George Fox – Woe to the bloody city of Lichfield
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
George Fox – quoted in The Varieties of Religious Experience – William James and an accompanying article
“It was winter, but the word of the Lord was like fire in me. So I put off my shoes, and left them with the shepherds; and the poor shepherds trembled and were astonished. Then I walked on about a mile, and as soon as I was within the city, the word of the Lord came to me again, saying cry ‘Wo to the bloody city of Lichfield!’ So I went up and down the streets, crying with a loud voice Wo to the bloody city of Lichfield! It being market day, I went into the market place and to and fro in the several parts of it, and made stands, crying as before Wo to the bloody city of Lichfield! AND NO ONE LAID HANDS ON ME”
And of course, no one would, because this was Britain. They probably ignored him or offered him a warm cup of tea to help him calm down. They might have offered him a paintbrush as they did to Richard Dadd so that he could better express what he ‘saw’. And some might also have listened and thought about what he was saying.
You cannot think out of the box if you are in it. So those who have scrambled out, or never been in it, are actually very useful. New perspectives offer new solutions, they challenge us to think about our beliefs.
George Fox became the founder of the Quaker movement, a movement that has been of great positive benefit within the UK. But as William James says:
“from the point of view of his nervous constitution , Fox was a detraque [deranged person] of the deepest dye, his journal abounds in entries of this sort………… but no one can pretend for a moment that in point of spiritual sagacity and capacity, Fox’s mind was unsound… “
In effect, George Fox would be classified today as mentally ill. But as James says he had a great deal of ‘spiritual sagacity and capacity’.