«By CAROLE ANNE HAMBY A thesis submitted to the University of Birmingham for the degree of DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY Department of Theology and Religion ...»
Table 6 shows how expansion of Consciousness leads via experience of multpicity, to intimations of Eternal Being, and thence to life lived in the Unity of Eternal Being.65 6.3.4 Inwardness as having an ultimate stage, or state, of maturity As indicated above, growth of measure leads gradually to spiritual maturity in which the person experiences the Unity or Oneness of Eternal Being: Quakers describe experiences in a variety of ways from living in the fellowship of ‘gospel order’, in Christian Quaker terms, to friendship ‘with self, others and with God’. Neither of these descriptions is, however, likely to refer to the more profound recognition, beyond friendship, of Fox’s own experience of the ‘unity in the Eternal Being’ in which ‘wonderful depths were opened…’66 The ultimate stages of development to maturity are examined here in terms of states or levels of consciousness, through which perception changes (6.3.4i). However, another depiction of mature spirituality and full growth of measure is the kind of life that the spiritually mature person lives (6.3.4ii). These are discussed in turn.
6.3.4i Level of consciousness and personal experience Spiritual experience, as a primary focus of spiritual maturity, is often written about with a degree of scepticism and sometimes in derisory or dismissive tones.67 However,
65 Different explanations termed ‘higher levels of knowing’ describe the ascent through a structure in which this development occurs. See for example the Victorine understanding of different kinds of contemplation. It is not intended here to suggest that contemplative engagement is about cultivating certain states of consciousness but it is proposed here that consciousness does change as ‘measure’, in Quaker terms, increases. Note Dom David Foster Contemplative Prayer, (London: Bloomsbury, 2015) p. 1.
66 Fox, Journal, p. 28.
67 McGrath, Mystical Theology, p. 140 reference ‘language of consciousness’ and ‘solipsism’.
Jantzen, G Power, Gender and Christian Mysticism, concerning the ‘social construction’ of mysticism and the ‘silencing of women’, pp. 326-327. See also: Williams, R. Wound, concerning ‘muddled bundle of experiences’, (p. 2), and mere ‘religious moments’ versus ‘the whole of experience’, (p. 137). Also Katz, S.
Mysticism and Philosophical Analysis.
228 this reference is usually to interpretation of ‘experience’ in terms of visions, voices, passions and/or exceptionally altered states of consciousness, deemed ‘abnormal’. Such experiences, plural, fall outside the discussion of experience, singular, that constitutes the focus of this thesis. The view of experience discussed here, as relevant to an experiential theology of Quakerism, is to do with a whole new way of perceiving and being in the world, which comes with growth of measure, through regular encounter with Inwardness.
The relationship between the vertical and the horizontal axes of spirituality result in lifestyle changes, and Table 6 details how this comes about. As indicated above, one result of this is a life that is experienced in Unity and, in Christian Quaker terms, lived in the fellowship of ‘gospel order’; it is expressed in ongoing service, which is to the advantage of the whole community. Once individual life is fulfilled and lived in Unity, it is experienced as overflowing for the benefit of multiplicity. Spiritual living is, then, understood as a way of life that benefits everyone i.e. living the oneness of the Life. In this sense accounts of Inwardness are not merely descriptions of personal experience but exemplars for others to envisage a changed relationship to practical living in the world i.e.
for F-Q Friends, involving Testimony in truth, equality, simplicity, peace and the needs of the environment. The outcomes of Inwardness in mature spirituality are embedded in a ‘pattern’ that relates to the model of the life of Jesus Christ for the modern era. This is a pattern of living which is meaningful for humanists, non-theists and theists alike, Quaker or not.
Both spiritual experience and spiritual living, as considered, are encompassed in Kelly’s suggestion that the individual’s awareness positions itself in two different modes, or states: One, silent, and the other, active.68 His view provides clarity as to what spiritual development and spiritual maturing, as relevant to Friends, might encompass. In an ultimate state however this duality dissolves. The separation previously experienced between active and silent consciousness changes by means of a porosity that facilitates a single and unified mode of experiencing.69 68 Thomas Kelly, see Appendix 1. See also Sardello above.
