Hyper-individualism and the Testimony of and Witness to the Sufficiency of Presence itself.

"Hyper-individualism is the displacement of communal commitments which are replaced by individual expression.  The best example I can think of in Quaker history is the replacement of the Peace Witness as a Communal Commitment with the individual conscience of members.  Whereas in the past members of the Quaker Meetings could be 'written out of the Meeting' for violating the Peace Witness, or living a life that was felt to be contrary to that witness, today that Witness is left up to each individual to interpret to their own satisfaction."

"From this individualistic perspective the purpose of a Church, or Quaker Meeting, is to support my individual needs and projects, rather than the purpose being for the individual to be transformed by the Communal Commitments of the Society."

From: Jim Wilson’s post on the thread “Becoming the Community the Spirit would have us be.” page 9.

I am grateful to Jim  for clarifying his use of the term hyper-individualism. I have held this in the light since the day it was written. His words have been very helpful and edifying. I see more clearly why the author has characterized me as hyper-individualistic; even though we disagree.

It is suggested the immediate experience of Presence anchoring the conscious and informing the conscience without regard to outward institutional, creedal, communal, traditional, and theological, forms is hyper-individualistic. In other words, some suggest that the witness of and testimony to the sufficiency of Presence itself without regard to outward forms “is the displacement of communal commitments which are replaced by individual expression.”

It is correct that the experience of the inward Light as sufficient unto itself does displace outward communally expired commitments. In this Light, outwardly agreed upon codified expressions by some individuals within an outward communal context become irrelevant and are replaced by the inward presence and direction of the Light itself. The inward Light itself replaces outward communal forms and guides each person directly and without the mediation of creeds, doctrines, traditions, etc.

As the inward Light illuminates and informs conscience and conscience the result is that outward communal forms lose value because they are replaced by the inward form of the Light itself. Being and consciousness in the Light is absolutely not “individual expression.” This life of which we speak and to which we point is a sufficient replacement of communal forms precisely because it is not “individual expression.” Rather this life is the redirection of the very foundation of consciousness in that the inward Form of the Light itself rules and guides rather than outward forms. The characterization of this experience or way of being, as “hyper-individual” is misplaced.

Many individuals that do not know or recognize or experience the measure of inward Light within them go about living a life guided by their own ego nature. That is, their conscious and identity is anchored in outward abstract intellectual and emotional forms and their conscience is guided by these outward forms whether they be religious, secular, political, or social, or a combination of these. These people find purpose and direction through their identity with these forms and their conscience is informed by them so that outwardly imposed communal commitments that do not match the outward constructs they identify with take the place of communal forms.

To those of us who are guided by the Light directly, the fact the there are people who selfishly go about forcing their ego world over against communal commitments is no excuse for adherence to a set of outward creeds established communally.

Those of us guided by and anchored in the Light itself slide right in between the “hyper-individualism” and “communal” assessment without notice or mention. The goodness of adherence to outward communal forms is established and those people who live by the outward ego nature alone is acknowledged but not those of us who, by our adherence to inward Presence itself, are independent of the outward ego impulse (nature) and the outward communal impulse (nature). We, by our very nature, are not of the individualistic ego nature, because our conscious and identity is not of the impulse to outward forms, whether they be communal and individual. We gathering around adherence to the inward Light itself. The Light is our rule and authority and herein is the fundamental difference. We are free from the outward ego and communal natures (they are essentially of the same outward nature). The abstract bifurcation of “individualism” and “communalism” is essentially a division of the outward impulse that finds identity, being, consciousness, meaning, in outward expired forms. In essence, “individualism” as defined is of the same nature as “communal.” The difference is merely a matter of numbers, however, whether communal or individual, each are anchored and informed by commitment to outward forms. What is meant here is a group of individuals gathered together around and in adherence to a particular set of outward forms and are transformed by their communal commitment is essentially no different than an individual or very small group of individuals who adhere to a particular set of outward forms and are transformed.

