Cromohs Virtual Seminars
Johannes Kelpius (1673–1708): Mystic on the Wissahickon
University of Szeged
L. Juhász, "Johannes KelpiusRecent historiographical trends of the British Studies (17th-18th Centuries), 2006-2007: 1-9"
What if America’s large tract of ground And all those Isles adjoyning, lately found (which we more truly may a Desert call Then any of the worlds more Civil pale: ) What then if there the wilderness do lie To which the woman and her son must fly To escape the Dragons fury and there live Till Europe thankless nations (full of pride And all abominations( scourged are with Barbarism as their Neighbour were [.]
The above words were written by Richard Roach 7th September 1695, in a letter addressed to Johann Heinrich Deichmann, the secretary of the Philadelphian Society. About a year earlier, the Transylvanian Pietist, Johannes Kelpius set off from the shores of England towards Pennsylvania, with the aim of realising the true Christian ideal and preparing for the Last Judgement in the New World. His group, known by others as the Woman in the Wilderness (Weib in der Wüste) left the sinful world behind to re-establish the original state of the True Church and to prepare for the second coming of Christ. Kelpius and his followers expected the millennium to begin around 1694. Even after their hope had failed, a part of the congregation lived on with the same notion and they actively contributed to the cultural life of colonial America; they acted as teachers, performed church music and a few of them joined other churches.
This paper attempts to give an overview of Kelp’s career from Transylvania to Pennsylvania, his religious views, and the intellectual background of his thought. Using archival material it reasserts the importance of the connections between the German Pietist group and the London Quakers and highlights some of the hazier points of the Kelpius scholarship.
2. Kelpius’s Early Years; Transylvania
Johannes Kelpius was born in 1673 [sic]* at Denndorf (Dállya) in the Schässburg (Segesvár) region of Transylvania. He was one of the Transylvanian Saxons, German immigrants, who had settled near the south-eastern border of Hungary in Transylvania around the 12-13th centuries. The colonisation was begun by Géza II of Hungary, with the initial task of the settlers being the protection of the borders of the country. However, they were also selected because of their skills in mining and crafts. They have retained special rights and standing since the thirteenth century; they built fortified cities which became the defence of not only their people but also their culture and economical independence. Most of them converted to Lutheranism after the reformation and remained faithful to their religion, thanks to the religious freedom proclaimed in 1568 by the first Transylvanian prince, Zsigmond János, himself an Antitrinitarian convert. This established four religio recepta in Transylvania: the Lutheran, the Calvinist, the Catholic and the Antitrinitarian.
*Kelpius was actually born in 1667. See our important note.
At the battle of Mohács in 1526, the Ottoman Empire devastated the army of the Hungarian nobility, and moved into the country up to the capital, Buda. Most of Hungary was under Turkish rule until the late seventeenth century. The parts not occupied by the Turks were under Habsburg government, the Emperor being the Hungarian king. The only part of the former Empire that was de facto under Hungarian rule was Transylvania and some regions of Eastern Hungary that were annexed to the Transylvanian Principality through the settlement of the Diet of Speyer in 1570. During these 150 years most Transylvanian princes tried to find chances of bringing the Habsburg parts of Hungary back under Hungarian rule in the form of a personal union. Two years after the beginning of the Thirty Years’ War, Prince Gábor Bethlen was in fact crowned Hungarian king, but abdicated shortly afterwards, securing some privileges for Transylvania from the Habsburgs.
In the second half of the seventeenth century, not for the first time, Transylvania balanced between the powers of Christian Europe and the Ottoman Empire. While the princes constantly sought a European alliance, they also had to maintain a threatened peace with the Turks. In 1664 Prince Mihály Apafi asked for English help in order to suppress the Turks’ advance towards the Empire. The Protestant and Catholic nobility of Transylvania and Hungary tried to consolidate their positions again and again between the two great powers during this period, frequently, if not always, at each other's expense. As Miklos Bethlen writes ’.mert egy lepesem, vagy szóm, egy írásom nem lehet, amely után ne leselkedjenek’. (I cannot take a step, utter or write a word without being spied upon.)
With the frequent succession of princes, promises of Imperial, Ottoman, Polish and French alliances revoked and reinstated monthly and unpredictable belligerent moves, Kelpius’s Transylvania was very far from being a safe fatherland. The only force he could rely on was the strong bond of the German cities and their population with its relative economic independence.
3. European Studies
The Kelpius was an established clerical family: Johann’s father, Georg was a Lutheran minister, his older brother, Martin rector of the Schässburg school. The latter compiled the biographical lexicon of the Transylvanian Saxons, Natales Saxonum Transylvaniae. In 1685 the thirteen year old Kelpius had the opportunity to act as a respondent in a school examination. It was in the same year that his father died and Kelpius could not have further pursued his studies without help from three of his late father’s friends. Michael Deli, the mayor of Schässburg, Count Valentin Franck and Johann Zabanius, the notary of Hermannstadt (Szeben) supported the talented young man’s European academic peregrination. Kelpius matriculated at the University of Tübingen in 1687; his name is next to Zabanius’s in the matriculaton register. He composed a laudatory poem for Zabanius’s dissertation next year. After spending a short time in Leipzig he received his title of Magister at the University of Altdorf near Nuremberg in 1689. The subject of his thesis was natural religion, a work published both in octavo and quarto. Within a year Kelpius, only seventeen at the time, had his name on the title page of another book, the Scylla Theologica - an overview of religious polemics from the early Church Fathers. The publication was evidently promoted by one of his teachers, Johann Fabricius, who also had his name printed in the title - an illustrious decoration for Kelpius. Fabricius, son of a university professor, was himself professor of theology in Altdorf since 1677. In 1704 he published an extensive survey about controversy among Christian sects, and at the same time he worked on an advisory opinion about the differences between the Roman Catholic and the Calvinist faith. This latter work, in which he was to prove that the two religions shared the same basis, was commissioned by Anton Ulrich, Prince of Braunschweig-Lüneburg in an effort to facilitate the marriage of his daughter to the Spanish king. After the publication of this work Fabricius had to give up his chair at Helmstedt University. Like his teacher, with whom he would not loose contact after his emigration, Kelpius also argued that all religions share a true core.
