Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
An excerpt from Jack Powelson, "The Political Ideology of Unprogrammed Quakers," *Religion & Liberty*, Volume 13, Number 1.
"The Religious Society of Friends seems to be comparatively a rather weak form of religion. [Mark] Cary believes that 'Quakers basically have a religion with a niche appeal on the boundary between religion and philosophy. Unprogrammed Quakerism has very limited appeal outside of the liberal, intellectual elites, having attracted those sorts of people overt time and thus having become even less diverse in politics.'"
Okay, Forrest Curo, what do you think??
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I think I don't know whether you want to talk politics or religion. Which would you suggest?
Hmmmm ... sounds to me like saying "Jesus had a comparatively rather weak form of religion because all he spoke about was love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind and .... love your neighbour as yourself"
If you want to talk politics however, Quaker Business Meeting processes are the foundations of good representative democracy practices.
Hmm, yes... It does seem to depend on what somebody expects a religion to do. "Carry heavy loads?"
If it's supposed to determine your political ideas -- as opposed to being distorted by your political ideas -- There really aren't any religions I know of able to do that, for the majority of your followers.
It was not St Marx, but someone else, who said: "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."
Marx agreed, and tried to make it a universal law, but there are too many exceptions. It remains, however, the way to bet.
I seriously doubt that this applies more to LiberalFriendists than to say, professional apologists for Economism (aka the Chicago School of Economics belief system Galbraith used to call 'the conventional wisdom', in contrast to what could be observed of the actual working of economic systems.)
Powelson for example. The members who knew him, in my LiberalFriendist Meeting, considered him a very nice person. Not knowing him personally, I had to go by his books, which would not incline me to credit him as a critic of anyone's religion.
Mainly, if I am to be the defender of LiberalFriendists: Am I to defend them against charges of heresy, addiction to NPR, or being smarter than they ought to be?
Hello again! Shortly after I posted the excerpt from Jack Powelson, the power went off in our neighborhood. Apparently, the folks all thought "let George report the outage," and George didn't until this morning! Actually, I personally am quite uninterested in politics; it's all about faith and church fellowship, for me.
"On the other hand," as Tevye says in *Fiddler on the Roof*, I do enjoy genuine insights into the Quaker faith, regardless of what quarter they come from. And so, here's a little more heresy from Powelson and Cary! In same paragraph I quoted from, Powelson also wrote: "many eastern Friends, particularly those at the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, have noted and are currently concerned about a significant drop in membership. In a personal letter to me dated November 5, 2002, Mark Cary described his view, with which I am in agreement, that liberal Friends are held together mostly by a few common threads--the open form of worship, the peace testimony, liberal or radical politics, and a lifestyle that glorifies higher education. Quakers comprise a very non-diverse and narrow section of society. Cary 's research shows that only about 40% believe in a traditional God. Quakers' levels of prayer are quite low compared to other faith communities in the United States."
I say so what. It's all in the eye of the beholder. I do think the lust for politics per se, is on the downswing among liberal Friends; as we are returning rapidly back to our core spiritual values. The politics of the world has proven to not be the answer.
As far as the percentage of liberal Friends who pray regularly: A very spiritual 10 year old girl in my meeting when asked to explain prayer simply said, "Prayer is the way you live". This amazing child who so blessed our community died a week or so later - killed by a drunk driver. That little girl likely did not pray in the traditional manner; rather, she lived her life in a constant state of prayer.
I recognize that we liberal Quakers don't view "religious" things in the traditional way. But, I think the Jews around Jesus probably said the same thing about him. In the end analysis, liberal Quakerism is a religion that encourages active mysticism of all who partake of it. This certainly will not appeal to most people.
Hello, Howard! My observation is that many liberal Friends tend to have a very reductionist view of the sacred and the spiritual. Rufus Jones viewed "openings" as "irruptions [yes, there is such a word] of the unconscious rather than as visitations of the supernatural. As I recall (correctly, I hope), James Riemerman sees spiritual phenomena as manifestations of human physiology rather than as incursions from beyond the human.
For these Friends, the "spiritual" does not exist apart from human biology and mentation.
A truly mystical formulation would say that the "unconscious" is an expression (imperfectly adsorbed, digested or understood) of the Spirit.
Forrest wrote: "A truly mystical formulation would say that the "unconscious" is an expression (imperfectly adsorbed, digested or understood) of the Spirit."
What does this assertion mean? Are you saying that Freud (woops! I mean Jones!) was right about apparent divine incursions into consciousness, but if we kick the can further down the road, it will wind up in the supernatural sphere (the existence of which he denied)?
