On Sundays I go to the meeting house. T drives me, and we chat. About fifteen or twenty people gather, and chat deeply and joyously. I kiss cheeks, and have two or three good hugs.
I sit in silence in the meeting room. The last time I went in, I was assailed by the holiness of it. Or- I am aware that I have different states of awareness or attention. I may sit with my thoughts chasing their tails, thoughts I have thought before, or I may be in a state where my senses seem heightened, that I can hear a pin drop, I can see wonder and beauty in the grain of the bench. It is “holy”- it seems to facilitate in me altered states which I value. My teacher Amrita writes of silence.
I notice the other people as they come into the room. As I worship with most of them regularly, talk to them, see them in action, I know and value them. I take pleasure in their presence and being.
I may watch the clock for the hour, and think, and- sometimes my thoughts seem to move in a new or useful direction. This may be “inspired”. There are a number of stories about how this might happen. It is the Holy Spirit, moving me, as St Paul says giving words to my inarticulate feelings. Or, it is my unconscious mind, and things drift into consciousness. Sometimes I feel moved to speak this to the Meeting, and sometimes what I say has had particular meaning for others, or what they say has been where I am. Two Friends spoke of resisting this prompting to speak, and being unable to- our Quakerly sobriety lives with vibrant hearts and charismatic Movement.
Then we chat over coffee.
S says that she needs to talk of these spiritual matters, and is so delighted that she has found people who understand what she means. I joined when I felt driven from my Anglican church, when I could no longer worship disguised as a man, and found I was accepted among Quakers.
I join in with the organisation, as assistant area meeting clerk and now member of Nominations Committee.
What of dogma and doctrine? I have certain experiences, chiefly these senses of holiness or inspiration, which I choose to label with the term God. That may mean any number of things, between the evolved consciousness of this human being in a random universe through some sort of collective unconscious, race memory exhibited in instinctive behaviour, or all-powerful eternal Creator. Sometimes one idea of God seems to fit better than others: for I see in part, and understand in part, and a false understanding may help me to a truer perception.
The Virgin Birth is a story. I do not need to know if it was true in the sense that “Henry VIII had six wives” is true, for I see its beauty. I have words and stories, stimulating and provoking me, to my behoof.