I was to learn that to be a religious mystic one risks death.
I was born in the village of Hainaut in France in the 12th century, and even in my childhood, I felt the spiritual pull to serve God. As soon as I was old enough, I joined a small group of women, part of the Beguine movement. Women of my era had begun to experiment with the possibility of a way of life outside of being a wife or cloistered nun. Beguines were small communities of women who wanted to be more useful and followed Christ by working among the sick and poor. It was easier to become a Beguine than a nun, for I need not pay an exorbitant dowry and need not wait for a vacancy in a convent. Further, they were not officially affiliated with the Church, and therefore not subject to all their rules and doctrines. This appealed to me even more because it gave me the freedom to do things my own way.
And do things my own way, I did. I chose to live on my own, and worked hard for the sick and poor. At every opportunity, I preached publically, and even translated the Bible into French. This whetted my appetite for writing and I soon began to write my own book, based upon my own personal religious views, I entitled THE MIRROR OF SIMPLE SOULS. It became immediately popular and circulated throughout France. But it was also controversial, and shocked Church officials, who soon had me arrested and brought to trial for heresy.
My trial was a travesty. Throughout the trial, I maintained my silence, refusing to answer their questions or acquire a solicitor to defend me. They took my preachings out of context and soon, I was found guilty of heretical mysticism. I was condemned to burn at the stake, refusing to recant my beliefs. On June 1, 1310, while I burned, the crowd was moved to tears by the calmness of how I faced my end.
My death only made others believers, and despite the fact my book was banned and ordered destroyed, it survived in monastery libraries in France and beyond. MIRROR OF SIMPLE SOULS continued to circulate anonymously for my name had been ordered struck. The book became so popular that centuries later, a Flemish mystic by the named of Jan tried to take credit for my work.
“Reason, you'll always be half-blind.”
“They have no shame, no honor, no fear for what is to
come. They are secure, says Love. Their doors are open. No one can harm them.”
Mirror of Simple Souls