«By CAROLE ANNE HAMBY A thesis submitted to the University of Birmingham for the degree of DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY Department of Theology and Religion ...»
21st Century ‘We join Fox in affirming our faith in the contemporary inspiration of the Holy Spirit’ [26.67 QFP]; ‘We were directed to search for the least of Discernment all seeds and to mind the lowest appearance therof, which was its turning against sin and darkness; we came by degrees to find we had met with the pure living eternal Spirit’ (Fox) [26.69 QFP].
8 Growth (Summary Chart 8)
In this state of absorbed worship growth of knowledge and experience of God facilitates, in Fox’s words, knowing ‘the hidden Unity in the Eternal Being’.
9 Unity (Summary Chart 9)
Thus the ‘itinerary’ of spiritual practice, as a progression towards Unity, engages developmental experience in the direction of a maturing state of spiritual knowing. The 222 ‘threads’, described as Conditions and Elements throughout the thesis constitute the means by which this occurs. The texts quoted in the thesis are indicative of the experience, ministry, teaching and preaching that either encourages or facilitates the Conditions and Elements of spiritual practice. If the practice is carried out regularly and frequently, and its consequences are lived progressively in outwardness, a state of consciousness in Unity is the outcome.
Explanations of spiritual development in terms of a journey, which culminates in perfection, are found frequently in Christian mysticism. McGinn identifies several ways in which this symbolism is discussed including the simple version of a threefold path, that identifies a beginning, a middle and an end; praktike, physike and theologike (Evagrius), and purification, illumination and perfection (Dionysius and John Scotus Eriugena).47 The threefold explanation continued to be used by, for example, Bernard of Clairvaux and William of Saint-Thierry.148 In turn Bonaventure discussed stages of prayer, meditation and contemplation as hierarchical in the mind’s journey to God.49 Other constructions of a developmental path or way include the four degrees of love of Richard of St.Victoire, and the ladder of perfection of William Tauler.50 Each of these explanations is useful in confirming the view that spiritual development is a process, which gives rise to different states and stages of experiencing and knowing.51. The notion of ‘journey’ or ‘path’ serves a purpose as a metaphor or symbol for understanding that humankind engages in progression towards, encounter with God. However, in the description of the development, shown in tabular form (Table 6, above), notions of journey or itinerary may not be the most suitable.
47 McGinn, B The Essential Writings of Christian Mysticism (New York: The Modern Library, 2006), Section 5, numbers 1 and 3. See also McGrath, A. Christian Spirituality (Malden, Mass. : Blackwell, 1999), pp. 91-93 on journeying as a rich image for spiritual progression, including reference to the wandering people of the Old Testament.
48 McGinn, ibid. pp. 253-255, Saint Thierry concerning. the three Powers of the Soul, the will, memory and intellect enlivened by love.
49 McGinn, ibid. pp. 162-171, Bonaventure on ‘The mind’s Journey into God’.
50 McGinn, ibid, section 5, numbers 2 and 6.
51 See Fowler, section 1.4.1a. Fowler’s provides an interpretative framework for considering growth in spiritual experience and, conceivably, practices discussed in relation to ‘meaning-making’ as selfhood is formed. His consideration thus differs from present discussion but is useful with regard to ‘aspects of religiousness’.
223 Rather, since the transformation is an inner one and the individual simply changes within as there is expansion of consciousness. Different states of consciousness give rise to different experiences in living, a more useful metaphor might employ an alchemical description like, for example, the transformation of base metal into gold. This image is of spiritual development as a precious transformation to be valued and continually cherished or, metaphorically, burnished.
Table 6 identifies a means of depicting growth of measure in Quakerism in a way that has not been undertaken previously. States of consciousness are described in relation to how life is experienced and how it is lived in each state. Different states of consciousness give rise to different experiences in living. Table 6 shows that in the first state there is no experienced Inwardness and so life is lived in outwardness and experienced in multiplicity. In the second state Inwardness is sensed but not fully known to experience;
life is still lived in outwardness and engaged through multiplicity. In this state, however, multiplicity may be felt to be incomplete and therefore unsatisfactory. In the third state,
Inwardness is experienced but as distinct from, and at the expense of, outwardness:
outwardness is known as separate from Inwardness. Inwardness and outwardness are experienced in alternation. Duality is thus glimpsed, sometimes dislocating multiplicity, as perception engages a new dimension of experiential knowledge. The fourth state brings a significant change in that Inwardness begins to be experienced fleetingly in outwardness: in the main outwardness and Inwardness still alternate but the deepening experience of Inwardness brings the experience of duality as a fact of personal experience, felt to be real. Once Inwardness remains constant in the waking state of consciousness, known in all the activities of wakefulness, experience begins to engage Oneness. Thus, in the fifth state of consciousness, as the boundaries that had seemed to create duality begin to dissolve from experience, perception is significantly altered. In the sixth state of consciousness Inwardness becomes constant, it is maintained in outwardness and, more important, it has the potential to be constant in sleeping and dreaming. At this stage when awareness is maintained in sleep and the sense of Unity is gained duality dissolves. The final stage of consciousness, as indicated in Table 6a, b and c, thus develops; the seventh 224 state as identified in this thesis is when Unity is gained fully. 52 Porosity between the inward and outward gives rise to Unity, which becomes a state of Life. Cosmic Life 53 experiences itself in and through the individual consciousness within the wholeness of the Divine, Eternal Being, God.54 It is claimed in this thesis that the spiritual practice of Friends has the potential to facilitate the stages of development outlined, if practised regularly. This offers a new way of explaining spiritual practice; and a new perspective on Quaker theology. Quaker theology is accepted as experiential, but this interpretation of the experiential component, as reliant on expansion of consciousness, is distinctive. Nonetheless it affords a link with Gwyn’s recognition that Fox’s revelation, that ‘there was one even Christ Jesus’ who could speak to his condition, was a ‘consciousness raising’ experience; 55 and Keiser’s claim that reference to the inward and the outward is, at the same time, reference to different levels of consciousness.56 Consciousness can be moved suddenly, but fleetingly, into a different state of experiencing, but it is the description of sequentially cognisable stages and states of consciousness, which casts new light on an explanation of Quaker development in spiritual growth to maturity.