Kelpius also published his views about the use of Aristotle’s works in the education of the Christian youth in 1690. The book was again published both in quarto and octavo with three different dedications. The quarto is dedicated to the Nuremberg captain Hannibal Braun; part of the octavo editions to his three patrons in Transylvania, another part to four prominent Nuremberg clergymen, who apparently also backed his studies. He certainly seemed to have had all the necessary help for his advanced education, and we may assume that the statements about his exceptional abilities were true.
In the works mentioned - according to Ernst Benz - Kelpius ’revealed himself as an opponent of orthodox Lutheran scholasticism and an advocate, like most Pietists, of an irenic theology’. Besides publishing his works, he also gave private lessons at the University.
In his 1785 Nachrichten von siebenbürgischen Gelehrten Johann Seivert states that after his emigration to Pennsylvania nothing had been heard in his homeland about Kelpius. Therefore it is quite obvious to ask, whether there was intellectual influence of any sort in Transylvania that could explain Kelpius’s gravitation towards irenic and mystical thought and his lifelong attachment to radical Pietistic circles. These groups did not only promote a renewal in faith, often incorporating ecstatic prophecy as a basis of religious conviction, but also encouraged social and economical changes. The Transylvanian Lutherans did not seem to be susceptible to radical ideas and new dogmas. There is no evidence to suggest that such ideas had interfered with the religious practice of the Saxons until the 1670s and even the few exceptions do not link up with Kelpius. At this stage we have to conclude that Kelpius did not encounter the radical doctrines prompting him to leave the Continent before his European university years.
4. Kelpius and Johann Jakob Zimmermann
The acquaintance with the theologian, mathematician and astrologer Johann Jakob Zimmermann (1642-1693) and his works had a great influence on Kelpius’s doctrinal development. It is not exactly known where they actually met, but Elizabeth Fisher points to the university of Altdorf and its intellectual environment as a catalyst. It is likely that Knorr von Rosenroth (1636-1689) introduced Kelpius and Zimmermann. Rosenroth, a Lutheran minister in Sulzbach (a town in Bavaria, close both to Altdorf and to Nuremberg), was not only known for his hymns, but also for his deep knowledge of the Cabbala. He was the leading figure of a ’pansophical-cabbalistic’ group in the court of Count Christian August von Pfalz-Sulzbach that regarded the reconciliation of the Cabbala with the Christian dogma as its primary duty. They aimed to reconcile scientific and religious knowledge and come to a synthesis, which they valued as the highest wisdom (hence the term pansophic). Rosenroth published his Cabbala denudata (2 vols, Frankfurt, 1677-84) with the hope of advancing universal knowledge; a goal he shared with the Behmenists and the Rosicrucians.
The likelihood of Kelpius’s attendance at the meetings held in Rosenroth’s house is strengthened not only by the geographical proximity of Sulzbach and Altdorf, but also by the fact that Kelpius used Rosenroth’s hymns as an inspiration for his own devotional poetry.
Zimmermann was an avid disciple of Boehme and the Württemberg authorities referred to him as ’most learned astrologer, magician and cabbalist’. Born at Vaihingen, Württemberg, Zimmermann studied at the University of Tübingen, where he met Johann Jakob Schütz, a leading figure of the so-called Saalhof Pietists. This group was the first in Germany to plot an organized emigration to the New World. Zimmermann was introduced to chiliasm and Boehme’s books by Ludwig Brunquell, minister of neighbouring Löchgau. Brunquell himself was moved from his post because of his views and the same fate awaited Zimmermann. When, in 1676, he acted as a witness at Brunquell’s trial, he acknowledged his attachment to Boehme.
Zimmermann’s interpretation of the 1680 comet and other signs later proved to be crucial for Kelpius. In his Cometoscopia (1681) Zimmermann interprets the movement of this new celestial body from the East to the West as a harbinger of God’s punishment and the Last Judgement. It would bring famine, war and very high prices in Asia and Europe, but would not affect America. This seems to be one of the first basic elements in Zimmermann’s plans of emigration. In his later work on what we know today as the Halley’s comet he emphasizes that natural occurrences are in concordance with God’s message. This astrological explanation of the signs would expand to a complete foretelling of the last age of the world in his Muthmassliche Zeit-Bestimmung. Apart of the appearance of the comets he also interprets the fall of Strasbourg to the French (1681) and the Turk’s advance on Vienna (1683), concluding that the millennium will begin in 1694. It is noteworthy that Johann Heinrich Alsted foretold the beginning of the millennium for the same year in his Diatribe de Mille Annis Apocalypticis in 1627. There are a number of popular millenarian themes in Zimmermann’s book that recur in Kelpius’s works. One of these is the notion that the false church (Babel) does not exclusively mean the Roman Church, but any that fail to conform to the truth of Christ; in these the Antichrist reigns. One of the precursors of the last judgement is the conversion of the Jews and the heathen, preceded by the unification of the true church. Kelpius maintained the possibility of the Indians being the lost Tribes of Israel thus part of the clandestine true church.
For Zimmermann the "new prop"(i.e. those who had come after Biblical times) were also instruments to reveal God’s hidden message to man. According to this doctrine God had not ceased working through miracles after the Pentecost and inspired people still received his messages directly. This would then mean that Boehme’s texts are just as important in interpreting the future as the Scripture itself and render barely literate lay prophets, like those mentioned in Johann Amos Comenius’s Lux in tenebris (1657), valuable sources of insight about the future.
After publishing his book Zimmermann was summoned by the consistorium - not for the first time - for a hearing and in 1685 he was removed from his post in Bietigheim. Thereafter he lived in Amsterdam, Frankfurt (lodging with Schütz) and Heidelberg. He settled in Hamburg in 1689 where he started to organize a separatist group, called the Chapter of Perfection. He published there his Grundforschende Gespräch, arguing for a biblically founded millennarism, a ’chiliasmus scriptuarius’, against the rampant crude or common millennarism. Significantly, in this dialogue a pious Catholic illustrates the agreeable view, and the worldly-minded Protestant is defeated. The dialogue was republished in Philadelphia (1695), probably by someone closely connected to the group and Kelpius.
