Why I am a Quaker - John Pamely

Being asked to write a few words explaining why I am a Quaker has turned out to be a far harder task than I imagined. What you are reading is my fifth attempt from scratch. What to say? What to leave out?

First, I should say that I don't particularly like to say that “I am a Quaker”. It's a fine point maybe, but what is “A Quaker” and what does it mean to “Be” one? What I am is a member of the Religious Society of Friends, or colloquially, the Quakers. Perhaps I have pretensions of being a Quaker...

I joined the Quakers because I arrived at a point and a place where it seemed to me to be the best thing to do. I have spent most of my life trying to understand life, its meaning, if any; purpose, if there is one; and truth, if it exists.

A quick race through that process would take in a childhood life attending the Quaker Meeting, a decade of evangelical Christianity (eventually rejected as I could no longer sustain the specific beliefs about God, Jesus, Judgement and salvation, and found it personally hollow as an experience), followed by a decade or so of trying to understand the world through Zen (briefly) and philosophy (most notably touching base with nihilism and eventually coming to rest amongst the existentialists), followed eventually by a rekindling of the possibility of a more spiritual side to life.

This rekindling took some time, and describing that process would in itself take more space that I've been given.

To answer the initial question: “Why am I a Quaker”?

I arrived at a point where I have reached a conviction through experience of sitting and waiting, or meditating, that there is more to life than just the material world conscious self which is writing this. There is a truth beyond the world which we experience with our five senses. I am convinced that it is possible to have experience of this truth, to have it illuminate our lives and to reflect it more in the way we live. I would call this “God”, though with care, as I do not conceive of a separately conscious creator god which I once expressed belief in. Quaker writings frequently call it “the Light”, which I think expresses it the best. It is beyond me to offer further description.

I also arrived at a point of knowing that I would best be able to explore and express this in unity with other people. For me, that meant joining the Quakers. For me it was the place that I started, the baseline from which my journeying began. I like their lack of dogma which allows me to explore the truth in my own terms. I like the way they organise, where all are equal and the experience of all is valued. I like the emphasis on social witness: that faith has to be worked out in the world, striving to make it a better place for all to live. Without that, what's the point?

That's why I'm a Quaker.

John Pamely