“Silent Ways of Knowing” by Maggie Ross is the first essay to appear on The Postmodern Quaker that was not written by me. I think that its message is important for contemporary Quakers, and I am grateful to the author for permitting its republication here.
“Quakerism is rightly called an experiential religion: one becomes a Friend in the experience of being illuminated, convicted, and empowered by the light within.”
By developing and expressing a contemporary, tradition-rooted understanding of the inner, experiential meanings of Quaker images such as “Inner Light” and “that of God,” and by returning to understanding themselves as communities of salvation here and now, our Quaker organizations, especially local meetings, can play an important role in the process of change.
The memoir concludes with an adaptation of a piece published twenty years ago in the inaugural issue of the journal Quaker Theology.
“[The] exchange of love between the Father and the Son passes through the creation. All we are asked to do is consent to its passing through. We are nothing else but this consent.” — Simone Weil
Although what I am experiencing is only a superficial reflection of my own face, I perceive it as the face of God, the reflection of the divine within.
If the goal of my spiritual life is transformation, spiritual attainment, or personal improvement, then any path I walk leads back to me — that is, nowhere. … Openness to sobering, even painful revelation is at the heart of silent Quaker worship: the turning of bare attention, without denial or rationalization, to whatever appears as I am searched by the light that was in Jesus. … By dispelling the delusion of self as center, the Christ-light eases my need for self-validation and spiritual success.
Abiding in worship’s deep silence, our moral certainties suspended in trusting openness to the spirit that was in Jesus, we experience judgment in truth here and now.
Deep, mindful silence dissolves borders and illumines our relationship to all that is. Silence, therefore, is a door to wisdom, the “gateless gate” of enlightenment. Metaphor can help guide us on the path to that gate, leading us to life.
Part 5, “Vocal Ministry,” of Section II (“The Life of the Spirit”) of Quaker Faith & Practice for the 21st Century.