Question 3: What is too intellectual and why is it a problem?

I'm hearing and reading that messages and bible discussions or other programming shouldn't be too intellectual.  I get that prior preparation may be too much to ask, but what exactly is meant by too intellectual that Quakers would dislike?  I personally love to learn as long as I am well rested.  Some attendees may be "nerdy" types, for lack of a better word, that spend a lot of time with books and thoughts and may communicate on an intellectual level on a regular basis. What is the origin of Quaker's disliking the intellectual, if they do.  Is there any chance this apparently fundamental part of quakerism could be erroneous? Or are we just talking about considering the audience as best you can to reach as many people as possible using simpler words, the way Hemingway wrote his books. Thanks for any response.

Views: 632

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

Ah, yes: "Scholarship is the talent for rendering the fascinating tedious."

I've always been intrigued by the question of "What was Jesus [really] up to, anyway?!!!" I've found some good answers from people who were just winging it from what their hearts told them; but also got a big chunk of the puzzle of William Herzog's _Jesus, Justice, and the Reign of God_ (Hard going, though! _Prophet & Teacher_ is a good short version.) & found out I'd had a pretty good sense of [much of] it just reading Matthew as a child, hadn't even found Tolstoy or Schweitzer yet.

Forrest Curo  quoted an anonymous writer to the effect that "Ah, yes: 'Scholarship is the talent for rendering the fascinating tedious.'"  Some commentators find even footnotes "tedious", whereas I find them a fascinating source of further information about the subject!

I find the rather sweeping dismissal of scholarship quite unjustified.  Probing an issue beyond the casual and superficial could easily seem tedious to someone who is either not very interested, or is interested but not accustomed to digging deeply into "issues".   Judging the fruits of serious scholarship as "tedious" might be justified in some instances, but usually tells one more about the judge than the accused!

"Intellectual" in the present discussion could be understood in two different ways.  One could label a statement intellectual if it probes beyond the level of the commonplace, seeking to grasp whatever deeper meaning might lie behind the statement or view.  Or one could call a statement intellectual if it simply addresses cognitive aspects of the subject without seeing it in a broader context, i.e.being cerebral when it is obvious that much more than the ideational is involved.

I think some Quakers, like some human beings in general, are turned off by various flavors of intellectualism they may encounter, such as mandatory algebra to get into certain fields (cite The Math Myth). 

We have a lot of legacy flotsam and jetsam floating around (pseudo-knowledge) that gets used to enforce social class privileges, which Quakers tend to resist as anti-egalitarian.  So to the extent intellectualism is really just archaic Social Darwinism in disguise, one might say Quakerism itself is at least suspicious of this "ism" if not downright "anti". 

Note Wikipedia: "Socially, 'intellectualism' negatively connotes: single-mindedness of purpose ('too much attention to thinking') and emotional coldness ('the absence of affection and feeling')."  In this sense, intellectualism is a psychopathology. 

Think of peer pressure to not do too much homework, as at some point impressing the teacher is seen as currying favor with those power-mad corrupt adults, being a sellout-quisling to the establishment the teacher represents. Such pressure may be insidious however, from the point of view of a culture trying to pass the torch and not descend into gang violence.

On the whole and on balance, I'd say Quakerism has embraced scholarship in general, encourages study of way beyond what's in the Bible (without ignoring the Bible).  They see it as a way to level the playing field and overcome estate-based classism (rank by inheritance).

Yes, intellect sans feeling -- or more often, emotions masquerading as 'thinking'.

The unknown writer is Anne Curo, author of 'Meditations on the Prayer of St. Francis.' (I think they made her put in footnotes, but she too finds their over-use annoying.)

Definitely among Friends there is a tendency to overvalue 'expertise', even when the Expert is outside whatever field he possesses a modicum of the common knowledge in -- or alternatively, blinkered by his field's ideological limitations.

I just wonder if quoting a new york times best seller or a television show or news item is somehow more acceptable than quoting one of your favorite philosophers or scientists or mathematicians for that matter.  In any case, I think we all have flaws, we should tolerate one another's flaws (if we are to be a spiritual family) and we should not pretend we are not flawed lest we be unable to own up to our shortcomings. In my estimation, Quakers try the best they can but they are still limited by their human faculties, both emotional and intellectual, which is OK.   Discussing the historical details of the Bible should not supersede the spiritual message, but sometimes it is helpful to know the context and time in which it was written if one finds the biblical passage off-putting (i.e. do not read it literally).  I too find that detailed scholarship of some subjects may remove some enjoyment from them while in other cases, only with detailed scholarship can one appreciate the beauty of the subject.  But I think different people will put different subjects in these categories.

With any of those sources, is a message quoting them essentially the same as reading or watching them yourself? If there's no 'value added', it's probably inappropriate.

A message is supposed to pass on some Spiritually-inspired insight or perception. "All in the head" -- or "all in the heart", for that matter -- falls short.

If it's essentially a prayer for understanding ... 'How should I feel about (?); how should I respond to (?)' -- Then that might be put more directly. ? I dunno! Rules of thumb are only rules of thumb --

but while the subject matter might be worldly, the context and approach to it needs to be bigger than that.

Thanks. No, not just quoting.  Not me messaging, just observing and taking in .  It doesn't really matter anyway, more the past than the present. Good points to think about.  I'm letting it go.

