«By CAROLE ANNE HAMBY A thesis submitted to the University of Birmingham for the degree of DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY Department of Theology and Religion ...»
A Christian interpretation is also expressed by Creasey, and, for the latter, in terms of the person and work of Christ. The primary concern of Fox’s teaching is, for Creasey, to do with understanding Quakerism as a spiritual religion in which Christianity is central.112 Creasey maintains that interpretation of the favoured terms of Friends, and consideration of light issues, is only meaningful within a Christological doctrine, and faithful to early 110 In the main, Quaker references to the ‘heart’ are more likely to imply matters of feeling than actual/literal heart focus i.e. attention given to the heart as an organ. Yet the latter is not precluded and does relate to the focus and depth of Quaker spiritual practice as described in chapters 2-5.
111 Gwyn, Apocalypse.p. 161.
112 Creasey identifies three features of early Quaker faith and practice. These are ‘doctrinal’, ‘experiential’ and ‘operational’, and he emphasises the intimate relationship of these three features in ‘Rethinking Quakerism’, Collected Essays, pp. 393-416.
26 teaching as an interpretation of the Person and work of Christ. Inwardness is then, for Creasey, to do with encountering ‘that of God’ within the person, known and interpreted as the Person and work of Christ. This view is then essentially Christocentric rather than theocentric.
Of importance to the argument within this thesis, is Creasey’s reference to ‘genuine interior change’; Inwardness is not a matter of ‘superficial acceptance of ideas’. It is a matter of transformational growth.113 Indeed the nature of knowledge gained inwardly is not, in general, to do with ideas, although subsequent interpretation that embraces doctrinal positions is undoubtedly relevant. The knowledge, which some of the authors examined have referenced in ways that suggest a context of mysticism, is, according to Keiser, linked with tacit and non-cognitive experience.114 Two major issues thus arise in relation to the nature of knowledge gained in Inwardness: one concerns mystical connections and the means by which experiential knowing is accessed immediately and directly. The second relates to reflection on experience and the Christian interpretation, which has prevailed to a large extent throughout the history of the Religious Society of Friends.
It is, then, relevant to note that the significance of Jesus Christ i.e. Christianity, is acknowledged by each of the authors, but given most precise emphasis by Creasey in terms of the Person and Work of Christ. Insofar as the main focus of each is, respectively, Fox, Barclay, Penington and Penn i.e. Quakers of the 17th-18th centuries, it is unsurprising that the interpretative context is Christian. However, of importance to later discussion within
this thesis is:
a) The extent to which the experiential knowledge of Quakers continues to be interpreted in Christian terms in the modern era
114 Note Keiser’s reference to tacit/non-cognitive thinking and skein of connections, f/n on p. 13, no 56, concerning various relevant texts.
The fact that several of these writers focus on a Christian interpretation in the twentieth century, without questioning its exclusivity, is indicative of the continuing prevalence of the Christian influence in many, if not most, Quaker academic contexts.
This continues even following the development of Liberal Quakerism and includes the incorporation and westernisation of eastern themes in present day religious and theological thinking.
1.3.3 The purpose of knowledge gained in and through Inwardness
Consideration of the purpose of knowledge gained in and through Inwardness relates both to what Quakers term the ‘right ordering’ of behaviour; and also, in a very specific manner, to the unity of spiritual experience, which has the potential to transform life and living.
One term, above others, is used most often among scholars in describing the main purpose of knowledge gained in Inwardness: this is ‘transformational growth’. 116 For many of the scholars discussed, the notion of growth, that is definitively transforming, either embraces or leads to other aspects of what spiritual development entails. Notions of ‘purification’ or ‘cleansing’ arise directly and tangentially; in turn ‘regeneration’, relates closely to suggestions of ‘redemption’ and ‘perfection’ involving ‘salvation’, ‘illumination’ and ‘enlightenment’. Specifically, relation to the Quaker understanding of 115 In his ‘Rethinking Quakerism’ Maurice Creasey reminds readers of the need to recognise changes in belief and the need to rethink ‘things about which we may have deep and responsible questions’ in the twentieth century’, Essays, pp. 396–399.