Jung hinted at this, but wimped at the thought of trying to get his sophisticated modern audience to accept anything that wasn't "Scientific." That may also have been Jung's own belief, though surely he'd had enough experience of this stuff to know better... Freud wanted to make a 'dogma' [and once said this quite literally in a conversation with Jung] of his own notions of the 'unconscious' as a seething cauldron of sexual & egoistic lusts.
I don't take any of these people (or even Stephen Gaskin, whom I also respect for his openness and insight) as authorities permitting me to accept or reject a model of 'How Things Is' (Shunryu Suzuki's phrase) but have found them sometimes illuminating.
The model that seems most cogent:
There is first of all God, serving as foundation and context for all Going-Ons going on...
who is 'dreaming' a fictional world where we exist as characters (whose experiences God imagines/experiences from the inside of our consciousnesses, as a good human novelist would, except (of course) more thoroughly.)
"We" -- what we think of as being 'who we are' -- are our conscious experience of that, including our conscious experience of thoughts & feelings as well. But there is also a great deal of thinking, feeling -- even physical sensation -- going on without any real notice from us. That activity would be 'unconscious' -- not to say that it, too, is not God's consciousness at work, but that _we_ are unconscious of it.
Meditation etc can expand the horizon of our consciousness to include more experience of this stuff, but such 'things' are farther out-of-sight than peripheral vision -- and so, appear as muddled to us as half-remembered dreams.
But God also, from time to time, takes very explicit part in our dreams. (The Bible could certainly show you examples of this as one way that God sometimes interacts with people.) Like dreams, the messages we're given in this way can range anywhere from very direct verbal statements to cryptic hints -- I'm inclined to think God prefers to use the cryptic hints because people are less likely to take these 'literally' or to assume they've entirely understood them...
Much of the thinking/feeling that goes on outside our conscious awareness does happen to be (using one of Woody Allen's apt phrases) 'thoughts that should not be thunk' -- because those processes are to some extent operating as-if they were isolated systems. At a 'higher' level of awareness they do get integrated into God's vision of ItAll; as parts they can be (like us) woefully partial & inadequate.
There is no "thing" called "the Unconscious" for God to be reduced to... nor can God be truly reduced to anything -- but anything that exists must reduce to God's (unfinished) activity...
As (I'm told) the beginning of Genesis can be validly read as: "When God began to create..."
I think there are, in the unconscious, memories-- including many so painful that it is exceedingly difficult to access them intentionally. One can get to them only indirectly through dreams and other means that mask them. But I am not sure that this has much to do with access to the sacred, although some assert a connection between one's image of God and relationships and experience of one's parents or parent-figures. That's one explanation for atheists being able to draw or describe their images of the God they do not consciously believe in!
Well, if we needn't imagine something called 'the unconscious' -- then there wouldn't be memories literally 'there'.
Certainly there are memories people are not conscious of -- Most of these are merely those we aren't focused on at the moment -- or such things as the beginning of a song that we're only holding the conclusion of.... many, many memories analogous to that.
But one needn't imagine an "Unconscious Mind", lurking in the darkness somewhere & holding all that... Scheming to Break Out & Overthrow Civilization, as Doc Fraud sometimes made it sound.
Some painful memories do get lost because we learn (by a pretty automatic process) not to think about those things most likely to remind us. This does not imply a mind somewhere making plans to "bury that memory" -- despite the similarity of an existing, real process (which _is_ conscious) of people deciding to 'just live through this somehow until it stops hurting so much.'
Where Freud & many others who'd learned about hypnotic phenomena had a notion that "Somewhere in people's minds they remember everything" -- the fact is, many memories don't even get stored long-term. Many of them are kept -- but with details missing, with only the emotional reaction remaining (what's called 'implicit memory.')
The reason so many early childhood memories vanish? New neurons continue to be generated... and any which aren't hooked into some active network, any which aren't getting an occasional 'zap' --
die off like an atrophied muscle cell...
That's physical level, of course, & I don't know if it applies to our minds... except that brains do model what happens in minds. Yes, we feel what our bodies feel (somehow), think in harmony with the patterns in our brains...
But we are mistaken about the direction of causality. (It's the Spirit which keeps the mind & brain generally in synch. Back to that metaphor of God writing This Big Story we live in: If a character eats a sandwich, appropriate things happen in his digestive system. But causation between elements of the story is not the main factor determining outcomes in it.)