“For God can be found. There is a last rock for your souls, a resting place of absolute peace and joy and power and radiance and security.” (A Testimony of Devotion. p.17)
Marcelle Martin analyses the Quaker Spiritual Journey into ten stages, the main divisions of which are Awakening, Convincement, and Faithfulness. The ten stages fit into those; for example, the stages in Faithfulness are Leadings, The Cross, Abiding and Perfection. One half of the book consists of these stages as illustrated in the writings of early Friends, and the other half is given to illustrations from our own time. Concentration on the latter will be given here.
Martin emphasizes that people experience the Journey differently; all the same, it is easy to illustrate the ten stages from the lives of Friends. About the Awakening, Thomas Kelly wrote:
We have hints that there is a way of life vastly richer and deeper than all this harried existence, a life of unhurried serenity and power. (Our Life is Love. p170)
These hints can be reinforced by many small incidents, the effects of which may be cumulative: a time of quiet, a book, an inspiring film, comments from friends. More dramatic forms of awakening, such as illness and war, are common. At these times, people are desperate for help, wherever they may find it.
Why is it that so many seek and so few seem to find? Perhaps the answer was given by Jeremiah 29: 13 “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Not many put their hearts into it, but there are enough to show it works. A contemporary British Friend, Ben Pink Dandelion, writes
“I felt lifted up and cradled by what I have called God, held and reassured…It was a powerful experience for me and, delightfully, has never left me.” (op. cit. p49)
Similarly, Thomas Kelly, just like St. Teresa 400 years ago:
Those who learn to abide in God`s love sometimes have the experience that they are living in two levels of reality simultaneously, interacting in daily events and at the same time abiding with God in this centre (op.cit. p. 150)
Some people are suspicious of religious experience, but that is one way in which we are given a share in the divine nature. See 2 Peter.1:4.
Exceptional among the testimonies are those of Marcelle Martin, given in twelve pages near the end of the book. She resembles the Hebrew prophets and the Desert Fathers who went out into the desert to find God. She subordinated everything to her quest. Although a contemporary American, until the age of fifty-five when she married, she never owned a house or car. For most of her life she lived without health insurance, which is perilous in the U.S. She had part-time work and was dependant on the benefactions of others. Although she felt vulnerable, she was free to do the learning, teaching, spiritual nurture, organising and writing, to which she felt led. She joined Quakers when she was 34. She wrote
A divine Light flows through all things. I felt this Light flowing through me down my arms, and out of my finger tips into the world. (op.cit. p.181)
The book sometimes seems rather dire. That may be due to Marcelle`s conviction that the cross is necessary for spiritual development, which is worth debate.
Our Life Is Love. The Quaker Spiritual Journey by Marcelle Martin is published by Inner Light Books. San Francisco. California. 2016. ISBN 978-0-9970604-1-6[paperback] pp.228. $20.
Reg Naulty, Canberra Regional Meeting