Alex Thomson reflects on what it means to be a Quaker in the world today
There is a great spiritual poverty in the world today, especially in the Western world. This, it could be argued, began with the decline of the main Western religion, Christianity. It came about with the questioning of the credibility of the Bible and, because it has been taken as the literal truth, people lost faith in God. This has left a vacuum, which has been filled with alternatives such as Eastern religions, New Age ways, but mainly materialism, as people search for meaning. The material success of the West has meant the rest of the world has followed suit. This materialism, and lack of spirituality, is the main cause of the world’s problems.
The main questions each of us needs to answer are: who am I, who are we, what is life, what is our purpose? As Quakers we go into silence, into the stillness, the depths of our being and we listen, seeking guidance. We may see thoughts and emotions are just like seeing and hearing; they give us information, but whom do they give information to? We may realise we are ‘That Which Is Aware’, our true nature, the nature of everyone. This is not to dismiss our body and mind, for without these we would have no thoughts, emotions, seeing, hearing and so on – but we are more than just these.
What is the nature of awareness? This should be explored and experienced in the stillness. It is beyond words, but I call it ‘that of God’. It is what true religion is about, the realisation of a knowing, loving Presence without separation, for with no separation comes unconditional love and acceptance of me and everyone. This is the heart of our soul, the heart of our very being. It is not to abandon our previous religious roots; it is to understand them in this awareness. The awareness of who we are – this realisation fundamentally changes our perspective of life, and of what our purpose here is, which is simply to bloom, to help the whole of life and creation to bloom; to live in harmony with life rather than separating ourselves from it; and abusing it. We are already in heaven, but our misunderstanding in who we are is creating hell. We need to awaken to our true nature, to help the world awaken before it is too late. We need to make this awakening a priority for our effort and attention, otherwise we are only treating the symptoms and not the underlying cause of the suffering in the world. What does being a Quaker mean in the world today? What would George Fox and James Nayler be doing in the world today?
In reality there are no countries, only one world. No America first, no Scotland first, no UK first: one world, one human race. Everyone wants to be accepted, to be loved and to be happy. So, what stops us from manifesting heaven on earth? There is enough for everyone, but that is not enough for the rich and powerful. They want more. But this doesn’t bring them happiness, for them there is never enough. We are born into a world created by the rich and powerful, their world – and we are brainwashed into believing it is the only way. It isn’t. We need to wake up and stop being manipulated. Their way is to divide and rule. We need to stop playing their game, to become fully human, living as part of the wholeness, and not something separate from it, where we each are equal, unique and valuable.
When George Fox said to William Penn to wear his sword for as long as he could, who was speaking, who was listening? Who speaks today? What is it to be a Quaker? Let us be guides to all humanity, today and everyday.
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