Inward Spiritual Experience – the Heart of the Quaker Way?


Spring 2008 No 22 – 01/04/2008


Author: Carole Hamby

Document Code: WJ22

Description: Carole Hamby undertook a piece of research in Britain Yearly Meeting to discover what Inward Spiritual Experience means to Friends. She used a questionnaire to collect her first set of data and the responses to this are to be found in this article. She has used some of the respondents’ words and this gives a flavour of the different ways Quakers experience the Spirit in their lives today. There were four hundred replies and this felt encouraging. People wanted to share their experiences and make their contribution to this particular topic. For some it was not easy to find the words to express their spiritual experience although the questionnaire did offer different categories to chose and these could be used as a guide.

As a follow up to the questionnaire Carole was able to interview some people in greater depth and in the first part of the article presents some of the findings from the interviews as well as those from the questionnaire. She does this using an examination of a selection of George Fox’s writings describing the inward spiritual experience. There is recognition that Fox’s experience of the light of Christ has relevance for Quakers in the 21st century.

Her concern, however is how many of her respondents did not experience inward spiritual experience in Meeting for Worship so she goes on to explore the relationship between the corporate nature of Quaker Worship and the personal, individual practices of some Friends. There is a real fear that we are failing in this core work of the Religious Society of Friends. The article is challenging and thought provoking and as Carole writes in her conclusion it is work in progress and we all have a responsibility for our corporate spiritual life.

Judith Jenner

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