116 Referenced as ‘moral transformation’ in the move towards ‘perfectionism’ in King, The Light Within, p. 70, Creasey, ibid, “Inward” and “Outward”, Section 2, pp. 323-356, Bailey, New Light, in the sense that the ‘glorified soul was divinized’(chapter 7 on Transformation), but later as the Society itself was transformed, its observations about Fox, according to Bailey, resulted in a de-divinization of the inner light.
(p. 251). See also Hinds, George Fox, p. 38. King, The Light Within, p. 89, Finding the Light Within, ‘it will bring him [any individual] to do the will of God and bring him into quietness, peace, unity with God and the saints and eternal life...’ this is purification, and Hinds, ibid, pp. 26–27, links ‘going naked’ and casting off filthy clothing with reference to Farnworth’s, Pure Language and the Spirit of Truth, (London: Calvert, 1655), her concern with purification is tangential, and implied rather than explicit, but offers a relevant area of consideration.
28 growth of the individual is to do with transformation toward ‘unity’ not only within the self, but also with others and with God.
King emphasises that ‘cleansing’ from sin is the means to living in the light.117 In turn this facilitates finding unity in the light; a moral transformation is the result.118 Now ‘man can turn to the divine within him and all will be well with him’.119 In her explanation of the cleansing function of the light, King makes connections between cleansing, living in the light, and realising that which is unchanging. This, she maintains, is the salvation wrought through Inwardness which brings Quakers ‘into unity with God and with men’. For King, practices and processes of Inwardness are important for the movement to Unity.120 Creasey writes of deep transformation, as an experiential fact, that is a matter of the internalised Christ working within the individual as a living reality. 121 He accepts that doctrinally the early Friends tended to prioritise the mystical Christ, the Christ of Inwardness, over the historical Christ but he questions the wisdom of doing so. Creasey, agreeing with Edward Grubb, does not make this inward reality something distinct from the fact of the historic Christ.122 He quotes Grubb who suggests that ‘[t]he greatest of the 117 King. The Light Within, p. 70 i.e. cleansing rather than forgiveness or pardon, see also 1.4.2 on purification.
118 King. ibid, p. 70.
119 King. ibid, p. 71.
120 See Table 1 for a diagrammatic representation and explanation of Quaker Worship. This Table is the main reference in this thesis for describing the practice of Quaker worship and the possibility of development towards spiritual maturity. See also Figures 2-3 in chapter 2 and further figures in chapters 5 and 6. Table 6, in particular, identifies the knowledge gained in Unity.
121 See also King, section 1.3 above.
122 See Grubb, E. ‘The Historic and the Inward Christ’, Swarthmore lecture, (London: Headley Brothers, 1914).
Quoting Isaac Penington, Creasey clarifies his position regarding Christ as the Quaker ‘saviour’: He writes ‘We do indeed expect to be saved … by the revelation and operation of the Life of Christ within us; yet not without relation to what he did without us…’: for Creasey the experiential component of Quaker Inwardness is complemented by full appreciation of the historic Christ.124 The fully transformed life is that which follows the pattern of Jesus.125 Bailey, on the other hand, expresses his understanding of transformation more extremely, and controversially. He explains, as indicated above, that Fox understands ‘celestial inhabitation’ as essential to full inward knowing: the core of Fox’s message, the indwelling Christ, once accepted and fully enjoined within people, is transforming.
The authors discussed emphasise differently both the manner in which transforming growth occurs and also how it leads to changed priorities. Even when the Christian model is used, for some writers the concern is with the importance of the ‘inner teacher’ rather than the significance of the person and work i.e. changed behaviours. For Gwyn the purpose of Fox’s prophetic preaching, was ‘to bring people to their inward teacher and leave them there’.126
Thus, according to Gwyn:
Inward knowledge... is that which is revealed directly to the heart by the Spirit of Christ; it is knowledge of certainty, never changing. It surpasses and judges the 123 Creasey, M., ‘The Christ of History and Experience’ in Collected Essays, pp. 125-128. Grubb, E. The Historic and the Inward Christ, p. 71. However, Creasey questions Grubb’s formulation of the discussion in what he (Creasey) sees to be unhelpful seventeenth century terms i.e. dualistic.
