«By CAROLE ANNE HAMBY A thesis submitted to the University of Birmingham for the degree of DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY Department of Theology and Religion ...»
This is a clear statement of Fox’s recognition of the manner in which God, in humankind through the Word that is Christ, enlightens not only individuals independently but also, in due time, everyone in unity. Eeg-Olofsson writes of this in terms of ‘right knowledge’, and of main significance here is the question, “what does the ‘right knowledge of God’ consist of?”82 Eeg-Olofsson maintains that Barclay’s view of ‘right knowledge’ is that it is ‘inner, immediate, certain, and spiritual’. He suggests, additionally, that Barclay’s concern is to ‘… maintain the necessity and the possibility of mystical knowledge of God, in which this kind of knowledge of God is conceived of as something that cannot be attained by man’s own efforts, neither intellectually nor morally, but is entirely as a gift of God’. 83 Endy regards this knowledge as the provider of ‘ultimate authority’ for the individual.84
In turn, Hinds claims that:
Dwelling at the intersection of the still fallen and always renewing world, their [Quakers’] singular discourse ceaselessly recognised the dangers of divisive duality and testified to the power of unity. From there, the doctrine of the indwelling Christ unleashed a productive energy–religious, social, and rhetorical–that galvanised its adherents, as it returned them to a seamless field of divine signification, where the dualities of here and there, now and then, human and divine dissolved in the unbounded and ubiquitous timelessness of the kairotic moment of life dwelt in the inward light.85 Hinds’ contribution to an understanding of Inwardness hinges on an interpretation of individuals as ‘redeemable, transformable, by the godly action of the catalysing Christ within, in which the seamless material-spiritual world of the early Friends is [once again]
20 revealed, enacted and affirmed’.86 The indwelling light (of Christ) is universally present and universally accessible; what is necessary is that Quakers bear witness to the presence, by turning to this ‘single spiritual condition–the universally present inward light’.87 Hinds refers to this as a habitation of ‘unbounded and unified unity’.88 Although the universal immanence of the light within is asserted as present, it is to be enlivened and particularised in the lived experiential knowing of individuals.
There is too a recognition within much of the work reviewed that experience of Inwardness has consequences. The result of such revelatory knowing is guidance for
living. In the main the model of Christ provides the way. Creasey suggests that:
It is generally recognised that the central and distinctive doctrine of the Society of Friends is its doctrine of ‘the Inner Light’. It may, however, be less generally recognised that the features of the doctrine which can truly be said to be distinctive of Quakerism are those which result from the Quaker attempt to express, in terms of the doctrine of the inner light, an interpretation of the Person and work of Christ.
In other words, the distinctive character of the Quaker doctrine of the inner light is that it is a Christological rather than an anthropological one. 89 Whilst acknowledging the Christian framework, Eeg-Olofsson, referring to the work of W. C. Braithwaite, claims that Quakers belong to a type of ‘mystical-spiritualistic Christianity’.90 He adds that present day Quakers also call themselves ‘mystics’, and have a better acquaintance than Barclay, whom he is discussing, with the ‘long tradition of their type of piety’.91 The Christian interpretation of knowledge gained is accepted by EegOlofsson, thus it is the Christian perspective that forms doctrinal guidance. For Gwyn, such guidance leads to covenantal living: what is written ‘in the heart’ covenantally aligns human beings with Christ’s teaching.
90 Braithwaite, Beginnings. p. xxxiv.
91 A view referring to a form of ‘rational mysticism’ is expressed by Caroline Stephen, who writes ‘I have no hesitation in describing myself as a ‘rational mystic’. She explains her views in Light Arising, pp. 1The focus of knowledge gained in and through Inwardness is thus significantly experiential, personal and, to a large extent, inspirational, and there is the sense that the knowledge is ‘given’ by God rather than gained by human effort.92 Of particular significance is the manner in which the ‘inward’ and the ‘outward’ are felt to be related. 93 It is also important to note that it is through the corporate understanding of Friends that such knowledge informs and supports ‘gospel living’. [g]94
1.3.2 The nature of knowledge gained in and through Inwardness
This section examines two major issues. One involves mystical connections and interpretations of immediate or direct knowing, the other is about reflection on experience after the event and for Quakers its, largely, Christian interpretation. Several authors, discussed in this section, raise issues relating to the mystical and revelatory nature of knowledge gained in and through Inwardness. This is knowledge gained personally and experientially.
