In traditional Quakerism there was a tendency to dissect the human consciousness into two warring parts: the 'natural' [aka 'worldly'] mind and 'Christ' ['the Spirit'], the inner light which the natural mind generally kept imprisoned. That 'imprisonment' is a nice metaphor for what people generally do with our more difficult higher urges, but other than that it's a mistaken description.

What's mistaken about that is that it misses the underlying unity between surface self and Christ at work within each person. What, isn't there ongoing 'war' between the two? Well, that's the appearance and the all too common experience. [See this story if you need an example.]

But 'surface' and 'deeper Self' are better metaphors. There has to be a surface, and this will be what's most readily visible, most seemingly in control. But God has, after all, created this arrangement in the first place. God's activity beneath the surface may well move us in unexpected directions; but those directions are, after all, in accord with our deeper, truer identity.

Various spiritual 'practices' are intended to help people attune our surface, 'ego' identity with the 'Self' that's the true Life of all that lives. Life is far more harmonious to the extent we can do this. But doing so comes down to realizing that God is at work even in ego, that ego is at work even in much of what we consider 'holier than me' -- that we needn't keep up an endless internal war -- Because God actually does love us; we don't need to defend ourselves against some 'external' inner tyranny as so many people imagine God wants to impose.

In terms of the coming of the Kingdom of God -- not the destruction of the world, but the arrival of Heaven.

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Not stand on tippy-toes! For shame, Forrest! We're called to bear the daily cross, which is more difficult - and noble - than your condescending image of toe work. No one is an early Friend, that is true. But what they taught is that Christ is the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever (Heb.13:8). If Christ was the same for the early Friends as he was for Paul and the other apostles who preceded them by 16 centuries, I think it's conclusive that another four or five centuries won't alter the circumstances much.

As for shame and guilt that will arise, it is impossible in this world of sin that it wouldn't. The sin-bearing servant will bear the sin of the world - unjust as it is for him or her to do so - as we who know the Christ within do bear the sins of others willingly for the sake of truth. Go and learn what this means: "By his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities (Isa. 53)" 

Greetings Friends,

I'm new to the group, although I have been following conversations here for weeks.

May I say, I think you are all correct. I would only add "there is a season and a time for every purpose"

Rick

Dear Patricia,

Your words are savory to conscience and quench the mind by empowering the Spirit's presence within through intention. They are a blessing; for they speak to, manifest, and nourish my experience in the Light.

Your words brought to memory the land restoration work I've been a part of and specifically one project in Michigan. There is a fen in southern Michigan where Small White Lady's Slipper historically grew, however, a shrub plant species called Glossy Buckthorn (Rhamnus frangula) overran and altered the natural community, even impacting the natural water levels so that the lady's slipper could no longer thrive. We spent three years removing the Buckthorn. On the third year, in early Spring, a prescribed fire regime was introduced to further assist the removal of Buckthorn and to help this natural community mend and restore. Weeks later, with the ground still charred by fire, hundreds of Small White Lady's Slippers burst forth from the soil casting a flowery blanket across the fen! The lady slipper seed bank lay dormant awaiting the fen's return to a naturally functioning ecosystem. Standing and experiencing this miracle I wept in wonder and joy.

Your words brought to the forefront of my mind this experience. Here are a couple images of the resurrected flowers.

Small White Lady's Slipper

 

Small White Lady's Slipper

Blessings in the Light,
Keith

Well, this fuss has led me to one real flaw in my initial description here of traditional Friends' map of the soul. I'd used the term 'endless war' where something like 'implacable war' would have suited better.

That is, for the Puritans from which early Friends emerged, this war between 'Christ' and 'natural self' would last until death -- after which, if one had had true faith in Christ, one would be granted amnesty for one's sins and placed safely in a sinfree-living environment.

For early Friends this wouldn't do; they wanted to stop sinning and they wanted it now; furthermore they couldn't doubt that Christ would be able to accomplish this even while they were still alive -- a point of hot contention at the time for which Fox & others were several times accused of blasphemy.

