1. Radicalism and the English revolution
3. The Church of England in the eighteenth century
5. Rediscovering radicalism in the British Isles and Ireland in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth centuries
Cromohs Virtual Seminars
The Seeker Culture of the Thames Valley
M. Brod, "The Seeker Culture of the Thames Valley", in M. Caricchio, G. Tarantino, eds., Cromohs Virtual Seminars. Recent historiographical trends of the British Studies (17th-18th Centuries), 2006-2007: 1-10
1. At some time in 1646, John Pordage, a clergyman of controversial beliefs and, at least on occasion, an unlicensed medical practitioner, moved from the urban living of St Laurence in Reading to the rural rectory of Bradfield, some ten or twelve miles away. It is probable that his departure from Reading was not entirely voluntary, but if his enemies there expected him to subside into rural obscurity, they would be disappointed. He made his rectory a centre for precisely the opinions that they had wanted excluded from Reading, and from it his doctrines spread throughout the county of Berkshire and further afield. I have given a general description of Pordage and his circle in an earlier paper.  The purpose of the present communication is to give a more focussed account of the doctrines and ideologies of his Bradfield group, to attempt to situate them in their intellectual context, and make suggestions as to their provenance. I will argue that these doctrines were basically concerned with private religious strivings, and their emergence in the 1640s and early 50s into the world of social theory and public politics was a temporary aberration due to the disturbed conditions of the time. For the present purpose, and as in my previous paper on this subject, I will use the term radical to describe attempts to bring about fundamental changes in public religion or in social institutions or both, and the term conservative for resistance to radical activities. Thus, the period during which the Bradfield group may be described as radical had come to an end well before the Restoration.
2. Pordage was the son of a London merchant. He studied at Cambridge, and went on, like many English students of the time, to read medicine at Leiden. On his return, he practised in London while also becoming known as a preacher of heterodox religious opinions. In 1644, after Reading had been taken from the Royalists, he was intruded as curate and later vicar of St Laurence.
In Reading, he soon found himself embroiled in local politics. He aroused the enmity of Christopher Fowler, intruded in the same way as he had been into another of the town churches, St Mary’s. Fowler’s extreme Presbyterianism was in accord with the views of the majority on the town corporation, who forced on Pordage a Presbyterian system of church government, replacing the vestry with a board of ruling elders. He was rescued from this difficulty by the patronage of a powerful local politician of the Independent tendency, Daniel Blagrave. Blagrave had a well-founded local reputation for corrupt practices. His cousin, Elias Ashmole, was cynically courting a widowed member of the locally prominent Forster family who held the local manor of Bradfield as part of her jointure and married her against her family’s opposition. Blagrave himself seems to have assumed the disposal of the rectory of Bradfield, which he allotted to Pordage in exchange, it was later alleged, for a gift of two matched coach horses worth £40. If true, this indicates a deal remarkably advantageous to Pordage, for the valuation, as of 1640, was £160 per year. The Bradfield rectory seems to have been spacious, and would allow Pordage to set up an initially nameless society or community espousing and developing radical ideas both in religion and politics.
Pordage’s closest collaborators were those who lived with him at the rectory, a largely female group: his wife Mary, his mother Elizabeth, a Mrs Flavell, and a local woman, Mary Pocock, wife of a yeoman of a neighbouring village, Ashampstead. Mrs Flavell almost certainly was, or had been, Pordage’s mistress; her ‘niece’ Hannah, born about 1645, was almost certainly their daughter. A younger brother, Francis, was conveniently rector of nearby Stanford Dingly; and in 1654, shortly before his ejection from Bradfield, Pordage was joined by a couple of Oxford academics, Thomas Bromley and Edmund Brice.
Other members of the circle visited more or less often and for shorter or longer periods. There was a connection between Pordage and the writer Abiezer Coppe, who would become notorious as the reputed chief of the Ranters. Both men had links with Elizabeth Poole, the Abingdon prophetess; Poole was known to visit Bradfield, and Coppe carried on a passionate correspondence with Thomasine Pendarves, the religiously wayward wife of the vicar of St Helens in Abingdon and Poole’s protectress in that town.
In another direction, Pordage is linked to William Everard, a Reading man and an early leader of the Diggers, and through him, though almost certainly also directly, to Gerrard Winstanley. Everard was connected with Christopher Cheesman via William Bray with whom he had co-authored a 1647 petition. Bray had been Christopher Cheesman’s superior officer. Everard, Bray, and Cheesman had all been Levellers and army mutineers. Bray had been imprisoned at Windsor, and Cheesman in his turn was confined for taking a petition for his release to the high command. Cheesman was involved as a pamphleteer with mainstream local politics in Reading.
Again, the spiritualist preacher William Erbery was often named in connection with Pordage. Cheesman was accused of being an Erberist, and one of Pordage’s witnesses at his heresy trial in 1654, Richard Stockwell, was rejected on the same grounds. At the trial, Pordage himself, perhaps mischievously, declared that he had learnt some of his doctrine from an Erbery sermon.
At a further remove, the London connection was provided by Giles Calvert, who published most of the books and pamphlets coming from Bradfield. Calvert was another node in the radical network and provided the liaison between radical groups in different parts of the country.
3. The main characteristic of Pordage’s group was that it was spiritualist. The central tenets of the spiritualist religion had developed from a pre-Reformation tradition, and can be found in a simple and accessible form in the fourteenth century Theologia Germanica, which circulated widely in manuscript until it was translated by Giles Randall in the 1630s and printed in 1646. These tenets were seriously at odds with orthodoxy. Christ and Satan, good and evil, fought for dominance within the human soul. Satan’s weapon was the lure of wordly interests, while Christ required renunciation of worldly ambition and total alignment of the human will with his own. The dominant influences in the world were not sin and salvation, but love and union with the beloved. This implied a downgrading of the importance of the human nature of Christ, and of the significance of the Crucifixion as a historical event. There were other important implications, for predestination versus free will and for personal inspiration versus taught doctrine, but it was soteriology that lay at the heart of conservative resistance to the radical ideas. To the more extreme spiritualists, the historical Jesus was simply ‘a type’, an example of how a human being should approach salvation, but not himself the saviour. To the orthodox – and specifically to Christopher Fowler, Pordage’s arch enemy in Reading – this was a blasphemous insult to the son of God, and a rejection of his redemptive sacrifice. It was ‘spit in the face of Jesus Christ, by an handful of sinful dirt, fit to be cast into the street’. No punishment was too severe for depraved characters who held such ideas.
