The year was 1679. Shaftesbury, released from the Tower of London, called Locke back from exile in France to resume their struggle against absolute monarchy. That same year philosophers with very different interests met at the Imperial Abbey of Herford in the Rhineland. The abbess, Elisabeth Princess Palatine, Descartes's old friend and collaborator, lay dying. Among those attending at her deathbed were the adventurer-philosopher Francis Mercury van Helmont and the philosopher-diplomat Gottfried Leibniz. In addition to comforting and advising Elisabeth in her last days, Van Helmont was on a mission. He carried with him a manuscript written by his recently deceased friend, Anne Conway. Hoping to interest influential persons in Conway's ideas, looking for help in getting her book published, Van Helmont was especially anxious to show the manuscript to Leibniz. Van Helmont had worked closely with Conway in the last years of her life on a number of projects. For a period of time they shared an interest in Quakerism. They assisted their friend Christian Knorr Rosenroth in his translation and compilation of kabbalistic writings, published as Kabbalah Denudata or The Kabbalah Unveiled. They discussed at length the great issue of the day, the conflict between mechanistic science and religious metaphysics.
At Elisabeth's deathbed came together a confluence of diverse lines of thought. Elisabeth's doubts about metaphysical dualism and rationalist ethics were expressed in her philosophical letters to Descartes. Leibniz was deeply involved, as he would be throughout his life, in attempts to temper and modify Cartesianism so as to guard against atheism. Quakerism with its radical revisions of orthodox religion and its militantly egalitarian social philosophy left its mark on many present. Elisabeth had been friendly with several leading Quakers and had interceded on their behalf on several occasions. Van Helmont was a convert to Quakerism for a period of time.