5. Pilgrimage to America
When the Chapter of Perfection left for Rotterdam in 1693, Kelpius was already with Zimmermann. They were some of the many answering William Penn’s call to establish a godly country in his newly acquired American lands. Penn’s pamphlets were also in circulation in German, and they precipitated true enthusiasm among the Saalhof Pietists. A few years after Penn had visited Germany the group established the Frankfurt Land Company (Frankfurter Landescompagnie) to buy land in Pennsylvania, agreeing to the purchase of 25,000 acres. Their first emissary was Franz Daniel Pastorius, the man known as the founder of Germantown near Philadelphia. The Saalhof Pietists were to follow him to America but their attachment to their homeland proved to be stronger than their will to leave. Pastorius, however, stayed in Germantown and was instrumental in organizing the settling of German Mennonites and Quakers.
Members of the Chapter of Perfection gathered in Halberstadt and Magdeburg (cities in two of the more tolerant German duchies) to continue to Rotterdam, as Sachse states, ’on foot, staff in hand, and knapsack on back, upon their pilgrimage to America’.
The Zimmermann group met Benjamin Furly, the well-to-do merchant in Holland. Furly worked as Penn’s agent in Europe and - as his library and his connections show - knew and studied Boehme’s writings and the Cabbala himself. Zimmermann died shortly before embarking. Details of his death are unknown, but the group went on as planned, electing Kelpius as their new leader. Their ship, the ’Sara Maria Hopewell’ was acquired in London and Kelpius engaged the shipon 7 February 1694. The Chapter of Perfection stayed in England for six months. While in England the group established good connections with the London Friends and the Philadelphian Society.
The Quakers and the Chapter of Perfection
According to Kelpius’s biographer, both Zimmermann and the brother of another member, Ludolph Köster, were intimately acquainted with Furly and their intercession made the experiment [i. e. the emigration] possible. Furly granted the Pietists ₤120 for their fare; a sum probably collected for this particular purpose. It seems, however, that this was not the whole story. A series of entries in Quaker Minute books indicate that the London Friends gave the Pietists most of the money necessary for their emigration. Although the minute books mention no names, from circumstantial evidence it can be concluded that they refer to the Chapter of Perfection. From the letters of Nicolaes Rüst, a Hamburg friend, at least some of the Quakers were informed of the Pietist movement. It seems, however, that this was not common knowledge as the Meeting for Sufferings usually refers to the group as " The People called the Pietests". From the minutes we also learn that a few months after their arrival the Germans received ₤20 from the Quakers, to help them with living expenses. The next entry concerning them, however, reads:
The meeting being acquainted of the poor People call’d Pietests Intention and desire to Transport themselves and ffamilies to America and wanting Assistance. Sober People in Holland in tender Compassion towards them having Remitted one hundred and twenty pounds towards the relief and Transportation of some of them. They being in all about 40. in Number and it falling very short.
This Meeting inclines to Recommend to the next six weeks Meeting Consideration how a supply may be Administered to them towards their Relief They wanting about one hundred and ffifty pounds ffor their Transportation.
Yoakley made regular shipments to Pennsylvania at this time. The remainder of the group either stayed in London or turned back to Germany, deciding against emigration.
This sheds light on an interesting point. Most secondary sources treat the Pietists as a monolith group with a common goal obeying their leaders and enduring hardships. We cannot forget, however, that there were at least two prime reasons for emigration from Germany. The one more frequently emphasized in this case - though probably not the more common generally - was the liberty of conscience offered by William Penn. The other was the prospect of material gain; an opportunity for a new start after leaving a war-torn country. Some were definitely driven only by the latter reason. In his diary Kelpius mentions a series of events that lead to the exclusion of some members:
The other part of our company which had been excluded, at London, on account of their depraved manners, from us and our spiritual intercourse, wasting their time in brawls and fights, were a scandal even to the lower sailors, who wondered that the young women were beaten by the men. But even the triumvirate itself (for 3 families were excluded) was split up into factions, and had not one yielded to another, the matter might have come from words to blows, as I have said was done at the former fight.
This darker side of the Pietists is usually left unmentioned. However, the group may have kept most of their animosities hidden from the outer world, as the Quakers paid the transportation for the antisocial as well. The subsidies of the London Friends did not stop after paying the sea fare and an additional ₤30 was granted. As the ship, the ’Sara Maria Hopewell’ was waiting for a convoy to escort her to open waters, another ₤15 was sent to them because:
" the Pietists have lain longer upon the Coast then was Expected and much of their Provisions Expended and still Remaining at Plymouth." 
It is clear therefore that the group’s emigration would not have been possible without the Quakers’ help. The two extant travelogues do not mention this aid, but they do have a tendency to omit material circumstances and concentrate on spiritual matters. 
The Quakers were quick and resolute to help the stranded group, but were also cautious to secure themselves against unprepared visitors in the future. One of the minute book entries reads:
And it’s also desired that a Letter be sent to ffriends in Holland, That any others of the said People where they are may be Cautioned not too hastily to leave Their Native Country.
At the same time they also wrote a letter to the Philadelphia Quakers, in which they asked them to help the group. It is not known how far this help actually went but it surely served as a basis for good relations - which in turn deteriorated in subsequent years.
The Philadelphian Society and the Chapter of Perfection
The group, now led by Kelpius, also established good connections with the Philadelphian Society. The writings of Jean Leade were not known in Germany at the time, and their sympathy probably arose from the mutual enthusiasm for Boehme and their shared millenarism. In the following years however, the Philadelphian Society and Leade’s writings played a role that is, according to Hans Schneider, " hard to overemphasize" among the German radical Pietistic circles. They were the prominent English interpreters of Boehme’s mystical thought in England and their works published in England and translated by Loth Fisher in the mid-1690s had a great impact in the radical religious centres of Germany, especially by bringing a heavy eschatological overtone to the radical Pietistic doctrine.
The Philadelphic ideal of the exodus from Babel (i. e. the sinful world) to prepare for the second coming of Christ was propagated by Leade’s society, as was the notion that Christ’s 1000-year long reign will take place on earth in the nearest future.
The Philadelphian Society was on the eve of going public in Europe in the year Kelpius and his followers left for America: Francis Lee and Richard Roach joined them in 1694, and in the same year Dodo von Knyphausen started to subsidise Loth Fisher’s translation of all of Leade’s works. The Philadelphian publications, notably Leade’s visions, could now reach a much wider audience.