The recent work of Peter Lake and David Como has transformed our understanding of the radical religious subculture that flourished, especially in London, in the first half of the seventeenth century. Como has described it as an ‘antinomian underground’, although this term may be criticised as referring to only one aspect of the ideologies involved. The defining idea of antinomianism – at least in Como’s formulation – is that while all Christians are in some sense free from the Law, the saints, to the extent that they have escaped from the constraint of their own will and accepted that of Christ, are no longer subject to sin. Pordage is on record as holding that ‘it was a mistake to be troubled for sin’. The doctrine was useful in religious controversy, since it could be equated with the orthodox Calvinist idea that those arbitrarily elected by God to salvation had the burden of their sins ‘imputed’ to Christ, and could not fall from grace. Antinomians could present themselves as more Calvinistic than the orthodox. It was a sophism that Pordage scorned to use: he was accused of declaring the ‘imputative righteousness of Christ’ to be ‘sapless’. It is plain that he was, in essence, a country member of the metropolitan radical subculture. In his spacious rural living he could attract people who would be more fully committed to his principles than sophisticated Londoners, who might perhaps be more aware of the alternative views on offer. The downside was that the opposition would be less reasoned and intellectual than instinctive and emotional. When he was on trial before the Ejectors in 1654, there was no mistaking the scorn and hatred he aroused among his judges.
Around the basic doctrine of the indwelling spirit, there were accretions from other intellectual systems, not necessarily Christian at all: joachite, neo-platonic, cabalistic, hermetic. Devotees could pick and mix. A minimal requirement for the groups described as Seekers was rejection of existing church structures as inherently Jewish, wedded to a ceremonialism and legalism that recent manifestations of the Spirit had rendered obsolete. This was certainly part of the view of Pordage’s associates. Abiezer Coppe described himself as ‘a late-converted Jew’, Everard was ‘of the race of the Jews’, Thomas Tany circumcised himself so that he could prepare the Jews for the new dispensation. Pordage himself was open to the charge of hypocrisy, in that he ministered conventionally in his parish and even demanded tithes. But he and his group went much further in the spiritualist or antinomian ideology. Pordage had been reported as early as 1634 as considering direct inspiration superior to taught doctrine, and was accused in 1645 of full-blown Familism. Such accusations were a commonplace of religious controversy at the time, and it is pointless to ask exactly how many of Henry Niclaes’s doctrines one had to accept to actually be a Familist. There are a number of indications which individually are ambivalent but cumulatively make up a convincing case that the Bradfield society was consciously following Familist traditions: the collegiate nature of the group, with a blurring of authorship of many of their publications; the adoption of sacred names used only within the group; the self-description of members of the group as ‘members of the body’; the commendation of ‘the virgin life’, involving abstention from sexual intercourse even within marriage; the tendency to personify virtues and vices as angelic or demonic spirits.
In his later life, Pordage would become known as a major proponent of the ideas of the German theosophist Jacob Boehme. Boehme’s works were becoming known in England from the mid-1630s onward, although there were no printings in English until 1644. Behmenism derives from the spiritualist tradition and is generally consistent with Familism. However, it adds to this a complicated cosmogony based on neo-Platonic and Cabalistic ideas of the formation of the universe by divine emanations, starting with the dark and light worlds of God’s wrath and his love. Behmenism, even more than Familism, grants importance to angels and demons as embodiments of abstract qualities, and introduces Sophia, symbolising God’s self-consciousness, as the spirit of knowledge. Sophia is the feminine half of Adam, from whom he was separated in the Fall.
4. What distinguishes Pordage’s circle from many other such groups of which we have knowledge is that they were not passive, they were not – at least at first – quietistic, they were not ‘in a waiting posture’. Its members may not all have had the same goals, but they had a clear idea of how their goals might be achieved. The particular twist they gave to their basic spiritualist doctrine was the addition of the principle of alchemical change. That was not unique among antinomian theorists as a description of the process of salvation, and Boehme used alchemical terminology which he seems to have derived largely from Paracelsus. Pordage scandalised local Presbyterians by speaking of ‘the fiery deity of Christ, mixing and mingling itself with our flesh’. But I will argue that Pordage did not stick at a philosophical alchemy, a play of metaphors and analogies; he and his associates carried out alchemical procedures of various kinds in the hope of actually achieving the changes they wished for. In this, they may have been unique among seventeenth century hermeticists.
When in 1654 Pordage stood before his prosecutors of the local Committee of Ejectors one of the principal items in the indictment against him was his understanding of God as the male, humanity as the female, ‘and that these two become one flesh’. It was ‘The deity in the humanity’. The humanity in this sense, as Pordage admitted, was not that part of Christ’s nature that derived from his mother, but the regenerate part of every man, which is to be transformed, by union with Christ, into Spirit. To Christopher Fowler, who led the wolf pack of the prosecution, the whole theory seemed to hint at the sexual transgressions that in the popular mind were connected with Familism and, more recently, with the Ranters.
