Friendly Witness: The Spiritual Ground of Quaker Social Action4th mo. 19, 2023 from 1pm to 6pm
Quaker Theological Discussion Group 202312th mo. 1, 2023 at 8am to 12th mo. 2, 2023 at 10am
Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
§1. Chrysostom and the putting away of the immediacy of Christ's presence. Draft 1
"It were indeed meet for us not at all to require the aid of the written word, but to exhibit a life so pure, that the Grace of the Spirit should be instead of books to our souls, and that as these are inscribed with ink, even so should our hearts be with the spirit. But since we have utterly put away from us this Grace, come, let us at any rate embrace the second best course."
John Chrysostom, in this prelude to his homilies on the Gospel of Matthew, laid down these words around 390 years after the birth of Jesus Christ and the dispensation of the Holy Spirit permeating human being and human affairs.
His words document, to the "blame" of the christened, a moment in the history of the consciousness of the Christened wherein he could confidently state "we" (the Christened) "have utterly put away" the Grace of the Holy Spirit experienced as sufficient in itself to guide and inform without the need of the reflective nature through the agency of the written word.
With these words, Chrysostom marks and acknowledges both the reality of a consciousness and conscience guided solely by the immediate presence of the Spirit of Jesus Christ and the turning away from that grace by the christened.
It is a surprise to me how readily he accepts this "blame" and gathers his reader's attention to the embracement of the reflective nature stating "But since we have utterly put away from us this Grace, come let us at any rate embrace the second best course." Whereupon he leads his readers into the process of reflection upon the Gospel of Matthew to aid their spiritual being as the "second best" alternative to the living experience of the immediate and continuous presence of the spirit of Jesus Christ as sufficient in itself to teach, aid, and guide them in matters of human relations.
This compelling and powerful mark, in the consciousness of the christened, documents a moment in time wherein a leading figurehead of the church purposefully led the Christened into engagement with the reflective nature to nurture their spirituality through the agency of the written word, even as he states:
"Reflect then, how great an evil it is, for us, who ought to live so purely, as not even to need written words, but to yield up our hearts, as books, to the spirit; now that we have lost that honour, and are come to have need of these, to fail again in duly employing even this second remedy. For if it be a blame to stand in need of written words, and not to have brought down on ourselves the grace of the spirit ..."
Even in the light of his recognition that the Grace of the Holy Spirit as sufficient in itself to rule and guide without the need of the written word is a "lost honour," he can see no other recourse than embracing the reflective nature which is the very cause of the "evil" and "blame" which draws the Christened away from the "honour" of the living Grace of the Holy Spirit itself as guide without the agency of the reflective nature and its agent the written word.
While it is not mine to judge whether the embracement of the reflective nature through its agent the written word is a valid "second course," I can say, through the personal experience of the inshining awareness of the spirit of Christ in my consciousness and conscience, that the honor of the Grace of the living continuous and immediate presence of the Holy Spirit itself as sufficient in itself outside the need of the written word through the agency of the reflective nature is not a lost honor. It is alive today and was not lost at the time of Chrysostom's writing. The renewal of our intellect, saturated in the presence of Jesus Christ, draws human being out of bondage to the agency of the reflective nature and lights our way itself.
§. 2. The different way qualified and suppressed in the reflective nature. Draft 12-26-22
Introduction. Chrysostom highlights a different way of relations between human beings and human beings and divine being that the christed (intentional spelling) have “put away;” suggesting that this different way was once more prevalent among the christed. In this different way, the christed, were drawn out of the need for reflection through the written word, and were instructed directly and immediately or without mediation through the reflective nature by way of outward institutions and the agents of those institutions. However, to focus on the work of the Spirit to draw people out of need for, specifically, the written word to guide people is almost misdirection because it shades over the true power of being christed. The need for the written word to guide and inform human behavior and human relations is a symptom of being under the power and influence of the a reflective consciousness or mirrored nature. In the reflective nature, people relate to one another and the world through the mirrors of sense perception, emotion, desire, and thought-entities collectively called the bodily nature. We can sense the power of the reflective or bodily nature over us by simply imagining being without all sense perception, thoughts, desire, and emotion, that is, the death of the body. The sense of the loss of consciousness without the mediation of the bodily or reflective nature is a witness or experience of consciousness overcome or ruled through the power of the reflective nature The fear of death is the fear of loss or consciousness. Through the work of the spirit of Christ inshining upon our conscience and consciousness we are come out of the need for the reflective nature to rule and guide human relations. The spirit of Christ itself in itself draws the human conscience and consciousness into itself so that the awareness of the Spirit’s motion within us is our sole and sufficient guide outside the need for the reflective nature and the agency of the its political, religious, economic, and educational institutions and the agents of those institutions.
