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Britain 1995) 19.20.
226 Fox, ‘Keep all your meetings in the name of the Lord Jesus, and keep them gathered in His name, by His Light, grace, truth, power and spirit; by which you will feel His blessed and refreshing presence among you and in you to your comfort and God’s glory’. The Sealed Epistle, (Philadelphia: The Tract Association (1690-1691) 2016).
227 Fox, Journal, p. 417.
228 Jarman, R. Breakthrough to Unity, (The Kindlers: North West London Area Meeting, Britain Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) 2010), p. 25.
52 The analysis described allows a cluster of concerns to be identified as concepts not merely relevant to but actually interwoven in practice. It is for this reason that Purity, Discernment and Growth have been recognised as significant in Quaker spiritual practice.
Here then is a group of concepts, identified from within Fox’s own writing, and endorsed in the texts of Penington and Barclay in the seventeenth century, that seem to depict the worship of early Friends. The order given is not intended as prescriptive but does offer a justifiable sequence, as explained, in 2.7 below.
The concepts identified as Elements of Quaker spiritual practice, in combination with the initial Conditions, are used to substantiate a proposal for a theoretical position on the Inwardness that is gained in Quaker Worship when Fox’s counsel to ‘turn within’ is adopted.229 The theoretical perspective accepts the experiential focus of the Quaker way of worship and offers ‘evidence’ for ongoing argument from the available material. This is used to identify a new perspective on Quaker theology.
Janet Scott, one of the few contemporary Friends to address the matter of Quaker theology directly, asserts ‘We decide what evidence is important and what can be ignored.230 We sum up our experiences and attitudes in a set of mental constructs or models which help us to interpret and live in our world’.231 Friends accept that ‘experience is inescapable’ not only in their faith and practice but also in the study of their religion.232 However they also place emphasis on the ‘stories’ that emerge from the dialogue between worship and everyday living as corporately interpreted. This examination of Quaker perspectives thus necessitates recognition of how Quakers, in Williams’ terms, ‘make sense of the[ir] world’ through their theology.
229 Identification and usage of Conditions and Elements is further indicated in chapter 2.
230 ‘We’ as Quakers and, in the sense that Swinburne emphasises, as ‘persons’.
Scott, J ‘What canst thou say? Towards a Quaker Theology’, Swarthmore lecture, (London:
Quaker Home Service, 1980), p. 17.
232 I am indebted to Rex Ambler for sharing thoughts with me about the nature of a ‘theology of experience’. His work, as that of Melvin Keiser, has helped in clarifying my own views on Quaker experiential theology.
53 This research places significance on personal engagement with the worship experience to which Friends’ faith is witness. In ‘keeping faith’ with the primary experiential concerns of Quakerism the thesis investigates religious concerns within the fundamental characteristics of the life in which Quaker faith and practice is encompassed.
The thesis demonstrates the facts of experience and reasoning that have led to the specific understanding of Friends of the importance of Inwardness in British Quakerism.233 Five Friends, in particular, have been selected for discussion, each is influential in a different manner and for different reasons: George Fox, as the dominant leader of the Religious Society of Friends in chapter 2; Isaac Penington as a significant exemplar of Quakerism expressed in predominantly devotional terms in chapter 3; Robert Barclay, as the leading Quaker theologian and academic of his period in chapter 4; Rufus Jones and Wilhelm Rowntree, among others, as representative of emerging liberalism in theological traditions within Quakerism in chapter 5.234 In addition, a range of sources from Quaker Faith and Practice (QFP) [g], selected Swarthmore lectures [g] and the winning Quaker Essays of 2010 are examined representing twenty/twenty-first century Quakerism.235 In this way it is possible to consider changes in emphasis or interpretation of Quaker faith and practice and to examine how past Quaker theorising relates to Quaker theology of the present indicating, potentially, possibilities for the future.
The five authors selected for primary analysis are chosen, as mentioned above, for different reasons but each is recognised as having significance in their own historical period and being influential subsequently. In the case of the seventeenth century, it is acknowledged that other authors might have been chosen, for example, Margaret Fell or William Penn. Following some consideration however it was decided that Fox, Penington and Barclay offered a particularly suitable range of positions for discussion of issues 233 Given that Quakerism arose, at least in part, in reaction to emphasis on reason, its principles and practices were a move away from this emphasis.
234 Thomas Kelly, both as representative of 20th century liberalism in the Society and as one of the few Quakers to describe the reality of spiritual development in experiential terms is given particular consideration in Appendix 1.
235 Some of the authors referenced in chapter 5 are of particular interest in that they represent work ‘selected’ for publication by the discernment of Quaker Committees.