5. For Pordage ‘the deity in the humanity’ was a key phrase. It was, according to Mrs Flavell, the philosophers’ stone. She had seen it in one of her sacred trances, and so had Mary Pocock. The philosophers’ stone in occult theory is a shifting concept. In alchemical theory, it is the outcome of the Chemical Wedding between the male and female principles, the ‘filius philosophorum’, in whom all elements and influences, including the sexual, are brought to a harmonious balance. For Pordage, Christ’s divinity is completed by the embrace of the humanity, God and man reconciled in analogy with the male and the female. As the Chemical Wedding is a figure of the Crucifixion, so the filius is identified with the risen Christ.
Which leads us to Pordage’s main female disciple, Mary Pocock. He refers to her as ‘a deeply experienced woman,’ while Fowler damns her as ‘old Goodwife Pocock’. A book with her initials on the title page appeared in 1649 and this too had the title of The Mystery of the Deity in the Humanity, or the Mystery of God in Man. Pocock, and Pordage behind her, interpret the political crisis they were living through in terms of spiritualist religion and of nuptial symbolism. The union of king and parliament is seen as a figure of that of God and man. The king’s fall had been metaphorically an act of adultery, of separation from the female principles that had sustained him – seen variously as Parliament, as Eve, and as Reason. There had been various attempts at reconciliation, by Levellers, Presbyterians, Independents and sectaries, but they had failed. Yet Pocock does foresee a restoration, which will be the entry of the Spirit into the king, and his reconciliation with his Eve will result in the return of paradisal harmony. She doesn’t make it clear how she expects this restoration to be accomplished, but seems to have every confidence of its success. She plainly considers the current helpless and desolate state of the king as equivalent to a crucifixion, and with a similar regenerative outcome. Overall, the concept is of the king as female to the male power of the Spirit, or of Christ – she doesn’t discriminate very clearly between them – and at the same time of the king as male towards his parliament and people. Pocock’s argument is not original; it follows closely that of William Sedgwick’s Leaves from the Tree of Life, which had been published by Giles Calvert in August 1648. Her book amounts to little more than a shorter version of its exemplar, using many of the same figures and tropes. Her choice of title, however, is significant.
That same concept is carried over into the prophecies of Elizabeth Poole before the Council of Officers debating the fate of the king. Poole told them what they certainly didn’t want to hear, that the king was as the husband to his people and it was not for the people to kill him. The idea of a mystical marriage between king and people was something of a cliché of the time, but its occult origin must have been visible to at least some of her audience. Like Pocock, Poole may have been reading William Sedgwick, since her ideas closely follow those he expressed in his hostile comments on the Army’s ‘Remonstrance’, which had been published a few days after Pride’s Purge. This, again, will not have endeared her to many members of the Council. She was dismissed with ignominy. By the time Pocock’s book was published, Poole was in disgrace and the king dead. Poole’s later writings betray her indignation and disappointment at the frustration of what she obviously saw as a promising project for resolving the political crisis and achieving a cosmic transformation. Her protest is again derivative; this time she follows Joseph Salmon in accusing the officers of attempting to subvert God’s intentions for the king, and suggests that the power which providence had placed in their hands would now be taken away. The idea that God occasionally dismissed his unsatisfactory servants and engaged new ones was used by Familists to explain the newly-acquired authority of their prophet Henry Niclaes. Salmon was connected with the Bradfield group through his association with Abiezer Coppe.
6. Concern about strange activities at the Bradfield rectory surfaced in an assize sermon preached in early 1654 by Simon Ford, who had replaced Pordage as minister of St Laurence in Reading. Ford was a close ally of Christopher Fowler; like him, a theocratic Presbyterian. The sermon was aggressive and controversial, and an open attack on Pordage among others. In Pordage’s rectory, said Ford, the Devil was a presence as familiar as any of the family. The allusion was to what Pordage claimed to be angelic manifestations, along with a few unwanted demonic ones, that had taken place at Bradfield during a period of three or four weeks in the autumn of 1649, although local report was that they had never actually ceased. The only conceivable explanation, other than some sort of mass hysteria, is that these are the outcome of scrying, of having some suitably sensitive person look into a showstone or mirror. Most likely, the scryer was William Everard, who was present at the time, though there are other possible candidates. Scrying may be seen as a branch of alchemy. The showstone is equivalent to the alchemical reaction vessel, and some angels, at least, have connections with the alchemical elements. It seems plain that Pordage was basing his efforts on those of a more illustrious predecessor, John Dee, then forty years dead. Dee had practised both alchemy and scrying, with Edward Kelly working indifferently as alchemical operator and as scryer. The stormy relationship between Dee and Kelly was duplicated in that between Pordage and Everard.  Dee had learnt much from the angels who presented themselves in his stones and mirrors, but if Pordage was vouchsafed any supernatural information, he seems to have kept it to himself. 
There is also evidence from Bradfield of the more conventional alchemical operations. Pordage still describes these as angelic or demonic visitations, but now they are no longer individual creatures, but hosts and processions which were accompanied by smells, pleasant or nauseating, good or bad tastes in the mouth, and flights of fiery stinging darts – presumably sparks from the fire or something escaping from the vessel. There were also physical traces – deposits left on the ceiling and chimneys.
As a medical practitioner in a country village, with presumably no apothecary closer than Reading, Pordage would almost certainly have possessed chemical equipment. He may have derived some knowledge of alchemy from the Paracelsan medicine he will have studied in Leiden. But the alchemy he and Pocock were practising at Bradfield seems much more likely to have come to his notice from Elias Ashmole. In the late1640s and early 50s, Ashmole was obsessed with alchemy, and gathering alchemical manuscripts many of which remain among his collections in the Bodleian. He was interested also in John Dee, arranging for an interview with his son, the alchemist Arthur Dee, then near the end of his life, and translating and publishing the younger Dee’s textbook, Fasciculus Chemicus, in 1650. The relationship between the religious radical Pordage and the conservative royalist Ashmole is unlikely ever to have been close. When Mary Pordage sought to consult Ashmole as a working astrologer on a contemplated land deal, he refused to help and referred her to his fellow-practitioner William Lilly instead. When Pordage was ejected from the living, his preferred candidate to replace him was William Lloyd, a religious conservative who would finish as a bishop. Nonetheless, Ashmole gave Pordage a copy of the Fasciculus when it came off the press. Ashmole’s Theatrum chemicum Britannicum of 1651 includes several works from the time of Edward IV, including some by George Ripley, as well as some writings of Edward Kelly and comments on John Dee. Jonathan Hughes has recently described the alchemical symbolism in Edward IV’ s self-presentation, and has suggested that the alchemical magic of Ripley and others was understood to have been instrumental in bringing him to the throne, and in returning him to it after his brief exile in 1470-1.
