What is Quaker Worship: Spirit Possession, Meditation, Cognition or Imagination?

My goal in this post is not to answer the question, "What is Quaker Worship." Rather, I would like to delineate four metaphors or viewpoints that might serve as a starting point for discussing the range of answers Quakers have given to this question.

Spirit Possession

 
To say that Quakers have seen worship as a form of spirit possession may seem odd to some, but I don't think the idea would be all that preposterous to many early Friends and even some Quakers today. Read descriptions of early Quaker worship with its characteristic quaking, moaning and trance states and the idea of spirit possession is really not that far fetched. The widespread belief today that vocal ministry should be preceded by trembling seems to me a holdover from this earlier spirit possession viewpoint.
Today you are unlikely to find much quaking in a Friends meeting, but you will still hear Quakers use language similar to spirit possession to describe their experiences. For example, "My sense is that the spirit is calling us to..." Some Friends speak as though they literally communicate with spirit. 
But for other Quakers, the language of spirit possession seems a remnant of a bygone age and difficult to square with our modern view of the world. Some of us seek a more naturalistic way of speaking about what happens in worship.
Meditation 
I often hear Friends refer to worship as meditation. I doubt if early Friends ever used the word "meditation" but if they did I am sure it didn't have the connotation then that it does today with our exposure to eastern religions. When Friends meditate in worship today they often have in mind a process of trying to slow down or perhaps even stopping their thoughts. Some even sit cross legged in their chair or on the floor.
While I value meditation, I have to wonder why we have vocal ministry if our goal is to stop all thoughts? Could it be that we have superimposed the idea of eastern meditation on a basically Western process that actually valued human thought and did not see it an antithetical to spirit.
Cognition 
 
Some Friends own that what they are doing in worship is thinking. Some are reflecting back over the events of the week to see how the spirit might have been working. Others may intentionally direct their thoughts to spiritual subjects, like imaging a golden light surrounding everyone in the meeting.
I have always liked the idea of  Quaker worship as "baptized thinking" and feel that this describes my experience much better than the notions of spirit possession or meditation.
 
Imagination
 
But what exactly do we mean by the word "baptized?" Do we mean baptized in the sense of spirit possession?
Carl Jung described two different kinds of thinking: directed and non-directed or fantasy thinking. Directed thinking is thinking in words or language for a specific purpose. Non-directed thinking, however, is where we simply allow thoughts to rise to consciousness and they often take the form of images.
Could the "baptized" quality of the thinking we do in worship be of a non-directed type, a free-floating awareness in which thoughts and images freely float up from the unconscious? Is this natural process of reverie just "monkey mind" and to be avoided? Or could it be that spirit can work through our imagination?
What metaphors would you use to describe your experience of Quaker worship?

Views: 495

Replies to This Discussion

By the power of inward motion or movement of the of immanent Presence upon my conscious and conscience, I am come out of being reflected through the mirrors of reflective thinking; and it is discovered to me a way of existence that worships in all things and in all activities. I am adoration and reverence and adoration and reverence is in me in all things and I own that adoration and reverence in each person. I am aware without regard for, or identification with, any outward thoughts or institutional worships. I am the Name itself in itself (Christened) and the Name is me and I am in all things and all places and own the Name in others in fellowship. I am that which is and was and is coming and the Name is me and everyone. In the Name, there is a different way of speaking and living the Life itself in itself and this different way is owned in the Living Name ... calling us out all outward worships. This is why many of the founding Quakers did not establish outward Meeting Houses and set times and places for worship and who would not follow George Fox into the outward forms he later established among Quakers. As with them, I am come out of outward forms and own a different way that will not come back into that which I am out of in the living Name upon my conscious and conscience.

I find that Spirit can work through just about anything I do, including what I do best: mistakes.

