Micah Bales and that “extreme” “interventionist” “crazy talk.”

Micah Bales and that “extreme” “interventionist” “crazy talk.”

In a recent piece entitled “God” is no Substitute for Strategy” Micah Bales breaks down the founding Quaker testimony of and witness to the sufficiency of the immediate and direct inward presence of the Spirit of God as “crazy talk.” He then doubles down by labeling or characterizing those who trust  completely and solely in the intuitive “intervention” of the inward Spirit of Christ as “extreme.” He calls us in derision “interventionist.” He also suggests later in the article that those who do not have faith in outward forms manifested through the human facilities (reason) do a “disservice” to God. That is, they are not serving God!

Reading his article is like reading the talking points (tactics) of a political strategist. The article has negative labels tagging crazy interventionists as having a “tendency against advance planning and rational thought.” Watch the strategy in his words. Actually, he is moving between strategy and tactic. The strategy is to bring people into the embracement of a conscious anchored in and a conscience informed by outward teachings, ideas, or plans. The tactic is showing sympathy on one hand by acknowledging Fox’s statement “Don’t think, but submit” [to God].  While on the other hand, questioning the very thing he just agreed with by saying all that trusting completely in the sufficiency of the inward Spirit itself to guide and inform is excessive.  See, this ideological sleight of hand is a time honored political tactic. You have to show some sympathy or they just won’t follow you. Set up an artifice based on sympathy; then slowly add other foyers, rooms, and carports so that the original artifice is unrecognizable. You look around and wonder: “Wow, this isn’t what I moved into.”

But how does Micah label his own outward artifice? Unlike those crazy, extreme, excessive, interventionists who wish to “replace” human facilities (Watch! You first have to agree with or buy into his construct that those crazy people who have faith completely in the inward Light to guide them, “wish to replace the human facilities”), Micah says it is God’s intention to “restore the whole creation - body, mind, and spirit - to its “intended maturity and vitality in Christ.” Watch! By implication, those excessive and crazy people want to “replace” creation and upset God’s intended purpose. Micah is saying if you are a person whose life, meaning, purpose, and identity are anchored in a conscious illuminated by and a conscience informed by “immediate” (in Micah’s own words) Presence itself, that experience is not intended by God. In fact, being that is fulfilled by faith in the grace of Presence itself, works against God’s restorative work and does not serve God. Micah sets himself up as one who is on the side of restoring the whole creation to its intended maturity and vitality in Christ. He is on God’s side and serving him in the fulfillment of God’s intention purpose. By implication, Micah is moderate and reasonable … not excessive. He is a “co-creator” with God … not an excessive destroyer like those crazy people.  

Now what is it about this experience of the sufficient immediate inward Presence itself as the sufficient source of meaning, purpose, consciousness, in the conscious and conscience that is so troubling to Micah? Watch!  Living actively in immediate intuitive Presence itself that is anchoring the conscious and informing the conscience Micah finds cripples “our general inability to do long-range planning.” He doesn’t set out any examples of long-range plans he thinks should be implemented. He merely wants the reader to warm up to the outward idea that abstract outwardly expired long-range planning that comes through the human faculties is how we begin to go about helping God realize his intended purpose. Micah wants the reader to follow his outward reasoning to the place where they are open to a conscious anchored in and a conscience informed by outward long-range plans. That is, wherein their identity, purpose, meaning, and actions, are anchored in and informed by outward ideas and plans. For those who have faith in outward forms, it is a must that people are open to and willing to identify with and adhere to the process of the formation outward plans and practices. This initial posture is fundamental … it is essential because once those with political and religious agendas gain inroads to the conscious and conscience, anchoring the conscious and informing the conscience with outward plans, ideas, conceptual forms, etc. those outside plans and ideas capture the minds and become sources, of meaning, purpose, and direction from which leaders direct people to realize their outward civil and religious agendas. Those of us whose conscious is anchored in and conscience are informed by experiencing inward Presence itself are a problem for those with outward political and religious agendas they wish to see fulfilled in the outward society. We just are not of the right mindset. Our very life and meaning is mis-directed in Presence itself. We cannot be captured or agitated into compliance with the outward forms and plans of the civil and religious state because we live a Life in a completely different State. Those of us who adhered solely to the guidance of inward Presence and are ever touched by the Light itself in our conscious and conscience are just crazy people who cannot be controlled and directed by the outward agendas of people who would rule and oversee and guide through the outward structures of the civil and religious state.

