From John Woolman (1741)

I went to meetings in an awful frame of mind, and endeavored to be inwardly acquainted with the language of the true Shepherd. And one day, being under a strong exercise of spirit, I stood up, and said some words in a meeting, but not keeping close to the divine opening, I said more than was required of me and being soon sensible to my error, I was afflicted in mind some weeks, without any light or comfort, even to that degree that I could take satisfaction in nothing. I remembered God and was troubled, and in the depth of my distress he had pity upon me, and sent the Comforter. I then felt forgiveness for my offence, and my mind became calm and quiet, being truly thankful to my gracious Redeemer for his mercies. And after this, feeling the spring of divine love opened, and a concern to speak, I said a few words in a meeting in which I found peace. This I believe was about six weeks from the first time, and as I was thus humbled and disciplined under the cross, my understanding became more strengthened to distinguish the language of the pure spirit which inwardly moves upon the heart, and taught me to wait in silence sometimes many weeks together, until I felt that rise which prepares the creature to stand like a trumpet, through which the Lord speaks to his flock. John Woolman (1741)

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Comment by Forrest Curo on 5th mo. 3, 2020 at 12:11am

Jesus thought it worth the risk of his life to announce that the Kingdom was approaching. Wikipedia makes a muddle of what "The Kingdom" means, by throwing a list of the doctrines of various churches at it, but it clearly meant something important. You said that a Quaker led by God to speak serves as an ambassador for it -- and yet you'd rather not try to say what it means.

Instead you persistently confuse what I say about the Quietist ideal Woolman strove to impose on himself -- with the actual person Woolman. Does that confusion serve any honest purpose?

As to that Kingdom -- NT Wright's _The New Testament and the People of God_ might be a better place to start than Wikipedia?

Comment by William F Rushby on 5th mo. 3, 2020 at 5:47am

Forrest wrote: "You said that a Quaker led by God to speak serves as an ambassador for it -- and yet you'd rather not try to say what it means."

And again: "Instead you persistently confuse what I say about the Quietist ideal Woolman strove to impose on himself -- with the actual person Woolman. "

Forrest, instead of dealing with a somewhat abstract "I said" and "you said" dialogue, I think we need to examine what John Woolman said!!!  I began with a narrative excerpt of what he actually experienced in ministry.  He states that he felt "an exercise of spirit" to rise at a particular worship occasion and offer words of ministry.  Then he was shown that he had outrun "the divine opening" he had been given and it left him "troubled" and in "distress".  He labored inwardly over this for several weeks until his "gracious Redeemer" gave him peace and calm.

He was then enabled to speak in that authority the Lord gives when one is called to speak in His name: "I felt that rise which prepares the creature to stand like a trumpet, through which the Lord speaks to his flock."   We don't know what he actually uttered on this second occasion, but it was apparently under a sense of Divine authority to speak for God!

Unless you can show otherwise, this is an example of Woolman "the actual person!"  And he doesn't sound like a "zombie".  My next move will be to read Kershner's essay on "Mysticism and Revelation in John Woolman's Theology" in Quaker Religious Thought to see if he sheds any further light on the subject.

If you choose to reply, please show what you are claiming by actual quotations from Woolman.  NT Wright is a reputable scholar, but we need to tether our remarks to Woolman's own narrative.

Comment by William F Rushby on 5th mo. 3, 2020 at 5:54am
Comment by Forrest Curo on 5th mo. 3, 2020 at 10:31am

To criticize a traditional ideal of what a proper human relation to God should look like -- will not please you, no matter what I say. It certainly does not improve your thinking or your stratagems of argument.

It isn't improving me either. If you want to know, where is everybody gone? -- and why? -- My take is that two things are required to make a discussion site worthwhile:

1) There has to be some degree of disagreement, to avoid a "You're so right!" -- "Yes, isn't that true?" stagnation. There's nothing to be learned from people no different from ourselves.

2) The prevailing response to disagreement can't be too adversarial. "You're so wrong!" -- "What a crock!" doesn't tend to encourage learning anything but "How can I defend myself?"  I'm good enough at that; I should know -- and it's as good a source of truth as two liars arguing their cases in court.

Sorry; I simply have better things to do.

