NFN Collection of Quotations

A collection of quotations

This collection is of quotations that speak significantly to some members of our Network. They are shared in the hope that you, the Reader, may find something that stimulates, helps, encourages, or challenges you in thinking how you understand and practice the Quaker way. (Originally compiled by Michael Wright when he was our clerk in 2017 – see 2017 Conference report in the 2017 Newsletters). New contributions to the collection would be very welcome.


Mercy, Pity, Peace and Love
All that we say about Religion is Human
Life has a Spiritual Dimension
Mystery and Delight
Inadequacy of Words
Suffering and Compassion
Silence and Meditation
Buddhist Quotes


“…the sense of God as the ultimate reality of our life, whatever that might happen to be. We are not referring to a particular being that we could imagine or describe, but to whatever reality it might be that lies behind or beneath all the particular realities we know of….It is not so much a sense of God as that word is commonly understood, as a sense of ‘a God-shaped hole’…So ‘God’ in this sense is not an intellectual idea, an hypothesis, that answers a query about how the world works, or how the world began. It is a spiritual idea that answers our own inner longing for reality, our deep personal need for meaning and security and identity, which nothing else – nothing in the world around us – seems to be able to answer.”
Rex Ambler – The Quaker Way – a rediscovery

“I began to rethink and ultimately to dismiss the theistic definition of God and started moving away from an understanding of God as ‘a being’ to an understanding of God as ‘Being itself’, or as Paul Tillich, the formative theologian of my early training, would say, as ‘the Ground of Being’.”
John Shelby Spong – The Fourth Gospel: tales of a Jewish mystic

The practice of the presence of God – but what if that is generated by us – and there is no God to be in the presence of?   Living is more than thinking.
Studies in Mystical Religion – Rufus M. Jones

“’God is not external to any one’. He is ‘the root of the Soul’ the ‘centre’ of the mind, and the way home to Him is within every person. This is the heart of the mysticism of Plotinus.…. At the centre of all is God, the One, the Good. The One is a Unity above all difference, an Absolute who transcends all though, who is, in fact, even beyond being….The Perfect God, then, must be above all division of known and knower; beyond all limitation of qualities, an undivided One, too supreme and lofty to be expressed by any word, but containing in Himself All, with no contrasts of here or there, no oppositions of this and that, no separation into change and variation. He is divested of every likeness to anything in the heavens above, or in the earth beneath, or in the waters under the earth. He is dependent on nothing, in need of nothing, and every description of Him must be an everlasting Nay. From the Perfect One there flows or radiates out a succession of emanations of decreasing splendour and reality.”
Studies in Mystical Religion – Rufus M. Jones

There is a story told by Janet Scott of a little girl who asked if God was real. ‘Yes’, she was answered, ‘God is real’, to which she responded, ‘But is he real like the daisies or real like I love you?’

If God were ‘real like the daisies’, a fixed, absolute, objective Truth, theology would have to be about discovering the truth about Truth, peeling it off layer by layer till we reach the QED: an activity analogous to science. But if God is ‘real like I love you’, God is ‘the human form divine’, living and reigning in the human imagination.
David Boulton

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The Sacraments, those rites that have long been associated with Jesus’ salvific power, can have little magic left when contemporary scholarship strips Jesus of his uniquely divine status and leave him as only a Middle Eastern peasant with a few charismatic gifts and a great posthumous marketing team.
Gretta Vosper – With or Without God – 2008

“ objective and enlightened student of the Gospels can help be struck by the incomparable superiority of Jesus”. [in comparing him with other great Hebrew holy men].   He goes on to quote Joseph Klausner’s book Jesus of Nazareth (1923) ‘In his ethical code there is a sublimity, distinctiveness and originality in form unparalleled in any other Hebrew ethical code; neither is there any parallel to the remarkable art of his parables.’

