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Jonathan Head Department of Philosophy, Keele University, Keele, ST5 5BG, UK

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Abstract

This paper examines Anne Conway’s accounts of heaven and hell, as found in her only published work, The Principles of the Most Ancient and Modern Philosophy (1690). We see that Conway seeks to portray hell in a manner that she sees as more consonant with the postulation of a loving and just God, partly by denying eternal torment and emphasising the benefits that suffering brings to a creature. I also review Conway’s account of heaven, a realm of ‘perfect tranquillity’ in which creatures enjoy unity and harmony with Christ and other heavenly spirits. We see that Conway’s account of universal salvation in this heavenly state involves an increase of understanding of the world, a continuing process of perfection, and harmony with other heavenly spirits. Throughout the paper, I also consider Conway’s eschatology within the wider intellectual context of the revival of Origenist theology in her intellectual circle and the shifting framework of eschatological thought in the early Quaker community. By reading the Principles as responding to this context, we can deepen our understanding of the radical and original contribution Conway makes to the tradition of eschatological thought.

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