Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart.
The Light of Christ within, who is the Light of the world, and so a light to you that tells you the truth of your condition, leads all that take heed unto it out of darkness into God’s marvelous light; for light grows upon the obedient. It is sown for the righteous and their way is a shining light that shines forth more and more to the perfect day.
William Penn, A Brief Account of the Rise and Progress …of the Quakers, 1694
Quakers, or the Society of Friends, emerged as a radical religious movement during the upheavals of the English civil wars of the mid 1600s. Central to their faith and practice was a concept they expressed as the Light. As I examine the writings of early Quaker figures, a revolutionary line of thinking emerges – one they could not openly voice under the dire consequences of the period’s harsh blasphemy laws but one that in our own time offers wide potential in line with intellectual advances. The early Quaker understanding of the Light, you will note, is quite different from the “Inner Light” voiced by many modern Friends. In addition, since much of my work is an attempt to connect the dots left unfinished in their writings, we are now free to ponder just how conscious they were of the implications of their statements or of the historical roots of their claims of being “primitive Christianity restored from before the dark night of apostasy.” New research suggests they were closer than they likely imagined.
My conclusions appearing here arise in original research, independent of official Quaker organizations. In presenting these essays as works-in-progress, I am deeply interested in hearing corrections and alternative interpretations of the discussion.
The categories of postings on this blog can be considered as a series of books.
- The first is a pamphlet, Revolutionary Light, which lays out the ways Quaker thought and expression differ from other Christian bodies.
- The second, Voices of Light, examines the use of the Light metaphor in the works of nine historic Friends from the beginning of the movement and through Job Scott and Elias Hicks at the outbreak of the tragic separations among American Quakers. Each of them provides unique and powerful expressions of the Christ nature of the Light and its presence.
- The third, To Walk in the Light, places their writings in a broader historical context and then considers implications of that foundation for contemporary spiritual teaching and practice.
- The Daybook running through the year 2014 features daily postings of Scripture, a brief writing from me, and a quotation from early Friend Elizabeth Bathurst. I hope this gives many readers a sense of the vocal ministry that might arise out of the gathered silence of traditional Quaker open worship while also giving many modern unprogrammed Friends and others a taste of the Biblical roots of the movement itself.
- There are also photo series that include Quaker meetinghouses and burial grounds as well as a photo daybook for 2014.
I hope you find these entries engaging and useful in your own spiritual practice and growth. Please feel welcome to share in the discussion.
My header image is a detail from the 4th Order Fresnel Lens that served the Point San Luis Lighthouse in California, taken from a Wikimedia Commons photo from Jerry Kirkhart.
For an author’s biography and related interests, please go to Jnana’s Red Barn.