“The prophets spoke on behalf of the honest poor, and defended the widow and the fatherless, those oppressed and exploited by the wicked, rich and powerful. Jesus went further. In addition to proclaiming these blessed, he actually took his stand among the pariahs of his world, those despised by the respectable. Sinners were his table companions and the ostracised tax-collectors and prostitutes his friends. “
Geza Vermes – Jesus the Jew 1973

He comes to us as one unknown, without a name, as of old, by the lakeside, he came to those men who knew him not. He speaks to us the same word: ‘Follow thou me’ and sets us to the tasks which he has to fulfil for our time. He commands. And to those who obey him, whether they be wise or simple, he will reveal himself in the toils, the conflicts, the sufferings which they shall pass through in his fellowship, and, as an ineffable mystery, they shall learn in their own experience who he is.
Albert Schweitzer

The fact remains that our knowledge of Jesus is not great, and is in principle no more than probable. How can something so serious as religious commitment be based on such shaky foundations?
Don Cupitt

After his death, his followers decided that Jesus had been divine. This did not happen immediately; as we shall see, the doctrine that Jesus had been God in human form was not finalised until the fourth century. Jesus himself certainly never claimed to be divine.
Karen Armstrong

The remarkable thing about the people of Q is that they were not Christians. They did not think of Jesus as a messiah or the Christ …. Thus they did not gather to worship in his name, honor him as a god, or cultivate his memory through hymns, prayers, and rituals. They did not form a cult of the Christ such as the one that emerged among the Christian communities familiar to readers of the letters of Paul. The people of Q were Jesus people, not Christians.
Burton L. Mack (The Lost Gospel)

It was St. Paul, not Jesus, who was the founder of Christianity, and even he would have been dismayed by some of the theological conclusions that were later drawn from his letters.
Karen Armstrong

The Bible has suffered from being treated too much as a source of information. The traditional theory valued it as giving authoritative information, in the form of dogma, upon matters known only by special revelation ….. Its place as a whole is rather with the masterpieces of poetry, drama and philosophy, that is, the literature which does not so much impart information but stirs the deeper levels of personality.
H. Dodd

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What the world needs in order to survive and thrive is the radical simplicity that lies at the core of Christianity and so many other faiths and systems of thought – an abiding trust in the way of love expressed in just and compassionate living.

Out of the multitude of understandings of religion, spirituality, and faith; out of the varying views of the origins, nature and purpose of life; out of the countless individual experiences of what might be called divine; out of it all may be distilled a core that, very simply put, is love.

This core message carries its own authority. It needs no doctrine to validate it, no external expert or supernatural authority to tell us it is right.

Love is quite demanding enough as a foundation, sufficiently complex and challenging without the requirement of additional beliefs, unbelievable to many.

The church the future needs is one of people gathering to share and recommit themselves to loving relationships with themselves, their families, the wider community, and the planet.

Such a church need not fear the discoveries of science, history, archaeology, psychology, or literature; it will only be enhanced by such discoveries.

Such a church need not avoid the implications of criticial thinking for its message; it will only become more effective.

Such a church need not cling to and justify a particular source for its authority; it will draw on the wisdom of the ages and challenge divisive and destructive barriers.

Such a church, grown out of values that transcend personal security, self-interest, and well-being, could play a role in the future that is not only viable but radically transformative and desperately needed.

It must shift from its time-bound biblical and doctrinal base to a broader base of timeless, life-enhancing values…. It’s a broad vision, but a beautiful one.

Greta Vosper – in With or Without God  

Love is patient and kind;

Love is not jealous or boastful;

it is not arrogant or rude.

Love does not insist on its own way;

it is not irritable or resentful;

it does not rejoice at wrong, but

rejoices in the right.

Love bears all thing, believes all things,

hopes all things, endures all things.

So faith, hope, love abide, these three;

but the greatest of these is love.

I Corinthians 13

Love is the abridgement of all theology.
St. Francis de Sales

O ye who taste that love is sweet,

Set waymarks for all doubtful feet

That stumble on in search of it.

Sing notes of love; that some who hear

Far off, inert, may lend an ear,

Rise up and wonder and draw near.

Lead lives of love; that others who

Behold your life may kindle too

With love, and cast their lot with you.

Christina Rossetti

Love is a sacrament that should be taken kneeling.
Oscar Wilde

There are certain things our age needs and certain things it should avoid. It needs compassion and a wish that mankind should be happy; it needs the desire for knowledge and the determination to avoid pleasant myths; it needs, above all, courageous hope and the impulse to creativeness.

