Mysticism is an immediate,
direct, intuitive knowledge of God or of ultimate reality attained through
personal religious experience. Wide variations are found in both the form and
the intensity of mystical experience. The authenticity of any such experience,
however, is not dependent on the form, but solely on the quality of life that
follows the experience. The mystical life is characterized by enhanced vitality,
productivity, serenity, and joy as the inner and outward aspects harmonize in
union with God.
theories have been developed in an attempt to explain the phenomena of
mysticism. Thus, in Hindu philosophy, and particularly in the metaphysical
system known as the Vedanta, the self or atman in man is identified with the
supreme self, or Brahman, of the universe. The apparent separateness and
individuality of beings and events are held to be an illusion (Sanskrit maya),
or convention of thought and feeling. This illusion can be dispelled through the
realization of the essential oneness of atman and Brahman. When the religious
initiate has overcome the beginningless ignorance (Sanskrit avidya) upon which
depends the apparent separability of subject and object, of self and no self, a
mystical state of liberation, or moksha, is attained. The Hindu philosophy of
Yoga incorporates perhaps the most complete and rigorous discipline ever
designed to transcend the sense of personal identity and to clear the way for an
experience of union with the divine self. In China, Confucianism is formalistic
and antimystical, but Taoism, as expounded by its traditional founder, the
Chinese philosopher Lao-tzu, has a strong mystical emphasis.
The philosophical ideas of
the ancient Greeks were predominantly naturalistic and rationalistic, but an
element of mysticism found expression in the Orphic and other sacred mysteries.
A late Greek movement, Neoplatonism, was based on the philosophy of Plato and
also shows the influence of the mystery religions. The Muslim Sufi sect embraces
a form of theistic mysticism closely resembling that of the Vedanta. The
doctrines of Sufism found their most memorable expression in the symbolic works
of the Persian poets Mohammed Shams od-Din, better known as Hafiz, and Jalal-ad-Din
Muhammad Din ar-Rumi, and in the writings of the Persian al-Ghazali. Mysticism
of the pre-Christian period is evidenced in the writings of the
Jewish-Hellenistic philosopher Philo Judaeus.
St. Paul was the first great
Christian mystic. The New Testament writings best known for their deeply
mystical emphasis are Paul's letters and the Gospel of John. Christian mysticism
as a system, however, is derived from Neoplatonism through the writings of
Dionysius the Areopagite, or Pseudo-Dionysius. The 9th-century Scholastic
philosopher John Scotus Erigena translated the works of Pseudo-Dionysius from
Greek into Latin and thus introduced the mystical theology of Eastern
Christianity into Western Europe, where it was combined with the mysticism of
the early Christian prelate and theologian St. Augustine.
In the Middle Ages mysticism
was often associated with monasticism. Some of the most celebrated mystics are
found among the monks of both the Eastern church and the Western church,
particularly the 14th-century Hesychasts of Mount Athos in the former, and
Saints Bernard of Clairvaux, Francis of Assisi, and John of the Cross in the
latter. The French monastery of Saint Victor, near Paris, was an important
center of mystical thought in the 12th century. The renowned mystic and
Scholastic philosopher St. Bonaventure was a disciple of the monks of St.
Victor. St. Francis, who derived his mysticism directly from the New Testament,
without reference to Neoplatonism, remains a dominant figure in modern
mysticism. Among the mystics of Holland were Jan van Ruysbroeck and Gerhard
Groote, the latter a religious reformer and founder of the monastic order known
as the Brothers of the Common Life. Johannes Eckhart, referred to as Meister
Eckhart, was the foremost mystic of Germany.
Other important German
mystics are Johannes Tauler and Heinrich Suso, followers of Eckhart and members
of a group called the Friends of God. One of this group wrote the German
Theology that influenced Martin Luther. Prominent later figures include Thomas
á Kempis, generally regarded as the author of The Imitation of Christ. English
mystics of the 14th and 15th centuries include Margery Kempe and Richard Rolle,
Walter Hilton, Juliana of Norwich, and the anonymous author of The Cloud of
Unknowing, an influential treatise on mystic prayer.
