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«By CAROLE ANNE HAMBY A thesis submitted to the University of Birmingham for the degree of DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY Department of Theology and Religion ...»

-- [ Page 32 ] --

A proposal that growth of measure, Jones’ ‘progress of the soul’, should be described in terms of higher states of consciousness is discussed further in 6.3.3. It is also shown that different states of consciousness reflect transformed perception, moving from multiplicity to Unity, with recognition that this has consequences. Gregory the Great’s discussion of light in which the entry point is understood, possibly metaphorically, as narrow but the chamber of reception is wide provides a useful analogy. Gregory’s related discussion of the temple in Ezekiel, with its talk of measure, is interpreted in terms of the highest aspirations and achievements and the widest and most expanded experiences of contemplative practice. In this vast interior is to be found the voice of God but also the silence; a silence that is far removed from mere absence of noise. 37 This analogy relates more to the Quaker understanding of the ‘inward light’, than that of ‘inner light’ 38, but is 35

See thesis, chapter 2, p. 55.

36 Jones, R quoted in Post Abbott, M., Quaker Views on Mysticism, (Wallingford, PA: Pendle Hill Pamphlets, No.375), p. 11.

37 For comprehensive discussion of Gregory the Great on contemplative practice, showing how Gregory built on Augustine but also developed new thinking, see McGinn, Growth, chapter 2.

38 See discussion 5.3.4.

211 nonetheless useful in relation to the notion of inward expansion. When consciousness is experienced as both pure and increasingly expanded it affords, in Gregory’s terms, recognition that ‘the part through which the light enters [may be] narrow, but the interior part that receives the light is wide ….’ Figures 1-4, in chapter 2, provide a diagrammatic representation of growth in the experience of Inwardness. Initially outwardness (Figure 1) is shown as the primary experience of individual consciousness; and even if there is knowledge about the possibility of Inwardness, it is not experiential. However, in the course of regular engagement in the Quaker spiritual practice, Inwardness (Figure 2) is experienced and gradually known in increasing depth and fullness. Shifts of attention between outwardness and Inwardness, in terms of the movement of conscious attention, are indicated in Figure 3 and Table 1, (ref. Meeting for Worship). The result is a maturing awareness within the individual of the interrelation and finally a growing integration of outwardness and Inwardness. Figure 6 is indicative of the possible realisation of the biblical ‘more’ that is to come (see John 16.12-15, below).

This thesis also maintains that different descriptions and interpretations of experience are in accord with the level of consciousness of individual and/or corporate discernment.

Awareness of ‘more’ to come, that is at first indefinable, has the possibility of being realised at a later stage of development, yet may not become known to all.

212 Figure 6 The biblical promise of ‘more’ to come indicated by greater depth within Inwardness as consciousness ‘expands’39 Figure 6, indicates how, within outwardness, there is ever increasing infiltration of Inwardness, and also how in the foundation of Inwardness further depth may be opened to awareness. It is a matter of speculation what the biblical words actually intend. However, as Inwardness itself becomes deeper and more insightful it allows for knowledge to become more profound and full. Inwardness, as fully developed in consciousness, changes the entirety of experiencing as shown in Table 6.

The diagram above is intended to represent, the promise of the words of John 16: 12I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit, when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself: but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come’.140 Whether or not this perception could have been entailed in Fox’s preaching that ‘the Lord has come to teach his people himself’ cannot be claimed with certainty.

However, the main contention of this thesis is not about the teachings but about the actual 39 John 16: 12-13, ‘I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.......’ i.e.

there is ‘more’ to be known and experienced.

40 Ward, K. A Guide for the Perplexed (London: One World, 2002. Ward considers mysteries that are beyond ‘normal experience’ as that which is beyond the range of most humans, p. 25, and, discussing prophets to whom the immensity of reality is revealed, suggests that this experience is rare because ‘most of us could not cope with such a disclosure of reality’ ( p. 47). The possibility is that the experiencer would be overwhelmed beyond ‘all energies and powers, in face of which they [experiencers] fade into oblivion’. p.

