Originally from a discussion thread at the website QuakerQuaker: Primitive Christianity Revived, Again…
October 25, 2018.
Greetings Keith —
I hope you’re not finding our back-and-forth too onerous. I think we’re contributing.
I’ll respond in two parts. First, about sin = mental illness:
My belief is humanity made great strides when medical science asserted its provenance versus the theologically minded, and removed the sufferings and travails of the metaphysically tortured into the annals of psychology. Here, in theory anyway, people were treated with respect, empathy, in essence good will. They were not viciously set upon by those high horse moralists who like to think themselves higher on God’s totem pole in some “good versus evil” dimension (axis). On the contrary, lovely people die of mental illness, through no fault of their own, and go to Heaven.
Quakers made a difference in this respect, as early Insane Asylums were anything but institutions giving patients their dignity. Even today, stereotypes ala One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest prevail. Here I will insert an autobiographical note: I live in a place called Asylum District, north and south of Asylum Avenue, since renamed to Hawthorne Blvd, in honor of the first chief doctor of Oregon’s original mental hospital. The District also goes by Sunnyside-Richmond.
Anyway, you may know how my guru, RBF, invented “Spaceship Earth” because of how that changed our way of looking at humanity. Just a tiny blue dot of a planet, an institution if you like, a Spaceship, meaning we’re crew. However, unlike most spaceships, we’re not going anywhere, as we’re already moored, sun-side, at our final destination. Other metaphors might apply, namely: University Earth (we’re a giant spherical university); or Asylum Earth (“Nuthouse” is less polite).
When I’m filled with compassion and empathy for my fellow inmates, it’s along the lines of how we’re metaphysically tortured, and it’s an illness not a “moral bad” in that more immature theological sense that bedeviled many generations before ours. I’m glad we’ve grown up, at least a little, and moralize less. Thank you Nietzsche.
The second part of my answer has to do with whether there’s any difference between your outlook and mine. I’m not claiming to be led by outward forms. I’d cop to being deeply mystical and led by the inshining Light, just like you are. My relationship with people is transformed. I’m one of the illumined, thanks in part to Quaker roots, thanks in part to other philosophies. So what though? That’s just me.
Presumably one may be led by the inshining Light and feel moved to operate as an effective change agent. I didn’t say by voting (Quakerism doesn’t use voting either). I didn’t specify any one particular row to hoe. I’m just imagining you and I are the same, but whereas you’re happy enough to sit on your front porch and watch the world go by, I was blessed with a weird upbringing, which took me to many nations and exposed me to many ethnicities. So I reach out to Sufis and hope they’ll join the Quaker schools in promoting American Transcendentalism. Gulenist schools are welcome to 3D print A & B modules (plastic shapes we use to assemble other shapes, what any 3rd grader should know — if steeped in American heritage to that extent (most aren’t)).
In linking Quakerism to American Transcendentalism, I am not conceding that I’m led by the nose by outward forms. That’s traducetory thinking vis-a-vis this Living Dharma branch of Quakerism. :-D