New Foundation Fellowship

Reproclaiming the Everlasting Gospel

EXPERIMENT WITH LIGHT

 At regional meeting in April Diana Lampen gave us a very interesting and clear introduction to Experiment with Light.  I took some notes that may be of help especially for those who seek a ‘way in’ regarding spiritual experience. 

 

Diana discussed the power within called the Light and the method used to experience guidance.  I cannot remember exactly her words and in the interests of accuracy provide information taken from the handout given (available thro email) and the web site recommended www.experiment-with-light.org.uk  (going to ‘Meditations’ and ‘Old Fox-based version’).    In Diana’s talk and also in the more recent ‘Newer Fox based version’ by Klaus Huber I notice that the concept of ‘Light’ is usually used;  Fox’s references to God and Christ being nearly always omitted.  

 

Here we were presented with a method of meditation experienced over 10 years ago by Rex Ambler, tutor at Woodbridge College.  He had researched George Fox’s 17th century writings to discover a system that can lead to spiritual experience.   He noticed the key themes of Light and Truth and identified four stages of spiritual practice that early Friends used.   


Using meditation for small groups :  (I’ve added some related Fox quotations)

1)            Mindful of the Light – stopping (relax and let your mind become quiet) to consider what the Light within shows about what is happening in your life.

George Fox: ‘Mind the pure light of God in you, which shows you sin and evil, and how you have spent your time, and how your minds go forth.’ 

2)         Open your heart to the Truth – be honest and open with yourself and God.   Truth is the reality of things as they actually are.  Our teacher is within and our ego must die in the Light in order to discover and experience.  Let go (self) and accept what comes. 

George Fox: ‘Let the light of Jesus Christ, that shines in every one of your consciences, search you thoroughly, and it will let you clearly see.’ 

3)         Wait in the Light – be calm and patient.  The Light itself, as it shows you the Truth, is a sign of something of God that is within you.  Be still and be cool is the step firstly to peace and then to find power. George Fox: ‘The first step to peace is to stand still in the light.’

4)         Submit to the Truth – Say ‘yes’ to the reality that has been shown you, and then you will find peace, and the strength to act rightly. 

George Fox: ‘After thou seest thy thoughts and the temptations, do not think, but submit; and then power comes’. 

This method can be done individually as well and even ‘on the hoof’ we were told.

 

After lunch we split into groups of about 7 and practiced ‘Guidance for small groups’.   Following a time of silence using the above meditation method, each who wished could share from their meditation experience, speaking in turn out of the silence and sharing as much or as little as each wished.  We gave space to those who spoke in order to absorb what had been said.   It was stressed that each should take responsibility for themselves - this was not group therapy.  The silences should be for creative listening rather than giving advice.   However toward the end there may be responses to the sum of the contributions.  In our group, contributions were so diverse that this was deemed inappropriate.   However with meditation, sharing can be a true gift to the group, providing others opportunity to deepen worshipful listening.   Confidentiality must always be maintained thereafter. 

 

Afterwards, during Questions & Answers it was apparent that the Light topic had had a mixed reception.  Some had tried the method in the past without on-going success.  Others were unsure / unclear about the use of the term ‘Light’. 

 

Some personal reflections:

In the portrayal of this ‘Experiment’ in meditation, we were provided with the concept of Light, but there seems to be a diversity of understanding with this.  Some thought of God when using it.  But if the Light was our God, do we worship Light?   In Rex’s ‘An outline of the experiment, according to George Fox’, Item 8 we read: ‘This Light, which is of God’.    And (in as recorded in Rex’s ‘Old Fox-based version’) early Quakers liked to quote St John’s gospel 1.9 which says that Christ ‘was the true light that lighteth every man’.  Fox and the early Quakers were Christians.  They would have considered the Light to be Christ (remembering St John 8.12 ‘I am the Light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but have the light of life’.)  It was the risen Jesus they waited in silence before.  The amazing fortitude so many of them received was the power of the responding Holy Spirit as they followed the Lord in their lives. 

