women in England. Most continental women religious thinkers were mystics and ecstatics, who might have visions of political events, but who did not work to bring these about. They tended to emphasize the inner life of the spirit and to downplay the importance of the Bible, the ordained clergy, the external ceremonies or sacraments, higher education, and sometimes reason. Antoinette Bourignon (1616-80), a French mystic and reformer, believed spiritual rebirth more important than baptism so that Jews and Moslems might also be blessed and resurrected. She refused to be associated with any group, saying that the divisions within Christianity were signs of the coming end of the world.

Several female religious thinkers both on the continent and in England drew large numbers of followers. Jane Lead (1623-1704), for example, wrote that true religious knowledge came only through turning inward and finding one's own inner light. She organized a circle of like-minded people called the Philadelphian Society, urging them to seek the 'virgin wisdom of God' and not go 'whoring after Lord Reason'. Like the Quakers, whose official name was the 'Society of Friends', she did not want to describe her associates as a 'church'. Someofthe works of female religious writers went through numerous editions and translations, suggesting that they were widely read, and a few continue to be published or included on websites related to spirituality today. Most church and state officials reacted with horror to such women, however, both for their independence in expressing their ideas and for the content of what they were saying or writing. Many women and the groups they were associated with were driven from place to place seeking more tolerant political authorities. Antoinette Bourignon was forced from France to Flanders to Germany and finally to the Netherlands, which provided a refuge for Philadelphians and Quakers as well. The Netherlands was the most tolerant part of Europe so that it was also the most common place of publication for the works of these women and those of other radical religious thinkers.

Women also played a significant role in the Pietist movement of the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Born in Germany and then spreading elsewhere, the movement emphasized morality, Bible study, and personal spiritual regeneration. The history of Pietism is often written as the history of its best-known leaders, Philipp Jakob Spener and August Hermann Francke, but in many ways it was a grass-roots movement of lay people who met in prayer circles and conventicles, among whom were many women. Johanna Eleonora Petersen (1644-1724) organized several Pietist circles and wrote a huge number of tracts, including a commentary on the Book of Revelations. Erdmuthe von Zinzendorf (1700-56) was largely responsible for the financial security and day-to-day operations of her husband's colony of Moravian Brethren at

Was this article helpful?

0 0
Positive Thinking As The Key To Success

Positive Thinking As The Key To Success

Download this Guide and Discover How To Find And Monetize on Your Expertise And Strengths. Inside this special report, you'll discover: How positive thinking is one of the key factors in a successful life. Five ways and tools to help you stay positive. Use these to help you keep on track. Case studies that'll inspire you to stick to your dreams. Plus much, much more.

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment