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Joan of Arc – Warrior and Mystic

February 6, 2009

I haven’t profiled any historic women mystics recently, and decided now is a good time to do so, while I finish reading some books I would like to review here in coming weeks, and think more about a follow-up to my Women’s Energy Body post. Although there is no shortage of material on Joan of Arc, I decided to give my take on her, because she is one of my absolute favorite mystics.

People are sometimes surprised when I refer to Joan of Arc as a mystic, because they think of her first as a warrior, and seem to think the two are mutually exclusive. But Joan’s military feats were entirely driven by spiritual visions, and most mystics through the centuries have had to also be warriors on some level, especially the women. Few got through their lives without suffering horrid persecution, and of course Joan was no exception, being burned at the stake at the age of 19.

In recent decades it has become fashionable to view Joan’s visions and spiritual experiences, as well as those of many of the other mystics I have profiled here, as the result of mental or physical illness. According to some sources, all of these women were either schizophrenic, bipolar, traumatized, or hormonally imbalanced. I don’t buy it. It smells too much like the kind of gender double-standard we see all too often in regards to aggressive female corporate executives or politicians. They are called bitchy, while a male colleague with the exact same style is a ‘go-getter.’ In the world of mystics, men who have visions are ‘prophets’, while the women are labeled insane.

Now that I’ve got that off my chest, a bit about Joan. She was born in 1412 to modest French farmers, and at the age of 12 began experiencing visions of several saints urging her to drive the British, who were occupying France at the time, out, in order to reinstate the French crown-prince to the throne. She pleaded with her family to escort her to the crown-prince so she could convince him to let her lead his troops. For several years, her family refused (no wonder!), but after four years of Joan’s insistence – and some say religious signs that appeared in her presence – finally relented.

In a meeting with a garrison commander serving the prince, she reportedly predicted a military reversal in another town that occurred later that same day. This was enough to convince the commander to escort her to the prince, which was an  unheard of honor for a girl of her social class. In a private conference with the prince, she reportedly also convinced him of her clairvoyant abilities by correctly answering questions he posed to her that there was no other way for her to have answered. At her insistence, and perhaps out of desperation, the prince provided her with armor and weapons and allowed her to travel to the military front.

At the age of 17, Joan led the French troops to several victories – something they had not experienced for some time. She quickly became a legendary figure amongst both the soldiers and the French population, and was known for both her clairvoyance and her religious piety and purity. This phase of her life is that most commonly depicted in paintings and sculptures of her – Joan with a sword in full armor, leading troops into battle. She became – and remains – a beloved French national heroine, in an astonishingly short period of time.

Only a year later she was captured by French allies of the British, and jailed while she awaited trial. Catholic Church officials, in league with them both, attempted to get her to renounce her visions, which she temporarily did, but later recanted, although this assured her death. Her eventual trial for heresy has become famous, partly because the transcript exhibits her remarkable faith, composure and intellect. She demonstrated that she was well aware of Church doctrine, and knew how to avoid the traps usually laid for the accused in such trials. At one point, asked if she thought she was in “God’s grace”, she responded, “If I am not, may God put me there; and if I am, may God so keep me.” Since Church doctrine taught that no one could be certain of being in God’s grace, this was the perfect answer. If she had said yes, she was admitting to heresy, but if she said no, she was renouncing her visions.

Joan repeatedly demonstrated such knowledge, and her trial has been recreated by many legendary playwrights and authors, including Shakespeare, George Bernard Shaw and Mark Twain. Nevertheless, she was convicted of heresy and burnt at the stake at the age of 19. According to witnesses, she repeated the names of Jesus and several saints until the moment of her death, as flames literally engulfed her body.

Twenty-five years after her death, Joan was retried by the official Catholic Inquisitor and declared innocent. She was canonized as a Saint in 1920, with her spiritual visions named as the requisite miracle any Catholic saint must manifest.

Here’s a more comprehensive online biography of Joan, as well as other resources. As for books, there are many traditional biographies, but I actually prefer a book called Joan of Arc: In Her Own Words, which draws on the trial transcripts and other sources for Joan’s own words. I included one of my favorite quotes of hers in my last post, and here’s another to leave you with:

“I fear nothing, for God is with me.”

For more mystics, go to the Women Mystics page.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. Sandra permalink
    March 15, 2009 1:17 am

    Joan of Arc was definitely a mystic, great article. Here is another really good site about her you might like

  2. mommymystic permalink*
    March 15, 2009 3:09 am

    Thanks Sandra!

