The Incredible Journey
Of Jane Lead -
17th Century Abductee?
By Jesse Glass <>

Could it be that a 17th century British mystic and poet, who spent most of her life in austere poverty and seclusion in London, was an abductee? A close perusal of Jane Lead's rare, three volume work, A Fountain of Gardens(1700) indicates that this might have been the case. Couched in archaic English and laden with imagery drawn from the Bible, Jane Lead's visions, by their high strangeness, and their references to themes that would later be touched upon by those who claim to have been taken aboard UFOs, indicate that at least a similar mental process was at work. Between February 9, 1678, and her final, incredible visits in December of 1678 with the inhabitants of the "Magia-School" which was, she said, "such a place, that was as the Scene of another World" Jane Lead witnessed a golden flying machine; robots ("living statues"); a suited figure flying in the sky; the Frankenstein-like vivification of an artificial body ; a "thunderbolt-shaped stone" that perhaps was a robotic probe; child-like beings that moved with superhuman quickness; a "star" on which she rode and an "eye"in which people lived and traveled. Moreover, she left a sketch of this aerial "eye" that is a perfect likeness of a flame-emitting, lenticular craft. Finally, and most remarkable of all, Jane Lead tells of a future time when these otherworldly beings and their descendants shall be recognized by everyone.
Who was Jane Lead?
According to The Dictionary of National Biography, Mrs. Jane Lead or Leade (1623,Äì1704) was the daughter Of Schildknap Ward from Norfolk, England. At an early age the future mystic heard a miraculous voice during a Christmas celebration at her home, and this seemed to have changed forever the direction of her life. She became contemplative and serious in her religious pursuits, apparently against her family's wishes. At 21 she married William Lead, a distant relative some six years her senior. Shortly thereafter, he died, leaving Jane with one daughter, Barbara, to support. Jane Lead would never marry again.
Lead later began to read the mystic works of Jacob Boehme, the German shoemaker- seer, who attempted to use the alchemical process to describe inward spiritual states and religious intuitions. Boehme was the first of the "Theosophists"-- a vague term that can be roughly defined as "God-scientist." Theosophists attempted to plum the mysteries of God and to describe the supernatural worlds through divinely directed visions. Boehme's terminology and methodology can be found in modified form in many of Lead's own descriptions of other worlds. It was shortly after her introduction to Boehme's writings that she too began to maintain a diary of her visions. She would use these numinous encounters as the basis for her own theosophical writings. Her books include The Heavenly Cloud (1681), The Revelation of Revelations (1683), The Enochian Walks With God, Found out by a Spiritual Traveler, whose Face towards Mount Sion above was set. With an experimental account of what was known, seen, and met with there." (1694), and other rare publications. Living in poverty, and facing blindness in her old age, Jane Lead continued to toil on in obscurity. It was not until one of her books reached Holland and was translated into Dutch and German, that the power of her visions began to be internationally recognized. Soon a group of disciples gathered around her, and the Philadelphians,Äìa secret society of seers and theosophists,Äìwas formed, with Jane as their guiding light. In 1697 this group held regular meetings at Westmorland House in Lambeth, drew up its own constitution, and proceeded to spread the revelations of Jane Lead. We can only imagine that Mrs. Lead, who died at 81 on August 19, 1704, had much secret lore that she shared with her disciples and did not dare pass on in writing. Still, the impressive record she left behind for all to see is a testament to a gifted woman who might truly have been taken to another world.
The Record
Abductions seem to run in a clearly identifiable pattern: first, the potential subject has close visual sightings of other-worldly craft. After the initial sightings physical contact takes place. As we see from the record of her diary, Jane Lead appears to have had just such an initial, visual contact in 1676, a full two years before her actual abduction. Lead eloquently recounts how she witnessed an anomalous sight in the morning sky over London. Using the only terminology she knew, Lead called it an "eye". She was so impressed with the beauty of this remarkable sight that she sketched it and included it in volume one of A Fountain of Visions. In order to preserve the integrity of her accounts, I present them here in her original English.
"July the 16th. 1676.
A Vision of God's Flaming Eye.