Particulars of the two groups’ meeting are not known but they kept up a correspondence for a long time. Their fellow German, Johann Heinrich Deichmann, secretary of the Society seemed to have been especially important in these connections. In the extant letters from the Pietists to Deichmann there are references to books and possibly manuscripts sent to the Pietists from London in 1699, five years after their departure. Unfortunately the contents of Deichmann’s earlier packets are not known, but we may assume that Jean Leade’s works were amongst the documents. It may be conjectured that Kelpius showed these to some of their numerous guests, or sent copies or excerpts with his letters.
The Philadelphians remained an integral part of Kelpius’s plans. When in 1698 one of the German Pietists, Daniel Falkner returned to Europe to recruit more members for the Chapter, he called the Philadelphians to join them. It is not known why they did not join the community in Pennsylvania. Nevertheless, the contact with the English Behmenists had a lasting impression on Kelpius. In a letter Kelpius wrote to Steven Mumfort, founder of the Seventh Day Baptist Church at Long Island in 1699, he describes how the general reformation gives rise to new religious traits in Europe:
If now this late Revolution in Europe (not to speak of that in other parts) which in the Roman Church goes under the name of Quietism, in the Protestant Church under the name of Pietism, Chiliasm, and Philadelphianism, If I say this together or one in Special purtends any thing to effect.
From later remarks it is clear that Kelpius followed the career of Leade from his abode in Pennsylvania’s wilderness.
From England Kelpius wrote a number of letters to his friends and colleagues in Europe. Tobias Adam Lauterbach, who later became a Philadelphian himselfand Jakob van der Walle, in whose house William Penn had preached during his European visit were among the recipients. The correspondence included a devoted Dutch woman, Catherine Beerens van Boswig, a later emigrant to America, who sent money to the Pietists. Some of the like-minded Germans tried to discourage Kelpius from going, but he was firm in his resolution.
6. In America
The Pietists’ ship left the English coast on 18 April 1694 and after an eventful journey they arrived at the Virginian coast on 12 June. A number of stirring events, including sea battles and storms ended favourably and were interpreted by Kelpius as trials of their faith. Eleven days after the arrival to the New Continent they disembarked in Philadelphia, where they registered themselves and took the oath of allegiance. The next day they proceeded to Germantown. Some stayed in the house of Isaac von Bebber, a Mennonite turned Quaker who had emigrated in 1683 with the first wave of German settlers from Krefeld; others lodged in nearby towns. It seems that every arrangement had been made to make their adaptation as smooth as possible. Köster and the Pennsylvania Quakers.
Shortly after their arrival one of them, Bernhard Köster, started to deliver Lutheran services in Bebber’s house - there was no Lutheran church or regular service in Germantown at the time. Köster’s sermons proved to be so successful that the Quakers soon invited him to Philadelphia to preach. He was eager to please them and not only did he hold weekly services in the meeting house, but later got deeply involved in the Keithian controversy, the resolution of which was, reportedly, only made more difficult by his temper.
The conflict between George Keith, the Scottish Quaker, and the Pennsylvania Friends unfolded in the early 1690’s. Keith insisted on a number of dogmatic issues, one of the most important being the bodily resurrection of Christ, with which the Friends disagreed. He was an opponent of slavery and also criticized the close relationship of the leaders of the Pennsylvania Yearly Meeting and the provincial authorities in Pennsylvania. He returned to Europe about the time when the Pietists were travelling to America, but the schism caused by his views lingered on. Köster sided with the Keithians, also known as Christian Quakers, and went as far as to speak uninvited at the Yearly Meeting in Burlington in 1696. The Quakers felt all the more indignant at this, since they knew about the financial aid the London Friends provided to the Pietists. Köster, however, continued on the course he felt called for and baptized nine of the Keithians soon afterwards in the Delaware river. Before administering the sacrament, he also practiced exorcism, expelling the unclean and cursed Quaker spirit from the subjects. The main arguments of his speech and the ensuing debate were printed by both sides. 
To add to his ungratefulness, Köster also consulted the young Thomas Clayton, whose mission in 1698 was to return Quakers to the Anglican fold. Matters went so far that the Quakers requested the official ban of the German Pietists’ activities.
Köster was undoubtedly a man of serious religious calling; this trait had been evident on the ’Sarah Maria Hopewell’. In Kelpius’s diary, towards the end of the journey, there is a short and enigmatic entry:
The memorable excommunication of Falkner by Cöster and that of Anna Maria Schuchart, the Prophetess of Erfurt (Erphortianae)!
Why Köster expelled two prominent members is not known. It has been assumed that Anna Maria Schuchart, or as her opponents named her, the Erfurt Lizzie, did not actually travelled with them and was excommunicated in her absence. But there is evidence that she was on the ship. The ecstatic visionary Schuchart, who reportedly sang lengthy hymns while inspired, was a housemaid of one of the Erfurt Pietists and was also approved by August Hermann Francke (1663-1727), leading figure of the Halle Pietistic movement, during his years in Erfurt.
Members of the Chapter intended to teach the local children and the heathen, a program they probably only partially realized. For their devotional and educational purposes they built a large wooden building, the Tabernacle, in which there were cells for the members of the community, a large classroom and another one for services. Johann Gottfried Seelig’s account states that they planned to use part of the Tabernacle as a dormitory for students living in the community. This program only partly came to fruition. Sachse notes that when some of them withdrew in caves for meditative practices people complained about this. Willard Martin concludes that the Germans realized this educational program only in the first few years.
On the roof of the Tabernacle they purportedly built an observatory (Stern-warte) from where they could constantly study the skies looking for the signs of the imminent millennium.
The group brought along a small library containing at least ten volumes of Boehme’s works in Johann Georg Gichtel’s (1638-1710) edition. The German mystic edited and published the two volumes in Amsterdam in 1682. These were certainly not the first volumes of the German theosopher in Pennsylvania: William Bradford has published the first American edition of Boehme’s works in Philadelphia in 1688.
One of the supposed prerequisites of the millennium was the conversion of the Jews and heathen. For this reason the Pietists took great interest in the religion of the American Indians. While in some respects they have found them to be godlier than the white men who seized their lands, they still thought it necessary to convert them to Christianity. They also shared the belief in the possibility of the Indians being the lost tribes of Israel. How far they actually got with their instruction is not known, but in the first years of the eighteenth century Daniel Falkner wrote extensively about them. Besides adopting their knowledge about healing herbs, the Pietists were also keen to find out whether they celebrated the Sabbath and if they had any expertise in reading the celestial signs; at the same time, they also tried to learn about their religious practices.
