Quakers and belief

What does it mean to believe?

I believe the Earth goes round the Sun. I believe in Milanković cycles, regular changes in the Earth’s orbit which affect its climate. Such rational, scientific belief involves trust in my community, in scientists who calculate such things in ways I do not know. It can be wrong, as Newton was wrong about gravity. Trying to distort religious belief to be like scientific belief leads people astray: the Flood did not cause the Grand Canyon.

I do not believe in Astrology, but observe that a magazine astrology column can give a little pleasure or something to think about. An empathetic practitioner, with a vast range of ideas related to planets, signs and sesquiquadrates, could see what spoke to their client and possibly give insight into character.

I believe in Hamlet, though the play is not historical: it portrays lifelike humans.

I have moral beliefs, which I have learned through instruction, example, experience, study and discussion. This year I intend to keep my promises better, having disliked breaking an undertaking. I also intend to promise, or not, more thoughtfully.

What does it mean to learn, and what do I need to know? As a member of a social species I need to know how to interact with other people, and how to be a member of the society that meets my needs. Much of that knowledge may be innate: babies recognise the patterns of a face. I understand others because we have things in common: I feel joy in service, and observe others do so too.

I learn through art. I contemplate images, my feelings resonating with them, so come to understand situations I have not experienced.

I learn the tradition of Christianity by reading and listening, then hone my understanding by talking about it. There is a rigid creed with nothing between Jesus’ birth and his passion, and gospels giving differing accounts of his life and afterlife. Jesus tells fictional parables, some disturbingly amoral, such as the Unjust Steward. I contemplate the mad Gadarene (or Gerasene), clothed and in his right mind after an encounter with Jesus, which may also be fictional. I find value in the Bible, Christian tradition and Christian writings, for learning how to live.

Then I learn spirituality by sitting in Quaker stillness for an hour most weeks over twenty years. I encounter unconscious processes and unravel the inner conflicts created by old trauma. I experience being given spoken ministry, and also speaking when I might have been wiser to stay seated. I know love for these people, sitting with me. I believe that meeting for worship and the business method have value. Quakers report doing different things during meeting: behind the still faces, a person might be praying, or counting breaths, or hearing God within them speak.

It is not true to say that you can believe anything and be a Quaker, even a Quaker in Britain Yearly Meeting. I believe meeting for worship has value, and that there is a wide range of appropriate things to do in the hour. Others have narrower understandings- “Thee should not have been thinking”.

Then Quakers have different metaphysical understandings of what underpins our experiences, In the Letter to the Governor of Barbados George Fox describes fairly conventional Protestant beliefs, including that Christ’s death was the propitiation for the sins of the world. We are rooted in Christianity, and many British Quakers have a radical Christian understanding of “that of God” in us. It is the Holy Spirit, which other Christians believe comes into us in Baptism and Confirmation, and we believe needs no ritual, because it is in everyone.

I might try to put into words my spiritual experience, for example, all my senses come alive, I see “Heaven in a wild flower”, usually there is a feeling of Joy with this experience, I am in the present moment not ruminating of past or future. That comes from my own experience. It feels distinct, now, from how I am at different times. My experience is evidence for my account of it, but not evidence for the metaphysical belief in God or Spirit. To say that Spirit causes such experiences goes beyond the experience itself. The experience feels like a blessing, but I could not say that Something blessed me.

I don’t believe in an Eternal Creator. I believe I am an evolved animal in a material universe, and there is no separate spiritual reality beyond baryonic matter. But the word “God” signifying particular experiences which I see in others or I share has value and meaning to me.

I would hope Quaker metaphysical beliefs would enhance our community and our practice of worship. We have a shared practice and way of life, not a shared belief system. Possibly the only belief required of someone joining us for the first time is that our practice may benefit them. Rather than asking what they believe, I would ask whether they are oriented towards growing in love in the community.

Might we have to expel someone for their belief? Only if we discerned that the belief was harming the community unbearably, perhaps because it was dogmatically held, and the person thought others should agree. We do not expel a Friend lightly.