This Morning...In a moment there appeared to me an Azure blue Firmament, so Oriental as nothing of this, in this visible Orb could parallel with it. Out of the midst hereof was a most wonderful Eye, which I saw Sparkling, as with flaming Streams from it. Which I am not able to figure out, after that manner in which it did present it self unto me. But according to this Form it was, as much as I am able to give an account of it, it was thus, or after this manner. There was a flaming Eye in the midst of a Circle, and round about it a Rainbow with all variety of Colours, and beyond the Rainbow in the Firmament, innumerable Stars all attending this Flaming Eye. From which the Word said, the Earth and the Heavens shall flye, and nothing abide, but what can live in this Eternal Eye, as ministering Stars of Glory, before the Throne of him: who like to this Circling Eye, which thou hast seen, hath neither Beginning or End."
What Lead appears to have seen could be interpreted as a flame-emitting, lenticular craft accompanied by smaller aerial craft, or robotic probes. Notice that she, like many modern UFO witnesses, has difficulty describing the object she saw. Moreover, she was so moved by this sight, that she was driven to sketch it,Äìa common enough recourse among contemporary witnesses. Notice, too, the apparent telepathic rapport between the woman and the UFO. This also jives with many sightings of the "high strangeness" variety. Please note that unlike the revelations of Boehme, Swedenborg, and other religious visionaries, the speaker from the apparent UFO does not identify itself as God, or even of angelic origin; rather it speaks of earth and heaven-shaking power, ministering "Stars of Glory" and a Throne in this "Circling Eye." This distinction should be kept in mind while reading Lead's accounts. The beings she encounters, act peculiarly "un-angelic".
True to pattern, two years later the contacts intensify. In 1678 Lead appears to have experienced close encounters of the third kind. The most complete and compelling account of these events leading up to the woman's apparent abduction can be found in the third volume of A Fountain of Gardens. There one can see, in diary entries scattered over one year, a sequence of increasingly incredible encounters beginning with the appearance of a golden winged airship:
"February 9. 1678
A Transport.
In the Morning after I was awakened from Sleep, upon a sudden I was insensible of any sensibility as relating to a corporeal Being, and found my self as without the clog of any Earthly Body, being very sprightly and airy in a silent place, where some were beside my self, but I did not know them by their Figures, except one, who went out, and came in again: and there was no speaking one to another, but all did set in great silence, and I my self with my Eye fixed forward. And I did suddenly see at a pretty distance, where I was, a rich splenderous thing come down all engraven, with Colors, the Ground thereof being all of Gold. It was in the form of a large Ship with Wings, I cannot say, whether more than four, which spread themselves out, being like varnished Gold, it came down with the greatest swiftness as is imaginable. Upon which amazing sight, I asked some by me, do you not see this wonderful sight? And they said no. But I saw my self, or something like my self, leaping and dancing and greatly rejoicing to meet it. But when I came up to it, then it did as suddenly go up again, withdrawing out of sight, unto the high Orb from whence it came. After which I found my self in my Body of sense, as knowing I had been ranging in my Spirit from it for a while, that I might behold this great thing."
This particular vision is strikingly similar to modern accounts of abductions by UFOs. Notice how Lead describes herself as feeling disembodied and staring straight ahead as if she were in a trance. She then feels surrounded by figures,Äìshe does not call them human beings,Äìone of which she recognizes. In the middle of her silence she sees a glorious flying machine, which she approaches. Her sense of time appears to become truncated at that point, and, just as many abductees observe, the UFO appears to leave almost as soon as it arrives. However, in retrospect, the witness finds that hours, or even days, are missing. There is also the peculiar point of similarity of emotional states. Rather than being afraid, Mrs. Lead approaches the anomaly joyfully; just as many abductees relate that they too experience profound transports of fear or joy in the presence of the unknown craft. Finally, Lead tells of the "high Orb" from which the craft descends and to which it returns. Once again, in modern UFO parlance, this would be described as the "Mother Ship."
Whether this is a description of a real "close encounter"misidentified as the visit of an angelic messenger, or a description of a strikingly similar psychological state, it gives one pause. Nevertheless, this sighting and Lead's consequent mental condition leads me to define this experience as the first of her abductions.
In the following months, Jane Lead witnessed other remarkable sights, including "living statues" that appear to have been some form of robot, a flying figure clothed in a new, "Coelestial Body" and the vivification of an artificial being, or android.
"March 25, 1678.
The Living Statues. A Vision.