A number of the most
distinguished Christian mystics have been women, notably St. Hildegard, St.
Catherine of Siena, and St. Teresa of Ávila. The 17th-century French mystic
Jeanne Marie Bouvier de la Motte Guyon introduced into France the mystical
doctrine of quietism.
By its pursuit of spiritual
freedom, sometimes at the expense of theological formulas and ecclesiastical
discipline, mysticism may have contributed to the origin of the Reformation,
although it inevitably came into conflict with Protestant, as it had with Roman
Catholic, religious authorities. The Counter Reformation inspired the Spiritual
Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola. The Practice of the Presence of God by
Brother Lawrence was a classic French work of a somewhat later date. The most
notable German Protestant mystics were Jakob Boehme, author of Mysterium Magnum
(The Great Mystery), and Kaspar Schwenkfeld. Mysticism finds expression in the
theology of many Protestant denominations and is a salient characteristic of
such sects as the Anabaptists and the Quakers.
In New England, the famous
Congregational divine, Jonathan Edwards, exhibited a strong mystical tendency,
and the religious revivals that began in his time and spread throughout the U.S.
during the 19th century derived much of their peculiar power from the assumption
of mystical principles, great emphasis being placed on heightened feeling as a
direct intuition of the will of God. Mysticism manifested itself in England in
the works of the 17th-century Cambridge Platonists; in those of the devotional
writer William Law, author of the Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life; and in
the art and poetry of William Blake.
The 20th century has
experienced a revival of interest in both Christian and non-Christian mysticism.
Early commentators of note were the Austrian Roman Catholic Baron Friedrich von
Hügel, the British poet and writer Evelyn Underhill, the American Quaker Rufus
Jones, the Anglican prelate William Inge, and the German theologian Rudolf Otto.
A prominent nonclerical commentator was the American psychologist and
philosopher William James in The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902). In
non-Christian traditions, the leading commentator on Zen Buddhism was the
Japanese Daisetz Suzuki; on Hinduism, the Indian philosopher Savepalli
Radhakrishnan; and on Islam, the British scholar R. A. Nicholson. The last half
of the 20th century saw increased interest in Eastern mysticism. The mystical
strain in Judaism, which received particular emphasis in the writings of the
Cabalists of the Middle Ages and in the movement of the Hasidim of the 18th
century, was again pointed up by the modern Austrian philosopher and scholar
Martin Buber. Contemporary mystics of note are the French social philosopher
Simone Weil, the French philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, and the American
Trappist monk Thomas Merton.
Contributed by Mircea Eliade
Jakob Boehme (1575-1624) was
a German theosophist and mystic, born in Altseidenberg, Silesia. His surname is
also spelled Boehm or Behmen. He received only an elementary education but was
an assiduous student of the Bible and the works of the Swiss alchemist and
physician Philippus Aureolus Paracelsus. Apprenticed to a shoemaker in his
youth, Boehme later opened his own shop in Görlitz, Saxony.
From an early age he
believed that he saw visions, and throughout his life he claimed to be divinely
inspired. About 1612 he wrote Die Morgenröte im Aufgang (12 1612 he wrote Die
Morgenröte The Morning Redness Arising), in which he recorded his visions and
expounded the attributes of God. The manuscript, which was published in 1634
under the title Aurore, was condemned as heretical by local ecclesiastical and
civil authorities. Eventually Boehme was forced to seek asylum in Dresden,
Saxony. There he was cleared of charges of heresy and allowed to return to
Görlitz. His best-known treatises include Von den drei Prinzipien des
Göttlichen Wesens (Of the Three Principles of the Nature of God, 1619) and Der
Weg zu Christo (The Way to Christ, 1624). Although written in a style difficult
to understand, his works were received with favor in a number of countries,
particularly Germany, the Netherlands, and Great Britain. His English followers
called themselves Behmenists. Many of them later were absorbed into the Quaker
In his fundamental doctrine,
Boehme held that everything exists and is intelligible only through its
opposite. Thus, he believed, evil is a necessary element in goodness, for
without evil the will would become inert and progress would be impossible. God
himself, according to Boehme, contains conflicting elements in his nature.
