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Jane Leade (1624–1704)

Author of A Training Exercise for God's Heavenly Militia

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Short biography
Jane Leade, née Warde, was born in Norfolk, England, to a prosperous and influential family. At about age 16, she claimed to have had a sudden vision in which a heavenly voice urged her to pursue a spiritual life. She married William Leade, a London merchant, with whom she had four daughters. They were happily married for some 25 years. When her husband died in 1670, Jane was bereft and also destitute. Around this time, she had her first vision of the "Virgin Sophia", who promised to reveal the secrets of the universe to her and dominated the rest of her life. She transcribed her visions in much the same way as Hildegard of Bingen, producing at least 15 books and treatises, including a spiritual diary entitled A Fountain of Gardens. She met John Pordage, a wayward Anglican priest, and joined his small group of followers of the German mystic Jacob Boehme. In 1674, she moved into his household and lived there until his death in 1681. Leade then assumed leadership of the group, which became known as the Philadelphian Society for the Advancement of Piety and Divine Philosophy (aka the Philadelphians), and published her first treatise, The Heavenly Cloud Now Breaking. Her writings and visions formed the core of the group's spiritual ideas. The Philadelphians won converts in Europe and the USA, and influenced the works of Emanuel Swedenborg, William Law, and William Blake, among others.
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