The essential agreement of both these rival points of view: Peace with the natural self was to be achieved through victory, subjugation. Christ was to emerge from his prison within and lock up the natural self instead.

But what if this natural self is neither good nor evil in itself, but merely created as-is by God? Was this particular act of creation 'another one of God's mistakes'? -- or might a negotiated settlement be possible, victory through peace rather than the other way around?

Might this be in fact what God really intends for us?

I experience the natural self in the biblical story of Adam and Eve eating from the tree of knowledge good and evil. That is, consciousness and conscience changed into what is called the natural self -- a consciousness anchored in and informed by outward knowledge (the consumption of the knowledge of good and evil) is the natural self -- knowledge outside of Presence. The natural history of human consciousness is the movement (not linear, but indirect) toward a consciousness anchored in and a conscience informed by the immediacy of Presence -- a return to the Garden of Eden and Play regained. I do not feel comfortable sharing thoughts on your last question. I must deepen down further into it ... giving it over to Presence. 

"Christ was to emerge from his prison within and lock up the natural self instead....But what if this natural self is neither good nor evil in itself, but merely created as-is by God?"

Hi Forrest!

I guess this is where your initial point didn't speak to my own sense of the early Quakers, and again doesn't.  So I'm not saying you're wrong and I certainly don't know enough to say that but for example some of my exposure to early Quakers is bits from GF or having read the historial fiction Peaceable Kingdom.   I took away from that a very different sense of the view of the natural self.  The author of that book is very homophobic.   But if I forgive him that... he's also revealing in the inital interactions between GF and Margaret Fell and during her jail time and about the first Quaker meetings something that feels to me very different from what you are describing.  My sense was that his vision was Inner Light all along.  And that he tolerated a lot of "crazy" in his community too in the name of not repressing the Light in anyone. 

Now that said, I know he was quite an evangelist and also kind of quick to not trust whatever he deemed darkness in another person (or not of the Light of Christ) but to me it had seemed that he was sincerely tuning into Light and that if it's Light someone was coming from or bringing forth....he would give that a wide berth alright!    No repression of it....

This is my impression from these sort of sources and I'm no scholar of Quakerism, but I had to like the guy for his combination of radical Christianity and a massively progressive vision.

And yes, I definitely do think that he was modelling for us (and asking for, from us) a victory through inner Light, not through inner repression of the self to a Christ that was of anything other than the inner self.

Please do share though if you have passages that debunk my current impressions of GF.  I'm sure he's said some doozies and I would be glad to stand corrected in my "historical fiction" impressions of reality. :-)

peace

Forest

" ...  you can easily find that very description of Christ as being 'in prison' within various individuals in George Fox's Journal"

Would you please source the specific pages in George Fox's Journal describing Christ as being in prison with various individuals. I intend to enter into deep study of this, canvassing not merely his Journal, but the whole of his writings.

Thank you, Keith

To find 'Christ in prison with someone' you'd want to read Emil Fuchs instead, who described his own experience of that in Pendle Hill Pamphlet #49. I was talking instead about Christ imprisoned within everyone's mind and heart, a good metaphor but evidently not Fox's:

I'd been thinking of a very familiar passage which you can find here [Chapter 4 in the section addressed to Friends in the ministry] :

See [this useful site which does suffer unduly under the view of the n...

The specific words are: "... the ministers of the spirit must minister to the spirit that is in prison, which has been in captivity in everyone; that with the spirit of Christ people may be led out of captivity up to God..."

I had been thinking that this 'Spirit that is in prison' must be Christ, but yes, that does not seem to be how Fox thought of it. The image of ~'Jesus kept out in the stable while we bring the donkey into the house and pamper him' is from one of Rumi's poems.

Again, the subject I wanted to pursue here was not Fox's precise description of this or that, but the impression many people have received that [as the Fifth Monarchists of Fox's day tried outwardly] we are supposed to bring about the rule of Christ within by forcefully kicking out the corrupt government which has been ruling us, then expecting that Christ will then fill the vacuum and rule us in much the same way.

