Tag Archives: George Fox

Search terms: some quick hits

From time to time, it’s interesting to see how people arrive at my site – if it’s not from a Facebook link, it’s often from a search term. Here are some comments on some of the quirkier ones.

“quakerisms”

The plural here is curiously apt. Although it’s not standard usage at the moment, perhaps it should be. There are many words we can use to describe the varieties of Quakerism found in the world today: unprogrammed, semi-programmed, programmed; conservative, evangelical, quietest; liberal, liberal-Liberal, not actually liberal; Christian, rooted in Christianity, Christocentic, universalist, hypenated; pluralist, inclusive, diverse, exclusive, elitist; spiritual, humanist, religious; theist, atheist, non-theist, agnostic, gnostic; honest, transparent, open, silent, unknown, secret; clear, sure, uncertain, exploring, vague, confused, determined, open-minded… and maybe all of these at once. How many Quakerisms are there?

“quaker-friends church bloggers 2014”

I guess this person might have been looking for the Quaker Alphabet Bloggers, or perhaps they were just looking for Quaker or Friends Church bloggers in general. There are plenty of them about!

“what does buddha look like”

It was the tense of this query which caught my attention. This isn’t, apparently, a search for information about the historical figure known as the Buddha, but a question about what the Buddha looks like today. This might be about the way the Buddha is depicted in art today, but perhaps it’s a more mystical question. Would you recognise a Buddha if you met one? Would a Buddha introduce themselves as such, or is it more like meeting an angel, an experience you only understand in retrospect?

“wittgenstein space”

I’ve no idea what this searcher was seeking. On first reading, it sounds like a sci-fi premise: Wittgenstein in Space! He analyses the grammar of scientific spaceship jargon! He meets a race of aliens who claim to have a private language! He threatens crewmate Karl Popper with laser-poker!

However, I did once give a paper in which I used Wittgensteinian ideas to explore the ways that we interact with space, specifically with the space inside a Skyspace. If you’re interested, you can listen to the whole piece at the Go Inside To Greet The Light website. It’s officially called ‘wordless thought’, but I’m not sure that’s what it’s really about!

“pagan brigid upg”

UPG, or Unsubstantiated Personal Gnosis, is knowledge gained about a deity through a personal practice – meditation, prayer, divination, or similar. I’m fascinated by the processes and vocabulary which are growing up in the Pagan community around this, and especially by how they compare to Quaker processes for seeking and agreeing on ‘the will of God for us now’, but I haven’t yet written at length about them. Nor do I have particular UPG of my own about Brigid; in fact, I don’t especially feel the need of it, and one of the reasons I was drawn to Brigid in the early days of my Pagan exploration was that there’s enough material on her that it even appeared – a few mentions here and there – in my local library. For reviews of books and other resources about Brigid, I heartily recommend Brigit’s Sparkling Flame.

“brigid and the fox”

I see the confusion here! The Fox in my blog title refers to George Fox, founder of the Quaker movement. The story this search is looking for is about Brigid and an actual fox, or in some tellings a wolf: there’s a very short version here and a much longer one here. A charming tale about her power over nature, even if the fox does (usually) run away back to the woods at the end!

G is for… George Fox

George Fox (1624-1691) was an Englishman who had a vision from God and founded a new religious movement – the Quakers. A good number of our well-loved phrases began life as quotations from Fox, and he remains the author most quoted in Quaker Faith and Practice (with William Penn and John Woolman coming second and third). His biography is fairly well represented online, with a full wikipedia page and an edition of his journal. That being so, I want to use this blog post not for history but for anecdote: how is Fox used, quoted, thought of in Meetings today?

In my experience, he is more quoted than read, for one thing. The extracts in Faith and Practice are easy enough, but it’s a rare (and generally an academically confident) Quaker who turns to the whole Journal itself – various new editions and updated-language versions notwithstanding. Sometimes Fox is used as the ‘ultimate Quaker authority’ – I have been told in discussion that, for example, Fox would not recognise my form of Quakerism, especially Quaker-Paganism, or Quakerism-with-an-interest-in-Goddesses (and that therefore it is illegitimate). Now, it’s true that Fox wouldn’t recognise many things in my life – blogging, soy milk, Quagans, and so forth. Does that mean that the Spirit does not or cannot move through them? I don’t think so (you’ve have to have a very weak notion of Spirit to say that it did, I think). And if the core of Quakerism, the movement started by Fox with others, is responsiveness to the Holy Spirit in the world today, then all sorts of things Fox never heard of can be true to the essence of the movement.

Does that mean that Fox is unimportant? I don’t think so. History is always useful, and to keep a tradition you need to know and engage with the past and present of that tradition – how else can you learn to recognise it when you see it? We’ve changed a lot in three hundred and fifty odd years (who hasn’t?), but if I can recognise Fox and see the continuities as well as the changes, I like to think that a time-travelling Friend from 1650 – Fox, Fell, Naylor, or any of the others – could come to see that as well. Once they’d got over the shock.

(As an aside, while my argument that Fox was a Druid is wholly flippant, I do think that people who are accustomed to having religious experiences on hills  and worshipping in the open air would probably recognise some aspects of neo-paganism, even while they find other parts difficult and blasphemous.)