Thursday, July 22, 2021

Early Quaker dualism

"we must not allow instances where [early] Friends implied an indwelling celestial flesh [of Christ] to distract from the more critical point that they were highly dualistic in their worldview."

     Madeleine Pennington, Quakers, Christ, and the Enlightenment (Oxford:  Oxford University Press, 2021), 82.  82-83, underscoring mine:

Admittedly, Quakers were reluctant to describe Christ as 'humane', and Fox explicitly referred to him as a 'heavenly Man'. Nonetheless, they also made explicit claims that the flesh of Christ was 'took of the virgin', so shutting down readings of the Incarnation which tried to attach celestial significance to the flesh of the human Christ before His resurrection. In this sense, they did not affirm the importance of Christ’s flesh whilst denying that it came from Mary—rather, they resisted the significance of the flesh altogetherIndeed, even where they did imply such a belief, what they affirmed seems not to have differed ontologically from the purely spiritual nature, and the importance of this pure spirit to the Quaker vision is stressed time and time again. This is reflected in Richard Hubberthorne’s 1654 publication, The antipathy betwixt flesh and spirit. The very title of the publication demonstrated Hubberthorne’s acutely spiritualized religious concerns—and so, his distinction between 'terrestrial' and 'celestial' bodies, later in the same publication, must be read in the context of his obvious suspicion of physical matter. . . .
The implications of this context are twofold. First, only the 'celestial' body seems to have been afforded any real value at all. Secondly, Hubberthorne’s description of the celestial body was indistinguishable from how one might talk about the spirit alone: he did not elaborate on its nature except to distinguish it from carnal flesh. Neither did this passage equate to an affirmation of the centrality of Christ’s humanity or the Incarnation. Rather, he was simply using scriptural language as a shorthand to speak about Christ in a spiritual rather than physical sense, entailing the essential superiority of the spirit more strongly than ever—and indeed, this specific criticism would soon be levelled directly against the Quakers.
Again, that is not to say that Hubberthorne denied the Incarnation or the historical Christ: on the contrary, elsewhere he drew extensively on Jesus’s life and teachings to argue against the former royalist chaplain and priest, Richard Sherlock. Yet this was in the context of his fundamental assertion that the flesh was unable to bring forth 'the fruits of the spirit'. . . .
This is followed by a very illuminating contrast with the Muggletonians (84-86), in reaction to whose materialism "the early Friends were uncompromising in their understanding of God (and Christ) as pure spirit" (86).
     In short, the early Quakers were reluctant "to grant the flesh (even the flesh of Christ) any positive soteriological value" (86), and it was "for their spiritualized understanding specifically of Christ" (88, italics mine) that they were criticized by their contemporaries (local ministers, for example).  "the rector of Abbot’s Ripton in Cambridgeshire, Thomas Drayton, was happy to affirm that 'I am, I praise God for it, usually guided and assisted by that Spirit, which is alwayes infallible'. Drayton himself was identified as ‘perfectionist’ by the Anglican clergyman Jeremy Taylor. Yet this did not prevent him taking deep offence at the Quakers' perceived denial of all authority besides the Light (particularly that of the Scriptures) and apparent belief that Christ had no independent existence outside individuals" (88-89).

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Index librorum prohibitorum

"the shifts we have outlined affected even individual Quakers over the course of a single lifetime. On this point, it is notable that of the 131 publications written by George Fox and considered by the [Second Day] Morning Meeting before 1704, 50 per cent written between 1652 and 1660 were retrospectively deemed unacceptable, compared to 40 per cent written between 1661 and 1670. Of course it is remarkable that the Meeting should reject so many of Fox’s works in either period, but the shifting pattern also illustrates a subtle shift in Fox’s thinking—towards a later, more acceptable ‘brand’ of Quakerism over time. This pattern cannot have been caused by Fox’s direct response to the concerns of the Morning Meeting, as the publications in question were all written before its foundation. Rather, it suggests a steady and deliberate trajectory which affected even those who were Quakers from the start: Tickell, Travers, and Burrough . . . were all convinced Friends of the 1650s, and their Quakerism was therefore the result of direct conversion rather than upbringing. That they also bore the hallmarks of change implies that developments were being driven by a cultural or theological shift within Quakerism, beyond a merely sociological adjustment in the profile of the movement or the character of its members."

