«By CAROLE ANNE HAMBY A thesis submitted to the University of Birmingham for the degree of DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY Department of Theology and Religion ...»
3.3 Penington and Unity Penington distinguishes between uniformity and Unity, suggesting that the great error of the ages in the apostasy has been to set up an outward order and uniformity. 63 Such uniformity can be achieved by decision and action and, therefore, by imposition. It is, however, man-made and as Rachel King suggested not worthy of the name Unity. Rather Unity is something that is beyond human nature, requiring a growth in the Spirit.64 Keiser points out that Penington ‘is not opposed to sameness, but spiritual unity does not consist in doing, thinking, and saying the same things but in mutual participation in the Life.’65 In fact Penington says ‘Uniformity is very lovely.... [but it is] for the fleshly part.66 Unity is of a different kind. Penington answers the question: ‘Wherein doth this unity consist?’ by referring to a ‘knitting of natures’ and a fellowship ‘in the same spiritual centre or streams of life’ for preservation of the unity.67 Here all differences are known to
… to feel the life, to unite with the life, and the eye will open which can see into the nature of things, and will behold all in its season; for that eye that is so eager to see, shall never see these things; but that eye alone which waits in stillness and quietness on the pleasure and good-will of the opener.71 As Fox said, ‘And the Lord showed me that such as were faithful to him in the power and light of Christ, should come up into that state in which Adam was before he fell...’72 It is of this experience that Fox writes of the creation being opened to him and knowing the ‘hidden unity in the Eternal Being’. Writing of this experience, as described by Penington, Keiser maintains ‘existence shifts natural understanding’s dominion to Spirit in dwelling and leading’. This is a changed wisdom, it is no longer an intellectual construction, but a wisdom which ‘makes us like God [rather than] wisdom that makes us like our veiled selves’.73 It would seem that Penington had knowledge of Unity that was experiential, that he lived in an expanded state of consciousness and expressed his understanding from a level of deeply known reality. Penington’s writing gives the sense that he was transformed into a state of life at one with the Life and consciousness, which he deemed to be the divine Presence within, Eternal Being.
3.4 Conclusion It has been commented above that Penington is expansive in his devotion to God, which he expresses clearly in relation to the Life, Light and Love of God. This is known 68 Figure 6 indicates that differences and diversity are not removed by unity they are, however, known experientially in a transformed consciousness that lives Unity.
69 Penington, Works, ii p. 385.
Penington’s emphasis on the manner in which God is revealed to human beings facilitates an understanding of how he interprets Inwardness. His consideration of the need for stillness and silence in preparing the way for devotional worship is consistent with Fox’s teaching. Furthermore, it is clear that Penington regards ‘waiting’ for guidance in Attentive Presence as central. Penington, perhaps more that Fox, places emphasis on the need to savour experience in and through the heart stating that it is in the heart that inward change is felt and known. In these statements, Penington confirms the validity of the proposal outlined at the end of the previous chapter i.e. that Fox’s injunction to ‘turn within’ entails creating the Conditions of readiness to worship. Furthermore, Penington shows that once these Conditions are created Worship allows for progressive experience, suggested by the terms elicited from Fox’s writing involving Attentive Presence, Heart Awareness, Attunement to God (God Focus), Purity, Discernment, Growth and Unity.
In Penington, as in Fox, the meaning and function of Inwardness is laid out for Friends in a manner designed to urge that spiritual practice and living is an orderly process: it constitutes the Quaker Way. Table 3 identifies that Penington’s ministry is in accordance with Fox on issues of Conditions and Elements of Quaker faith and practice.
15 See Figure 6, differences and diversity are not removed by unity they are, however, experientially known in the transformed consciousness that lives unity.
This chapter has outlined Penington’s thinking by examining his ministry on a) the Life, b) the Light Within, c) Love and, finally, d) Quaker worship, as the means to experiencing the Inwardness of God’s Being and qualities of lovingness. Penington’s experiential knowing and state of spiritual consciousness was considered in relation to an understanding of Unity.
