What this Quaker does during the Meeting for Worship
By John Cowan
Quakers do lots of things during Worship. We daydream, sleep, plan, worry. After all it is an hour of silence broken only by an occasional short talk some person is compelled by the Spirit to lay on the rest of us. So I do all of those things but what is my intent? What am I trying to do?
I am listening for the voice of God!
Do I ever hear it? Oh yes. Yes indeed. Often. As the bible tells, not in the thunder or the flame, but in a whisper. Oh yes. Yes indeed. Often.
I stand on two rocks. First, I know that there is a God luring the Universe forward to its next existence. I first knew this because Amanda my Bible holding Swedish grandma, told me so, and so did my parents, and so did legions of nuns and priests, not in those terms of course. But now I know it because some modern scientists say the universe is not a thing, but a thought, and somehow that thought is embedded in everything that is, shaping what it becomes. How does a tree know how to be a tree? Through the dust bins of Aristotle gleam the Forms of Plato. There is a Word out of which everything that was made was made and everything is still being made. (To use the biblical words as well as the scientific.)
My second rock is that forever I have know that there is a wordless voice trying to tell me who I am and what that means I must become, and just like the tree, modern scientists, some of them, (it is called depth psychology) would tell me, the voice is there alerting me to what I am and what I am to be. Add to that the fact that, without any doubt, something is going on in me. I notice the explosions. And add that the founders of my religious society knew that voice because they quoted it all the time and went to prison following its advice. They called it God, and it is the same God that Amanda told me of, the same God as the God of the thought.
In Meeting for Worship I sit as confident as a tree. My maker is still making me. I await God’s word.
What happens? First, day-dreaming and planning. I have learned to hold them and such as them in consciousness, we Quakers say, “In the light.” And since they are just drizzle they will disappear. With my light turned on, other more worthy subjects will occur.
My sins! I kick myself for lots of stuff from yesterday to childhood. No big deal, none of this “I am the worst person on earth” nonsense. That is just another form of pride. But lots of squirming and lots of resolution about “never again.”
Objective exploration of problem situations! Places I am hurt or angry. Just looking at them. No right, no wrong. No self-exoneration. No accusations. The path to unkinking appears in the warmth of the light and it usually has something to do with unkinking me.
All of these and other suchlike enter consciousness without my calling them and leave when they leave, leaving instruction from the Creator behind.
Then some times or some of the time, I am a quiet mind, conscious only of the present, the body and the perceptions. Breath, and people. Painful knees and windows. Among other things of the moment. Very bright and pleasant. Every such experience seems to move me some towards viewing the world as it is. A quiet mind does not create fantasies. It sees what is.
If this does not sound very supernatural to you that is because it is not supernatural. My God is a natural God who permeates nature. Normally the noise of living blocks the Divine whisper. Quiet allows it to sound. And once grounded in the quiet I learn sometimes to hear it in the noise of life, revealing motivations that I prefer others not see and motivations I too prefer not to see. (Motivations not to be vanquished but observed as part of the package. If I discarded good acts because of some unworthy motivation, I would have very few acts.)
I like to do this silent sitting with others, (Meeting for Worship) not as individuals who happen to be in the same room, but forming a whole of God listeners. Sometimes to the point where it feels we are one in the room, not many. And that is natural too. Since we are divided in body our unity is difficult to recognize. But when experienced, either in this setting or in others, (some very secular) I know this is the Kingdom of God Jesus talked about. And I know it is natural. Anything other is unnatural.
We just do not know that yet.
That is what Beau my grandchild when in first grade used to say, when stumped by a question. “I don’t know that yet.” So as a first grader in the world of the spirit I say, “We just don’t know who we are, yet.”
Is not “yet” a brave and hopeful word?
(Further reading on this version of God go to my website, <stillsittingjohn.com> and see the reviews of Awakening Universe, Coehlo, and An Unknown World, Needleman.) For twenty four pages by Philip Clayton, Mary Coehlo & the New Story Study Group entitled “Quakers and the New Story,” contact me at <email@example.com>. I will send it to you.