«By CAROLE ANNE HAMBY A thesis submitted to the University of Birmingham for the degree of DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY Department of Theology and Religion ...»
‘Unity … involve[es] intuitive moral discernment’.137 In combination, the most profound understanding of the manner of this moral imperative goes beyond mere shared behaviours to a lived unity where there is, as discussed in 2.4, on Fox, ‘the hidden unity in the Eternal Being’. 138 Fox wrote, ‘All they that are in the light are in unity; for the light is but one’.139 Further in the same Epistle he wrote of living ‘in love’ and ‘abiding inwardly in the light, [which] will let you see one another, and unity with one another’.140 Such Unity in the Light is a matter of consciousness that, for Fox, is informed by the ‘Word of Wisdom’, which renews or reforms knowledge in which God’s Word has the power to enlighten every one. Living together in this Wisdom is what King interprets as living in Unity that is ‘beyond human natures’. For Hinds, it is that the indwelling light (of Christ) is universally present and universally accessible, and what is necessary is that Quakers bear witness to the presence, by turning to this ‘single spiritual condition’.141 It is a habitation of ‘unbounded and unified unity’.142 Although the universal immanence of the light within is asserted, it is to be illuminated in the lived experience of individuals and ‘shared-in-common-in-unity’ (community).
Three areas of concern have been introduced in 1.3: these pertain to an understanding of the focus, nature and purpose of Inwardness. 1) The focus of Inwardness has been identified to include issues explaining the inward and outward dimension of life and knowledge, and their interpretation. 2) The nature of Inwardness has been considered as concerning mystical and revelatory knowing that is inspirational, usually interpreted within a generally Christian framework. 3) The purpose of Inwardness has been indicated as culminating in transformational growth, which leads to Unity that is both personally experiential and practical within community.
Earlier scholarship has provided avenues of thinking which, in combination, give direction to the detailed analysis of Inwardness undertaken in this thesis. In summary, it is the focus, nature and purpose of knowledge gained in and through the experience of Inwardness that leads to a schema for discussing not only the practice of Inwardness as process, but also its developmental characteristics. Comprehension of an ultimate stage of interior knowing emerges from recognition that spiritual development, gained through regular involvement in Quaker spiritual practice, is consistent within the framework identified as discussed above. Earlier academic research is thus useful for provision of guidelines but insufficiently complete in its arguments to indicate answers to all the questions that this thesis advances regarding Inwardness in the theology of British Quakerism. Examination of both the process of and development through Quaker spiritual practice, as undertaken here, provides a new perspective within Quaker studies of the twenty-first century.
There is asymmetry between discursively expressed academic discussion about faith development and the considerations of spiritual growth in 1.4, in that the latter often focus on devotional concerns rather than being conceptually rigorous in their mode of expression. The need to include analysis of different descriptions of spiritual progress relates to the significance of experience (as against belief and/or faith) in the Religious Society of Friends.
This section examines previous scholarship relating to 1) pathways for spiritual development and 2) purification as a notion intrinsic to spiritual transformation.