124 Creasey, M. ibid, pp. 331-335.
Gwyn claims that Fox fully understood and taught the implications of the New Covenant, professing a radical theology framed in the promises expressed in Isaiah and Jeremiah. The Lord’s teaching, written in the very hearts of humankind, provides an inward inspiration that animates human beings afresh. Here is one significant purpose of knowledge gained in inwardness. It is, however, of equal importance for many of the scholars, that inward knowing should have practical or outward consequences.
Endy acknowledges the significance of Quakerism as a spiritual religion with Christian foundations. He accepts the radical nature of Quakerism in terms of Fox’s statement that ‘God’s Spirit’ is pouring forth ‘from within’ and, in turn, he maintains that the Light is that which illuminates Inwardness to affect ‘religious consciousness’. Endy’s primary contribution to an understanding of Quaker Inwardness is, in agreement with King, on ‘intuitive moral discernment’.128 Endy, however, relates this to the significance of the Spirit or light’ as ‘an agent of the whole process of regeneration’ by which ‘the “Light” brings the ability to discern … the voice of God in one’s thoughts and readings and the hand of God in his experiences’.129 The outcome of moral guidance and discernment is then, ultimately, for the betterment of the community.
The very nature of Inwardness as preached by Fox is to do with the incarnation of Christ, as full embodiment of the Light, but also with the incarnation in humankind of the gospel that brings knowledge which exceeds the law. Within inward knowing is the promise of transformation that has the potential not only to fulfil personal life but also to fulfil a social community to live in the Spirit. This is the purpose of knowledge gained in Inwardness.
31 As Gwyn explains, ‘The new covenant is entered as the provisions of the old covenant are left behind in pure, inward worship’.130 The revelation of the ‘new thing’ that is being born on earth is, for Fox, as explained by Gwyn, to do with receiving and preaching the word of God. However, ‘preaching’ is not merely the speaking of words, it is rather a life lived to enact the new knowledge, it is a preaching by deeds that witness to God in all things; this is the origin of the notion of Quaker Testimony, in which all life is Testimony to God.131 Quakers, for Fox, were to be living examples, ‘epistles’, urged ‘to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in every one; whereby in them ye may be a blessing, and make the witness of God in them to bless you’. 132 In the last part of this quotation, in which Fox speaks of the ‘witness of God’ in others blessing ‘you’, is the notion of a special unity, it is not merely a fellowship but a level of a spiritual encounter, inward meeting inward, in which spiritual consciousness is mutually known and shared.133 The fact that Inwardness is considered to have practical consequences for Quakers relates to the notion of ‘right ordering’ in which ‘the accumulated experience and insights of the Society support communities of Quakers in ‘gospel living’ [g].134 Initial interpretation of this way of life concerns agreements, behaviours and, in general, concord. However, a more significant understanding relates to the reality of Unity. King formulates a view of Fox’s concern with the unchanging reality of God as embracing his
interest in unity.135 She suggests that, for Fox:
130 Gwyn, Apocalypse, p. 113.
131 Muers, R.,discussing Bonhoeffer on ‘truth telling’, writes of Testimony as a ‘collective, learned and ‘storied’ process of ‘doing the truth’ Testimony: Quakerism and Theological Ethics, (London: SCM Press, 2015), p. 63.
132 Fox, Journal, p. 263.
133 See 2.5, on U/unity.
134 See Grubb, E. Authority and the Light Within, (London: James Clarke and Co, 1909). Grubb, E.
‘The Historic and Inward Christ’, Swarthmore lecture, (1914) and Grubb, E. The Religion of Experience (London: Headley Brothers, 1918).
135 A point of note, however, is that King apparently links ‘that which shows man evil’ and ‘that in which is unity’. This raises for discussion the issue of simultaneous, rather than sequential, changes in the process of transformation.