Two Specimens of Quaker Theology
In Transition, 1852
Excerpted from Voices From the Spirit World,
By Isaac Post, 1852
INTRODUCTORY NOTE: Isaac Post was a Friend, raised in Long Island, New York, who later settled in Rochester, New York with his family. There he was active in abolitionist and other reformist groups, which brought him into conflict with the more cautious & conservative elders of his Hicksite Friends meeting.
He and his wife Amy resigned from their meeting in the 1840s, and later were active with the Progressive Friends groups in the region. The Posts also were early supporters of the Spiritualist movement which swept through reformist and Progressive Friends circles.
Isaac soon became a “writing medium” himself, and in 1852 produced a book, a collection of “messages” from various “spirits.”
Included in Post’s book were “messages” from many prominent deceased Friends and public figures (e.g, voltaire & George Washington). These missives, which seem to this reader to be largely exercises in wish-fulfillment, articulate the basic impulses of Progressive Quaker theology, clothed in and justified by the words of notable Quaker & non-Quaker forebears. They also offer a capsule version of the Progressive conflict with the received, more orthodox theology.
Spiritualism eventually lost much popular appeal, but adherents to it have continued to turn up among Friends, most recently in a semi-underground fashion.
(For more biographical information about Isaac & Amy Post, Click Here.)
Included below are two excerpts from Post’s book, Voices From the Spirit World, “messages” purportedly from Edward Hicks and George Fox. (The full text of Voices is online here, free of charge.)
Edward Hicks, who died in 1849, two years before this “message,” is remembered today as the creator of the famous “Peaceable Kingdom” series of paintings.
But he was better known in his own time as a prominent and forceful Quaker preacher, of a very conservative Hicksite persuasion. As such, he was sharply critical of “liberal” Hicksites, the constituency from which the Progressive Friends emerged.
George Fox is generally credited with doing much of the work of founding the Religious Society of Friends.
Communication from Edward Hicks
September 12, 1851
My Precious Friend,
I am delighted beyond expression to be thus favored. It is the first time it has been my privilege to express my thoughts in this way, and I now do so with gratitude, both to God, for giving the power, and to thee, for the privilege of using it.
I used to, often, while embodied, feel the company of loved ones, operating upon my mind, but strange it seems to me now that I learned no more of the laws by which spirits are governed, and how beautiful the arrangement; for had I have known what I now do, I could have better and clearer pointed to my spirit friends for instruction.
I verily thought it was God that called me, and gave me words for the people. In this I was mistaken, for it is only through instruments that He operates on the minds of His children. Oh! the arrangement is beautiful. Can any thing be more so? for every one can, and does have an attending spirit, or guardian angel to lead and instruct them.
They generally have more that are particularly interested in their welfare, but it is the privilege of one, to be the immediate guardian. When I was young, I used often to give way to temptations, and being of a social turn, I gradually yielded to the influences of those with whom I associated, and became a victim to intoxicating drinks, and made sad work of my free agency.
I endeavoured to reason with my Monitor, that, now, I was young, I should be permitted to gratify my appetite, as when I was older, I should have no desire for it, but my Angel spirit insisted that I was degrading myself; that it would be even harder to break a habit of long standing, than cease at once to gratify my increasing desire for the fatal cup, and after many sore conflicts, I suffered the good to obtain the victory, and great was the rejoicing of my spirit friends.
I therefore was enabled to live an enemy to ardent spirits. I was enabled to warn others of the danger and degradation that must inevitably attend those that suffer themselves to be victims to so hard a master, that often costs and thrusts them about, and leaves its servants half dead.
Oh! how thankful I feel for having been saved from such a service, when I consider where I should now have been, had I not given up to my good angel, I almost shudder as I stand on the banks of deliverance, as the picture is held out to me, showing the miserable position that I must have occupied. There are examples before me of that character.
I pity them and endavour to help them to arise out of their degraded position even here, for we are not in a state; the better lend their assistance to those that are less happy, as in the body; the more pure the spirit is, the more earnest it is that others should hasten on to the experience that is of exceeding value to themselves.