The root of the matter is a very simple and old-fashioned thing, a thing so simple that I am almost ashamed to mention it for fear of the derisive smile with which cynics will greet my words. The thing that I mean – please forgive my mentioning it – is love, Christian love or compassion. If you feel this you have a motive for existence, a guide to action, a reason for courage, an imperative necessity for intellectual honesty.
Bertrand Russell

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The discernment is the sense of what is really going on, that answers what we felt initially to be in need of help or some other intervention. As the discernment is formulated in words to be shared among all concerned, it will be checked by those concerned, and then tested in experience as the understanding is put into action. Since there is no ideology here, no official doctrine, the understanding can be changed in the light of new experience, a new turn of events, and the action altered accordingly. It is a fluid, flexible, and responsive process, enabling everyone involved to respond consciously to the situation as they perceive it. It exemplifies that fundamental commitment in the Quaker way, that truth, as each can know it for themselves, is what ultimately enables us to live freely and fully.
Rex AmblerThe Quaker Way – a rediscovery Christian Alternative

Mercy, Pity, Peace and Love

All true zeal for God is zeal for love, mercy and goodness.
Robert E. Thompson

To Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love

All pray in their distress,

And to these virtues of delight

Return their thankfulness.

For Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love

Is God our Father dear;

And Mercy, Pity, Peace, and Love

Is man, his child and care.

For Mercy hath a human heart

Pity, a human face,

And Love, the human form divine,

And Peace, the human dress.

Then every man, of every clime,

That prays in his distress,

Prays to the human form divine,

Love, Mercy, Pity, Peace.

William Blake

But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
Galatians 5:22-23

Christianity is a thing of the heart, and it’s that that matters.

Caring is the greatest thing – caring matters most.

von Hügel

Preoccupation with what we call the world of the spirit can turn us away from the necessary impact of the world of people and things, in which the spirit is inextricably immanent.
Kenneth C. Barnes

So here we are at the end of the book. I feel that the whole thing could really be summed up by saying ‘be loving and practice kindness’. This is the essence of the spiritual life, it is the essence of being truly human.
Christopher S. Scott

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“Religion is too soon turned into a mechanism of habit, custom and system. When doctrine takes over from hope, love, compassion, it can become rigid and sterile. True religion has a spring of joy. It is ‘live’ religion only so long as it issues from the centre of personal consciousness and has the throb of personal experience in it. “

“The creative periods in religious progress have come when the crust of custom, the mechanism of habit, have been broken up by the impact of persons who were capable of fresh and original experiences.”                                                            Studies in Mystical Religion by Rufus M. Jones

“That creedal system seemed to me to have locked Jesus into a pre-modern world, to have defined God as an invasive, miracle-working deity from outer space, and to have made the work of engaging the world in dialogue not only very difficult, but almost impossible. “
John Shelby Spong – The Fourth Gospel – tales of a Jewish mystic  

The finer essence of George Fox’s queer teaching, common to the excited revivalists who were his first disciples, and to the ‘quiet’ Friends of later times, was surely this – that Christian qualities matter much more than Christian dogmas. No church or sect had ever made that its living rule before. To maintain the Christian quality in the world of business and of domestic life, and to maintain it without pretension or hypocrisy, was the great achievement of these extraordinary people. England may well be proud of having produced and perpetuated them. The Puritan pot had boiled over, with much heat and fury; when it had cooled and been poured away, this precious sediment was left in the bottom.
G.M.Trevelyan, English social history

The very thing which is now called the Christian religion, really was known to the ancients, nor was it wanting at any time from the beginning of the human race up to the time Christ came in the flesh; from which time the true religion, which has previously existed, began to be called Christian, and this in our days is the Christian religion, not as having been wanting in former times, but as having in later times received that name.
St. Augustine

I don’t want your holy hearsay,

Give me the good news in the present tense.

