"Let us labor for an inward stillness--
An inward stillness and an inward healing.
That perfect silence where the lips and heart
Are still, and we no longer entertain
Our own imperfect thoughts and vain opinions,
But God alone speaks to us and we wait
In singleness of heart that we may know
His will, and in the silence of our spirits,
That we may do His will and do that only”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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Spiny Norman said:

So what does a non-theist Quaker do?

Sits there and hopes he doesn't have to change his mind?

In that case, just Wait - for the next life-threatening crisis, or foxhole, that makes "OMG" a real experience of worship. 
 
Spiny Norman said:

So what does a non-theist Quaker do?

Clem Gerdelmann said:

"We wait - In singleness of heart (for) God alone speaks (that) we may know and do God's will (free from) our own imperfect thoughts and vain opinions". This sounds like Devotion&Trust(Quaker Worship) which is needed more in a relationship than with a method. But sure, if you don't know it(Quaker Worship), then make it up(Beware the DT's, however).
 
Spiny Norman said:

I'm finding the flowery language and mixed metaphors a little difficult to follow, Clem!

think you're saying there is no prescribed method in Quakers to develop inward stillness?  But are you saying people should just make up their own method(s)? 

Clem Gerdelmann said:

In that case, just Wait - for the next life-threatening crisis, or foxhole, that makes "OMG" a real experience of worship.


No, it isn't a lack of trouble that makes people antitheistic. Everybody has trouble; sometimes this does leads a person to call out for 'Help' he doesn't 'believe' is available -- and then he may well be surprised. And yes, the sheer overwhelming amount of insurmountable trouble probably is here to remind people that God isn't just a nice idea, but represents the only Help that really answers our need...

But the theism of people who misrepresent God -- is the most potent cause of antitheism. 'God' says (in Raymond Smullyan's dialogue Is God a Taoist?): "I have no enemies" -- But there are many people who reject some monstrous false image of God. (And where do those images come from? -- but from people clinging to some 'all too human' vision because they weren't good enough or wise enough to let God clue them in further. )

And the second cause? -- It's hard for a nontheist to imagine that people who really don't explain (or understand) God all that well could possibly be on to anything they themselves don't know already.

An intriguing thread.  A few comments:

There are manuals of practice in the Quaker tradition which are articulate in describing what the practice of inward stillness is in a Quaker context.  They touch on the meaning of 'laboring' even if they do not use that specific word.  My favorite is 'A Guide to True Peace', but there are others, in addition to scattered comments throughout Quaker history. 

The question about what a non-theist does is, I think, a significant one.  It is my view that most non-theists reject the idea of a transcendental nature and have absorbed the current western idea that the only real world is the world observed by the senses.  This is the heart of a secular world view.  If I am right about this, then waiting worship would be reinterpreted in secular terms.  This might be therapeutic understandings (calming the mind and body), or it might be thought of as a sociological demonstration on how human beings can interact at a more peaceful level than the norm.  Or it might be thought of as a kind of weekly pit-stop; a way of resting from the rush of modern life. 

But the idea of waiting worship as a way of awakening to an eternal presence, to the saving light of God's grace, would be rejected almost by definition.  This is one reason (though not the only reason) why I consider non-theist Quakers to be doing something essentially different; it may have a similar appearancee, but it is a complete reworking of the meaning of the Quaker tradition. 

Thanks,

Jim

But people do have our saving inconsistencies.

The fact that someone doesn't have room for God in his worldview -- that 'senses-only' worldview that people often assume to be the only socially-acceptable, 'realistic' outlook possible -- doesn't stop our big Something Else from intervening -- sometimes politely, sometimes (depending on circumstances) with 'the compassion needed to break and enter.'

Hello, Jim Wilson!

You wrote: "There are manuals of practice in the Quaker tradition which are articulate in describing what the practice of inward stillness is in a Quaker context.  They touch on the meaning of 'laboring' even if they do not use that specific word.  My favorite is 'A Guide to True Peace', but there are others, in addition to scattered comments throughout Quaker history."

 

I ordered a copy of your edition of 'A Guide to True Peace", which I have not received yet.  I am curious.  I have studied Quaker spirituality, mainly Orthodox-Conservative, for much of my adult life, and I am not aware of ever hearing of this book before you showed up on QQ.  What can you tell us about the history of this book?  Who edited it?  Who published it?  When and why was it prepared?  Who read it?  What is the larger context in which it appeared?

I'm still quite new to all this, but I get the impression that non-theist Quakers have a wide range of views.  They aren't necessarily secular in outlook, and they don't necessarily reject the transcendental.  Rather it seems they think that belief in God is irrelevant or unecessary, particularly given the lack of concensus around what "God" actually is.

Yes, non-theist Quakers are probably doing something different.  But is that a bad thing?


Jim Wilson said:

The question about what a non-theist does is, I think, a significant one.  It is my view that most non-theists reject the idea of a transcendental nature and have absorbed the current western idea that the only real world is the world observed by the senses.  This is the heart of a secular world view.  .... This is one reason (though not the only reason) why I consider non-theist Quakers to be doing something essentially different; it may have a similar appearancee, but it is a complete reworking of the meaning of the Quaker tradition. 

Thanks,

Jim

That would relegate belief in God to a sort of emotional crutch in times of crisis.