Keith Saylor said:

By the power of inward motion or movement of the of immanent Presence upon my conscious and conscience, I am come out of being reflected through the mirrors of reflective thinking; and it is discovered to me a way of existence that worships in all things and in all activities. I am adoration and reverence and adoration and reverence is in me in all things and I own that adoration and reverence in each person. I am aware without regard for, or identification with, any outward thoughts or institutional worships. I am the Name itself in itself (Christened) and the Name is me and I am in all things and all places and own the Name in others in fellowship. I am that which is and was and is coming and the Name is me and everyone. In the Name, there is a different way of speaking and living the Life itself in itself and this different way is owned in the Living Name ... calling us out all outward worships. This is why many of the founding Quakers did not establish outward Meeting Houses and set times and places for worship and who would not follow George Fox into the outward forms he later established among Quakers. As with them, I am come out of outward forms and own a different way that will not come back into that which I am out of in the living Name upon my conscious and conscience.

Certainly, Keith's testimony of being the Light is the 'place' we all are invited to be.  And I have noted that it is the same testimony that mystics (those who experience a pronounced union with the Light directly) have testified throughout the ages - including Jesus of Nazareth.

The world would be transformed in an instance if each human inhabitant were able and willing to accept this invitation.  Meanwhile, I do think that those groups of Quakers who have meetinghouses, have an opportunity to aid this human development by cultivating this mystical identification within all who come there. 

In this regard, soon after someone starts participating in worship with us (whether they identify as a Quaker or not), it is our custom to provide them a key to the meetinghouse so they may come to our meetinghouse and grounds (which is a certified wildlife habitat located within a Preserve community) at any time to experience the Light in quiet and nature.  This is done in order to encourage Friends to also do so at any time in any place and in any situation - not just the meetinghouse.

Does this practice likely result in a limiting of the size of the gathering of Friends at the scheduled worship time on Sunday?  It probably does because Friends are also encouraged to avail themselves of our meetinghouse and grounds at any time.  But we have come to understand that our communal role is to encourage among our Friends a spiritual communion with the Light at any and all times.  We want to be a beacon for the Light within each person in the local community surrounding our meetinghouse, rather than the 'keeper' of the Light for distribution at predetermined times.

Meditation is not about stopping your thoughts, just objective thoughts. That way you can directly observe the inner light (call it the light of mind of the light of Buddha or the light of Christ), trust in that light, and be led to truth by that light. 

This seems to be very different from the emotion filled experience. But it may not be. Experience of the light in Buddhism is often filled with rapture. So, I think it might be just a different approach to the same result.

I am sure that the "monkey mind" is also going on, but that is another reason to practice mindfulness of yourself, and don't get attached to things along the path.

Personally I approach it as expectant listening.  Similar to spring Turkey hunting. :)

RSS

Support Us

Did you know that QuakerQuaker is 100% reader supported? If you think this kind of outreach and conversation is important, please support it with a monthly subscription or one-time gift.


You can also make a one-time donation.

Latest Activity

Keith Saylor posted a blog post

The Impulse of Immanent Being

There is a way of being, consciousness, or self-awareness that is innate in human beings and which…See More
yesterday
Noah Merrill updated their profile
1st day (Sun)
Kirby Urner posted a video

A Pensive Cowboy

Another American sounding off on various issues. Stetson hat.
7th day (Sat)
Anne Marie Hutchinson shared Mike Shell's discussion on Facebook
8th month 15
Paulette Meier updated their profile
8th month 13
Paulette Meier liked Anne Marie Hutchinson's blog post A Japanese Filmmaker’s Perspective on Filming a Quaker Blessing for the Urakami Cathedral Cross
8th month 13
Mike Shell replied to Mike Shell's discussion 'Facing hostile nationalism: Quakers in Nazi Germany and now'
"Thanks for the question, Keith. Yes, I wrote these words, though they were approved by the other…"
8th month 12
Keith Saylor replied to Mike Shell's discussion 'Facing hostile nationalism: Quakers in Nazi Germany and now'
"America is rounding up and imprisoning people labeled as so-called “illegal aliens,”…"
8th month 12

© 2019   Created by QuakerQuaker.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service