Those of us gathered in and through the inward illumination of the Light itself, sense Being in direct inward experience of Presence itself, not in outward individual or communal forms and commitments. We act, not out of adherence to a particular individual or communal form, but in the experience of presence itself so that it is not so much a question of what we may be doing but whether we are living Presence. We refrain from doing something, if, in doing it, Presence is not sustained or is lost (repentance). This is the nature of Being that is Present. In watchfulness, when we glean that a particular activity, like shooting someone, can only be accomplished by stepping outside direct experience of Presence itself (leading), we refrain from the activity; not because some outward communal creed or outward feeling or ideology from our ego nature told us to refrain, but because, to do it, means Presence fades in the activity of accomplishing the task! This way of being is not merely a distinction in numbers as that of the “individual” and “communal” abstraction; it is a completely different posture toward identity, meaning, life, being, and consciousness.

I am in agreement with the assessment that human being experientially anchored in Presence itself displaces outward communal creeds and institutions.  There is no commitment to outward communal creeds, traditions, etc. because being and identity anchored in and informed inwardly by Presence itself no longer needs the things of the outward impulse to sustain and nurture meaning, purpose, identity, and consciousness. Those of us living by and gathering in the activity of the Light itself are transformed directly by the inward impulse of the presence of Christ. Outwardly expired communal commitments are displaced and replaced by inwardly inspired commitment to the Light itself anchoring our conscious and in-forming (not out-forming) our conscience. Far from being “hyper-individualistic” and reflecting individual outward forms, we are essentially reflecting that which is larger than outwardly established individual or communal forms.  Our society is not anchored in outward commitments but in our shared measure and illumination of the Light itself. The former is of the first (expired) covenant the latter is of the second (inspired) covenant.

To lump a life sustained and nurtured by the inspiration of Presence itself with individuals who are sustained and nurtured by outward forms and who establish the supremacy of those forms and their realization at the expense of outward forms established by a group of people, misses the mark . The latter hyper-individualism is not essentially different than adherence to outwardly established communal forms. It is merely a difference in numbers but not in kind, that is, essential nature. Both find meaning and purpose in outward forms and commitment to those forms. Hyper-communalism is of the same nature as hyper-individualism. Both find meaning and purpose in and through adherence to outwardly expired individual or communal commitments. Being transformed by outward communal commitments of the Society is not essentially different than being transformed by individual commitments.

The Children of Light gather and find meaning and purpose in and through commitment to active inspiring Presence itself and that direct and immediate eternal inspiring is sufficient in all things and circumstances to guide and teach whether in a group of 500,000 or as an individual.

Views: 189

Comment by Forrest Curo on 10th mo. 14, 2015 at 6:36pm

For people who don't recognize the objective actuality of Spirit, the issue appears to be one of

"objective" aka "communal"

vs

"subjective" aka "individual" --

but to the extent that any individual is attuned by the Spirit, what they express is precisely objective -- whereas the norms of a collective body, if the individuals within that body are not thus attuned -- is simply a diffuse cloud of related subjective interpretations of some external reference.

Such an external reference itself may be quite objective, but if it's anything but Spirit, it's an idol and any group relying on it are like blind people led by the blind.

Spirit is neither 'internal' nor 'external', but can be manifest in both realms...

Sometimes we seem like an ensemble of deaf musicians, wondering how people know what tune they're playing without reading sheet music. And thinking that anyone playing a different part must necessarily be playing a different piece.

Anyone who doesn't consciously recognize the Spirit at work in and around them finds this kind of talk bewildering and crazy-making: "What, they're seeing ghosts?" It's fortunate that God also works below the surface of awareness;  and isn't limited to what we know how to say.

Comment by Jim Wilson on 10th mo. 15, 2015 at 10:42am

Greetings Keith:

 As usual we see things differently.  I have no desire to change your mind; you have your view and it seems to be working for you.  I just wish you could be more generous with those who see this differently.  Here are a few comments on your post:

 I am not a dispensationalist.  When you say, “Our society is not anchored in outward commitments but in our shared measure and illumination of the Light itself.  The former is of the first (expired) covenant the latter is of the second (inspired) covenant,” I think you are expressing a subtly anti-Jewish view.  This is the view of supersessionism; the idea that a later spiritual understanding completely erases the efficacy of a previous spiritual understanding.  I realize that many of the early Quakers held to supersessionist views.  (I believe it is a part of their Puritan heritage.)  I part company with them on this point of theology.  It is my view that Jewish spirituality is not displaced by the teachings of Jesus; rather they are reinterpreted and re-presented for non-Jewish people.  This is a big issue and a complicated one.  Here I can only state how I see this.  My view is that there is only one covenant and that is the covenant of love.