My commitment to the community and the worship ranks, for me, above my atheist materialist beliefs. Therefore I hope that even if the Christian revelation of the Eternal Creator is true, I will not harm the worshipping community with my beliefs.

If Quakers honestly attempt to conform their beliefs to their experience, and are open to changing them, I hope those attracted to our spiritual practices will not believe anything that the community would discern to be harmful. Spiritual experience is beyond words, so I cannot produce a description in words precisely fitting my own experiences, though it is worthwhile trying to. When I do, I find similarities to others’ experiences.

We have some shared moral beliefs. We are pacifist. But we have a variety of understandings of that, and some Quakers joined the armed forces in the second world war. We have not yet reached agreement on assisted dying, and perhaps do not need to. Our moral beliefs change: when some Quakers owned and traded slaves, others began to say this was wrong.

In Meeting, I was contemplating Thomas Cranmer’s “Prayer of Humble Access”, which I said routinely as a child. It gained new meaning for me. “We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy table” alludes to Matthew 15:21-28. Then we ask to eat Christ’s flesh so that it will make us clean, “and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us”. That mix of unworthiness and access, humility and gratitude for the blessing I find in Meeting spoke to me. I grow in understanding, whatever I believe, or however I put it in words.

Nontheist words for God within

I am a Quaker, at least a liberal, unprogrammed Quaker. I know that sitting in silence has value. I know that a business meeting seeking “God’s loving purposes,” and together agreeing a minute, has value.

I believe I am an evolved animal in a material universe. My cosmology has no room for a creator spirit outside time, in some way inspiring Ministry. Consciousness and inspiration are manifestations of brain tissue.

I believe in common humanity. Just as cats have an instinct to hunt, so we have instincts which mould the way we form communities, which are innate though affected by culture. If a lion could speak we could not understand it, but we can learn to understand any human being.

I know the experience of being moved to speak, of words coming from my unconscious, and see why they seem divine. I see others having similar experiences, and value what they say. I accept Carl Rogers’ concepts of the organismic self, a life form fulfilling its needs as a social being, and a self-concept, an understanding of self which is less than the whole.

What speaks when I minister? I muddle along with Quaker words from when people believed in the Creator- the inner light, God within. I am influenced by the idea of critical realism. We have senses and brains attuned to meet our needs, not to know objective truth about the real world. So there is a real world, but it is unknowable. We only guess about it. I cannot know the truth about the world or myself, but with application I can approach it more closely.

I am a human being with conscious, conventional ideas about who I am, what I ought to like, what I ought to be, and underneath an unconscious which needs society to survive and is strongly communitarian. Sitting in the silence, the unconscious becomes conscious.

Spiritual Quaker concepts of “inner light” mould my understanding. I believe the conventional, conscious self-concept is an untrustworthy guide, and that beneath, in my unconscious, is a loving, beautiful- something. If I let the Something guide me, I will live better. I desire eudaimonia.

I am trans, and so have a particular experience of “god within”. Like many trans women, I fought hard to make a man of myself, always feeling myself inadequate. When I first perceived God within, she was feminine, and so terrifying, tearing down my fake manliness. She did not fit my self-concept at all. So I have more contempt for the conventional, conscious self-understanding than someone whose self-concept fits their real self better. But self-concepts rarely entirely fit the whole human. In the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus said: “When you undress without being ashamed and take your clothes and put them under your feet like little children and trample on them, then you will see the son of the Living One, and you will not be afraid.” The self-concept is filthy rags which do not cover our nakedness, a cracked cistern which holds no water, an idol.

Behind the rightness or wrongness of things, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.

My sexuality also seems relevant. I have a need to surrender, to open up like a flower to the right, complementary person. It seems to me that a God within a human who is fulfilled by surrender would be different to a God within a human blessed with complementary qualities.

Rhiannon Grant says the term “inner light” is problematic in a society dominated by white privilege, and calls on nontheist “poets and prophets” to create new language to express our perspectives. Here are the words I have used to myself, in attempting to understand that which is within.