Sydney Carter

When I was a student for the ministry, I noticed that the advice my teacher gave from the pulpit could be very different from the advice he gave in his private office. When I protested he said: ‘In the pulpit you must preach public truths, traditional truths. But in your office regard each situation as an exception.’
Christopher S. Scott

And I was to bring people off from all the world’s religions, which are vain, that they might know the pure religion, might visit the fatherless, the widows, and the strangers …
George Fox

When the guru sat down to worship each evening the ashram cat would get in the way and distract the worshippers. So he ordered that the cat be tied up during evening worship. After the guru died the cat continued to be tied up during evening worship. And when the cat died, another cat was brought to the ashram so that it could be tied up during evening worship. Centuries later, learned treatises were written by the guru’s scholarly disciples on the liturgical significance of tying a cat up while worship is performed.
Christopher S. Scott 

So where does this leave Christian believers? I disbelieve many traditional Christian doctrines. But I do at least know the kind of people in whom I believe and want to go along with. They include men and women with beliefs very different from mine. I find them in the Bible and other literature, in history and in contemporary life, in the Christian churches and outside them. What need I more wherewith rightly to plot my course, firmly to sustain my values, and the will to keep on my way?
George Boobyer

I was a musical child, too. So the beauty of Stainer’s melodies carried the ‘only begotten Son’ up into the heavenly sphere, and on a more mundane level I knew, because I sang it so vigorously, that I had a ‘Friend in Jesus’ ‘above the bright blue sky’. I had promised to ‘serve him to the end’ because I had ‘surveyed the wondrous Cross’ and ‘Truly’, as Johan Sebastian Bach told me, ‘this was the Son of God’. As I write them in a string like that I can feel a wave of hindsighted cynicism sweeping over me. I’m tempted to accuse the church of seducing me into religious belief by taking up my fragile emotions and channelling them through words and music into religiosity instead of into more ‘normal’ childhood preoccupations like friendship and play.
Alison Leonard

In the course of my studies, I have discovered that the religious quest is not about discovering ‘the truth’ or ‘the meaning of life’, but about living as intensely as possible in the here and now.
Karen Armstrong

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All that we say about Religion is Human

I passed along the water’s edge below the humid trees,

My spirit rocked in evening light, the rushes round my knees,

My spirit rocked in sleep and sighs; and saw the moorfowl pace

All dripping on a grassy slope, and saw them cease to chase

Each other in circles, and heard the eldest speak:

Who holds the world between His bill and made us strong or weak

Is an undying moorfowl, and He lives beyond the sky.

The rains are from His dripping wing, the moonbeams from His eye.

I passed a little further on and heard a lotus talk:

Who made the world and ruleth it, He hangeth on a stalk,

For I am in His image made, and all this tinkling tide

Is but a sliding drop of rain between His petals wide.

A little way within the gloom a roebuck raised his eyes

Brimful of starlight, and he said: The Stamper of the Skies,

He is a gentle roebuck; for how else, I pray, could He

Conceive a thing so sad and soft, a gentle thing like me?

I passed a little further on and heard a peacock say:

Who made the grass and made the worms and made my feathers gay,

He is a monstrous peacock, and He waveth all the night

His languid tail above us, lit with myriad spots of light.

W B Yeats (The Indian upon God)

What we make in our minds we call God, but in reality he dwells in our hearts.
Winston Churchill

Thus men forgot that all Deities reside in the human breast.         William Blake

My atheism, like that of Spinoza, is true piety towards the universe and denies only gods fashioned by men in their own image to be servants of their human interests.
George Santayana

It would be very nice if there were a God who created the world and was a benevolent Providence, and if there were a moral order in the universe and an after-life; but it is a very striking fact that all this is exactly as we are bound to wish it to be.
Sigmund Freud

What is strange, what is marvellous, is not whether God really exists. The marvel is that such an idea, the idea of the necessity of God, should have entered the head of such a savage and vicious beast as man; so holy it is, so moving, so wise, and such a great honour it does to man.
Fyodor Dostoyevski

What, then, is religion? It is a way of life. It is a way of life which follows necessarily from a man’s holding certain things in reverence, from his feeling and believing them to be sacred. The history of religion is the history of the gradual change in the situations which, with increase of experience and changed conditions of life are felt as sacred. For my own part, the sense of spiritual relief which comes from rejecting the idea of God as a supernatural being is enormous.
Julian Huxley

