Saturday, April 08, 2006

pondering the "inner light"

I've been busy lately and we had some friends over the last few days so I've been neglecting blog-dom, and I don't have time for a real post right now, but for the last few days I've been thinking about the Quaker concept of the Inner Light. Where did the phrase come from? What did it mean originally? What does it mean now? I'll work on answering these questions later.

For now, you can ponder these queries with me, or share comments about your conceptions of the "Inner Light":

What does "Inner Light" mean to you? How do you find the metaphor helpful/not helpful? How has it been personally meaningful to you?


Martin Kelley said...

Hi Cherice,
Well, the traditional Quaker understanding is that it's the Light of Christ acting on us, guiding us, reproving us, etc. The Gospel of John is full of Light talk.

"I am the Light of tho World: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the Light of Life."--John 8:12.

"I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believes on Me should not abide in darkness. He that rejects Me and receives not My Words, has one that judges him: the WORD that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day." John 12:46

Just because it's Christ's Light didn't mean it was only available to those who professed Christianity and even from the beginning many (most? all?) Friends have affirmed that the Light is universal. Recognizing and following the Light is more important than wrangling over what to call it.

The metaphor of "Light" was only one that early Friends used to describe how the Spirit works in our lives. I suspect it's so popular now because it isn't weighted with the baggage of mainstream (non-Quaker) Christianity. While other Christian denominations have picked up on John's Light imagery, we've taken it further than just about anyone else.

In my own experience, the concept of divine Light is a great way to describe God's communion. There's the nurturing Light, comforting us. There's the judging Light, a spotlight that can show us the flaws we need to work on. There's the Light that burns away our invididual egos and histories to live into the body of believers. And there's the Light that shows through our eyes when we are animated in our love and witness for one another. I'm sure there's plenty more, I'd love to hear how others experience the Light.
Your Friend, Martin

Unknown said...

Fox also said "hearken to the light -- i.e., listen and take seriously the light. This aslo goes back to John -- for the Light is also the Word.

I've been playing with the metaphor of the Seed -- also an early Quake word but used less often now. It rings differently -- but it doesn't come a snaturally as the Light.

Rex said...

'Light' is a word we use to describe a real experience that really cannot be put into words. It's a good word because even scientists have trouble putting what it is into words. We do the best we can (knowing that words can only communicate our understandings poorly & then only when the person we are trying to communicate with has had similar experiences). Here's my try: To me, 'light' refers to our feeling that we understand things that cannot be put into words!

Liz Opp said...

It's interesting to me that you specifically ask and ponder about the inner light... at least for the moment.

To me, in addition to what has already been offered in other Friends' comments, the Light also has the capacity to call my best self forward, or to help put me where I am needed.

Here's a specific instance.

A few years ago, I had found out about a village in Israel called Neve Shalom/Wahat al Salam and an American organization that supports it. I was so taken by what I read that I called the American organization to see if I could help bring a speaking tour to my part of the country (e.g. Wisconsin and Minnesota).

The woman I spoke to was (1) the executive director; (2) originally from a Wisconsin suburb of Minneapolis; (3) was planning to be in my part of Minnesota in two weeks for a business-and-pleasure trip; and (4) looking for someone to help organize a midwestern speaking tour in the U.S.

Need I say more?!

(The speaking tour, in 2004 I think, turned out great, and was one of those times when I felt like I was "well used.")

Liz, The Good Raised Up

Anderson said...

eHi Cherice,
The way I understand the inner light is that it is the Holy Spirit. Living in the Holy spirit, by the His dictates, is behaving in a holy manner. So when you behave properly, according to the demands of holiness, you live in the light.
The inner light guides you towards the outer light. Isn't it interesting how when a person gets overwhelmed by negative emotions, they don't use their eyes - in fact they close them and do whatever they feel like doing. Their minds get darkened as their attention becomes focussed on their negative emotional state.
Reminds me of what Jesus said "If your eyes are good your whole body will be full of light."

NYAfterthoughts said...

One of the things that really struck me when I first came to Quakerism was a quote from Fox (echoing Jesus), that if you don't stand in the light, you stand in darkness. It really is that simple, but I think it's both more complicated and more simple than saying it's God. Every church in America is full of people of faith who stand in darkness, and don't realize it. To them, they show up, what more is there? If that makes them, happy, that's fine, but some of us have a deeper hunger in our spirit. In my (small) meeting, we tend to sit in silence for the whole hour every Sunday, and most Friends say they value that silence. They sit there, waiting to be "opened," to receive the knowledge you can't get by listening to a minister, reading the Bible, or doing good works. Where does that come from? The inner light. As Martin Kelley observed above, this makes Fox especially interesting in relation to other religions, because he sort of said that knowing about Jesus and Bible was the easiest route to being "opened" to messages from God, but it wasn't essential.

Anonymous said...

I had a dream the other night, I was reading a book, and a sentence was highlighted with a bright white light, and in it were the words hearken to the light.... having been baptized in the spirit at Gloria Copeland's Healing school a month prior, this is one of many dreams I have had.. they are powerful, intentional words !