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"Make all you can, save all you can, give all you can"
John Wesley, 1703-1791, British religious leader

Got a new desk diary at the day job this week. Like all such things, it has 'inspirational / humourous quotes' in the Notes space. Above is the one for Week 2 (5th-11th January). I was reading something the other week about diary compilers (I suspect it was in Metro since it seems like the type of thing I'd only read on a train) so I'm thinking of making use of these often banal quotes as a subject for the blog just to indicate that someone reads them, if only as a means to avoid looking at all the actual work to be done. So, despite having an unshaking distrust of all religious leaders...

John Wesley was one of the founders of Methodism (aka Wesleyanism). One of his favourite preaching grounds was Gwennap Pit (a semi-natural ampitheatre) in Cornwall, where (allegedly) up to 25,000 stood to hear him preach. What is more interesting is his context. Open air preaching began as a means for a cleryman barred from the physical church for heresy to continue to proclaim his beliefs. At the time, Wesley was "denounced as promulgators of strange doctrines, fomenters of religious disturbances; as blind fanatics, leading people astray, claiming miraculous gifts, attacking the clergy of the Church of England" (wikipedia). As was another visionary Christian of the time, also with connections to the West Country.

Joanna Southcott first became aware of her calling whilst attending Wesleyan meetings and is probably best known for her box. I've been looking into it (purely from a historical perspective since the Panacean society have kept the physical item in a secret location for generations). She was also, however, a writer of reams of doctrine and one of many visionaries of the day to go in for apocalyptic prophesy. Just to top it off, as an old woman she claimed herself pregnant with the Second Coming of the Christ child. When nothing came of it, despite the cribs and clothing prepared, and Joanna herself died her followers were undaunted. They announced the child had been born in spirit form.

Where these two Enlightenment characters differ is in the survival of their doctrines: Wesley effectively formed a modern church with an estimated 38 million members worldwide, Southcott has two rather elderly followers in Bedford (as revealed in Maidens of the Lost Ark - a Channel 4 documentary). Perhaps it was because Wesley was an Oxford educated cleryman whilst Southcott was a barely literate Devon farmgirl? Certainly, it is only in the last few years that she has regained a place, even if it is a marginalia, in history.

The eighteenth century seems to throw up no end of spiritual and political visionaries: Swedenborg (whose philosopies I first read within Uncle Silas); Blake; Richard Brothers; Richard Allen; Ann Lee (founder of the Shaker movement); Thomas Paine (the Rights of Man) and Mary Wollstonecraft (the Rights of Woman); the revolutionaries of France and America. Everyone seemed to have an idea about the future and their place in it.

Links that can't be placed:
Joanna's cups in Exeter Museum
William Dalrymple on eighteenth century mystics in London as part of his Long Search series with BBC radio.

Posted @ 10:32 pm on Thursday, January 08, 2004
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