The whole subject of happiness has, in my opinion, been treated too solemnly. It has been thought that men cannot be happy without a theory of life or a religion … But when things are normal a man should be healthy without a tonic and happy without a theory.
Bertrand Russell

Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind.
Bertrand Russell

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Life has a Spiritual Dimension

The spiritual life, then, is not a peculiar or extreme form of piety. It is, on the contrary, that full and real life for which man is made; a life that is organic and social, essentially free, yet with its own necessities and laws . . . For the most part, of course, the presence and action of the great spiritual universe surrounding us is no more noticed by us than the pressure of air on our bodies, or the action of light. Our field of attention is not wide enough for that; our spiritual senses are not sufficiently alert . . . But the experimental knowledge of [the spiritual world] is not on the one hand possessed by all Christians, nor on the other hand is it confined to Christianity.
Evelyn Underhill

There is a spirit which I feel that delights to do no evil, nor to revenge any wrong but delights to endure all things, in hope to enjoy its own in the end. Its hope is to outlive all wrath and contention, and to weary out all exaltation or cruelty or whatever is of a nature contrary to itself …. Its crown is meekness, its life is everlasting love unfeigned ….
James Nayler

So someone’s ‘spiritual’ life is not just his moments of clarity and conviction, his days of modest success in living up to his Christian profession. It is the entire thing, and includes his difficulties, failures, perplexities, his anger (whether justified or infantile) with God, people or things that provoke him in one way or another. William Temple said: ‘Religious experience is the ordinary experience of religious [people]’.
Neville Ward

I believe passionately in the value of all things spiritual – by which I mean things of the human spirit, with its capacity for love and enjoyment, creativity and kindness, hope and courage.
C. Grayling

But the nature of this Reality is such that it cannot be dir­ectly and immediately apprehended except by those who have chosen to fulfil certain conditions, making themselves loving, pure in heart, and poor in spirit.
Aldous Huxley

Images on the altar, or imagined within:

We pray to them, but do they answer?

The wise tell us how important adoration is. So we kneel before altars, give offerings, and make sacrifices.

In our meditations, we are taught to see gods within ourselves and to make supplications to receive power and knowledge. This we do with great sincerity, until the masters say that there are no gods. Then we are confused.

The statue on the altar is mere wood and gold leaf, but our need to be reverent is real. The god within may be nothing but visualization, but our need for concentration is real. The attributes of heaven are utopian conjectures, but the essence of these parables is real. The gods, then, represent certain philosophies and extraordinary facets of the human mind. When we devote ourselves to gods, we establish communion with these deeper aspects.

The thought that we are worshipping symbolism may make us uncomfortable. We are educated to accept only the tangible, the scientific, and the material. We doubt the efficacy of adoring the merely symbolic, and we are confused when such reverence brings about genuine personal transformation.

But worship does affect our feelings and thoughts. When the wise say that there are no gods, they mean that the key to understanding all things is within ourselves. External worship is merely a means to point within to the true source of salvation.

An interpretation of Taoism – by Mandy – an internet blogger. 2015

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Mystery and Delight

We are hemmed round with mystery, and the greatest mysteries are contained in what we see and do every day.
Henri Frederic Amiel

My habitual feeling is that the world is so extremely odd, and everything in it so surprising. Why should there be green grass and liquid water, and why have I got hands and feet?
John Chapman

Joy is everywhere: it is in the earth’s green covering of grass: in the blue serenity of the sky: in the reckless exuberance of Spring: in the severe abstinence of Winter: in the living flesh that animates our bodily frame: in the perfect poise of the human figure, noble and upright: in living, in the exercise of all our powers: in the acquisition of knowledge: in fighting evils: in dying for gains we never can share. Joy is everywhere.
Rabindranath Tagore

The poet is the priest of the invisible.                                     Wallace Stevens

Prose is the language of ideals, while poetry is the language of reality.
T.S. Eliot

A presence that disturbs me with the joy

Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime

O something far more deeply interfused

Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,

And the round ocean and the living air,

And the blue sky, and in the mind of man:

A motion and a spirit that impels

All thinking things, all objects of all thought

And rolls through all things.

