Saturday, March 25, 2006

Quaker Peace

Perfect Peace II
Focus on God

The Quaker silence undoubtely leads many to peace. Long before I became a (Methodist) Quaker, I was into silence, not the corporate silence of the meeting but silence in the closet. (I wonder if many Quakers enter the silence on the second through seventh days; I know some who do.)

Corporate silence was (and still is) a lot harder for me than solitary silence, my brain over-stimulated by all the people in whose company I sit: who are they? what could I say to them? All this is a grave impediment to the perfect peace Isaiah talked about.

I wonder about these people whom I know so little! Are they into silence or are they thinking about the day's cooking or yesterday's golf score.

These are some of the temptations with which the devil tries to keep me from silence; I still do better at home in the quietness of early morning.

I wonder if Quaker silence promotes peace. As a whole Quakers are an extremely peaceable people; many of them are ardent peace activists. In fact some of them are militant peaceniks; I'm not thinking of people like Tom Fox who gave his life to the pursuit of peace in an utterly peaceable way. I'm thinking about some other Quakers I know, who push the peace testimony on everyone, until I'm tempted to send them a copy of Being Peace.

(If your mind and heart are full of dis-ease, this may be projected onto a militancy against others, like the poor devils picketing in front of 'abortion clinics'.)

The peace we all need is the peace within; then it radiates. How can I find that kind of peace? How can I achieve that peaceful mind and heart in the midst of a fallen and falling world? Maybe I can pursue this in the next post.


Lorcan said...

Dear Friend:
There is a fine line between being at peace and writing off others as not being able to come to unity, and in doing so, compromise our belief in the unity of our meetings.
Sometimes this is a effort that takes action. When Gandhi saw violent division among his people he fasted, putting his life in the hands of those in controversy in his community. He did not say, my own peace is enough. He put his life in there hands. Is that what it will take to bring Friends into responcibility to be civil with each other? I don't know, but I know that to give up on the belief that we can hold each other to the light of our loving efforts for clearness is to simply give up, to sell out all that Friends have labored towards.
Thine in the light

Meredith said...

Nice post, dear Larry.

"I wonder if Quaker silence promotes peace." Great question.

For me, silence promotes peace. And I sense it promotes peace in others, too. However, I'm guessing that many do not find a quieting of the mind in Quaker worship. As a whole, we Quakers get little mentoring in what to do with our mental noise in silence.

I have learned so much from Buddhist practice of quieting my mind - of overcoming that overstimulation of the brain particularly in corporate worship that you mention. Thich Nhat Hahn has been a particularly great teacher in this for me. His book Being Peace, is a delightful reminder of embodying peacefulness.

As you say, we all need to find this peace within, in order to radiate it outward. Radiating peace is akin to radiating God's love, it seems to me.

Blessings and love to you, my Friend.

david said...

Howdy Larry.

Been a while since I checked in here. Personally I find corporate silence easier than personal. Personal keeps bleeding into other thoughts -- I like the back alley ways of my own brain just a little too much!

But a good set of questions here.

anonymous julie said...


For myself, I rather enjoy the sacred space that Mass creates, enjoy the ritual as a framework to make space for silence. Or other activities-of-ritual. So, how, then?

Maybe to just be, be present. Perhaps in just being, we fall into the plane of He who is. Stop trying to get there and realize - we are there...

Storm is wild enough for sailing
Bridge is weak enough to cross
This body frail enough for fighting
I'm home enough to know I'm lost ...

-Jars of Clay, from "Broken Places"

Larry said...

Lor, your comment concerns social peace, certainly an important issue but one I wasn't addressing in this post. You make it clear that there are two kinds of peace, personal and social. Those without personal peace do often became involved in fractious social (and interpersonal) issues, and that would be a very important subject to post about.

Meredith, you wrote "I wonder if Quaker silence promotes peace". It is a big question. David has shared with us that he finds peace easier to achieve in the meeting than in solitude.

David, once again you and I find ourselves at opposite poles. Two kinds of people. You benefit from the support of the group to reach silence, whereas it raises all sorts of mental activity to me. The "back alley ways of my own brain" are much more insistent in a gathering than in the quietness of our deck at dawn. Lucky we have found each other, David, because we have a lot to teach one another (God brought us together).

Meredith, my mentoring came from Elizabeth O'Connor (she was a dear friend), especially her Search for Silence.

Here is another 'delicious' post about E.A. (I had no idea there was so much on the internet about her.)

I remember in 1974 sitting at the picnic table of a campground in the Blue Ridge Nat'l Park with a copy of Search for Silence in my hands. We had had a double exposure to the Church of the Savior by that time, and I was bent on learning 'silence'. I have not yet had so acute an experience in a Quaker Meeting.

Julie, I can appreciate how the mass could have that effect, and it might be something quite similar in reality to what we experience as Quakers.

Thanks for sharing with us the powerfull poem; I'm glad to learn that young Christians are still preaching so beautifully in song, although I haven't been conversant with them since the Ann Arbor Singers long ago. At the Church of the Savior we used sing "God and Man at Table are Sat Down".

Dave Carl said...

Our meeting has a Wed. evening meeting for worship. Sparsely attended, but I try never to miss it.

At other times, I have no routine, but just let myself "fall into" quiet for awhile, especially if I am vexed by some problem, but sometimes just because "it happens."

I really treasure moments when I'm with a group of Friends and we just fall into silence without anyone calling for it. Happened last night at our Friendly Bible Study group.



Larry said...

Thanks for your witness, Dave Carl. Re: those treasured moments-- yes, yes. That's one of the treasured Quaker traditions, rarely spoken of.

Liz Opp said...


It came up at my worship group that corporate and solitary silence may differ in terms of the degree of spiritual anonymity and spiritual intimacy that is available to the worshiper, and the comfort with each that the worshiper has.

I enjoy spiritual intimacy, so sharing how we engage in corporate worship, talking about our experience of the Divine, and worshiping together all go hand-in-hand for me.

On the other hand, there was a Friend who worshiped among us who felt too exposed in the corporate worship and felt she was better able to "disappear" into the large MfW held at the urban monthly meeting.

There has been something buoyant for me, knowing that the worship group is united in resting in God and listening together for that still small voice...

But I'm very aware that we each have different needs and disciplines when it comes to connecting with the Divine.

Liz, The Good Raised Up

Lynn Gazis-Sax said...

I find I need both corporate and solitary silence; one kind alone doesn't do it for me.