Kelpius interpreted irenic thoughts in an impartial and radical way as revealed in his description of William Penn’s meeting with the Lenni Lenape tribe. While bargaining for some of the indians’ land Penn drew on God’s grace, to which an elderly tribesman, according to Kelpius, answered:
You bid us believe in the Creator and Preserver of Heaven and Earth, though you do not believe in Him yourself, nor trust in Him. For you have now made your own the land we held in common amongst ourselves and our friends. You now take heed, night and day, how may you keep it, so that no one may take it from you. Indeed, you are anxious even beyond your span of life, and divide it among your children. This manor for this child, that manor for that child. But we have faith in God the Creator and Preserver of Heaven and Earth. He preserveth the sun, He hath preserved our fathers so many moons (for they count not by years). He preserveth us and we believe and are sure that He will also preserve our children after us, and provide for them, and because we believe this, we bequeath them not a foot of land.
Kelpius was also quite sure that William Penn had not realised the spiritual consequences of his venture in the New World:
" This Penn is too dull to express the extraordinary Power the Pietists and Chiliasts among Protestants in Germany (and especially in Saxony) and Switzerland was endued with in their Infancy." 
It is difficult to understand why Kelpius thought so lowly of Penn who had made their emigration possible in the first place and whose fellow Quakers had paid for their fare. Perhaps he shared the Philadelphians’ view of the Friends who criticised them for their outward show:
They [the Philadelphians] were not so silly as to place Religion in Thouing and Theeing, in keeping on their Hats, or in a sad countenance, as the Hypocrites had in our Saviour’s turn. These [Philadelphians] have no external Badge or Mark of distinction, but are above those little Affectations or Superstitions.
7. Kelpius’s eschatological system
Kelpius referred to the Pietists’ group as the Contented of the God-loving Soul, outsiders, however, usually called them the Society of the Woman in the Wilderness, or Weib in der Wüste. The latter name was no doubt attached to them because of their use of Revelation 12:6 which, combined with Boehme’s Sophia-mysticism, was the cornerstone of their eschatology. In the biblical text a woman appears in front of John and gives birth to a male child. During the delivery a dragon descends from the skies and tries to grab the child, who in turn is rapt up into heaven. The woman flees to the wilderness to a place prepared for her, where she will be sustained for 1260 days. In Kelpius’s interpretation the woman was the Virgin Sophia, whose child, Jesus was saved from the Antichrist. The remnant of the true church is hidden and waits to be reunited with his spiritual mother. The reunion will be possible with the millennium. This allegory is treated with more detail in one of Kelpius’s letters describing the threefold wilderness state, his interpretation of their physical and mental exile.
In its first, physical meaning the wilderness is the place where so many of the biblical prophets prepared for their religious calling - in this case the wilderness of Penn’s woods. The Pietists’ exile to America will serve as a drive for the dramatic historical events afoot.
There are three spiritual grades of wilderness states. First, the barren state - that of ignorance and being lost in the world. Secondly, the fruitful state which can be achieved by constant effort. In this state the seeker already sees the course he has to take, but constant striving is necessary to maintain spiritual consciousness. This level is open to all that have an honest call and perseverance. It is a state of complete ’Gelassenheit’ (self-surrender, a passive opening to God’s willing), where one has to refrain from ’rational thoughts and indulge in ceaseless prayer’. Kelpius described this condition with a metaphor of baptism:
This is a Day of Joy and triumph, when the Holy Ghost moves and stirreth the waters in our Hearts so that this living spring diffuseth it self through the Eyes in a sweet and Joyfull Gush of Tears: O Thou blessed waterbaptism, who would not desire to be Baptized with thee every day.
On the other hand, the third wilderness state is open only to the elect of god, like Moses, David, and Paul. In this state one is united with God and the Virgin Sophia. It is the highest wisdom attainable in human form, the unio mystica. Kelpius lists biblical references to illustrate this, but only touches on what he says are an array of subjects:
I had many Considerations more to add, as also what the Wilderness it self is in each of these States, having spoken only of some of the Inhabitants thereof and of some of their Qualities and Circumstances, and this rather under a veil and, as it were, but glancing at the Marrow and Substance. Nor have I counted the number of the Wilderness-Time, but touched only the root thereof, which is 40 Sun-Days for the New Birth and 42 Moons or Nights for the Old (which last I have not so much as mentioned). Neither have I measured from the Red-Sea of the Old Birth to the Jordan of the New, and a hundred such things more.
The meaning of this passage remains largely enigmatic though it may be related to astrology, numerology and Scriptural exegesis.
As for Kelpius, he no doubt saw himself as being in the second wilderness state and probably hoped to reach the third. There are accounts claiming that he believed he would not attain physical death, but will be rapt up into heaven as Elijah once was.
The origins of Kelpius’s religious thought are undoubtedly to be found in the radical Pietistic circles of Germany, namely amongst the Saalhof Pietists, the circle of the Petersens and the European Philadelphian movement. Johanna Eleonora Petersen interpreted the allegory of the childbearing woman of Apocalypse 12:6 as the founding of the New Church of Israel in Jerusalem by the Jews. The non-militant, non-political and invisible brotherhood of the True Church transgressing religious boundaries also resembles the Rosicrucian ideal of the early seventeenth century. Although Kelpius was often described as Rosicrucian, the term does not occur in his writings and he probably would not have consented to this notion.
Indeed, all of the " ingredients" of his religious thought can be traced in the more liberal duchies of contemporary Germany and the Philadelphian ideal exported to and imported again from England to the Continent.
Julie Hirst points out about Jane Leade that she " was not overtly political in her writing and she did not direct her anger at positions of authority using scriptural sources as her basis" . The description fits Kelpius as well. Peculiarly, unlike many others, both of them also stayed away from ’worldly affairs’ as much as they could throughout their lives.
8. Disintegration and afterlife
Kelpius and some others like Falkner, Köster, and Johann Seelig, who were the heart of the Woman in the Wilderness, could not hinder the slow disintegration of the community. The death of the sickness-ridden Kelpius in 1708 was clearly a crucial point of the decline, a process which had begun already after their arrival in America, when some of the members married despite their vows of celibacy. Involvement in worldly affairs also facilitated the groups’ dissolution: Köster’s engagement for the Keithians, and later Falkner’s doubtful dealings with the Frankfurt Land Company evidently turned their attention outwards rather than on meditative insight. According to Elizabeth Fisher, however, there is another factor to be considered: ’the active evangelism and their philanthropic program actually worked against the monastic ideal of the Pietists’.
