«By CAROLE ANNE HAMBY A thesis submitted to the University of Birmingham for the degree of DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY Department of Theology and Religion ...»
Research into the implications of differentiations as applied to the other traditions, both Eastern and Western, could offer valuable insights into the relationship between Quaker Inwardness and concerns about other perceptions of inwardness. An investigation of this kind would allow for an expanded understanding of the manner in which Quakerism both shares characteristics with other faiths and is distinct from them. Even if some Friends feel that they themselves are already clear as to their own position, other faiths are often less certain as to the central spiritual concerns that are ‘Quaker’. A re-evaluation and re-statement of Quaker faith and practice in terms of Inwardness, as related to other faith positions, has the potential to go some way to removing confusion.
Scales, or outlines of the results, of contemplative practice (such as in Tables 6) imply acceptance that there are stages of development on which all individuals’ rates of movement may vary. Therefore, however laudable the Quaker aspiration for equality of corporate advancement and shared, or communal, growth it is unlikely that individual differences are not apparent.99 Reasons for disparity are likely to be many and varied, but it is beyond the scope of this thesis to enter detailed discussion. Nonetheless, two main reasons are worthy of note: an individual’s experience in early life may result in different degrees of spiritual nourishment and preparation. In turn, stages on the ‘spiritual journey’ are, or may be, distinguishable, as an individual’s regularity, frequency and depth of spiritual practice in later life may differ from that of another. Thus, ongoing spiritual nourishment may be greater in some individual’s lives than others.
Quakers are not adherents of any single creedal position and the view which shows changed perceptions and experience of living, as in Table 6, is not intended to relate exclusively to any particular faith perspective, or none. There is, however, a structural analogy between this description and Mark McIntosh’s work,100 which characterises the 99 As distinct from equality in the eyes of God.
100 McIntosh, Mystical Theology, p. 17. Discussing the mid-thirteenth Century mystic and 241 paradoxical move between Trinitarian differentiation and Unity in Christian terms.101 McIntosh writes of the ‘eternal flowing and surging: Trinity into Unity into Trinity’. 102 Plainly there are distinct differences here (from the position of this thesis) not least the significance of his explanation of the fecundity and fullness of the Trinitarian differentiation, explained as the Father, the Son and their Holy Spirit. Understanding of ‘multiplicity’, considered in relation to the Table 6, is interpreted as a much more extensive differentiation of life’s variety. It would not, however exclude the Trinitarian explanation. A point of significance that McIntosh’s discussion underlines is that Unity is not an emptiness or known as void. It is rather divine fullness that entails relationality. So there is an eternal flowing and surging: Trinity into Unity into Trinity. The divine unity exists because of mutual abandonment of the Three, and the Three are identified eternally as the Persons they are because of the yearning which draws them into unity’. 103 A nontheist, and even a non-Christian theist, framework requires considerable re-formulation of the move between multiplicity and unity. It is, nonetheless, entirely relevant to examine the position that emerges, especially with reference to layers of meaning that the term ‘relational fullness’ might represent in any non-Christian context: one possibility for which would be the Vedic understanding of ‘relative’ and ‘Absolute.104 As explained by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Veda is complete knowledge: the knowledge of the full potential of natural law as entailed in God and God’s consciousness.105 In turn Vedic studies describe, aspire to and, in a uniquely Eastern interpretation, reveal the knowledge and experience available to individuals. Finkelstein theologian, Hadewijch of Brabant ( a Beguine), McIntosh explains the radical relationality of the Trinity.
Through this he shows how Hadewijch expressed the view that the individual human soul could be directly united to God. The emphasis, discussed by McIntosh, as in much Christian mysticism, stresses love as the way to the divine union.
101 McIntosh, Mystical Theology, p. 179.
102 McIntosh, ibid, p. 175.
103 McIntosh, ibid, p. 175.
104 See for example considerations of Samhita of Rishi, Devata and Chhandas ( Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Maharishi Vedic University: Introduction Maharishi Prakashan. 1995), pp. 154-156. Also Katz, V.
Conversations, pp. 26-44, with reference to discussion of refinement of perception as Unity consciousness is gained.
105 Mahesh Yogi, Maharishi, Maharishi Vedic University, p. 2-6.
242 argues that as individual consciousness is known through a genuine and widening change, which is both purifying and transforming, it becomes aligned with the consciousness of God.2106 Such a process is not the result of commandments or doctrines but of spiritual practice: practice through which encounter, direct communication with and guidance from God, is understood to be attained. This description bears comparison with the spiritual practice which, it is maintained here, Fox introduced to his followers i.e. waiting in stillness and silence with focus to God.
Finkelstein claims further that it is lack of alignment with God that is the cause of problems in life.107 This interpretation suggests, with reference to Matthew 23:26 concerning ‘cleaning the inside of the cup’, that enduring transformation, problem free living and divine perfection in human beings, is only possible through ongoing spiritual practice. In Vedic studies, and related practices, this is described as personal encounter through transcendental consciousness with God’s consciousness. In Fox’s teaching a parallel process is described as encounter with the Light of God within; this offers an interpretation of purification and transformation which resonates with the proposal that transgression/sin/impurity is, in a sense, dissolved by contact with God, through which conscious awareness expands spontaneously in purity.
Variations within the Quaker membership require questioning of arguments that claim to depict the Society as a whole. The understanding and interpretation of Inwardness utilized in this thesis would therefore be open to further examination in relation to changes of membership patterns, and variations in practices, as they arise. As further changes occur within the Religious Society of Friends both the Conditions and Elements itemized and discussed may warrant review in terms of the process of gaining Inwardness; as also the outline of the characteristics of Inwardness in varying states of consciousness.
Further empirical study of the significance of Inwardness in present day Quakerism would provide valuable information regarding the way in which contemporary British 106 Finkelstein, E. ‘Universal Principles of Life expressed in Maharishi Vedic Science and in the Scriptures and Writing s of Judaism, Christianity and Islam’, Unpublished Ph. D Thesis Maharishi University of Management, 2005. p. 196.
107 Finkelstein, ‘Universal Principles…’, p. 196.
243 Friends perceive their faith and practice and understand outcomes in terms of personal experience. Investigation into a range of different member beliefs and practices would improve understanding of the current membership of the Society.
6.5 Summary and conclusion Material gathered throughout the thesis has informed and confirmed the view that Inwardness is to be found in the personal, spiritual and mystical components of Quakerism experienced by individual Friends.
In this examination of Inwardness in the faith and practice of the British Quakers, attention has been given to delineating: a) how analysis of texts has informed interpretation and b) the manner in which the methodological approach has supported observations. 108 The use of both devotional and academic texts has provided breadth and depth of perspective to show that Quakerism is not merely, or trivially, experiential in its theology but, more profoundly, that it aligns, in some ways, with other mystical theologies. As discussed, Inwardness as process, as developmental, as having consequences and as having an ultimate stage or state of maturity combine in the formulation of a new approach to Quaker theology.
Examination of the four aspects of Inwardness form the original contribution of this thesis to scholarship and underline the significance of aspects of mysticism in Quaker faith and practice. It is acknowledged that the depths of this process of gaining Inwardness and its results may not be available to all Quaker worshippers for a range of reasons, also that they may be differently described. Nonetheless it is claimed that the practice, as initiated by George Fox in the seventeenth century, has the potential to facilitate a very profound acquaintance with spiritual consciousness and resultant growth in spiritual knowledge and experience. The intention of the thesis is not to categorise Quakerism per se but rather to advance discussion within Quaker theory.103
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