But Christ's government is not supposed to be a tyranny, is not supposed to be imposed by bullying the self into annihilation (the ascetic approach) and this leads to two serious questions: Have we in fact been trying to do this to ourselves? -- and what is it that God intends to accomplish with us instead?

Thank you for recanting your attribution of that turn of phrase to Fox. I was about to enter into an extended search and study of Fox (and Penington) for that turn of phrase "Christ as being 'in prison' within various individuals" because I had not come across it in my study and research of Fox.

With respect. Keith


Thank you, Keith, for telling me of this memory of the lady-slippers returning to their rightful place. It's an image that I'll keep with me. Thank you also for the lovely pictures. They reminded me of when I was a child and just about this time of year, I would go with one of my great-grandmothers out into the woods east of Washington, Iowa, to a place called Pansy Hill. There my sister, cousin, and I would find and learn about wildflowers. It's a happy memory! Thank you for the work you do in re-claiming the health and beauty that is in nature.

Patricia
Keith Saylor said:

Dear Patricia,

Your words are savory to conscience and quench the mind by empowering the Spirit's presence within through intention. They are a blessing; for they speak to, manifest, and nourish my experience in the Light.

Your words brought to memory the land restoration work I've been a part of and specifically one project in Michigan. There is a fen in southern Michigan where Small White Lady's Slipper historically grew, however, a shrub plant species called Glossy Buckthorn (Rhamnus frangula) overran and altered the natural community, even impacting the natural water levels so that the lady's slipper could no longer thrive. We spent three years removing the Buckthorn. On the third year, in early Spring, a prescribed fire regime was introduced to further assist the removal of Buckthorn and to help this natural community mend and restore. Weeks later, with the ground still charred by fire, hundreds of Small White Lady's Slippers burst forth from the soil casting a flowery blanket across the fen! The lady slipper seed bank lay dormant awaiting the fen's return to a naturally functioning ecosystem. Standing and experiencing this miracle I wept in wonder and joy.

Your words brought to the forefront of my mind this experience. Here are a couple images of the resurrected flowers.

Small White Lady's Slipper

 

Small White Lady's Slipper

Blessings in the Light,
Keith

I am neither 'recanting' nor canting anything. I would like to be reasonably accurate as to what G Fox had for dinner, but I was writing instead about the flavor of a certain interpretation of the quaker thing, one which persists to this day and continues to be used as a dysfunctional road map of the soul. Fox's actual metaphor in the actual passage is worth some discussion in its own right, but as to whether I am a worthy object of attack, I refer you to this title:

http://www.quakerquaker.org/forum/topics/i-am-a-fool-and-the-gospel...

Thanks for this conclusion in your linked post, Forrest:

"God made His power known, but didn't force it on anyone. That power is still available... It's still, always will be, 'with us' -- intending only our good. But we can't use it; it's God's power only so far as we can let it have its way with us. It's been very very hard to trust it, to stop figuring out what we need to do to keep everything under control.

Can we please let this happen?"

I think it's a sweet ending to point out to us the need of such surrender, and to point it out with this gentle vulnerability.  

This topic seems to have gotten a little stressed and it might be a good time to rest in our vulnerability together.  I, for one, appreciate how each of you are sharing your Light given about the soul and it's relationship to "us" and to the Christ.   

I see in Forrest's initial post "Because God actually does love us; we don't need to defend ourselves against some 'external' inner tyranny as so many people imagine God wants to impose."    Forrest may be feeling (?) there's a tyranny of some sort that people imagine God is imposing on each of us.   This topic seems to me to be reflecting that back to us, some just sharing a lot of Light and some feeling a slight bit oppressed by the discussion.   I love when I can remember it that there is room for everyone .   I love when I can remember it that we each have a Divine inner clarity that is Light we can shed, and that we must each give space for this Light in others. 

It seems like the theme is the opposite of force and defending ourselves, and instead an acceptance of vulnerability and our own imagination of what God can do.   Is this right?  Is this something we can rest in?   Can we let something as loose as all that be a part of our soul's anatomy?

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