Boehme's religious views have influenced modern Western thought in both
philosophy and theology.
Jakob Boehme (1575-1624) was a German religious mystic from the town of Goerlitz
(Zgorzelec in Polish) in Silesia, on the Polish side of the Oder river just
across from eastern Germany. A cobbler by profession, he was an autodidact much
influenced by Paracelsus, the Kabbala, astrology, alchemy, and the Hermetic
tradition (Peuckert, 1924 101; Merkel 302-310; Hvolbel 6-17). He experienced a
seminal religious epiphany in 1600, when a ray of sunlight reflected in a pewter
dish catapulted him into an ecstatic vision of the Godhead as penetrating all
existence, including even the Abyss of Non-being. This and other mystical
experiences caused Boehme to write a series of obscure but powerful religious
treatises. According to him, negativity, finitude, and suffering are essential
aspects of the Deity, for it is only through the participatory activity of his
creatures that God achieves full self-consciousness of his own nature.
Boehme's first treatise,
entitled Aurora, or Die Morgenroete im Aufgang (1612), expressed
his insights in an abstruse, oracular style. This work aroused profound interest
among a small circle of followers, but it also provoked the heated opposition of
the authorities. After being prosecuted by the local pastor of Goerlitz, Boehme
had to promise on pain of imprisonment to cease writing. This judgment he obeyed
for five years, until, unable to restrain himself any longer, he began writing
again in secret for private circulation among friends. The publication of his Weg
zu Christo (Way to Christ) in 1623 by one of these friends led to
renewed persecutions. Banished from Goerlitz, Boehme lived for a time in Dresden
and on the country estates of wealthy supporters. Finally, stricken by illness
in 1624, he returned home and died in the same year.
Boehme's bold speculations
about development within the Godhead, as well as his rejection of narrow
dogmatism and bibliolatry, were to exercise a profound influence on contemporary
Protestantism, both in Germany and elsewhere. The English Behmenists (followers
of Boehme) merged with the Quakers, who then carried his ideas into the New
World. In his own country, the major impact of Boehme was on German Romanticism,
notably on the ideas of G.W.F. Hegel, F. von Baader, and F.W.J. von Schelling.
Reverberations of his thought continue today, especially among theosophists,
Christian mystics, and dialectical theologians.
Principal Philosophical and
Boehme's primary religious
project was the attempt to think through the transition from the Godhead's
illimitable oneness to its self-imposed aspect of limitation. This limitation
was necessary, Boehme maintained, in order for the Godhead to be able to
apprehend itself as God. The Deity needed to experience his epiphany in nature
in order to become fully self-conscious. "In his depth," Boehme wrote,
"God himself does not know what he is. For he knows no beginning, and also
nothing like himself, and also no end. . . ." (SS, vol. 1, Aurora,
ch. 23, #17; cf. Works, vol. 1, Aurora, ch. 23, #18).
In the finite creature,
however, God found his own revelation reflected as in a mirror. Boehme reasoned
that because God desired to reveal himself to himself, and because revelation
required a sensible (i.e. experienceable) embodiment, therefore God had to
become sensible in order to satisfy his need for self-revelation. Thus, the
dialectical drive toward self-awareness within God's originally inchoate will
was what gave rise to the spiritual as well as the material universe.
