Saturday, July 29, 2023

Why Be a Quaker? Transcendent open worship--a powerful example from Pacific Yearly Meeting

Our worldwide Society of Friends has seriously splintered in the last 150 years into very different camps, most of whom have very little in common with the early founders of the spiritual movement. Quite a few of us have often pondered over this severe quandary.* Many books and conferences over the years have struggled...

Instead of dwelling in that past, let us be Present now. Here is an actual Transcendent experience of the Light at a Pacific Yearly Meeting for worship in California.


Drowned in family tragedy, despairing, distraught--
that morning earlier;
thus, down encumbered,
he came to worship meeting, but not speaking
of his family’s severe circumstance, kept hidden;

But in the midst
of open expectant communion, Transcendent Light
shown forth in a stranger’s sudden
a cappella spiritual chorus--
a deep songing deepening within;
intense meaning lifted us gathered in communion--
vivid encouraging Hope;

That sacred chorus didn’t take away our shattered glass
lives, nor end many distraught
circumstances and tragedies--
Oh, what Hope fulled within.

In the LIGHT,

Dan Wilcox

In a later article, I could give my own understanding
of some of the complex series of tragic evidences of how it came that the Society kept breaking into contrary groups...
or of the equally troubling 'quietistic' era before that when there were many rigid religious restrictions on Quakers, including that no Quaker could marry a non-Quaker and remain in good standing.

We are in this sometimes disagreeable patchwork/collage called Friends, Quakerism, and
on why to continue to move toward the Light within this small 380-year-old movement.

1. For me personally, I visited a Friends meeting one Sunday and was drawn to its less-ritual, more open experiential worship.
Side Note: Besides the experiential factor that I came to Quakerism because I was a conscientious objector to the VietNam War serving my drafted time working in a mental hospital.

This was with other pacfists in the Fall of 1967 near Philadelphia, PA. I was helping pay the rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Trevose, PA. 3 Mennonite/Brethren C.O.'s slept in the bedroom on cots, me on a mat behind the couch in the living room:-).

I greatly valued creativity, openness, experiential spirituality, so one can see why the Society of Friends meeting was a wonderful new experience.

Before being drafted, I had been a Creative Writing major at Long Beach State in California. Now in September 1967, I was newly arrived in Pennsylvania near Washington's Crossing, and wanted to find a new church.

I had admired the Quakers in the news 6 years before back in 1961 for protesting against nuclear weapons, so I decided to give their meeting a visit.
After one Sunday going to a nearly empty meeting for worship near Newtown in September, I eventually began regularly attending worship in downtown Philly at Backbench Young Adult Friends gathering. Though as a mental health worker, I worked 10 days on, 4 days off so could only take the L-Train into downtown Philly 2 times a month.

How powerful those times of OPEN WORSHIP were!
I’m not into forms, not sharply, rigidly, traditionally, ritually-structured forms. As all artists and writers know, “form and freedom” are 2 contrary characteristics of any creative endeavor.

One needs both freedom and form. Not either or. Too much freedom, chaos and havoc and destruction rule, too much form, slavery and rigidity and still-death reign.
Quaker meeting for worship seemed the perfect combination of freedom and form!

2. While actual spiritual experiences--vivid stories that happen to us humans don't prove our views are correct, there is GREAT inherent worth in such transcendent experiences,
as shown with the poetic sharing of the Light-filled worship one First Day at Pacific Yearly Meeting in California.

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Long reflection on Life and natural objects: a Beachcomber of Beauty

a beachcomber of Beauty

a why-ing kid

with go-vision eyes stretching
and out,

meandering rocky-rubble farm roads
and roaming over creeks, through timber strands,
brief forest, and out across pasture lands--

I discovered beautiful bits and lumps that matter
--pebbles, stones, and rocks
(especially when wet)
and odd ugly ones, to boot

on fun nature hikes
wide-eyed adventures--
outside of our minor village
in 50’s southeast Nebraska;

Put those bright objects, small hunks, in my pockets
where they lay heavy
or in my overloaded baggish hands,
carrying them home,
my free treasures of early youth

enlarging my throng of wonder
in my pine-walled basement room--
Yes, I became a rock-mongrel mutt;

And later found others, mostly bits of minerals,
my boyhood keepers
in the Black Hills, Rockies, Sierras,
and a small chunk of copper ore
from an open pit mine in Bisbee, Arizona,
and a few parched white bones from
a long-ago bison jump
near Lame Dear, Montana.