William Wordsworth (from Tintern Abbey)

Part of the joy of writing, painting, music-making, is the joy of holding, for a moment, in cupped hands, an image which is real, which works for us as humans. No final resting place; no total view; but a glimpse of something through the swirling mists which makes me know the journey’s valid: that there is some meaning in the quest to understand and act.
Deborah Padfield

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Inadequacy of Words

In love and divinity what is most worth saying cannot be said.
Coventry Patmore

That depth is what the word God means. And if that word has not much meaning for you, translate it, and speak of the depths of your life, of the source of your being, of your ultimate concern, of what you take seriously without any reservation. Perhaps, in order to do so, you must forget everything traditional that you have ever learned about God, perhaps even that word itself.
Paul Tillich

Muslims were trying to find out whether it was possible to talk about God as we discuss other matters. We have seen that the Greeks decided on balance that it was not and that silence was the only appropriate form of theology. Ultimately most Muslims would come to the same conclusion.
Karen Armstrong

Your speech is simple, my Master, but not theirs who talk of you. I understand the voice of your stars and the silence of your trees. I know that my heart would open like a flower and that my life has filled itself at a hidden fountain.
Rabindranath Tagore

Jean-Paul Sartre once defined the imagination as the ability to think of something that is not present. If so, the imagination must be the chief religious faculty, since it enables us to conceive the apparently absent God.
Karen Armstrong

Fence everything safely in; make for yourself a closed precinct, a closed system. No matter how beautiful what you have enclosed may seem, you will always discover in the end that the Eternal is outside. The Eternal belongs to the infinite.

Therefore, no enclosures!

Pierre Ceresole

Catch the bird of heaven,

Lock him in a cage of gold;

Look again tomorrow,

And he will be gone.

Ah! the bird of heaven!

Follow where the bird has gone;

Ah! the bird of heaven!

Keep on travelling on.

Sydney Carter

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Suffering and Compassion

At the heart of the world’s major religions lies the shared belief that compassion is the key to spiritual awareness.                                                                      Karen Armstrong

Where there is sorrow, there is holy ground.
Oscar Wilde

Suffering is the greatest teacher; the consecrated suffering of one soul teaches another. I think we have got all our values wrong, and suffering is the crown of life.
von Hügel

We ourselves will become unstuck if we search for facile explanations of the mystery of suffering instead of bowing down in baffled awe before the one, holy, unknowable God.
Sheila Cassidy

Be kind; everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.
John Watson

Silence and Meditation

Half an hour’s listening is essential except when you are very busy: then a full hour is needed.
St. Francis de Sales

Silence is essentially a surrender to the holiness of the divine mystery, whether we use these words or not. An atheist, calming his or her spirit in the peace of silence, is irradiated by the same mystery, anonymous but transforming.
Sister Wendy

Devotion is poetic and blunders disastrously when it turns its hand to prose.
Maha Yoga

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As for me, my bed is made: I am against bigness and greatness in all their forms ….. I am against all big organizations as such, national ones first and foremost; against all big successes and big results; and in favour of the eternal forces of truth which always work in the individual and immediately unsuccessful way, under-dogs always, till history comes after they are long dead and puts them on top.
William James

And there’s another country, I’ve heard of long ago,

Most dear to them that love her, most great to them that know;

We may not count her armies, we may not see her king;

Her fortress is a faithful heart, her pride is suffering;

And soul by soul and silently her shining bounds increase,

And her ways are ways of gentleness, and all her paths are peace

Sir Cecil Spring-Rice

I see the vision of a poor weak soul striving after good. It was not cut short; and in the end it learnt through tears and much pain that holiness is an infinite compassion for others; that greatness is to take the common things of life and walk truly among them; that happiness is a great love and much serving.
Olive Schreiner

Carrying stones

The doctrines which we espouse and which we hold dear are only smooth shining stones which we pick up on the road and place in our baggage. With each new dogma and doctrine, the baggage grows heavier, until we discard these pebbles, one by one, leaving them on the roadside for others to find and carry a little further. And in the end we have need of neither doctrines nor creed, nor to name that which we worship – for it is beyond all images and words. And who but a fool carries a stone to a mountain?
Vivianne Crowley, quoted in Women in search of the sacred by Anne Bancroft


It is the need to balance compassion with wisdom,

love with truth,

peace with justice,

and contemplation with action.

