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Quaker Studies

Abstract

The origins of Christian universalism in the Religious Society of Friends during the seventeenth century are reviewed. A Hicksite shift among some Friends in the nineteenth century is seen as paving the way for a radical extension oflnner Lightist philosophies of universalism. A doctrine of Inner Light mysticism, as presented by Rufus Jones, is considered in the context of an extension of universalism among Quakers. As editor of the Socialist Quaker Society journal The Ploughshare, and in later published studies, William Loftus Hare (1863-1943) forwarded a form of theological universalism at some considerable variance with its previous meanings throughout Quaker history. His association with the Theosophical Society informed his support of conscientious objection in WWI that affirmed witness to the ahimsa and satyagraha principles of the reformed Hinduism of Mohandas Gandhi's religious pacifism. Hopes for a future underlying universalism of faith and witness are seen as a development that constituted a pivotal period of London Yearly Meeting (LYM) Friends in the twentieth century. Hare's contribution, with his hopes for a unifying common language of spirituality, is assessed. Shifts within Quaker Universalism during the later modernist period after WWII are presented through the publications of a recognised 'special interest' group within LYM. Major features of diversification that resulted from the emerging impact of post-modernist culture on the philosophy of the Quaker Universalist Group's (QUG) publications are reviewed. Recent drifts of transitional trends within Friends away from both the priority of Light of Christ and from Gandhian universalism are appraised. The emerging significance of pluralistic stances is considered, with their influences on Quakers of Britain Yearly Meeting (BYM).

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