- Hardcover: 172 pages
- Publisher: Routledge (December 28, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0754651274
- ISBN-13: 978-0754651277
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #9,201,109 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Jane Leade: Biography of a Seventeenth-Century Mystic
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About the Author
Dr Julie Hirst is tutor at the Centre for Continuing Education, University of York, UK.
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by Julie Hirst
Jane Leade (1624-1704) was a major mystic of the 17th Century who advocated Universalist Christianity. In this biography, the author presents a very even-handed account of Leade as a whole person. The daughter of an English country squire, she was happily married to William Leade, a wealthy merchant, for 27 years. The union produced four daughters, only one of whom lived to adulthood.
Leade's first mystical experience was at age 16 years, and her mystic visions continued throughout her life. She wrote of her visions and, in her lifetime, successfully published her works in English, Dutch, and German. One fascinating aspect of her visions is her relatively unique perspective on "Sophia" (Wisdom) whom she declared the "first-born of God's creations." Although thoroughly heterosexual, Leade occasionally referred to herself as the "bride of Sophia," as well as the "bride of Christ." Three hundred years earlier, Julian of Norwich had referred to Jesus as "our Father and our Mother." Like Julian, Leade's mysticism was accepted as genuine, and her writings were never deemed heretical.
After her husband's death, Leade surrounded herself with other mystics and the progressive, educated men and women of her day who supported and encouraged her. It was during this period of later life that she became a believer in Universal Salvation. (Only about 10-12% of this book is devoted to her Universalism.) Unlike many Universalist Christians -- both ancient and modern -- who spew out a myriad of Bible verses to support their position, Leade based her Universalism primarily on her own revelations. She saw salvation not only for the souls of people of other religions and denominations ("the soul of Turk, Jew, or Papist") but also for evil spirits. In the late 1700's, she was among the founding members of the Philadelphia Society (not to be confused with Quakers) which had branches in England, Switzerland, and Germany. Rather than forming a new denomination as other groups were doing, they advocated Universal Salvation and spiritual development within the existing society and church. Although this society did not survive very long after Leade's death, her legacy continued into the next century.
Jane Leade was a major mystic who was widely read and respected in a time when women were often marginalized. She described herself as a "prophetess," and as author Julie Hirst points out, this would have been consistent with Acts 2:17, quoting the prophet Joel: "In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy ..." In this excellent biography, mystics, students of mysticism, and Universalist Christians will agree that she was, in fact, a prophetess.
This review was first published in the UNIVERSALIST HERALD, September/October 2006, Vol. 157, No. 4