7. While alchemical symbolism is merely implicit in Mary Pocock’s book, it appears more clearly in the works of Gerrard Winstanley. Winstanley shares with all devotees of spiritualist religion – and specifically with Pocock – the idea that that the Fall is the lapse of man into carnal selfishness. Both good and evil tendencies are internal. The evil spirit may be described as ‘the kingly power’; the good as the spirit of Christ, to whom man is feminine; or both good and bad qualities, virtues and vices, may be personified as angels, dwelling within the human soul. But Winstanley is quite specific as to the mechanism of salvation: he himself has felt the wrath of God, scorching and burning away ‘the enmity of his nature’. This is the fiery deity. The detail of Winstanley’s hermeticism has been worked through by David Mulder. He shows it to be a Paracelsan dialectic, with male and female principles, similar to sulphur and mercury, coming to a balance for which they need some kind of facilitating factor, analogous to Paracelsus’s spiritual salt. He also makes the point that the Diggers’ cultivation of the waste lands starts with burning the existing plant cover, which is what, in a ritual sense, effects the transformation of the earth from a manifestation of unjust possessive power into, as Winstanley repeatedly puts it, a common treasury. Winstanley’s injunction to his followers to ‘eat bread together’ can be seen as the eucharistic celebration of this transformation.
Winstanley marks an extreme in the interpenetration of mystical religion and social radicalism typical of the late 1640s but other members of Pordage’s circle had similar preoccupations. Coppe saw God as the mighty Leveller; Elizabeth Poole insisted that Zion was for ‘the poor of the people’; Christopher Cheesman was outraged by the contempt shown for the ‘poor despised ones’ by the élites. Mary Pordage was accused of telling an interlocutor that ‘what you have shall be ours, and what we have shall be yours’ and her husband put a time limit of two years on the change. But as the 1650s progressed, social and political aims receded. Coppe, imprisoned, was made to recant as the price of his freedom by a political establishment that probably wanted him on its side. Intriguingly, one of the figures sent to convince him was the ex-royalist journalist Marchamont Nedham, who had been through the same process; but unlike Nedham, Coppe never put his gifts at the service of the regime. Elizabeth Poole was discredited as a prophetess and returned to London and a relative obscurity. In Reading, many of the more extreme opponents of Fowler and the Presbyterians, Cheesman among them, succumbed to the new spiritual cult of Quakerism, excluding themselves from the political process by refusal of oaths and of conventional courtesies. The alchemical transmutation had seemed to offer a paradigm of social revolution, but experience showed that the process didn’t actually work.
8. Pordage and his remaining followers concentrated on their inward struggles. The arrival at Bradfield in 1654 of Edmund Brice and Thomas Bromley, two academics who had abandoned promising careers at Oxford to work with Pordage, seems to have marked a turning point. The writings from Pordage’s group from then on and after their expulsion from the Bradfield rectory in 1655 show a deeper and more hard-edged concern with religious ideology. Bromley is the probable author of a manuscript of some sixty closely-written foolscap pages entitled ‘A Discourse of visions’. Here he takes up many of the points that had been at issue between Pordage and his prosecutors, particularly Christopher Fowler, and in some cases extends them. He argues that angelic apparitions are signs of divine favour and states that the saints may have visions not only of angels, prophets, and apostles but also of each other when they are distant, or even dead. They have guardian angels that protect them from evil and may appear as real people, although those represented may be unaware of it. Such apparitions may be material, but more often are exclusively spiritual. However, he goes on to declare that among the saints all human relationships must be given up in order to enjoy the exclusive love of Christ, and discusses marriage and sexual lust in terms of an almost pathological disgust. Bromley’s Way to the Sabbath of Rest of 1655 takes up some of these themes along with an admixture clearly deriving from Boehme. The light and dark worlds make an appearance, and, distinct from them, the centre, towards which the soul aspires. Hell is marked by an unbalanced mixture of sulphur, mercury and salt, while heaven is defined by the same elements in harmony. The end, after complete renunciation of worldly concerns, is a perfect loving fellowship with Christ.
But a major point of the book is what follows on from the manuscript on visions: a chapter describing the sweetness of special friendships among the Saints is followed by one lamenting the pain of giving these up in favour of the mystic union with Christ. There is here a clue to the possible motives of Bromley and Brice in leaving Oxford for Bradfield, and an indication that one thing Pordage was offering was a structure within which problems of personal psychology could be worked out. Even making all allowances for the hostility and incomprehension of Pordage’s contemporaries, it is plain that such problems were not lacking among his followers. Mary Pocock was said to have been ‘formerly of a troubled spirit, … seeking rest and not finding it’; the servant Margaret Pendar had suicidal thoughts and an obsession with ‘the young Mr Blagrave’. Tany had long been of suspect sanity, and in 1650 William Everard was locked up as a lunatic. Even Abiezer Coppe’s last known publication, a broadsheet of 1657, is largely incomprehensible and suggests little more than a feverish delirium.
