And therefore, all friends and people, pluck down your images; I say,
them out of
your houses, walls, and signs, or other places, that none of you be found imitators of his
Creator, whom you should serve and worship; and not observe the idle lazy mind, that
would go invent and make things like a Creator and Maker. . . .
George Fox, ca. 1670
It is not lawful for Christians to use games, sports, plays, comedies, or other recreations
which are inconsistent with Christian silence, gravity, or sobriety. Laughter, sports,
games, mockery, or jests, useless conversation, and similar matters are neither Christian
liberty nor harmless mirth.
Robert Barclay, 1676
How many plays did Jesus Christ and His Apostles recreate themselves at? What poets,
romances, comedies, and the like did the Apostles and Saints make, or use to pass away their
withal? I know, they did redeem their time, to avoid foolish talking, vain jesting, profane
and fabulous stories.
William Penn, 1682
These poems are written by a Quaker; a circumstance rather extraordinary in the world of
letters, rhyming being a sin which gentlemen of that fraternity are seldom guilty of.
Critical Review, 1782
on John Scott of Amwell's Poetical Works
As our time passeth swiftly away, and our delight ought to be in the law of the Lord; it is
advised that a watchful care be exercised over our youth, to prevent their going to stage-plays,
horse-races, music, dancing, or any such vain sports and pastimes. . . .
Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, 1806
The experience of Quaker poet Bernard Barton upon introducing himself to a visiting
"Barton? Barton? That's a name I don't recollect. (pause) What, art thou the
man?" On my replying with a gravity that I really think was heroic that I was called such,
looked at me again, I thought, more in sorrow than in anger, and observed: "Ah, that is a
thing quite out of my way." I dare say the good soul may have thought of me, if at all,
much the same feelings as if I had been bitten by a mad dog.
Bernard Barton, 1830s?
Thou shalt rob me no more of sweet silence and rest,
For I've proved thee a trap, a seducer at best.
Amelia Opie, Farewell to Music,
We would renewedly caution all our members against indulging in music, or having
instruments of music in their houses, believing that the practice tends to promote a light and vain
mind. . . . It becomes us to be living as strangers and pilgrims on earth, seeking a better country,
to be diligently using [our time] for the great end for which it is lent to us . . . , and not in vain
amusements or corrupting pleasures, but striving that "whether we eat or drink, or
we do, we may do all to the glory of God. . . ."
Philadelphia Yearly Meeting (Orthodox), 1873
It needs to be recognised that our Society has not escaped the tendency to narrow down
spiritual action to certain prescribed ways as a substitute for the reality of the spiritual life. For
example, while Friends have been among the pioneers of modern science they have, until recent
years, repressed all taste for the Fine Arts. These, at their greatest, always contain some
the Spirit of God, which is in the fullest harmony with our spiritual faith. In the fields of music,
and literature, as in others, Friends may witness to the glory of God and advance that glory by
service. The "fulness of the whole earth is His glory," and we mar the beauty of this
message by every limitation we set upon it.
William Charles Braithwaite, 1895
For human conduct and human happiness, it is far safer to ignore Art altogether, than it is to
accept her as the sole guide and arbiter of human life. . . . Now Art threatens to become Religion
another sense, obliterating all the old landmarks of morality, and deciding by herself, and with
reference to artistic considerations alone, what is fitting and becoming in human life.
Thomas Hodgkin, 1895
This Quaker denial of the beauty of colour was pointed out to me thirty-five years ago by
Ruskin as the cause of the decay of the Society. "Your early Friends," he said,
"would have carried all before them if they had not been false to that which is obeyed by
whole of the animal creation, the love of colour." Allowing for exaggeration there is much
in it, especially if we extend "colour,""" metaphorically, to cover music,
dancing, and the theatre.
John Wilhelm Graham, 1920
There are many voices today which call us to enjoyment, to self-expression, or to
contemplate and share in the beauty of creative art. These things need to be subordinated to the
service of the Highest, and sometimes in that service they must be given up. There are some too
who, listening to the still small voice, which makes clear to them a duty that may not rest upon
will forgo pleasures and activities in themselves good, for the sake of other claims. We would
narrow unduly for any of our members the opportunities for sharing in the joys and activities of
but in the midst of all we must hold fast the thought of God's Kingdom, of which we are called to
part, and which we have to make real to others by our lives.
