“Nonaligned” faith and practice?

In a brief piece I wrote for Friends Journal in 2014, I wrote:

I have come to understand that Quakerism is neither a theology nor a political philosophy, but rather a spiritual discipline. It is grounded in the Christian tradition yet doesn’t require Christian confession. It aspires to ever greater objectivity about the intersection of the spiritual and the material in human consciousness and action.

I have never understood the drive of many to compel others to “right belief.” To me, belief points to the implicit, irreducible core of how one survives interaction with the present moment.

Belief represents what I tell myself are my deepest motives and goals for all my choices, conscious or reflexive.

The less my declared belief coincides with my actual motives and goals—those which lie beneath or beyond consciousness—the less I am able to act with integrity, effectiveness and compassion.

My perspective is that all religious or ideological statements, all sacred stories and creeds and rituals, are descriptions of how we human beings experience our interrelationship with the Real, not descriptions of the Real itself or of its “will” for us.

As the Zen admonition says, they are fingers pointing at the moon.

The discipline which I am assigning myself on this empty path is to consider with respect those pointing fingers, yet always to seek truer knowledge of the moon.

And so it is.

Blesséd Be,
Michael Austin Shell

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