Comment by William F Rushby on 5th mo. 3, 2020 at 11:12am

Forrest:  My impression is that you don't really want to engage with the actual John Woolman.

My apologies for wasting your time!

Comment by Keith Saylor on 5th mo. 3, 2020 at 11:55am

Hello William,


Thank you for your question. I cannot say what I am about to write will help you better understand my words. I any case, I will make the effort out of gratitude for your query.


Woolman writes, in the first sentence if the quotation, that he went to meetings in an awful frame of mind. I don't know the context in which he was writing, so, I assume (risky I know) he means awful in the sense of reverence and fear and that he sought the language of the Shepherd, inwardly. Just this sentence alone is precious.


He then shares with us that on one day, under the exercise of the spirit, he spoke some words. However, it came upon him (through the motion of the spirit) that, in his speaking, he had overstepped the prerogative of the spirit within him by not keeping close to the divine opening. This action of not keeping close to the divine opening resulted in his being afflicted and distressed through his literal experience of being without any light.


Woolman experienced a waning, to a significant degree, of the presence and awareness of the spirit within and when his awareness of the presence of the Comforter returned, his distress and affliction (over the waning of the light because of his action of not keeping close to the opening) resolved into the restoration of calm and quiet. He experienced the spring of divine love opened and a flowing of the cool water of the spirit over his afflicted being and conscience and opened to speak again after some weeks.


Woolman testifies that he was humbled and disciplined through his literal experience of the impulse or motion of the spirit waning in his awareness as a result of his actions and interaction in Meeting that day. I am in fellowship with his experience of and being tender to the literal waxing, waning, or harmony of the immanent appearance of the spirit of Christ. Woolman shares with us not just his experience of the waning operation of the spirit in his conscience to humble and discipline, but also the spirits waxing impulse in his restoration and harmony in his relationship to the immanent or inshining being of Christ.


I am attempting to highlight or bring forward the intuitive nature of being guided and informed by and through the literal experience of the operation of the waxing, waning, and harmony (in the awareness of) of the spirit itself in itself in the conscience. Woolman was not humbled or disciplined intellectually through reflective thought. It was his literal experience of the waning of the awareness of the presence of the spirit in his conscience that humbled and disciplined. This is the fit relative to Woolman's ministry in that the language of the Shepherd is the intuitive experience of the motion of the spirit in the conscience rather then of the nature of reflective thought guiding and informing his actions relative to the openings of the spirit in Meeting.


This literal experience of the humbling and disciplining or freeing motion of the spirit through the relative waxing, waning, harmony or stasis of the spirit's appearance (unmediated through intellectual constructs or reflective thought) in the conscience is, for some, the primary authority to guiding and informing whether or how much is said relative to a particular opening.


I hope this helps move our discussion forward. Please feel free to press or query me further.

Comment by William F Rushby on 5th mo. 3, 2020 at 4:45pm

Thanks, Keith!  What I see in your comments is a reliance on the intuitive mode of knowing, rather than reasoning. Do I have that right?  When I get back to Kershner's essay, I want to look for the intuitive as a (the?) key to understanding Woolman's thought process.

I appreciate the effort you put into your comments!

Comment by William F Rushby on 5th mo. 5, 2020 at 7:03am

Forrest Curo wrote: "To criticize a traditional ideal of what a proper human relation to God should look like -- will not please you, no matter what I say. It certainly does not improve your thinking or your stratagems of argument."

Actually, I learned from Forrest how to look at Divine inspiration in a new way.  So, in some sense, his reaction did yield new insight for me, and I regret that my defense of the traditional understanding seemed so adversarial to him.

I really don't participate in QQ to argue with others.  That's not what my life is about.

Comment by Forrest Curo on 5th mo. 5, 2020 at 5:01pm

Seriously, I need to write something that isn't limited to what who did in the 18th Century.

---

I've learned some worthwhile things from you as well. (Neither one of us is seeking argument per se; but when something doesn't agree with us, we don't agree with it either, and say so with all due vehemence. Little kittens in a litter learn to velvet, or grow up playfully clawing their people...)

Comment by Keith Saylor on 5th mo. 6, 2020 at 11:23am

Hello William,

This morning, I completed my first reading of the Kershner piece your referenced; Would you mind if I insert some notes here related to my reading of the article?

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