Continuing discussion of "Interpreting Our Past-- Part 3"

There is a difference between what Keith offered in his last comment on this post and what you, Jim, have referred to as "formless styles of contemplation." The practice of the latter is an approach, a context or setting, an empty space that is prepared within, with the hope and faith that Christ will come to teach us himself. On the other hand, what Keith was ministering in his last comment was the spirit of Christ, the Substance, the One for whom the setting or context of emptiness is prepared, the One who is waited for.  

I can understand your assessment that the prisoners in their extremely distressed states wouldn't be able to provide the context or setting by means of engaging in a formless style of contemplation, that in fact some guidance (discipline) in the form of "story-telling, prayer, and simple practices" would have helped them create mental order and thus some quiet and peace in their souls.

On the other hand, Christ the Substance (not the empty space of formless contemplation) functions as a force, and as no other force can, to bring peace, order, right-mindedness, both in his first coming as shown in Scripture (Legion, the demoniac comes to mind; the boy who repeatedly threw himself into the fire is another), and in his on-going second coming: For example, how many stories are there in Fox's Journal of criminals, jailers, ne'er-do-wells, miscreants, and priests who are brought to repentance and right order by the spirit of Christ, the power of the Lord, as preached by the man is leather breeches?

Although favorable socio-economic factors seem to go hand-in-hand with attendance at today's Quaker meetings (and therefore a weekly method of a formless style of contemplation),  it has been my experience that these favorable outward factors frequently act as deterrents, not boons to receiving eternal life, that is knowing Christ Within. This view could be supported in many ways; one way is to look at Jesus's wistful comment following the departure of the rich, young ruler: "How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!"

The Quakers of the first generation considered our faith to be universal, pertinent to all nations, kindred, people, and tongues. I believe that their (our) faith is still universal - knowledge of God, and Jesus Christ, the heavenly prophet who is sent by God to teach his people himself. Whether we need discipline to prepare for the arrival of the Parousia, or whether we need to set aside discipline varies from person to person; and within each person, from time to time.

 

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Comment by Jim Wilson on 6th mo. 14, 2014 at 10:22am

I think thy words are very wise.  Particularly thy distinction between the 'empty space' and the 'substance that is Christ' seems to me a fruitful one that I find nourishing.

Thanks,

Jim

Comment by Forrest Curo on 6th mo. 14, 2014 at 12:21pm

I would say that many receive that real Presence without the recognition -- which is not a matter of terminology, but of what they are able to knowingly receive. Yes, that 'rich' attitude [as well as that addictive, brain-damaging Mammon] are potent obstacles. But much is possible to God that we certainly don't see going on, including whatever it takes to open people.

Some greater degree of recognition seems to be required... before people can let It free them of the various notions, misguided loyalties, oppressive psychological stances ["sets"] they might be prey to, for now. God works without as well as within.

Comment by Keith Saylor on 6th mo. 15, 2014 at 1:51am

Thank you for these thoughts Patricia. Consciousness anchored in and conscience informed by Presence in daily life is the renewal of that mind. Outward forms, disciplines, and practices no longer anchor consciousness. Presence is Form ("substance" as you write). Outward forms are no longer needful as Presence replaces becoming the essence of Form. The experience of Christ's presence as form itself underpins the whole of the early Quaker writings and was why they rejected the outward Church and it's outward practices and witnessed against it. The new and lived in the inward Form no longer anchored in the outward forms of the Church.

This is also the reason Wilbur labored against those who wished to re-introduce the very outward forms and practices that those like Fox and Penington labored against. To Wilbur this new faith and trust in outward forms was a return to apostasy and manifested a lack of faith in the Life of immediacy in the presence of Christ, the true saving Form, in all things.

It is my labor to uncompromisingly testify to the inward Life, the inward light, that shines on those who merely wait upon the movement within and then which intention and watchfulness embrace the Form itself in daily life.

Here is how Penington explains it in a different context. It is a very subtle and power distinction:

Object 7. and the last. That is breaks down relations, laws, and governments; takes away due respect from magistracy and superiors, and turns the world upside down.

Ans. Iniquity hath reigned, unrighteousness has wound itself into and twisted about everything. And now the truth comes to discover and purge out the iniquity, the strong man, who hitherto hath kept possession of the house, cries out, as if the destruction of the thing were aimed at. Nay, it is only the evil that is aimed at; but the thing itself is not to be destroyed, but to be set free from the evil, and preserved. Relations are good, laws are good, governments are good, of God; but the unrighteousness of flesh, the pleasing of the flesh by the pretence of these, the giving liberty to the unjust, this is not good. And is it not thus in relations, in government, in the execution of laws? If a man will be fleshly, and walk in them according to the flesh, the law takes not hold of him, his relations are not offended at him; but if he come once to feel the power of God, and withdraw from the evil, and stand a witness for God against it, then relations, and powers of the earth, and laws, all strike at him : and the reason is, because they are in union with the evil, and so cannot bear the rending of the evil from the thing.

The Works of Isaac Penington - Volume One - Page 120

 

Comment by Patricia Dallmann on 6th mo. 17, 2014 at 10:58am

Jim: Thank you for your comment. I look forward to reading your new post.

