Quaker Writings on Spirituality

The search for spiritual experience and the desire to live a life grounded in spirituality has infused Quakerism since its founding in the 17th century. Here is a selection from Quaker writings on spirituality from founder George Fox in 1657 to the present day.

George Fox, 1657

Friends, meet together 
and know one another 
in that which is eternal,
 which was before the world was.

Isaac Pennington, 1667

Our life is love, and peace, and tenderness; and bearing one with another, and forgiving one another, and not laying accusations one against another; but praying for another, and helping one another up with a tender hand.

William Penn, No Cross, No Crown, 669

True Godliness does not take men out of the world, but enables them to live better in it and excites their endeavours to mend it.

Robert Barclay, Apology, 1676

It is plain there comes no man into the world, whom Christ hath not enlightened in some measure, and in whose dark heart this light doth not shine; though the darkness comprehend it not, yet it shineth there; and the nature thereof is to dispel the darkness, where men shut not their eyes upon it.

John Woolman, Journal, 1774

I saw that an humble man, with the blessing of the Lord, might live on a little, and that where the heart was set on greatness, success in business did not satisfy the craving; but that commonly with an increase of wealth the desire of wealth increased. There was a care on my mind so to pass my time that nothing might hinder me from the most steady attention to the voice of the true Shepherd.

Elias Hicks, 1748-1839

God is a Spirit, invisible and incomprehensible to every thing but spirit….It therefore necessarily follows that man, with all the wisdom he can acquire, aided by human science, however elaborately studied, and with the further assistance of all the books and writings in the world, if void of immediate divine revelation, never has known, nor ever can know God…

Rufus Jones, 1932

The Spirit of man is a candle of God’s lighting. (This) means that there is something in man’s inmost being that can be kindled and struck into flame by God and as we feed the flame with our lives we can become revealing places for God, a flame of God’s life.

Thomas Kelley, 1941

Life is meant to be lived from a Center, a divine Center—a life of unhurried peace and power.  It is simple.  It is serene.  It takes no time but occupies all our time.

From “A Quaker’s View”, West Hills Friends, Portland, Oregon

Vital spirituality comes from within, beneath the skin of religious language and tradition. Quaker spirituality emphasizes an inward dialogue with God.

In fact, Quakers aspire to have every detail of our lives reflect the work of Christ in our hearts. We Quakers can see spiritual significance in seemingly mundane outward matters – like whether or not we eat sugar or in the amount of water it takes to flush our toilets. Opposed to slavery, some Friends refused to eat sugar or wear cotton (the products of slave labor). Friends today might order their lives to reflect a passion for Creation or for peace.

The wellspring of our faith is within. For it is within the deep places in our hearts that the Spirit of God lays open our lives, transforms us and sends us back into the world to live in a different way.

Quaker spirituality is a process. It arises from the presence of Christ within. It proceeds with the added clarity of a community. And it leads to outward expression in all aspects of our life.

Carole Spencer, Associate Professor of Christian Spirituality, Earlham School of Religion.

The basis of all Quaker spirituality is a direct, unmediated experience of God. This may happen individually in the process of conversion and prayer, and communally in the experience of worship.