London Yearly Meeting, 1925
It seems to me that neither religion nor art can be had without a price. If the indifference of
fellow-Quakers is the price the Quaker artist must pay for both, should he not find compensation
in the fact that his faithfulness in his art can speak of his religion to non-Friends? I myself came
into the Society through the example of a Quaker fellow-actor working with imperturbable good-
humor, reliability and patience under very trying conditions.
Beatrice Saxon Snell, 1954
Where [the 1925 London YM quote, above] might well be amended is in the implied
that some men may be called to abandon art in the interest of some other service to God and man,
but never the reverse. It may be that some Friend will be called to abandon his painting in order
to identify himself with the people of Africa. But it may be that another is doing right when he
resigns from certain important committees in order to devote himself more completely to his art.
. . . The "good" is often the enemy of the "best;" but we must not
that the "best" is necessarily to be identified with moral reform, while creative art is
merely "the good."
Horace Alexander, 1954
The image educates emotion where reason never reaches. The significant image held,
has the power to transform. No one knows why this is so. One can only know that it works. A
of this practice is one of the most liberating factors for spiritual growth. A great artist holds to an
image until depth of feeling knows and understands what mind alone cannot know. How the
community needs its image makers!
Dorothea Blom, 1963
Religion has infinite meanings, covering also those who say they have none. But any artist
worthy of the name will follow his vision even when it seems to clash with his creed. I say
"seems" deliberately, giving the Almighty greater credit for subtlety, wisdom and
complexity than do many of his devotees. Quakerism is a religion I have found closest to my
needs. Certainly it influences my life, and therefore my work. I rest in its silences, am taught to
look within myself for my own answer. That the answer is sometimes at variance with an aspect
of Quakerism is also meaningful. God created thorns on the stems of his roses.
Jean Stubbs, 1967
Simplicity directs the individual to choose those forms of recreation that rest and build
the body, that refresh and enrich mind and spirit. One should consider the proper expenditure of
time, money and strength, the moral and physical welfare of others as well as oneself. Healthful
recreation includes games, sports and other physical exercise; gardening and the study and
of nature; travel; books; the fellowship of friends and family; and the arts and handicrafts which
bring creative self-expression and appreciation of beauty. Recreations in which one is a
rather than merely a spectator are particularly beneficial.
Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, 1972
Perhaps the artist more clearly than others explores and utilizes the creative possibilities of
tension the necessity and desirability of conflict, which are the warp and woof of his work, his
matrix. Take the painter who depends on dramatic contrast in color values; the sculptor who
physically "fights" his hard medium; the poet who has available to him the
images of words with which to transmit the ephemeral; the writer of fiction who truly loves his
impaired characters and is forever raw through living their woundedness. All this is conflict in
creative tension. This is dialogue. This is the "mismatched" human condition where
not every faculty of reason and sense and body performs in a perfectly orchestrated
Candida Palmer, 1972
There are few human activities in which perfection is possible; for in most things the human
limitations of knowledge, time, energy, skill, and motive impede us; only in the arts do they
us, so that we can truly say of certain works of music, poetry, painting, sculpture and architecture
we can neither wish nor imagine them otherwise. When we find this degree of perfection and are
able to respond to it, they become in sober truth a revelation of the divine in the sense that Jesus
was human yet complete.
John Ormerod Greenwood, 1978
I shall not believe that the arts are finally accepted by our Society until we can claim at least
masterpiece, fostered by us, by our discriminating love and knowledgeable enthusiasm I need
hardly say that I do not expect it to bear the label "Quaker" or even
"religious" art; it may, indeed, if it is the bearer of new vision, be deplored as
John Ormerod Greenwood, 1978
Quakers should enter the world of the arts with humility and courage: courage because it is a
risk of our certainties. A religion unwilling to take risks shuts out what is creative.
with moral integrity is likely to assume that life can be tidied up: that is its goal. In fact, it is
life is essentially untidy that it can be creative.
Kenneth Barnes, 1983
The artist and the Quaker are on the same internal journey. Each is seeking a relationship
the Divine, and each is seeking a way to express that relationship. There are just many different
of expressing it. For many, the path to the Self has to be entered by way of the arts, whether or
we are gifted in that field. That doesn't seem to matter. As St. Paul says: If we have not love, we
are as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal. And for many of us, the pathway to love is through
arts. . . . The process of working with and forming material things can lead beyond them to the
spiritual, and shape of clay or colors of paint can be a window into another world.
Janet Mustin, 1992