Universalism

November 15, 2012

Universalism is a religious term that may have two meanings:

  1. Universal salvation: a belief that all people will be brought by God into Heaven.
  2. Universal inspiration: a belief that all religions are human reactions to divine inspiration – though this inspiration may be manifest in countless ways.

Early Quakers recognized both forms of universalism. Universal salvation was part of the of teachings of George Fox and other early Quakers. I think that there is a possibility that the English Universalists, about a century later, got their message of universal salvation from Quakers.

The second definition of universalism was also part of early Quaker thought. In 1746 the American Quaker John Woolman wrote:

There is a principle which is pure placed in the human mind, which in different places and ages hath had different names; it is, however, pure, and proceeds from God. It is deep and inward, confined to no forms of religion, nor excluded from any, when the heart stands in perfect sincerity. In whomsoever this takes root and grows, they become brethren.

Universal salvation is found today in A Course in Miracles, and universal inspiration is a part of the thinking of many religious communities. On the eve of All Saints Day at Easton Mountain, we had a ceremony that started with smudging and calling the four directions and the presence of ancestors and concluded with a eucharist led by Bishop Michael Kelly.

Both forms of universalism are derived not from an intellectually understood theology, but from the experience of the living God within. A Course in Miracles says, “A universal theology is impossible, but a universal experience is not only possible but necessary.

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