Forrest: I wouldn't say that we can receive him without recognition; we may recognize the consequences of not having recognized and received him (loneliness, purposeless, succumbing to temptation), but this is not receiving him. When we receive him, we receive the power to become sons of God (Jn. 1:12) and thus empowered to overcome those symptoms of our fallen nature.

Keith: Thank you for your dedication to the work of testifying from the Spirit of the Lord.

You wrote: "Outward forms are no longer needful as Presence replaces becoming the essence of Form." I agree with this but also see when outward forms can be useful.

I understand Penington to be saying here that it isn't the structures/forms themselves of relationships, law, and government that are evil, but when they are used to support the fleshly will in its alienation from God, then they are corrupt. Fox, Penington, and Wilbur labored against outward forms that would foster alienation from Christ, the essence of form.

Yet, there are in scripture references to the need for outward teaching, discipline, and forms that are the lesser and outward semblances of the inward essential form.  Jesus saw the necessity of the outward (Mt. 5:17-18) as preparation for the fulfillment; he also prescribed an outward form when he taught his disciples to pray by using a formal prayer. I think he used the outward as a means to the end, not an end in itself. 

Failing to identify when the means becomes an end-in-itself is fleshly corruption. I think that  not sensing the Presence is an indication that corruption is present. We can recognize our need and use outward forms to get beyond that which corrupts; and then wait, where all is without form and void, for the Spirit of God to move.

 

 

Comment by Forrest Curo on 6th mo. 17, 2014 at 11:39am

It is not black&white; we are far from consistent creatures; and God sees, works through, far more than any explicit concept of ours. If you want to be textual about this, there is of course the story about the walk to Emmaus.

'Receive a little, get a little.' This is a Courtship, not a divine mugging (though it can get like that, too!)

Comment by Keith Saylor on 6th mo. 17, 2014 at 12:57pm

Patricia, I understand the balance you are projecting. Your shared sense of the Penington passage I quoted above dulls the edge too much, although I understand your position.

When Penington writes: "Relations are good, laws are good, governments are good, of God." This is no mere attempt at balance. It is a knife thrust to the heart of outward form (relations, laws, governments) without "God." If you understand this sentence in the context of the whole of his writings (like the admonitions forego all "ways", "practices", "religions", etc., even going so far as to call them "dung") you can understand the Presence within has turned "relations", "laws", "government", on their head. God is relations, laws, government. They devolve in His Presence.  His point is outward forms (relations, laws, governments) have no value, to salvation, eternal life, and peace, without Presence. The evil that is aimed at, and pierced through and through in Presence, is outward form without Presence. 

You concluded with:

We can recognize our need and use outward forms to get beyond that which corrupts; and then wait, where all is without form and void, for the Spirit of God to move.

I suggest it is the other way around: We wait for the true Form (the free Form) to move within us and recognize outward forms binding us to corruption. Outward forms are corrupt tools of spiritual bondage. Presence is the tool to freedom. To trust in outward forms to get beyond that which corrupts is trust in corrupt tools.

I do not look to outward scripture as a sufficient guide; as I know the author within me and Presence is sufficient. Faith and trust is in Presence itself, not in an outward representation of the thing itself. 

Finally, as I said at the beginning. I understand your intention to balance. The message that comes through me is one of pushing further. As I've written in the past, when I was born again many years ago, and part of the Baptist church, I knew the Life unbound from outward forms and I went about expressing it. I had no interest in the outward things of the church. Religion was meaningless to me in the presence of Christ. My pastor eventually shared George Fox with me. Fox and Penington among others, became colleagues pushing further and keeping me from turning back to a faith in outward forms rather than faith in the immediacy and sufficiency of Presence.  When I whined and cried that it was too difficult and thought of taking on the crutch of outward spiritual forms, they empathized but showed no sympathy ... they pushed, and pushed, and pushed. "Go further!" they admonished. "Wait and watch and hold to the eternal Form within." "The battle is engaged!! Persevere in the Light, not in the shadows that are outward form!" To trust in the shadows of outward form is to tread on unsteady ground. 

This has been the workings of Christ in my life;  the sense of Presence then victory over outward forms. I did not use outward forms to to get beyond corruption. Christ's presence first moved me, then victory over the corrupt shadows of outward forms resulted from the movement of Presence. That is the message that comes through me. I have empathy, but not sympathy for those who admonish the crutch of outward forms.

It is good that there are those through whom a balanced message is expressed. That their are those who sympathize with others needful of the crutches of outward forms. While I have empathy, I do not sympathize. Mine is to push further. Push, push, push, and then to push even further. 

Comment by Patricia Dallmann on 6th mo. 18, 2014 at 11:55am

Keith: At first reading your comment, I didn't see that I was trying to create balance between the living form of Presence and outward forms. The two didn't have equal weight in my mind; the Presence far surpassed the outward forms in value. Then I noticed some rumblings in my conscience, and I examined what was going on within. I saw that my intention was in fact to balance within my life as a whole the earthly and the heavenly.  A partial faith then made resorting to outward forms seem workable, acceptable. You are right to urge on to greater faith. "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and all else shall be given to you."

 

Comment by Rick Massengale on 6th mo. 18, 2014 at 12:17pm

At some point, after an encounter with the Light, The Seed with-in, The indwelling,, we are expected to produce fruit.. and that fruit is an outward manifestation.

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