The final section of the chapter showed how Penington’s ministry seems to indicate a state of consciousness at one with the spiritual reality he described. In conclusion, it was argued that Penington’s work validates the proposal indicated at the end of chapter 2, identified in Fox, on the process of Inwardness. Table 3 was used to show correlations between the ministries of Fox and Penington.
The next chapter examines the work of Robert Barclay.
This chapter examines Robert Barclay’s Apology in order to analyse his view of Inwardness both as a theological concept and personal experience.16 4.2 considers Barclay’s dualistic language from two points of view, that of Keiser and Ambler, and sub-sections of the chapter deal with different aspects of Barclay’s theology. Section 4.3 details Barclay’s explanation of a conception of Inwardness. The section makes particular reference to propositions 2, and 11, from the Apology, selected for their thorough examination of 1) Quaker faith in immediate revelation and 2) the Quaker mode of accessing immediate revelation through worship. Sub-section 4.3.1 shows how Barclay’s reference to the ‘inward’, together with a range of qualifications, is spread throughout propositions 2 and
11.17 Finally, his understanding of Inwardness is analysed in relation to the difference between covenantal assurances of the Law of the Old Testament and the New Testament Gospel. Sub-section 4.3.2 highlights the authority given to experience rather than doctrine in Barclay’s work. His treatment of the experience of worship, in proposition 11, is important to a complete understanding of his view of Inwardness. The section demonstrates how Barclay distinguishes the new mode of Quaker worship, stripped of ritual and liturgy, as worship ‘from the Spirit of God’. Furthermore, the section shows that Barclay intends a profound meaning for Inwardness as the source of, and means to, immediate revelation and 16 The full title of Barclay’s work indicates the emphasis of the work and is, for this reason, given here in its entirety. ‘An Apology for the True Christian Divinity as the same is held forth, and preached by the People, called, in scorn Quakers Being a full explanation and vindication of their Principles and Doctrines by many arguments deduced from Scripture and Right Reason, and the Testimonies of Famous Authors both Ancient and Modern with full Answer to the strongest objections usually made against them’. Unless otherwise indicated quotations throughout the thesis are taken from Sippel, P. (ed.) An Apology for the True Christian Divinity by Robert Barclay (Glenside PA: Quaker Heritage Press, 2002). Sections of the Apology selected are central not only in terms of their biblical focus but also in the scope of their related arguments. They entail an exposition of faith in (Prop. 2) and practice of (Prop, 11) that provides insight into Barclay’s conception of Inwardness. The Apology is written in a propositional format to offer a clear set of arguments best suited to its apologetic purpose.
17 See also analytical table at the end of the chapter.
4.2 Inwardness and Dualism with specific reference to Robert Barclay’s Apology Barclay’s scholastic theology has drawn consideration from many Quaker scholars in the present day, since his attempts to articulate the ‘spiritual religion’ of Quakerism gave rise to concern about his dualistic expressions.18 Discussions include: a) Keiser’s use of relational theology in his analysis of Barclay, and b) Ambler’s justification of Barclay’s use of apologetic language. Both are considered briefly below to remove any confusion that might otherwise arise if the issue of dualistic language is ignored.
4.2.1 Melvin Keiser’s relational interpretation of Barclay’s work
Keiser accepts the academic reasons for criticisms of Barclay but indicates that they should not be regarded as final in understanding Barclay’s intent. He indicates that talk of ‘otherness’, ‘beyond-ness’, ‘Spirit’ and ‘Inwardness’, for example, as complex concepts, ultimately make sense only when seen in their connectedness. It is then necessary, for Keiser, that there should be comprehension, even if tacit, of a ‘relational emergent framework’19 as the wholeness within which connectedness is One.20 In turn, Keiser’s view is that Barclay’s convincement amidst the community of Quakers is paramount in reading beyond his academic language to its interpretation in terms of spiritual experience.21 18 Endy, William Penn, pp. 76-77, according to Endy, this tendency towards dualism was present from the beginning of Quakerism not merely once written in scholastic mode by Barclay.
