The Mirror of Simple Souls

Introduction

The Mirror of Simple Souls[1] is an early 14th-century work of Christian mysticism by Marguerite Porete dealing with the workings of Divine Love.

Love in this book layeth to souls the touches of his divine works privily hid under dark speech, so that they should taste the deeper draughts of his love and drink. - from 15th-century English translator's prologue.

Written originally in Old French at a time when Latin was the prescribed language for religious literature it explores in poetry and prose the seven stages of 'annihilation' the Soul goes through on its path to Oneness with God through Love. Enormously popular when written, it fell foul of the Church authorities, who, detecting elements of the antinomian Heresy of the Free Spirit in its vision, denounced it as 'full of errors and heresies', burnt existing copies, banned its circulation, tried and executed Porete herself. In spite of this the work was translated into several different languages around Europe, including English, albeit not with Porete's name attached. In fact it was not identified as being by Porete at all until 1946. Since then it has been seen increasingly as one of the seminal works of Medieval spiritual literature and Porete, alongside Mechthild of Magdeburg and Hadewijch, can be seen as an exemplar of the love mysticism of the Beguine movement.


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