...Then I had a strange kind of Vision, of a sight of two Statues, that were in a Room, where I was, and they were very beautiful, having all perfect accomplishments to outward sight, greatly taking the Eye whereupon I made towards them, but they moved not, then I concluded they were formal Figures, that were not capable of Conversation with any, as being without intellectuals or motion of Life. Whereupon I considering they were very amiable, and what great pity it was, that they were not in an active motion; I found in myself somewhat eagerly earnest to provoke the stirring and awakening of a Life in them. And hereunto I was busying all my internal abilities, and then they suddenly stirred, and made towards me with great and sweet affableness of Spirit. Which though at first I so much desired their acquaintance, yet when they spake, and came, and took me by the Hand, I was somewhat shy and afraid of them. But they said, ,ÄòBe not surprised, though you see, that which was dead, and slain to revive and live again. This is a Mystery, ye may further see into, as ye do believe in the Resurrection.,Äô"
Shortly after this vision, Lead witnessed what could be interpreted as someone using a "flying suit" similar to the rocket pack developed by Nasa in the 1970's. Here the astounded 18th century woman struggles to describe a sight straight out of the future using her own brand of archaic English. She attempts to cage the vision in an appropriate Biblical context, yet she falters in the attempt.
"May 8. 1678.
A Call to the Mount of Divine Vision.
...Then, after this Word, there was a representation of a Person, in the visible Firmament, walking there all Aethereal, Pure and Bright. But while I fastened my Eye upon it, it descended, and as soon as it came into this Region, the same that appeared so Coelestial, was changed into a Terrestrial Corporeal form, like to the Inhabitants of this World, but soon after the same ascended up, and walked in the Air, as it was before all Aethereal. When I came to consider it, the meaning hereof was opened unto me....That this clear and Aethereal Body, that in the Element did appear, was for this end shewn, to convince us of that high, and pure Region, or Eternal Element: Whereto we should Ascend, and there have our Walks in a pure and uncorrupted Air, from the super Coelestial Heavens: for that should be ever our settled Place and Home. For this Vision did present our own Figures in a new Coelestial Body...."
Much later, Lead appears to have been present as an android was brought to life.
"October 8. 1678.
Formation and Animation
There was presented the Formation of a visible Body, as out of the mixed Matter, thin and clear, and every Member formed as the Potter pleased. So the Figure of a Man was thus modellized before my Eye, in all Comeliness; no one part defective: But there was no Life. And I was call,Äôd upon to take notice of this Image, that was so fair and comely, but here wanted a moving Life to act it. And it was said to me, dost thou see this fair Portraid image. Which shews, what the new Created Being is, as in a Figure transfer,Äô d: but what can this do, till Breath of Life doth enter in? Then discoursed the Spirit further this Matter with me....I was exhorted to be quiet, and sit a while, and I should see Life would move. Which accordingly came into every part, the Eye first moved, then motion throughout stretched the Arms, and Feet, walking to and fro in all activity...."
The rapid descent and ascent of an artificial craft, in this case apparently some sort of probe, was witnessed by Lead while in a similar psychological state as her encounter with the golden flying machine.
"October 28, 1678.
The Jewel: Or, the Thunder-bolt.
....I did see in the Night, a Stone: the fashion of it was like a Thunder-bolt, but it was clear, and of a Ruby and Purple Color: and it was shot down, as out of the Aethereal Heavens, and immediately caught up thither again..."
Later, Jane Lead acquires a guide, who explains the mysterious sights that, by this time, were rushing fast and furious upon the old woman. As she says in an entry dated December 5, 1678, "This and much more was opened [explained] and revealed from the Transparent Child-like stature [sic], that appeared in such a swift Circling-motion unto me in the Vision, which brought this Mystery to light." This being gives Lead much information about the transfigured bodies that she sees, and promises a future time when all humans would be clothed in these same indestructible "arks" that were impervious to the "disasters of the elements". Of course this message coincided nicely with Christianity's doctrine of bodily resurrection, but the specificity of this new body, and how it apparently allowed one to live on other worlds points to a far stranger interpretation.
As one reads volume three of A Fountain of Gardens, one slowly begins to realize that the "wisdom" discussed in its pages was given to Mrs. Lead, not by God (though of course she believed this herself), not by traditional Angels, but by the Princess and other beings of the "Magia-School" whose other-worldly home Jane tells of visiting in the final, remarkable pages of her book. True to the understanding of her time, she calls them "Magia" or magicians, though clearly they were much more than that. As she says under her diary entry for December 15, 1678:
"The School of Wisdom. A Transportation.
