March 21, 2005

"...but what canst thou say?"

The following passage is from "The testimony of Margaret Fell concerning her late husband," from The Journal of George Fox, 1694. In this excerpt, which contains the famous "what canst thou say?" query, Margaret Fell is describing George Fox's "sermon" at the Ulverston steeple-house. It was the first time she had heard him speak.


And so he went on, and said, "That Christ was the Light of the world, and lighteth every man that cometh into the world; and that by this light they might be gathered to God," &c. I stood up in my pew, and wondered at his doctrine, for I had never heard such before. And then he went on, and opened the scriptures, and said, "The scriptures were the prophets' words, and Christ's and the apostles' words, and what, as they spoke, they enjoyed and possessed, and had it from the Lord": and said, "Then what had any to do with the scriptures, but as they came to the Spirit that gave them forth? You will say, 'Christ saith this, and the apostles say this;' but what canst thou say? Art thou a child of the Light, and hast thou walked in the Light, and what thou speakest, is it inwardly from God?" &c. This opened me so, that it cut me to the heart; and then I saw clearly we were all wrong. So I sat down in my pew again, and cried bitterly: and I cried in my spirit to the Lord, "We are all thieves; we are all thieves; we have taken the scriptures in words, and know nothing of them in ourselves."

The direct experience of God is a kind of Knowing, which is beyond our cognition, beyond our intellect. When we feel this Light of Christ, or God, or Being within us, we know it, and cannot help but feel a subtle bliss, a warm feeling of love radiating. As Jesus said, "I and the Father are one." This is often the experience of those who speak of this union of God within. To know this internal consciousness of Christ, to know God, is to be permeated with the essence of this union. This is knowing God directly, the seed, the purest moment of our spirituality, foremost over any understanding of God through Scripture, doctrines, teachings, or church.

Akilesh and I would like to pose a question to you - anyone whose gaze is upon this page:

What canst thou say? How is this consciousness, this kind of Knowing, this experience of the union of God within, nurtured? How is it nurtured within you, and in your experience, within others?


isaiah said...

Wonderful words from Margaret Fell that we in Unity relate to.

I am reminded of an old, wise saying..."for those who don't know, our words cannot describe; for those that do, our words cannot explain."

How can I say?
Because I am here, now.

How best nurtured?
When I am quiet, still, centered and in nature. When I am surrounded by those I love, face to face or in meditation.

Joy in being alive results in giving- those who are giving of themselves are nurturing the very presence of God...are the light of God...and are drawing others into this light.

Nurtured within others?
I would say the best evidence is when you are the recipient of someone’s good thought or deed- and when we see the act of giving taking place. There is where Spirit resides most abundantly.


Jon said...

Oh, this is cruel! We agree how useless words are, then ask each other questions to be answered in words! :-)

Well, how is it best nurtured in me? I would say that two things come to mind...feeling beauty, and spontaneous silliness.

I know, these are not the conventional answers. By feeling beauty, I mean this feeling, that others would probably simply call "love." But to me, the initial thing seems to be an apprehension of beauty. I might be lying on my bed before I go to sleep, and suddenly feel--the beauty of God. It can manifest in the silence of meditation, in seeing a person (whether or not they're "beautiful" has NOTHING to do with it!). It can also be an inanimate object or an internal sensation, but feeling beauty seems to be a constant. When I feel beauty, there is no judging, no thinking. The mind is empty and the heart full.

As for spontaneous silliness, hey, I'm a holy fool. Why are we so serious when the world is God's private joke, and S/He's just waiting for us to laugh, too?

I could paraphrase Psalm 2 as: "Why do the nations take themselves so $#%@# seriously, and the heathen not burst out laughing?"

I guess those are the most honest answers I have. I have no doubt about the efficacy of meditation, but I still struggle with zazen.

As for how it's nurtured in others, let me know. All I've figured out is my silliness does little to communicate the gift for most! I think everyone needs to discover how to nurture it themselves.

Meredith said...

Akilesh and I recently had this dialogue, and this is my response:

To manifest this pure consciousness we have opened, and opened some more. With spiritual friendship, we have looked into another’s eyes to see a reflection of infinity, where Being is meeting itself. This is real space, real not imagined. We, co-creators of this space have learned much about manifesting a pure consciousness, whether we call it love or divine love or warmth or eternal wisdom or Being or any other of a thousand names. Finding this space, enlarging it to include ever more manifestations of this consciousness, we lose sense of any boundary. The sweet energy we exude comes from this space, and touches all in our path. This touch, this light touch of love, is transferred on and on and on and on. We nurture this openness by continuing to be trusting, by continuing to have the courage to move with this sacred energy flow, by continuing to express the tenderness of our hearts. Yes, it does demand that we be vulnerable, just as it demands that we be strong. We nurture this pure consciousness by continuing to return to the wellspring when we realize we have moved off the path. We nurture our authentic presence by spending time in silence – for, as Mahatma Gandhi said, “A seeker after truth has to be silent.” He said, “I know the wonderful efficacy of silence…I know the secret of silence.” I believe he was referring to just this…