«By CAROLE ANNE HAMBY A thesis submitted to the University of Birmingham for the degree of DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY Department of Theology and Religion ...»
In answering his own questions Penington set out to proclaim that the Light is the Light of the Spirit: God is Spirit and the Light shines from God into the heart of all mankind.25 He then affirmed that ‘[F]or whosoever joineth the light of God’s spirit cannot but witness salvation thereby: for it is of a saving nature, and bringeth salvation with it (inwardly, spiritually, livingly known), and he is not, nor can be, known without it’.26 He continued, explaining that the Light, working inwardly, enlightens by showing both evil and what is good in mankind, gradually inclining humanity towards the good and the righteous. The Light is not, therefore, seen as neutral. The Light shows ‘a way, a highway … called the way of holiness’: it is to this way that Christ leads.27 For humankind the need is to turn towards the Light, in order to be changed by it and transformed. This transformation is about ‘becoming light in the Lord’ so to ‘walk in the light as God is in the light’ (1 John 1:7). For Quakers and, as further explained by Penington, the manner of turning towards the Light is straightforward - it is to ‘turn 25 Penington, I. The Light Within and Selected Writings (Philadelphia: The Tract Association of Friends, undated), p. 49.
26 Penington, ibid, p. 50, Penington indicated that many had testified to the Light as recorded in the Bible and he cites Moses, Job, David, Solomon, the Prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah Ezekiel, and Micah), John the Baptist, Christ himself and the apostles and evangelists, pp. 52–56.
27 Penington, ibid, p. 57. See also Isaiah 35:8.
Penington suggests that it is possible to shut out the Light even when it has been ‘discovered’. If the Light is to grow and be lived in fullness the individual must continue to be exercised in what has become known. At first the experience may be only ‘in some measure and degree, and afterwards more and more’ as Friends come ‘... to feel after, and have a sense of that which is of God, and good in the heart, and come to join and give up to it’.29 In and through spiritual practice Life and Light grow in the individual.
Penington wrote frequently of ‘the inward light’ and ‘the Light Within’. The terms ‘inward’ or ‘inwardly’ often qualify others, as for example, ‘inward appearances of God, 30 being ‘inwardly changed’,31‘inward reaching’ to the heart 32 and of God speaking ‘inwardly in our own hearts...’.33 For Penington the work of ‘turning within’ is the way to the Life and the Light of the Spirit of God, it is the means of knowing the substance of Light and its image in full measure through Christ. Inwardness is also the means of experiencing that Love which is entailed in the Oneness of God’s Life and Light known in the self.
3.2.3 On Love
That Penington experienced God as Love ‘inwardly, spiritually, livingly known’ ingrafted in himself is clear from the manner of his writing: it is unhesitating in its certainty.
He writes with equal conviction of the fullness of God’s love saying with simplicity, God
112 is the fullness that runs daily, ‘that it may run into you and fill you’.34 He also exposes the nature of fullness in terms of humanly known qualities that are descriptions of lovingness, ‘gifts and manifestations... as a fountain of life and heavenly virtue...’ Penington is of the mind that God’s fullness is seen manifested richly in Christ.35 Additionally it is available to all mankind as each person is ‘enlarged to receive it [fullness of love]’.36 As indicated in 3.2.1, God, as Supreme Being, is discussed as Life itself which shines forth Light to animate, illuminate and enlighten, all that is in creation, according to measure of capacity: it is God’s Love that embraces and nourishes everything. God’s indwelling Light is discussed as that which awakens all beings, in their own consciousness, to the Life in which living finds its sustenance (3.2.2). In a lengthy account of Love, Penington ends with the sentence: ‘this is the nature of God’. In turn, as discussed below, God’s loving nature binds all into the overflowing Fullness that is God.37 Penington draws on Ephesians 3:18 to speak of this fullness in its ‘breadth and length
and height and depth’ entreating all to:
... be faithful, be faithful, travel on, travel on; let nothing stop you, but wait for, and daily follow the sensible leadings of that measure of life which God hath placed in you, which is one of fulness, and into which the fulness runs daily and fills it, that it may run into it and fill you…38 So be still before him and in stillness believe in his Name…39
37 The Vedic term ‘Purnamadah, purnamidam’ describes the two fullnesses of God’s Reality; thus the manner in which fullness is ever full everywhere in both the uncreated and the created, the Absolute and the Relative. (Skt. Purna(m) full/ness of both this (idam) and the other (that, adah)). Although the two fulnesses are analytically described as ‘two’ they are known experientially in fully mature spiritual consciousness as One: The One Eternal Being that can never be diminished or divided.
38 Penington, Works ii, pp. 495-496. 39 Penington, ibid, p. 497.
113 Additionally in a letter To Friends in Amersham (1667) Penington urges Friends to ‘wait to feel this spirit, and be guided to walk in this spirit …’ since ‘Our Life is love, and peace and tenderness; bearing one with another and forgiving one another, and not laying accusations one against another; but praying for one another and helping one another up with a tender hand’.40 And in 1669 he wrote to Thomas Walmsley, quoting 1 John 4: 16, ‘… God is love and he that dwells in love dwelleth in God, and God in him’.
For Penington, dwelling in God arises from the ‘principle of God raised up’ in humankind and those who live inwardly in this principle come to know, what Penington describes as ‘the sweetness of life [that] fulfils the law’. It is further understood that ‘it [the principle of God raised up] fulfils the gospel; it wraps up all in one, and brings forth all in the oneness. … A touch of love doth this in measure; perfect love doth this in fulness’.41 Penington is indicating that this Oneness is also Fulness.