For truth without love is inhumane,

love without truth is ineffective,

justice without peace is unattainable,

and peace without justice is an affront to human rights and human dignity.

Peter Jarman, in The Friend

A Taoist meditation

Close your eyes and you will see clearly.

Cease to listen and you will hear truth.

Be silent and your heart will sing.

Be still and you will move forwards on the tide of the spirit.

All goes to show that the soul in man is not an organ, but animates and exercises all the organs; is not a function, like the power of memory, of calculation, or comparison, but uses these as hands and feet; is not a faculty, but a light; is not the intellect or the will, but the master of the intellect and the will; is the background of our being, in which they lie – an immensity not possessed and that cannot be possessed. From within or from behind, a light shines through us upon things and makes us aware that we are nothing, but the light is all.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Together we share the challenge of an ever changing world, a world often beyond our control, incomprehensible and frightening. Together we share the burden and the blessing of responsibility.

We are not our ancestors: the events of history have shaped our vision. The glorious as well as the tragic have coloured our view. Our ancestors’ words, ideas and beliefs cannot always bring us comfort. For our ancestors never could have imagined the world in which we live. Never could they have imagined the changes that have taken place. Yet across the span of time our ancestors’ words reach out to us. Their words challenge us, call us to action, remind us of our past, and inspire us for the future. Building upon the words they offered in their time, we seek to create our own vision.
From a Sabbath liturgy of Beth Adam: Judaism with a Humanist Perspective

We began

as a mineral. We emerged into plant life,

and into the animal state, and then into being human,

and always we have forgotten our former states,

except in early spring when we slightly recall

being green again…

Humankind is being led along an evolving course,

through this migration of intelligences,

and though we seem to be sleeping

there is an inner wakefulness

that directs the dream

and that will eventually startle us back

to the truth of who we are.

Rumi, 13th century

We are all angels with only one wing; we can only fly while embracing one another.

Luciano de Crescanzo

The twentieth century must be seen as a century of warning, a call to humankind for the necessity of developing a new consciousness and new ways of living and acting.
Mikhail Gorbachev

Third century stone inscription at Oenoanda, Asia Minor

Self-born, untaught, motherless, unshakeable,

Giving place to no name, many named, dwelling in fire,

Such is God: we are a portion of God, his angels.

This, then, to the questioners about God’s nature

The god replied, calling him all-seeing Ether: to him, then, look

And pray at dawn, looking out to the east.

(Quoted in Pagans and Christians by Robin Lane Fox, Penguin 1986)

By desiring what is perfectly good, even when we don’t quite know what it is and cannot do what we would, we are part of the divine power against evil – widening the skirts of light and making the struggle with darkness narrower.
George Eliot: Dorothy, in Middlemarch

[Tobias asks Azarias, aka Raphael, to name the gods he worships]

“How would courage and truth and mercy and right action strike you?”

“But those are not gods,” I protested.

At this Azarias stopped stock still… “Tobias, for heaven’s sake, what do you think a god looks like when he works in men?”

From Salley Vickers, Miss Garnet’s Angel

The sacred is far from being the ‘wholly other’; it is the quality of the secular raised to its highest power and consecrated to the noblest purpose.
From John Lewis, Christianity and the social revolution

I will not make a poem nor the least part of a poem but has reference to the soul,

Because having looked at the objects of the universe, I find there is no one nor any particle of one but has reference to the soul.

Was somebody asking to see the soul?

See, your own shape and countenance, persons, substances, beasts, the trees, the running rivers, the rocks and sands.

From Walt Whitman, Starting from Paumanok, sections 12-13

On the mountain I saw a beast.

As it drew nearer, I saw it was a man.

As it drew nearer still, I saw it was my friend.

Tibetan saying

The Logos, in the thought of John, seems then to be in the last resort the very principle of all that is and all that lives, at once interior to everything and apart from everything, that very Thing of which the rishis had an intuition and into the heart of whose mystery they withdrew, calling It by the names of Atman and Brahman, self and the absolute.

