Quaker Studies

Quakerism and Approaches to Mental Affliction: A Comparative Study of George Fox and William Tuke

Quaker Studies (2011), 15, (2), 152–226.

Abstract

This study compares the healing ministry of George Fox with the humanitarian reforms of William Tuke. Fox, a radical religious leader, claimed to heal by the power of the Lord working through him. Tuke, a prosperous merchant, managed an innovative asylum. Fox and Tuke lived in different times and occupied different social roles but shared a commitment to Quakerism. Both were laymen, working outside the perimeters of established medical practices and saw insanity as a condition of the soul. Their reflections on their faith in conjunction with accounts of their healing reveal how they perceived madness. Their definitions and treatments of this condition resulted from the interplay between inherent theological dilemmas of the faith and the practicality of living in a predominantly non-Quaker world. Quakerism elevates personal spiritual experience over any other authority, raising the problem of distinguishing illusion from Divine revelation. Fox and Tuke determined similarly between the authentic and non-authentic, using a yardstick of high moral standards and reliance on communal judgment. Internal unease and division, coupled with hostility or mockery from the wider society, resulted in a persistent Quaker ambiguity towards ‘madness’— empathy towards unusual experiences with anxiety to disassociate the group from this mind-set.

Quakerism and Approaches to Mental Affliction: A Comparative Study of George Fox and William Tuke

Abstract

This study compares the healing ministry of George Fox with the humanitarian reforms of William Tuke. Fox, a radical religious leader, claimed to heal by the power of the Lord working through him. Tuke, a prosperous merchant, managed an innovative asylum. Fox and Tuke lived in different times and occupied different social roles but shared a commitment to Quakerism. Both were laymen, working outside the perimeters of established medical practices and saw insanity as a condition of the soul. Their reflections on their faith in conjunction with accounts of their healing reveal how they perceived madness. Their definitions and treatments of this condition resulted from the interplay between inherent theological dilemmas of the faith and the practicality of living in a predominantly non-Quaker world. Quakerism elevates personal spiritual experience over any other authority, raising the problem of distinguishing illusion from Divine revelation. Fox and Tuke determined similarly between the authentic and non-authentic, using a yardstick of high moral standards and reliance on communal judgment. Internal unease and division, coupled with hostility or mockery from the wider society, resulted in a persistent Quaker ambiguity towards ‘madness’— empathy towards unusual experiences with anxiety to disassociate the group from this mind-set.


Details

Author details

Lawrence, Amanda