Boehme elaborated a
rudimentary form of dialectic, consisting of positive and negative polar
principles. These principles, he said, emerged out of the Godhead's originally
undifferentiated non-being (das Nichts), also described as the primordial
Abyss, or "Ungrund," and then developed through ordered stages
of manifestation toward complete self-revelation. In a vivid, often dramatic
style, Boehme portrayed the development from God's quiescent eternality toward
his creation of, and active embodiment in, the physical universe:
In the non-natural,
uncreaturely Godhead (Gottheit) there is nothing more than a single will,
which is also called the one God, who wants nothing else except to find and
grasp himself, to go out of himself, and by means of this outgoing to bring
himself into visibility (Beschaulichkeit). This Beschaulichkeit is to be
understood as comprising the three-fold character of the Godhead, as well as
the mirror of his wisdom and the eye by which he sees (SS, vol. 6, Von der
Gnaden-Wahl, ch. 1, #9; cf. Works, vol. 4, On the Election to Grace, ##10-13).
One of Boehme's most daring
conceptions was that God's emergence out of pure Oneness into differentiated
actuality required a confrontation with contrariety and opposition. It was out
of this creative struggle that the sensible universe issued forth. Boehme held
that it was inevitable and even desirable that conflict and suffering should
have arisen. These negative elements were the motivating spurs that stimulated
the production of all the manifold phenomena of nature. Moreover, it was solely
through the struggle with negativity that the minds of finite creatures could
become aware of themselves, their world, and ultimately God:
If the natural life had no
opposition (Widerwaertigkeit), and were without a goal, then it would
never ask for its own ground, from which it came; then the hidden God would
remain unknown to the natural life . . . there would be no sensation, nor
will, nor activity, nor understanding (SS, vol. 4, Weg zu Christo,
"Von Goettlicher Beschaulichkeit," ch. 1, #9; cf. Way to Christ
If the hidden God, who is but
a Single Essence and Will, had not of his own will gone forth out of himself,
if he had not issued out of the eternal knowing . . . into a divisibility of
the will (Schiedlichkeit des Willens), and had not the same
divisibility into comprehensibility (Infasslichkeit) conducted to a
natural and creaturely life, and were it not the case that this same
divisibility in life consisted in strife -- how else then could he have wanted
the hidden will of God, who in himself is but One, to be revealed? How might a
will within a Single Unity be a knowledge of himself (Erkenntnis seiner
selber)? (ibid., #10)
In God's quest for
self-manifestation, however, there lurked an implicit dilemma. On the one hand,
his eternal purity and freedom consisted in the condition of the Ungrund,
which transcended all limitations. On the other hand, the very absence of
oppositions within this Ungrund meant that it was incapable of either
manifesting or apprehending itself -- it was, in fact, a "nothingness"
Boehme next faced the
question how to explain the manner in which the eternal "no-thing"
could experience longing in the first place. In order to manifest himself, it
seemed that God had to negate his own essence and eternal freedom. But even
assuming such an act were possible, how would it qualify as a true revelation?
Would it not rather be a distortion of what it was seeking to make manifest?
Evidently, this primal Abyss was only relatively, not absolutely,
"unreal." Its "no-thingness" was somewhat analogous to the
indeterminate ain soph in the Kabbala. Although undifferentiated, the
Abyss possessed the inherent potentiality to become something actual and
concrete; and the first manifestation of this potentiality, according to Boehme,
was the experience of a "hunger" or, as he otherwise expressed it, a
"longing." As the will of the unmanifest Godhead sought to reveal
itself in its primordial freedom -- that is, as containing no other features or
attributes than the mere will to become sensible -- all that this will could
possibly bring forth was "the quality of hunger, which it itself . . .
[was]" (SS, vol. 6, De Signatura Rerum, ch. 2, #7; cf. Works,
vol. 4, The Signature of All Things, ch. 2, #10). This will, by means of
becoming desire, could find and feel itself, and in so doing it had taken an
important step toward self-manifestation. Yet what this will-as-desire initially
revealed was only an imperfect reflection of its inner essence. The spiritual
hunger began as a "darkness," obscuring the purity of the Ungrund.
