John Pordage

John Pordage (1607-1681), Anglican priest, astrologer, alchemist and Christian mystic who founded the 17th century English Behmenist group which would later become known as the Philadelphian Society when it was led by his disciple and successor, Jane Leade.


John Pordage was the eldest son of Samuel Pordage (d. 1626), grocer, by his wife Elizabeth (Taylor), and was born in the parish of St. Dionis Backchurch, London, and baptised on April 21, 1607. He was curate in charge of St. Lawrence's, Reading, Berkshire, in 1644, the vicar being Thomas Gilbert (1613-1694). By 1647 (after Nov. 9, 1646) he was rector of Bradfield, Berkshire, a living in the gift of Elias Ashmole, who thought highly of his astrological knowledge. Richard Baxter, who describes Pordage as chief of the 'Behmenists', or English followers of Jakob Böhme, knew of him through a young man, probably Abiezer Coppe, who in 1649 was living under Pordage's roof in a 'family communion', the members 'aspiring after the highest spiritual state' through 'visible communion with angels'. Baxter thought they tried to carry too far 'the perfection of a monastical life'. Among themselves this family went by scripture names; Pordage was 'Father Abraham', his wife was 'Deborah'.cite web | last =Gordon | first =Alexander | title =Pordage, John (1607–1681), astrologer and mystic| work = Dictionary of National Biography Vol. XLVI | publisher =Smith, Elder & Co. | date =1896 | url = | format = | doi = | accessdate = 2007-10-23 ]

He was eventually charged before the committee for plundered ministers with heresies comprised in nine articles, accusing him of a sort of mystical pantheism. But on March 27, 1651, the committee acquitted him on all counts. On September 18, 1654, he was summoned to appear on October 5th before the county commissioners (known as 'expurgators') at the Bear Inn, Speenhamland, Berkshire. The nine articles were revived against him at the instance of John Tickel, a Presbyterian divine at Abingdon, Berkshire. The inquiry was successively adjourned several times, fresh articles being from time to time brought forward against him, to the number of fifty-six, in addition to the original nine. Most of them dealt with unsubstantial matters of personal gossip; the accusation of intercourse with spirits was pressed (from October 19th) by Christopher Fowler. It was made a charge against him that he had sheltered Robert Everard and Thomas Totney. One of his maid-servants, while attesting some of the stories about spirits, bore witness to the purity and piety of the family life. By November 30, Pordage was too ill to appear; the inquiry was adjourned to December 7th at the Bear Inn, Reading, Berkshire. On December 8th the commissioners ejected him as 'ignorant and very insufficient for the work of the ministry'. He was to leave the rectory by February 2nd and clear out his barns by March 25, 1655.


At the Restoration Pordage was reinstated. In 1663, he became acquainted with Jane Leade, and assisted her in the study of Jakob Böhme. In August 1673 or 1674 (there is a doubt about the year), Pordage and Mrs. Leade 'first agreed to wait together in prayer and pure dedication'. Francis Lee, Jane Leade's son-in-law, speaks warmly of Pordage's devoutness and sincerity, maintaining that 'his conversation was such as malice itself can hardly except against'. He was not, however, a man of robust intellect; his insight into Böhme's writings was feeble, and his theosophy was of the emotional order. In his will, he describes himself as 'doctor in physick.' It does not appear that he held the degree of M.D., though it was assigned to him by others, and he was commonly called Dr. Pordage.

He died in 1681, and was buried in St Andrew's, Holborn, on December 11th. His will, made on November 28, 1681, and proved January 17, 1682, was witnessed by Jane Leade. His portrait was engraved by William Faithorne. His first wife Mary (Lane), of Tenbury, Worcestershire, was buried at Bradfield on August 25, 1668. His second wife was Elizabeth, widow of Thomas Faldo of London. His son Samuel Pordage was a writer and poet; he had other sons: John, William, and Benjamin. His daughter Elizabeth was buried at Bradfield on December 23, 1663; other daughters were Mary, Sarah (married Stisted), and Abigail. His brother Francis, who survived him, was rector of Stanford Dingley, Berkshire.


He published:

:1. "Truth appearing through the Clouds of undeserved Scandal, &c.", 1655,:2. "Innocency appearing through the dark Mists of pretended Guilt, &c.", 1655:3. "A just Narrative of the Proceedings of the Commissioners of Berks ... against John Pordage, &c.", 1655,; reprinted in "Stat Trials" (Cobbett), 1810:4. "The Fruitful Wonder ... By J. P., Student in Physic, &c.", 1674, (account of four children at a birth, at Kingston upon Thames probably by Pordage).

Posthumous were :5. "Theologia Mystica, or the Mystic Divinitie of the Eternal Indivisible ... By a Person of Qualitie, J. P., M.D. &c.", 1683 (prefaced by Jane Leade, and edited by Dr. Edward Hooker) :6. "Em griindlich philosophischei Sendschreiben, &c.", Amsterdam, 1698, reprinted (1727) in F. Roth-Scholz's "Deut sches Theatrum Chemicum", 1728:7. "Vier Tractatlein, &c.", Amsterdam, 1704

A two-page advertisement in Jane Leade's "A Fountain of Gardens", 1697, gives full titles of the following works of Pordage, unpublished in English: :8. "Philo sophia Mystica, &c.":9. " The Angelical World, &c.":10. "The Dark Fire World, &c.":11. "The Incarnation of Jesus Christ, &c.":12. "The Spirit of Eternity, &c." :13. " Sophia, &c." :14. " Experimental Discoveries, &c."

ee also

*Jane Leade
*Samuel Pordage
*Roger Crab
*Jakob Böhme
*Christian mystics
*Christian mysticism
*Esoteric Christianity
*Sophia (wisdom)
*English Dissenters




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