I became a boarder of pebbles, quartzes, feldspars, agates,
granite bits, and mica, sea-glass, iron pirate,
and who-know unknowns,
and fascinating shells and other sea life from 3 coasts--

a beachcomber of minor Beauty,
a voyager through this washed-up-n-down of life,
Adrift explorer, searcher, curious wanderer.

But now in receding elder age, mutated
by a stroke of bad luck,
I hesitently hobble about with a rolling walker alone
along Pismo sand dunes and Morro Rock shores
still searching, seeking for more special riff-raff,
to add to my ‘treasured things,’
our rooms’ shelves;

Here they still lay waiting
inert for another
I/It encounter...

Oh, the aesthetic depth of minor things,
bits that matter which sometime
into present

Yes, objects of beauty that exist in Deep Time...
In not too many years,
I will leave them behind;
and those long-enduring things will
exist others of the future.

And this long rumination of my life-long collections
Reminds me of a pebbled thought of beauty for present living--

We humans get washed up
on this shore of existence,
surrounded and crowded

by things and circumstances
we didn’t choose--

We all get roughed down and polished by adversity...

But the wonder of our human brain’s neural plasticity--
is we all get to choose
how we respond to life’s circumstances,
harsh trials, and horrific tragedies--

Yes, until our death, we get to create anew
Each moment,
If only briefly...


What has washed up on your shore today?

What beautiful pebbled moment of wonder?

Or what irritant, ache, troubling circumstance, or tragedy
has gotten lodged in your
oyster mind and heart?

What can you do to turn this troubled moment into a precious

In the LIGHT,

Dan Wilcox

UPDATED 7/19/23

Wednesday, July 12, 2023


Part 5 Moving Toward Vegetarianism

There are many health reasons and moral reasons for all humans to become non-meat eaters. (See my previous blog articles on this controversy for the reasons.)

So, ideally, not eating meat would be good for humans.

But it all gets more complicated—like so many controversies--when one gets down to the real daily level of life for specific humans.

For instance, years ago, I decided to try out being a vegan like Murray Rose, the famous Olympic gold medals winner. I read a biography on his amazing life.

Very bad, tragic results however! I lost 50 pounds and suffered malnutrition! Was put under a health doctor’s care who was a vegan, and she tried various methods to help me. None worked.

Another medical profession, head of the hospital in Pennsylvania where I worked told me that veganism wasn’t beneficial, for me at least, but the entire hour she talked to me, she chain-smoked!

Clearly, it seemed lucidly obvious that I shouldn’t take her advice. Why was she smoking cigarette packs a day as a medical professional?!


Just because, the hospital chain-smoker wasn’t wise in her choices didn’t automatically mean that then my vegan health doctor was correct her views.

It turned out that both were drastically wrong.

While the famous Olympic star Murray Rose won gold medals as a vegan, that didn’t mean that everyone else ought to follow his views.
Some humans can’t digest plant protein well, some can’t get enough protein from vegetables, fruits, and nuts alone.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that everyone ought to go whole-hog in meat eating, either. And then there is also, ‘foul’ food.

I’m am still a work in progress, especially after the very severe stroke of the spine I got 4 years ago.

While I quit pork years ago (how can anyone continue to eat a sentient animal smarter than dogs and cats?!)...
And in the last 15 or so years ago, I stopped eating beef.

