Thursday, July 16, 2009

Mind the Heavenly Treasure: Out of the Kingdom

"And the disciples were filled with joy, and with the Holy Ghost," Acts, 13:15

"Keep in the power of the Lord; for if you lose that, you lose the kingdom that stands in power and peace and righteousness, and joy in the Holy Ghost; for out of the Kingdom is strive, and no peace." George Fox.

From "Mind the Heavenly Treasure: Thoughts for each day from the Scriptures and the eight volumes of the writings of George Fox," compiled by Gary Boswell.

Questions: How would you define "the power of the Lord?"

I grew up with the Holy Spirit called the Holy Ghost. Why do you think Holy Spirit is now the common usage and what differences are there between "spirit" and "ghost?"


forrest said...

Helen Gould in a booklet _The Quaking Meeting_ suggests that "the power of the Lord" was the feeling of spiritual energy running through early Friends when they were highly tuned in.

Stephen Gaskin, waxing poetic & getting a bit loose about it, used to refer to this sort of thing as "Holy Spirit," but it looks to me to be more a physical manifestation of the Spirit at work, not the Spirit as such.

Since the word "ghost" has drifted from meaning the same as 'spirit' to mean instead, 'spirit of some dead person', that would seem reason enough for your change.

But in the case of your quote... You could take it in the sense of "Keep your atunement to God's spiritual energy," or it could be less literal, more along the lines of "Keep yourself restrained, attentive to God's guidance." [He may have seen these as equivalent?]

Marshall Massey (Iowa YM [C]) said...

IMHO Helen Gould, and others like her, are sadly mistaken. “The power of the Lord” is that which shows us our actions and being, convincing us of sin and showing us what is righteous, thereby increasing our love of God, quelling the urge to sin, and setting us on the path to salvation.

Thus, for example, in a letter to Friends dated 1655, reprinted in his Journal, George Fox asks, “Who is moved by the power of the Lord to go lie in prison and offer himself to the justice for his brother or sister that lies in prison, that his brother or sister may come forth of prison...?” This makes far better sense to me if I understand “the power of the Lord” as being that which shows us the right thing to do, than if I take it as referring simply to a feeling of energy.

Fox describes the power of the Lord as “cool, sweet, and holy” in his letter #131, and equates it with the “spirit of the Lamb” in letter 264; in letter 162 he tells his followers that “by the power of the Lord ye come to love truth”. Such talk doesn’t seem to me to accord at all with the idea that it is a feeling of energy (since when is the feeling of energy “cool”, or conducive to the perception of truth?); but it does accord with the idea that it is what simply, peacefully reveals the truth of our condition and the condition of others.

I could cite examples from the writings of other early Friends as well —

I find the concept of “the power of the Lord” to be nearly synonymous with that of “the Light”, in that both of them refer to the emanation from God that reveals the character of the moral landscape in which we find ourselves. The major difference between calling it “the power” and calling it “the Light” is that by calling it “the power” we underscore its ability to quell and overcome the itch to sin.

Thus, for example, George Fox tells us that “the power of the Lord God is ... to keep down ... that which would not be obedient” (letter 104), and that “all uncleanness whatsoever [is] by the power of the Lord ... brought down and rooted out....” (letter 131)

“Ghost” is a word with Germanic roots (cf. Geist), “Spirit” a word with Latin roots (cf. Spiritus), but otherwise they are synonymous. Both mean “wind” externally and “breath” internally.

Diane said...

Forrest and Marshall,

Thanks for the comments.I have had the distinct experience in Quaker meeting of having a sense of my own flaws laid out for me--and I could look them because of the spirit of love that communicated simultaneously that these were flaws AND that it was OK to be flawed. Maybe not "OK" as in acceptable "OK" in the sense of something I could face. That was a revelation to me. You can't change until you see a problem, and you can't see a problem until you bear to see a problem. If that is the "power of the Lord" that is very powerful.


I can see clearly the Germanic versus Latinate roots of ghost and spirit and yet wonder at the wholesale cultural shift from one to the other. Though the words may be technically identical, I think there are cultural nuances that cause us to choose one over the other and wonder how the subtle differences between the words lead us to lean towards spirt--and if that is a good thing. Is that a more domesticated word? More comfortable? Too comfortable?

Marshall Massey said...

Thank you for your reply, Diane. I can only say I totally agree with everything you say in your first paragraph; my experience matches yours!

No doubt there are cultural nuances that have caused The Authorities to replace “Holy Ghost” with “Holy Spirit”. I am not sure, however, that anyone has adequately mapped them out. Surely some of it must have been a desire to avoid confusion between a φαντασμα, an apparition or shade of a deceased person, and the πνευμα, the wind or breath of God.

Diane said...

Hi again, Marshall.

It's good to know someone else has had the same experience of the power of the Lord.

I wonder if "ghost" has a frightening connotation missing from "spirit. And I wonder if we lose something if we forget the "awesomeness" --in the original sense of the word--in the "spirit" that has a frightening edge.