Fox, being identified as the ‘dominant leader’ of the new movement that became known as Quakerism is inevitably important to the discussion.236 His thinking, fully documented in the writings quoted, delivers a comprehensive account of the manner in which Quaker spiritual practice was preserved and protected in a regular Meeting for Worship. The Meeting for Worship was, and is, for Friends the main focus of the spiritual dimension of their Quakerism, and this is largely due to Fox’s teaching as initiated in the seventeenth century.237 Isaac Penington was highly thought of by George Fox, as is evident in Fox’s testimony concerning Penington written following his death. This testimony concludes with the words: ‘To him be glory and honour, thanks and praise…’238 Penington became one of the chief advocates of Quakerism, he published fifty-seven titles after his convincement of its importance in 1658.239 His writing places considerable emphasis on the spiritual dimension of Quaker faith and practice, often highlighting the significance of inwardness. Thus the relevance of Penington’s work to the thesis validates his selection as representative of important considerations.
In turn, Robert Barclay is chosen for examination here because of his systematic analysis of Quakerism in the context of his Apology. The Apology was a very influential text in its day, and continues to be regarded as providing a significant contribution to investigation of Quaker faith and practice. He brought ‘a new intellectual rigour’ to Quaker writing.240 According to Moore, the Apology is ‘arguably the most important and
55 influential statement of Quaker faith ever published…’241 The chapters of Barclay’s work given particular consideration in the thesis are thorough in their study both of Quaker faith in immediate revelation and the Quaker mode of accessing immediate revelation through worship. Thus these chapters in particular offer suitable material for analysis. Barclay’s work demonstrates the manner in which inwardness is an important aspect of Quaker faith and practice and also how its experience and development facilitates the Quaker way of life.
The two Quakers of the modern period, whose work is examined, characterise the development of Quaker Liberalism. J. W. Rowntree and Rufus Jones remain significant representatives of how twenty-first century Quakers remained both true to some aspects of early Quakerism, as for example ‘direct experience of God called the Light Within…’;
yet, at the same time, sought development and change, including a view of ‘social Christianity’ based on more academic/ intellectual awareness, as urged by Rowntree. 242 John Wilhelm Rowntree was a successful businessman but also an important contributor to the Religious Society of Friends. He was persuasive in relation to the position of modern science and biblical criticism for Friends’ interpretation of their faith and practice and he also encouraged a renewed understanding of its social significance. Rufus Jones and Rowntree became close friends and worked together on the Rowntree History Series.243 Rufus Jones wrote of his conviction concerning aspects of mysticism as influential in the beginnings of Quakerism. For this reason, his work is relevant to this thesis, even though the position taken is different in that the thesis does not place emphasis on the origins of Quakerism but rather on the nature and purpose of its spiritual practice. The works of Rowntree and Jones thus contribute to discussion in different, but equally interesting, ways.
242 Frost, W. ‘Modernist and Liberal Quakers, 1887 – 2010, Angell, S.W. and Dandelion, P. The Oxford Handbook of Quaker Studies (Oxford: University Press. 2015) pp. 78 – 92. See also thesis chapter 5.
243 See Southern, A. ‘The Rowntree History Series and the growth of Liberal Quakerism’ in Quaker Studies Vol. 16. No. 1. (2011) pp. 7-73 56 From the sources identified above statements concerning experience of Inwardness are analysed, interpreted, evaluated and collated, to determine and to balance relevant material, and to examine repeated terms and ideas: their usage facilitates identification of recurrent characteristics within the personal explanations of individuals, and their interpretation within the Religious Society of Friends. 244 Thus theoretical progression within the thesis advances by reference to quotation from selected Quakers and confirmation of findings in sequence.
Care has been taken to identify, from within these writings, genuine similarities and differences of view. In some cases, descriptions provide what seem to be accounts of analogous experience; in others, although distinctions of emphasis are detectable,
foundational agreement is often evident. Comparison of such positions contributes to:
1) interpreting Inwardness by examining the experientially influenced theology of the sources
2) correlating understanding that is consistent, albeit differently expressed according to history and culture.
This approach allows for identification of similarities and differences in nuance, or opinion, with regard to Quaker Inwardness, and tangentially to the consequences of Inwardness.
Acceptance of the importance of the consequences of Inwardness in Quaker living is
significant for full comprehension of Quaker theology. As Scott indicates:
We [Quakers]…must understand religion not just as an intellectual exercise but as something which involves the whole personality. Our attitudes, emotions, behaviour and values are all involved and our thinking must be concerned with them. We cannot separate theology into a separate box that neither draws on our personal experience and ways of life nor contributes to them. This means, in particular, that theology should be moral. Our Quaker principles that the light leads out of sin and into unity also imply this. It should be moral towards people. That is, it must take seriously their deepest concerns and try to avoid facile answers.
244 Although the work of Swinburne has been influential, his use of tight logic, symbolic equations and causal explanations (e.g. for the existence of God) is not used here. Rather, the methodology of the thesis utilises inference and cumulative induction.