I will say here, that as thee knows, I became a sectarian, and the question naturally arises; how could that be the case, if I gave up to my spirit director? how could I if in obedience to that director! Here let me say, although my monitor called me higher and higher, yet such influences surrounded me, that I, even I, who was so filled with that love, that can only come from the Heavenly Father’s storehouse, and was so powerfully assisted to proclaim it to my beloved brethren and sisters, was so far taken captive by sectarian influences, that I failed to live the pure devoted Christian; to let the love that I was often in the fullness of, flow to my brother man without regard to sect or any other consideration. It was time for the society of Friends to be stricken, for they had become too much wedded to sect.
They suffered not the little ones to speak The pure feelings of love and good will, with which their souls were filled, but they contrived up a select machinery, and called it good, and bowed down and worshiped it, and became servants unto it. I felt the chilling influence of this and other arrangements, and so weak is man, that after I had suffered very much from it and other hindering contrivances or usages; I myself blindly sustained these very curses to man, and separations from God. I will say a few words more about the Society of Friends; for human nature is so nearly the same that it will be somewhat applicable to others too.
When the mind becomes filled with the love of sect it stands in the way of progress, for when a view is presented to the mind, on its own merits the love of sect immediately usurps the authority, and takes the judgement seat, and a decision, as it seems to its narrow judgement best, is pronounced. Under these circumstances, sect or the love of sect; being placed on God’s throne, how can a decision in accordance, with his unselfish nature be obtained, even if the judgement is pronounced by an apparently devoted child of God.
Oh the inconsistency of man, as exhibited in my own case, being in my younger lire so oppressed by the usages of a society that I loved as my own soul, and feeling the weight of some of its oppressive rules and usages. Yes when I come to be looked to as one of its standard bearers, my own course or weight of character was given to sustain those crushing sectarian usages.
And as some poor tried one felt himself, or herself called to proclaim to the world the beauty and necessity of temperance; (for without it, neither themselves nor their near and dear friends can enjoy the happiness that our Heavenly Father designed;) and when these, following the promptings of the good spirit within them, feel to call men to consider all the evils that stand in the way of their progress, for they are many, and (in the list is slavery, always a curse to both master and slave; and war, the great enemy of the human family) —
I say when the dear young men and women, feeling God’s love for their brethren, calling tbem to join with those not members of the society, to go forth and do what they may find incumbent on them to engage in; here comes in opposition, the rules or usages of society, no matter which, are held up to view, and instead of being encouraged by the fathers and mothers in the church to go on and faithfully perform those duties that they feel incumbent upon them, they say let us remain by ourselves, for all advancement must be done in our society; that is, we must keep by ourselves and travel on in a body together, and others seeing out good works will have to glorify our Father in Heaven; not perceiving that waiting for the body will retard all progress.
This was the rock upon which I suffered, although I continued to give place at times to my good spirit within me and provided it led me in a way that crossed not my sectarian Idols, I gave it place, and proclaimed of the excellence of peace, love, kindness, temperance and of mercy, and coupled with an exemplary life, had an effect in my neighborhood; but how much more good might I have done, had I gone forth as ability was given me, and met my brother on every platform where my voice could have been heard without distinction of party or sect, I might have been a better minister, a better member, of religious society, provided they, the society, had minds sufficiently expanded to admit it. But I see now that a sect can be formed with rules so elastic as to allow of progress, and without progress there is no hope of bettering the condition of man.
Although this communication has been extended, still there are many views I wish to treat upon. I see many, very many noble men and women in the land that have done much, and are doing with a zeal that is an honor to themselves; in many respects they have gone on conquering, and to conquer many evils with which they are surrounded, and as often as they obtain the victory over a weakness, happiness flows in with its consoling balm, and encouragement is felt to press on to another victory.
Now, whoever thou art that peruses these lines, do me the favor to bring to thy mind a forgiving spirit, while thy brother who has been tempted as thou art while in the body, gently lays before thee a weakness with which thou are taken captive, although if seems a small evil; not so, my friend, for it stands in the way of progress in many ways, I mean the use of tobacco, for my dearly beloved friend how canst thou expect to induce others to refrain from weaknesses while thou art thyself a captive to this vice?
Oh, consider my dear friend, what an example thou art setting to the young and rising generation–the hope of the future–pause my friend and see what encouragement the precious tender young mind has, by thy examples, to give way to weakness. I would not judge harshly, but it seems to me as small an evil as this is considered, it will be found to be of greater importance the more it is contemplated, beside a very great expense; it injures health, and is disagreeable to those that association brings in contact; its filthiness is an annoyance to society.
