From ancient byways to modern highways, glimpses of faith are everywhere...

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Rufus Jones: Howard Thurman's inspiration

(Young Gandhi)
Just as Martin Luther King, Jr. was inspired by Howard Thurman -Thurman, in turn, was inspired by the great Quaker mystic, Rufus Jones.  (And all three were influenced by the life and work of Mahatma Gandhi…)

WMHT’s This Far by Faith reports that Thurman first encountered Jones’ work while serving as pastor at the Mount Zion Baptist Church in Oberlin, Ohio.  Thurman went on to study with Jones, which Thurman described as “the watershed event of his life.”  Thurman became intent upon transforming Jones’ global focus into a more local one.  The question Thurman wrestled with was this:  How can we manage the carking fear of the white man’s power and not be defeated by our own rage and hatred?

The answer to that elemental conundrum might partially lie within Jones’ emphasis upon a very practical and accessible form of mysticism.  Matthew Hedstrom states that Jones “promoted an egalitarian mysticism, open to all” and “not just a privilege reserved only for the great spiritual athletes.”
Wikipedia reports that Jones partially defined mysticism as “the attainment of a personal conviction by an individual that the human spirit and the divine Spirit have met, have found each other, and are in mutual and reciprocal correspondence as spirit with Spirit.” 

Hedstrom theorizes that Jones’ view of mysticism stems from the late-19th, early-20th century “Quaker milieu in which it was formulated.”  It was also likely influenced by Jones’ 1927 trip to Asia – during which he visited China, Japan, India, and even Palestine.  While in India, he met with Gandhi - and also traveled to the Buddha’s birthplace.  Wikipedia states that “this trip helped Jones formulate a new approach to missions – that of giving humanitarian aid to people while respecting other religions and not aggressively converting people to one’s own religion.”

Jones believed that there are two main types of mystics:  those that primarily seek inner “peak experiences” (which Jones regarded as “spiritual escapism”), and those that “do not make vision the end of life, but rather the beginning…”   


Copyright January 17, 2012 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved 


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