Lead’s Life and Times (Part Two): The Woman in the Wilderness
Covering the period from 1670 to 1695—that is from the beginning of Lead’s widowhood until she went blind—this chapter focusses as much on extensive and overlapping domestic and continental networks of assorted millenarians, prophets, theosophists and devotees of mystic and spiritualist authors generally as on Lead herself. It also traces an evolution of Lead’s thought as she came under successive influences and began to develop her own distinctive beliefs. This was a religious journey with staging posts: an initial Calvinist obsession with sin and predestination wedded to a conventional Protestant understanding of the coming apocalypse; then the introduction of Jacob Boehme’s teachings and accompanying visions of a female personification of divine wisdom; finally, the adoption, albeit with inconsistencies, of the doctrine of the universal restoration of all humanity. It was the last together with Lead’s apparent dependence upon visions and revelations that repulsed certain former admirers of her writings, turning them into some of Lead’s most vehement critics.