Special Experiences and Visions

The following is approximately the content of my vocal ministry on 5/14/2017.

I hope that Friends feel free to speak about their special spiritual experiences and visions. I hope, too, that those who do so will not demand that their reports be heard uncritically. The visionary and the critical coexist in our tradition. Most importantly, though, I hope that we are clear that unusual experiences are not of the essence of Quaker spirituality.

There’s a passage* in George Fox’s writings in which he adduces a list of sinful biblical characters to help make his point that visions and other special experiences, even direct experience of God, are not reliable and can be harmful to our spiritual life. That spiritual life, Fox taught, subsists in our continuing surrender to the Christ-spirit within the heart. That’s the one thing that matters. And whether or not – the “not” is increasingly common these days – we conceptualize what the phrase “Christ-spirit” signifies as a metaphysical entity, the important thing is our knowledge that the phrase refers to an inward spiritual power that is quite real, and that surrender to that spirit is a real possibility. That knowledge is why I’m still a Friend after all these years.

* The passage, from George Fox’s “general epistle to Friends at the Yearly Meeting in London,” can be found in the “Inutility” section of my essay, “A Song of Experience.”

The Punishment of Korah and the Stoning of Moses and Aaron, by Botticcelli

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