Not that I am harming beef raisers. I grew up in rural southeast Nebraska where we got ¾ a cow every year from my grandparents and have worked on a huge ranch as a cowhand in Montana, so I’ve done my bit for cattle owners and for being from the Beef State (though I am still a Corn Husker;-)—that’s the other mascot of my childhood home. Go Big Red!

At present, I am a cheesy-fishatarian, on my way to get back to the Garden;-)

More in the next section...

In the LIGHT

Dan Wilcox

Tuesday, July 11, 2023



2. EVIDENCE based in the scientific method and facts about the cosmos is the authority.

3. DEEP TIME-SPACE is the true story/narrative.

4. MORAL REALISM is the true way of action.

5. LIVING for the ‘oughts’-- the good, true, just, caring--for the future for all humans, other conscious species, and all of nature is the purpose.

Image: Hiker enjoying the night sky at Craters of the Moon. The Monument was designated as an International Dark Sky Park in 2017. NPS/Jacob Frank
In the Light,

Dan Wilcox

Wednesday, July 5, 2023

One Controversial Dialogue about whether or not Quakers' Nonviolence was the Best Way to End Slavery


"Was...Quakerism the best route to abolition?

In the USA, slavery was abolished by a war - which remains America's bloodiest even in absolute terms despite the subsequent growth in American population.

Quakers were and are pacifists and conscientious objectors, so at least in the USA they did not contribute directly to abolishing slavery as much as the (mostly) men who died to eradicate it.

Also, Quakers initially opposed Darwin, and about half of Quakers today remain creationists according to Wikipedia. So the question is whether the good done by Quakers verbally objecting to slavery (while not shedding any blood for the cause) outweighs the harm done by their science denial.

That's not an easy accounting job so I would hesitate to call the Quakers "good."

And not to mention that Quakers continue to promote the bible, which itself on plain reading promotes slavery or at least conspicuously fails to condemn it. According to the bible, picking up sticks on the Sabbath is a capital offense while slavery is A-OK as long as you follow the directions laid out.

Imagine there were some liberal anti-Nazis who continued to promote Mein Kampf as the source of all truth. They would come with opportunity costs too. There are better ways to oppose the evils of Nazism than by teaching people to take its sacred text seriously.

I don't deny that some theists in some circumstances have done some good things. Hamas for example peforms lots of charity work among its folk while calling for Israel to be eradicated.

Even some secular drug lords provided jobs and support for the impoverished Latin American communities where they operated.

Drugs and religion have many parallels. They are both harmful businesses built on a foundation of lies, often accompanied by a window dressing of conspicuous benevolence."

English Quakers on a Barbados plantation. / Image courtesy of New York Public Library

FOR QUAKER WAY OF NONVIOLENCE AGAINST WAR: Yes, the British Quaker movement and their U.S. abolitionism, Underground Railroad, etc. was "the best route to abolition"
NOT the horrendous vast slaughter of the U.S. Civil War, (which wasn't even intended for abolition but for forcing seceding Southerns back into the Union).

HOWEVER, as you point out...

1. Quakers in history and now are a very diverse and contrary group--have been all over the place. Heck, rich Quakers, such as in the Caribbean owned slaves. However, because of their original emphasis upon equality for humans, they finally--many reluctantly--rejected and opposed slavery in the latter part of the 1700's (as I already stated, my original point).

They did lead the movement against slavery in Britain. And in the U.S. by 1776, they totally opposed slaves and eventually helped lead abolitionism, were part of the Underground Railroad, helped lead the political movement for women's rights, etc.

2. However, the central founder of the Society of Friends, George Fox in 1640 strongly supported Cromwell and his slaughter of the English Civil War!

3. The majority of Quakers at present in the U.S. are mostly fundamentalist-Evangelical! Heck, I couldn't have been a member, nor would I want to be.

4. Historically, some Quakers have held horrendous views. In Indiana in the 1920's a very large Quaker meeting was a very strong supporter of the KKK. In one infamous picture, the KKK in their robes are all standing down at the front.

Quaker Yearly Meeting in Southern California in 1980 came out strongly for nuclear weapons.