The Something

There is “Something inside so strong”, but my conscious mind, with its conventional ideas, cannot know it. And I do not fully trust it. 1 John 4:1 tells us to “test the spirits to see whether they are from God”, and Quakers test our concerns in meeting. I need the help of my Friends to know my leading is right, though sometimes I will go with my leading though no Friend supports me. It is- Something. I do not always want to bind it by referring to its attributes, which I do not fully understand. A more precise word might mislead me. This fits apophatic theology, approaching a God too great for me to know.

The Vulnerable bit

That was what I called it when I first perceived it. “I”- here, the word means my conscious self. That conscious self thought it was the whole of me, the whole of this physical being or process, and then it perceived something more, something apparently vulnerable, hurting, crushed, which nevertheless had the strength to come to light, like seedlings, apparently so small, soft and weak, “take hold on the loam, acquire the air”. The “seed” is Isaac Penington’s metaphor.

Vulnerable, feminine, despised by my self-concept of manhood. It is a trans experience; but the idea of the “self-concept” differing from the organismic self shows that none of us completely match our Seed, and have crushed it below consciousness. Yet it makes itself heard.

The Real me.

Behind convention and introjected ideas of who I ought to be, there is a Real me. Again, trans ideas influence this: I am really female despite my male appearance. Psychologists find humans malleable, able to fit their circumstances and able to rationalise fitting, so as to be comfortable with it.

I know I can speak from my integrity, which is hard-won. I have written of my recent experience of revealing God within.

Given that we are organic evolved beings, the world is unknowable, unpredictable and weird. So why not personify it? I am toying with the idea of using the word God for the consequences of human actions. We warm the planet. Lytton in British Columbia reaches the hottest temperature recorded in Canada, and the next day is incinerated by God’s wrath. The oceans absorb CO2 from the air, by God’s mercy. We are God’s hands.

Words which speak truth to people will be adopted.

Varieties of spiritual journey

What? You talk of “nonduality” as one or two peak experiences for a moment, in your entire lives, years ago? Ha! I am nondual all the time!

One of my judgments is that it is wrong to boast of spiritual growth, but as I spoke to Friends of God in me, and the judgment or thought that second-guesses God and stops God from speaking, the words “melts away” formed in my mind. I had intense judgment against that, the claim to wisdom or spirituality, and yet-

In me there is that of God, and what else? Judgments, ego, introjects, something I do not fully understand but attempt to, using whatever language I have and concepts from philosophy or psychology. In that moment, speaking to Friends, the “whatever else” seemed to melt away, and I felt extreme joy. I do not want to boast, and I want everyone to experience that joy.

I experience inner conflict between that of God and the something else, and experienced it in that moment- the insistent words “melts away” and the horror at claiming something I do not know to be true, and the self-doubt- and then it melted away, and I spoke the words. Anguish gave way to acceptance and wonder.

Heaven is human integrity, where that of God within shines out through that person’s thoughts, words and deeds, and there is no alloy or admixture of anything else: that person is nondual.

I felt shame this week, does not matter what for, and it was clear to me that it was my own rather than some introjected shame- a feeling to help me reach my goals and best self, rather than anyone else’s demands. Instead of being my enemy it was my friend. That felt new, and delightful.

Part of the way I might help others experience that joy, and understand humans or humanity, is to describe my own experiences. How much this has value depends. Is the inner God of other people like mine, or does it vary as human character and personality varies? What else is there, and is the something else in each person different? How does the spiritual journey differ- there is an unveiling of God Within, until it stands fully visible, in all its beauty, but does the way the unveiling proceeds differ between people?

I saw God, and so God Within, as “powerful,” and letting go of that concept has helped me see God in me so much more clearly. Yet it seems to me that God in others might be powerful, or that at least the concept would not get in the way of others seeing their inner God as it did for me. Words are at best a way to approach reality.

Are there people who grew up in ideal conditions, such that their inner God was nurtured and cherished and there was never much in the way of veil to begin with? Quakers aim for such nurture, “leaving [children] free to develop as the Spirit of God may lead them”.

If I call the something else “ego”, there is the word “egotistical”, meaning self-aggrandising, but my inner judgments called me worthless. Carl Rogers pictured the self-concept and organismic self overlapping, and in my moment of becoming conscious of the spiritual journey, when my understanding of the world seemed completely contrary to how the world is, mine seemed to be entirely separate. My conversion might be like a Road to Damascus moment, but not everyone’s need be. Possibly, some might be unable to bear such an experience.