It is never once even considered in the article that perhaps human being sustained and nurtured in Presence itself is long-range planning. Imagine a witness to the living in the activity of the Spirit of Christ fulfilling our conscious and informing our conscience as long-range planning … viz. eternal life. For many of us that is bold living and acting ... presently and fearlessly … in the eternal Kingdom. For many of us the Kingdom is here … there is no-thing to create. There are no objectives to attain. In the inspired Light of Presence itself there are no outward institutions to build, no outward political or religious agendas to fulfill.  They are fulfilled in the immediate experience of Presence itself. It is the actual living of the Life that fulfills and sustains.

These arguments and labels against those whose conscious is anchored in and whose conscience is informed by inspired Immediacy itself are not new in Quaker history. The outward words and sentiments used to capture the conscious and inform the conscience of people may change slightly but the meaning, intent, agenda, and derision are the same.

There are those of us who know a life wherein our very consciousness, meaning, purpose, and direction, is guided in and through adherence to the long-range (eternal) perspective of the directly experienced inward Light itself. We have a long-range perspective … the eternal life we are living in this world and at this moment. Ours is to share that Life through testimony and witness. We do not look for or trust in the outward plans, ideologies, and institutions, of the civil and religious state. Ours is to live the long-range inward Plan manifested through personally experienced inward Presence itself. There is our hope. There is our peace. There is our joy. There is our heritage.

I know our way is not the way of those whose conscious is anchored in and conscience is informed by outward forms. We have been lead out of that way and into a different way. That way is sufficient for us in all things and in all circumstances in our daily lives and all we do is share the Way and trust the inward working of the Light itself will convince and guide. We acknowledge that our way is crippling to other ways. However, we will continue to share our way.

Historically, since the very beginning of Quaker history, when we came into contact with others who derided and mis-represented our resting solely in the guidance and meaning of inward Presence itself we reciprocated in kind and derided those who derided us. Today, by power of increased measured of Light filling our conscious and guiding our conscience, we are so deeping into the LIfe itself that the outward feelings and thoughts of anger and retaliation have lost their power and are but on the distant horizon of our soul and managed and overcome in the candling Light itself. By the power of the Candling itself; we do not respond in kind with weapons of outward ideological warfare.

To some, our message of the sufficiency of Presence itself comes across as demeaning. It is true the experience of the sufficiency of inward Light demeans a faith in outward forms in the sense that it cripples the outward designs of the civil and religious state by freeing people from dependency upon outward forms, traditions, and practices for meaning, purpose, and direction, in this life. Again, While we acknowledge this, it is ours to share the different Way.

 

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Comment by Howard Brod on 10th mo. 29, 2015 at 12:52pm

Thanks Bill for that information.  Very fascinating.  You have so much Quaker information just oozing out of you.  It is so wonderful to read you posts and replies!

Jim, my meeting has had an interesting evolution in the last 30 years from mostly academic Friends to a number of heart-based Friends.  I have been there the whole time to witness the transition.  The original Quaker population for this meeting came from a city meeting with Friends who were steeped in academia.  The handful of original Friends at my meeting were as well - with a difference.  They held their academic credentials of no value in matters of the Spirit, rarely even discussing their backgrounds.  So, in the ensuing 30 years my meeting attracted non-academic persons, and the meeting culture became more similar to what you describe found among the earliest Quakers (as far as academics).  This broadening of the base of the meeting has also brought great diversity to us in things such as many blue-collar professionals, a mix of rural, suburban, and city folk; as well as political diversity from all persuasions (yes, our liberal meeting has a number of Republicans).  Just being at that meeting and interacting with all of this diversity is inspiring - an example for Friends at our meeting on how to engage everyone we meet once we leave the meetinghouse.  A side benefit has been that the meeting had to, early-on, adopte a culture of sticking to the Spirit in all we do; never delving into partisan political action (as a meeting); instead sticking to the heart and spirit of our testimonies, and a knowledge that our concentration on 'Love and Light' will be our unifier.  We have had times of learning all of this the hard way - occasional mishaps.  But I think we now solidly understand what matters.  Another side benefit is that all of this has increased our awareness of the danger of forms for the spiritual person: they tend to isolate and separate rather than bring us all together in the Spirit of Christ.