5. Early Quakers were charged with heresy. Good grief, William Penn was jailed because of his book that cast doubt on orthodox Christian creed.

6. in 2012, a Quaker meeting in South Carolina strongly promoted Calvinism.

7. I think you have a serious--though common-- misunderstanding of the U.S. Civil War, one that I, once, held, too. Until I had spent years studying too many tomes on the Civil War era and teaching it in secular public high schools.

While plantation leaders of the South did fight the war to retain slavery--they wrote into their Constitution--most of the millions involved in that horrific conflagration weren't fighting about slavery.

Lincoln specifically stated that he invaded the South, Not to end slavery, but to force the seceding states back into the Union.
Lincoln, even in 1863 wanted all Blacks to leave the U.S. and move to another country. He had specifically emphasized that if they returned they could keep slaves.

Not only that, but when Lincoln declared all slaves in the South freed in 1863, Lincoln continued to enslave Blacks in the Union! The Union's slaves weren't freed until 1865!

Also, keep in mind that as a lawyer, Lincoln had gone to court for a slave owner against a slave!!

And Lincoln and many others in the Union held that Blacks weren't equal to Whites, etc.

Contrary to your point in favor of war, the Quaker method of abolition was far superior to a war that slaughtered at least 800,000 individuals, wounded millions, intentionally attacked civilians, etc.

Did you know that according to historians, Grant's wife continued to use slaves (her father owned them) even while Grant was shelling and killing civilians at Vicksburg?!

8. Your comparison of Quakers to HAMAS is very unfair and untrue.

HAMAS is a horrific terrorist organization, who even murders other Palestinians!

In contrast, there are Palestinians who are kind and caring. I've lived and worked in Palestine-Israel; our family has helped 2 impoverished Palestinian families, etc. And I was a guest of a Palestinian family in Nablus (where some of the killing is going on).
I used to teach about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the Holocaust, etc.for years

BOTH SIDES of that horrendous conflict for the last 100 years are partly right and partly wrong.

BUT HAMAS and the Jewish settlers who regularly steal Palestinian land, destroy orchards, go into Palestinian towns and torch cars, houses, etc. are doing what is very wrong.

In contrast, the Quakers have had a school in Ramallah for 150 years that teaches reconciliation, peace-making, etc.

Yes, HAMAS and other terrorist organizations do charity work, BUT that is ONLY for other Muslims, NOT for Jews or others. Instead, they slaughter innocent Jewish civilians intentionally.
Several years ago, Palestinian leaders hailed a Palestinian who snuck into a 13-year-old Jewish girl's bedroom and knifed her to death. He was declared a patriot, a martyr!
Instead, Quakers emphasize helping those outside of their group, even those contrary to their way of life!

9. Let me emphasize again. I already knew all the terrible wrongs that you pointed out about some Quakers' bad actionsin the past. And there are plenty more that I could add to your list. I used to teach Quaker history and views of Reality to our Quaker meeting in the late 1970's.
And, by the way, when I did that, I was an extreme liberal, as I have already emphasized never thought Jesus was God, etc.

Since you don't accept my example of the Quakers leading abolition, here's another one:

Martin Luther King Jr. and other Baptists, etc. led the Civil Rights Movement. And one of his advisors was a Quaker and one was an Atheist.

And yes, I know that he was a gross adulterer, probably cheated on his thesis for PhD. etc.
My point isn't that the Baptists are in general, or MLK, specifically, are paragons of virtue and goodness.

My original point is that sometimes some religions (just like sometimes some atheists) lead the advancement of the good, the true, and the just in human history.

That was my ONLY point.

I know all too well, that all humans including us, have some good and some bad in our actions.
Against Quaker: wrote, "Was it their religious proclivities that drove their abolitionist ideals, or was it a sense of what was right?"

For Quaker: BOTH. It was a particular "religious proclivity"--that of equality--which led the Quakers to end their slave-owning and to help lead the abolition movement.

In the LIGHT,

Dan Wilcox