Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
The phrase "day of visitation" is found among the ratings of her early friends — I just ran across it recently in Barclay's Apology. It's a term you do not hear use that often anymore.
As someone who sympathies lean towards universalism it's a bit of embarrassment. The notion here is that while the light/that of God is truly universal faithfulness to it is not. And that we each come hardwired with our own tipping points so to speak. The spirit/light/Christ works within each of us calling us to something more (something traditionally called salvation). As we resist this motion within us we become hardened to it. And there is a point where — I'm not so sure whether it's God giving up on us or whether it's simply the point where resistance become so habitual that any further action by God simply drives us deeper into darkness. This is not a terribly hopeful concept.
So here's my question: where did this idea come from? Is it a product of early Quaker experience in witnessing? Or does this notion have its roots in Scripture and in the Quaker reading Scripture?
And so to synthesize the responses thus far: it isn't that we reach the point of no return from God's perspective — but simply we human beings have this funny way of replaying old scripts rather than being open to new light. We close the door not God.
The idea that I think they're getting at might be expressed through an analogy of a person doing something that is self-destructive, such as driving a car towards a cliff or asphyxiating himself (sorry for the unpleasant references), where there is one last moment where he can consciously decide to stop; after that it's too late: the car's gone over the cliff or consciousness is lost. It isn't a decision "to close the door," but rather that the person no longer has within him the possibility of choosing to live; he's set in motion events that he's cut himself off from altering. This is the state that I think that the Friends were warning against and called it outliving the day of visitation. So, it would be possible for a person to intellectually say, "I'll repent tomorrow; there's plenty of time," and already he's outlived his day of visitation because he's taught himself to be content with his unredeemed state and his self-delusion. Perhaps one doesn't know if one has outlived that day unless one has a change of heart, and repents.
The following passage from the Apology (The Fifth and Sixth Propositions, XIX) expresses both ideas: that one can pass beyond the possibility of redemption, and yet through the act of repentence itself (not some procrastinating plan) one can "not perish."
If God plead with the wicked, from the possibility of their being accepted; if God's Spirit strive in them for a season, in order to save them, who afterwards perish; if he wait to be gracious unto them; if he be long-suffering towards them; and if this long suffering be salvation to them, while it endureth, during which time God willeth them not to perish, but exhibiteth to them the riches of his goodness and forbearance, to lead them to repentance; then there is a day of visitation wherein such might have been, or some such now may be saved, who have perished and may, if they repent, not perish.
We probably all know people who've burnt out their lungs or ruined their livers, and seen the lengths they'd go to defend their toxic means of preserving emotional stability. But the Biblical references are overwhelmingly collective. Early Friends lived in a time when the prevailing emphasis was on personal salvation in a corrupt, doomed world; and they interpreted all this accordingly.
Jacques Ellul, in his book on Revelation, concluded that it was only the Powers & Principalities that were condemned. This fits my sense of what God wills and has the power to bring about. But, of course, as in the book of Jonah, God will go to great lengths to prevent the destruction of a nation in which there are 'multitudes of people, also many cattle,' let alone the sort of sheer hell biologists call a 'dieoff' of humanity.
We, too, are disturbed to be embodied in a world that's probably past its day of visitation, one which rushes headlong towards distruction, hopelessly deluded by its own propaganda systems into continuing and hastening that rush.
Any salvation possible must surely include mass personal repentances; it's just that people are (rightly) unwilling to believe in God as One who condemns, afraid to believe in God who literally saves... but I am quite sure that appealing to their fears is the worst possible approach for these times.
There is a state among men and women wherein their conscious, conscience, purpose, meaning, and identity is founded upon outward forms. There is a state among men and women wherein their conscious, conscience, purpose, meaning, and identity is founded upon direct experience of the inshining Light. And there are men and women at all stages between these states. Each of us has a measure of the visitation of inshining Light in our conscious and conscience.
In each state (relatively speaking) we live in a tension with the other. The first state is also called the bodily or outward nature. In this state, our conscious, conscience, meaning, purpose, and identity are anchored in the things of the body. That is, conscious, conscience, meaning, purpose, and identity are anchored in what we see, hear, taste, smell, touch, through the five senses, and also the outward ideas, ideologies, theologies, emotions, and desires or will. In this bodily or outward nature, the measure of inshining Light is largely overshadowed by outward forms so the conscious, conscience, meaning, purpose, and identity cannot sustain if there are no outward forms to adhere to. The relative truth of the power of the bodily nature can be experienced directly by imagining being without eyes to see, ears to hear, nose to smell, touch, and taste. Also, imagine being without a brain to think thoughts and feel and will. To imagine this is to imagine the death of the physical body. For those anchored in the outward nature, the fear of death is the fear of loss of conscious, conscience, meaning, purpose, and identity. In this state, without the reflections of the outward or bodily nature, consciousness cannot sustain and meaning, purpose, identity, is lost.
The second state is the spiritual or inward nature. In this state, the conscious and conscience has been so visited upon that the inshining Light enlightens the conscious and conscience so that the Light itself in itself becomes the very source and foundation of consciousness and the sole guide of the conscience. The outward forms of the bodily nature no longer anchor the conscious and inform the conscience and the outward nature no longer supplies meaning, purpose, and identity. In this direct experience of the inshining Light founding the conscious and informing the conscience, the fives senses and brain and the resulting ideas, emotions, and desires or will of the bodily nature do not sustain and anchor conscious and conscience. This experience of being sustained by the inshining Light itself in itself is the experience of the Eternal Day, Eternal Life, upon the Day of Visitation. In the inshining Light, the death of the physical body no longer carries the sting and fear of the loss consciousness because consciousness no longer exists in the context of the physical body or the bodily nature. To know and experience the inshinging Light itself in itself is to know and experience conscious, conscience, meaning, purpose, and identity that sustains and lives eternally even upon the death of the physical body. Of course, this does not mean that the five senses and the brain cease to function or that we walk around unable to act, it means that upon the Day of Visitation and our embracement of it, the functions of the body take on their rightful place and no longer rule over our conscious and conscience and is no longer the source of our meaning, purpose, and identity in our daily walk on the earth.
And the thousands of thousands of 'people, not knowing their left hands from their right, also much cattle'?
I've got no reason to doubt that consciousness (Whose?) will continue, that anything truly needed will be provided -- without me needing to know the details.
But the 'long, strange dream it's been'... a meaningless distraction from this experience of experiencing you talka about? The people we've blundered into, for good or ill? That absurdly tragic humanity we're embedded within?
Is your description of this state a part of God's way of dealing with our current collective dysfunctionality? Or is all that quite irrelevant to it?