And there is common humanity. Because our eyes have cones and rods in similar formation, our experience of colour is similar, and different from a dog’s. While I cannot know my experience is like anyone else’s, we have a number of words for emotions which have a similar understanding in each of us to be useful, and we can look at another person and guess or sense what they are feeling. We are programmed to recognise faces- the youngest infants will respond to them- and who knows what else is programmed? We are eukaryotes, mammals, apes.

Some people may simply be nondual. Others may approach that. It is my way to worry and question, and also to use my analytic mind soberly to assess what is true. It is my aim to see God in myself and others more clearly which will mean loving God more dearly, and to help others do the same, and I will grow in my ability to do that.

Bewilderment and Complaint

The problem with privilege is that it is invisible to the privileged. When others defer to them, that just appears normal and reasonable to them.

Black people are menaced and marked because they are Black, and being gay or trans hardly makes that worse. White trans women or gay men might pass as a man, and so exercise white male privilege, but they lose that when they are seen to be queer. We might still seek safety in the conventions of white male straight privilege, which might work or might not. When they don’t work, it surprises us. We are bewildered. We complain. I get the analysis from James Baldwin, quoted by Shon Faye in The Transgender Issue.

“There’s an element of bewilderment and complaint.” But it always had worked, and now it does not. People seek safety as best we can, hence all the lonely hearts ads in the 1990s for a “straight-acting” partner. You could just be two best buds, hanging out. You could never make a public display of affection. You might have a man-hug, but there would be the temptation to go further, and let the disguise slip. Imagine being with the person you are lusting for, and having to conceal it.

Some gay men and trans women will always have been seen as effeminate, and bullied for it. They never had male privilege with men or boys, even if white. I always felt inadequate as a man, but I had a shell, a male act, which I managed, much of the time. I told a friend I was trans and she said, “I would never have guessed”. And, I still have class privilege to an extent: my clothes might indicate otherwise, my accent and use of words indicate educated person.

When people treat me as privileged, I like it. It keeps me safe. I might speak against white privilege, but do so mostly in white spaces, where I am showing my right-on-ness. With black people I see the risk of being the white saviour, but want at least to be an equal, an ally.

And how is it with cis women? Cis privilege is real. Where groups divide by gender I am nervous of being seen not to fit. And, by contrast, some anti-trans campaigners say that women relax among women, speaking more freely than in mixed company, and that this is liberating; but that it is constrained by the presence of trans women, who are privileged.

That could be a way of fomenting or bolstering resentment against trans women. Look, look, they behave like men, they are treated as men, therefore they should not be in women’s spaces. Look at that man, throwing his weight around.

And it makes me nervous. A woman treats me with courtesy. Is it her response to my male privilege? Is it just kindness? Questioning whether there is equality here makes me self-conscious.

Having privilege in some matters, and not in others, makes it harder to find God within. Quakers talk of the inner light, or that of God in each of us. The concept is linked to God the Father Almighty, the imperial God that Constantine and the Empress Victoria used as their imperial ideology, a God of Power and Might.

If power for me means maleness, the shell, then it is not power at all. It is a pretence, acting in conformity with Kyriarchy because I have no better way of feeling safe, and a terrible feeling of unsafety and need to feel safe. It is the same safety as when in conversation with a man I realise that the purpose of this conversation is for him to speak, work out what he thinks, tell me the truth, or express his feelings and get affirmation support and sympathy, and relax into my supportive role. Safety which supports kyriarchy is no safety at all, but constraint.

I do not believe in God the Father Almighty, and am rethinking God within. Mary Oliver may have it right: “the soft animal of your body”. “You do not have to be good… You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.” That gets rid of any concept that God in me is power and control. God in me is seeing the good I may achieve, and flowing like water to achieve it.

Whenever I am weak, then I am strong.

It is a choice, between my true power, from being who I am, or a false power gained by conformity to rules which occasionally benefit me but really keep me in check. If I have any shard of male privilege I can only liberate the soft animal by letting it go.

