«By CAROLE ANNE HAMBY A thesis submitted to the University of Birmingham for the degree of DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY Department of Theology and Religion ...»
One view is that the light challenges the will, prompting and leading to a position of acceptance. In bringing the will into conformity with the light, a person is converted, thereby becoming regenerated. That person will now be gradually sanctified, changing into the likeness of Christ. This view accepts that human beings are always in the process of sanctification, of having the will shaped by the (unchanging) light and this is taken to completion once in conformity with the light.85 ‘For with the light man sees himself’ asserts Fox86 and ‘As the light opens and exercises thy conscience, it will … let thee see invisible things, which are clearly seen by that which is invisible in thee. That which is invisible is the light within thee, which he who is invisible has given thee a measure of…’ For Fox the transformative process of the individual concerns the transition from ‘darkness to light’,87 from ‘the changing to the unchanging’,88 and from ‘the temporal to the would benefit clarity concerning the prevailing membership of the Society. Also, among twenty-first century Friends there are different concerns and priorities e.g. spiritual and social. Examination of the significance of these priorities might benefit understanding of membership trends.
84 Purification by purgation as, for example, Experiment with Light.
85 Partridge, C., Professor and founding co-director of the Centre for the Study of Religion and Popular Culture, at Lancaster University, U.K. Personal communication by email 14.6.12.
87 ‘Darkness to light’, Fox, Journal, p. 252 and p. 283.
234 eternal’.89 This understanding admits a cognitive process in which the will is exercised, decisions taken and change is consciously chosen and worked towards. It is one interpretation of the process of Inwardness, which acknowledges that Fox accepted the need for some conceptual or discursive involvement in the process of change. However, the claim of this thesis is that discursive involvement is not part of the process of spiritual practice of Friends as intended by George Fox.
The view taken in this thesis also accepts that individuals might make a conscious choice concerning their wish for transformation. However, the proposal here is that increasing exposure to Inwardness in spiritual practice results in the gradual, and inevitable, infusion of the ‘eternal and unchanging’.90 It is this that brings about personal transformation. This is a process of growth in which ‘if you love this light it will teach you, walking up and down and lying in bed ….’91 i.e. at all times, waking, dreaming and sleeping.92 The choice, as exercised by the will, is a straightforward decision to engage in spiritual practice.
The difference between the two views of the process of transformation is more to do with means than end, but both warrant further investigation, and each is amenable to further academic consideration in the reassessment of earlier scholarship. Suitable investigation would provide a deeper understanding of the nature and purpose of Meeting for Worship as, potentially, a process of Inwardness and illumination, in the twenty-first century. Also, for those committed to the practice as spiritual, it would affirm the value of Meeting for Worship in relation to spiritual growth. Reassessment of earlier scholarship in terms of, for example, Experiment with Light, regarded here as a process of purgation, 88 ‘the end of changeable things’ ‘Fox, ibid, pp. 174–175. See also King, The Light Within, p. 89.
89 ‘The temporal to the eternal’, referring to the ‘end of changeable things, Fox, ibid, pp. 174-75. King, The Light Within, p. 109, with reference the change from transitoriness to permanence.
90 Metaphorically, like turning on a light that automatically extinguishes the darkness in a room.
6.4.1iii Psychological and mystical explanations of spiritual experience and development Consideration of aspects of spirituality, as discussed by Eeg-Olofsson (1.3) in relation to Barclay’s understanding of Inwardness, has the potential to expose issues relevant to this examination of Inwardness. Eeg-Olofsson’s discussion distinguishes between the ‘mystical’ and the ‘psychological’ which, in turn, suggests that different aspects might include areas of living in the world as distinct from engaging in worship. Levels might refer to degrees of spiritual development. Eeg-Olofsson’s research is not concerned primarily to expose the matter of degrees, levels or states of expansion of consciousness.
Nonetheless, his perception of Barclay’s position would benefit from informed understanding of the spiritual and mystical emphasis of Meeting for Worship, which this thesis proposes.
Further research into this question is amenable both to conceptual and empirical study that could, but need not, be connected to the questions raised by King’s thesis.
6.4.2 Conclusion to 6.4.1
The range of research suggestions indicated above arises from theoretical positions discussed in 1 3: they relate closely to considerations of Inwardness. These academic positions are directly relevant to the manner in which both Friends, and subsequent scholars of Quakerism, have viewed the Society and its faith and practice. The continued importance of earlier arguments is not denied, rather questioned in relation both to more recent thinking among Friends, and to changed academic perspectives, some of which are taken into consideration in this thesis.