69 Different perspectives on ‘duality’ i.e. in terms of a) Cartesian theory and b) the matter of experience relating to level of consciousness, as outlined previously, are indicative of distinctly different theoretical frameworks. It is the latter, level of consciousness, which is relevant for interpreting developing 229 Different experience in living leads to changes of concern and changed priorities. For Bernard of Clairvaux, it was the degree of love that provided the central explanation.
Individuals needed to progress through carnal love, progressive love for God, freely given love-the love of God for God’s sake, and, finally, the perfect love, in which there is love of self for God’s sake.70 The latter involves union of wills since ‘…he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit’.71 In the growth of love impediments to spiritual advance cease to be active and destructive, according to Bernard.72 As in Quakerism, issues of love and levels of loving occur frequently in the writings of the mystics. For Augustine, also, there had been need for loving prayer in solitude, but also love for one’s neighbour that provides ‘access to the vision of God’.73 Additionally, Augustine maintained the importance of the intimate relationship between love and knowledge suggesting that at all times the engagement of the heart is essential i.e. both in verbal prayer and when the individual is engaged in other work. The insistence then is for praying continually74 by holding to the sense of the heart-turned-to-God. The parallel with the Quaker concern for Heart Awareness, expressed through love, is notable, and by which Interiority develops and life is experienced in Unity. Love of neighbour, and care for the world at large, grows spontaneously, as life is known as a Single Life embracing all that is.
spirituality in this thesis. Comprehensive knowing engages a position, which encompasses transcendental and immanent Divinity, sometimes termed unmanifest and manifest respectively. In Vedic [g] terms, the understanding is that Absolute and relative are known simultaneously in the higher states of spiritual development. As shown in table 6, stages of Quaker Inwardness include duality as felt to be real and, at a later stage the singularity of Inwardness as knowingly lived in the midst of multiplicity.
70 This is well explained by King, U. Christian Mystics: Their lives and legacies throughout the ages, (London: Routledge, 2001), p. 67.
71 1 Cor. 6:17.
72 See McGinn, Essential Writings, Union with God: On Loving God, Section 13 Number 2, (NewYork: Modern Library, 1991) 73 McGinn, B, The Foundations of Mysticism (New York: Crossroad 1991) p. 245.
74 Concerning prayer without ceasing -1 Thess 5:17, Carmody and Carmody, Mysticism, p. 218, The Jesus prayer. Also Maquarrie, Two Worlds, pp. 203-204.
Love is the will to nurture life and growth in oneself and in another. Love is personal; it is the sacred trust of living things. Likewise, love, is neither need nor dependency. ‘I need you’ is not the same as ‘I love you’.
Love is so vastly different! It is freeing; it acknowledges the separateness of the beloved. It treasures the unique otherness of the beloved that is each one’s contribution to the relationship. Love calls for submission and sacrifice. It does not seek to possess, but rather to empty itself in nurture of the loved one. 75 Donald Green’s 1982 statement, (as quoted above) is an aspiration and a guide to living for Quakers. It confirms an ongoing drive to ‘love thy neighbour’ as one loves oneself.
As William Penn said, in 1693, ‘Love is the hardest lesson in Christianity; but, for that reason, it should be most our care to learn’.76 Personal recognition of the depth and expansiveness of consciousness, and growth of lovingness in experience, are aspects of the move to mature spirituality.
6.3.4ii Behaviour and the importance of Testimony Testimony is defined in this thesis as the consequence of Inwardness (1.4.3.). When similarly visible involvement in, for example, peace activities is engaged by Quakers who have no concern for or experience of Inwardness this definition does not apply. Such behaviour and activity is the outcome of a faith position 77 i.e. as faith that guides living, but without dependence on practice of the process of Inwardness.
As already indicated, for early Quakers, Testimony was equivalent to their way of life.
