This missal takes a look at two similar religious groups, the Quakers and Shakers.
The Religious Society of Friends, or Quakers, was founded in England in the 17th century. A Christian religious denomination founded by people who were dissatisfied with the existing denominations of Christianity, the Society of Friends is counted among the historic peace churches. The United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing, or Shakers, is a religious group that originated also in England in the 1700's. The Shakers developed from the Quakers, but tended to be more demonstrative in their worship and ceremony. Both groups have tended away from a hierarchical structure or even creeds, but rely on individual inner revelations. This central concept of the "Inner Light", and belief arising from personal conscience and "God Within" separates them from the traditional Christian categories of Catholic, Orthodox or Protestant.
George Fox is generally credited with being the principal co-founder and important early figure in Quaker history. He rebelled against the religious status quo of his time by proposing an unusual approach to the Christian faith. Fox believed that direct experience of God was available to all people, without mediation. He gave up his trade as a cobbler and began to tour England as a dissenting preacher, for which he was persecuted and eventually imprisoned for a time. William Penn and Oliver Cromwell were contemporaries who viewed Fox with respect, apart from the mainstream who tended to view him as heretical. He kept a journal which was only published after his death, giving a good view of his personal journey.
"Christ has come to teach His people Himself."
- George Fox
Worship for Quakers, or Friends, is roughly divided in two kinds: unprogrammed, and programmed. The unprogrammed form is the most original and is spontaneous and for the most part unrehearsed. Friends enter the hall in silence, and begin an "expectant waiting" for inspiration. When someone is inspired to talk, called "vocal ministry", they are also expected to give the source for their message, whether self of God. These talks are followed by periods of silence, with no debate or cross-talk. The meeting is ended when one Friend shakes another's hand. Programmed meetings were started to deal with larger numbers of members and follow a Protestant-type format.
The Shakers were formed as a Quaker related group in the home of Jane and James Wardley in the early 1700's from the teachings and format of the five French Prophets or Camisards, militant Protestants from the Cévennes Mountains in the south of France. Wardely practiced this “possession by the spirit”, and in 1747, Mother Ann Lee first made contact with his group. She later emigrated to America were the movement took hold, eventually having some 19 communal settlements with 200,000 members. Today only a handful of members survive in the one remaining active group.
Mother Anne was to some the second coming of Christ in its feminine aspect, and she generated the start of the movement in America. She emigrated from England to New York in the 1770's to avoid persecution. Her group engaged in ecstatic dancing or "shaking" during worship, which gave them the name 'Shaking Quakers'. After reaching New York, they were called Shakers. They differed from the Quakers mainly in their belief in celibacy, and having nothing to do with marriage or raising children. The Shakers relied on orphans to gain young members to their groups. Early Shaker worship services were unstructured, loud, chaotic and emotional. However, later on, Shakers developed precision dances and orderly rituals, and wrote thousands of religious songs. The Shakers believed in the value of hard work, and everyone learned a craft and did their chores.
Some of the mainstays in Shaker life were expressed as follows:
1. Duality of the Deity, composed of a male and a female element
2. Ann Lee as the Second Appearance of Christ
3. Equality of men and women
5. Community of Property
6. Withdrawal from the World
9. Open confession of sin
10. Worship expressed in dance and in march
Their belief in celibacy and hard work could have attributed to their slow disappearance, for by this century they were on the wane, and had only four members left in 2006.
Both of these groups believed and practiced a form of direct communication with a higher power. The Shakers took it further by finding ways to strengthen this connection. By taking personal responsibility for their beliefs, mainly that of the possibility of direct contact with God, they eliminated the illusion that a priest class was necessary for the individual to find his Source. All worked in equality, and worked as well on themselves, believing there was a higher life or existence possible if one turned within.
"Put your hands to work, and your heart to God."
"Labor to make the way of God your own; let it be your inheritance, your treasure, your occupation, your daily calling."
- Mother Anne Lee
Information from Wikipedia and www.fruitlands.org/shaker.php
- Related Sites -
Religious Society of Friends, From Wikipedia: The Society of Friends is counted among the historic peace churches. Commonly known as the Quakers or Friends, The Society of Friends was founded in England in the 17th century as a Christian religious denomination by people who were dissatisfied with the existing denominations and sects of Christianity. Historians generally credit George Fox with being the principal co-founder or most important early figure.
Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village: "Today Sabbathday Lake is the only active Shaker Community. We still strive to live a life of work and worship, fulfilling the motto of our founder, Mother Ann, to "put our hands to work and hearts to God." The Community presently consists of eighteen buildings located on 1,800 acres of land. We maintain a tree farm, apple orchard, vegetable gardens, commercial herb garden, hay fields, pastures, a flock of sheep, and a variety of livestock. Other occupations include manufacturing of fancy goods, basket making, weaving, printing, and the manufacturing of some small woodenware." http://www.shaker.lib.me.us/index.html
Ken Burns' America: The Shakers (1985) Acclaimed documentary filmmaker Ken Burns directs this look at the unique religion and the peaceful and productive pastimes the Shakers practice on a daily basis. In this engrossing exploration of a little-known part of American culture, Burns brings to life the history, politics, and dynamic personalities that made the Shaker phenomenon possible -- and that make it symbolic of all that America is and was.
