Pordage, John

Pordage, John an English mystic, who, with Jane Leade and Thomas Bromley, founded the so- called "Philadelphian" society, was born in London in 1608. He studied theology and medicine at Oxford, and became a curate at Reading; but, after a short pastorate, was settled at Bradfield in Berkshire. From the works of Bohme, which Charles I had caused to be published in English, Pordage derived the germs of his strange and incoherent mysticism. A time of such sudden veering from the extreme of churchliness to the mildest independentism as was the case under Charles I and Cromwell is very favorable to sporadic outbursts of fanaticism. Hence, as Pordage was very susceptible in this direction, it was not long until he found himself the center of a group of disciples. The effect of association was to intensify his delusion and to brighten his imagination. This culminated in a series of the wildest pretendedly supernatural visions. In the night of Jan. 3, 1651, he assumed to have had three of these. The first was that of a being with clothes, beard, and hat, who drew back his bed-curtains, and then mysteriously vanished. Hardly had Pordage fallen asleep again when he saw a giant with an uprooted tree on his shoulder and a sword in his hand. He threw the tree to the earth, and then began to wrestle with Pordage, but was successfully resisted by the latter with spiritual weapons. The third vision was that of an immense dragon, which vomited fire upon him, and left him exhausted upon the floor. On occasion of such visions a session of the "Philadelphians" was held. Those in attendance also now fell into a state of ecstasy, and had visions of the heavenly and of the infernal world. As these visions continued for a period of three weeks, clay and night, Pordage affirmed that they could not be mere fanatical imaginations, but were a heavenly admonition to them to break off from the world. and to enter upon a life of complete devotion to God. But their meetings called for the intervention of the police. The matter was investigated, but led to no other serious result than the deposition of Pordage from his priestly office. A very venomous book was now written against Pordage— Daemonium Meridianum (Lond. 1655)— by one Fowler, a preacher in Reading. Pordage defended himself in Innocency Appearing. Thereupon Fowler retorted, with fresh accusations in a new volume (1656). Meantime the enthusiasts had gone to London, but, driven away by the plague, they returned to Bradfield. On the death of Mrs. Pordage, in 1670, they went again to London. It was now that, in accordance with a vision granted to Jane Leade, the "Philadelphians" became an organized society. The members of the society were to live according to the laws of Paradise. Pordage opened to the society his own house in London. The membership reached near a hundred. Upon these the frequent visions of Pordage and Leade exerted a magnetic effect. In the close of 1671 Pordage fell into a trance, in which he affirmed that his spirit, breaking loose from his soul and body, was translated to the mountain of eternity. There he saw heavenly and eternal things with direct, naked vision.

Pormdage lays claim to three degrees of revelation:

(1) Visions placed before the human spirit by the Holy Ghost;

(2) Illuminations shed directly by the Holy Spirit into the immortal part of man, man, aig mim to see the thoughts of the Spirit;

(3) Translations of the mortal spirit into the very heart of the Deity, whereby it is enabled to behold and read the secret mysteries of the Trinity itself.

The voluminous writings of Pordage contain a very elaborate and fantastic system of mystical theology. Throughout he claims to be in harmony with the Scriptures; he simply penetrates below the letter, and unveils their deeper meaning. Among the curiosities of his teaching are the following: The immortal spirits of men have a cylindrical form, and resemble a transparent whiff of mist; their movements are as rapid as thought; they can traverse mountains, rocks, ocean, earth, and have about the size and contour of a human body. Angels are sexless, or rather they are man and woman entirely merged into one person-the spirit being the male, and the soul the female element. Adam was also primarily a man-woman, and bore within himself the faculty of procreation. Christian perfection is a state of absolute celibacy, in which the soul is married to the heavenly sophiut.

The whole system of Pordage claimed to rest upon a series of supernatural visions. With the other "Philadelphians," he regarded the actual state of the Church as one of utter degeneration, and as incapable of reformation. Even the Quakers he regarded as among the antichristian sects. He believed himself called to organize and restore the primitive Church. Up to his death, Pordage was the most influential of the "Philadelphiaus." When he died, in 1698 the society seemed ready to perish. But it lingered awhile, as will be seen by reference to the art. SEE LEADIE, JANE. See the literature there quoted. See also Morell, Modern Philosophy, p. 213; Mosheim, Eccles. Dict. 3, 481; Neal, Hist. of the Puritans; Haag, Les Dogmas Chretiennes; Blackey, Hist. of Philosophy, 2, 414. (J. P. L.)

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