Sunday, 24 June 2007

Reflections on Quaker experience, practice or views

This is the approach that emerged from my reflections.

Engage with thinkers and writers outside or on the margin of what the consensus is whilst building up a network of fellowship for mutual support and challenge. Keep the insights simple and use stories to communicate what learned and remain open even when attacked from the outside and promptings of self-doubt. Use dreams for clarity and for the understanding of any themes running through them and unconscious ideas.

I have been asking my dreams to stay around and they are. Two images keep emerging; firstly, I approach people to ask questions and either can't speak or speak the wrong language, and secondly, I keep coming to a house with endless rooms that open on to more rooms each feeling as right as the other yet different.

On the surface, they reflect that I feel paralysed by the enormity of the task of trying to say what I mean by the questions posed below.

* What's your experience, practice or views of God?

* What's your experience, practice or views of Jesus?

* What's your experience, practice or views of the Bible?

* What's your experience, practice or views of other faiths?

* What's your experience, practice or views of life after death?

* What's your experience, practice or views of human nature, sin and grace?

* What's your experience, practice or views of Church government?

* What's your experience, practice or views of pacifism?

* What's your experience, practice or views of the Sacraments?

* What's your experience, practice or views of Quaker unity?

After all, these are questions that greater minds then mine have grappled with in each of the main monotheistic traditions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) as well as many Enlightenment and post Enlightenment thinkers in the West. My feelings are reflected in this story.

A judge in a village court had gone on vacation. Nasrudin was asked to be temporary judge for a day. Nasrudin sat on the Judge's chair with a serious face, gazing around the public and ordered the first case be brought-up for hearing.

"You are right," said Nasrudin after hearing one side.

"You are right," he said after hearing the other side.

"But both cannot be right," said a member of public sitting in the audience.

"You are right, too" said Nasrudin.

On a deeper lever the dreams are yet again pointing to my failings of trying to be "right" and have proof that this idea is sound and another is not. But this a dead end, I need to look less for right thinking and more for right doing. I need to concentrate on Mythos and not Logos.

So these are stories and quotes that capture a part of what I know and practice now but a new idea and a fresh experience later...who knows what I will believe and practice-isn't that exciting and at the heart of being a creative human being!

What's your experience, practice or views of God?

A scientist and logician had met Nasrudin and wrangled with him as they walked along a road. Nasrudin was hard-pressed. The scientist said: " I cannot accept anything as existing unless I carry out a test, or unless I see it with my own eyes." The logician said: " I cannot attempt anything unless I have worked it out in theory beforehand."

Suddenly Nasrudin knelt down and started to pour something into a lake beside the road.

"What are you doing?" they asked together.

“You know how yoghurt multiples when you put in milk? Well I am adding a little yoghurt to this water."

But you can't make yoghurt that way!"

“I know, I know...but-just supposing it takes!"


The pleasantries of the incredible Mullah Nasrudin by Idries Shah

What's your experience, practice or views of Jesus?

Once every hundred years Jesus of Nazareth meets Jesus of the Christian in a garden among the hills of Lebanon, and they talk long. And each time Jesus of Nazareth goes away saying to Jesus of the Christian, " My Friend, I fear we shall never, never agree."

Sand and Foam by Kahlil Gibran

What's your experience, practice or views of the Bible?

...there are many religions and many sacred books. We cannot just assume dogmatically that one is authentic and ignore the others. Holy books must be read critically, to appraise the religious and moral values they teach and the historical information they give, Besides the Christian Bible is clearly a human historical document, tied to certain past times and places...with ...writings ...not scriptural from the first. They began as occasional writings...eventually made Scriptural by decision of the Church.

The Sea of Faith by Don Cupitt


What's your experience, practice or views of other faiths?

A useful image was offered by Bede Griffiths, a Christian who spent most of his life in India. During a video interview made shortly before his death in 1993, Griffiths spread out his hand. The religions are like the separate fingers, he said, and are quite distinct from each other. But if you trace them to their source, the palm of the hand you see they all come together in their depths.

Spiritual Literacy by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussatt

What's your experience, practice or views of life after death?

One of the most poignant of our community customs is the Celebration of Memories celebration. The night before a sister is buried the community gathers at her coffin to remember together the moments of her life that taught us all something about life. The simple ritual turns death into life at the very moment we feel its loss most. It is a model, this finding life in loss, for dealing with death of all kinds.
Joan Chittister in a High Spiritual Season

What's your experience, practice or views of human nature, sin and grace?