 

Light, sometimes referred to as ‘it’, seems to me to be somewhat impersonal.  The Light, as a concept with forms of this meditation, seems to have replaced God and the person of Jesus.  Christian concepts may have been marginalized.   The Quaker movement has no particular creed.   Happily we receive as friends those of any faith, just as Jesus did.  I am not ashamed to be a Christian for it is my faith that enables a relationship with the living God.  The Supreme Creator Spirit I’ve come to know is a personal, immanent God with whom we can have a living relationship.  I find it appropriate in meditation or prayer to use ‘Almighty God’, or usually as Jesus told us, ‘Heavenly Father’. 

 

As we strive for a living relationship with Almighty God we best focus on this amazing man Jesus and what we can learn from him.  I am encouraged to read in Q F&P 26.54  ‘To me Jesus is a window through to God, a person who in terms of personality, in a way that can be grasped by our finite minds, shows what mercy, pity, peace are like in human life.  I turn to the Jesus of the New Testament – to his healing word, his freedom from anxiety, his outreaching insight, to him as a whole person - not to imitate him but to let him live and grow in my life.’   So for us hopefully to discover the spiritual power and fire experienced by those early Quakers.  We can have good reason to ‘Be joyful in the Lord – Rejoice!’ (Philippians 4.4)

 

John Gibbs

Bournemouth Meeting

 

Views: 149

Comment by Ellis Hein on 5thMo. 1, 2014 at 14:13

Hello John, I have appreciated your pulling the concept of "light" back to the original Quaker understanding. They (the early Quakers) had no ambiguity about identifying the light as Christ and "enlightenment" as something done by Christ. Edward Burroughs' account of encountering the light of Christ was an experience of having the word of the Lord beat down and burn up all that was contrary to God. For the early Friends, guidance came as a result of seeking together how to live now in the kingdom of God. I don't know enough about Rex Ambler and those who have taken up his ideas to know if this has been his understanding also. Anyway, I am glad to see you bringing these things back to where Fox and the early Friends understood and lived them.

Ellis

Comment by Allistair Lomax on 5thMo. 2, 2014 at 12:37

Thanks John, for sharing your thoughts and experiences about your visit to the Experiment with Light workshop.

I think a little bit of historical background might be useful here.


I agree with Ellis, and I am also thankful for your clarity about the connection between the Light and Christ, which was a corner-stone of our and the Faith of Early Friends.
I think I can comment a little more about the differences between Rex and those who have followed him, and the New Foundation.


Rex became interested in Fox when he was at Birmingham University and sought out Joe Pickvance, who was one of the main New Foundation Workers, early on in the UK, and commenced a dialogue.


One of the outcomes of this dialogue was a meeting at the Pickvance’s home around 1996/7, (I think?), which I was present at. This meeting was not, in my view, particularly constructive, as it became obvious that there were some substantial differences in understanding between them and ourselves, and also, it seemed to me that they were not particularly interested in what we had to say about the message of George Fox and the Early Quakers, (rather, they were there to tell us about it).


One of the main areas of differences, was the one, you high-lighted, John, in your piece. For them, the Light was not necessarily connected with the risen Christ. They saw that as a piece of dogma that could be dispensed with, if necessary. I formed the opinion then, that what they were really interested in, was simply re-packaging Liberal Quakerism in Fox language, avoiding the necessary encounter with living Christ.  This is typical of later periods of Quakerism, where the Light was reduced to philosophical concepts rather than theistic experience.


It is illuminating, I think, that Rex Ambler in the introduction to his book, Truth of the Heart, says the following; “I was influenced here by the two prevalent understandings of his [Fox's] mission, which rather opposed one another, the mystical view of Rufus Jones and what I thought of as the 'protestant' view of Lewis Benson.”

I think Lewis would have been utterly amazed by that description of his view, as Lewis Benson always insisted that his understanding of Fox’s message was neither ‘catholic’ or ‘protestant’, but rather represented a third way, a Christ-centred way, rather than ‘bible-centred’.

I think it is also illuminating that Rex has made little or no reference to the work of the New Foundation in his writings and that there has been little contact between the two groups, since that meeting in the late 1990’s. I have had no recent contact with the Experiment with Light group, so I do not know if they have moved from their original position in any way.

Comment by Ellis Hein on 5thMo. 2, 2014 at 20:56

Thanks, Allistair, for the background information. It is helpful to know all this.

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