King writes of the individual who is turned to God as engaged in an ‘ultimate experience’.95 Accordingly she identifies in Fox’s writing references to salvation as a coming out of the transitory into the permanent and secure, from the changeable into the unchanging, to God as ‘unchanging’.96 Additionally, King refers to living in the light ‘in that which is unchanging’. 97 This ‘self-authenticating intuition’ is, for King, about experiencing that which is ‘eternal’ is ‘internal’ i.e. inwardly known. 98 Quoting Fox, King emphasises his statement to his followers to: ‘See if you can find something in your 92 See Eeg-Olofsson above on the difference between experiential knowledge gained via mystical means as distinct from knowledge gained by psychological means.
Hinds too emphasises an ‘eternal embrace’ from within the knowledge gained in Inwardness. However, her concern is to clarify the nature of ‘the kairotic, or a-temporal, within Friends’ experience. As indicated above, she writes that Friends of the early period ‘revealed, enacted and affirmed’ a ‘seamless material-spiritual world’.100 There is also here a sense of ‘definition’ that was, at the same time, a matter of declaration, demonstrated in the very manner of Quaker living, both as individual and corporate.
Hinds’ position is analogous to mystical perspectives in which spiritual experience is seen to be timelessly interwoven in the ever present moment.
‘Coming into contact with God’ is, for Eeg-Olofsson, intimately concerned with an understanding of mystical traditions and is significant in relation to spiritual experience.
For Eeg-Olofsson, then, inwardness even in its general interpretation is relevant to a mystical interpretation of Quakerism; his spiritual, mystical view offers a perspective on the manner in which inwardness allows humankind to connect with God. Further EegOlofsson proposes that inwardness, in a general sense, is a divine disposition in humanity through which people can come into contact with God. There is a parallel here with Hinds’ view of the ‘revealed’ and ‘enacted’ life of Quakers which keeps the contact between Inwardness, outwardness and the social dimension of life. What is known through Inwardness lifts all living to a new dimension of spirituality.
Gwyn understands the manner in which knowledge is embodied or enshrined in human beings as covenantal. He claims that Fox fully understood and taught the implications of the New Covenant, professing a radical theology that placed ‘inward knowledge in first place over outward knowledge-experience over scripture-while
99 King, Light Within, p. 109. 100 Hinds, George Fox, p. 120.
23 maintaining a mutually informing relation between the two’.101 For Friends, the ‘mutually informing relationship’ is important because, in the early days of Quakerism, Scripture was regarded as confirming experience. Subsequent understanding was more to do with the fact that the Inwardness of experience was both self-validating and reaped rewards in the consequences of Inwardness: the latter fulfils the relation between the inward and the outward.
Bailey stretches the understanding of how ‘physical inwardness’ prevails in Fox’s view of himself and, potentially, his followers. He suggests that, in Fox, there is the sense of ‘the inward revelation of the everlasting gospel, the rising of the Christ within’. 102 For
Bailey, this understanding of Fox is essential to recognition of the core of Fox’s message:
the indwelling Christ, once acknowledged and fully embraced within people, bestows knowledge that is transforming. Bailey claims that, as a prophet, Fox brought a message of this potentiality to and for all people; as a magus, he (Fox) performed miracles that endorsed his own power and convinced the people of his status and, as an avatar, he was the Son of God. He indicates that Fox proclaimed his own divinity in terms of ‘christopresentism’; this inferred Christ’s indwelling as ‘celestial inhabitation’, available for all to know in themselves.
