Mysticism in Early Modern England

Published with Boydell and Brewer in April 2019.
Find a copy here.

Mysticism in Early Modern England traces how mysticism featured in polemical and religious discourse in seventeenth-century England and explores how it came to be viewed as a source of sectarianism, radicalism, and, most significantly, religious enthusiasm.

It examines a vital juncture in the history of Christian mysticism. Exploring both Catholic and Protestant views across the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, the book argues for a re-evaluation of the cross-denominational appeal of mystical spirituality. It traces the mysticism of figures such as the Benedictine Augustine Baker, the Familist preacher John Everard, the millenarian Jane Lead, and the Cambridge Platonist writers Henry More and John Worthington. At the same time, it explores the arguments of a number of early modern critics including Meric Casaubon and Edward Stillingfleet, who viewed mysticism with suspicion and ridicule, a product of melancholy and madness incompatible with learned theological and doctrinal discussions. The book contends that the early modern period ultimately saw the association of mysticism with sectarianism, radicalism and religious enthusiasm, resulting in a negative connotation that lasted well into the twentieth century. It also explores connections between England and the Continent, suggesting that parallel and interconnected criticisms of mysticism occurred in France, Italy and Germany over the period. In analysing this significant change in attitude towards mysticism, the book suggests that recent scholarly attempts to 'return' mysticism to modern religious institutions and mainstream histories of religion can be viewed as a direct response to the rejection of mysticism in the early modern period.

 


The author is available for comment on any aspect of early modern history for articles, documentaries and media. He is also keen to network with scholars of any discipline researching early modern religion, politics and theology. To get in touch please email him at liamtemple@hotmail.co.uk