49.

213 experience through spiritual practice. It is the latter which, in due time, has the potential to disclose ‘the more to come’ in experiential knowing.

Growth of measure, although without explicit explanation in the past, is a notion familiar to Friends.42 Fox expressed the principle in the following terms: ‘as people come into subjection to the spirit of God, and grow up in the image and power of the Almighty, they may receive the Word of wisdom that opens all things, and come to know the hidden unity in the Eternal Being’.43 In these words Fox emphasises that development is possible





and desirable if Quakers are to grow in the Spirit. Moore explains that:

In principle, all Quakers were sons and daughters of God and united with Christ, but everybody’s ‘measure’ was not equal, and some Friends recognised that certain people had special calling as “elders” or ministers of the flock and that George Fox had an extraspecial calling, and only a minority of Quakers had quarrelled with this assumption.44 It is suggested here that, expansion of consciousness in different states or stages of the growth of measure, achieved through developmental experience of Inwardness, accounts for such gifts and callings. For early Quakers, trust was in God’s guidance,45 reliance on turning to God when in need and understanding that God alone is the light to enlighten humankind.46 But understanding that development of consciousness is the means of attunement to guidance, whether qualified as spiritual or not, has not been expressed previously in relation to an understanding of Quaker Inwardness, and growth of measure.

As distinct from George Fox’s references to growth in Christian terms, this thesis proposes that Quaker Meeting for Worship constitutes a contemplative practice for spiritual progress, expansion of consciousness, opening of the heart and developed 42 See Ambler, R. Truth of the Heart. pp. 161-162 – and biblical reference ‘I say … to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith’ (Romans12:3) and ‘Unto everyone of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ’ (Ephesians 4:7).

–  –  –

214 discernment that may, but need not, be interpreted in Christian terminology. The broader application of the interpretation proposed leads to the possibility of making comparison with other contemplative practices and also for understanding Friends who no longer regard themselves as Christian or theist.

The compilation charts (below) outlining Conditions and Elements of Quaker Spiritual practice indicate repeated reference and continuity of concern in the writings of Fox, Penington, Barclay and writers of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The ‘threads’ identified in chapter 2 as comprising the ‘tapestry’ of Quaker spiritual practice have been referenced consistently in subsequent chapters. The continuity of these references is shown in the summary charts below. The continuity, as evident in these writings, is shown below, in the order previously given. (Stillness, Silence, Attentive Presence, Heart Awareness, God Focus, Purity, Discernment, Growth and Unity). (All references within the summary charts are to be found in Tables 2-5 as given).

Stillness (Summary Chart 1) 1

–  –  –

Penington ‘So be still before him and in stillness believe in his Name…’ ‘Now Settling / this is a great thing to know flesh silenced, to feel the reasoning Stillness/ thoughts and discourses of the fleshly mind stilled, and the wisdom, Waiting light, and guidance of God’s spirit waited for…’

–  –  –

Worship ‘requires the silence …. to breathe through them [worshippers], and Barclay in them’...; practice is ‘facilitated by stillness and silence’, ‘silence is and Silence/ Stayedness must necessarily be a special and principal part of God’s worship’.

21st Century Friends emphasise the ‘ministry of silence’ and ‘the importance of coming regularly with heart and mind prepared’ [2.37 QFP]. ‘The Lord of Heaven Silence/ Stayedness and earth we found to be to be near at hand’… ‘as we waited upon him in pure silence’ [19.08 QFP]; One approaches ‘the condition of true silence’ in Meeting for Worship [26.12 QFP] The two conditions, Stillness and Silence, are regularly and forcibly projected in each of the writers discussed. It is apparent that the Quaker Spiritual practice, as initiated by Fox and sustained throughout the history of Quakerism, is dependent on the successful creation of these two Conditions. Indeed, it is possible that Friends may place emphasis on the experience of growth of Silence in everyday living rather than the growth of Inwardness.