We have, it seems never ceased to be apes; yet we aspire to be angels. How far have we really got along the evolutionary road? How far have we got to go, before we genuinely included the whole human community, and reached a viable frontier between humans and others? Perhaps the quest is doomed to be interminable as every scientific advance blurs convincing distinctions.

So you think you are Human by Felipe Fernandez-Armesto

They came first for the Communists,

and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.

Then they came for the Jews,

and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.

Then they came for the sick, the so-called incurables,

and I didn't speak up, because I wasn't ill.

Then they came for the trade unionists,

and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Catholics,

and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant.

Then they came for me,

and by that time no one was left to speak up.

Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984)

What's your experience, practice or views of Church government?

There was once an Old Jewish man. All he ever did in his spare time was to go to the edge of the village and plant fig trees. People would ask him, “Why are you planting fig trees? You are going to die before you can eat any of the fruit they can produce.” But he said, "I have spent many happy hours sitting under fig trees and eating their fruit. Why shouldn’t I make sure that others will know the enjoyment that I have had?"

Traditional Jewish Parable

What's your experience, practice or views of pacifism?

Gandhi when a young barrister from London travelled in a train in Africa. He was dapper, all decked out in a suit, holding a first class ticket.

But the train inspector threw him out. He said FIRST CLASS, WHITES only. After he was roughed up and dumped on the platform he slowly got up. It was night time. Out of the shadows a man comes out. A white man.

” I am a lawyer" he says "I saw everything." "I want to sue that inspector and want to see to it that he is punished."

Dusting off his knees and elbows, straightening himself Gandhi says

“Revenge will do no good... An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”

http://www.infinisri.com/stories/Gandhistories.htm

What's your experience, practice or views of the Sacraments?
... It is the inward change, the inward purification, the spirtual fact and not the outward symbol...

Quaker Faith and Practice 27.37
God decided to become visible to a King and a peasant and sent an Angel to inform then of this blessed event."O King", the Angel announced, " God has deigned to be revealed to you in whatever manner you wish. In what form do you want God to appear?"

Seated pompously on his throne and surrounded by awestruck subjects, the King proudly proclaimed: "As befits a King I want to see God in all his majesty and power"

God granted his wish and appeared as a bold of lighting that smote the King and his courters so not even a cinder remained.

"O peasant", the Angel announced, " God has deigned to be revealed to you in whatever manner you wish. In what form do you want God to appear?"

Scratching his head, and having thought for a long time, the peasant finally said " I am a poor man not worthy to see God face to face. But If its God will to be revealed to me, let it be in the earth that I plough, the water I drink and the food I eat. Let me see God in the faces of my family, neighbours and even in my own reflection.

God granted the peasant his wish , who lived a long and a happy life.

Traditional folk story
What's your experience, practice or views of Quaker unity?

A community of blind men once heard that an extraordinary beast called an elephant had been brought into the country. Since they did not know what it looked like and had never heard its name, they resolved to obtain a picture, and the knowledge they desired, by feeling the beast - the only possibility that was open to them!

They went in search of the elephant, and when they had found it, they felt its body. One touched its leg, the other a tusk, the third an ear, and in the belief that they now knew the elephant, they returned home.

But when they were questioned by the other blind men, their answers differed. The one who had felt the leg maintained that the elephant was nothing other than a pillar, extremely rough to the touch, and yet strangely soft. The one who had caught hold of the tusk denied this and described the elephant as, hard and smooth, with nothing soft or rough about it, more over the beast was by no means as stout as a pillar, but rather had the shape of a post ['amud]. The third, who had held the ear in his hands, spoke: "By my faith, it is both soft and rough." Thus he agreed with one of the others, but went on to say: Nevertheless, it is neither like a post nor a pillar, but like a broad, thick piece of leather."

Each was right in a certain sense, since each of them communicated that part of the elephant he had comprehended, but none was able describe the elephant as it really was; for all three of them were unable to comprehend the entire form of the elephant.

Muhammad al-Ghazzali (1058-1128 c.e.),




2 comments:

Biby Cletus said...

Hi, i just surfed in searching for interesting blogs on Spirituality, you have a cool blog. Do keep up the good work. I'll be back even though i live far from where you live. its nice to be able to see what people from across the world thinks.

Warm Regards from the Other Side of the Moon.

On a related note perhaps you might find the following link interesting. Its propossing a theory and i'll like to hear your take on the subject via comments. See ya...

Was
Jesus an Essenes ?


Bibby

Kerala, India

prof said...

hello
vous pouvez poster vos infos sur jewisheritage.fr
shalom