Plain in the city

A plain Quaker folk singer with a Juris Doctorate in his back pocket, salt in his blood, and a set of currach oars in the closet, Ulleann Pipes under his arm, guitar on his back, Anglo Irish baggage, wandering through New York City ... in constant amaze. Statement of Faithfulness. As a member of the Quaker Bloggers Ad Hoc Committee I affirm that I will be faithful to the Book of Discipline of my Meeting 15th Street Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

What is a Hicksite?

What is a Hicksite?

There is some confusion these days between Liberal, New Age and Hicksite as expressed by a Friend who said on his Blog that Hicks would not have accepted me as a Hicksite. Maybe so, I don't know... he's a wee bit dead these days.

But, for me the difference is as follows. Many definitions of hyphenated Friends means that one believes as another believed, so thee believes in the place of scripture as did Gurney. Hicks is a wee tad different. Hicks believed in rationality. So when there was an obvious or rational contradiction in the bible, Hicks accepted that one had to follow one's light. So, for Hicks, he felt it unlikely that God commanded the Israelites to kill every Cannonite man woman and child. He also accepted the rational belief of another Friend on the virginity of Mary (or doubt there of), though he felt the opposite way from her. In short, he did not deny the real world for the sake of faith.

Now this is different from Universalism, in that as Peter Fingesten said to me as a child, "My Dear Young Friend... many roads lead to God... that I am afraid is NOT one of them!" or New Ageism, which takes from a menu of myth and ancient mystical practice (often time calling that science) and grafts that into life in 21st Century Quakerism, and Hicks' approach ... open mind, well studied, and believe truth over myth. So, just because Hicks did not believe ... say ... in Quantum Mechanics ... to do so does not separate one from that tradition in which I grew.

The bottom line, for me, is that Hicks' tradition seeks to resolve faith and science. The idea being that science seeks to understand and observe the handiwork of God. There is a trend today, often put forward by New Agers and Fundamentalists, to believe that Science is a conspiracy to lead people away from God. This could not be farther from the truth for me. I believe that when one puts faith over fact one has elevated the work of man, art, over the work to God, as expressed in the natural world.

Now it is true that we all worship in some form of abstraction. All words are abstractions. But, when one worships the abstraction, that is idolatry to a Hicksite. I have met a neo pagan who says that when he dances around naked in an ash grove etc. he does not believe the abstraction, but worships the one God describe by the abstraction. I think that is less a pagan than one who ignores science as an act of hubris to worship the abstractions of that person's faith.

Personally I don't have focused enough a mind to worship the totality of God while dancing around naked in an ash grove (and who'd want to see me do that anyway, that old time religion is best practiced by the younger and better looking...) For me, sitting in silence and waiting on the lord, with the occasional message from a Friend brings my attention to the one God beyond the abstraction, and for I think Hicks and I would agree ... if he lived another hundred and some years.

Thyne in the light


At 4:19 PM, Blogger david said...

My Dear Young Friend... many roads lead to God... that I am afraid is NOT one of them!I do love that one!

At 8:26 PM, Blogger Rich in Brooklyn said...

This is an interesting post and clarifies a little for me of what you mean by "Hicksite". You stress an openness to reason and science as paths to truth.

I like to think of myself as someone open to reason and science as paths to truth even though I don't like to think of myself as a Hicksite, so here there is a kind of non-obvious agreement between thee and me (or you and me as we hyper-modern Quakers say). In point of fact, though, I think all branches of the Quaker Tree (maybe even the evangelicals, but I'm not sure about them) became much more open to science during the 20th century. Rufus Jones certainly was, and he was a liberal Gurneyite, not a Hicksite. Folks like Lewis Benson, never known as a Hicksite or a liberal of any kind accepted very scholarly and "scientific" (if you call history a science) approaches to Biblical texts and to the writings of early Friends.

I have myself toyed with starting a separate blog called something like "The Skeptical Believer" in which I would try to explore a right relationship between faith and reason, revelation and science. Not that I could possibly say anything about this that someone hasn't said better already. But it might be a good conversation starter with friends and acquaintances. I briefly noted on one of my blogs that I recently read a very good book by Stephen Jay Gould about the proper boundaries (in his view) between religion and science. It's called Rocks of Ages and I recommend it highly, while disagreeing with some of what he says.

I find it interesting, as a person who is getting to know you through face-to-face contact more than through this blog, to notice how much you say in your writings about getting away from "abstract" notions. It seems paradoxical in that I think of you as one of the most "abstract" thinkers I've ever encoutered among Friends.That's neither a criticism nor a compliment, just an ironic observation.

For me, Christ is not an abstract concept or theological notion by any wild stretch of the imagination. He is the One who met me in the woods near SUNY Albany at a very low point in my life more than 30 years ago and reached out His arms and said "Come to me...and I will give you rest".

-- Rich

At 9:00 AM, Blogger Lorcan said...

Dear Friend and friend Richard:

I think that thee and I are not using the same definition of abstraction. I use abstraction in the sense that everything beyond the thing itself is an abstraction. Let's take a rock. The rock is the thing its self... thee sees the rock, and it's image in thy mind is an abstraction. If thee wonders at that, try and hit thy hand with the mental abstraction and then try the thing itself. The abstraction takes on new meaning in that case. Should Christ have visited thee in the woods, which I completely accept, the understanding of the event past the physicality is abstraction or there would be a single faith on earth.


Post a Comment

<< Home