 Regarding your analysis of the place that communal commitments hold in spirituality, again your presentation simply does not resonate with my experience.  Nor does it seem to reflect the way that great Sages, Saints, and Teachers of humanity have understood the role of form and communal commitments.  Let me illustrate with a few examples:

 The Buddha:  He lived about 2500 years ago.  One of his projects, after attaining enlightenment, was the formation of a monastic community (sangha).  A full third of the Buddhist canon is devoted to the rules governing the monastic sangha.  This section is called the ‘Vinaya’, or ‘Monastic Discipline’.  The Buddha put in a lot of energy and time in establishing this form and it has continued down to the present day.  It has been a vessel for countless people in assisting them on their spiritual path.

 Confucius: One of the Confucian Classics is called ‘The Book of Ritual’ (Li Chi).  It is a presentation of various kinds of traditional rituals ranging from etiquette to family altar practices.

 Saint Benedict: During a time of cultural breakdown and chaos Benedict retreated from the secular world and established a monastic community that followed his famous ‘Rule’.  It is one of the most influential documents of the west.  The Rule of Benedict is followed by large numbers of people today.

 Jesus:  When Jesus was asked how we should prayer He gave them instruction which included the Lord’s Prayer.  In other words, Jesus offered people a form to follow, memorize, and repeat.

 God: As it says in chapter 1 of Genesis, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.  And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.  And the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.  And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.  And God saw the light, that it was good . . .”

 I could add George Fox and other early Quakers to this list and their creation of a stable form, a vessel, for transmitting the teaching down to us.  What a wonderful gift!

 In other words, I do not see the experience of the inner light as displacing communal commitments and forms.  Rather I see the inner light as illuminating their source.  Just as the light of the sun does not displace the flowers in the garden; rather the sun illuminates the garden, nourishes the garden, and allows the flowers to blossom.  In a similar way, the inner light illuminates the forms of spirituality, nourishes the soul, and allows it to blossom on the field of grace.

 Naturally, you do not see it the way that I do.  Fair enough.

 Best wishes.

 

Comment by Howard Brod on 10th mo. 15, 2015 at 2:48pm

I for one could not be part of a liberal Friends meeting that either expected or implied that I should adhere to the communal discernment of that meeting.  I probably wouldn't have made it as a Quaker a hundred years ago.  And I don't think I am so different than many other 21st century spiritual seekers.

We have two liberal Quaker meetings in my town - both part of the same yearly meeting.  One adheres to the yearly meeting's faith and practice and Quaker norms and traditions - pretty tightly (even though the yearly meeting doesn't insist on that).  The other views itself on a communal spiritual journey that is not beholden to the yearly meeting's faith and practice; nor Quaker norms and traditions.  It is Quaker in that it does embrace 'expectant waiting' (unprogrammed) worship and Quaker discernment processes.  But that's as deep as the 'Quaker' goes.  I would say the first meeting considers itself Quaker because of all the Quaker outward identifiers that it wholeheartedly embraces.  And the other considers itself Quaker because it believes it has captured the very early spirit of Quakerism which can speak to all people in our day. 

Friends in town choose the meeting that resonates with them; driving miles out of the way to attend the meeting of their choice.  Many live close to one meetinghouse - but choose to go to the other.

I like the meeting that emphasizes the direct individual interaction with the Light over the one that is concerned about communal Quaker forms (traditions) - for several reasons; reasons that would drive many Quakers crazy. 

For one, I love the outward diversity of the meeting population.  The diversity of the ego-driven minds of Friends in that meeting is broad.  Therefore, there is a diversity that might drive typical liberal Quakers crazy.  And I don't mean just theological diversity, which liberal Quakers can usually handle just fine.  There is political diversity, and even diversity in the application of the Quaker testimonies in daily life. The testimonies are considered to be spiritual principles, rather than directives for unified action.

For this meeting, ego driven diversity does not concern it.  The emphasis of the life of the meeting (when at its best) is squarely on the Love and Light that is our true reality and unity.  I would say that most in the meeting regard outward modes and beliefs as merely "props" for our egos as we experience the manifestation of that heavenly Love and Light in this physical world.  The props are not the reality and so in the end are rather inconsequential from a spiritual point of view.