Comment by James C Schultz on 10th mo. 29, 2015 at 1:17pm

Thanks to everyone.  This convinced (Republican, pentacostal) Liberal Quaker is thankful for the history lesson.  I don't need to repeat my opinion on the original question as opinions, in my view, are overrated, but know I appreciate everyone's historic contributions.

Comment by Patricia Dallmann on 10th mo. 29, 2015 at 1:21pm

 Rufus Jones's having identified Quaker faith as mystical rather than the traditional prophetic understanding that Benson worked so faithfully to re-introduce into the Quaker community,  may be the cause behind the higher regard Quakers now have for academia.

In the prophetic understanding, the imago dei is a relation between the Creator and man; whereas in the mystical understanding (that Jones promoted), the imago dei is a self-existing substance; Man possesses it in himself. This view opens the gate to an idealistic deification of man, a spark of the divine, "that of God in everyone." The Divine element in man, according to this mystical doctrine, is participation in divine reason, man only needing to become aware of this divine reason and to make a clear distinction between that and the lower part of his nature, which is non-divine, the body.

According to this mistaken notion, intellectually gifted academics would be more endowed to participate in divinity afforded by their higher nature (intellect). 

Christianity, however, doesn't see the imago dei as substance but as relation between the Creator and the creature, who is both created mind and created body...both are to be transformed, and not the body-or the senses-overcome.  There's a verse about the body being full of light when the eye (mind) is single. This I have known experientially.

I'm glad that you mention Lewis Benson, Jim. He conferred with Jones shortly before the latter's death, where Jones admitted that perhaps he'd been mistaken in his interpretation of Fox and early Quakerism. Sadly, the damage had already been done, and he didn't live long enough to present a more accurate assessment. As a result, we have the idolization of self, pseudo-validated by the doctrine that the imago dei is given to our human nature as a gift, rather than the traditional understanding that God reveals himself to man and thereby, and only thereby, does man know God.   

Comment by Jim Wilson on 10th mo. 29, 2015 at 4:56pm

Patricia:

Thanks you for taking the time to post such a clear analysis.  It is resonating in many ways in me.  As you probably know, my background is Buddhist.  But I also have a degree in western philosophy and have a fondness for Plotinus.  So my tendency has been to interpret the inner light in a way similar to Rufus Jones.  But this kind of interpretation doesn't really mesh with my own experiences of the light because of its 'otherness' (not necessarily the best word, but it's the best I can think of at this time).  I am reminded of Barth who said that God is 'ultimate otherness'.  If I understand you correctly, the inner light is not a 'higher self', or an aspect of personality, individuality; nor does it seem to be an essence. 

Years ago I read Augustine's 'Against the Academy', and I think I will reread it.  Augustine was a Platonist and then converted to Christianity and had a kind of insider's take on the classical Platonism.  He found it to be insufficient; but I forget the details.

I'm rambling.  Thanks for the insightful post.

Jim

Comment by Mackenzie on 10th mo. 29, 2015 at 5:04pm

Along with what Patricia said, from what I understand Rufus Jones' time saw a linguistic shift from "inward Light" to "inner Light," a shift that implies a different source for the Light.

Comment by Diane Benton on 10th mo. 29, 2015 at 6:07pm

Patricia, I found your descriptions of the mystical and prophetic views of the Light helpful.  I favor the prophetic view.  The questions I see on the table for this thread are Does this Light come to one unmediated and is it sufficient to guide one into right actions?

Comment by William F Rushby on 10th mo. 30, 2015 at 7:29am

Bear in mind that Rufus Jones came from the Orthodox Friends, and taught in an orthodox institution.  He did not have a lot of influence on the Hicksites who founded the FGC.  (This from Chuck Fager.)

Also, Jim, Earlham College has not been an evangelical institution for close to a century.  It has for many decades been at odds with evangelically-inclined Friends in the Midwest.

Comment by Patricia Dallmann on 10th mo. 30, 2015 at 10:19am

Jim, It's interesting to hear that feeling the otherness of the light led you to see the inadequacy of the mystical interpretation. There's a natural tendency in people to confuse the human spirit with the Spirit of God. As you've discovered, it is only in encountering God in His otherness that this error is eliminated. 

