PORDAGE, JOHN: English mystic; b. at London 1607; d. there Dec., 1681. He studied theology and medicine at Oxford, probably without taking a degree, at least in course. In 1644 he became curate of St. Lawrence, Reading, and in 1647 was made rector of Bradfield, Berkshire, being apparently recommended chiefly by his knowledge of astrology. He soon began to examine English translations of Jakob Böhme, and on the night of Jan. 3, 1651, received a number of visions, to the reality of which his wife testified. A band of about twenty quickly gathered around the two visionaries, and for some three weeks there was no cessation of apparitions. Under the Commonwealth, Pordage was accused of heresy, the charges involving a sort of mystical pantheism, but he was acquitted on Mar. 27, 1651. The accusations were renewed, however, by the Presbyterians John Tickel and Christopher Fowler, and on Dec. 8, 1654, Pordage was ejected as "ignorant and very insufficient for the work of the ministry." He was reinstated in 1663, but about 1670 seems to have retired to London, where he spent the remainder of his life.
About 1652 Pordage became acquainted with Jane Lead (q.v.), introducing her to Böhme's mysticism, and being won in turn as her adherent by her own visions. In Dec., 1671, he received new revelations, in which his spirit, detached from sense and reason, was translated to the mountain of eternity; and this experience evidently formed the basis of his system of mysticism. Though deeply influenced by astrology and alchemy, Pordage, like Böhme, sought to make room in his speculative system for everything essential in Biblical revelation. In God he recognizes the being of all beings, and the primal cause of all causes. The Father is the generator of the Son, or Word, who constitutes the center, or heart, of the Trinity. The Holy Ghost is the life and force which executes the will of the Father through the Son. Next comes the cosmic sphere of eternity with three distinct categories of space: outer court, sanctuary, and holy of holies. In the center of this sphere, God's residence proper, dwells the eye that represents God himself; in the outer court it is closed; in the sanctuary, open; in the holy of holies, revealed with full splendor. The body of God, moreover, is eternal cloud, and its outline that of Noah's ark.
An important place is assigned in Pordage's scheme to a kind of intermediate being termed Sophia, or heavenly wisdom, which he regarded as the radiance from the eye of eternity, and as the consort and attendant of the Trinity. He likewise affirmed a series of emanations or spirits possessed of the same substance as the Godhead. A lower sphere is occupied by the eternal spirits of angels and men; but while Adam's eternal spirit bore the spirits of his sons, the souls and bodies of angels and men are not immediately from God, but created from the essence of eternal nature. This eternal nature was not born of God, as was the eternal world, but was created by him from the divine chaos which concealed within itself the forces of the worlds. He also taught a coalescence of the inner man with the transfigured person of Christ, and had no sympathy with conditions in the Church of his time.
The principal works of Pordage were as follows: Truth appearing through the Clouds of undeserved Scandal (London, 1655); Innocency appearing through the dark Mists of pretended Guilt (1655); A just Narrative of the Proceedings of the Commissioners of Berks . . . against John Pordage (1655); and the posthumous Theologia Mystica, or the Mystic Divinitie of the Æternal Indivisible (anonymous; 1683). From his manuscripts was translated Vier Tractätlein . . . Von der Aeusseren Gebuhrt und Fleischwerdung Jesu Christi . . . Von der Mystischen und innern Gebuhrt . . . Vom Geiste des Glaubens . . . Experimentale Entdeckungen von Vereinigung der Naturen, Essenzen, Tincturen, Leiber (Amsterdam, 1704). A number of other works never published in English are mentioned in an advertisement appended to Jane Lead's Fountain of Gardens (London, 1697; cf. DNB, xlvi. 151).