The best books about women's spiritual journeys

Marjorie G. Jones Author Of In the Château: A Frances Yates Mystery
By Marjorie G. Jones

Who am I?

A so-called “recovering lawyer,” after 20 dreary years shuffling papers, I decided to pursue the Life of the Mind with a degree in Historical Studies at the Graduate Faculty of the New School. For an assignment regarding a significant historian, I chose Frances Yates, whose book Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition spoke to me. Culling her papers at the Warburg Institute in London led to her first biography, Frances Yates and the Hermetic TraditionSince then, I've transformed Dame Frances into a sleuth, who explores other unorthodox faith traditions, accompanied by another “recovering lawyer,” whose story mirrors my own, thus enabling me via bio-fiction to further enhance my spirituality. 

I wrote...

In the Château: A Frances Yates Mystery

By Marjorie G. Jones,

Book cover of In the Château: A Frances Yates Mystery

What is my book about?

The most recent Frances Yates mystery, In the Château, takes place in the Ursuline Convent in Quebec, where Dame Frances has been invited to give a talk regarding the Hermetic Tradition at a conference for women religious from the Americas, including representatives from convent of Mexican feminist mystic Sor Juana de la Cruz, where Dame Frances solved an earlier mystery (In the Convent). While uncovering a thriving ring of mercenary plagiarists, the renowned British historian also explores the historical sites of Quebec and savors its culinary delights. The author is also the first biographer of Frances Yates (published by Ibis Press in 2008), whose great book, Giordano and the Hermetic Tradition, explored the Hermetic Tradition, a 16th-century non-credal universal spirituality. (Translated into Italian and Japanese.)

The books I picked & why

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Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition

By Frances A. Yates,

Book cover of Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition

Why this book?

Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition was published by the University of Chicago Press in 1964, which led me to compile the first biography of the renowned British historian, Frances Yates. In her pivotal study of the 16th-century itinerant Catholic priest, who was burned at the stake in Rome in 1600. Yates revealed a strain of an ancient universal creedless spirituality, which was anathema to the established Church. Yet, five centuries later, spoke to this seeking feminist pilgrim, dissatisfied with traditional patriarchal traditions.

The Feminine Mystique

By Betty Friedan,

Book cover of The Feminine Mystique

Why this book?

When and where in our life journey we read a book is significant. Written more than a half-century ago, The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan, published in 1963, changed the world and many women’s lives, including mine. Working behind a typewriter, with a new college degree in hand and waiting for a Prince Charming to marry and rescue me, Friedan made me realize that women would have to be able to take care of themselves and that a supposedly blissful life in suburbia was really a powerless trap. As a result, I went to law school, where at Rutgers Law, I was one of a handful of women students and Ruth Bader Ginsburg was one of two women professors.   

Sor Juana: Or, the Traps of Faith

By Octavio Paz, Margaret Sayers Peden (translator),

Book cover of Sor Juana: Or, the Traps of Faith

Why this book?

Nobel Laureate Paz reveals the life and world of 17th-century savant and mystic Sor Juana Inès de la Cruz. To escape an arranged marriage, she entered a convent, where she accumulated one of the great libraries in the Americas and, with one of the few telescopes, confirmed Copernicus’ helio-centric worldview, which threatened the hierarchal Christian Church. Although not burned at the stake, like Bruno, she, too, was martyred by being silenced and having her books destroyed, still another terrible punishment.

The Hero with a Thousand Faces

By Joseph Campbell,

Book cover of The Hero with a Thousand Faces

Why this book?

When we encounter a book is significant. Joseph Campbell’s Hero With a Thousand Faces has had a lifelong impact on my spiritual journey. That each of us is the hero(ine) of our own life story and will undergo a recurring series of challenges, from which we emerge transformed, continues to speak to me in my senior years. Many years after a remarkable PBS series of interviews with Bill Moyers, when Campbell pointed to an icon of the Crucifixion and said (shockingly at the time): “That’s you, kiddo!”—I continue to view my life—both good and difficult times—as a spiritual journey and always appreciate stories of other women who candidly share theirs. As a biographer of two spiritually attuned women, one a Quaker, the other an Anglo-Catholic, I fervently urge other women to maintain diaries, so that their stories are recorded and others can learn from their heroic journeys.

Writing a Woman's Life

By Carolyn G. Heilbrun,

Book cover of Writing a Woman's Life

Why this book?

Writing a Woman’s Life ignited my interest in women’s stories. More significantly, Heilbrun’s feminist Kate Fansler mysteries, written via the pseudonym Amanda Cross, inspired me to transform Frances Yates into a fictional sleuth. To date, Dame Frances (DBE) has encountered other unorthodox faith traditions, as revealed in Tarot; the Convent of Sor Juana de la Cruz in Mexico; among Philadelphia Quakers; and women religious at the Ursuline Convent in Québec. To date, there have been four Frances Yates mysteries.

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