On the other hand their chiliasm in some cases, as in the Keithian controversy, was hardly compatible with the ecumenical ideal of their Philadelphian notions. It must be noted that Kelpius and the rest of the group never condemned those who left the group for benevolent causes. Neither did the postponed millennium shake the foundations of their faith.
In fact, what Kelpius more readily disapproved was an excessive, self-indulgent enthusiasm, like that of Peter Schäffer, a Finn, who joined the group in 1699. Schäffer wandered aimlessly through Europe and America in pursuit of his prophetic dreams. He returned to Europe despite the brethren’s repeated offers to stay with them and died in prison, losing his mind.  In 1699 even Kelpius was uncertain about the activities of Jean Leade, writing to Johann Deichmann that ’this excessive boasting here in the streets of Babylon is somewhat suspicious’. Categorized as an enthusiast by both contemporaries and posterity, Kelpius denounced extreme forms of devotion:
How many have awakened love too soon, hindering thereby their growth unto fullness of their stature; how many have, with their strong spirit, striven too impetuously to attain something of the spiritual gifts of their inheritance, which afterwards squandered, and became poorer than they were at the beginning. Examples, such as these, we have in our day too, yea, even among our house-mates, who serve to teach us to endure in blessed waiting and resting in the will of God, until the destined end, meted out by His providence, arrive.
He only approved prophetic and inspired activities if they were to be found in the context of discipline and benevolence.
9. Kelpius as author
During the time he spent in America Kelpius wrote and translated a number of devotional hymns. The originals were mostly by Knorr von Rosenroth and Angelus Silesius, both obvious choices for Kelpius’s spiritual disposition. Earlier research attributed a large number of hymns to him, but in 1973 Willard Martin reduced this figure to about twelve. He notes that the hermits of the Wissahickon continued the heritage of seventeenth-century German religious poetry and did not strive for any type of cultural synthesis. Indeed, the themes of these hymns (humility, selflessness, new birth, unio mystica, the pain of separation from God) offer a condensed display of Protestant mystical poetry of the German Baroque. The hymns remained unpublished until the 1780s, though they were copied and distributed in manuscript.
Kelpius’s instruction about the right way of conversing with God, Eine kurtze und begreifliche Anleitung zum stillen Gebet, (Philadelphia, 1700) is more widely known. This book was, more than half a century later, translated and published in English as A Short, Easy and Comprehensive Method of Prayer (Philadelphia, 1761). Due to its simple, short yet direct style it became a popular piece of devotional literature and was reprinted frequently until the twentieth century. The work stresses the importance of inward prayer and gives methods for achieving a state where prayer becomes ceaseless, that is when the soul is in constant union with God regardless of the body’s outward activities. The similarity to the second wilderness state, the fruitful is obvious. Kelpius drew up this sketch to help with the emigrants’ everyday spirituality and reportedly based it on Hermann August Francke’s Schrifftmässige Anweisung, recht und Gott wohlgefällig zu Beten (Halle, 1698). Kelpius’s views did not change - unlike Francke’s who, after moving to Halle and founding what became one of Europe’s most impressive charitable institutions turned away from visionary and ecstatic prophecy. However, the importance of religious insight, autognosis and its use in everyday life still remained a point of mutual interest for both. Kelpius understood that the scholarly knowledge he acquired in Europe must be translated into a simple method of guidance for the ’common man’ and he managed to issue a clear and concise compendium that was continuously republished due to popular demand. The German text was rendered into English by one of the brotherhood, Christopher Witt.
There is still a lot to uncover about the Woman in the Wilderness. The versatile and unique role they played in colonial Pennsylvania, their connections with Europe and other American religious groups and individuals has only been partly explored and many details remain unclear.
Some members played an important role in the life of a reasonably large community, but many layers of interpretation must be removed and evaluated in order to gain a clearer picture of their influence. After Kelpius’s death and the gradual dissolution of the group the legacy of the Pietists’ found its way into New England religious thought and, with Kelpius’s Method of Prayer, to our contemporaries as well.
Kelpius and his group also played a role in the transmission of religious ideas regarded as ’occult’ or ’esoteric’ to America. They brought with them the philosophy of Jakob Boehme, the Cabbala and other mystic authors who found their way into American Transcendentalism. The Quaker poet and abolitionist John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892) wrote his Pennsylvania Pilgrim about Franz Daniel Pastorius, the founder of Germantown. In this idealized portrait he describes the
’painful Kelpius from his hermit den
By Wissahickon, maddest of good men
Reading the books of Daniel and John,
And Behmen’s Morning-Redness’
These authors were also known by the Northern American readers of Emanuel Swedenborg, who, according to his early biographist, Jacob Duché, in his 1764 Apocalypse Revealed wrote about ’successive declensions of the church from is original purity, till it is come at last to a miserable state of Babylonish corruption and confusion’. At the same time he was foretelling ’that the holy city New Jerusalem [will come] down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband’. Johannes Kelpius and the German Pietists were part of a tradition that prepared the ground for such readership and ideas.
A sign put up by the Philadelphia Historical and Museum Commission in Fairmount Park in 2004 remembers the community for producing poetry and music, practicing astronomy and botany while awaiting the millennium.
The cave in which Kelpius allegedly spent hours of meditation and contemplation is in also in Fairmount Park, where a number of place names remind of his legacy. In a tucked away corner difficult to access, the remembrance stone of the local Rosicrucian Lodge praises him as the first Rosicrucian in America. It speaks of days when the cave and the adjacent spring was more frequently visited.
I would like to thank Ariel Hessayon who invited me to give this paper on Kelpius at the Seminar for British History in the 17th Century in the Institute for Historical Research on 2 November 2006. As for his generous ongoing help with my project I am also thankful for the useful questions and comments of the participants.
 Bodleian Library, MS. Rawlinson D 832, Papers of Richard Roach, fol 15., Johann Heinrich Deichmann to Richard Roach 7th September 1695.