Quakerism has its faith related theories. However, in the main, it is the importance of experience that is primary. It involves practice that, considered as contemplative, is better compared with other similar prayer and worship practices, than via academic, conceptual, or empirically based discussion. For this reason, understandings of growth in Christian contemplative practices provide useful comparison. Mark McIntosh’s generalised discussion of ‘Divine teaching’ is particularly valuable in placing the dynamic of what is learned, or gained, in such practice within God’s teaching. When there is openness of the disciple to God’s reality, it is God who teaches.143 The next section examines the significance of descriptions and discussions of the Christian contemplative tradition in relation to Quaker worship practice to extend understanding of both its nature and purpose.144 Correlations that have been, in the main, overlooked in Quaker theology are highlighted here. These affinities have always been there but have not been examined as a priority of understanding Quaker spiritual practice, or explained according to the framework ‘of the age’ in previous generations. Pathways to spiritual growth are considered in 1.4.1, and 1.4.2 examines the issue of purification in relation to spiritual growth. 1.4.3 analyses Quaker ‘measure’ in terms of spiritual development 1.4.1 Pathways to spiritual growth Discussion of spiritual growth in the Christian tradition is usually the province of examinations of spiritual, contemplative practice. One example is that of Martin Laird, who offers a thorough analysis of ‘The Three Doorways to the Present Moment: The Way
35 of the Prayer Word’.145 He explains the problem of interference in practice in terms of ‘the Riddles of Distraction’, indicating that the use of a prayer word, or phrase, to recollect the obsessive dimension of the mind reaches far back in the Christian tradition. 146 Interestingly it does not surface directly within Quakerism until the early twentieth century and then only in the work of Thomas Kelly, and more with reference to eastern than Christian contemplative/meditative practice.147 In terms of records of growth or advancement, Laird emphasises the importance of ‘not getting caught up in interior dialogues’ and explains how the prayer word operates to facilitate inner silence.148 Laird’s exemplars from earlier times are Diadochos of Photki and Theophan the Recluse (The Jesus prayer), St. Augustine (‘arrow prayers’) and Evagrius (different scriptural phrases); also John Cassian (the formula). Additionally, he writes of two contemporary teachers: Thomas Keating, inspired by the Cloud of Unknowing, and John Main, rooted in the desert tradition.149 The discipline of mental 145 Laird, M. Into the Silent Land (London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 2006. Laird’s discussion is considered in some detail due to its usefulness in understanding the need to clear the mind of unnecessary activity in order to gain inner stillness and silence.
146 See also Protopresbyter Pomazansky, M. Orthodox Dogmatic Theology (Tr.Heiromonk Seraphim Rose) (California: St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 2005, 3rd Edition) p. 312 f/n 1 for a detailed account of the tradition of the ‘word’ or ‘mantra’; ‘the prayer of the mind in the heart’.
147 ‘Prayer word’ practice is not found earlier in Quakerism although it should be recognised that many present day Quakers are dual practising i.e. Quaker spiritual practice and other approaches to worship.
See Hamby, C. ‘Inward Spiritual Experience-the Heart of the Quaker Way?’ Woodbrooke Journal, No. 22 (Birmingham; Quaker Study Centre, Spring 2008). Gardner, C. God just is: Approaches to silent worship (London: Quaker Books, 2012) is a recent addition on avenues to spirituality, as also is Wall, G. Deepening the life of the Spirit: Resources for spiritual practice (London: Quaker Books, 2012) both are something of an exception, in dealing with practice and experience, when compared with earlier Quaker texts. See also chapter 5. Kelly does not stipulate a specific word but rather suggests self-chosen short phrases from a
Psalm; or something such as, “Thine only, Thine only”. Kelly, T., A Testament of Devotion (New York:
Harper 1941), pp. 16–19. Endorsement of the practice of mantra meditation and or use of a ‘prayer word’ has been reintroduced into Quaker literature by Hamby in the last decade. Quaker practice in the context of mysticism and/or analogous or parallel themes relating to contemplative practices are considered in chapters
2.6 and 5.4.2. Thomas Kelly’s thinking is informative but falls outside the scope of this chapter, it is thus outlined, as an appendix, at the end of the thesis.
Laird indicates that the ‘first doorway’ of spiritual growth is opened as the individual learns to give the mind to the repetition of the prayer word in favour of its more usual incessant chatter; this is the practice to anchor oneself.151 It is what Fox is referring to when he maintains the need to be ‘cool from thy own thoughts’, though for Fox the mode of achieving inner silence makes no reference to a comparable practice. Laird considers the ‘second doorway’ as when the worshipper becomes one with the prayer word. 152 The latter is about self-forgetfulness as the prayer word begins to overtake the mind leading it into a deep interior silence of full being: to paraphrase Stephen, the mind is alight ‘from within’ as it is consciously self-referring. The transition is from thinking and sensing to being; from active mind to silent consciousness. Here, in this silence, is the discovery that the person is not merely his or her thoughts; he or she is the awareness or the consciousness that has ownership of the thoughts. Letting go of thoughts and being silently aware, purely and simply present in one’s being allows the opening of the ‘third doorway’.