  3. Marie permalink
    June 5, 2011 2:33 am

    what about the no killing prerequisite in mysticism?As you said she was a warrior. Does that not carry great karmic debt? Surely a true mystic would not commit murder – even with the excuse of war? – Blessed are the peace keepers…

  4. June 7, 2011 3:49 am

    Hi Marie, I certainly agree with Blessed are the peace keepers, and way too much violence has been done in the name of religion. Joan of Arc was a little different though, in the sense that she was trying to fight in a war – or occupation really- that was already going on, and her purpose was not proselytizing. She felt driven to help drive the invading British out of France. I will not pretend to know if that was the right or wrong thing, but it was certainly a truth of the time she lived in, and all mystics are product of their times to some extent. What is amazing to me is the depth of her faith in God and her visions – that a peasant teenage girl would visit the ruling French authority and convince him to trust her military strategy, let alone that she could take up arms and lead a troop of soldiers. So regardless of our judgements of her actions, her personal experience and faith was profound, and it was triggered by herself and her direct experience – it did not come from following what some religious authority was telling her, as is so often the case.

  5. Marie permalink
    June 9, 2011 1:36 am

    I see what you mean about products of their time.
    But then wouldn’t that change the rules?
    Our generation is more bogged down than i believe any generation that came before us – even though we have so many sacred writings, we don’t know which bits are the originals and which bits edited ; we have more idolatry and externalisation than any other generation surely – 3D cinema, MTV, amusement parks etc. If you take all that into consideration – what chance do we stand to true spiritualism?
    How are we supposed to find THE WAY, the TRUTH, Nivana or whatever you wanna call it?
    How do we find a true MASTER to guide us – when everyone and their granny is claiming to be one?!!!

  6. June 14, 2011 8:12 pm

    Hi Marie, I’m not sure there really are any rules, when you look at the variety of paths, and the variety of approaches, that have brought people to deep spiritual realizations in the past. It has been found by someone in virtually every time and place. And yes, in our current age, we have a myriad of distractions, BUT we also have access to unprecedented knowledge (as you mentioned) and we also in general have more leisure time to pursue spirituality if we truly want it than most generations did in the past. It may not always feel that way, but we do. I think spirit/light/source can be found anywhere – even in music videos, and movies, and amusement parks, and all the things you mentioned. It is rarely used for that, but it can be – they are art forms, and can be used to create high vibrations just like all art forms always have been. So I think that from a spiritual perspective there are pros and cons to living in this age, as there have been in any age.

    As for finding a true teacher, that has always been a challenge, in any time. I think we have a tendency to romanticize the past, and think all the great mystics lived then. But I know some truly wonderful teachers in this day and age, some of whom I have reviewed books by or even interviewed on this site. Of course there are opportunists and unethical people, but that has always been the case. In the end, I do believe we each have an inner compass, and if we truly try to tune into that, it will guide us. Then even when we make mistakes, they will support our growth. I know that sounds cliche, but sometimes cliches are rooted in truth!

  7. Anonymous permalink
    April 26, 2012 12:49 am

    I love the articles I have found here! and so much information! Love it!!
    Thanks again for sharing all this knowledge ❤

  8. Lotus permalink
    September 23, 2014 11:11 am

    This is a comment on the question put up by Marie……and Lisa DID answer it appropriately. Yet, I would like to add on………Yes, mystics are a product of their times and circumstances. A true mystic is an instrument of the Divine and they are guided by this very force. They face conflicts but they know for certain that that it is the Divine who is acting through them. The Bhagwad Gita which is a gospel of the Hindus, is a teaching of God(Krishna) to his disciple and friend (Arjun) on the battlefield, where Arjun was facing the same dilemma and confusion whether to fight against his own relatives and cousins or quit. So, Krishna answers him that he(Arjun ) is born as a warrior and that is his religion (dharma) and life purpose (karma), so he has to participate and fulfill his duty which is part of the cosmic plan and not worry about the consequences. The whole sequence of this dialogue between the two is a teaching to the serious spiritual seeker who faces similar dilemmas on their paths. There were many other warriors cum truth seekers within the Sikhs in India and Shivaji(a king) who was a disciple of Ramdas Swami was actually taught the necessary qualities in a true warrior by his Guru. . A truth seeker may be born in any family, under any circumstances, may even be born as a “butcher”. Yet he balances his work and spiritual life as if walking on the edge of a sword. He has to face all kinds of situations in life maintaining serenity and keeping his spiritual goal in mind eternally! ………..Mystics are usually placed among the most evil and treacherous lot in society to rightfully fulfill their roles.

  9. September 23, 2014 7:02 pm

    Thanks for your thoughts Lotus.

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