In the year of the Lord Jesus Christ 1858, 1468 years after Chrysostom wrote the words quoted above, Philip Schaff wrote in his “History of the Christian Church” volume 1 pg. 475:
And on page 476 of the same volume Schaff also wrote:
Schaff then punctuates his point by highlighting J.B. Lightfoot’s “The Christian Ministry” wherein Lightfoot writes.
All those years after Chrysostom, Schaff and Lightfoot still recognize sufficiency of the immediate presence of the spirit of Christ to govern human relations, however, it is for them an idea … a reflection … an ideal. They recognize Christ’s sufficiency in itself to guide and inform human relations but at best it is a mere theory that may be realized in some future state. For them, it is not attainable or practical in the world. I acknowledge that, if you are in the power of the reflective nature as Schaff and Lightfoot acknowledge. The thought-entity of Christ’s sufficiency as sole rule and guide can be appealing, however, it is not experienced. Thinking about the reflected ideal is not experiencing it. As long as human being is tethered to the reflective nature cannot experience or live in the ideal it is reflecting upon. It must keep its habitation in the reflective nature. Through the coming of the spirit of Christ into human history by the direct and immediate individual experience its inshining upon human conscience and consciousness, people are drawn out of dependency upon the reflective or bodily or sensuous nature and the outward formalities it nurtures. In Christ human being is come into the experience of being ruled directly through the motion of the spirit of Jesus Christ itself. Those who are under the power of the reflective nature do not immediately and continuously experience a way of being or consciousness outside its power and say “No man would dare to live without laying down more or less definite rules for his own guidance, without yielding obedience to law in some sense; and those who discard or attempt to discard all such aids are often farthest from the attainment of Christian perfection.” This reflection is understandable for those who, by their own acknowledgment, are ruled by the reflective nature. They cannot conceive that a conscience drawn into the power of the immediate presence of the spirit of Jesus Christ is ruled and guided but in a different way.
It is such a blessing that even today and in every place and time the inshining presence of the spirit of Jesus Christ is drawing people experientially into a different conscience and a different consciousness wherein the awareness of the increased, decrease, or stasis of Christ’s presence is the rule itself which guides human relations. And that this living rule is experienced as sufficient in itself so that the christed may say to those of the reflective nature, "I am come into a different way wherein I am drawn out of outward formalities to rule and guide and drawn into the direct and immediate rule of the awareness of Christ’s presence and motion without regard for the political, religious, economic, and educational institutional agencies and agents nurtured in the power of the reflective nature.
Upcoming §3. On Early Quakers and the Sufficiency of Christ.
§. 3. The Epistle of Edward Burroughs and the historic coming of the Quaker Gathering into the direct and immediate experience of the holy anointing of the Spirit of Christ. Notes and Draft. 01–01–2023.
An epistle, dated 1658, by Edward Burroughs is published as a prelude to George Fox’s “The Great Mystery of the Great Whore” published in 1659. In this epistle Burroughs writes [I retained the original topography, including original spelling.]:
Here Burroughs testifies to the witness of the inshining Light of Christ drawing the first Quakers out of the process of reflective thought to guide and inform. Burrough plainly states that upon their recieving of the “holy anointing” of the Light of Christ they “ceased from the teachings of all men, and their words…” etc. This testimony to turning from the teachings, words, worship, Temples, baptisms, Churches, professions, and practices “of all men” is a testimony of coming out of the reflective nature itself as guide and teacher and coming into the “motions of the Lord’s pure spirit.”
Burroughs’s witness of the motions of the Lord’s pure spirit “as sufficient guide” for the first Quakers recalls the testimony of Chrysostom, 1,268 years earlier, who proclaimed:
In this Quaker witness we have a people who were come again into the pure life of the Grace of the Spirit … 1,268 years after Chrysostom’s testimony of the people of the Church having “put away” this pure life in the Grace of the Spirit.
Burroughs affirms this moment when the christed put away Christ’s immediate and continuous presence in the same epistle with these words:
A pamphlet published in 1657 entitled “The West Answering to the North …” affirms the power of the workings of the spirit of Jesus Christ upon the Quaker gathering both concerning their historic being come into the primitive habitation of the early christed people and of their being drawn out of the reflective nature to guide and inform their relations between themselves, the unchristed, and God.
§. 4. (Upcoming.) The power of the reflective nature is strong in human being and consciousness as the words of Chrysostom, Schaff and Lightfoot affirm. About 10 years after their gathering, the Quakers entered into a reflective battle over the institution of various formalities, opinion, worship, etc. and imposed upon the individuals of the gathering generally and specifically upon those in the gathering who were drawn out of all formalities through the workings and motions of the spirit of Christ inshining upon their conscience.