Inversion and reconstruction

As Light Is Sown

The question remains: just when did the Society of Friends begin using the phrase, “Inner Light,” now commonly seen as the unique and defining quality of Quaker faith? The term, as such, has not been found in the writings of James Nayler, Edward Burrough, George Fox, Margaret Fell, Richard Farnworth, or any other originating Quaker leader during the English Revolution of the mid 1600s. Nor, close on their heels during the English Restoration, has it shown up in Isaac Penington, William Penn, or Robert Barclay. What they and successive generations of Friends appearing in Quaker ministry did voice was a range of variations of “Inward Light,” including the “Light Within” or the “Universal Light” (as John Woolman did) – often in conjunction with “Seed” or the “Seed of Christ” – expressions that conveyed a much different teaching than modern Friends understand in the phrase “Inner Light.” Variations on the Inward…

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