O! how sweet is love! how pleasant is its nature! how takingly doth it behave itself in every condition, upon every occasion, to every person, and about everything! How tenderly, how readily, doth it help and serve the meanest! How patiently, how meekly, doth it bear all things …’ 42 There is much more in this description of love that leads to the statement that ‘This is the nature of God’. All in all, love is enthralling, for Penington, and an all-embracing quality awaiting those who respond to the ‘knock at the door’ (Rev. 3:20). As humankind awakens to God, ‘as the Lord openeth the mind, and men come to a sense of his nature and Spirit, and his intent in sending his Son’ they receive the key that opens the truth. In Love, is found the means to transformation, even to ‘the image, purity and perfection of the light’.43 The means, suggests Penington is, ‘To wait to know the mind of God and perform his will in everything …’44
114 For Penington, it is only possible to dwell in God when God is made alive in humankind.45 He wrote ‘... no man can find or know him [God], but as he pleases to reveal himself by his own blessed Spirit. And Christ being God’s image, there is no knowing or confessing him, or right calling him Lord, but in and by the same Spirit’. 46 According to Penington this is a matter of inward transformation; it is spiritual and only possible for those who are ‘inwardly changed … in the heart’.47 The transformation that occurs in an individual, whilst from the grace of God, is nonetheless something to be sought in the spiritual worship of Friends. Penington, writing of worship, explains that it is necessary to ‘watch and wait’ … ‘in silence of the fleshly part, to hear with the new ear what God shall please to speak inwardly in our own hearts’.48 Penington acknowledges that Friends can learn ‘outwardly through others’ but emphasises the significance of meeting for worship in which ‘we [Quakers] appear before God’ with others.49 Here there is ‘meeting of the same spiritual centre or streams of life’ in ‘the same spiritual nature’, that same spiritual nature that is the nature of God-Love.50 3.2.4 On Quaker Worship The way to God’s Life, Light and Love is, for Penington, in sensing and feeling the Presence. The most direct way to this experience is worship and it is a matter of dying ‘to your own wisdom, if ever ye will be born of, and walk in the wisdom of God’.51
For man is to come into the poverty of self, into the abasedness, into nothingness, into the silence in his spirit before the Lord; into the putting off of all his
51 Penington, Letters, p. 345. Also, personal communications by e mail, on letting go of the ego Rex Ambler, 1/2/12 and Mel Keiser, 3/2/12.
This kind of worship is the wordless prayer that gives away, or gives up, everything for God: divestment of self allows investment in God the Spirit and the in-grafting of the human being in the Divine Being. As expressed by both Fox (see chapter 2) and Barclay (see chapter 4) this is a process, a spiritual practice which facilitates transformation; so
also it is for Penington, who described it in the following manner:
After the mind is in some measure turned to the Lord, his quickening felt, his seed beginning to arise and spring up in the heart, then the flesh is to be silent before him, and the soul to wait upon him (and for his further appearing) in that measure of life that is already revealed. Now, this is a great thing to know flesh silenced, to feel the reasoning thoughts and discourses of the fleshly mind stilled, and the wisdom, light, and guidance of God’s spirit waited for.53 Penington is arguably the most thorough in explaining that the process of silent worship, and also of living in God’s Presence at all times, is a matter of sensed experience.54 His approach is not conceptual, not reasoned, not sought with an active mind. One of Penington’s favoured terms is ‘getting’ or ‘lying low’; this is about ‘silent waiting on the Lord in subjection, till the life speak and make things manifest’.55 Again and again Penington emphasises ‘sink[ing]’ into the feeling and ‘dwelling’ in the feeling and watching ‘to feel the savour of life in the heart day by day...’56 It is the savour or taste of the Life that is accessed by dwelling in the Silent Presence during worship. The means is to transcend the obvious phenomenal level of the relativities of physical existence; and even the ideas, thoughts and imaginings that refer to this level of manifestation. Keiser explains that for Penington ‘God... is not something experienced
116 yet mysterious like the sunrise. Rather God is mystery itself’.57 Thus, the movement of mind that transcends to felt and sensed Inwardness is at one and the same time a movement to the transcendental God, who is both within and beyond manifestation. This is the very grounding of all living, Being itself that is, for Penington, God regarded as ‘mystery’.58
Of significance is the discernment that arises:
…If thou come to know God’s Spirit and to receive it, and feel it work in thee, and its pure light shine from the fountain and spring of life, thou wilt have a quicker sense and discerning therefrom, than can arise either from words written or from thoughts: that is the Lord will show thee the way, whereof thou doubtest quicker than a thought can arise in thee, and the Lord will show thee evil in a pure sense of the new nature, quicker than thou canst think or consider of anything. 59 Penington acknowledges that although fathoming the Inward is the key experience, once the individual is opened to the ‘inward parts’ the rest of life is illuminated also; and in ‘the inward and spiritual appearance of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ [is] revealing his power inwardly’ everything, even the outward and the literal, is known afresh.60 As Penington suggested, in his The Flesh and Blood of Christ in the Mystery, and in the Outward, it is through the inward opening that the outward is fully appreciated.
For by the inward life and teachings of God’s Spirit, am I taught and made able to value that glorious outward appearance and manifestation of the life and power of God in that heavenly flesh (as in my heart I have often called it), for the life so dwelt in it, that it was even one with it.61 It is, then, through intimate knowing of the inward that the outward gains its full status in awareness.
117 The perception of the inward in the outward and the outward in its full value in the inward is what Creasey emphasises as lacking in his discussion and criticism of ‘early Quaker language’. Keiser, in turn, explains that Inwardness is the dimension of the depth of the outward. In this thesis it is maintained that whilst it is possible to conceptualise this reality, as Penington asserts ‘there is a great difference between the truth held in the reasoning part, and truth held in its own principle.’62 ‘Held in its own principle’ truth is held in the Life, which is Light and Love in Unity.
Penington’s account of Unity is discussed next.