NOTE: I’ve been a member of the Fellowship of Quakers in the arts since the late ’90s. It’s a small, scattered and anarchic network [confirming its Quaker character], which has done a lot with a little, and should be better known. Here’s an intro to its newest journal issue (online for free; but consider joining), from FQA member and noted guitarist, Keith Calmes.
The new issue (#92) of “Types and Shadows,” [a journal of Quaker-connected art published by the Fellowship of Quakers in the Arts], Summer 2022, is now available electronically on our recently revamped website:
I hope you enjoy seeing what many fellow Friends are up to in the arts in this beautiful issue. Many other Quakers are doing art. We’d love to heer from you and, as way opens, share your work.
While I have your attention: have you explored our website? There are many opportunities for Friends to share their work, events, opportunities, and connect.
[FQA Board member Keith Calmes is a classically trained guitarist, educator, composer, and author. He has transcribed several works for Mel Bay Publications, including Guitar Music of the Sixteenth Century and The Eight Masterpieces of Alonso Mudarra. Click the link below for a sample of his music.]
FQA-Why “Types & Shadows”?
Why Types & Shadows? by Esther Greenleaf Mürer, writer and editor of the first years of T&S. This article is excerpted from the first issue published in 1996. The theology is hers; the philosophy is Plato’s; the name is ours:
Quaker lore does not exactly teem with pithy phrases about the arts–at least not the sort calculated to encourage artists. Our title–more fully “Types, figures and shadows” is perhaps the kindest term our ancestors might have used. It comes from the Epistle to the Hebrews, a book beloved of early
The idea was borrowed from Platonic philosophy, which posits a realm where the ideal forms of everything that exists are kept. Somewhere there is, say, an ideal balloon of which all earthly balloons are but pale copies or shadows. (At the age of two my daughter Phoebe really began to believe this.)
The writer of Hebrews gives the Platonic idea a Jewish twist. For him the forms, events and institutions of the Old Testament are antitypes which prefigure or foreshadow the coming of Christ, the true Substance which makes the types and shadows obsolete.
For early Friends the idea of the primacy of “Christ the Substance” came to mean a near-total rejection of sensory means of grace, and of symbolism. The immediate experience of God was the goal, and symbols were felt as obstructions.
And yet, as Thomas Kelly writes in his essay “Quakers and Symbolism”, immediacy cannot be communicated to others except through the mediation of symbols. A symbol by definition points to something beyond itself. If I point to the sunrise, I mean you to look at the sunrise, not at my finger.
Symbols, of course, easily become idols–ends in themselves. Our gestures become ever more mannered, the sunrise is forgotten. The danger is ever-present that I may become obsessed with “My Ministry” not because it heals, not because it speaks truth, but because it’s mine.
This is a pitfall for any ministry. Are artists more prone than others to fall into it? Certainly it’s harder to avoid the trap when the possibility that one’s art might be ministry is not acknowledged in the first place. What if early Friends, instead of shunning the arts, had recognized art’s healing and prophetic powers and had sought ways to help artists grow in the spirit?
The realm of sense and symbol–of “types, figures and shadows”–is where we, as artists, live. This is as it should be. The Truth which we as Friends are called to publish can never be anything but fragmentary, for we cannot publish Truth-in-general any more than we can speak language-in-general. We must speak a specific language, work in a specific medium. And however great our skill, the nature of the medium will set bounds to our ability to convey our vision.
And yet we must go on trying to convey it. For as Thomas Kelly said, “Where there is no impulse to communicate the good news, there it is doubtful whether there is any living good news to share.”
Our types and shadows are needed. If we are faithful, they may provide islands of unity and meaning in the jangling sea of cynicism and discord which surrounds us. If we can point others to the sunrise, we do not labor in vain.