Thinking in meeting

“Thou should not have been thinking in meeting.” We all know the quote; I am pretty sure Rufus Jones told the story, saying he had been the speaker so rebuked, but I can’t find where. What else is possible? Waiting, knowing one might be moved to give a message to the people gathered; contemplation, of the Presence of God in our midst; awareness of feelings deep in my heart; “Sighs too deep for words”, addressed to God. Some might sit in calm awareness of the meeting as a whole, its worship and its people, and that might be appropriate for elders and overseers.

And, often, I think. Sometimes this seems clearly wrong, such as going through my shopping list for the supermarket after, yet even that could be something I am worried about, and I pay it a little attention to stop it nagging at me throughout meeting. Or I find myself “writing”, as another Friend put it: trying different permutations of a sentence to see which would be most forceful, or expressive, or seeking out the perfect word. Possibly, then, I am merely in reverie, but under the surface things are moving.

The Unconscious will always be unconscious, and consciousness makes little sense. Like the podcast I use to go to sleep with: it seems when it ends that I have heard all of it, yet I have dozed and wakened throughout, and my brain forms the bits I have heard into a pattern. So thoughts pop into consciousness and submerge again, and the stream of consciousness is cacophony.

And the unconscious is not all Light: the inner critic comes from there, and other things which hurt me. Test the Spirits, says Paul: some of it has value now, some has not.

And yet the Word of God may come up from the unconscious, and the Meeting is a situation fitted for the unconscious to become conscious. I have spoken in Ministry words I have never thought before standing that day, and I start with an idea which I was thinking before I stood. I am enjoined to ask, Is it for everyone, or just for me? I recently heard another question: Is it for now, or some other time? There is so much wisdom designed to stop us speaking and distracting others, and sometimes what is actually said speaks to another.

A thought may move through me for the hour and be full-formed at its end. The words move in my mind, they feel guided, they are a thought moving in words to greater clarity and understanding. Our divinity is our humanity emerged for me from Meeting on Sunday, and I have shared it since. The humanity and divinity of Jesus are mixed like wine and water, inextricably, not like oil floating on water separately.

A thought may emerge from the unconscious allusively, like a dream; the relevance takes time to become apparent. It feels this year that there has been a shape to my worship, a development, increasing blessing and healing.

2 thoughts on “Thinking in meeting

  1. I came across this in an Article on Quaker Thought by Hugh S Pyper on page 585 of a reference book held in the Library at Woodbroole. Will send you a copy if you would like though I will need your address. Warmest regards Chris Green


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