It was synonymous with fellowship in gospel order, which respected all humankind and revered all of God’s creation.78 A mature spiritual life, for Quakers, was then a
The Quaker testimonies are end products. They are, as such, the evidence of something that has happened or is happening deep within us. They are the proof and fruit of an ongoing spiritual transformation. Our testimonies are certainly not principles that we seek to observe. They are not guidelines for daily life. Rather, they should be understood as the expression of the Light to which we turn, that it may shine through us.79
6.4 Implications As already indicated, Inwardness is considered in this research, in relation to British Friends, both as process and as state: each of which has been exposed to analysis. In the systematic examination undertaken issues arose, throughout the thesis, which now invite both reassessment of previous scholarship and consideration of further research. Topics are drawn both from the research discussed in chapter 1.3 (6.4.1) and also from conjunction of ideas within the thesis (6.4.2). These are considered in turn.
6.4.1 Reassessment of previous scholarship - (Academic)
A main argument of this thesis is that Quakerism entails a spiritual practice that, if practised regularly, has the potential to facilitate expansion of consciousness thus promoting spiritual growth. This argument accepts the understanding that Friends are no longer exclusively Christian in their faith position and that they accept a range of understandings of the relationship between their spiritual practice and their modes of living. This view contrasts with Barclay’s claim that Quakers are ‘all of those who apply themselves effectually to Christianity, and are not satisfied until they have found its effectual work upon their hearts’.80 79 Leeming, P. ‘Thought for the Week’, The Friend, July 27 th, 2012, p. 3. Peter Leeming is a member of the Kendal Local Quaker Meeting, in Cumbria, U.K. However note that Fox used the term ‘testimony to’ in referring to Truth (see Fox, Journal, p. 118).
See chapter 4.
232 Of particular significance is the fact that although some Friends continue seem to engage in a spiritual practice that is true to Fox’s seventeenth century teaching, others, in the twenty first century, have gradually lost sight of this mode of worship. For non F-Q participants, Meeting for Worship may gain different priorities and new interpretations. 81 Comparison with the writings examined in 1.3 highlights some of the differences between the arguments expressed in this thesis and the views of earlier scholars that encompassed the perspective of classical theism.
6.4.1i Christian explanation of Quaker faith and practice
All arguments that involve exclusively Christian explanation of Quaker faith and practice require rethinking in the light of changed Quaker membership. One argument of this thesis is that Quakerism is no longer a religion that demands explanation solely in Christian terms.82 In contrast, Creasey’s (1.3) examination of Quakerism rests upon a Christological interpretation. He writes of deep transformation, as ‘an experiential fact’, with which the argument of this thesis would agree; but also as ‘a matter of the internalised Christ working within the individual as a living reality’, with which this thesis is not in full agreement, as applicable to all Friends in the twenty-first century. The significance of such a view, in relation to an increasing emphasis on perspectives other than Christianity among Friends, warrants examination.
It has been shown that Creasey considers Quakerism to be a spiritual religion in which Christianity is central. This argument may be acceptable as reflection on earlier British Quakerism, but as faith positions have changed, there is need to re-assess the relevance of Creasey’s argument for the present day. Current understanding of secular ethics, i.e. as beyond religion or humanist, is relevant to the views of many contemporary Quakers.
Lack of certainty as to Quaker identity, Christian or other, indicates the importance of empirical research into Friends’ beliefs and conceptual investigation of twenty-first century Quaker writings.83
83 An empirical study of what proportion of twenty-first century Quakers approach their faith and practice in terms of a Christian interpretation in general, and a Christological understanding in particular,
Explanations relating to growth of measure and progressive spirituality that place emphasis on purification by purgation require re-thinking in view of the argument of this thesis.84 As suggested in 1.4 if increased experience of Inwardness allows for negativity to ‘dissolve’ spontaneously, specific practices of purgation fail to be meaningful for Friends.
The work of King (1.3) suggests the importance of ‘Seeing that which is evil, and being cleansed of it’, as the means to bring man out of transitory and unstable living into the ‘eternal and unchanging’. The issue here is that the occurrence described obviously necessitates a process of change, and the question arises as to what this might be. Two contrasting explanations are relevant.