We know very little about Marguerite Porete, only that she was a beguine from Hainaut who was burned at the stake as a relapsed heretic in 1310. She might have been a solitary itinerant beguine who expounded her teachings to interested listeners.
This translation from the French original includes an introductory interpretive essay by Edmund Colledge, O.S.A., Judith Grant, and J. C. Marler, and a foreword by Kent Emery, Jr. The translators of this Modern English version rely primarily on the original French manuscript, yet also take medieval translations into account. As a result, this edition offers a reading of The Mirror of Simple Souls that solves a number of difficulties found in the French. The valuable introduction by the translators narrates the archival history of the book, for which Margaret Porette was burned alive in Paris in 1310.
There existed no English-language scholarly introduction to Marguerite Porete or The Mirror of Simple Souls until now. Current interest in both and the implications her book has on medieval scholarship make a collection such as this companion ideal.
2019 Reprint of 1927 Edition. Full facsimile of the original edition, not reproduced with Optical Recognition software. The Mirror of Simple Souls is an early 14th-century work of Christian mysticism by Marguerite Porete dealing with the workings of Divine Love. 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. Porete's vision of the Soul is of ecstatic union with God, moving in a state of perpetual joy and peace. Porete argues that the Soul in such a sublime state is above the demands of ordinary virtue, not because virtue is not needed but because in its state of union with God virtue becomes automatic. As God can do no evil and cannot sin, the exalted/Annihilated soul, in perfect union with Him, no longer is capable of evil or sin.
Marguerite Porete's Mirror of Simple Souls, dating probably to the 1290s, is the oldest known mystical work written in French, and the only surviving medieval text by a woman writer executed as a heretic. This volume analyses its use of interconnected allegories that describe the soul's approach toward God in terms of human social relationships. These include romantic love between lovers in same-sex and mixed-sex pairs, relations among people of differing social rank such as servants and nobles, and rich and poor engaged in economic transactions such as taxation and gift-giving. Gender, rank, and exchange serve as remarkably versatile allegories for spiritual states. Porete uses comparison as an organizing principle that underlies her supple and creative use of allegory, personification, parables, metaphors, similes, proverbs, and glosses. The theologian invites her audience to cross boundaries among literal and figurative registers of meaning, in ways that are emblematic of the soul's ultimate leap toward the divine. Porete's social allegories, the author contends, can provide us with valuable evidence of a medieval thinker's conceptions of God, gender, language, and human capacity for change.
From the Original 15th Century English Translation
Author: Marguerite Porete
Category: Body, Mind & Spirit
This edition of The Mirror of the Simple Soul was originally published in 1927. At that time the author of the manuscript was unknown. It has since been attributed to Marguerite Porete, a French mystic. She was burnt at the stake for heresy in Paris in 1310 after a lengthy trial, after refusing to remove her book from circulation or recant her views. The book is cited as one the primary texts of the medieval Heresy of the Free Spirit. Porete's life is recorded only in accounts of her trial for heresy, at which she was condemned to be burnt at the stake. She is associated with the Beguine movement, and was therefore able to travel fairly freely. Until 1946, it was not even known that she was the writer of the Mirror, which had been published anonymously since her death. The title of Porete's book refers to the simple soul which is united with God and has no will other than His. Porete's vision of the Soul is of ecstatic union with God, moving in a state of perpetual joy and peace. Porete argues that the Soul in such a sublime state is above the demands of ordinary virtue, not because virtue is not needed but because in its state of union with God virtue becomes automatic. As God can do no evil and cannot sin, the exalted/Annihilated soul, in perfect union with Him, no longer is capable of evil or sin.