An earlier and longer description of the process of advancement through spiritual practice is that of Evagrius; it consists of three stages. These incorporate stages of practice, belief and experience, as the individual advances more deeply into Christian contemplation, through 1) praktike 2) physike and 3) theologike.153 According to McGinn, von Balthazar criticises Evagrius, suggesting that his focus is more Buddhist than Christian.154 This criticism arises from the view that he (Evagrius) fails to give sufficient 150 See further discussion of the practice in Appendix 1 with reference to Thomas Kelly. The use of a ‘word’, ‘name’ or ‘phrase’ is well explained in relation to the Jesus prayer by Ware, K. ‘The Origins of the Jesus Prayer: Diodochus, Gaza Sinai’ in Jones, C., Wainwright, G. and Yarnold, E. (eds) The Study of Spirituality (London: SPCK, 1986) pp. 175–184.
This issue of Christian interpretation is relevant to understandings of Quaker spiritual practice over the history of the Society. 155 In the seventeenth century the Christian position was maintained unequivocally, whereas by the twenty-first century Universalist [g] and non-theist perspectives have become accepted by many Friends.156 There are affinities and correspondences between different Quaker descriptions of spiritual experience even though accounts are diverse.157 In the following explanation, in which he writes of the worshipper as being ‘the silent, vast awareness’ Laird maintains that ‘Awareness is the eye of silence’; the need is to cultivate the ‘contemplative discipline’.158 The discipline is to be focused on awareness itself in which is found, ‘luminous vastness gazing on and gazed through luminous vastness’.159 Laird also observes that ‘Contemplation is the prayer of just being’.160 This is a description of personal consciousness, experiencing itself in its silent state beyond normal everyday mental activity.161 This opens up the conscious awareness of the individual who can become still in silence. Ninian Smart refers to this as a state of experiential ‘nakedness’.162 For the early Quakers, and all Christians, this is opening to God; for some Universalists it may be Being, or transcendental reality, that underlies all 155 Abbreviation to ‘the Society’, within the thesis, is specific to the Religious Society of Friends.
160 Laird, ibid, p. 73.
161 See Figure 6, in 6.3.2.
162 Smart, N. World Religions, p. 111. Discussing The Cloud, Smart suggests that ‘it seems quite possible that the author of the Cloud emphasized the absolutely nondiscursive character of the state of consciousness; he was aiming at being free even from the more “elevated” thoughts such as of the nature, goodness, and power of God’. See also Barclay, The Apology, p. 299, concerning the need to overcome ‘straying’ thoughts.
38 beings in creation; for Atheists (if experienced at all) it is some dimension of humanness not in need of sacred or sacramental attribution.
Other ways to attain ‘just being’ are expressed in a range of spiritual practices such as sacred reading, individual and corporate prayer and other approaches to silent worship.
These are discussed by Thomas Merton and John Main as contemplative prayer and Christian meditation, and also by Curt Gardner and Ginny Wall with particular reference to Quakers.163
1.4.2 Purification as a means to spiritual growth.
Notions of purification feature significantly in historical understandings of spiritual growth, and as this is equally true in terms of early Quaker teaching, some discussion of source material is included here. As indicated by King, quoted above, for Fox purification consisted of two aspects: the removal of sins and darkness, and the gaining of unity in the Light.164 The two phases of gaining purity were not written about as separate or sequential in themselves, but rather in clarification of the outcomes of processes of spiritual practice.
As indicated above, the early Christian mystic, Evagrius, provided theological explanation of the developments within contemplative practice.165 His influence, continued in relation to later spiritual teaching, is given specific focus by his follower, Cassian.166 The teaching is relevant to a general understanding of processes of purification. Additionally, however, it is useful here because of direct relevance to a twenty/twenty first century Quaker practice termed Experiment with Light. 167 This
166 Merton, T. (O’ Connell P. Ed.) Cassian and the Fathers (Kalamazoo, Mich: Cistercian Publications, 2005b).
See Lampen, J. (ed) Seeing, Hearing, Knowing: Reflections on Experiment with Light (York: