Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
Research Notes: TGMOTG
Charles Leslie on page 196 of his 1697 edition of The Snake in the Grass highlights one of George Fox's responses to one of William Thomas' reflections on Quakers. Fox's response can be read in context on page 237 of the 1596 edition of The Great Mystery of the Great Whore which reads in part:
The work of the Miniſters of the Goſpel was not to reflect upon perſons, or strike at creatures ...; but they struck at the power which captivated the creature, to the intent that the creature might come into the liberty of the ſons of God: And ſo thou that art reflecting upon perſons, doſt ſhew a marke of thy ſelfe to be a falſe Prophet; in ſtead of ſpeaking of the power, thou art reflecting upon perſons; and this reflecting upon perſons was never the way to beget to God; but that which ſtrikes at the power which captivates creatures, reacheth to the witneſſe in priſon, and brings people into unity with God and one another in the ſpirit, which is the bond of peace.
Source: The Great Mystery of the Great Whore, 1659, pg. 237 (x-reference with Charles Leslie's The Snake in the Grass. Second Edition. 1697. pg. 196). Original topography retained.
Leslie uses the occasion of these words to question and demonstrate his contention that Fox is here being hypocritical. Leslie then proceeds laying down examples of Fox and other Quaker leaders (of the time) participating in the very process of reflecting upon people.
My concern here is not that of Leslies'. My interest is in bearing down on Fox's words themselves and to use them to share my witness of the inshining immanent Presence in the consciousness and conscious.
Since I began reading Quaker texts many years ago, it has been ever with me there was and is an experience hidden between the lines in some early Quaker testimonies to a particular experience. And, in fact, this experience is hidden because of the way some early Quakers testified to their witness. The quotation of Fox's words above is an example of a testimony to a witness that gets buried under the words Fox uses.
These words of Fox come close to expressing the core of the motion and experience of immanent Presence itself in upon my consciousness and conscience.
When Fox writes, The work of the Miniſters of the Goſpel was not to reflect upon perſons... he bears down on the a fundamental experience discovered to me through the inshining motion of immanent Being in my consciousness and conscience; that of, being drawn out of the process of reflect thought to guide and inform my relationships and interactions with people. Over my life, it is being discovered to me, experientially, a way of relating to people that is bound to and informed by the direct experience and movement of the inshining Presence of the Spirit of Christ itself in itself. The degree through which I am in relation to people through reflections about them is ever diminished as am I come into and embrace the Life itself in itself.
Fox writes further: ... they struck at the power which captivated the creature... Here Fox is stating there is something that has captivated or enchanted the person and that something is his concern that the ...creature might come into the liberty of the ſons of God. It is not so much the person himself but the power that has charmed or which is conjured in the person and which blocks or hinders the direct experience of immanent Being within his consciousness and conscience.
But what is that power cutting off direct and sustained awareness of immanent Being? He tells the reader that ...reflecting upon perſons, doſt ſhew a marke of thy ſelfe to be a falſe Prophet. The power that diminishes the experience of the motion and movement of the inshining Spirit in a person is when he engages in the process of reflecting upon others. He extrapolates even further by suggesting the very act of participation in the process of reflecting upon others is a marke of a false Prophet. But wait, Leslie uses the occasion of Fox's calling those who reflect on others as false Prophets as prima facie evident that Fox is, in the very act of calling those who reflect on others false prophet, participating in the process of reflective thought and thereby being a false Prophet himself. And this gets right at my concern over the testimony to the witness of the power of God being hidden behind outward ideological reflections like false Prophet.
I doubt that Fox would concur with Leslies' criticism of his calling others false Prophets. I suspect Fox would argue he his only exposing, by calling others false Prophets, the power of God is lacking in them to extent they engage in the process of reflective thought to relate to other people. It must be considered, What is a false Prophet but nothing other than one who falsely professes the gift of prophecy or divine inspiration? So, in essence, when Fox states those who participate in the process of reflect thought to relate and interact with people are out of the power of God and not under the motion of immanent Presence, he is in essence being repetitive ... saying, those who engage in reflective thought are engaged in reflective thought.
There is a sense here in Fox's words, and in those of other Early Quakers, that the very process of relating to other people through reflective thought is, in itself, the problem and resting in the direct experience of the inshining Light itself discovers to us the way out of or resolution to (even though not always sustained) the problem of reflective thought in matters human relationships and interactions.
When I read Fox's reflection on those who reflect upon others as false Prophets, it strikes me the very act of calling others false prophets undermined his witness to the bond of Peace by deflecting away from the Power itself in people and engaging in a form of conjuration with the reflective construct ---- false Prophet; making false prophets the issue and not reflective thought. But that is the nature of reflective thought; to captivate others in the reflection rather then the thing itself in itself.
When the Minister of the Gospel testifies to and sustains the witness of the Power of the inshining Light in their consciousness and conscience and being drawn out of the process of reflective thought to guide and inform relationships, they get at the core of spiritual consciousness. This simple testimony to immanent Being itself in itself in the conscience of men and women is the bond of Peace experienced and liberty from the prison of human being, relationships, and interactions guided and informed by the power reflective thought.