Bo Karen Lee
In this compelling study of two seventeenth-century female mystics, Bo Karen Lee examines the writings of Anna Maria van Schurman and Madame Jeanne Guyon, who, despite different religious formations, came to similar conclusions about the experience of God in contemplative prayer. Van Schurman was born into a Dutch Calvinist family and became a superb scriptural commentator before undergoing a dramatic religious conversion and joining the Labadist community, a Pietistic movement. Guyon was a French layperson whose thought would be identified with Quietism—a spiritual path that was looked upon with suspicion both by the French Catholic Church and by Rome.
Lee analyzes and compares the themes of self-denial and self-annihilation in the writings of these two mystics. In van Schurman’s case, the focus is on the distinction between scholastic knowledge of God and the intima notitia Dei accessible only by radical self-denial. In Guyon’s case, it is on the union with God that is accessible only through a painful self-annihilation. For both authors, Lee demonstrates that the desire for enjoyment of God plays an important role as the engine of the soul’s progress away from self-centeredness. The appendices offer facing Latin and English translations of two letters by van Schurman and a selection from her Eukleria.
“This book is well written, well researched, and original. Bo Karen Lee’s study represents the most sustained contemporary English-language investigation of van Schurman’s work that I know of. Guyon has received more scholarly and popular attention, but few authors have taken her theology seriously in the way that this volume does.” — Ronney Mourad, Albion College
“In this fascinating study of two influential seventeenth-century mystics, Bo Karen Lee explores the intricate and often paradoxical connections between sacrifice of self and delight in God. Lee’s careful exposition of primary texts by Anna Maria van Schurman and Madame Jeanne Guyon reveals a theological profundity that continues to challenge, provoke, and inspire. The daring spiritualities of these two women (one Protestant, one Catholic) offer an intriguing comparative case study in early modern Christian thought.” — Arthur Holder, John Dillenberger Professor of Christian Spirituality, Graduate Theological Union
“This book is bold and a maddeningly honest read; it will very likely upend many of your cherished spiritual and theological assumptions. Bo Karen Lee contends that self-denial is a partner of delight, that sacrifice can engender joy, and that self-surrender is a path to true self and to union with God. In writing the theology of a spiritual journey, Lee is expert at letting the reader share this experience.” — Steven Chase, Institute for the Study of Contemporary Spirituality at Oblate School of Theology
“Bo Karen Lee’s subtle study of Madame Guyon and Anna Maria van Schurman explores how these writers found a source of power, leadership, and creativity in self-denial. It is an important contribution to the history and literature of Christian spirituality—including Protestant spirituality, which remains underinvestigated—and to discussions around contested questions at the intersection of feminism and religion.” — Stephanie Paulsell, Houghton Professor of the Practice of Ministry Studies, Harvard Divinity School
“Digging thoughtfully into the 17th-century mystical theologies of Anna Maria van Schurman and Madame Jeanne Guyon, Lee explores how self-denial could become the secret of profound religious joy. The interesting juxtaposition of a little-known Dutch Protestant (van Schurman) with a French Roman Catholic whose mystical theology was deemed heretical (Guyon) sets up a profound conversation about the possibility of talking about mystical experiences with God.” — Choice
“Despite the fact that Schurman and Guyon influenced important currents in European spirituality, their ideas were unpopular in the seventeenth century and still make people uncomfortable today. Lee argues that their unpopularity and daring should serve as models for doing theology ‘in the margins’ and as a warning against the dangers of over-intellectualizing theology.” — Catholic Library World
“In this compelling study of two seventeenth-century female mystics, the author examines the writings of Anna Maria van Schurman and Madame Jeanne Guyon, who, despite different religious formations, came to similar conclusions about the experience of God in contemplative prayer.” — Studies in Spirituality
“This fascinating and original work by Bo Karen Lee . . . is an outstanding contribution to the literature on the history of Christian spirituality, particularly in the early modern period. Lee skillfully demonstrates the groundbreaking manner in which [van Schurman and Guyon] linked self-denial with pleasure.” — Theology Today
“In her final chapter, Lee makes a potent argument for recuperating of at least some of the ideals that Guyon and van Schurman risked their lives and reputations to promote . . . With Sacrifices and Delight Karen Bo Lee advances this conversation in an important way, offering her exquisitely sensitive readings along with a keenly felt respect for the difficulties, whether theological or psychological, in recuperating such complicated legacies.” — Spiritus: A Journal of Christian Spirituality
“Bo Karen Lee’s monograph is an in-depth comparative study of the spirituality of self-denial in certain writings of Anna Maria van Schurman . . . and Jeanne Marie Guyon . . . [who] transgressed the entrenched boundaries of their respective traditions and developed theological spiritualties that converged in a number of important aspects. . . . Lee’s study . . . unveils the depth and intellectual seriousness of their work, making them freshly accessible as important voices of early modern spirituality.” — Teresianum
“Indeed, there is much to inspire and challenge contemporary Christians in the remarkable lives and writings of these two women. . . . [Lee’s] lucid, elegant, and insightful readings of Schurman and Guyon, along with the valuable excerpts of van Schurman’s writing translated in three appendices to the book, will prompt a deeper appreciation of their work.” — Journal of Religion