Does this meeting ever arrive at a 'sense of the meeting' for the communal support or adoption of a common outward action?  Yes, of course it does - occasionally (but not near as often as most liberal Quaker meetings).  However, it does not appear to be concerned if we are unable to do that.  And to me, this meeting life for this particular Quaker meeting, is a model of how we should share Love and Light with everyone we meet in the world as we go about our daily lives.

The welcomed freedom of individual outward action and thought is not only humbling; it is also eye-opening; providing many opportunities for growth in the heaven of Love and Light that is our true home even now in this life.

Comment by Keith Saylor on 10th mo. 15, 2015 at 4:43pm

Jim, it is certainly a fact that religious leaders throughout the ages right up until today have established and are establishing outward forms and practices to rule and guide those who follow. It is just a given. It is obvious. Are you suggesting I am unaware of this fact?

The act of establishing outward communal forms is based on another fact that normally human being or consciousness must have outward mirrors or icons through which to sustain consciousness. Normal consciousness exists in the mirrors of outward form.

It is very easy to illustrate and experience this fact in words. Imagine your self with no eyes to see things, ears to hear things, nerves to touch things, nose to smell things, or mouth to taste things. Now imagine your self with no thoughts, feelings, or desires. What is there? Who is there? Human being bound to the outward impulse of the bodily nature answer there is no-thing left. I have just asked you to imagine the death of the body. The fear of death is the fear of lose of consciousness. The bodily nature binds consciousness to outward forms.

Many of us have come to experience directly a consciousness that is not of the bodily nature. We experience what or who is and what or who sustains even upon the destruction of the physical body. The sting of death (fear of lose of consciousness) is gone. We experience in this world of outward forms the eternal that is in between all outward forms. It is not that we do not enjoy outward forms, it is that we are free of being that is needful of them to sustain consciousness. 

There are those of us who are sharing a different message; a message that each of us have within us being that is free and independent of the outward bodily nature. We hold within us freedom from the mirrors of the outward consciousness. We encourage people to imagine a life and consciousness that is sustaining in all things and contexts ... even unto the death of the body. 

It is such a blessing to know a spiritual existence that is not anchored to outward forms established and imposed by other outward people ...  even the outward person of Jesus. Who said he died so we may know eternal life. It is such a blessing to be in such a way that my actions are not filtered through individual and communal outward forms.

In this new life and way of consciousness, I do things or do not do things based upon whether Living Presence in my conscious and conscience sustains or fades. This life lead by Presence itself is so refreshing and pure. I do not look to outward ways or people; Presence itself governs within my conscious and conscience in the sustaining or fading!!! There is unmediated and unrefracted Being guiding my actions from within my conscience that is larger than my ego bodily nature. I remember so clearly the day I first tasted this new life by experiencing the dimming of the inward Light in my conscious. My actions clouded the Light and the candle dimmed and, as I repented (which is merely the act of entering again into Presence itself) and adjusted my actions, the Light blazed forth again within my conscious and conscience. I did not adjust my actions because of an outward rule, principle, or teacher. I adjusted my actions because my inward teacher faded and that was the teaching itself and that teaching was sufficient. I started on the long journey of learning adherence to that inward Presence itself and not the things of the outward impulse toward external religious and secular forms. 

I cannot overstate what a fundamental difference there is between a life guided and informed by whether Presence sustains in the particular activities of life and a life guided and informed by outwardly imposed rules and principles. 

This life guided and informed by the sustained experience of inward Light is the grace of living in our eternal heavenly heritage ... now that is truly a gift of wonder Jim. 

Comment by Keith Saylor on 10th mo. 15, 2015 at 5:12pm

Howard, I so look forward to your writings on your Meeting and the Yearly Meeting. I read and reread them over and over again. I have visited many Meetings around the country. I look forward to the day when I can sit on that beautiful Meeting house porch you attend and greet you in person. I hope the day may come soon when I just show up.

Comment by Keith Saylor on 10th mo. 15, 2015 at 5:16pm

Oh, Howard, from what I've read, you may not have survived in a Quaker context 100 years ago. But you would have been welcomed and embraced by all during the first 25 years of the gathering of the Children of Light. 

Comment by Howard Brod on 10th mo. 15, 2015 at 5:39pm

I have so many worldly complexities in my life, Keith; but when I read your experiences I am reminded of the real life that is here NOW for us all no matter what "props" are spinning wildly around us.  And my heart returns to the place of Love and Light and nothing else is consequential; all is in perspective.

Thank you for sharing!

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