A Friend After 50 Years

A record of one journey into a peculiar type of Quaker Christianity, and a bit of silliness to boot.

Location: Arkansas

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Worship Works

On our meeting discussion list, I posted the following as part of a larger discussion:

"If we spent more time worshipping and less time using our limited-capacity brains to cook up the same-ol' same-ol' solutions, we could tap into a power that makes a real difference."

This led a Friend to ask, "Just what exactly is the nature of the worship that taps into the power that makes a difference?" My response follows:

You know, I've asked Jesus-centered Friends that question (in the blogosphere) -"just exactly what are you talking about?" and never really received an intellectually satisfying answer. No surprise there, but I don't believe its simply a matter of believing superstitious nonsense that can't be rationally explained. Now you are asking me a similar question, and I can see how that's rather tough to answer. I know more that worship does work to change our orientation from agitation and self-concern to a much more pacific and loving state than how it works. The old Quakers just said "Christ is teaching his people himself!" I suppose scientists who hook up electrodes or take brain scans of meditators, for example, could explain it in physical or chemical terms, at least to some extent. I know there's a lot of research going on in that area right now.

But my take is that being quiet for extended periods, without necessarily trying to accomplish anything (or prevent anything on the other hand) allows us to notice the very act of noticing, and to start sensing that what we are noticing within ourselves in the way of thought and the emotions it produces are not what we are. If we can see (or sense in any way) an object then that object is not the essence of what we are. The only unchanging thing about us that we can know for sure is that we are conscious. Consciousness itself is not bothered by anything, and understands its essential unity. Thus it does not "believe" that there is a separate entity that must be defended or advanced as against "others." So lately my "practice," although rather spontaneous, is to look at stuff going on in my mind and body and to think, "but that's not me, I am what's conscious of that." Sometimes I think of this consciousness as the "light" or "Christ" within, I suppose just to have some linkage with our Quaker-Christian heritage. But the analogy of an "inner teacher" seems like a good one too. So maybe the way it works is that when we are quiet, we can hear the teaching, although its more experiential than verbal.

I think George Fox was touching on this when he wrote,

"This is the word of the Lord God unto you all; what the Light doth make manifest and discover, as temptations, distractions, confusions, do not look at these temptations, confusions, corruptions, but at the Light which discovers them and makes them manifest; and with the same Light you may feel over them, to receive power to stand against them." I don't quite resonate with the "standing against," as I see "them" sort of just dissipating in the Light, but the rest of his statement holds true in my experience.

And my experience is also that in the case of silent worship, the sometimes dubious adage, "if a little is good, then a lot is better" holds true. Just going to twice a week made a tremendous difference for me. Not claiming that I'm "all that" spiritually, but you should have seen me before! (Plus I'm a lawyer, so you have to give me a handicap there!)

In Friendship,



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