I have been reading The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula le Guin. At first, Miss Lelache the lawyer sees George Orr as “A born victim… if she stepped on him he wouldn’t even crunch… revoltingly simple”. After talking to him, she sees him differently: “she now thought that he certainly would not squash if she stepped on him… he was peculiarly solid”.

Writing out of the Silence

The world has depth. The world is magical. There is infinite complexity and beauty beyond the surfaces we impose and the concepts we use to manipulate the world. We need the concepts to get what we want.

The world is huge. There is God in all of it: all the people and all the things. I want to bring treasure back, for the delight of Friends. I find it within. I shall find the beauty and truth in myself, and use it to bless others.

Imperfection is only in our minds. I don’t want to say “All I need is freely available” facilely, but I have usually had what I needed- except at the trauma. I don’t want to say “Flow like water” facilely, as conscious incompetence is good too: but that is also Flow, as its desire is not divided, like mine is- for appearances, what I ought to want, propitiating my inner Idol. Out of many desires, I will make one, by submitting to God within.

God, Love, is who I am. I am who I am. I am waiting for what I want to happen, or I am maturing, changing like a chrysalis, reordering within. I do not know what that would look like. False ideas of God get in the way of the reality of God. What must I let go?

I submit, to God, or to a great lie that is my enemy, an illusion that promises little and gives nothing. If I am struggling, the struggle is unconscious. I could not bear my fear and sadness if I were conscious of them, but sometimes I become conscious of them and the world comes alive.

I am never safe. The way I seek safety is barren. Only love is real.

Trauma and the Idol

There is something of God in every human. Therefore God suffers. We need to cherish God.

God is in my reaction to life and events. Something hurts me, and God feels that hurt. This God is crushed beneath the weight of ego. Ego is concerned about how I appear to others and myself, and has taken into itself false ideas about safety, which are an idol: much of my effort goes to propitiating its ideas of safety. This involves denying my own, God’s, reactions, which threaten my sense of safety.

I am still dwelling on that incident in 2003. I will continue to dwell on it until I have extracted all the wisdom I can from it. I faced an injustice. I tried to fight it, but it was too much for me. This made me miserable.

I could not face that misery, because it felt like a threat to me. The false idol of my delusions of safety was threatened by it. Why?

Because if I can overcome even such injustice as that, then I am powerful, and so can keep myself safe. If I am not, I feel unsafe.

Because if I make such a contribution, then I have value. If I cannot, then I feel worthless, which makes me feel unsafe.

These feelings of unsafety come from trauma, the imminent fear of death. With Winston Smith I scream “Do it to Julia”. The terror is so great I will do anything to avoid it. It completely distorts my perceptions and desires.

I carry the weight of an increasing burden of distress, all the accumulated evidence that God in me does not fit my terror’s need for its omnipotence. Only omnipotence could have saved me. The threat receded, by luck not my actions, and I made myths about how I could avoid it in the future: I created the idol.

The burden got so great that I collapsed under it.

God is loving, creative, powerful, beautiful. That Love is in us. Cherish it, and it grows in us and guides us. My feeling- that distress- is a guide for me, telling me of the World. If I deny it, I block out all the positives too.

Someone wrote that I am “calm, sometimes passionate, always mindfully considerate, equipped with a fine sense of humor”. Zoom chat is a rich seam that I mine for appreciation of me, and will, until I take it into myself. When I can process the misery I will be able to process the delight.

My Friend who does good works, and never thinks they are enough, sent me her article on Dorothy Day, who did great works. I felt crushing judgment, and projected it onto her: I imagined she was judging me, but it was my Idol. I should be doing worthwhile things too.

Then I realise, I don’t want to save the world. Not at the moment anyway. That would be an ego desire, to prove that I am powerful and worthwhile so could keep myself safe, but I can never prove that to the Idol’s satisfaction.

My task now is to cherish God, that God’s love may grow in me, and nurse the idol gently until its screaming demands for tribute are lulled away. The trauma was unbearable, but, look around through God’s eyes.

I am as safe as I can be, for the moment. I am safe enough.

