«By CAROLE ANNE HAMBY A thesis submitted to the University of Birmingham for the degree of DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY Department of Theology and Religion ...»
A broadly similar understanding of Quaker worship has endured in Britain from its origin in the seventeenth century. The main change is found in the duration of practice as a corporate activity. Whereas in the early times practice could continue for many hours, in the twentieth century it is usually a Meeting of one hour only. 98 The seminal expression regarding practice is that of Fox (1658), ‘Be still and cool in thy own mind and spirit from thy own thoughts…’ [2.18]. Fox’s words, although not using the term Inwardness (or ‘inward’) nonetheless, describe the process by which Attentive Presence in worship facilitates inward/inner experience.99 The importance of Stillness in this process is emphasised in 2.01, 2.39 and 2.53, whereas that of Silence (‘cool in thy own mind’ as expressed by Fox in this quotation) is emphasized in 2.01, 2.12, 2.13 and 2.15.
That the Stillness and Silence of Quaker worship is important for heart-felt/heartknown awareness of Inwardness is expressed in several passages. References to Heart occur in 2.12, 2.57 and 2.60; whereas terms associated directly with Inwardness are used in 2.02, 2.10, 2.22, 2.57, 2.58, 2.72 and 2.81. Taken together, indications of Stillness, Silence, Heart Awareness and Inwardness connect with the fuller expression of the manner in which worship concerns turning to God. They are in combination about creating the Conditions, and facilitating the Element of Attentive Presence in the process itself. Notions of forging links with God [2.16], sacred interchange [2.24], sharing with God [2.42], communion [2.39] and heavenly communion [2.43] all relate to the intended outcome i.e. the possibility of Unity.
96 See Kaal, F. ‘The Future of Quakerism in Britain Yearly Meeting’, Friends Quarterly, 2, (2010), pp. 64-85.
Chapter 1 and 5.
98 Advices and Queries, 19.20 (Edward Burrough).
99 The terms ‘Inward’ and ‘inner’ are sometimes taken to be distinct both historically and theologically, but on occasions distinction is disregarded as unimportant, see consideration below. Also see Jantzen, G. A Place of Springs…. chapter 4 for a Quaker feminist perspective on ‘Quakers and the Inner Light’.
175 John Punshon (1987) writes of Meeting for Worship, as giving emphasis to the ‘ministry of silence’, further referring to the importance of coming regularly with ‘heart and mind prepared’ [2.37]. For Woolman, what is important is that his ‘understanding became more strengthened to distinguish the language of the pure spirit which inwardly moves upon the heart’ [2.57]. It is in this interrelation of 1) creating the Conditions for worship, 2) engaging ‘the pure spirit’ that ‘inwardly moves upon the heart’;100 and 3) communion with God that defines the process of Quaker worship: a process that is central to gaining the guidance of the Inward Teacher.
5.4.2ii ‘Openings’ (Chapter 19 QFP) The chapter of QFP on ‘Openings’ tells the story of ‘the origins of our [Friends’]
Religious Society’. The introduction to the chapter states:
As we look at these openings-both beginnings and insights-we are not telling the full history. We are telling those parts of the story which explain and illuminate the identity of our yearly meeting as it is now, as it interprets it origins in the Light now given to it, and as it is called by the same Inward Teacher to find, in differing times and circumstances, the same Truth.101 This passage and many of the inclusions in chapter 19, place emphasis on the ‘Inward Teacher’ as primary guide. Thus, the importance of personal and inner experience is maintained. The texts draw attention to the fact that Fox wrote, ‘I had nothing outwardly to help me’ [19.02]; ‘This I saw in pure openings…’ [19.04] and ‘I felt the hand of the Lord within me’ [19.05].102 Twenty-first century Friends are thus urged to the same experience i.e. direct communication with God. This is the essence of Quaker spiritual practice. What is most important for Friends is that their knowledge should be ‘inwardly from God’ [19.07]. It is necessary to know for oneself not to know only what others have
102 ‘Openings’ understood as ‘the hand [word] of the Lord within me’ can be taken as synonymous with the term ‘revelation’ in Fox.