Once having established the
existence of a primal "darkness," Boehme next proceeded to elicit a
series of developmental stages through which, as he maintained, the
world-creative process necessarily had to pass. The impetus came from the
contradictory character of a situation that could not endure, inasmuch as the
"darkness" covering the will conflicted with the purpose that had
first given rise to it. Consequently, a second will came into being, whose aim
was to return again into the original condition of unity, while at the same time
keeping hold of the darkness, which thus far had been the only product of God's
will toward manifestation. The result was a movement of drawing in upon itself,
a contraction into a core of being. This core then became the ground (Grund)
of all subsequent stages (ibid, #8; cf. Eng. trans., #11).
Now, because the introverted
"longing" appeared to be incapable of ever finding satisfaction, it
took the form of a fierce and chaotic "fire" that burned without
giving light. This was the quality of divine wrath or bitterness (Grimmigkeit),
which perpetually turned in upon itself and consumed its own substance (SS,
vol. 2, Beschreibung der Drey Principien Goettliches Wesens, chs. 1-2;
cf. Works, vol.1, The Three Principles of the Divine Essence, chs.
1-2). This self-destructive activity caused tremendous pain and anguish within
the divine nature, the first suffering that the universe had ever known. Boehme
described this first principle as "the craving to draw into itself."
Yet despite the destructive
aspect of the divine wrath, it was, according to Boehme, essential as the
foundation for all subsequent developments. Without it, there could have been
neither light nor life nor joy of any kind. Hence, the Grimmigkeit could
in a sense be described as the generator of all things: as God the Father. When
the first principle turned its primordial bitterness upon itself, there
transpired a dramatic reversal. The anguished negation of free
self-manifestation was itself negated: With a violent thunderclap, the harsh
first principle overcame its own harshness, and a joyous light supervened
(ibid., ch. 2, #9). This symbolized the emergence of harmony and order out of
the original chaos. Triumphant was the second principle, that of divine love,
which Boehme also characterized as God the Son.
Boehme taught that the
interaction between these two principles of the divine wrath and love produced
the creative impulse out of which the manifold universe evolved. Moreover, the
two cooperative forces did not cease to be productive after the universe's
creation, for both are necessary also in order to sustain it. All things consist
of positive and negative aspects, the divine Yes and No (SS, vol. 9, Theosophische
Fragen, ch. 3, #2). In the present age, however, the first principle is no
longer violent or chaotic, having been transmuted by the influence of the second
principle. Indeed, Boehme's third major principle, identified with the Holy
Spirit, is precisely the continual movement between the first two: It is the
living breath of the cosmos (Gnaden-Wahl, ch. 1, #24; Eng. trans., #29).
It is perhaps useful to
restate briefly Boehme's main problematic in more standard philosophical
Boehme's speculations led
him to the idea that the first schism within the will of God had to materialize
in the form of a concrete self-alienation. He argued (in effect) that there must
be a transition between (1) the potential polarity involved in positing an
unmanifest non-being's need to become manifest to itself, and (2) the
coming-into-existence of a being that was manifest, and yet also contrary to
itself. The unmanifest Godhead was prior to all existence and as such absolutely
homogeneous; and yet -- this was the first paradox -- it included an inherent
tendency to differentiate itself into contraries. Thus the undifferentiated
unity passed into the self-differentiating unity. The latter, like the Logos of
Heraklitus, contained in posse the germs of a balance of opposites, whose
hypothetical contrariety was of such a kind -- and this was the second paradox
-- that their transition into concrete actuality was necessary. In this way, the
hidden dialectic of God issued forth into the manifest dialectic of nature, and
with that, the sensible universe was created.
If one makes allowances for
the fanciful quality of Boehme's modes of expression, one can see him wrestling
with a classic philosophical problem: namely, how to understand the relationship
between God's timeless unity and the multiplicity of the actual universe. Part
of what made this problem so formidable was that it involved trying, in a way,
to "conceive" of a connection between the conceivable and that which
(by hypothesis) is inconceivable.