I keep going back to this. Each time, the Idol says, “Oh Goodie! The spiritual work is done, now you can go back to feeding my fantasies of invulnerability invincibility inviolability.” Each time, I go deeper.

This post is suffused with Advices and Queries paragraph 2.

The theology of Advices and Queries

Can we find a Quaker understanding of God in Advices and Queries?

Advices and Queries are guidance for life, rather than a creed. They are practical guidance on how to relate to God and each other. And in their repeated references to God we find an understanding of how God is thought to act on us, and who God is.

As well as 43 references to God throughout, there are references to “the divine” (3), the “spirit of Christ” (2), the Holy Spirit (3), the Light (5) and the spirit of God (7). I am not clear that these phrases mean anything different, here, from the word “God”, but Advices and Queries are closer to poetry than to statute, and different phrases may evoke different understandings as we grow in our relationship with God.

God is in us (2), and in everyone (17). Does God have an existence beyond humanity? Several references seem to indicate that: the phrase “the splendour of God’s continuing creation” could be a claim that God is in all that is, or in some way eternal and beyond it (42). When we worship, it appears that we have one communal experience of God: we can be aware of “God’s presence among us” (12). We can be aware of God at any time (7), but when we come together in worship we find “God’s love drawing us together” (8). And a visitor to our homes, who might not have direct experience of God in them, might “find the peace and refreshment of God’s presence” there (26).

God is vulnerable, and needs to be cherished (2). We can be distracted and disturbed (12), or turn to God; we can open ourselves to God, but God is at work in us even when we are not aware of God (7). Our proper attitude is reverence for God (9) and for life (42). Jesus’ relationship with God (4) is our example, to challenge and inspire us.

God is intimately involved with us: there are references to God’s love, guidance, presence, gifts, word (in vocal ministry, 12), forgiveness, help, purposes, and God’s will (36) for individuals or divine guidance (14) for the community.

God is in everyone, and may be working in them though we cannot see it (17). I cannot judge what God wants for any other person, 19 says: I might think that I know more than a child, but must learn from them, “leaving them free”- God leads them as God wills. We have a responsibility to nurture children, not to constrain them. Our “wishes and prejudices” (36) should not get in the way, and we can still help them discern God’s will for them.

We have responsibilities to God, including our standard of integrity (38), which should be “strict” (37).

Some of this fits my experience of God, and some challenges my ideas. I am a materialist. I do not believe in a divine creator: I can see “that of God in each person” has a useful meaning, and relates to human psychology in a useful way, but find “God’s continuing creation” more difficult. This cuts to the heart of disputes around nontheism in the Society: will we be religious, if atheists can expunge all references to God that they do not like?

When I contemplate all that is, I know that I do not understand it all, and that wonder, awe and reverence are valuable attitudes to it. So seeing God in everything may have value as a metaphor, reminding me of that. And calling the part of me which seems to best fit this conception of Light or Spirit “God” helps me balance my value with the value of other Quakers, other people, and wider reality. Spiritual language can only approach reality, not convey it like a scientific text hopes to.

When I first started attending, contemplating Advices and Queries helped me commit to the Society. I use them in outreach. I recommended them to American Friends, and one wrote that he “was so profoundly touched and inspired by the freshness and the vitality of these advices and queries that I wanted to share them more widely”, including to non-Quaker friends. Expunging any suggestion in them that there is a God beyond the brains of humans should not be done lightly; what do love and integrity require of us?

As an atheist, I would not want a lowest common denominator, when the word “God” was used only when everyone could agree on it. 17:

When words are strange or disturbing to you, try to sense where they come from and what has nourished the lives of others. Listen patiently and seek the truth which other people’s opinions may contain for you.

Instead, I notice the word, and see what meaning I find in it.

Hope, beauty, and God Within

I need a source of hope, and wondered if I might find it in beauty.

I have slept in the same bed every night since January 2020. I have not gone on a bus since about March 2020. I see people almost every day on Zoom, and often can be heard on it, saying what I believe, showing who I am, and being affirmed for that. Perhaps this is why I value the blog so much, as I am heard there. I want to be seen. I want to be heard.