 There is no recent investigation of Kelpius’s years in Transylvania. The most detailed account is still Karl Kurt Klein, ‘Magister Johannes Kelpius Transylvanus, der Heilige und Dichter vom Wissahickon in Pennsylvanien’, in Festschrift seiner Hochwürden D. Dr. Friedrich Teutsch gewidmet zu seinem 25jährigen Bischofs-Jubiläum vom Ausschuß des Vereins für Siebenbürgische Landeskunde (Hermannstadt, 1931), pp. 56–77.
 ‘Bethlen Miklós levelei Teleki Mihálynak és Béldi Pálnak’ [Letters from Miklós Bethlen to Mihály Teleki and Pál Béldi], 4th December 1677, in Bethlen Miklós levelei [The Correspondence of Miklós Bethlen] ed. József Jankovics, RMPE [Old Hungarian Prose Texts] vol. 6/1, p. 317.
 Johann Seivert, Nachrichten von siebenbürgischen gelehrten (Pressburg, 1785), p. 212. Seivert also mentions a third brother, Georg, who later became the mayor of Schässburg and was ennobled. These facts are also related in J. F. Sachse’s monograph (Julius Friedrich Sachse, The German Pietists of Provincial Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, 1895; New York, 1970 [reprint]), p. 224.), who also tells about the avarice of a Georg Kelp, a book dealer in Lüneburg. Despite the coincident names they are probably not the same person.
 He wrote his name in the matriculation register on the 22nd December according to Erdélyiek egyetemjárása a korai újkorban [Early Modern Transylvanian Peregrination], eds. Miklós Szabó and Sándor Tonk (Szeged, 1992).
 Theologiae Naturalis, Seu Metaphysicae Metamorphosin, sub moderamine Viri–M.Dan. Guilh. Molleri, pro summis honoribus, and privilegiis philosophicis leditime obtinendis, die 15 Jun. (Altdorf, 1689). Joseph Trausch, Schriftsteller-Lexikon der Siebenbürger Deutschen (2 vols, Kronstadt, 1870), pp. 245–6. Sachse does not specify when he mentions ‘several editions, both quarto and octavo’. Sachse, The German Pietists of Provincial Pennsylvania, pp. 221–2.
 Scylla Theologica aliquot exemplis Patrum and Doctorum Ecclesiae, qui cum alios refutare laborarent, fervore disputationis abrepti in contrarios errores misere inciderunt, ostensa atque in materiam disputationis proposita a Joh. Fabricio S. Theol. Prof. Publ. and M. Joh. Kelpio Dalia-Transylvano Saxone (Altdorf, 1690)
 Consideratio variarum controversiarum cum Atheis, Gentilibus, Iudaeis, Mohamedanis, Socinianis, Anabaptistis, Pontificiis, Reformats (Helmstedt, 1704)
 Daß zwischen der Augsburgischen Konfession und Katholischen Religion kein sonderlicher Unterschied sei (Cologne, 1707)
 Inquisitio an ethicus Etnicus aptus sit Christianae Juventutis Hodegus? sive: An juvenis christianus sit idoneus auditor Ethices Aristotelicae? Resp. Balthas. Blosio (Nuremberg, 1690)
 Ernst Benz, Die protestantische Thebais. Zur Nachwirkung Makarios des Ägypters im Protestantismus des 17. und 18. Jahrhunderts in Europa und Amerika (Wiesbaden, 1963), p. 94.
 Johann Herdeegen, Historische Nachricht von deß löblichen Hirten- und Blumen-Ordens an der Pegnitz Anfang und Fortgang… (Nuremberg, 1744), pp. 215. The connection was pointed out by Harold Jantz, ‘Deutschamerikanischer Literatur. Einige weitere Perspektiven’, in Frank Trommler (ed.), Amerika und die Deutschen (Opladen, 1986), pp. 279–88.
 Seivert, p. 212; ‘Nachgehends reisete er nach Pensilvanien, und sein Vaterland hat nichts mehr von ihm gehört’.
 Elizabeth W. Fisher, ‘Prophesies and Revelations: German Cabbalists in Early Pennsylvania’, Pennsylvania Magazin of History and Biography, 109 (1985): 318–9.
 ‘doctissimus Astrologus, Magus et Cabbalista’ For a detailed account of Zimmermann’s works and and the circle of religious enthusiasts see Martin Brecht, ‘Chiliasmus in Württemberg im 17. Jahrhundert’, Pietismus und Neuzeit, 14 (1988): 25–49
 Andreas Deppermann, Johann Jakob Schütz und die Anfänge des Pietismus (Tübingen, 2002), p. 119.
 Zimmermann published his accounts in two volumes:
Cometo-Scopia oder Himmel-gemäser Bericht: mit müglichstem Fleiß darstellende … Außdeutung deß mitten im Novembri 1680.sten Jahrs entstandenen und biß in den Anfang Februarii 1681. erschienenen grossen Wunder-Sterns und Cometens … (Stuttgart, 1681)
Cometo-Scopia oder Himmel-gemäser Bericht ... 2 Cometo-Scopiae Pars Altera. Oder Fortsetzung Gnädigst anbefohlenen Bedenckens Uber den neulichen Cometen Welcher im Monath Novembri erschienen und auch wiederumb unter die Sonnen-Strahlen sich verborgen ... (s. l., 1681).
The second volume was finished before the first was published; Zimmermann attached a lenghty commentary about his new instruments and methods that made his calculations more precise.
 Portendens gravia, ex aquilone futura cometes. Das ist: Neuer Comet-Stern welcher in diesem 1682. Jahr, im Monat Augusto sich ... sehen lassen, ... erörtert … (Stuttgart, 1682)
 Ambrosius Sehmann von Caminiez, Muthmaßliche Zeit-Bestimmung gewiß gewärtiger beedes Göttlicher Gerichten über das Europeische Babel und Anti-Christenthum jetzigen Seculi, als auch hierauff erfolgenden Herrlichen Auffgangs des Reichs Christi auf Erden: So Aus Veranlassung bißheriger Cometen-Erschein- und Beschreibungen Jedoch nicht bloßhin nach Astrologischen Sätzen sondern vielmehr nach heiliger Schrifft Ableitung ausgearbeitet, (Frankfurt, 1684). The pseudonym is the anagram of Zimmermann’s name. (Brecht, ‘Chiliasmus in Württemberg im 17. Jahrhundert’, p. 41)
 Diatribe De Mille Annis Apocalypticis, non illis Chiliastarum and Phantastarum, sed B B. Danielis and Johannis (Frankfurt, 1627)
 Schütz explained the celestial signs in a similar manner; see Klaus Deppermann, ‘Pennsylvanien als Asyl des frühen deutschen Pietismus’, Pietismus und Neuzeit 10 (1984), p. 197. There is no extant copy of the book, but it its content is related in Philipp Jakob Spener’s correspondence.
