Sunday, January 29, 2017

In the Midst of Quaker Meeting Fragmentation


How can a transcendent movement seeking the true,
the good, the just, the right, the compassionate
be an active witness of "truth to power" and to billions of humans in the midst of more severe trials
and crises,
if its own
center
doesn't hold?


How can we bring peace to others if we are caught in the mire of conflict?

How do we 'wrestle' in a loving way with others who understand differently?

Spiritual movements including organized religion, both formal
and informal, traditional and creedal, and revolutionary
and inclusive, indeed ALL human philosophies, lifestances,
worldviews of serious thought and action,
seem given to divisive fragmentation--
to one extreme or another; almost always
leaving us unbalanced, often distorted in our quest for truth.


Yet the Quaker movement itself swings back-and-forth-and-diagonally to 4 sides--
4 different poles of Light, seldom seeming to walk in wholeness.

An excerpt by Howard Brinton:
--

CHAPTER 10
Quaker Thought and the Present

"Through the three centuries of Quaker history the four primary elements present
in all religion have at different times
exerted their influence in varying degrees."

"During the first century an a half mysticism and evangelicalism were
in balance in the group as a whole though many individuals tended to stress one or the other;

during the nineteenth century mysticism and evangelicalism were in conflict,
each pressing the other to extremes
in the group as a whole, though in many individuals the two were in balance;

and during the past half century rationalism and humanitarianism
have assumed greater prominence, sometimes becoming dominant,
though here again there
are some individuals in whom the four tendencies are in balance."

"The best type of religion is one in which
the mystical,
the evangelical,
the rational and
the social
are so related that each exercises a restraint on the others.

Too exclusive an emphasis on mysticism results in a religion which is individualistic, subjective and vague;

too dominant an evangelicalism results in religion which is authoritarian,
creedal and external;

too great an emphasis on rationalism results in a cold, intellectual religion which appeals only to the few;

too engrossing a devotion to the social gospel results in a religion which,
in improving the outer environment,
ignores defects of the inner life which cause the outer disorder."

"In Quakerism the optimum is not equality in rank of the four elements.
The mystical is basic."
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https://quakerbooks.org/products/friends-for-350-years-3445

Brinton goes on to warn against "vitalism which worships the life-force
in its biological sense"
and the other distortions of
true enLIGHTenment.

About the only point where I disagree with Brinton is when he says
the 4 qualities "each exercise a restraint on the others."

Look instead at the four poles--that when most bathed in the Light,
the 4 different aspects,
(parts of true spiritual reality, the Transcendent), can bring reconciliation,
giving a redeeming uplifting of each other
and are the Seed of essential fulfillment,
the true purpose and goal of human beings.


Read Friends for 300 Years or the book's update, Friends for 350 years

Be not only intellectually enlightened, but raised up in the Light
to bring reconciliation, justice, and truth to the world!

In the LIGHT,

Daniel Wilcox

6 comments:

Keith Saylor said...

It is curious to me the author does not recognize the Quaker way wherein those gathered in the sufficiency of the inshining Light in the conscious and conscience are come out of these "types" or forms ("the mystical, the evangelical, the rational, and the social"). Through the visitation of the inshining Light in our conscious and conscience, it is discovered unto us that we are no longer informed by, or idenitify with, the mystical, evangelical, rational, and/or Social. In this habitation, the inshining Light is our sole, complete, and sufficient Guide and Teacher without regard to mysticism, evangelicalism, rationalism, and society or any outward formal constructs. We will not find peace by seeking to a balance of these types. It is the very process of identifying with these types and seeking to balance them that is the source of fragmanetation. Once we lay them down and take up habitation in the inshining Light itself in itself we will know Peace again amongst the gathering of the Children of Light.

Daniel Wilcox said...

Thanks for standing and speaking.

I have a few questions:-)

#1 Is not "gathered in the sufficiency of the inshining Light..." an example of the "mystical" according to Brinton?

#2 Why are "the mystical, the evangelical, the rational, and the social" considered "types or forms..."
(Based on my own readings of Fox, Fell, Penn, Woolman, Mott, etc., it seems that they weren't against "forms" themselves, but only against empty forms.)

#3 The question is, will NWYM and NCYM listen to your witness?

Jim Schultz said...

The problem comes from a lack of unity. Properly followed Quaker Process should produce a unified course of conduct on a matter. That seldom happens simultaneously among a group of meetings if it happens at all at one of them. Then those who have successfully navigated the Quaker Process on an issue find themselves linked with a non-quaker group with apparently the same goal. At that time a bond of loyalty forms between comrades in arms and what was originally a result of Quaker Process merges into a social goal and results in partisanship that will not wait upon the delays Quaker Process requires in giving deference to the "laggards" but instead starts denigrating those left behind by various actions not amounting to anything other than bullying. So even in cases where the goal is correct the means becomes mean spirited and fragmentation occurs among the brethren. But then ever since Lyndon Johnson it's been accepted that the end justifies the means.

Daniel Wilcox said...

Thanks for giving your perspective. Though it goes way back to before Lyndon Johnson. I'm a retired American literature/history teacher and very well read in histories and biographies of the Civil War era. President Lincoln, the Fire-eaters of the South, Generals Grant, Sherman, Sheridan, Stonewall Jackson, etc. all committed many atrocities convinced the "end justifies the means." As have many other presidents and American leaders.

Do you think that NCYM and NWYM "successfully navigated the Quaker Process"

Since I'm only an observer from afar, (a Quaker at large), I don't know, but it seems that the huge conflicts in those meetings, and the ones several years ago in Indiana Yearly Meeting, and 25 years ago in California Yearly Meeting (back in the early 90s's, where my wife and I were active members)
have very little to do with Quaker ways.

At least one meeting of NCYM had gone Calvinist! Others seem to be non-Friend in theology and practice.

And the slightly below the surface hostility beneath the "forms" of Yearly Meeting structure seem very lacking in active listening and true commitment to seeking.

What do you think?

If you don't mind my asking are you a member of either meeting?

Jim Schultz said...

I'm not a history buff so I have no reason to doubt you. My recollection is that when LBJ was in power there was at least some discussion of whether the end justified the means. My observation now is that it's a given, at least outside of the pulpit and even there I don't know that it's hotly contested. I am a member of the NYYM so have no personal knowledge of what the various meetings have gone through prior to splitting but I believe that they are a result of a lack of spiritual leadership. Leadership grounded in the bible who fasted and prayed for the continuing revelation that Quakers talk about but clearly do not achieve.

Daniel Wilcox said...

Yes, throughout history, various factions of thinkers have wrestled with "whether the end justified the means." Usually, they come to the conclusion it does if done by US, but not if done by others.

Thanks for the dialog.