If I know I am valued, it has to be by myself. I noticed when I transitioned that I got a lot of love and acceptance from colleagues and the Quaker meeting, and yet when someone was rude in the street it affected me for days. I realised that the rejection of some random stranger meant more to me because it was echoed in myself. I had to create my own self-acceptance before that of others meant anything to me. This may be ABdP Johnson’s superpower: an invincible sense of his own worth, which survives all the condemnation of others, and all the damage he does.

My hope was that I could come wholly into the present moment through perception, with feelings through my fingertips as I touched whatever I could, in the beauty of the park, its trees and birds. I would simply be me in my perception, relating directly to the world. Relating to beauty and feeling delight I would gain a sense of self. This is who I am, the being that loves this.

On Friday 4th I met J, who told me some of the bad management and bullying of the office she is leaving. Even Paul, the most equable and self-effacing of men, had made a complaint. This brought to mind my troubles in various offices over ten years, which though they ended ten years ago feel as alive, as I type, as they did then. Further psychotherapy is a possibility.

On Monday 30th, in worship, it seemed to me that I had to let go of any desire for an outcome from the Yearly Meeting on gender. What was required of me was Love, including for “gender-critical” Quakers; and faith, trust in the process of worshipful discernment. This seemed like spiritual preparation, and letting go seemed like being better attuned to reality. Perhaps they were.

On Tuesday evening in worship I felt rage and terror, my old emotions. The thought came to me,

I have a right to exist.

I felt that “the iron enters into my soul”. That is from the 1662 prayer book rendering of Psalm 105:18, and is not the usual translation. I find it evocative, as a double meaning- iron cutting the soul, or infusing and strengthening it.

While the anti-trans campaigners have a rigid refusal of sympathy to trans women- women’s needs, reality and bodies should not be subordinated to “men’s feelings”, they say- my feelings matter.

If it is a matter of my feelings, it is the difference between expressing who I am freely and being forced into a mask, a pretence, an act, a falsehood, and the desolation I would feel at that falsehood.

I have blogged a lot. My fascination with blog statistics comes from my hunger to be seen and heard. And I grow sick of it, indeed of all social media. Of twenty posts in May, Google lists only seven of them: if you search for a direct quote from the others, Google will draw a blank. It is not a way to be seen. And, the anti-trans campaigning is fierce. If I check a trans facebook group, I am likely to see rigid, hateful articles by transphobes shared, to show how commonplace and orthodox anti-trans arguments are in Britain, and defiant, angry, or miserable comments after. It makes me ill. If that transphobe wins her case at the Employment Appeal Tribunal, I would have critiqued the judgment, but feel no appetite to. Though, if she wins, it will advance the Equality Act, protecting beliefs even if they are disgusting and irrational. The question of how acting on belief might be protected would remain open.

So I may not blog so much. Advices and Queries tells me that if I “cherish that of God within” me, “the healing power of God’s love” will “grow in [me] and guide” me. This is my working theory on what “that of God in me” might mean, and what might get in the way of me hearing it.

What stops me hearing it is my judgment of what it ought to say, based on introjects and learned morality. That of God in me is that which I locked away and silenced, which began to emerge in February 1999, my feminine self that feels rage and terror at assertions that I should present male. It is that in me which is burned out by work, so that I could no more go into my old office and attempt a PIP or UC appeal than I could call myself John again.

The closest thing to ego in me is denial that I am burned out at all, and a belief that I could go back to work if I had to, sustained by as rigid a denial as that which I needed to present male. It is that which drives me on to work harder than I can at exercise, and creates misery at my judgment on my own inadequacy.

I could not see God in me, for how can I see what I think of as wholly inadequate and call it God? I am delighted today to come across the concept of Theopaschism, belief in a God who suffers, indeed a God who suffers for me. I must dive to the depths of the suffering in order to fully experience the delight.

So, this month. Less blogging, probably. Time spent consciously seeking out delight in beauty. Acknowledging the misery, weakness, anguish, rage and terror. I am still seeking out health, power, strength, effectiveness, as always, but seeking them through what I have seen as weakness, for in my weakness is my strength.