Hindu Religion is fundamentally an attitude to reality: a response of the whole of our being – mind, heart and soul – to the world in which we are placed. It is a sense of awe and wonder, and apprehension of the mystery beyond the commonplace, that produces, if only in rare moments, a feeling of joy too deep to be communicated except in music, poetry and prayer.
From a Jewish service book

For me, my God, all joy and all achievement, the very purpose of my being and all my love of life, all depend on this one basic vision of the union between Yourself and the universe. Let others, fulfilling a function more august than mine, proclaim your splendours as pure spirit; as for me, dominated as I am by a vocation which springs from the inmost fibres of my being, I have no desire, I have no ability, to proclaim anything except the innumerable prolongations of your incarnate Being in the world of matter; I preach only the mystery of your flesh, you the Soul shining forth through all that surrounds us.
From Teilhard de Chardin’s The Mass on the World

So someone’s ‘spiritual’ life is not just his moments of clarity and conviction, his days of modest success in living up to his Christian profession. It is the entire thing, and includes his difficulties, failures, perplexities, his anger (whether justified or infantile) with God, people or things that provoke him in one way or another. William Temple said: ‘Religious experience is the ordinary experience of religious [people]’.
Neville Ward

But the nature of this Reality is such that it cannot be dir­ectly and immediately apprehended except by those who have chosen to fulfil certain conditions, making themselves loving, pure in heart, and poor in spirit.
Aldous Huxley

I believe passionately in the value of all things spiritual – by which I mean things of the human spirit, with its capacity for love and enjoyment, creativity and kindness, hope and courage.
A. C. Grayling

The spiritual life, then, is not a peculiar or extreme form of piety. It is, on the contrary, that full and real life for which man is made; a life that is organic and social, essentially free, yet with its own necessities and laws . . . For the most part, of course, the presence and action of the great spiritual universe surrounding us is no more noticed by us than the pressure of air on our bodies, or the action of light. Our field of attention is not wide enough for that; our spiritual senses are not sufficiently alert . . . But the experimental knowledge of [the spiritual world] is not on the one hand possessed by all Christians, nor on the other hand is it confined to Christianity.
Evelyn Underhill

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Buddhist quotes

The process of awakening is like walking on a footpath. When we find such a path after hours of struggling through undergrowth, we know at last that we are reading somewhere. Moreover, we suddenly find that we can move freely without obstruction. We settle into a rhythmic and easy pace. At the same time we are reconnected to others: men, women and animals who have walked here before us. The path is maintained as a path only because of the tread of feet. Just as others have created this path for us, so by walking on it we maintain it for those who will come after us. What counts is not so much the destination but the resolve to take the next step.
From Stephen Batchelor, Buddhism without beliefs

The way of the Buddha is to know yourself;

To know yourself is to forget yourself;

To forget yourself is to be awakened by all things.

Dogen, quoted in Buddhism without beliefs by S. Batchelor

With everything, whether it is above or below, remote or near, visible or invisible, thou shalt preserve a relation of unlimited love without any animosity or without desire to kill.

Putting away torpor of heart and mind, keeping his ideas alight, mindful and self-possessed, he purifies his mind of weakness and of sloth. Putting away flurry and worry, he remains free from fretfulness, and with heart serene within he purifies himself of irritability and vexation of spirit.

The Buddha

Compassion is not simply a sense of sympathy or caring for someone who is suffering, not simply a warmth of heart towards the person before you, or a sharp clarity of recognition of their needs and pain, it is also a sustainable and practical determination to do whatever is possible and necessary to help alleviate their suffering.
From Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Loving and Dying

There is a Reality even prior to heaven and earth.

Indeed it has no form, much less a name…

To call it Mind or Buddha violates its nature

For then it becomes like the mirage of a flower in the air.

It is not Mind, nor Buddha.

Absolutely quiet, and yet illuminating in a mysterious way,

It allows itself to be perceived only by the clear-eyed.

It is a Reality truly beyond form and sound.

It is a Way-Tao, having nothing to do with words.

Daito Kokushi, Japanese Zen Buddhist

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