Arguments advanced in the preceding chapters have given rise to a number of issues, some of which are presented below in combination. In some cases, there are implications relating to the processes of spiritual practices involving Inwardness, irrespective of content or focus. Other implications arise in relation to the specific focus of attention in contemplative practice. The understanding of Inwardness used in this thesis, relating to Fox’s seventeenth century teaching, has been correlated with that of other notable seventeenth century Quakers. Additionally, it has been questioned in relation to contemporary Quaker writings. Different views and understandings of the relationship between the Inward and the Outward have been found in interpretations of each of the
1) What is accessed through the process of Inwardness with regard to conceptions of God (and thus, potentially, to pre-conditions of experience)? (6.4.3i)
2) States of Inwardness as understood according to different faith perspectives and thus as differently described after the experience of Inwardness. (6.4.3ii)
3) What is understood to expand, or evolve in the process of growth of measure in expansion of consciousness? (6.4.3iii) 6.4.3i Issues relating to inward experience as potentially pre-conditioned A rewarding examination, might undertake philosophical clarification of how Quakers interpret what they access in worship. Steven Katz argues, contrary to Quaker belief in ‘unmediated experience’, that:
There are NO pure (i.e. unmediated) experiences. Neither mystical experience nor more ordinary forms of experience give any indication, or any grounds for believing, that they are unmediated.94
This ‘mediated’ aspect of all experience seems an inescapable feature of any epistemological inquiry …. A proper evaluation of this fact leads to the recognition that in order to understand mysticism it is not just a matter of studying the reports of the mystic after the experiential event but of acknowledging that the experience itself as well as the form in which it is reported is shaped by concepts that the mystic brings to, and which shape, his experience.95 Although this consideration has not been given in-depth analysis in this thesis, the fact of potential pre-conditions of experience has been acknowledged and the need for further examination is accepted. Of particular interest is the comparison and contrast of Katz’s position with that of Barnes’ view of unanimity between experiences of pure consciousness, whatever the means of attaining the experience. According to Barnes, contemplative practices that seek to remove any imaginative or conceptual content remove the possibility of pre-conditions of experiencing in pure consciousness. Thus, pure consciousness is by definition, devoid of content, including all distractions, volitions, desires and expectations.96 Examinations, both conceptual and empirical, would lead to increased understanding of Quaker experience and its interpretation. In turn such research might be used to provide additional perspectives on other contemplative practices, including those of other faiths.
6.4.3ii Description of states of Inwardness
There has always been a degree of ambiguity in Quaker use of terms. Instances of the ‘same thing’ being described, if not under fully different descriptions, then at the very least by use of a range of concepts, as for example ‘light’ and ‘seed’, or ‘inward’ and ‘inner’ 95 Katz, S. Mysticism and Philosophical Analysis, p. 26.
96 Barnes in Partridge, C. Mysticisms, pp. 291-292, concerning ‘Content’ and ‘experience’. See also Forman, Robert. The Problem of Pure Consciousness, (Oxford: O.U.P. 1990).
238 light. Different terms often lead to differences of description and interpretation. In the case of Inwardness the density and complexity of meanings exacerbates the situation.
However, new insights into both processes and states of Inwardness, as interpreted within Quakerism, have been identified above.
Three examples of frameworks that result in differences of description and interpretation are indicated below.
a) In Bailey’s (1.3) description of Fox’s teaching of Christopresentism, Inwardness is to be understood as a first hand acquaintance with the indwelling Christ. In this instance any description of a state of Inwardness is to do with Christ consciousness and Christ’s substantive indwelling, which gives rise to a particularly profound personal experience.
b) In Barclay and Penn’s, descriptions of the light of Christ within, which became normative in Quakerism, Inwardness is interpreted as the respectable mystical engagement of Quaker spiritual practice. The ‘inward light’ leads to awareness of ‘sin’ (judgement) and the possibility of a life free of transgression and open to gospel living (in relationship with God).
c) In relation not only to liberal developments but also descriptions of non-theists, the significance of Inwardness, as a means to access God, is diminished. A new interpretation of faith and practice has developed and classical theism is, for many Friends, not the primary point of reference for their spiritual life. Thus, it becomes necessary to question the relevance of the earlier meaning and purpose of different approaches to and conceptions of Inwardness for twenty-first century Quakerism.
Each of the above frameworks facilitates a nuanced view of Inwardness which leads to different areas of interest. In the first the significance of Christ’s substantive indwelling in individuals as divine inhabitation is specific and primary. In the second, although a Christian interpretation is maintained the inward/inner light is open to interpretation as influential on conscience or will rather than as inhabitation of divinity itself. The third example allows a Universalist position, and the very notion of Inwardness may be open to question.
239 Thorough examination of the manner in which each of the above frameworks discloses different concerns would allow a comprehensive review of how it is that different descriptions either reflect theoretical positions or demonstrate distinct modes of relating to experience. Such conceptual examination could deepen understanding not only of Quaker identity but also, and perhaps more significantly, of contemporary Friends’ understanding of their spiritual practice. The ever-tolerant and increasingly diverse membership of the Religious Society of Friends has led to a lack of clarity about its central tenets. 97 It is suggested here that further research into descriptions of the meaning and function of Quaker Inwardness in the twenty-first century that builds on this thesis, would have considerable value for the Society in determining its current ‘identity’.
6.4.3ii Growth of measure and the process of expansion of consciousness
The understanding of Inwardness, utilized in this thesis and developed in relation to notions of spiritual ‘growth’ and ‘maturity’, places emphasis on consciousness: it has relevance for consideration of similar issues described differently. However, within other faith perspectives the understanding, and description, of what it is that develops or grows as spiritual maturity is gained, may differ. For example, Christian notions of ‘Trinity’ and its full realisation for the individual, are distinctly different from the understanding of ‘multiplicity’ used in this chapter, which contrasts ‘Unity’ with ‘multiplicity’ i.e. the One contrasted with the many.
In the case of the Victorine understanding,98 what grows is knowledge and the very object of knowledge is understood to change in tandem. This knowledge includes an understanding of God as Triune. Progression, which is towards a comprehensive understanding, is at the same time toward the more invisible and more abstract aspect of the Godhead. The fact that a Trinitarian perspective is the culmination of the Victorine ascent, as indicated, and that it also features in Augustine’s work removes the direct 97 Lack of clarity regarding central tenets include, for example, the need to ‘turn within’, to be still and open to the experience of silence in Meeting for Worship (rather than thinking about problems etc.), and also living Testimony at all times.
98 Victorine explanation involves progressive modes of divine knowing. See McGinn, Essential
Writings, pp. 336–340 and Chase, S. Contemplation and Compassion: The Victorine Tradition, (London:
Darton, Longman and Todd, 2003).
240 relevance of this ultimate stage of progress from Quakerism. It is not, however, without interest in terms of other analyses.