Since God was the
inconceivable essence par excellence, it was a riddle to comprehend how or why
this essence could have rendered itself understandable, even if only to a
degree. The question was, why should the Deity not far rather remain
inscrutable, forever wrapped in absolute mystery? The originality of Boehme's
approach consisted in giving the problem a self-referential twist -- in the
claim that God would have no knowledge of himself if he did not reveal himself
to himself. Inasmuch as revelation consists in a kind of experience, it must
require a structural subject-object polarity. Hence, it would follow that God's
self-revelation simultaneously implied the existence of a creation and creatures
to whom, and through whom, the revelation would take place.
One can easily appreciate
how repugnant these ingenious but unorthodox reflections must have been to the
Lutheran authorities of his own time. Yet the same features that outraged many
of his contemporaries were qualities that ensured his continuing appeal for
posterity. Although Boehme's manner of reasoning was far from rigorous, yet
viewed as an attempt to account for the emergence of multiplicity out of unity,
and existence out of possibility, his thought is richly suggestive.
Recently, there has been a
growing appreciation of Boehme's importance in the history of philosophy. His
emphasis on the primacy of the will led him to sketch out the principles for an
innovative metaphysics, an alternative to the mechanistic determinism that
became dominant in Europe for over two centuries. By focusing on the experiences
of lack, need, striving, and conflict as fundamental dimensions of both human
and the divine life, he paved the way for modern philosophies of the will. One
scholar has for this reason called Boehme "the first significant
voluntarist" in Western thought (Stoudt 302).
Notable also were his
efforts to work out a theogony which was simultaneously a cosmogony -- an
equivalence based on the principle of the close interrelationship between God's
self-consciousness and his self-revelation. This principle has since played a
pivotal (and controversial) role in modern religious thought. Boehme's thesis
that God's coming to self-consciousness was a genetic process led to a new model
for revelation, one involving the mediation of successive creations through
pre-mundane as well as worldly time. Indeed, it is perhaps not too much to say
that Boehme was the first to attempt thinking through the historicity of the
To sum up, Boehme's
elaboration of a theosophy based on the interactions of divine wrath, love, and
movement lacked rigor and consistency. His writing had an ecstatic, visionary
style. It is evident that he conceived of his divine principles not as objective
laws but as the supernatural fusion of psychological and alchemical properties.
Their nature was, to him, dynamically volitional rather than formally logical.
Yet no doubt it was partly for these very qualities that Boehme's principles did
much to inspire subsequent thinkers, especially his ideas concerning the nature
of God's innermost being in relation to the manifest universe.
Works by Boehme:
Individual titles cited
above are all included in the Saemtliche Schriften (SS), edited by
Will-Erich Peuckert. Stuttgart: Fr. Frommanns, 1955-61. (This is a facsimile
reprint of the 1730 edition.) English renderings are my own. Readers may also
wish to consult the translation edited by William Law, The Works of Jacob
Behman. London: Richardson, 1764. Passages from this English translation are
cited above, following the corresponding German citations.
The Way to Christ. A
modern translation of Boehme's Weg zu Christo (1620). Trans. W. Zeller.
New York: Paulist Press, 1978.
Works about Boehme:
"Aurora; or, The Rising Sun of Allegory: Hermetic Imagery in the Work of
Jakob Boehme." Hermeticism and the Renaissance: Intellectual History and
the Occult in Early Modern Europe. Eds. I. Merkel and A. G. Debus.
Washington: The Folger Shakespeare Library, 1988. 302-310.
Peuckert, Will-Erich. Das
Leben Jakob Boehmes. Jena: E. Dieterichs, 1924.
Stoudt, John Joesph. Sunrise
to Eternity: A Study in Jacob Boehme's Life and Thought. Philadelphia:
University of Pennsylvania Press, 1957.
