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Universal Spiritual Teachings: Jesus, Buddha and Muhammad

Download detailed course information here

Led by Arthur Wells & Helen Gould

The growth of dogma about these three founders has gradually overlayed, distorted and even replaced their original message. As religious thinking matures into the coming century we will need a new vision of each of these founders and what they have to offer us.  

Friends have reason to hope that our intuitive, undogmatic method of spiritual inquiry, nurtured by all of us over the centuries, may yet help to clarify what is true and essential in these great religions and contribute to a more just and peaceful world .

In this course we will explore some strikingly prescient Quaker intuitions about Jesus confirmed by recent scholarship, especially his vision of the rule of God in the world and how it was already manifesting in acts of compassion and forgiveness.  We will make similar explorations in Buddhism and Islam. 

We offer this week as a retreat rather than just a course of study.  We will provide a booklet of readings from scholars like Geza Vermes, John Dominic Crossan and Karen Armstrong, and Buddhist and Muslim guidelines for ethics, meditation and prayer.  In order to explore how spiritual practice in each tradition is a source of rich discovery we will practice some simple Tai Chi, meditate on some wonderful Zen koans, and try the Quaker “Experiment with Light.”   


Arthur Wells is an elder in Christchurch Meeting in New Zealand and a Zen Buddhist teacher.  He retired eight years ago from counselling and leading stopping violence programmes for men, in order to focus on teaching meditation.  He has led countless meditation retreats including some for Quakers interested in Buddhism. He has degrees in English, Religious Studies and Social Work, and taught literature and Religious Studies in universities for many years.

Helen Gould learned to read on the King James Version of the Bible, and as an adult she has immersed herself in Quaker writings and practice.  She practices tai chi and yoga, and has a great interest in interfaith relations.  She had a formative mystical experience in her 20s while living among Gunardpa (Aboriginal) people in Arnhem Land.  She has practiced Buddhist meditation and participated in Jewish religious life, while remaining a Quaker whose first and most significant teacher is Jesus.  Since the early 2000s she has led many Experiment with Light sessions in Quaker communities in Australia, Korea and recently in Norway.  The Experiment with Light is a re-interpretation of early Quaker practice.  In 2009 she presented to Australia Yearly Meeting the annual Backhouse Lecture, entitled “The Quaking Meeting: transforming ourselves, our Meetings and the more-than-human world”.   Within the Western intellectual tradition, she has degrees in philosophy and law.

Cost:  SWQC offers a sliding scale for the 6 day courses, to assist those who are unable to pay the standard registration rate

  • Standard registration (we hope most people will pay this amount) $699

  • Supporting registration (supports others so they can also attend) $759

  • Concession (for those who are on minimal incomes) $659

Note that Quakers may also seek support from their Local Meeting or Regional Meeting. Funds are set aside for this, so don’t be shy – it is an investment in the spiritual health of the Meeting.

If you need to be picked up from the Bungendore train station ($10 fee) or Canberra airport ($35 fee) please contact