9. What probably epitomises the thinking of Pordage’s group by the mid-1650s is a work published in 1661, though from internal evidence it was at least partly completed by 1657. It is entitled Mundorum Explicatio, or, the explanation of an Hieroglyphical Figure, and the author is given as Samuel Pordage, Pordage’s son (born 1633), who would become a minor literary personality after the Restoration. However, a very similar hieroglyphical figure in a posthumous publication by John Pordage is undoubtedly his own work, and it may be taken as certain that this one is also his. The poem, which runs to some 330 pages or almost 13000 lines of rhymed couplets in epic style claims to be an explanation and commentary on it, although the concordance is not exact. Many of the themes prominent in Bromley’s writings are highlighted in the poem, which is most probably a joint production of the group with Samuel Pordage merely providing the literary format and polish.
The first quarter of the poem describes the Behmenist universe. The diagram shows four worlds, three of them spiritual and one material. There are trees of good and evil and of life and death, and numerous vignettes of standard Familist motifs, including the lilies of true religion and the hearts with outflowing influences that symbolise Christ and the Holy Ghost. Above is the creative Eye of God, and below, the terrene region where a naked man, in a posture of mourning, contemplates a fallen crown and sceptre and a dead lamb. This is Adam after the first stage of the Behmenist version of the Fall. As the poem explains, he was originally created to be a powerful angel, close to God, and succeeding to the office of the rebellious Lucifer, but failed at the first test. Rather than embracing the light world of God’s love – the globe shown at the right of the figure – he desired the material world. It is this turning away from God’s will to self-will that is the type for Mary Pocock’s understanding of the fall of Charles I. Celestial harmony was broken; reason (Vernunft) triumphant but intuitive knowledge (Verstand) lost. With the loss of his feminine side, Adam was stripped of his angelic powers, notably that of procreation from himself, and mortality entered the world. God was constrained to give him sexual organs and to create Eve to perpetuate the species. But at that time, there had yet been no sin; Adam had not chosen the dark world on the left. Thus the material world, which is the lowest on the diagram, shows two possible outcomes, separated by a river. On the right, a robed sage converses with an angel while a rabbit, signifying fecundity, gambols; on the left, a man in contemporary clothing is being led away by a horned demon; another man goes naked, and the beasts are goats or rams. In a band around this globe, blindfolded figures in contemporary dress are whirled round the signs of the zodiac. The poem explains that these are people who strive to escape the mortal sphere but who, blinded by notions and sectarianisms, are unable to see their path. The dark and light worlds are Boehme’s first and second principles, God’s wrath and his love, presided over respectively by Satan and Christ. They are inhabited by personified vices and virtues in the form of demons and angels. The sphere which is placed above them in the diagram, although it is emphasized that these worlds are in reality all-pervading, is the spiritual paradise or Jerusalem, protected by a ring of fire and inhabited by those who have completed their quest.
At this point the tenor of the poem changes, and it apparently begins to take its inspiration from one of the canonical Familist texts, Henry Niclaes’s Terra pacis, which was first published in English in 1575 but reissued by Giles Calvert in 1649. Terra pacis is a fore-runner of Pilgrim’s Progress, in which the pilgrim makes his difficult and tortuous way to the Holy City. En route, he encounters places and people who personify, and are named after, moral vices that may hinder his journey and virtues that further it. On arrival, he finds himself in a strongly guarded city that none but the saints can enter, and becomes one of the community of Love, a Member of the Body, at one with God. Samuel Pordage takes up the same theme in much the same way, though at a much higher level of literary sophistication. Pordage’s pilgrim, like that of Niclaes, leaves his dwelling by way of the ‘strait gate of the circumcision’, i.e. of renunciation, and starts on a journey where angelic beings continually intervene to keep him on the correct path, in spite of the barriers and pitfalls erected by Satan. He must progressively give up all the gains and advantages of his previous life. This is the first stage in the triple process of purgation, illumination, and union which is common to most spiritual religions. At the climax of this stage, he reaches a ‘locus medius inter mundos’ where he must suffer crucifixion and be reborn. This is described in alchemical terms: he is identified with the Stone, which is initially black, but is washed with clear water to be made white; he then takes on a garment dyed red with the blood of Christ, after which the Work is almost complete. In the figure, the cross is seen from the back, so that the pilgrim has the light world on his right and the dark one on his left; and the alchemical elements are grouped about his head. On his left are sulphur, mercury and salt and, in another group, the base metals of lead, tin and iron. On his right, from the outside in, are silver, mercury, copper, and gold, which may be the end products of a successful transmutation. There follows – in the poem but not in the figures – the quest for Sophia to whom the pilgrim is to be married. After a long epithalamium that serves as an intermezzo, there is a lavishly described marriage feast which culminates in the presentation to the pilgrim of twelve fruits from the Tree of Life that confer all sorts of mystical knowledge and powers. The last and greatest of these is that of divine magic, which is justified at great length; and the pilgrim, now ‘Heaven’s Sophus, or Magitian’, can safely be entrusted with the Stone.
The final ascent to paradise and union is described in detail. In the rhapsodic final sections, Jesus’s body enters the pilgrim’s soul in loving ecstasy, and this is the attainment of the mystic’s final union with the deity. But by now, Jesus is thoroughly conflated with Sophia: ‘Sophia to the soul united is’ and ‘here he becomes a true Magitian; here he becomes in Jesus Christ a man’. As the ‘old Adam’ resulted from the loss by primeval man of his feminine part, so the new man arises from their reunion, and is mystically equivalent to Christ, ruler of the Light World. Although deification is the end of the pilgrimage, Pordage’s primary objective in Mundorum explicatio is occult enlightenment, and this is the basic difference between the goals of Familism, which at that time he was leaving behind, and of the Behmenism which would be the driving force of the rest of his career.
10. To sum up, what I have been trying to describe in this paper is theoretical developments in a provincial outpost of the largely metropolitan antinomian sub-culture. In the more spacious environment of rural Berkshire, John Pordage was free to develop his ‘society’ as a structured organisation with a fairly settled membership, apparently largely female. One attraction may have been that it provided an environment where personal psychological problems could be worked out and where individuals might feel themselves empowered to take on roles that would normally be denied them. In the unsettled period of the late 1640s and early 50s, Pordage’s circle was active in radical politics, secular as well as religious. Pordage himself, surrounded as he was by aggressive individuals like his patron Daniel Blagrave, the lord of his manor Elias Ashmole, and the heresy-hunting Christopher Fowler, could hardly avoid political involvement. But the outcome of his trial in 1654 shows that he was not particularly good at it. Nonetheless, Pordage’s group differed from many other groups of the time that could also be labelled as ‘Seekers’ in that their particular ideology gave them an intellectual framework within which radical political goals might become attainable. Their paradigm for revolution was the alchemical transmutation. But that mechanism failed, and by the mid-1650s some group members had fallen off to become Quakers while the remainder subsided into an apolitical pietism, concerned with occult enlightenment and personal spiritual goals. Their further history does not fall within the bounds of any discussion of radicalism.
 Manfred Brod, ‘A Radical Network in the English Revolution: John Pordage and his Circle, 1646-54’ English Historical Review, cxix, 484 (2004) 1230-1252. See also Ariel Hessayon, ‘Pordage, John (bap. 1607, d. 1681)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/22546, accessed 10 Feb 2007]
 Manfred Brod, ‘Dissent and Dissenters in Early Modern Berkshire’, Unpub DPhil thesis, Oxford, 2002, p. 139
 J.M. Guilding. Reading records (1896) ii 8, 29, 61, 62, 85, 96, 106, 110, 113, 118, 225, 280; iii 6, 180-1.
 C.H. Josten, (ed.), Elias Ashmole, 1617-1692 (Oxford, 1966) i 43, 61.
 Christopher Fowler, Daemonium meridianum (1655), p. 161.
 Brian Duppa’s valuation, in ‘Bishop Ward’s Liber Notitia’, Trowbridge, Wilts Record Office.
 The identification is based on Mary Pocock being named as preacher and instructor of a conventicle in Ashamstead with Pordage and Bromley as members in 1665. In that year, her husband Edward died and she had a memorial tablet put up in the local church: Berks Record Office, D/A2 c.103 f. 110; Elias Ashmole, Antiquities of Berkshire (1719), I, 36.
 A servant testified that Pordage and Mrs Flavell slept in the same room, John Pordage, Innocencie Appearing, p. 70; Fowler Daemonium meridianum, pp. 77, 117. It was Pordage who had arranged Mrs Flavell’s lying in. The account given to the Ejectors of the child’s parenthood involved a marriage with a clergyman named Frewen or Fruin who had since died leaving no other trace of his existence, and a complicated lawsuit which would somehow be jeopardised if ‘evidences’ of the marriage were given: Pordage, Innocencie Appearing, pp. 31-34; Fowler, Daemonium meridianum, pp. 65-79, 117, 127, 162.
 Brod, ‘A Radical Network’, p. 187.
 Fowler, Daemonium meridianum, pp. 60-1; John Tickell, The Bottomless pit smoking in Familisme, (Oxford, 1651), p. 37.
 Manfred Brod, ‘Doctrinal deviance in Abingdon: Thomasine Pendarves and her circle’ Baptist Quarterly, 41 (2005), 92-102.
 David Mulder, The alchemy of revolution; Gerrard Winstanley’s occultism and seventeenth-century English communism (New York, 1990), pp. 64-5; Winstanley describes angelic encounters consistent with those reported by Pordage: Gerrard Winstanley, The Saints Paradice (n.d but 1648 by internal evidence), pp. 29, 58, 66-9, 73, 77-8.
 C.H. Firth (ed.), The Clarke Papers I (1891), p. 419.
 Christopher Hill, The World Turned Upside Down (1972; repr. Harmondsoworth, 1975), pp. 284-6; Brian Manning, 1649:The Crisis of the English Revolution (London, 1992), p. 201; Firth, Clarke Papers, I, p. 411.
 Christopher Cheesman (as Chisman), The Lamb contending with the Lion (1649).
 Christopher Cheesman (as ‘Ranus Most Rich Seus pheche’), The Case of the Town of Reading Stated (n.d. prob 1655-6).
 Christopher Cheesman, Berk-shires Agents Humble Address (1651), pp. 37-9; On Stockwell as an Erberist, Christopher Fowler, Daemonium meridianum p. 31; John Pordage, Innocencie Appearing through the dark Mists of Pretended Guilt ( 1655), p. 62.
 Fowler, Daemonium meridianum, p. 60.
 Ariel Hessayon, ‘Calvert, Giles (bap. 1612, d. 1663)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/39669, accessed 10 Feb 2007]
 I use the term ‘spiritualist’ in the sense popularised by Rufus M. Jones, especially in his Spiritual Reformers in the 16th and 17th Centuries (1914). A classic text is G.H. Williams, The Radical Reformation (1962) especially pp. 821-8. The title of this paper may be taken to indicate that I accept the identification of the Seekers of the mid-17th century as spiritualists, following Douglas Gwyn, Seekers Found: Atonement in early Quaker Experience (Wallingford, PA, 2000), pp. 104-109.
 David Como, Blown by the Spirit; Puritanism and the emergence of an antinomian underground in pre-civil war England (Stanford, 2004), p. 6 fn 11; Joseph Bernhart, (ed.), Theologia Germanica, trans. Susanna Winkworth (London, 1950).
 Jean Dietz Moss, ‘“Godded with God”: Hendrik Niclaes and His Family of Love’ Transactions of American Philosophical Society, 71, no. 8 (1981), p. 21.
 Matthew 26:67; Ps 18:42; Fowler, Daemonium meridianum, ‘To the Reader’ sig. q3.
 Christopher Fowler, Daemonium meridianum Part 2 (1656), p. 35
 Peter Lake, The boxmaker’s revenge: ‘Orthodoxy’, heterodoxy, and the politics of the parish in early Stuart London (Stanford, 2001); Como, Blown by the Spirit.
 Como, Blown by the Spirit, esp. p. 35-6.
 Fowler, Daemonium meridianum, p. 64.
 Como, Blown by the Spirit, p. 40 and Chapter 6, passim.
 Pordage, Innocencie Appearing (1655), p. 2; Fowler, Daemonium meridianum, p.5
 Fowler, Daemonium meridianum, ’To the Reader’; Pordage, Innocencie Appearing, p. 103-4.
 John Saltmarsh, Sparkles of Glory (1647, ed. William Pickering, 1848), esp. pp. 47-53
 Abiezer Coppe, Some sweet sips of some spiritual wine (1649), title page; Anon, Declaration and Standard of the Levellers of England (1649), pp. 2-3; Pordage, Innocencie Appearing, p. 9.
 Fowler Daemonium meridianum Part 2, p. 41.
 Sheffield University, Hartlib Archive: Ephemerides 1634 Part 4 Line 663; James Etherington, A Brief Discovery of the Blasphemous Doctrine of Familisme (1645), p. 10.
 Pordage, Innocencie appearing, pp. 18, 37, 56-58, 72-77; Henry Niclaes, Terra Pacis (1575), pp. 29, 50; Dietz Moss, ‘Godded with God’, at pp. 19 and 33.
 Nigel Smith, Perfection proclaimed; Language and Literature in English Radical Religion 1640-1660 (Oxford, 1989), p. 188.
 For the affinities between Behmenism and Cabala, see Gershom Scholem, Major trends in Jewish Mysticism (1939, re-ed. London, 1955), pp. 137-8; J.J. Stoudt, Sunrise to Eternity: a study of Jacob Boehme’s life and thought (Philadelphia, 1957), p. 96; B.J. Gibbons, Gender in Mystical and Occult Thought: Behmenism and its Development in England (Cambridge, 1996), pp. 69-75.
 Gibbons, Gender in Mystical and Occult Thought, pp. 111-14, 145-48
 Compare, as an example, the contemporary Bristol Seeker group described by Charles Marshal, Sion’s Travellers Comforted (1704), sigs d2, i4.
 Desiree Hirst, Hidden Riches: traditional symbolism from the Renaissance to Blake (London, 1964), pp. 84-5; Stoudt, Sunrise to Eternity, pp. 95-123.
 Pordage, Innocencie appearing, pp. 2, 44; Fowler, Daemonium meridianum, Preface (Sig A), pp. 64, 75.
 Fowler, Daemonium meridianum, p. 16; Pordage, Innocencie appearing, pp. 17, 29.
 Jonathan Hughes, Arthurian Myths and Alchemy: the kingship of Edward IV (Stroud, 2002), pp. 53-4
 Angelus Silesius, quoted in Stoudt, Sunrise to Eternity, p. 104 fns 43-45; C.G.Jung, ‘Paracelsus as a spiritual phenomenon’, in Collected Works of CG Jung, edited by Sir Herbert Read et al. (London, 1953-79), vol. 12, p. 423 fig. 234; see also vol. 13, pp. 126-7, 130-1.
 M.P. ‘A member of the Body’, The Mystery of the Deity in the Humanity, or the Mystery of God in Man (1649). I accept Nigel Smith’s identification of M.P. as Mary Pocock rather than as Mary Pordage on the grounds of her evidence to the Commission of Ejectors concerning the Philosophers’ Stone, and the status of preacher and instructor of a conventicle, with Pordage as a member, ascribed to her in 1665; Nigel Smith, Perfection Proclaimed (Oxford, 1989), pp. 210-12; Reading, Berks Record Office, D/A2 c.103 fo.110. Her ability to write is attested by Christopher Fowler, Daemonium meridianum, p. 74 fn 8.
 William Sedgwick, Leaves from the Tree of Life (1648 [Thomason: 25 August]). Compare, for example, Sedgwick’s pp. 5-6 and Pocock’s p. 15; Sedgwick’s pp. 11 and 14 with Pocock’s 19-20. Sedgwick’s ideal is apparently a series of loving relationships between unequal parties, which are figured by that of husband and wife – see his sermon ‘God the head of Christ as Christ of his Church’ in Joshua Sprigge (ed.), Some Flashes of Lightnings of the Sonne of Man (1648), pp. 155-86. I am grateful to Dr Mario Caricchio for the latter reference.
 Elizabeth Poole, An Alarum of War given to the Army (1649).
 See, for instance, James I’s speech to parliament of 19 March 1604, printed in J.R. Tanner, Constitutional Documents of the Reign of James I (Cambridge, 1930), p. 24; David Underdown, A Freeborn People (Oxford, 1996), pp. 12-14.
 William Sedgwick, Justice upon the Armies Remonstrance (1648 [Thomason: 11 December]).
 Assuming that the 1649 date on the title page was correct and referred to ‘old style’ dating.
 Manfred Brod, ‘Politics and prophecy in seventeenth-century England: the case of Elizabeth Poole’, Albion xxi (1999) 395-412.
 Joseph Salmon, A Rout, a Rout (1649, dated by Thomason to 10 Feb); Brod, ‘Dissent and Dissenters’, pp. 179-80.
 It appears very strongly in a popular spiritualist tract of the time, John Saltmarsh’s Sparkles of Glory, pp. 40-55, 101. The concept was also used by Christopher Cheesman in his polemic against the Berkshire county authorities Berk-shire Agents Humble Address (1651), pp. 45-6.
 Edward Stokes, The Wiltshire Rant (1652), pp. 13-14. Nigel Smith, ‘Salmon, Joseph (fl. 1647–1656)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/37930, accessed 23 Feb 2007]; Gwyn , Seekers Found p. 177.
 Simon Ford, Primitivae regiminio Davidici (1654), esp. pp, 19, 24 (quarto edition; the personal reference to Pordage does not appear in the 8o edition).
 Brod, ‘A Radical Network’.
