Intersection of Mysticism and Activism

This Sunday I will be leading a discussion related to the intersection of mysticism and activism at North Meadow Circle of Friends.  As I said during meeting for worship last week, I appreciate these opportunities to spend time focusing on subjects such as this.

I’ve come to realize this is a very interesting title, because the degree to which mysticism can intersect with activism seems to cover the whole spectrum.

Some people seem to be nearly entirely engaged with one or the other, with no intersection at all.  From reading early Quaker history, I have the impression a number of Quakers were totally focused on mysticism, and warned about becoming involved with the secular world.  I think there are Friends today who believe the same.

On the other hand, I have the impression many activists today have no connection to mysticism.  This isn’t necessarily because there isn’t a desire to make a spiritual connection, but that many don’t know where to look when traditional, organized religion doesn’t work for them.  That is why I put some work into trying to make what Quakers have to offer spiritual seekers easier to find, by setting up the Facebook page, Quakers Welcome Spiritual Seekers, and the twitter account, @quaker_seeker.


For others, there are various degrees to which the two overlap.

Finally, is it possible for the two to completely overlap each other?


I believe what has been happening in my own life has been working to make the two completely overlap.  I have on the one hand been paying even more attention to what the Spirit is telling me.  And at the same time, re-orienting my activism to be focused on doing what I am being informed to do by my spiritual life.

My new “normal” for the past several years has been to wake up each morning and ask “What are we doing today?”

I will be interested to hear what people have to say about this during the discussion.



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4 Responses to Intersection of Mysticism and Activism

  1. I think Rufus Jones beat you to it by over 100 years! His interpretation of early Quakerism held sway for most of the 20th Century, but is now regarded as deeply flawed by reputable Quaker historians.

    • jakisling says:

      Thanks. I would be interested in hearing more about what his interpretation was, and why it is considered flawed now. I don’t know much about Rufus Jones, and a quick internet search doesn’t make this very clear to me.

  2. lizopp says:

    As I prepare to convene a number of Meetings for Worship for Justice & Action under the care of my preparative meeting, it occurs to me that this intersection mirrors the two-part process that grounds the Justice Ministry Education program I’m in: reflection and action.

    More accurately, it’s reflection followed by action followed by reflection followed by action… A circle or a spiral. Mysticism and activism.

    Recently I had been short on the mysticism/reflection piece, so your post and my program’s structure are helping me live into a different balance.

    Blessings, Liz Oppenheimer

    PS. Note this William Penn quote, which I’ve taken to adding to many of my emails:

    True religion does not draw men [and women] out of the world but enables them to live better in it and excites their endeavors to mend it. –William Penn, early Quaker

  3. Try “Rufus Jones and Mysticism” by Daniel E. Bassuk. It is available online, as are all *Quaker Religious Thought* essays..

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