By means of personally experienced acquaintance with God, in Meeting for Worship, the ‘Spirit and Truth of Quakerism’ is owned individually and corporately. For Howgill, in the seventeenth century, the means and the certainty of this ‘ownership’ were expressed
The Lord of Heaven and earth we found to be near at hand, and, as we waited upon him in pure silence, our minds out of all things, his heavenly presence appeared in our assemblies, when there was no language, tongue nor speech from any creature.
… We came to know a place to stand in and what to wait in … [19.08] As in QFP chapter 2, calls to Stillness, Silence, Heart Awareness, Inwardness and direct communication with God, (God Focus) recur.104 The latter part of chapter 19 reflects on the manner in which Testimony expresses living the Quaker way and, although these later passages do not directly endorse the previously emphasised concerns (Silence 19.12, Heart, 19.59, and Inwardness 19.14 ‘reaching to my heart and conscience’), the significance of the later passages is to show, that ‘the Truth is one and the same always, and although ages and generations pass away, and one generation goes and another comes, yet the word and power and spirit of the living God endures for ever, and is the same and never changes’. [19.61] 5.4.2iii ‘Reflections’: Experiences of God (Chapter 26 QFP) Geoffrey Hubbard’s (1974) words are used to introduce this section.
So one approaches, by efforts which call for the deepest resources of one’s being, to the condition of true silence; not just of sitting still, not just of not speaking, but of wide awake, fully aware non-thinking. It is in this condition, found and held for a brief instant only, that I have experienced the existence of something other than 103 Fell, M. Quaker Faith and Practice 19.07, (London: Quaker Home Service, 1995). Margaret Fell became the wife of George Fox and an important figure in the early organisation and administration of the Society. Fell’s question ‘What canst thou say’ was adopted by Janet Scott as the title of her Swarthmore Lecture.
104 Silence – 19.19, 19.20, 19.28; Heart–19.13, 19.14, 19.17, 19.20. 19 21, 19.59.
This particular reflection illuminates the manner in which the Conditions of Stillness and Silence can cultivate a silent consciousness that, even though initially and importantly self-referring, expands in due time beyond the self.
This ‘wide awake fully aware non-thinking’, is described by Emilia Fogelklou as ‘exceptionally wide awake consciousness’. [26.05]105 For Caroline Stephen, the description is ‘Minds to their own consciousness lighted from within’ (see chapter 1).
Practices that facilitate openness of pure consciousness are important for Quakers in releasing ‘inward wonder’ [26.05] in such a way as to reveal a sense of the inward depth of all creation. Stephen writes of the ‘nearness’ of the Divine Presence in terms of ‘something other and deeper than words’, ‘unseen and eternal things’.106 Fox refers to the need to ‘keep in the wisdom of God that spreads over all the earth, the wisdom of the creation that is pure. Live in it; that is the word of the Lord God to you all, do not abuse it; keep down low; and take heed of the false joys that will change’. [19.32] The shift in emphasis in these passages alerts to the possibility for all, and the reality for some, of the widening vision that occurs with growth of measure. The means are the same, the outcomes a matter of time and dedicated spiritual practice. Inwardness continues to be emphasised [26.28, 26.29, 26.37, 26.41, 26.44, 26.49, 26.61, 26. 62, and 26.63]. Passages relating to Silence and Heart also recur (Silence, 26.02, 26. 12 and Heart, 26.30, 26.43, 26.70 and 26.75). In the main, the manner in which ‘the leadings of God’ [26.01] extend to the broader, yet unified sense of ‘otherness in creation’, is emphasised in chapter 26 in ways that extend understanding of the Quaker experience of Inwardness.
Howard Collier (1947) provides a clear expression of experience:
105 See also Kaal, Friends Quarterly, 2, (2010) ‘different states of consciousness’, p. 71, ‘higher states of consciousness, p. 75, ‘heightened inner state of consciousness’, p. 74.
106 Fox, Journal, 59 ‘mind that which is eternal and invisible’.
John Macmurray (1967) expresses something of this immensity of existence and his
awareness of it as follows:
Whenever we are driven into the depths of our own being, or seek them of our own will, we are faced by a tremendous contrast. On the one side we recognise the pathetic littleness of our ephemeral existence, with no point or meaning itself. On the other side, in the depth there is something eternal and infinite in which our existence and indeed all existence is grounded. This experience of the depth of existence fills us with a sense of both reverence and of responsibility, which gives even to our finite lives a meaning and a power which they do not possess in themselves. This, I am assured, is our human experience of God [26.11].107 In chapter 26 ‘our inner world’ [26.29] is connected to what Fox refers to as ‘the pure openings of light’ [26.42] in a way which many term ‘the Light of Christ within’ [26.44].
