Thursday, 8 August 2013

Priests, Kings and Managers

In a theocracy, the Priests tell you what to do.
In a monarchy, the King tells you what to do
In a technocracy, the Managers and Experts tell you what to do.

George Fox, founder of the Quakers, told us we don't need priests because the truth can be found within for ourselves.
Tom Paine, son of a Quaker, told us we don't need Kings because we can work out how to govern ourselves using the truth within.
John Macmurray, Quaker philosopher, told us we don't need managers and experts because we can work out what we need to do ourselves from the truth within.

George Fox:
“But as I had forsaken the priests, so I left the separate preachers also, and those esteemed the most experienced people; for I saw there was none among them all that could speak to my condition.”

Thomas Paine:

“There is something exceedingly ridiculous in the composition of monarchy; it first excludes a man from the means of information, yet empowers him to act in cases where the highest judgment is required.”

John Macmurray:
“There is a curious idea abroad that only specialists and experts are capable of answering the fundamental questions at issue in modern society. This is the reverse of the truth.”

We listened to George Fox and got rid of the priests and no longer live in a theocracy.
We listened to Tom Paine and put our monarch beneath the constitution, and call our society a democracy.
When will we listen to John Macmurray, and stop thinking that because we live in a complex technological society, we must have managers and experts?

We thought we had the rich and powerful, who will do everything they can to find ways of ruling over us, on the run after ripping the grounds of religion and tyranny from under their feet, only to find that they have duped us into thinking that we must have managers and experts – who of course, are supplied and educated by the elite.

“No, but we will have managers and experts over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our managers and experts may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.” 1 Samuel 8, 19-20, modified.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

That of God in everyone?

When someone asks 'What do Quakers believe?' you often hear trotted out 'Quakers believe that there is that of god in everyone'.

This is a complete misrepresentation of what Quakers believe and what it means to be a Quaker.

This is what George Fox actually said:
“Be patterns, be examples in all countries, places, islands, nations wherever you come; that your carriage and life may preach among all sorts of people, and to them; then you will come to walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in everyone; whereby in them you may be a blessing, and make the witness of God in them to bless you.”
What this says is that if you act in a certain way in the world – 'your carriage and life' - then you will experience something which will feel to you as a 'blessing' which will be reciprocated back to you by those you meet. It is this that George Fox describes as 'that of God in everyone'. It is not a belief but a way of describing the felt response in our hearts as a result of the way we act in the world. It is not a call to believe, but a call to action in the world in a certain way – 'be patterns, be examples'.

What Quakers do believe is that if we are to have any integrity at all then we must discover the truth in our hearts and minds for ourselves, and that the way that we do this is to come together in the gathered meeting and wait expectantly in silence. If we bring all our troubles and concerns, our joys and sorrows, to the place of silent waiting in our community, then we believe that the truth of our lives will be revealed, our 'condition' will be spoken to, as George Fox puts it - with both comfort and discomfort.

The truth that we discover and share in the gathered meeting will then be confirmed by the best of the teachings of scriptures and the words of the sages down the ages, but confirmed directly in the world as it is for us today.  

The gathered meeting is not a refuge from the world where we can contemplate 'that of god in everyone' to our hearts content, but rather a place of discovery, where the truth of our lives is revealed and where we discover that which we must do in the world.

The 'promptings of love and truth in our hearts' that come to us in silent waiting are calls to action with integrity which will result in us 'walking cheerfully over the world' no matter what may befall us. The rest – peace, equality, simplicity, community, follow from this.