Quaker Nomenclature, Illumination of the Larger Soul and Quaker Conscience:



The light that shines into man's heart is not of man, and must ever be distinguished both from the conscience which it enlightens, and from the natural faculty of reason.

-London Yearly Meeting minute 1916.


"Conscience follows the judgment, doth not inform it: but this light, as it is received, removes the blindness of the judgment, opens the understanding, and rectifies both the judgment and the conscience.  The conscience is an excellent thing where it is rightly informed and enlightened; wherefore some of us have fitly compared it to the lantern, and the light of Christ to the candle; a lantern is useful, when a clear candle burns and shines in it, but otherwise of no use.  To the light of Christ then in the conscience, and not to man's natural conscience, it is that we continually commend men."  -Barclay


When I appealed to that of God in their consciences, the light of Christ Jesus in them, they could not bear to hear of it.  To that of God in your consciences I speak; let that of God in all consciences answer.  -Fox


Barclay distinguishes sharply between the universal saving light and the ordinary faculties of conscience and reason.  Wood, 1930/38   "As God gave two great lights to rule the outward world, the sun and the moon (greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night), so hath he given man the light of his son, a spiritual divine light, to rule him in things spiritual;  and the light of reason to rule him in things natural." -Barclay,  Apology 1678


"We do further rightly distinguish this from man's natural conscience; for conscience being that in man which ariseth from the natural faculties of man's soul, may be defiled and corrupted.  For example, a Turk who hath possessed himself with a false belief that it is unlawful for him to drink wine, if he do it his conscience smites him for it: but though he keep many concubines, his conscience troubles him not, because his judgment is already defiled with a false opinion that it is lawful for him to do the one and unlawful to do the other." -Barclay, Apology 1678


The light that shines into man's heart is not of man, and must ever be distinguished both from the conscience which it enlightens, and from the natural faculty of reason. Yearly Meeting, Epistle 1879


The Inward Light was not just the conscience, nor the natural light of reason: it was a divine clearness which enlightened and gradually built up the conscience, and it taught an intuitive wisdom beyond reasoned argument.   -The Quaker Message, Lucas 1948






Conscious Conscience.


The old question re-visited, "What do we do now?" 


Many are the levels to this question.  Larger or small, looking for the god-breathed answer can become the cultivated spiritual exercise of being spiritually human.   We each look for answer employing methods of personal devotional practice: prayer, meditation, study, etc. and also cultivating perspective in corporate worship, discernment, and support.  For example, the Quakers have for generations looked head-on into the soul of the answer in the specific method of their kind of corporate worship.


Sitting in silence in group in method, Quakers have looked to the larger soul in practice for answer to the question, large or small.  Quakers have of old found it in a continuum of familiarity which runs in the experience of their practice from 'openings' to 'leadings' to the 'witness' of whole life activity.  Theirs in practice originally was an illumining cultivated large soul 'ensoulment' of Dharma in practice.


 In the Quaker nomenclature, 'Openings' are little insights into larger truth.  'Leadings' become tasks that evidently are laid upon us by larger-soul often growing organically out of an 'opening'.   'Witness' involving constellations of whole-life activities coming that sustain 'leadings'.  The discernment of these becomes the moral conscience of Quaker conviction where the 'witness' coming as life-activities that sustain a 'leading' get bigger than a single task and become part of your soul's life work, as a 'Quaker ministry'.

-edited from an article by Davison in The Friends Journal July 2003     



In a Quaker familiarity with the ensoulment of the human, that: "God through Christ, hath placed a principle in every man to inform him of his duty and to enable him to do it.  By this principle we understand something that is divine, and though in man, yet not of man, but of God: and that it came from him and leads to him all those that will be led by it." -Wm. Penn



Through practice in Quakerism, there comes an illumination of this 'witness' from familiarity.  That familiarity is expressed in a continuum of nomenclature which runs from 'openings' to 'leadings' or to 'witness' to become the unique Quaker 'ministries' of life's activities.  These become the language of the answers to: "What do we do now?" The answers then cultivated, discerned and lived in the same process of worship, the traditional Quaker Friends Meeting.  


- Doug Hamilton

Fairfield Friends Monthly Meeting of Quakers