September 19, 2012

The Appeal of Quakerism to the Non-Mystic

There is perhaps something that goes on with our sort of people. I will certainly admit to it myself. Synthesizer connoisseurs, computer programmers and the like may have a good deal more logic bestowed on them than others, but usually at the expense of having less access to emotion and spirituality. It's not that we aren't interested in these things. Indeed --hasn't it become a stereotype these days that the icy-hearted computer programmer is obsessed with fantasy and romance? 

I've just finished reading something that deals, somewhat, with this subject. It's called The Appeal of Quakerism to the Non-Mystic by William Littleboy (Friends Home Service Committee; 1964). I thoroughly enjoyed it. It's no longer in print but one can find second hand copies around. I feel that I must first clarify that here the term "mystic" is used interchangeably with spirituality, it's meant to have no negative connotations; growing up Protestant I'd understood mystic to mean spirituality that was specifically outside the realm of Christianity. The booklet attempts to answer the question: Does Quakerism have anything to say to the man who does not feel, the man to whom the door of the spiritual wold, which stands ajar for some, is closed and padlocked?

I think that it does, and so does T.A.O.Q.T.T.N.M. But it wasn't just written for those in this camp, it's also for those who know they are not.

"he who's life is illuminated with the brightness and joy of a heavenly companionship can with difficulty believe that his brother who walks in the shadows may yet be a humble and single-hearted follower of Jesus Christ."

"One of life's hardest lessons is that there is no justification for expecting that our neighbor is to traverse precisely the same path as that which we ourselves have followed."

It's just full of so many wonderful passages. Not only did they speak to my condition but were also beautifully written. I'll leave you with my favorite…

No inrush of joy has flooded the spirit of the non-mystic; no heavenly voice has spoken to his soul. He walks in spiritual twilight; that which has appealed irresistibly to another had had no message for him. When he seeks to lift his heart in prayer he feels as if he were speaking into a void. he believes in God; falteringly indeed yet sincerely he tries to obey Him. Yet the great emotional experiences of love, rapture, perfect peace, which comes to others are denied him. It may be that the experience of half a life-time has convinced him that these spiritual luxuries are for some hidden reason not for him, and he has come to acquiesce with what grace he may in winter skies and a grey and featureless landscape, hoping that haply some better thing may be reserved for him when the veil of the flash is withdrawn. 

1 comment:

  1. I do agree a lot with that second passage you wrote here (one of life's...). It is really hard to learn that someone might understand life in a completely different way than what you do. That they care about things you'd never care about and not about things you think are so important.

    And you must always keep that in mind, 'cause it is a lesson so easy to forget and fall again in the mistake that someone's wrong just because they don't think or go about things the way you do.

    It's really hard to understand (really understand) people are different.

    I just wanted to add that though someone can be pretty much sure about some things in himself, there can always happen that he suprises himself in such an unexpected way and end up finding himself in a situation he had never thought he'd be. (Hopefully, for better)

    (pd: I do know about a computer programmar who's really romantic, so he fits the standard stereotype I guess)