«By CAROLE ANNE HAMBY A thesis submitted to the University of Birmingham for the degree of DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY Department of Theology and Religion ...»
Scott thus asserts that the wholeness of Quakerism, its interior and exterior concerns, is to be accounted for in its theology. This thesis places more emphasis on the examination of the interior aspect (understanding of Inwardness) than on the exterior (consequences of Inwardness), but acknowledges the significance of both within the church and community of Quakerism. Melvin Keiser’s elaboration of this point, reminding us that the importance of ‘community’ both as sensed and as fact, is relevant to understanding the relatedness that is the essence of, what he considers to be, relational thinking in Quaker theology.
It is apparent in the analysis of Quaker writers, that the perspective of experiential heart-felt theology affords different insights into meanings and offers, potentially, different interpretation from that of purely academic approaches discursively recorded.246 The experiential perspective, framed within community, is prioritised in this examination of Inwardness even when other perspectives are employed to clarify Quaker positions that are otherwise ambiguous, unclear or incomplete in their expression.
1.6 Thesis outline
1.7 Chapter Summary This chapter has provided an introduction to the thesis and shown how it contributes new thinking to Quaker studies. Additionally, it has outlined the context and background of the thesis and provided a review of relevant previous scholarship in terms of Quaker understandings of Inwardness, spiritual growth and purification as an aspect of spiritual development. The Quaker notion of measure was discussed in relation to spiritual development.
Methodological concerns have been introduced and discussed as involving analysis of narrative and interpretative work in order to locate ‘evidence’ for ongoing argument.
Finally, the structure of the thesis was outlined.
The next chapter explores George Fox’s teachings on Inwardness.
George Fox’s work is analysed in this chapter because his writings were foundational to the beginning of the Quaker Movement. His teaching is seminal to understanding the background and underpinning of Inwardness in the essentially experiential and primarily spiritual religion that is Quakerism.1 Fox’s injunction to ‘turn within’ and ‘wait in the Light’ was timely in the mid seventeenth century conditions in England.2 However, it set up the perhaps misleading understanding that, for Fox, there was an irredeemably sharp contrast between Inwardness and outwardness in which the inward is seen as primary in providing a spiritual foundation for living, and therefore more important than outwardness.3 There is some truth here but, as Creasey maintains, the sharpness of distinction is sometimes over-stated.4 Within the socio-political background and theological context of the period this is unsurprising but is, nonetheless, in need of explanation.
1 It is relevant to discussion throughout the thesis that George Fox has been considered, either as a mystic or as someone with strong tendencies to mysticism, in several works on spirituality and mysticism, as for example, McGinn, B, (ed.) The Essential Writings, 2006, Section 10, No. 11. p 360 -364. Macquarrie, J Two Worlds are ours: An Introduction to Christian Mysticism, (London: SCM, 2004) chapter 11. Holt, B.P Thirsty for God: A Brief History of Christian Spirituality, (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2005).
2 Spencer, C D., Holiness the Soul of Quakerism, pp. 42-43, discussing ‘the mystic vs. puritan debate, points out that even Barbour, who argued for a puritan origin to Quakerism, identified the fact that ‘for puritans, personal experience of conversion and sanctification became crucial as for no other Christian group’. The tenor of spiritual seeking was for experience over dogma which favoured Fox’s teaching.
3 A connection with the Puritanism of the time is evident, since the approach to reformed orthodoxy also placed emphasis on the experiential aspect of religious practice. In the main, however, Quakerism is concerned with a way of life in which there is an intimate connection between spirituality, attitudes and behaviours i.e. Inwardness and outwardness are coordinated aspects of Quakerism. The distinctions between outward and inward concerns, and their subsequent ramifications, as examined in this thesis, relate to Inwardness both in the seventeenth century and evolving Quaker usage of terms, and their treatment, in the last century. This research seeks to understand the inner spiritual dimension of British Quakerism and to explain its connection to Quaker living in terms of Worship and Testimony. The latter i.e. Quaker Testimony, is discussed subsequently in relation to the consequences of Inwardness – see ‘social concern’, chapter 2.