Tricks and Traps
Trap: "Living in an emotionally-based daydream state of thought. " - Roy Masters. Unless our hitherto unconconscious emotions cease to be our prime motivating factor, we are not capable of reasoned thought in any way other than rationalization for unchecked feelings.
Trick: Common sense. A period of meditation, morning and night, can clear the mind and allow common sense and reason to help. Feelings are a tool, much like reason, and should be double-checked before rushing to assuage them. Check your mind at least a few times a day. Are you sure of why you do what you do? Are there pressures of guilt, fear, or desire beneath your actions?
" He had five rules for spiritual growth: weekly confession, daily Communion, spiritual reading, meditation, and examination of conscience. He compared weekly confession to dusting a room weekly, and recommended the performance of meditation and self-examination twice daily: once in the morning, as preparation to face the day, and once again in the evening, as retrospection." - Padre Pio
The Love of Tail Chasing
"Every child is seduced into taking part in our game of life.
He loses direct-mind ability when he identifies with and participates in this dimension, and tries to manipulate it for his own petulant form of counter-seduction." - Richard Rose
Trying to find the real part of ourselves with and from the ego is much like trying to save the economy by boosting spending. Both are based on the faulty assumption that one can find a solution by only acting on the level of the problem. A good economy is not caused by consumer spending, the spending is the result of the good economy. Likewise, the ego is not the cause of our awareness, but the result of it. This is much like the proverbial dog chasing it's tail. We, as ego, see another facet of this ego, and chase it, thinking(from ego) that we have now found our ego and can finish it off, thus freeing ourselves. Silly, but true.
This problem gets its start back in our early childhood when some form of outside pressure caused us to forget ourselves, and react. We reacted to the pressure as if it was more important than us, and thus forgot our home in unmoving awareness. This change in value and direction was just the start. We then slowly but surely identified with our evolving outer mind, a creature that believes the problem of coming out of ourselves through pressure, and seeking meaning from the same realm as this pressure, could be solved by ever more clever reactions to that pressure. We became as the pressure wished, formed in its image, and were soon lost in the outer world. The inner self, our former identity, was lost, and we took our pressure-formed pattern of experience to outside forces, to be us. We come to feel we have lost something vague yet important. The mistake of looking to correct our pain from and on the same emotional level as our pain, spins us in an ever more dizzying dance.
We engage in this tail chasing in ever more fanciful ways as time and pressure dictate. Our past creates our future as we carry it into our present. We can more easily see this dance in our fellows, and even use the resulting judgment as another way to absolve ourselves to our own illusion of forward motion. Only when we become so furious in our whirling as to crash in a heap do we pause and reflect. We may then get a hunch that our movement is circular, rather than linear. The frustration from realizing the apparent helplessness of this dance might cause more missteps, giving us the striking notion that we cannot get anywhere by whirling in circles of emotionally-based thought and reaction, no matter how clever or profound.
What then? Perhaps in seeing the apparent hopelessness of finding the Truth through worded thought and self-belief, we may also see the need to marshal our scattered forces, and much like an athlete or soldier faced with an arduous goal, use them in a coordinated plan. If we are emotionally inclined, we must study reason, as much as we may despise it. If reason is our forte', we must humble ourselves to learn intuition and feeling.
Now comes the open secret. No matter how efficient and forceful we become, no matter how we believe and emulate the wise, we cannot force the outcome. So why struggle at all? In the struggle we generate a directed force, a vector. Through the diversion of vitality otherwise dissipated into worldly pursuits, we strengthen the mind, while at the same time saving the energy needed for its eventual demise. By looking into the seeming blackness back and behind our sight, we develop a direction, so that we might begin to move within towards our own unmoving center. We catch our tail in order to find it part of us, and ultimately realize that the 'us' which chases the tail, the tail, and the chasing, to not be us at all, yet is. A paradox all the way, but how else could it be, if you think about it.
- Quotes -
" Be still and cool in thine own mind and spirit.
" Keep within. And when they say, 'lo here', or 'lo there' is Christ; go not forth; for Christ is within you. And they are seducers and antichrists, which draw your minds out from the teachings within you.
" You will say, Christ saith this, and the apostles say this; but what canst thou say? Art thou a child of Light and hast walked in the Light, and what thou speakest is it inwardly from God?
" Take care that all your offerings be free, and of your own, that has cost you something; so that ye may not offer of that which is another man's, or that which ye are entrusted withal, and not your own." - George Fox
" Life is neither good or evil, but only a place for good and evil." - Marcus Aurelius
" When we become victims of pressure, decisive action becomes more and more impossible, for the law of life demands that we bring forth that what we have, or lose it altogether. Standing firm in our awareness of what is wise each moment, with patience, develops a tenacity to face any consequence and gives us the foundation we need to meet greater problems. " - Roy Masters
" Religion is for people who are afraid of Hell, Spirituality is for people who have been there." - Lakota Shaman
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Copyright 2009 - Robert Fergeson. All Rights Reserved.