     Madeleine Pennington, Quakers, Christ, and the Enlightenment (Oxford:  Oxford University Press, 2021), 48, underscoring mine.

Quaker discernment. Or Is my Measure my Rule?

Egbert van Heemskerck II
      "The Papists say, Believe as the Church believes:  So likewise G. Fox; but I say, Nay, I am not to believe a thing barely because the Church believes it, but because it’s manifested in me, else I am to wait till God reveals it."

     [William Mucklow], The spirit of the hat: or, the government of the Quakers among themselves, as it hath been exercised of late years by George Fox, and other leading men, in their Monday, or Second-dayes Meeting at Devonshire-house, brought to light (London:  F. Smith, 1673), 12.
     The objection is to the departure from the radical individualism of early Quakerism, i.e. the reversion to a principle other than that of "the true Light, which lighteth every man [(i.e. individual)] that comes into the World" (20).  And so it is to a kind of hypocrisy:  "How do they build up that which they once pulled down; and do that themselves which they have condemned in others?"  "some of you [Quakers] were Judged, Condemned, and Executed, for no other Cause than the Hat [(i.e. the insistence upon the right to leave it on before men of rank)], and now they [(i.e. Fox and others)] Judge, Condemn, and Excommunicate [us] for the same [(i.e. the insistence upon the right to leave it on before God in prayer)], . . . Not that I am against this practice when required of the Lord, but against the [merely] customary use thereof" (32), as imposed, "against . . . my Conscience" (16), by "the Body the Touchstone" (18) rather than solely the Light within.  "as others before them set up the Scriptures above the Spirit, in having that to be the Tryal, Touch-stone, Standard of Doctrine Worship, and of all Spirits; so do they greatly err in setting up the Body above the Spirit, in having the Spirit tried by the Body; the one saieth, The Scripture is the Rule; but in truth, their Meanings they make the Rule:  The other saieth, The Spirit (and not the Scripture) is the Rule; but the Dictates of the Body they make the Rule.  For if I walk according to my Measure, and my Measure is my Rule, and it differs from the judgment of the Body; by their Rule I am to deny my Motion, because it answers not the mind of the Body; for they lay down this as an infallible Rule, That the Body will have a true sense, feeling, and understanding of Motions, Visions, Revelations Doctrines, &c. and therefore safest to make Her my Touch-stone in all things relating to God" (21).  And so "The same Arguments which the Pope, &c. makes use of to support himself, the Body useth; and severe judgment is denounced against him that shall speak a word against the Authority of the Body, as it is against him that shall speak against the Power and Authority of Rome" (22).  "My Friend observe; What difference is there in these things between George Fox and the Papists?  The one faith, No Liberty out of the Church; the other, No Liberty out of the Power.  Saith the Papist, What Liberty to the Sectary?  No, What Liberty to the Heretick?  No:  And George Fox saith, What Liberty to the Presbyter?  No; What Liberty to the Independent?  No; What Liberty to the Baptist?  No:  Liberty (saith he) is in the Truth" (12).  "Many of the most eminent have had potent Impulses, to give forth solid, and sound Arguments for Liberty of Conscience [in this matter], and have pleaded strongly for the same, yet George Fox was heard to say in a selected great Assembly thus, Though many Friends have writ for Liberty of Conscience, I never lik’d the word, it is not a good word.  No Liberty to the Presbyterians, no Liberty to the Papists, no Liberty to the Independents, no Liberty to the Baptists, &c.  Liberty is to be only in the Truth, and, saith he, no Liberty out of the Power" (41).
     No, "the Unity that the Lord approves of, is for every one to act according to his measure and growth in the Truth" (11).

     "Thus, whilst the earliest Quakers characterized disobedience to the Light as the archetypal sin (and obedience as the sole path to salvation) their successors envisaged a similar obligation to the community itself. Again, this reinforced the notion that Quakers viewed the movement as a Church not only in a mystical sense (that is, as Christ’s body) but an institutional sense, and, therefore, that the emerging organizational machinery of the movement had the authority to demand compliance" (Madeleine Pennington, Quakers, Christ, and the Enlightenment (Oxford:  Oxford University Press, 2021), 34, italics mine).

"It is not just any civilization that" hands the riches of others on down intact

"It is unheard of in the history of religions that the holy book of a religion contain, at its side, that of an earlier religion.  Moreover, the second book, the New Testament, constitutes something like a commentary on the first.  More exactly, using the technical term of Jewish exegesis, the New Testament is like a pesher of the Old, which is to say an interpretation that applies the text to the present situation and interprets it in function of a key event, here the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus."

