After this I returned into Nottinghamshire again and went into the Vale of Beavor… And one morning, as I was sitting by the fire, a great cloud came over me and a temptation beset me; but I sat still. And it was said, ‘All things come by nature’; and the elements and stars came over me so that I was in a manner quite clouded with it. But inasmuch as I sat, still and silent, the people of the house perceived nothing. And as I sat still under it and let it alone, a living hope arose in me and a true voice, which said, ‘There is a living God who made all things’. And immediately the cloud and temptation vanished away, and life rose over it all, and my heart was glad, and I praised the living God.
George Fox, 1648
Emilia Fogelklou (1878–1972) here recalls her own experience at the age of 23. She had been put in charge of the religious instruction in a progressive school in Gothenburg at a time when she was oppressed by the failure of her search for the reality of God; she was filled with despair, almost to the point of suicide, and felt she was ‘just a shell, a shell empty of life’. (She writes of herself in the third person.)But then one bright spring day – it was the 29th of May 1902 – while she sat preparing for her class under the trees in the backyard of Föreningsgatan 6, quietly, invisibly, there occurred the central event of her whole life. Without visions or the sound of speech or human mediation, in exceptionally wide-awake consciousness, she experienced the great releasing inward wonder. It was as if the ‘empty shell’ burst. All the weight and agony, all the feeling of unreality dropped away. She perceived living goodness, joy, light like a clear, irradiating, uplifting, enfolding, unequivocal reality from deep inside.The first words which came to her – although they took a long time to come – were, ‘This is the great Mercifulness. This is God. Nothing else is so real as this.’ The child who had cried out in anguish and been silenced had now come inside the gates of Light. She had been delivered by a love that is greater than any human love. Struck dumb, amazed, she went quietly to her class, wondering that no one noticed that something had happened to her.
Reflections | Quaker faith & practice