 Sachse, The German Pietists of Provincial Pennsylvania, p. 258.
 Ibid., p. 259.
 Geoffrey F. Nuttall, ‘Continental Pietism and the Evangelical Movement in Britain’, in Johannes van den Berg (ed.), Pietismus und Réveil. Referate der Internationalen Tagung: Der Pietismus in den Niederlanden und seine internationalen Beziehungen (Leiden, 1978), pp. 233–5
 Friends House Library, Minutes for the Meetings for Sufferings, Vol. 9. 1693–1694, p. 79.
 The Diarium of Magister Johannes Kelpius, trans. and ed. Julius Friedrich Sachse, Part XXVII of a Narrative and Critical History Published by The Pennsylvania-German Society (The Pennsylvania-German Society Proceedings and Addresses at Lancaster, PA., November 13, 1914, XXV) (Lancaster 1917), p. 16.
 Friends House Library, Minutes for the Meetings for Sufferings, Vol. 9. 1693–1694, p. 148.
 Apart from Kelpius’s diary, Johann Gottfried Seelig’s account also survived; Oswald Seidensticker, ‘The Hermits of the Wissahickon’, Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography XI (1887): 427–41. Seidensticker falsely attributed the letter to Daniel Falkner.
 Friends House Library, Minutes for the Meetings for Sufferings, Vol. 9. 1693–1694, p. 98.
 Quoted by Burkhard Dohm, Poetische Alchimie. Öffnung zur Sinnlichkeit in der Hohelied- und Bibeldichtung von der protestantischen Barockmystik bis zum Pietismus, (Tübingen, 2000), p. 132, fn 3
 Nils Thune, The Behmenists and the Philadelphians. A contribution to the study of English mysticism in the 17th and 18th centuries (Uppsala, 1948), pp. 81–6; Daniel Pickering Walker, The Decline of Hell (London, 1964), pp. 218–20.
 These are published by Sachse as an appendix to Kelpius’s diary.
 ‘I hear with special joy, how you show in your last letter, happily delivered together with a package by Mr. Schaeffer…’, Diarium, p. 32.
 Sachse, The German Pietists of Provincial Pennsylvania, p. 97.
 The Diarium of Magister Johannes Kelpius, p. 48.
 Curiously, Kelpius does not seem to know anything about John Pordage’s works, who, as he writes in a letter to Deichmann after 1697, ‘is entirely unknown to us’. (The Diarium of Magister Johannes Kelpius, p. 40.)
 Fisher, ‘Prophesies and Revelations’ p. 321; Andreas Deppermann, ‘Pennsylvanien als Asyl des frühen deutschen Pietismus’, p. 286.
 Andreas Deppermann, ‘Pennsylvanien als Asyl des frühen deutschen Pietismus’, p. 192.
 Sachse, The German Pietists of Provincial Pennsylvania, pp. 85–6.
 Ibid., pp. 267–70.
 The Diarium of Magister Johannes Kelpius, p. 26
 Johannes Wallmann, ‘Erfurt und der Pietismus im 17. Jahrhundert’, in Theologie und Frömmigkeit im Zeitalter des Barock. Gesammelte Aufsätze (Tübingen, 1995), p. 348.
 Seidensticker, ‘The Hermits of the Wissahickon’, p. 441.
 Willard M. Martin, Johannes Kelpius and Johann Gottfried Seelig. Mystics and Hymnists on the Wissahickon. Diss. Philadelphia 1973, pp. 46–50. Martin also quotes Heinrich Melchior Mühlenberg, according to whom Seelig was teaching not long before his death in 1745.
 Ariel Hessayon, ‘Jacob Boehme and the Early Quakers’, Journal of the Friend Historical Society, 60 (2005): 191–223. (Pennsylvania, 1702)
 The Diarium of Magister Johannes Kelpius, pp. 80–1. Letter to Johann Fabricius; 23 July 1705.
 Ibid., p. 49. Letter to Steven Momfort in Rhode Island, 11 December 1699.
 State of the Philadelphian Society, (London, 1697), p. 13. Quoted by Julie Hirst, Jane Leade. Biography of a Seventeenth-Century Mystic (Ashgate, 2005), p. 98.
 The Diarium of Magister Johannes Kelpius, pp. 86–95. Letter to Hesther Palmer at Flushing, Long Island, 25 May, 1706.
 Sachse, The German Pietists of Provincial Pennsylvania, pp. 246–7.
 Hans-Jürgen Schrader, ‘Philadelphian Hope’, Pietismus und Neuzeit 28 (2002): 204.
 This probably derives from Sachse’s monograph; he has been eager to find a connection between Kelpius and the brotherhood. Although his speculations lack substantial evidence, the theory has held up for quite a long time.
 Julie Hirst, Jane Leade, p. 105.
 Falkner and Pastorius got into a serious conflict when Falkner superseded him as the agent of the Frankfurt Land Company. The relationship of the Pietist group and Pastorius was already overstretched during the Keithian controversy, in which the latter sided with the orthodox friends.
 Fisher, ‘Prophesies and Revelations’, p. 325.
 The Diarium of Magister Johannes Kelpius, pp. 37–8.
 Ibid., p. 85. Letter to Johann Heinrich Deichmann in London, England, 23 July 1705.
 Martin, pp. 106–128.
 Witt was an Englishman, born in 1675 in Wiltshire, who joined the community in 1704. He was originally a physician who, on the land of the Woman of the Wilderness, grew medicinal plants. He corresponded with John Bartram (co-founder of the American Philosophical Society) in Philadelphia and Peter Collinson in London, both Quakers and botanists. He also built clocks and an organ. He was the last of the group to survive and died in 1765, at the age of ninety.
 Jacob Duche, A short Account of The Hon. Emanuel Swedenborg, and his Theological Writings (Bolton, 1797) pp. 21–2.
© 2006 - Cromohs