Bailey quotes Fox, who preached:
The Scripture saith God will dwell in men, and walk in men … Doth not the apostle say, the saints were partakers of the divine nature? And that God dwells in the saints, and Christ is in them, except they be reprobates? And do not the saints come to eat the flesh of Christ? And if they eat his flesh is it not within them?103 The understanding of celestial inhabitation is, according to Bailey, crucial to Fox’s message. It involves not only acknowledging the ‘indwelling Christ’ but also turning inward to the Christ as ever present.104 Bailey’s argument is that Christ in humankind is
104 See Bailey, ibid, pp. 77-84 and pp. 90-97 for full consideration of ‘celestial inhabitation’. Note also Williams, R. The Edge of Words: God and the Habits of Language, (London: Bloomsbury, 2014), p.
24 not a spirit within, leaving the Christ-body far away in a distant celestial realm, but rather that the whole of Christ is substantially within people, and ever-present in all creation.
Bailey seems to suggest that this understanding raises the level of knowing to the wisdom of the saints.
‘Celestial inhabitation’ is not, for Bailey, restricted to the heart, but extended to a total and substantial revelatory embodiment.105 If this view of Fox’s faith, and the Christ within, is accepted it is easy to comprehend how early Friends were transported into a whole new perspective and framework for interpreting their own lives in Christ: clearly as in the Bible (John 15:4) mankind should ‘Abide in me and I in you [as I abide in you]’ so for Quakers; Quakers abide in God as God abides in them.106 Eeg-Olofsson presents a different set of considerations, in which his argument concerns the psychological nature of some of the knowledge gained inwardly. 107 EegOlofsson, using Barclay’s Apology as his reference, discusses a significant difference between knowledge gained that he terms ‘mystical’ and that which is ‘psychological’ in character, exposing distinctions which he considers to be lacking in Barclay’s explanations of Inner Light.108 Further, he aims to show that Barclay is unclear or misconceived as to the manner in which contact with God is possible claiming that, in Barclay, there are competing lines of thought. 109 This discussion again raises the question as to the nature of knowledge gained inwardly and whether it can legitimately be called ‘unmediated’ as Quakers have claimed historically, and to which Barclay gives scholastic consideration. Additionally, Eeg-Olofsson, referring to the New Testament, claims two 169, quoting Jasper, D. The Sacred Body: Asceticism in Religion, Literature, Art and Culture, (Waco, TX:
Baylor University Press, 2009), on ‘the absolute participation in the body of the Godhead at its deepest depths of humanity…’, p. 169.
105 By contrast with, for example, the new covenant ‘written in the heart’.
106 Note also: Eph. 3:17, 'That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith...’ 107 The psychological interpretation may require consideration of ‘pre-conditions’ of experience.
See references to Steven Katz and Robert Forman in reassessment of previous literature in chapter 6.
See also chapter 4 on Barclay.
109 See Eeg-Olofsson, Inner Light, pp. 134-5, concerning the grace of God’s gift as mystical versus man’s own insufficient efforts as psychological. Also more general discussion of the Inner Light. pp. 99-102.
Eeg-Olofsson suggests that in Barclay the ‘mystical’ and the ‘psychological’ align with different aspects, or levels, of the spiritual. He claims, however, that a ‘spiritual’/‘moral’ link can be justified and that, although outer performances and practices are ‘psychological, and therefore not in themselves ‘inner’, ‘mystical’ or ‘necessarily right’, they can contribute to ‘mystical ‘ knowledge’. It is also intimated by Eeg-Olofsson that ‘inner revelation’ can be ‘psychological’ and at one and the same time ‘mystical’.
The discussion is complex but does not contribute any definitive understanding for an interpretation of knowledge gained by Quakers in Inwardness.
Gwyn’s contribution to understanding Inwardness, and the nature of knowledge gained, revolves, in the main, around Fox’s concern with New Covenantal assurances of the ‘second birth’ that the light and law are ‘written in the heart’ of humankind.110 His outlining of issues relating to Inwardness not only rehearses the nature of this revelation but also Fox’s teaching concerning a) the incarnation of Christ, as full embodiment of the Light, and b) the manner of Quaker witness in worship and the ministry of living. In terms of worship Gwyn emphasises the significance of silence, waiting and watching. 111 Gwyn’s views are thus fully Christian relating to the lived gospel, as taught by ‘Christ the Prophet’, and Fox’s proclamation that ‘Christ is come to teach his people himself’.