1st Edition

Dissident Women, Beguines, and the Quest for Spiritual Authority

By Catherine Lambert Copyright 2025
    212 Pages
    by Routledge

    Dissident Women, Beguines, and the Quest for Spiritual Authority focuses on the responses of a group of twenty-first-century women to the lives and writings of thirteenth-century beguine mystics, and reveals how the struggle to discover their own inner spiritual authority connects two groups of women across centuries.

    For contemporary women who are disenchanted with the institutional church and who seek spiritual direction, models deeply rooted within the tradition may not be the most helpful. The author explores the value of exemplars from the fringes, ushering Hadewijch of Brabant, Mechthild of Magdeburg, and Marguerite Porete into the spotlight. The contemporary women studied developed a relationship with the beguines that transformed and influenced their own journeys. Their encounters underline the importance of re-membering the beguine mystics, the value of contemplative engagement with historical mystics, and the need for explicit validation of the richness of the edges of tradition within spiritual direction.

    Dissident Women, Beguines, and the Quest for Spiritual Authority will be of particular interest to scholars of mysticism and spirituality as well as practical, pastoral, and feminist theology.

    1. Introduction: ‘Why Have I Not Heard of These Women?’  2. ‘Finding My Own Voice’: Spiritual Direction and Women’s Discovery of Spiritual Authority  3. ‘I’m Out of Here’: The relationship between Internal and External Spiritual Authority  4. The Beguine Movement  5. ‘The Spring Gushes Forth’: How to Read the Beguines  6. ‘Nothing Less Than Love’: Responding to Hadewijch  7. ‘Living in the Flow’: Responding to Mechthild  8. ‘Without a Why’: Responding to Marguerite  9. ‘No Longer Alone’: Engaging with the Beguines  10. ‘A Hook to Hang My Experience On’: Implications for Spiritual Direction Practice and the Church  11. Conclusion: Placing My Stone in the Divine Heart


    Catherine Lambert (PhD Pilgrim Theological College) is a Uniting Church minister, spiritual director, and retreat leader based in Western Australia.

    ‘In the Introduction to her book, the author shares with us that her introduction to the beguines Hadewijch, Mechthild, and Marguerite was akin to meeting spiritual companions, without the limitations of time and geography. The contemplative sensitivity of the writing invites the reader to sit down with this book in a quiet space where its richness of insights may seep into the soul. This book will become a living spiritual companion to contemporary seekers.’

    Bernadette Flanagan, leader of the research group Spirituality in Society and the Professions (SpirSoP) at the South East Technological University, Waterford Campus, Ireland

    ‘Catherine Lambert’s study of contemporary women’s spiritual engagement with medieval beguine mystics is fascinating and insightful at so many levels. It sheds light on the lives of contemporary women spiritual seekers on the edges of the church and demonstrates how ancient mystical texts and the lives of ancient mystical women can be a source of enlivening and sustenance for them. It employs creative research methods and is beautifully written. It will be of great interest to feminist practical theologians, researchers of contemporary faith, and spiritual accompanists as well as scholars of medieval mysticism. I warmly commend it.’

    Nicola Slee, Professorial Research Fellow at The Queen’s Foundation for Ecumenical Theological Education and Professor of Feminist Practical Theology at Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam

    ‘With sensitivity and perception, Catherine Lambert listens deeply to three women of the thirteenth century and brings their voices into dialogue with women "on the edge" of the contemporary church. Here and now, Hadewijch of Brabant, Mechtilde of Magdeburg, and Marguerite Porete inspire and enable new stories of courage. Read on!’

    Katharine Massam, University of Divinity, Australia