Reproclaiming the Everlasting Gospel
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)
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