     Rémi Brague, "Inclusion and digestion:  two models of cultural appropriation in response to a question of Hans-Georg Gadamer (Tübingen, September 3, 1996)," in Rémi Brague, The legend of the Middle Ages:  philosophical explorations of medieval Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, trans. Lydia G. Cochrane (Chicago and London:  The University of Chicago Press, 2009), 155 (145-158).
     According to Brague, digestion (to the point of destruction) is the approach characteristic of Islam, and inclusion, that of Christianity.  If I understand him correctly, the latter is viewed as a strength at the beginning of the essay ("It is not just any civilization that encourages a style of appropriation that permits the transmission of an object of that appropriation to future generations so that they can newly appropriate it themselves" (145)), but a weakness at the end ("European culture suffers from dispepsia", which is to say indigestion; for the European "stomach—precisely because of all the undissolved inclusions within it—has become more like a gizzard. . . . thanks to the model of appropriation that Europe developed with its sources, it can appropriate other cultures without feeling obliged to digest them" (158)).

An old story

Nineteenth-century "U.S. expansion into the Southwest was built on a Comanche antecedent.  Comanches are at the center of the story and the westward-pushing Americans remain in the sidelines, stepping in, often unknowingly, to seize territories that had already been subjugated and weakened by Comanches.  The narrative does not ignore the vast imperial ambitions and resources of the United States, but it shows that the stunning success of American imperialism in the Southwest can be understood only if placed in the context of the indigenous imperialism that preceded it."

     Pekka Hämäläinen, The Comanche empire (New Haven and London:  Yale University Press, 2008), 142.  This on top of the impact that the Comanches had already made upon Anglo-Americans and other immigrants, the French, Mexicans, and especially the New Spanish (i.e. the Spanish Empire) throughout much of the previous century.

"no early Quaker tract, treatise or journal has much merit as consecutive discourse."

      Hugh Barbour, The Quakers in Puritan England (New Haven and London:  Yale University Press, 1964), xi.  Barbour is speaking, presumably (?), mainly of those composed "During 1652-65, the years with which this book is most concerned," and therefore not, for example, of Fox's Journal, since "Fox's well-known writings have been less used here than works by other Quaker authors."  Madeleine Pennington:  "The Journal is not strictly a contemporary source; even the earliest manuscript was only written during Fox’s imprisonment in Worcester Jail between 1673 and 1674, as he dictated it to his stepson-in-law Thomas Lower, and the first published edition was not issued until 1694. Furthermore, since the original manuscript is missing its earliest pages, the passages dealing with Fox’s early religious formation only appear in the 1694 edition onwards" (Quakers, Christ, and the Enlightenment (Oxford:  Oxford University Press, 2021), 6).

"they despayrd not of ye gift of tongues," or An incommunicated "Omnisciency and Omnipotency"

Juan de Flandes, 1500/04
"The orthodox Puritan, following Augustinian doctrine, expected the mind of a Saint to be straightened by conversion for practical use in God's service, but Quakers expected men to set reason aside and let the Spirit lead:  'Neither are Omnisciency and Omnipotency themselves[,] as to all those things that are to be known and done [by such,] so altogether incommunicable to spiritual men as our Academical Animals imagine [they are].'  Fortunately, only a few Quakers relied on this completely in practice.  A witty diplomat in 1657 described two Quaker missionaries who, knowing no French, 'past lately by Paris; they were found in the streetes soe starved wth cold & hunger, that one would have thought the Spirit had beene dead in them; the charity of some English gentlemen relieved them, not knowing [yet their] religion; but the fire & a supper revived itt; & would you know their buisenes, they were Ambassadors from the Ld to the Duke of Savoy; wt thr message was is unknowne, but they despayrd not of the gift of tongues [& the Lord had told them they should have successe].'"

     Hugh Barbour, The Quakers in Puritan England (New Haven and London:  Yale University Press, 1964), 151 (original italics re-introduced), citing first p. 575 of the 1679 Testimony of truth exalted of Samuel Fisher, and second "Charles Perrott to Joseph Wilkinson, Paris, January 17, 1656/57" (Extracts from state papers relating to Friends, ed. Penney (1913), 24, which is even more abbreviated than Barbour indicates).