In August, Friend Barbara Alison Bryant shared two passages from Elias Hicks (1748-1830). Here she offers some information about sources Hicks may have been influenced by. (See the previous post’s “Resources on Elias Hicks” for additional information.)
While Catholics looked to the teachings of the Church for their supreme guidance and Protestants examined the Scriptures, Quaker belief in group mysticism and divine illumination opened the portals for Elias Hicks. The inward light became for him the all-important and central feature of spiritual guidance.
Hicks reasoned that the primitive church was in error and questioned nearly every premise of Christianity. By shattering the credibility of the Bible and orthodoxy, Elias Hicks freed others to follow his lead and question for themselves!
We know that Hicks read Confucius and quite possibly was exposed to Hindu philosophy from such books as A View of All Religions and the Religious Ceremonies of All Nations at the Present Day, by William Ward, D.D.1 (1824). He read accounts by contemporary William Jones, the Orientalist.2
Interestingly, Hicks’ conclusions were similar to those of the Gnostics, who taught that self-knowledge was the path to divinity. Yet, Elias Hicks did not have access to the Nag Hammadi scriptures discovered a full century later.
1 See these sources on Rev. William Ward. D.D.:
- Ward, William (1769-1823), in Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 59
- Memoir of the Rev. William Ward, one of the Serampore missionaries (1828)
2An Exposition of Christian Doctrine Respecting the Nature and Office of Jesus Christ, by Elias Hicks (1824).