52 Examination that compares this state of knowing with Eckhart’s understanding of ‘God beyond
God’ is not included here but may be of interest to future scholars. Note, McGinn, B. ‘The God beyond God:
Theology and Mysticism in the thought of Meister Eckhart’, Paper presented as an inaugural lecture at the Divinity School of the University of Chicago, Oct. 1979. Printed in the Journal of Religion, 61, No. 1(1981).
53 Life-the Life-cosmic Life of Christ, see Grace Blindell (QFP, 29.18). See also Maquarrie, Two Worlds, p.26 ‘universal Being’s thinking in us [mankind]’.
54 See analogous description relating the Vedanta Hinduism by Chatterjee, S.K. ‘Quantification of Human Development–A Holistic Approach’ in the Indian Journal of Statistics (Vol. 70-B, Part 2, 2008) pp.
157–228 The article concerns ‘unitive consciousness’ in terms of both the individual and the cosmic levels of life. Note also Barnes in Partridge on ‘Unanimity theory’, and Laird, Silent Land, p. 70 concerning ‘luminous vastness’.
55 Fox, Journal, p. 19 ‘I could find none to open my condition to but the Lord alone, unto whom I cried day and night’. Gwyn’s use of the notion of ‘consciousness raising’ has a different connotation but is nonetheless of some use in making relevant links.
56 Keiser and Moore, Knowing the Mystery, p. 136
The description and explanation of states or stages of consciousness outlined in section 6.3.2 gives an indication of the way in which individual people have the potential to progress in growth of measure. As a person gains deeper experience and understanding of Inwardness, there are consequences that affect not only the way the individual perceives his or her life but also how he or she engages in living.
The first state of consciousness, in which multiplicity dominates, places many and varied demands on the individual: choices have to be made, priorities sifted, and decisions taken and acted upon within a complex world.57 Such a plethora of demands can be bewildering and on occasions the greatest concern is for the individual’s personal needs and wants.58 For such individuals there may be little sense of life’s totality and of the significance of the needs of others. This does not mean, however, that there is inevitable selfishness in the first stage of consciousness. As the Dalai Lama 59 urges, if individuals realise that their needs and wants are just the same, in essence, as those of others, there is, or can be, recognition of commonality.60 This may provide a moral guide for people in the first state of consciousness.
Individuals whose level of consciousness is underdeveloped may be religious in their inclination. However, they may also be inclined to eschew religion, feeling religious beliefs make no sense. In the latter case, Alain de Botton,61 makes a simple plea for kindness. He suggests that some of the lessons learned in childhood need to be continued 57 The same range of demands continue as consciousness is transformed, but in Unity the coherence of all experience in Oneness gives rise to more expanded understanding of all life as interconnected.
58 Abraham Maslow’s 1960’s ‘hierarchy of needs’ has relevance here. Maslow, A. Psychology of Being, (New York: van Nostrand, 1962).
59 Dalai Lama Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World (London: Rider, 2012). The double meaning in the use of the indefinite article in the title is significant. The Dalai Lama plainly intends reference not only to the whole world but also to a world made whole.
60 The Dalai Lama suggests and promotes a form of secular ethics that he believes may be more relevant to the non-religious in our society today.
61 de Botton, A. Religion for Atheists, pp. 91-96.
226 into adulthood even when religion is not the reason. Thus his view, though significant, is far from a call to Inwardness.
As spiritual consciousness develops, however, it carries with it its own consequences.
These have been outlined in section 6.3.2. Additionally, it is notable that a level of consciousness, although it has consequences, is not inevitably recognisable in a person’s behaviours. It is argued here that there are two distinct ways of conceptualising maturing spirituality. One relates to the side of the experiencer and focuses on the nature of experience and the manner in which it changes during the processes of growth. The other relates to behaviour and may be evident to others in some degree; nonetheless, growth is not necessarily demonstrated in a series of behavioural signs.
As higher states of consciousness are gained, and living is experienced in duality and then in Unity, concerns and priorities begin to change. There is a natural correlation between how the world is experienced and how the individual chooses to live his or her life. Recognition of the interconnectedness between all things begins to prevail, as growth
of measure gives rise to a totally new way of perceiving reality and being in the world:
there is a shift from the world as outwardly experienced and recognised in multiplicity to the world as experienced from its innermost dimension and recognised in Unity. 62 Choices and decisions still have to be made, but they are felt within and guided by a new perspective. This development aligns with an understanding of giving back to God what God has given to humankind. As in 2 Corinthians 3:18, ‘But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord’. For F-Q Friends, the emphasis on God Focus,63 especially when linked to Heart Awareness, expresses this inspiration and aspiration. It is a state of experiencing that exceeds the understanding of many individuals. However, there are examples, described in the Bible, which indicate that ‘the righteous, while still 62 de Chardin, T. Le Milieu Divin (London: Harper books, 1957), p. 114 ‘In the divine milieu all the elements of the universe touch each other by that which is most inward and ultimate in them’, i.e. by their ‘innermost dimension’.
63 See Elements of worship.