Basilea Schlink: Searching for Clues…

A previous generation of Christian readers was more familiar with the name of Basilea Schlink (1904-2001), a German mystic who wrote several bestselling accounts of her life with God in the Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary she helped lead after World War II.

In my thinking about how mystical experience properly figures in a Christian epistemology, her example baffles me. A highly educated woman from a well educated family, she testifies in her writings to a very wide range of decisions she seems to have taken almost entirely on the basis of intuition, including cutting drastically short one sister’s rehabilitation in hospital (the nun then evidently made an amazing recovery) and making all sorts of financial commitments in the face of precisely no money on hand or on the horizon. It sounds like the testimony from a quite ancient era and a much different class, but here is a middle-class Western woman cheerfully accounting for these decisions in books that thousands of others have found inspiring.

I find it all quite stunning, and would like some perspective. So I’m asking for help, after a fruitless search on the Web for any serious studies of her life and her work—and particularly her epistemology! If you know of any, please comment below. Thanks!


12 Responses to “Basilea Schlink: Searching for Clues…”

  1. DJ

    Wow – what a familiar name! Yes I remember being very inspired by her writing. I gather you’re looking for critiques from outsiders and not just archival material that her Order’s retreat centres would have.

  2. Roger


    I did a quick search on ABE books and seem to find a number of books in both English and German that are written by or about Basliea Schlink. Check to see if this is the same Basliea Schlink

  3. John

    DJ & Roger: Yes, she has written lots of books. What I’m looking for are, as I wrote, serious (academic or at least well contextualized and properly critical) studies of her life and work. That sort of thing what I am not finding immediately.

      • Mike in Pennsylvania

        Or at least weave it into your text on epistemology.

        • John

          That’s what I’m trying to do–make sense of how she practiced discernment so that I can indeed connect with it.

  4. Dave Swartz

    Donald Bloesch included her, I believe, in his book on renewal communities “Wellsprings of Renewal” (four bucks used, American on Amazon). He lived with them for a time and had a number of conversations with her. There’s also a chapter on the Quaker community led by Hannah Hurnard (Hinds Feet On High Places) that you might find beneficial to your study since you’re looking at Schlink.

  5. David Baker

    Hi John,

    Interesting. As a younger Christian I found her writing very inspiring.

    Isn’t it fair to say that her outlook is very similar to that of other faith missions such as, for example, George Muller and the Bristol orphanages he founded, and Hudson Taylor and OMF?

    I seem to recall reading something online in the past about ex-sisters who felt Mother B was somewhat authoritarian, but looking now via google, can’t see anything with a fairly cursory search.

    I for one will be very interested to hear where your inquiries take you!

    With best wishes

    David Baker

    (Church of England minister – East Dean, Eastbourne, East Sussex, England UK)

  6. David Baker

    PS – could you also not contact the Sisterhood of Mary directly in Germany – I think they are still going?

  7. George Faithful

    There are not any secondary sources of the kind that you seek. Not yet.

    I wrote my Ph.D. dissertation in historical theology at Saint Louis University on the topic of Schlink’s theology and the sisters’ practice of intercessory repentance on behalf of their nation for its sins in the Holocaust. I examine this phenomenon in light of the apparent influence on Schlink’s thought of German nationalism and post-war debates on collective national guilt.

    The revised manuscript has recently been accepted for publication at Oxford University Press. There is still plenty of work to be done regarding Schlink’s epistemology, apocalypticism, and any number of other issues. I’d be happy to share what I’ve got. Feel free to contact me directly.

    George Faithful
    Teaching Fellow
    Seton Hall University

    P.S. The sisters are still going strong.

    • John

      Congratulations, Dr. Faithful, on having your MS. accepted by OUP. (You will note on my own c.v. that OUP is apparently willing to publish just about ANYONE these days, but it’s nice to be published all the same. :)) I appreciate your notification that her epistemology is a topic still awaiting serious analysis. If you have any description of how she did indeed make decisions (are the descriptions in her books complete, or have they been stylized in some edifying way?), I should be most grateful to know. Otherwise, I trust you will write your next book soon and resolve these mysteries.


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