This is also described as ‘a new invasion of spirit’ [26.58]. The latter appears very close to what Woolman speaks of as ‘a principle which is pure, placed in the human mind’ [26.61] as ‘deep and inward’.108 What it reveals is the extended reality of the Holy Spirit the ‘inspiration of the Holy Spirit’ [26.67], the ‘pure living eternal spirit’. [26.69] Howgill wrote ‘Return home to within’ [26.71], for the ‘Divine Principle of Light and Life in the soul’ [26.62] opens to worshipping Friends a knowing and experiencing that is as ‘revelation and encounter with that which is holy’. [26.75] In this section, entitled ‘Reflections’, there are many and varied ways in which ‘experiencing God’, ‘the Light of Christ’ and ‘the universal light’, is expressed.
Particularly clear is that of Kelly (1941) in the words, ‘There is a Divine Center in which your life can slip, a new and absolute orientation in God, a center where you live with Him and out of which you see all life through new and radiant vision’. [26.72]109
The introduction to chapter 29 states that ‘Our [Quaker] hope and our experience is that when we are faithful we shall be rightly led’. The order of chapters in QFP is not prescriptive but it may suggest not only an interweaving of faith and practice but also a logical sequence. The fact that worship precedes openings could be taken as indicative of means and outcomes. In turn, the fact that reflection is dependent on openings and results in leadings is logical. Thus the notion of ‘leadings’; has significance in giving direction to living.
QFP chapter 29 encourages Friends to ‘dwell in the place where leadings come from … dwell in the presence of God’: [29.01] this is first and foremost an inward movement of experience. ‘We [Quakers] must look to ourselves, to speak our lives and let our lives speak. Above all we must look to the Truth. We have an Inward Teacher who teaches guides and commands us. When we know what we have to do, how to do it will come.’ [29.02] Passage 29.10 suggests that ‘[Quakers] are trustees of a long tradition which has sought to bring our religious convictions into the world’. Friends do and must engage with multiple and complex issues-social, economic, political, yet are reminded that ‘the world with all its sin and splendour belongs to God’ [29.14]. Beth Allen suggests that we must have a ‘big enough’ understanding of God to do justice to framing all that needs to
be encompassed in the knowledge and experience of the Divine, the creator. She writes:
The God before whom we sit in silence is transcendent, beyond space and time, holding all the universe in being in all its complexity–God to whom we respond with awe and wonder and respect. We need big enough words to describe God, our minds need to be enlarged, elastic and strong enough at least to try to frame the Divine and convey our experience.110 Grace Blindell (1992) also acknowledges the need for an expanded view of God and creation. She writes in a manner that suggests a very challenging time for Friends, but also indicates that the means is available to those who keep in tune with Quaker teaching and
And now at this critical point in time, when our outdated world view no longer satisfies, comes this breakthrough: science and mysticism speaking with one voice, the rediscovery of our own (Christian) creation-centred and mystical tradition, and the recognition of the spiritual wisdoms of the native traditions. All uniting and all challenging in a profound way our narrowly drawn boundaries.
Are we willing to open ourselves to this wider vision, to cease our urge to control and dominate, to listen instead to our hearts, to recognise again the integrity and sacredness of this planet which we have so abused? This means entering a new relationship with ‘our Mother the Earth’, it means seeing ourselves again in a cosmic context, a larger perspective, which includes fire-ball, galaxy, planet and all other life forms.
If we can move from our ‘human-sized’ viewpoint and look instead from the cosmic viewpoint, there is a sudden and dramatic widening of the lens through which we look. Redemption is seen to be for all creation, and our human story, far from being diminished, is incorporated in the whole drama of an emerging universe [29.18].111 QFP chapter 29, following this passage, concludes, with the words of William Dewsbury from 1675, indicating the interlacing of Friends thinking across the generations.