19 Keiser explains that the term ‘prehend’ is often used in this sense to avoid interpretation of ‘comprehension’ as cognitive or intellectual. Keiser speaks of a tacit and pre-cognitive knowing from which emerges explicit expression of understanding. ‘Comprehend’ is used by Barclay to mean ‘include’– Apology, p.
21 See also Ambler, R. ‘Inward Light: Then and Now’, Universalist, 90, (2010), pp. 3-15. Also, Keiser, ‘Touched and Knit’, Quaker Studies, 5 Issue 2, (2001), pp. 141–164.
125 Keiser’s analysis begins with Barclay’s ‘starting point’ i.e. community. 22 This, in itself, provides a clue to Keiser’s interpretation of Barclay’s position: connectedness in community is seen as the lynch-pin of his argument. Barclay’s expression of convincement [g] is understood in both the ‘sense’ and the fact of community. For Keiser it is important that Barclay says of the worshipping community, ‘In entering physically into this space where people are sitting in silent worship, he is touched in his mind, but it is the mind as heart, not as head merely …’23 From this, and other similar expressions in Barclay’s writing, Keiser shows that it is within community that certainty is attained and demonstrated. Importantly, this is certainty founded in connection rather than separation. For Descartes, the way to certainty is through questioning that eats away at all relations in search of an absolute idea that can be held beyond doubt. ‘For Barclay, it comes through the sensing and trusting of experience felt within the inwardness of the individual self in the world and in community’.24 So, ‘Certainty comes through attachment and relatedness for Barclay: for Descartes it comes through separation and detachment’.25 According to Keiser it seems that in the community of Friends, Barclay experienced the ‘Spirit of God over all’; by extension this encompassed the manner in which, in biblical terms, the ‘Spirit of God is over all’ in the entire creation.26 Biblical disclosure, even when regarded as metaphorical, is a guide to a) the will of God b) that will manifest in creation and c) the will and its manifestation in creation as directly experienced encounter i.e. as personal communication, or revelation.
Keiser maintains that for Barclay this is knowledge available to individuals in Quaker worship, knowledge not reliant on scriptural acquaintance, but found in the depths of the self 22 As indicated Keiser refers to the importance of ‘community’, both as sensed and as fact, for understanding the connectedness that is seen as the essence of relational thinking.
26 As Genesis 1 and 2 suggests ‘The Spirit of God moved over the face of the waters’ i.e. the ‘waters’ being all, at this stage, of the creation. Although the narrative of Genesis may be factually questionable it is nonetheless, as other biblical narrations, a script that ‘constitutes the image of truth or record of revelation’.
Borg maintains it is not to be read as historically literal but rather as historically metaphorical.
Keiser’s arguments about Barclay’s Quakerism imply connections between delivering a ministry of words and a living ministry of action. Central to comprehending Barclay’s theology, according to Keiser, is an appreciation of the way in which all things emerge from a ‘skein of connectedness’28 from the silent depths: from the Spirit at the heart of all that is.
Keiser shows that major ideas from Propositions 2 and 11, examined from a relational perspective, reveal an understanding of Barclay’s theology that is consistent with other expressions of Quaker experiential theology. 29 The main issue is that a radically different interpretation of Barclay’s notion of Inwardness is accessed if his experiential theology is given precedence over his academic theology. Keiser’s view is that the mode of Barclay’s convincement, and its occurrence in the midst of the community of Quakers, is paramount in reading beyond Barclay’s academic language to its interpretation in terms of his spiritual experience.
Keiser is describing and explaining the experiential realities of Quaker spiritual practice.
He acknowledges that evolution of spiritual consciousness, as described by Quakers, in terms of growth of measure, brings about changes in experiential knowing.30 Such growth is interpreted here as facilitating progressively distinction between multiplicity, duality and Unity.31 The use of the term ‘duality’ in this context is to be distinguished from Barclay’s use of the language of Cartesian dualism. It is discussed further in chapter 6.