In the Night, after my first Sleep, I was consulting, whereunto the moving Star had brought us, and [perceived] it still was in its circling motion....Then, after all this Opening and Spiritual Parly I was over-set, and cast as into a Trance, and had all my outward Senses drowned, and was brought by the Spirit into such a place, that was as the Scene of another World. For the Ground where the Inhabitants moved, was as clear as Crystal and the same above was the same below all light and clear. The Spirit that brought me in, led me to do Obeysance to one, that was the Princess of that World. Who appeared great and full of Majesty, resembling the Face of a Woman, all cloathed as in waved Clouds. I was something abashed to come near her: but the Spirit animated me. And She directed my Guide, to bring me into acquaintance with the residue, that did move there in distinct Figures. But they at first looked somewhat Strange upon me, and shy: because I had no such clarified Body. Whereupon I did strive to make my Apology in way of Speech: but that did much displease. For, it was advised, this was the Magia-School; where all of Mortal Language was to be excluded. For all was understood by the operation of the Magia: here was no Speech, but all Power acted. Then one I was brought to, that had such a composure in his Countenance, as one might read profound Wisdom, signally resident upon him. I would have had them move free, and familiar with me, for I loved, and was much affected with them. But they saw, I was not versed in their high Method, and looked upon me as a stranger in their Region. And being very eager to ask them questions, what the denominated were? And who was the Soveraign Ruler here? And I was big with many Queries, but received a check, as being a young Novice, that did not understand the Magia-Rules. Then suddenly I was bound, and could move no way, but no Hand touched me. And this was to let me know, what Soveraignty they could put forth. And then as suddenly I was set free, and found my self at liberty.
Then heard I the Majestical Princess, that ruled all in that Sphere, say in a breath as soft as Air: ,ÄòDo not despise the unlearned, that are not acquainted with this high Art. For this thing, time is allowed, for the fiting her out thereunto. But know, O Spirit, before thou goest from hence, that this is the only one thing, that is worthy to be learned, whereby Nature's Beast may become tamed, and to a Heavenly Figure renewed by the Magia-working Power.,Äô Then brought I was into my Bodily Sense, where I was given to understand , what all this transportation tended to. Which I was cautioned to remind, and lay up as a secret: and watch the turn of the Wheel...."
Here we truly see a 17th century mind struggling to come to terms with what many would identify as a clear case of abduction. Notice how Lead's description of the brightness of this other world is congruent with modern abduction accounts. Moreover, the disembodied woman's face, and the "wise being" are part and parcel of many modern reports. Furthermore, Jane does not define these immortal beings as benevolent. Instead she faithfully records being paralyzed when she became too eager to investigate where she was. Furthermore she is summarily commanded not to talk, though she had many questions; and is told she does not know the "rules." Moreover she describes the inhabitants of this other world as keeping her in isolation because she has no "clarified" body as they did. And though she professes to feel "love" for these beings, they behave with an almost clinical coldness towards her. Notice the final, chilling injunction not to speak of what she saw and to keep her eye to the "turn of the Wheel"!
Four nights later, Jane Lead again found herself among the members of the Magia-School, where she was given an incredible vision of an "Eye" which appears to have been the same flying craft that she had seen and drawn two years earlier. A remarkable dialogue ensues in which Jane Lead is invited aboard the "Eye" but she demurs saying that she only has a mortal body.
"The Theosophical Eye
....And there was presented unto me an Eye, from which went forth bright Beams of Light, which had a wonderful attractive Power to draw the Spirit of my Soul into it, as the Center of Wisdom's Light and vast comprehension, which must expose it self to the Infinitum of all Beings. And it was said to me, ,ÄòNow thou art to be tried, whether thou can'st leave all Visibilities, and come to live in this Theosophical Eye: which can generate all kind of working Powers, that may cast the model of the new Creation.,Äô Then replyed my Spirit, ,ÄòHow shall I that am in Mortality, possibly be able to live in this bright Circling Eye? Although my Will do unfeignedly hereunto aspire, yet I cannot find the way that may fix me there; neither can I come so suddenly to such an Abnegation, as to forget and forsake my own Creaturely Being.,Äô"
The beings answer:
"...there is an Essence of Love, that may constrain thee to come up to all the Magia-Rules. Although, yet the way seemeth uncouth, and as incredible for thee to pass into this Eye, as a Camel into the Eye of a Material Needle. But do thou know, that the Time is now come about, in which the Father of Magical Spirits will put those of his own immediate Line into it."