4 See 1.3 for relevant discussion.
60 Sections of Fox’s major works, his Journal, Epistles and Doctrinals, are analysed to identify his understanding of Inwardness. 5 The emphasis on Inwardness in Fox’s thinking is discussed to show the meanings and consequences of his injunction to ‘turn within’ (2.3.). These are analysed in terms of his concern that his followers should not only ‘turn within’ (2.3.1) but also that they should then wait or ‘stand still’ (2.3.2) in receptive openness.6 In turn, understandings of the consequences of Inwardness (2.4) are explained (2.4.1 and 2.4.2). Fox’s use of the term ‘unity’ is considered (2.5) to determine the relationship of the concept to Quaker faith and practice. The final section (2.6) provides a conclusion and 2.7 summarises Fox’s teaching on Inwardness.
2.2. The importance of Inwardness for George Fox
Fox roused Friends exhorting them that:
… All friends of the Lord everywhere, whose minds are turned within towards the Lord, take heed and hearken to the light within you, which is the light of Christ and of God, which will call your minds to within (as ye heed it) which were abroad in the creatures; that by it your minds be renewed, and by it turned to God, with that which is pure to worship the Living God, the lord of hosts, over all the creatures …wait all in that which calls your mind inward … that the mind shall feed upon nothing but the pure light of God...7 The ministry above links the ‘inward’ to ‘the light within’ and that which ‘is pure’. It indicates the need to wait, suggesting that a focussed, attentive mind, or attentive presence, is necessary for opening to the light ‘in pure worship’. Here Fox is offering a straightforward set of instructions for a spiritual practice intended to lead to unmediated 5 Fox, G. (Nickalls Ed.) The Journal of George Fox, and Fox, G., Works. Some of the ‘threads’ of Fox’s experience, ministry, and teaching/preaching, as indicative of Conditions and Elements of a spiritual practice that he advocated, are highlighted by underlining in the chapter; this is also the case in relation to Penington and Barclay in chapters 3 and 4 and contemporary references in chapter 5.
6 Ambler. R. A Light to Live By, p. 10 refers to this as ‘passive attention’. Keiser suggests, however, that although the silence entered is ‘formless’ it remains an area of some activity, a creative process, since the worshipper makes a choice as to focus – See ‘Reflecting Theologically from the Gathered Meeting: The Nature and Origin of Quaker Theology’ Quaker Theology, 2, (2000).
Fox, G Works, Epistle LV1 pp. 71-72. See also Figures 1 and 2 within the chapter. 7
61 encounters with God.8 The injunction to ‘turn within’ that underpins much of Fox’s teaching rests on the recognition that, ‘God, who made the world, did not dwell in temples made with hands … but in people’s hearts … his people were his temple, and he dwelt in them’.9 The teaching here is in accordance with his emphasis on the New Covenant, of which Fox, referring to the ‘blood of Christ’, said: ‘I saw it, the blood of the New Covenant, how it came into the heart’.10 In many references Fox writes of ‘bringing people off’ the outwardness of the world.
He indicates that he was to bring people off ‘the world’s religions, which are vain’: off ‘all the world’s fellowships:11 off ‘Jewish ceremonies and from heathenish fables…’12 off ‘all the world’s ways and teachers’13 i.e. from all that is creaturely and outward. Fox is to bring ‘them [all people] to the Spirit of God in themselves’. 14 This move away from outturned concerns and towards Inwardness was based on Fox’s own experience and is reflected in his teaching and preaching to all people. It is a message of detachment from the ‘creaturely’ in favour of that which is spiritually known and lived, ‘seen’ by Fox to come into the hearts of all people, known in and through Christ.
