Re: MD Static and dynamic aspects of mysticism and religious experience

From: Wim Nusselder (
Date: Thu Dec 23 2004 - 08:00:01 GMT

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    Dear Sam,

    You wrote 18 Dec 2004 15:53:38 -0000:
    'Presumably if you are completely flexible and completely inclusive, there
    is nothing specific to which one adheres? Some of the things I like about
    Anglicanism are precisely inflexible and exclusive, so I'm not sure I'd
    completely agree with the hierarchy of values here. Is this different to
    what I've said before?'

    Indeed, there is nothing specific to which Quakers adhere, except for some
    idea -worded in various ways- motivating our objections against being held
    to 'believe' (in the sense of 'holding true') any religious idea formulated
    in fixed wordings. A formula that a lot of Quakers use (as your warden
    testified to) is that there is 'that of God in everyone'. Seen from the
    context of the original quote of George Fox, the superficial interpretation
    is wrong, however. It was not meant as an ontological statement. My
    favourite wording is that divine guidance is available to everyone. However
    formulated, Quakers 'believe' (in the sense of 'trust') that divine
    revelation goes on and that everyone can have a role in it, so no wording
    for 'beliefs' should be understood to be final and fixed.
    That doesn't mean that one cannot or should not like some inflexible or
    exclusive wordings (static intellectual quality), just that one should stay
    open to (new) divine guidance (Dynamic Quality) and not hold others to your
    wordings, barring them from their own source of divine guidance.
    So, yes, for me as a Quaker DQ is highest in the hierarchy of my values,
    followed by immediate recognition (as we discussed before) that DQ can only
    be experienced relative to old sq and requires constant creation of new sq.
    They're a 'contradictory identity' in Scott/Nishida's wording.

    You continued with the statement that an Anglican academic theological
    education qualifies you for 'Knowing what "christian mysticism" is'.

    So, can you tell me by know whether Quakerism qualifies as 'christian

    You continued with:
    'I think I can distinguish between good and bad manifestations of a
    religious point of view, but not between what we might think of as the "best
    representatives" of a tradition. Who is more closely connected to truth,
    Buddha or Gandhi? the mind boggles. But I really like your William Penn
    quote about the different clothes. I think a) those "best representatives"
    tend to be humble about their own claims to truth, and b) are quite happy to
    recognise Quality in each other.'

    The problem lies -I think- in metaphors for 'truth' as fixed points. DQ is
    an ever elusive lure, as we already agreed.
    In 'RE-cognizing' 'best representatives' of each tradition, our description
    of them (i.e. the description of their DQ) automatically filters out the
    more static, lower quality aspects of what they stood for (e.g. Gandhi's
    acceptance of female subordination, compared to our values). 'Humbleness'
    may not be the best word. DQ/divine guidance can require one to make a very
    firm stand for a specific truth in a specific situation (like Gandhi did).
    They rather combine firmness in the new sq that is given them with respect
    for other people's own access to DQ.
    The original quote from George Fox was: 'Walk cheerfully over the world,
    answering that of God in every one' , which can be interpreted as: 'Behave
    in line with everyone's understanding of what is divine'.
    (I still take it out of the wider context, which would take me quite a bit
    longer to explain... His conditions for being able to 'walk cheerfully ...'
    and 'answering that of God' comprised: 'be a terror to all the adversaries
    of God', 'spread the Truth', 'be valiant for the Truth', 'tread and trample
    all that is contrary under', 'be patterns, be examples in all countries, ...
    wherever you come, that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of
    people, and to them' ... Not exactly the words I would feel called to choose
    in these post-modern times... Let's blame that on continuing revelation...)

    You continued with:
    'I took ["Theologia Deum docet, a Deo docetur, ad Deum ducit"] to be
    supporting my point that the way of theology is prayer, and the source and
    terminus of theology is the enjoyment of God.'

    Fine, but does that define theology enough to be able to answer my question:
    'Does it exclude the instructional aspect, the movement of DQ to sq in
    passing on religious experience that I object to?'
    In the experience of Quakers praying (seeking divine guidance) doesn't lead
    one to instruct others in the sense of replacing their own sense for DQ with
    sq instructions from us. If praying leads (led) you to become a hireling
    minister who DOES feel it as his task to present others with traditional sq
    BEFORE they are stimulated to use their own sense for DQ, we MAY still be
    using theology in different senses.

    You continued with:
    'I think we're agreed on [our understanding of tradition and that "Future
    truth (DQ) can never be contained by past truth (tradition/sq)"]. We somehow
    just keep butting our heads together on it. Don't quite know why - maybe

    Maybe the 'contradictory identity' of the DQ and sq in each of us and
    projecting the contradiction outside of us rather than recognizing it in
    ourselves? My head doesn't hurt. Like you I like these discussions a lot.
    They do help me to get more practised in Scott/Nishida's 'logic of
    contradictory identity' and to get to know you better.

    I will be on holiday for two weeks as from tomorrow afternoon, so I won't
    bother you for a while in this high season for hireling ministers. (-:

    With friendly greetings,


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