518: QUAKER WORSHIP (ii) THE EXPERIMENT WITH LIGHT

“A warm welcome to Zingcreed, the Christian/atheist  blog that tries to bring it all together. This attempt to describe a recently rediscovered advanced meditation technique is a tentative attempt to describe what it is and to let you know of its existence. To find out more refer to the references at the end.

Peter Turner, M.A., M.Sc.”

When Quaker theologian Rex Ambler looked at what the pioneer 17th century Friends did in their weekly Meetings he made an important discovery. They did not simply sit in silence for an hour like 21st century Quakers do. (See previous Post no.517) These founding fathers, dressed like the Quaker Oats man no doubt, had a distinctive meditative practice that looked  very promising for today. In 1996, Ambler introduced it at a UK Meeting, and it has since spread throughout the 20000 strong group of Friends in Britain.

Ambler quotes from Rufus Jones who wrote in 1932 “The Light within, which is the basis of our Quaker faith, is not some abstract idea. It is an experience.”
Note the use of the word “Light” instead of “God”. Other terms favoured by Quakers are “the divine”, “the truth”, “the spirit”, “the depths”. The claim is that anyone can find a still small voice within and what you call it doesn’t really matter.
Advocates call it a disciplined use of silence and stillness aimed at evoking a greater awareness and insight.
Critics reckon too much self-awareness isn’t necessarily good news for everyone as the technique may trigger disturbing insights which could even be dangerous. At the very least the technique should be practised with other people that you can share your feelings with afterwards. Another criticism is that it’s too self-centred ; aren’t we supposed to be more concerned with others than with our selves?

The Experiment with Light goes like this:

Sit down with your group and centre yourselves.
Listen to a short text, then think about what it has suggested for about 5 minutes.
Repeat this 6 times or so, with a different text each time. The texts can be heard on a CD, on line, or can be read from Ambler’s book.
After about 40 minutes spend a few minutes alone digesting it all.
Lastly share your experiences within the group.

There are several different published sets of texts you can choose from, including the personal, the world, and  one using the words of George Fox.

The ‘Personal’ texts start something like this:-
(i) Relax and be receptive,
(ii) What problems do I have in my life?
(iii) Focus on one thing that  causes you concern or unease. Let the Light show you what is going on.
(iv) Why are things so? Let the truth reveal itself. Be open and receptive – let the answer come. etcetera

Sources:
(i) Ambler, R. “Light to live by” (1996?)
(ii) Lampen, J. (ed.) “Seeing, Hearing, Knowing.” (2008)
(iii) http://www.Experimenting-with-Light.org.uk

Related Zingcreed Posts:
517: Quaker worship (i) Atheists welcome!
A Quaker talks about God
That of God in everyone – George Fox (1656)
Realist and non-realist views of God
Radical Christian attempts to define God
101 alternative terms for God
522: Is God subjective or objective? Why I left the church.

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