Here the beings are apparently telling Jane Lead that she too is of this "line." Remarkably, other of her contemporaries shared this distinction and were also being taken up into the "Circling Eye" As Lead reports:
"But, Where is the Man or Woman, it may be replyed, that could fly above their Region? True it is, we are ignorant in this our present Age of any such, though I doubt not, but some there may be in this very time, though unknown. But I am assured [by the beings] that the time is come, when the Starry-Birth shall break away by the Magia-Wheel, when once it doth but touch. Then we shall see that marvelous thing, as dark and heavy Iron upon the water to float and swim. And though this Magia-School hath been shut up, and the Magical Children, who thereunto do belong, have had a long Holy Day wherein time hath been loitered away; now the idle time is over. The high Theosophical Eye doth run to and fro to attract, and gather them up, who are apt to learn Heavenly Philosophy."
Who are these "Magical Children" that are being taken aboard this craft? Jane Lead answers with the knowledge she gathered from her encounter with these beings:
"We know by several marks who may attain thereunto. First, they have a Signature different from others. Which ariseth from an inward Birth-Ground, more pure and clarified, that gives a quick and sharp understanding to comprehend from the Center-line of Life, that runneth into God's deep free and doth not stick nor stay.... That hereby it may be an ascendant above the order of these outward Stars, and inhabit in the Circling Eye as a close Student. And may there from its Light-Glance, as an Eye in that Eye, read the Trinity Book, in which the Rules of the Magia are expressed apart.... "
The third volume of A Fountain of Gardens sets forth the Magia Rules, concerning a new understanding of nature, man, and the celestial regions. The primary rule succinctly expressed during this final encounter is an astonishing one. As Lead says: "The First Rule given out was, that henceforth, we unlearn and unknow all, which the wise and rational Spirit hath in its unrefined Morality disciplin,Äôd and exercised our Senses in making a fair shew in the mixed complexion of Darkness and Light, Evil and Good. All of which we are to disavow, and to alter the whole property...." The way of the Magia-School and its members is of ultimate knowledge that will lead to "....learn[ing] and understand[ing] another way, in which we may command both Sun, Moon, and Stars, and break their Bands." That is, by obtaining this understanding mortals could break free of the inhibiting factors of the earthly world and enjoy an immortal body and infinite power.
Jane Lead's earlier mystical writings belong to a more traditional Christian context, while those set forth in A Fountain of Gardens, volume three, sound a new note. The apocalypse is in process, she says. A new revelation is descending from the skies, and all mankind must be prepared to face and accept it. The future that Jane Lead speaks of is not the future of traditional Christianity. Indeed, the members of the Magia-school already experience the enlightened state that Lead seems to equate with the transfiguration of Christ and the paradise of believers promised in the Book of Revelations. Lead revises traditional Christian cosmologies to make room for this group of powerful beings that are neither human nor angelic, yet somehow speak and act in the interests of God.
Jane Lead's visions, though expressed in quaint and archaic English, and obscured in part by theosophical terminology, nevertheless escape the strictures imposed upon them by time and point of view, to inhabit their own region of the numinous. No matter how Jane Lead struggles to force what she sees into the Procrustean bed of conventional theology, the strangeness and specificity of her visions, call us back time and again to wonder over the real import of their message.
Though some may call this reading of A Fountain of Gardens unjustly skewed, I would invite them to go directly to the source and compare for themselves what the British mystic encountered in 1678 with the patterns and motifs of modern-day abduction cases. What can at least be concluded is that Jane Lead's accounts show a similar psychological mechanism at work. Many perhaps will take the next step and say that this remarkable woman of the eighteenth century was taken on a trip to another world where she parlayed with beings that offered her new rules for mankind. Jane Lead, in turn, promulgated the wisdom of the "Magia-School" for all to read in her remarkable spiritual diaries. Much more needs to be said about the legacy of Jane Lead and the Philadelphians. I invite others to join me in this task.
Copyright 1999 by Jesse Glass.