There used to be people in my Meeting who, when they stood up -- would almost always say something cogent, deep, inspiring in the best sense.

And there were others who customarily would recite the news, some of these usually emoting about how wonderful something was, others who just felt the dreadfulness of it all. Once, after a string of the latter, an old member who seldom said anything just stood up and started praying for us all!

That seemed like the only worthwhile thing anyone had said all morning!

Some messages really did it for me; and some most certainly didn't -- but if I kvetched about any of those, someone would usually explain: "Maybe it wasn't addressed to you."

From Rufus Jones, *Quakers in the American Colonies*:

"The most important feature of 'the meeting' was the powerful sense of reality which pervaded it--the peculiar conviction which possessed the members of the group that they had found God.  They were no longer hearing about Him and about His covenants and dispensations in past ages; their own hearts were burning as they partook of the bread which He broke for them and as they drank at what seemed to them the wells of eternal life.  It was this assurance of reality, this exalting experience, which more than anything else propagated primitive Quakerism." p.139

"The speaking, when it came, was somewhat rhythmical and rapturous, loaded with emotion.  It was closely interwoven with a tissue of Scripture texts and phrases, bearing mainly on the central idea that God had now come to visit His people, to give them the Day Star experience in their hearts, and to be a present Guest in their midst." p.138

Thanks Bill for sharing this quote (below).  I just love it and have gone through periods at my meeting when I did not experience that "powerful sense of reality" pervading the meeting, and I have also gone through periods where I have experienced it.  That true "reality experience" is what makes the meeting alive and a true home that our own spirit is drawn to, so we may be aided to experience the Spirit/Christ/God in every moment of our lives.

My meeting is going through a powerful period for several years now of experiencing this reality with nearly every occasion we are together being a gathered experience, and it makes all the difference.  I think that is a way to know if we are experiencing what the earliest Quakers experienced.  If it is usually a "gathered" experience where the Spirit fills all in Oneness, we will just know this reality.  If it is just a personal experience, that's well and good - but there could be so much more.  Jesus prayed that his listeners experience a Oneness with the divine as he himself did.  He prayed this because he knew this Oneness is the true reality of existence - if we would but only recognize it and benefit from this divine connection.


William F Rushby said:

From Rufus Jones, *Quakers in the American Colonies*:

"The most important feature of 'the meeting' was the powerful sense of reality which pervaded it--the peculiar conviction which possessed the members of the group that they had found God.  They were no longer hearing about Him and about His covenants and dispensations in past ages; their own hearts were burning as they partook of the bread which He broke for them and as they drank at what seemed to them the wells of eternal life.  It was this assurance of reality, this exalting experience, which more than anything else propagated primitive Quakerism." p.139

"The speaking, when it came, was somewhat rhythmical and rapturous, loaded with emotion.  It was closely interwoven with a tissue of Scripture texts and phrases, bearing mainly on the central idea that God had now come to visit His people, to give them the Day Star experience in their hearts, and to be a present Guest in their midst." p.138

For my money, a gathered Meeting is one which gives impetus to Friends to tend to their business in a Spirit-inspired manner during the rest of the week (until next week's First Day). 

Per Quakernomics, Friends have typically had a lot of responsibility in society, at least in some chapters, and Meeting proved an anchoring experience wherein new instructions could be downloaded from the Zeitgeist, thanks to divine grace. 

Having it be a group meetup versus simply silent solo meditation on a mountain top or in a cell, was felt to accelerate and catalyze this spiritual process. 

Quaker business would proceed more smoothly as a consequence of these meetups, and society would be better served.  The networking at the rise of Meeting was likewise beneficial to those who showed up.

Hello, Howard  and others!

I think Rufus Jones describes the Quaker meeting experience of  earlier eras in an idealized way.  In truth, their meetings were not always so full of life, as ministers' journals would show.  A steady diet of  uninterrupted mountaintop experiences would not even be a healthy kind of spirituality.  Some low, stripped times are necessary for spiritual growth and discipline.

Jones' description does  show what a meeting for worship is capable of being, a living and corporate encounter with God.  He gives us a yardstick for assessing what happens nowadays in Friends meetings.  I won't pursue this line of thought further here.  Instead, readers can evaluate the situation for themselves!

Reply to Discussion

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

Rob Fensom updated their profile
17 hours ago
Rob Fensom posted photos
17 hours ago
Thomas Vosburg updated their profile
1st day (Sun)
Olivia Brangan updated their profile
1st day (Sun)
Keith Saylor posted a blog post

Freedom from the Reflective Nature in human relations. Being born into a different faculty.

The faculty of direct awareness of the impulse of Jesus Christ in the conscience.Freedom from the…See More
5th day (Thu)
Coleen Love replied to Coleen Love's discussion 'Standing up for the Word of God'
"School changes policy after parent complains that her child was told to remove a mask because of…"
4th month 10
Coleen Love replied to Coleen Love's discussion 'Standing up for the Word of God'
"I watched Rick Steves on PBS last night -- journeying through Egypt.    I thought it was…"
4th month 10
William F Rushby replied to Coleen Love's discussion 'Standing up for the Word of God'
"We need a God-centered faith rather than a self-centered or peer-centered one. …"
4th month 10

© 2021   Created by QuakerQuaker.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service