Gwyn suggests that Fox had ‘a breakthrough experience’ which he wrote about in his Journal, as hearing a voice, saying ‘There is one, even Christ Jesus that can speak to 8 See Table 1 on spiritual practice/Meeting for Worship. Use of the metaphor ‘light’ in speaking of God is by no means the prerogative of Friends. This 17th Century language, and the thinking from which it derives, continues to be used in many texts both of Western and the Eastern Religious traditions. It is only necessary to turn to advices 1, 3, and 5, in the current Advices and Queries (London: The Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Britain (1995, 1997, and 2008) of British Quakerism, to find the emphasis Friends place on Light. Also see Moore, R. Consciences pp. 102-3 in relation to ambiguous use of the term ‘light’ among early Quakers.
9 Fox, Journal, p. 8.
10 Fox, ibid, p. 23.
62 thy condition’.15 This ‘shifted Fox from seeking to what he would later describe as standing still in the light of Christ’.16 Gwyn maintains that, ‘[T]his was a ‘consciousness raising’ experience, opening the way for a new self to be constructed by the direct guidance of the light and the nurture of others struggling through the same experience’.17 For Fox, ‘standing still’ is ‘standing still in the light’; it is a teaching that is irrevocably tied to recognition that the Lord’s teaching is within people.18 It is in Inwardness that Fox found ‘the unchangeable truth’ which gave him strength19 and which he propagated as ‘the light of Jesus Christ, which would keep their [people’s] minds to the unchangeable, who is the way to the Father…’20 Inwardness and stillness are, then, often interwoven in Fox’s teaching. 21 Though not always linked directly in his spoken or written words, these two aspects of dwelling in Christ and being open to the Christ, who dwells within human beings, are found in a totality of experience. Fox says, ‘Christ hath been talked of, but now he is come and possessed … The Son of God hath been talked of, but now he is come, and has given us an understanding. Unity hath been talked of, but now it is come…’22 and, ‘Therefore ye, who know the love of God and the law of his Spirit, and the freedom that is in Jesus Christ, stand fast in him, in that divine faith which he is the author of in you’.23 15 Gwyn, D. in Dandelion, B. P., Gwyn, D. and Peat, T. (eds.), Heaven on Earth-Quakers and the Second Coming (Kelso: Curlew, 1998), referring to, Journal, p. 11.
16 Fox’s Works, Epistle X is discussed in section 2.3.
63 For Fox it is essential that all people should recognise that in Christ’s coming something exceptional occurred and that Friends had a role ‘to sound forth the everlasting Gospel’. The expression that Christ is ‘the author’ of humankind is particularly significant.24 It implies that without Christ humanity is unfinished; what is necessary is that people come to know God by being in the Spirit and having the Spirit in themselves.
Fox says, ‘[T]hough they [people at large] may have his light to condemn them that hate it, yet they can never bring any into unity and fellowship in the Spirit, except they be in it’.25 So Fox speaks of feeling the light and thus feeling Christ in the mind as the means of knowing for oneself that Christ, the Son of God, is now among the people and thus the means to Unity is come.26 The Quaker phrase that ensued concerns ‘that of God’ within the self, and Fox is persistent in urging his followers ‘to turn within’ and to ‘stand still’ in the pure light of God.27
2.3. Inwardness and Stillness
Fox’s writings offer numerous examples of his teaching concerning Inwardness, stillness and unity expressed in relation to the Light within. This thesis investigates Fox’s understanding 1) of the meaning and significance of Inwardness in the life of individual worshippers, and 2) his interpretation of the means to create a community of Friends, who would live in the Light. The growth of Inwardness in individuals, through which the Light becomes operative, is understood, by Fox, to have consequences. 28 Inwardness as Stabilised Unity, in the sense in which Fox refers to knowing the ‘hidden unity in the Eternal Being’, is a state of purity and perfection beyond any evil that 24 Dobbs, Authority, on authority in general and the ultimate authority of God (p. 1). Also note, Fox, Journal, p. 155, on Christ as the ‘author of [their] faith and the finisher thereof’.