Friday, December 7, 2007

The Quaker Doctrine of Inward Peace

Howard Brinton had been a professor or lecturer at Guilford, Earlham, Mills, Haverford, and Bryn Mawr Colleges, and at Woodbrooke, one of the Selly Oak Colleges in Birmingham in England. He has also worked in Europe for the American Friends Service Committee and in Japan. From 1936 to 1950 he, with his wife, were Directors of Pendle Hill and from 1950 to 1952 he was Director. This pamphlet is one of his seventeen published by Pendle Hill.

The lack of inward peace is everywhere in evidence. "Busyness, restlessness,
the desire for activity is a form of escapism; we are trying to escape from ourselves. Not being able to face our own inner lives with all their stresses and strains, their disorder and chaos, we occupy ourselves as much as possible with what is outward. We do not like our own company so we feverishly
seek the company of others. We compensate for inner weakness by seeking outward sources of strength. We are continuously in motion because we do not know what to do when we are still."

Comparing the pressures of today with those of Friends in the 17th and 18th centuries, Brinton gives us his analysis of how Quakers in the past dealt with internal conflicts. With sections on “The Attainability of Inner Peace,” “Perfection and Pacifism,” “The Place of Self-Surrender,” “The Habitation of Peace,” and “Inward Peace as a Test of Guidance,” Brinton illustrates a spiritual history with specific examples from the Journals of Friends.

What is important in Brinton's view is a balance between the urgency of the outward mission, and the call of the inward path.
"The Quaker way is so to order the inner life that outer pressures can be adequately met and dealt with. This is not the method of the ascetic who conquers his sensual desires by violence toward himself, nor of the hermit who avoids his fellow men, nor of the stoic who makes himself independent and indifferent to the world around him. It is rather an ordering of the inner life, so that there will be a proper balance of inner and outer..."

Learn what draws Howard Brinton to his conclusion:
“The Quaker meeting for worship and the Quaker meeting for business are unique institutions. It is their purpose to expose the soul to the Light from God so that peace is removed if it ought to be removed, or attained if it can be attained. If the soul becomes sensitive, if its vision is widened and deepened so that new areas of life come within its ken, then a new requirement may be laid upon it and peace removed until that requirement is met. If the soul is able to find in the silence union with the peace of God at the heart of existence, then inward peace is secured and new knowledge and power received. The soul, no longer exhausting its energy in conflict with itself, becomes integrated and unified. Hence arises new power and vision for tasks ahead.”

View the complete Pendle Hill Pamphlet #44: The Quaker Doctrine of Inward Peace

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