Clem Gerdelmann said:

In that case, just Wait - for the next life-threatening crisis, or foxhole, that makes "OMG" a real experience of worship. 
 
Spiny Norman said:

So what does a non-theist Quaker do?

Clem Gerdelmann said:

"We wait - In singleness of heart (for) God alone speaks (that) we may know and do God's will (free from) our own imperfect thoughts and vain opinions". This sounds like Devotion&Trust(Quaker Worship) which is needed more in a relationship than with a method. But sure, if you don't know it(Quaker Worship), then make it up(Beware the DT's, however).
 
Spiny Norman said:

I'm finding the flowery language and mixed metaphors a little difficult to follow, Clem!

think you're saying there is no prescribed method in Quakers to develop inward stillness?  But are you saying people should just make up their own method(s)? 

But there are so many different personal ideas about God - how do we know who is misrepresenting?

Forrest Curo said:

But the theism of people who misrepresent God -- is the most potent cause of antitheism. 

Good Morning:

The 'Guide' was first published in 1813.  It then went through a 2-year process of revision, which resulted in the 1815 edition.  The 1815 edition changed the chapter order and added material.  The 1815 edition became the basis for all future editions (e.g. the chapter order for all subsequent editions follows the 1815 edition).

It was first published in England.  It was put together by two Quakers (William Backhouse and James Janson).  The Backhouse family was a prominent Quaker family in England.  I don't know what particular monthly meeting they were associated with.

The first American edition was published in 1816.  It has been in continuous publication ever since, both in the U.S. and England (there have been some translations into other languags as well).  Each new edition makes some changes; most of these are minor, a few are significant.

The 'Guide' is a compilation, culled from the writings of three continental Quietists: Madam Guyon, Miguel Molinos, and Fenelon.  In addition, over 100 biblical citations are woven into the fabric of the 'Guide'.  Surprisingly, given the multiple sources for the work, the 'Guide' flows beautifully and at a literary level is a masterpiece of contemplative understanding.

This work was widely read and admired among 19th century Quakers; but I don't know if, after the split, if the 'Guide' was favored by one group over another.  Howard Brinton admired the work and wrote an insightful 'Introduction' to the 1946 edition of the work.  This edition was reprinted by Pendle Hill in 1979.

The 'Guide' represents the perspective of Quaker Quietism which is rooted in Quaker thought going back to the beginning.  Barclay's thought has a strong Quietist tilt, for example.  But there are many other examples along this line. 

It is my favorite Quaker work.  I carry it with me wherever I go (which is a habit that many 19th century Quakers had as well). 

My hope is that in the near future to have an online site devoted to Quaker Quietism; but these things always take longer than planned.  My view is that the period of Quietism (sometimes called the second period of Quaker history) has much to offer us today.  I personally feel that modern Quakers have become too involved in politics and various social movements.  My hope is that becoming acquainted with the Quaker Quietists might act as an antidote to this.

Hope this is helpful,

Jim
 
William F Rushby said:

Hello, Jim Wilson!

You wrote: "There are manuals of practice in the Quaker tradition which are articulate in describing what the practice of inward stillness is in a Quaker context.  They touch on the meaning of 'laboring' even if they do not use that specific word.  My favorite is 'A Guide to True Peace', but there are others, in addition to scattered comments throughout Quaker history."

 

I ordered a copy of your edition of 'A Guide to True Peace", which I have not received yet.  I am curious.  I have studied Quaker spirituality, mainly Orthodox-Conservative, for much of my adult life, and I am not aware of ever hearing of this book before you showed up on QQ.  What can you tell us about the history of this book?  Who edited it?  Who published it?  When and why was it prepared?  Who read it?  What is the larger context in which it appeared?

Good Morning Spiny:

Whether non-theism is a good or bad thing depends on your point of view.  Personally, I think it undermines the central insight of the Quaker tradition; that there is one, Christ Jesus, who speaks to our condition.  If you cut off that central realization I think it would be very difficult to maintain other aspects of the Quaker tradition, such as the peace testimony.  I think it is almost inevitable that a non-theist will view engaging in war through the lens of just war theory; in fact I have heard non-theist Quakers explicitly argue along those lines.  Such an interpretation of the peace testimony radically differs from a traditional view of the peace testimony.  The traditional view is not a just war argument. 

This is why I would disagree that believing in God is somehow 'irrelevant'; I don't think you can remove this piece without the implications rippling out and altering the entire fabric of the Quaker tradition.

Jim

Well said. 

I don't think our personal ideas about God necessarily misrepresent.  They are personal to us.  They cannot misrepresent to us.  Rather, its when we make God 'Human' that we get into trouble. . . because we can only see and understand through our humanness. . . but God is Truth. . .and Truth is Reality Itself.  So we see and with our limited ability, understand God when we see and understand Truth / Reality.   Again, not what humans consider Truth. . . or Human Reality. .  not Physical.   There is always more for us to see, to examine, to understand - - more and higher information.  But we have to be open and available to receive and consider.    Its the path to becoming fully human. 

 

 
Spiny Norman said:

But there are so many different personal ideas about God - how do we know who is misrepresenting?

Forrest Curo said:

But the theism of people who misrepresent God -- is the most potent cause of antitheism. 

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