This paper will use the frame developed
by a number of contemporary writers on mysticism (King 2001, Poole
2001, Jantzen 1995) but, in particular, Dorothy Soelle (2001) in
The Silent Cry: Mysticism and resistance as a lens for examining
four women visionaries: Hildegard of Bingen (medieval Benedictine
abbess), Margery Kemp (medieval wife and traveller), Julie Billiart
(Founder of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur) and Mother Ann Lee
(Founder of the Shakers). It will show how their lives reflect a
relationship between prayer/mystical experience and action that
challenge constructions of the spiritual experience rooted in the
work of William James (1929). It will examine the strands of authority,
joy and struggle within the chosen case studies.
June Boyce-Tillman is Professor of Applied Music at
the University of Winchester.