And again, look for a moment at the vast amount of land that is occupied with its production, and the very great labor that is required to produce and prepare it for use. It is sorrowful to see this beautiful earth made to administer to man’s injury by thus gratifying a depraved appetite, and still more to be regretted that the labors of men are thus wasted; only think what a waste of precious time, thousands toiling from youth to old age to produce such injury to man, and consequently at war with his best interest.
I feel to express my knowledge, as it has been acquired, since leaving my worn out body–it was quite time for it to be exchanged, but as the time approached, I felt somewhat embarrassed, for with all my experience I had not a satisfactory idea of my future life, I felt sure of a happy future, but further I did not know.
My mind was quiet, but I felt desirous for a view beyond my body; I often had been led to picture it with such eloquence as the subject is calculated to inspire when the feelings are powerfully enlisted, the happy home that awaits the pure spirit of the weary traveler.
In view of the future, and while occupied in its consideration, I found I was looking all concern for my body, and at the same time I felt a new birth taking place, and the question arose can this be death! soon I found instead of death, it was a renewing of life, then thought I, how little to be dreaded. I felt had I have known this, how pleasant the prospect of a change would have been. It was like taking a journey for the gratification of some loved object soon to be attained.
I found my old friends fully prepared to receive me. I found it was well understood where my affinity would place me. I was welcomed with such delight that it is out of my power to portray; suffice to say, that the mind cannot conceive of the happyness, of the harmony, of the love, and of the wisdom that is here displayed.
I rejoice that this manner of communing is opening for us to convey our knowledge to our earthly friends–it seems to bring the two conditions very near, it gives the earthly travelers certain evidence that they are surrounded with spirit friends who are waiting to do them good by helping to bear the ills of life cheerfully, and encourage to go joyfully forward–happy themselves, and making others happy. I have become acquainted with many that history makes honorable mention of, and very many that have not been recorded, who were equal in goodness to those whose names have come down to the present generation.
I will give some of my knowledge in regard to what is considered of great importance among professed Christians–I mean faith, as it is called. I find in loving affinity, him that believed sins could only be pardoned by the wonderful condescension of Almighty God, in sending his beloved Son to suffer a cruel death to make atonement for his sins, and reconciling God so to man that his sins through repentance and amendment of life, may be forgiven, and repudiating those of a different belief.
— These leading a good life I find in the enjoyment that their life in the body fitted them for, with him that saw Jesus; a man that faithfully performed his duty to God and Man, and left a pattern for all that live after him to imitate regardless of his birth or death, but considering a life devoted to doing good, the all important point; these I find in loving affinity with those who were devoted to goodness among all the nations of the earth, whether they ever heard of the name of Jesus Christ or not, it is the unselfish devotion to perform good works in the life of the body that entitles to happiness in the next.
It is delightful to see the beautiful order that governs here–to see, as they feel the affinity, the pious Christian–the good Mahometan–the Hindoo, him that inhabited the burning sands of Africa, him that peopled the unknown forest of the interior of the same division of the Earth as well as from all other parts.
I say I find of all these, in affinity with each other, then thou wilt perceive it is not so important what man believes in regard to abstract faith as to cultivate a loving Spirit, as to give place to charity, as to show faith in God unseen, by love to his children who every where need sympathy.
Although it is well, to have just and perfect ideas of God, and how he deals with his intelligent children; and I would not discourage any investigation into the laws by which man finds himself surrounded, but would by all means, encourage it, for as a correct knowledge beams on the mind it loses, as it were a burthen with which it had been loaded, and rejoices that one weight after another falls; then as the burthen lightens, his celerity increases, and he is enabled to rejoice that his journey is filled with pleasures inexpressible, and instead of condemning his fellow traveler for not keeping up with his hindering load, he is ever ready to lend a helping hand in all kindness without boasting of his own acquirement, or condemning the brother for his slothfulness–for not perceiving what is so clearly visible to himself, he goes happy on his way dispersing blessings on all, feeling no narrowing restrictions.
