Once again Richard Rohr reflects on an important Quaker concept: unity

Unity, Not Uniformity

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Many  teachers have made the central but oft-missed point that unity is not the same as uniformity. Unity, in fact, is the  reconciliation of differences, and those differences must be maintained—and yet  overcome! You must actually distinguish things and separate them before you can  spiritually unite them, usually at cost to yourself (Ephesians 2:14-16). If  only we had made that simple clarification, so many problems—and  overemphasized, separate identities—could have moved to a much higher level of  love and service.

Paul already made this universal principle very clear  in several of his letters. For example, “There are a variety of gifts, but it is  always the same Spirit. There are all sorts of service to be done, but always  to the same Lord, working in all sorts of different ways in different people.  It is the same God working in all of them” (1 Corinthians 12:4-6). In his  community at Ephesus, they were taught “There is one Lord, one faith, one  baptism, one God who is Father of all, over all, through all, and within all;  and each of us has been given our own share of grace” (Ephesians 4:5-7).

Adapted from Oneing, “The Perennial Tradition,”  Vol. 1 No. 1, p. 13

Gateway to Silence: That all may be one



What does George Fox Say?


The Norwegian duo Ylvis has recently had incredible success with a viral video entitled, “What does the fox say?”

The Wellesley Quaker Meeting put together a parady called “What does George Fox Say?”

George Fox is accepted as the founder of Quakers and you could read many books on him or even just his substantial Wikipedia entry, or you could watch this video (which also proves that Quakers do not always take themselves too seriously).


Advices and Queries for January 12, 2014

37. Are you honest and truthful in all you say and do? Do you maintain strict integrity in business transactions and in your dealings with individuals and organisations? Do you use money and information entrusted to you with discretion and responsibility? Taking oaths implies a double standard of truth; in choosing to affirm instead, be aware of the claim to integrity that you are making.

Quaker Doctrine

Again trying to make the point that there is no such thing.  When there is no need to protect doctrine, then there is a freedom to listen, learn and engage in deeper ways.

I repost this book review in this light…

Quaker Pantheism

Posted on June 8, 2010 by

I have seldom encountered a book that reflects my worldview as clearly as Standing in the light: my life as a pantheist. The book is a sort of quirky spiritual autobiography.  In this review I will refer to the author by her first name, not because I know her, but because after reading this book, I feel as though I do.

The book follows several different but interrelated threads:  On a personal level, she describes her experiences as an on and off and on again Quaker, her personal history living in both urban and rural New Mexico and elsewhere, and accounts of exploring and assisting with research (banding birds) in protected natural areas.   Interspersed with these personal stories and reflections she gives us a clear and insightful discussion of pantheism from the early Greeks to the present.

Sharman traces the history of pantheism from pre-Socratic Greeks — Thales, Anaximander, Anaximenes, Heraclitus, and Democritus – to Epicurus and the Stoics.  She has a fascinating chapter on the Stoic Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, whom she sees as one of the first true Pantheists.  Early Christianity saw Pantheism as one of the pagan competitors to be suppressed, and pantheists were persecuted for more than 1,000 years, most famously in the execution (by burning at the stake) of Giordano Bruno in 1600.

The next hero of Pantheism was Baruch Spinoza in the 17th Century.  He was excommunicated by the Jewish establishment as well as rejected by both Protestants and Catholics.  Spinoza attended Quaker meetings, corresponded with Margaret Fell, incorporated many Quaker perspectives in his work, and his writings had some influence on Quakerism.  But Spinoza was even more blunt and plain-spoken than the Quakers and their ideas were not nearly radical enough for Spinoza.

Next in the Pantheist history were the Romantic poets, Goethe, Coleridge, Wordsworth, Blake, and others.  Then came the Transcendentalists Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, the poet Walt Whitman, and the naturalist John Muir.  More controversially, she suggests that D.H. Lawrence and Virginia Woolf were also Pantheists.

Her history of Pantheism ends with a quote from poet Robinson Jeffers, a summary of contemporary Pantheism:

“I believe that the universe is one being, all its parts are different expressions of the same energy, and they are all in communication with each other, therefore parts of one organic whole. … The whole is in all its parts so beauti“ful, and is felt by me so intensely in earnest, that I am compelled to love it and to think of it as divine.”

Sharman wraps up the discussion of pantheism by relating it to Daoism and Buddhism and a number of other contemporary writers who share her views:  Fritjof Capra, Stephen Harding, George Sessions, Barbara McClintock, Ursula Goodenough, Thomas Berry, and Annie Dillard.  At the end of the spiritual journey described in the book she realizes that when she is in the natural world she is in the mind and body of God, and she returns to her Quaker meeting with this new understanding.

This very readable book puts us in touch with scientific pantheism, a spiritual tradition that brings together ecology (both deep and scientific) and mysticism.  Sharman beautifully weaves together her personal journey, the history of these ideas, and the ecological crisis in the modern world.

Standing in the light: my life as a pantheist by Sharman Apt Russell.  New York:  Basic Books, 2008.





The Trinity

Quakers do not have doctrine and as such there would be no such thing as a Quaker doctrine of the Trinity.  Yet, many Quakers would have thoughts on the concept.  Richard Rohr is a Fransiscan and not a Quaker but I would adhere to his sensibilities below.  Glenn Morison (Winnipeg Monthly Meeting)

Niels Bohr, the Danish physicist who was a major contributor to quantum physics and nuclear fission, said the universe is “not only stranger than we think, but stranger than we can think.” Our supposed logic has to break down before we can comprehend the nature of the universe and the bare beginnings of the nature of God. I think the doctrine of the Trinity is saying the same thing. The “principle of three” breaks down all dualistic either-or thinking and sets us on a dynamic course of ongoing experience.

There are some things that can only be known experientially, and each generation must learn them for themselves. The “prayer of quiet” is a most simple and universal path. Of all the religious rituals and practices I know of, nothing will lead us to that place of nakedness and vulnerability more than regular experiences of solitude and silence, where our ego identity falls away, where our explanations don’t mean anything, where our superiority doesn’t matter and we have to sit there in our naked “who-ness.”

If God wants to get through to us, and the Trinitarian Flow wants to come alive in us, that’s when God has the best chance. God is not only stranger than we think, but stranger than the logical mind can think. Perhaps much of the weakness of the first two thousand years of reflection on the Trinity, and many of our doctrines and dogmas, is that we’ve tried to do it with a logical mind instead of with prayer. The belief in God as a Trinity is saying God is more an active verb than a stable noun. You know it in the flow of life itself.