In this compelling study of two seventeenth-century female mystics, Bo Karen Lee examines the writings of Anna Maria van Schurman and Madame Jeanne Guyon, who, despite different religious formations, came to similar conclusions about the experience of God in contemplative prayer. Van Schurman was born into a Dutch Calvinist family and became a superb scriptural commentator before undergoing a dramatic religious conversion and joining the Labadist community, a Pietistic movement. Guyon was a French layperson whose thought would be identified with Quietism—a spiritual path that was looked upon with suspicion both by the French Catholic Church and by Rome.
Lee analyzes and compares the themes of self-denial and self-annihilation in the writings of these two mystics. In van Schurman's case, the focus is on the distinction between scholastic knowledge of God and the intima notitia Dei accessible only by radical self-denial. In Guyon's case, it is on the union with God that is accessible only through a painful self-annihilation. For both authors, Lee demonstrates that the desire for enjoyment of God plays an important role as the engine of the soul's progress away from self-centeredness. The appendices offer facing Latin and English translations of two letters by van Schurman and a selection from her Eukleria.
"In this fascinating study of two influential seventeenth-century mystics, Bo Karen Lee explores the intricate and often paradoxical connections between sacrifice of self and delight in God. Lee’s careful exposition of primary texts by Anna Maria van Schurman and Madame Jeanne Guyon reveals a theological profundity that continues to challenge, provoke, and inspire. The daring spiritualities of these two women (one Protestant, one Catholic) offer an intriguing comparative case study in early modern Christian thought." —Arthur Holder, John Dillenberger Professor of Christian Spirituality, Graduate Theological Union
"Bo Karen Lee's subtle study of Madame Guyon and Anna Maria van Schurman explores how these writers found a source of power, leadership, and creativity in self-denial. It is an important contribution to the history and literature of Christian spirituality—including Protestant spirituality, which remains underinvestigated—and to discussions around contested questions at the intersection of feminism and religion." —Stephanie Paulsell, Houghton Professor of the Practice of Ministry Studies, Harvard Divinity School