Robert Sardello, whose concern is with the psychology of spiritual experience, writes

that:

To be fully with Silence requires that we develop a capacity to be present to both the most subtle qualities of objective touch imaginable and to the manner in which this touch resonates the soul interiorly. That is, to be fully present to the experience, we have to be inside ourselves and outside ourselves at the same time. It is also possible in practice to alternate between emphasizing the interior quality by putting our attention at the level of the interior of the body and then emphasizing the exterior quality by putting our attention at the level of the outer form of our body. Alternating attention like this while we are in Silence can help us to experience the fullness of the 216 phenomenon. This practice, however, needs to be accompanied by one through which we experience the border between the interior and exterior, between the objective touch and the resonance of it.2 Indeed, as the Silence of Inwardness is experienced fully and known to be the foundation of other experiences within spiritual practice and living, a new reality begins to open up. The perceptions of ourselves, others and God as understood through experience are all changed.

However, the Elements discussed previously also form important features of the practice of Inwardness. Once the Conditions for spiritual practice have been established, it becomes possible for worshippers to be attentively present in Heart Awareness and God Focussing, each of which Element provides depth of spiritual concern and progress towards inspirational nourishment.

3 Attentive Presence (Summary Chart 3)

–  –  –

21st Century Quaker worship teaches us... how to listen ‘to the inward teacher’ (Allen) Attentive Presence 4 Heart Awareness (Summary Chart 4)

–  –  –

Penington Being ‘inwardly changed … in the heart’, ‘Watch to feel the savour Heart Awareness/ of life in thy heart day by day....’ ‘… to feel after, and have a sense Sensing and Feeling of that which is of God, and good in the heart, and come to join and give up to it’.

Barclay Barclay felt ‘a secret power which touched [his] heart’: Quakers Heart Awareness/ were to ‘feel[ing] after God in and near themselves’, the resultant Sensing and Feeling way of life, for Quakers, is to ‘walk the ways of the heart’… and feel the ‘warm influence of God’s Spirit upon the heart...’

–  –  –

5 God Focus (Summary Chart 5) Fox ‘Be patient and still in the power and still in the light that doth convince God you, to keep your minds to God…’ ‘… to stay thy mind upon God, up Focussing/ to God; and thou wilt find strength from him and a present help in time of Attunement trouble, in need, and to be a God at hand’.

–  –  –

There was a ‘secret turning of the mind towards God’ accessed ‘inwardly Barclay and immediately by the Spirit of God’.; ‘… the Spirit of God should be God Focussing/ the immediate actor, mover, persuader, and influencer of man in [the] Attunement particular acts of worship …’ 21st Century ‘Quaker worship teaches us … how to wait upon God’… ‘This God experience of the depth of existence fills us with a sense of both Focussing/ 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 Attunement assured, is our human experience of God’ [26.11QFP] (my emphasis).

As spiritual practice embraces the whole being of the worshipper the possibility of onepointed and pure engagement in worship becomes automatically enjoined, allowing discerning openness and guidance to increase.

6 Purity (Summary Chart 6)

–  –  –

21st Century In a ‘new birth’ is found the ‘purified self’ [26.49 QFP] From Christ ‘a beam of light comes shining’ [26.48 QFP]; ‘There is a principle Purity which is pure’, placed in the human mind...’ [26.61 QFP], ‘Mind that which is pure in you to guide you to God’ [26.69 QFP].

Discernment (Summary Chart 7) 7 Fox ‘…return within, and wait to hear the voice of the Lord there; and waiting Discernment there and keeping close to the Lord, a discerning will grow’, ‘…wait for wisdom from God’: this is the way to ‘right discerning’.

Penington ‘Wait to learn the mind of God’: ‘[God’s Spirit], that can arise either Discernment from words written or from thoughts’ Barclay It is in ‘inward quietness, stillness, and humility of mind [that] the Lord Discernment appears, and his heavenly wisdom is revealed’, and confirms faith because it provides ‘certain knowledge’ [discernment].



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