Jane Lead and the Philadelphian Society are not particularly well known figures to most scholars of late 17th- and early 18th-century religion. Born in 1624, Lead experienced a spiritual awakening aged 16. On Christmas Day 1640, while her family danced and celebrated, she was overwhelmed with a ‘beam of Godly light’ and a gentle inner voice offering spiritual guidance. After the death of her husband in 1670 she received daily spiritual outpourings, finding comfort in a spiritual community based in London and guided by John Pordage, a follower of the German mystic Jacob Boehme. Going blind in 1695, she helped form the deeply millenarian Philadelphian Society for the public gathering of the chosen in anticipation of Christ’s return in 1697. After several years of meeting, writing and publishing the group retired in 1703, losing further momentum after Lead’s death in 1704.
Overall this is a valuable and timely collection of essays that offers
new direction to those concerned with studying the Philadelphians. As
the chapter by Sarah Apetrei reveals, new manuscript sources of Lead’s
works are still out there to be discovered, and it is to be hoped that
the volume inspires more researchers to explore Lead’s important role in
late 17th- and early 18th-century religion. Apetrei’s archival findings
are generously reproduced in full, along with Laborie’s extensive list
of known Philadelphians, providing scholars with the very latest
findings to aid future research. The volume is well presented with
generous scholarly endnotes. It will be of interest to students and
scholars alike, especially anyone with an interest in female
religiosity, alchemy, radical spirituality, mysticism, and the links
between English and continental religious movements.
The full review can be accessed here: http://www.history.ac.uk/reviews/review/2019