Monday 30 January 2017


     For two months there are going to be no further art shows at NAC as the gallery will be closed for renovations, but the Quakers will continue to meet there for Worship every first and third Sunday of the month at 11 a.m., going on to discussion at noon.

     Steve Remus was surprised when some people from the church of the Silver Spire approached him about the spiritual significance of art, as he thinks of  himself and his colleagues as atheists. Perhaps it is a rather old fashioned idea as it was in England in the latter part of the nineteenth century that aesthetes and artists believed that they were practicing a religion of art. This was sufficiently well known that Gilbert and Sullivan made fun of it in their comic operetta "Patience", singing
                   "Though the Philistines may jostle,
                     You will rank as an apostle
                      In the high aesthetic band,
                      If you walk down Piccadilly
                      With a poppy or a lily
                       In your medieval hand."
This was particularly directed against Oscar Wilde but it targeted aesthetes in general, the enemies of art being termed Philistines by analogy with the enemies of Israel in the Old Testament.

     No one talks about a religion of art nowadays, although I once did in connection with Marcel Proust, but yet the people who love art feel that there is a spiritual component to it, although that spiritual component may be more like Zen than it is Judaeo-Christian.

     I am a Quaker, so I can safely say that the Quakers who meet at NAC like to do so because of the spiritual component of the paintings hanging on the walls. I think it is fair to say that we think of ourselves as spiritual rather than religious in any orthodox sense. We gather to sit in silence until one of our number feels inspired by the Spirit to deliver a message which comes from the heart. No direct reply is made and those present will continue to sit in silence until some other message is heard. But we cannot force the Spirit so maybe no message will be heard.

     At noon we shake hands and a discussion follows, mainly about things that passed through people's minds but which they did not feel ready to express. There is no discussion of doctrine, because we avoid dogma. If any controversy were to arise, it would not be about belief.

     One of my friends calls me a Bitsa -- bitsa this, bitsa that -- because I remind him of his Chinese father, who could be Buddhist, Confucian or Christian depending on the occasion. In this I feel I am not exceptional as a Quaker.

     Anyone who thinks they would feel comfortable with this approach is welcome to join us. If I were speaking in Meeting, at this point I might say that we welcome any  individual truths that point to  that one overriding Truth which is only known to the Spirit. But that would just be me talking, although others might agree. Our minds are all different, so Meetings vary, being  predictable only in the broad, general terms I have already stated. I hope this gives you some idea of what to expect.

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