 Deborah E. Harkness, John Dee’s Conversations with Angels: Cabala, alchemy, and the end of nature (Cambridge, 1999) pp. 46-51.
 Harkness, John Dee, ch 6.
 Fowler, Daemonium meridianum, p. 135.
 Meric Casaubon, A True and Faithful Relation of what passed for many years between Dr John Dee … and some spirits (1659). The Introduction (sig G) confirms that spirits seen in the showstone may also appear outside it.
 Pordage, Innocencie appearing, pp. 72-3, 75.
 He was called to the sick servant in the Blagrave household, Mrs Pendar, Fowler, Daemonium meridianum, pp. 80-82, 86-87.
 Josten, Ashmole, II, p. 518; Anthony Wood, Athenae Oxonienses (ed. Bliss), IV, p. 715; R.T. Gunter, Diary and Will of Elias Ashmole (Oxford, 1927) p. 55.
 Josten, Ashmole, II, p. 521.
 Jonathan Hughes, Arthurian Myths and Alchemy: the kingship of Edward IV (Stroud, 2002).
 On the possible influence of Behmenist ideas on Winstanley, see Rufus M. Jones, Studies in Mystical Religion (1909), pp. 495-500.
 Gerrard Winstanley, The Law of Freedom and Other Writings ed. Christopher Hill (Harmondsworth, 1973), pp. 199-200; ibid, The Saints Paradice (n.d., prob 1648), pp. 47-8, 66-73, 82; G.H. Sabine (ed.), The Writings of Gerrard Winstanley (1941), p. 157; Mulder, The alchemy of revolution, esp. pp. 180-3, 205; Genesis 43:32.
 Abiezer Coppe, A Second Flying Roll (1650), pp. 3-4; Elizabeth Poole, Another Alarum of War (1649), p. 12; Christopher Cheesman, Berkshire’s Agent, pp. 45-6; James 2:6.
 Fowler, Daemonium meridianum, pp. 104, 175-6.
 Abiezer Coppe, Coppe’s Return to the wayes of Truth (1651). On Nedham’s ‘turning’, Blair Worden, ‘Wit in a Roundhead; the dilemma of Marchamont Nedham’ in S.D. Amussen and M.A. Kishlansky, Political Culture and Cultural Politics in Early Modern England (Manchester, 1995), pp. 301-337 at 325-6.
 Brod, ‘Politics and Prophecy’.
 London, Friends House Library, ‘Great Book of Suffering’, I, p. 16; J. Besse, A Collection of the Sufferings of the People called Quakers (1753) I p. 11.
 Ariel Hessayon, ‘Bromley, Thomas (bap. 1630, d. 1691)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/40437, accessed 10 Feb 2007]; Ariel Hessayon, ‘Brice, Edmund (fl. 1648–1696)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/73145, accessed 10 Feb 2007]
 Oxford: Bodleian, Ms Rawlinson C 372.
 Thomas Bromley, The Way to the Sabbath of Rest (1655), Chaps X and XI.
 Fowler, Daemonium meridianum, pp. 15, 79, 82, 90.
 Ariel Hessayon, ‘Gold tried in the Fire: the Prophet Theauraujohn Tany and the Puritan Revolution’, p. 215; Fowler, Daemonium meridianum, p. 59
 Abiezer Coppe (as ‘Abhiam’), Divine Fireworks (1657).
 In John Pordage, Theologia mystica (1683). The frontispiece is an engraving of John Pordage by William Faithorne with the inscription ‘Authoris hujus figurae hieroglyphicae’.
 Many surviving copies of Mundorum explicatio do not have the figure in them. Christopher Hill, who commented at length on the poem, seems to have been unaware of it, while Harriet Blumenthall makes no textual mention of it in her modern edition, although she reproduces it as an illustration: Christopher Hill, The Experience of Defeat: Milton and some contemporaries (1984), pp. 220-42; Harriet Spanierman Blumenthall (ed.), Pordage's Mundorum Explicatio (New York, 1991).
 This is strongly suggested by Lines II 3806-3833, and compare 1781-1810, on the sensitive topic of the fiery purgatory, on which there may have been divided counsels. (The lineation used here follows that of Blumenthall’s edition.)
 Lines I 3808-4755 especially 4227-4238; II 19-75.
 Lines I 2400-2460.
 Stoudt, Sunrise to Eternity, p. 230.
 Lines I 2447, 2520-2545.
 Lines I 3735-3777.
 Niclaes himself is said to have taken such a journey in 1564, accompanied by 24 disciples and four angels – ‘Tobias’, Mirabilia opera Dei: Certain wonderfull Works of God which hapned to H.N (1575).
 For the Familist preoccupation with the personification of abstract qualities, see Dietz Moss, ‘Godded with God’, at p. 33.
 Lines II 904-914 et seq.
 Lines II 3500-3713. The colours signify the nigredo, albedo and rubedo, the final sequence in the preparation of the Stone; after the rubedo, the projectio is possible. See Stoudt, Sunrise to Eternity, p. 105 fn 50, and Titus Burckhardt, (trans Wm Stoddart), Alchemy (Shaftesbury, 1967), p. 182.
 These elements also have an astrological significance for Boehme: Stoudt, Sunrise to Eternity, p. 253.
 Lines II 5226-5295.
 Lines II 5296-6257.
 Lines II 6258-6772, esp. 6265, 6648, 6678-80.
 Lines II 6900-6913; 7120-7165.
 Lines III 420, 603-4.
 ‘Niclaes emphasized the spiritual illumination that leads to perfection, Boehme, the spiritual illumination that leads to Knowledge' – Moss, ‘Godded with God’ at p. 182.
 The author is indebted to the Editor of this series, Dr Ariel Hessayon, and also to Dr Mario Caricchio and to an anonymous referee for helpful discussion, additional references and factual material, but retains personal responsibility for the foregoing exposition.