Several years ago I came across a small book entitled Quaker Spirituality – Selected Writings. I’m still not sure what made me pause on the title but I am glad I did. Inside that book was an essay by Thomas R. Kelly (1893-1941) talked about the “Eternal Presence”. I didn’t know it then but this essay put me on the path to learning much more about Quakers. It gave me the most complete understanding of who God was that I have ever had in my life up to that point.
Here are some of the words from that essay. I am just going to give you bits an pieces but enough to get its message across: The Quaker discovery and message has always been that God still lives and moves, works and guides, in vivid immediacy, within the hearts of men. For revelation is not static and complete, like a book, but dynamic and enlarging, as springing from life and Soul of all things. This light and Life is in all men, ready to sweep us into its floods, illumine us with its blinding, or with its gentle guiding radiance, send us tendered but strong into the world of need and pain and blindness. Surrender of self to that indwelling Life is entrance upon an astounding, and almost miraculous Life..... We are men of double personalities. We have slumbering demons within us. We all have also a dimly-formed Christ within us. We've been too ready to say that the demonic man within us is the natural and real man, and that the Christ-man within us is unnatural and the unreal self but nothing could be further from the truth.... It is an amazing discovery, at first, to find that the creative Power and Life is at work in the world. God is no longer the object of belief; he is a Reality, who has continued, within each of us, his real presence in the world.
One of the most basic tenets of Quakerism is the “light of God is within each and every one of us”. It is up to us to show this light to the world of need, pain, and blindness and I might even add deafness. It is up to each of us to show God within us. It is an amazing discovery to understand that “WE” contain the real presence of God in this world. God is not some mythical bearded guy up there that decides who will go to heaven or who to punish with hell. God is real; he is within each and every one of us.
This revelation changed everything in my attitudes. No longer did I consider myself a miserable sinner who can do no good. I know I now have a small piece of the presence of God in this world. I am to do what he expects me to do. I am not a worthless piece of snot that I was taught growing up in church. I am instead the light of God in this world. When you accept that it fact everything changes. You are no longer living for yourself but now are living to show God’s love within you through your deeds and actions.
When I read the above words it was a sobering moment for me. It made me look upon the current religious establishment with a different view. It was indeed a very inspiring little book for me.