Mackenzie, I think that you're right. It was a small change in the word, but it marked a huge shift in understanding where is the source of the light.

Diane, I'm glad to hear that you find the prophetic understanding agreeable, and my distinction helpful. 

Comment by Keith Saylor on 10th mo. 30, 2015 at 12:46pm

I am one of the crazy people who Micah speaks about. I take ownership of it.

People whose identity and consciousness is anchored to outward forms gathered through reason use these these outward labels to relate to and identify with people whose identity and consciousness is anchored in the intuitive or inspired experience of the sufficiency of the inward Presence of Christ. Because they are anchored in outward forms, they use outward labels to establish us in the panoply of the outward world of ideological form. Here are some of the labels:

Individualist

Hyper-individualist

Anti-intellectual

Excessive

Liberal

Mystic

Spiritualist

Overly Enthusiastic

Crazy

 

All these labels carry basically the same meaning.

“These crazy people are not like us.”

“Their meaning and identity is not established in outward forms as is ours.”

“We do not participate in the way their meaning and consciousness is established and are outside of it so they are excessive and acting individually.”

And these basic sentiments are true. We are not of the same mind. Our meaning, purpose, and consciousness is through the direct and immediate experience of the Spirit of Christ breaking into our conscious and informing our conscious. Through this illumination of the Spirit in our conscious and conscience, we experience a different way of being … a new Life (a redirection of the source of meaning, purpose, and consciousness) no longer anchored in outward forms. No longer does our faith come through identity with the abstractions of the mind informed through outward reason. Our faith is experienced intuitively through direct experience of the inward Spirit anchoring of our conscious and the guide of our conscience and this experience is sufficient in itself.

We share this experience with many of the founding Quakers who wrote:

We disown the word establishment … “ for though the Children of God may be Instruments in the hand of the Lord, to establish one another in the Faith of God's Elect, yet 'tis not in their power, or any one of them, positively and without exception, to establish what ought to be believed and practiced, whether it respect Doctrine, or Discipline: and if any one or more have attempted so to do , it may Justly be said of such, that he or they have endeavoured to invade Christ's Prerogative." Source: William Rogers. “The Christian Quaker …” published in 1680


We are established in direct experience of the inward Presence anchoring our conscious and informing our conscience and not in outwardly established doctrine and discipline. Inward Presence is our doctrine and our discipline.

It is not our role to bring people into this experience. It is our role to share the experience and meaning. It is not our role to judge those who do not share our experience of being/Being established in the inward Light itself within our conscious and conscience. Throughout Quaker history, we have responded in kind with judgemental, accusatory, derogatory, etc., labels. Today, it is ours to drop outward weapons of ideological warfare pounded out on the anvil of outward reasonings. By the power in the Spirit itself within us, we absorb the weaponry of established outward ideological forms and look them straight in the eye and give witness to inward Light itself. Ours is to respond in the intuitive Light that sustains our conscious and informs our conscience. It is our role to be descriptive. It is not derogatory to say there are those who adhere to outward forms, traditions, practices, institutions, etc, for this is a description they use of themselves.

However, we must remain mindful that our experiential witness exasperates and troubles many of those whose conscious is anchored in and whose conscience is informed by outward forms, plans, practices, institutions, etc. and they will perceive even the existence of this witness as discomforting and further perceive the testimony of a different way as in itself derogatory and judgmental against them, and thereby, will seek to tamp it down and accuse us of being derogatory just by our testimony. Many founding Quakers experienced imposition and persecution of their conscious and conscience at the hands of other founding Quakers as is documented in William Rogers book “The Christian Quaker …”

 

Comment by Keith Saylor on 10th mo. 30, 2015 at 12:53pm

Patricia, those of us who know life in the immediate experience of Presence itself and not in relation to outward forms, practices, traditions, plans, etc. experience that otherness of which you speak as the Light itself piercing into our conscious and conscience and establishing there (replacing our old conscious and conscience in outward forms). That is, our very source of meaning and purpose and consciousness of been replaced by the interpenetration of Presence. We know that otherness, however, by the indwelling Spirit of Christ we know that otherness ... inwardly!

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