If a dear brother or sister allows the chilling winds of sectarianism to wither his noble nature, then he is pitied, for who so needs the kind regard of a more favored friend than him that suffers his Soul to be thus ignorantly stripped of its most lovely adorning, it only remains for me to say it is a cause of rejoicing to find thee thus willing to allow thy Spirit Friends to express their wishes as they desire. I perceived thy feelings when I was introduced to thee–that thee had less unity with me the latter part of my bodily existence than at an earlier period.
I love such honesty. I acknowledge I suffered my sectarianism far too much to control me, and I now feel its effects–its hindering influences. May it be a warning to others, for there is no safety short of keeping the mind free to perceive, and the purpose single to perform as fast as the understanding, enlightened by wisdom from on High, shall point out.
With thanks for this favor, I leave thee with the feeling that words cannot express.
Communication from “George Fox”
I am grateful for this privilege, and I claim it the more readily because I am considered good authority by those that bear the name of friends. I am in the enjoyment of as much happiness as a well spent life entitled me to, and to which has been indeed the full compensation for all good that I have been instrumental in accomplishing, since my Spirit Life commenced–for remember full enjoyment cannot be realized without progression.
I labored earnestly to gather together a people that I hoped would regenerate the world. I endeavored to so form our agreements that none could feel restricted by our articles of faith.
These were only intended to set bounds to outward conduct; always intending that progression should be our motto–advancement our life; and wherever an evil was perceived, duty called us to assail it. Thinkest thou, that had friends faithfully pursued this course, the Spirit of War, would have such power over the minds of the people as it now has? or that your’s would be a nation of Slave Hunters! or that intemperance would so much abound!
I Answer, no. The Christian’s life must be a progressive one, and when any association of men so bind themselves, either by rules or usages, that they set bounds to the onward aspirations of the seeking soul, then their God is made subservient to their sectarianism–those that are thus bound cannot receive that fullness of the love of God, which will lead them to end their earthly pilgrimage with joy.
l am earnestly desirous that the sectarian shall experience a change in his love, for when he admits the pure christian’s light to shine in his mind, he will look upon his brother for his manhood’s sake for his capacity of becoming formed in the image of God, spiritually, without enquiring whether Jesus died to save sinners, or whether he believes in water baptism, or that of the Holy Ghost; none of these cherished beliefs will the pure christian allow to separate him from his brother.
Jesus said, “if a man says he loves God whom he has not seen–while he loves not his brother who he has seen, he is a liar, and the truth is not in him”; the aim of His life was to encourage men to turn from their evil lives–if they had sinned, to go and sin no more–and when he drew that beautiful picture of the judgment day, condemnation was pronounced not for a want of correct faith, but for the want of love towards men; and a reward was not bestowed for love to God, but for works of kindness and mercy.
Nothing so much elevates the soul as a correct spirituality. Many seem to think that the death of the body must transform an ignorant or wicked spirit into an Angel of Light, at once. Not so are God’s laws–such as is sown must be gathered. Hence, if a Spirit of the lower order communicates, it will not be possible for wisdom to be elicited; thus many turn away, when they get trifling, or untruthful sentences written with the hand, or by responses given in the presence of Rapping Mediums.
Thee should remember, all satisfactory conclusions are derived through labor–for instance, hadst thou turned away from those invisible intelligences revealed through sounds, how different would have been thy experience. It is not because thou art wiser or better than many others who are not operated upon in this way, but because of spiritual influences brought to bear upon thy physical system, which will be more and more explained as experience shall give knowledge.
Much that I left on record was penned as it were, from the first dawnings of Light upon my mind–I was in a progressive state, and as things opened I penned them; many of them being much in advance of my former views. Instead of taking my writings for a guide, they should be considered as helps marks for encouragement, and never for a moment as laws to govern others.
No written code, however, it may be adapted, will be wholly suited to the time and circumstances for which it was designed, will be wholly suited as an ultimate christian standard–his must be a life ever on the watch, ready to examine whatever draws his attention, and if selfishness is sufficiently subdued, and prepossessions banished from the mind, then with an honest purpose of heart, independent of books or men, a judgment will be formed that will elevate and prepare the mind for advancement while in the body, and will necessarily introduce to a happy eternity.
Another post about Progressive Friends, and how Spiritualism helped many cope with the loss of loved ones, especially children, is here.