Hvolbel, R. H. "Was
Jacob Boehme a Paracelsian?" Hermetic Journal 19 (Spring 1983):
Boehme Resources (Bruce B. Janz)
Böhme (Donivan Bessinger)
Edward A. Beach
Copyright © 1995, Edward A. Beach. This
file may be copied on the condition that the entire contents,
including the header and this copyright notice, remain intact.
Jacob Boehme, beyond a doubt, is one of the greatest of Christian Gnostics. I am
using the word not in the sense of the so-called heretics of the opening
centuries of the Christian era, but to indicate a wisdom grounded in revelation
and employing myths and symbols rather than concepts - a wisdom much more
contemplative than discursive. Such is religious philosophy, or theosophy.
Nothing is more characteristic of Boehme than his great simplicity of heart and
childlike purity of soul. He was not a scholar nor a lettered man nor a
schoolman. He was of the class of wise men that come from the people. A child of
weak constitution, Boehme was apprenticed to a shoemaker following an elementary
education in the village school of Alt Seidenberg. At the age of 24, he became a
citizen of the town of Görlitz and entered into business as a shoemaker. In May
of that year he married the local butcher's daughter, Catharina Kuntzchmann, and
shortly thereafter purchased a home.
Between 1600 and 1611 his wife bore four sons. Throughout his life he was an
active business and family man involved in problems relating to the transfer of
goods, controversy among the guilds, the sale of property and private and public
litigation. With the other citizens in Görlitz, Boehme would face the personal
and economic difficulties brought on by the Thirty Years' War.
For a man of Boehme's religious interests, Görlitz was an exciting location. In
the city were followers of the spiritualist Caspar Schwenckfeld von Ossig
(1489-1551) and other groups who took interest in the work of the alchemist
Theophrastus Bombast von Hohenheim -known as Paracelsus- (1493-1541), and the
nature mystic Valentine Weigel (1533-1588). Although we are led to beleive that
Boehme was a reader and was informed of the various teachings in his city, it is
nonetheless certain that his doctrine cannot be explained by influences ow by
borrowings. To state precisely the sources of his wisdom is a highly complex
problem, the problem of the possibility of a personal revelation and
illumination, of a supernatural charismatic gift.
The spark that ignated Boehme environment was provided with the arrival of
Martin Moller, who came to the city as a Lutherian pastor in 1600. He
immediately organized a "Conventicle of God's Real Servant" as
a tentative to reintroduce in the rather dry presentation of lutherianism at the
time; personal renewal, individual spiritual growth and religious experience.
Boehme, awakened in the revival, joined. Later in 1600, Boehme experienced his
first great vision. He began to write, and in 1912 finished his Aurora. One of
Boehme's associates made copies of this book and circulated them. In 1613 one of
the copies fell into the hands of Martin Moller's successor: the chief Pastor
Gregory Richter, who in addition to his concern for the defense of the Lutherian
orthodoxy had personal reasons for attacking Boehme. He had Boehme's books
confiscated and on July 30, 1613, its author was banned from further writings.
Boehme ceased writing for a "sabbath of years" as he described it. In
January 1619, after another illumination that once more incited his prophetic
spirit, he broke his silence and wrote practically without interruption from
1619 to 1623. The enthousiasm of his disciples had its effect and, as rumours of
the circle grew, Richter became enraged again. The authorities did not know of
the works written since 1619 and supposed that to that date Boehme had
The publication of The Way to Christ on New Years Day 1624 immediately brought
forth angry sermons of Richter. In March Boehme was told by the municipality
council to seek his fortune elsewere and went for a short time to Dresden. Later
in 1624, ill and working on his last book, he returned to his home in Görlitz.
Richter was dead by this time, and his replacement was called to Boehme's home
to minister the dying prophet. According to him, Boehme died as an orthodox
Lutherian on november 17.
Recent findings show that Boehme was much more than a simple shoemaker. He
apparently organized the commerce of leather in his area. His practices were
very close to what is called "dumping" today. Pastor Richter, whose
relatives lost substancial ammounts of money because of Boehme's business, had
indeed strong personal motives to have Boehme banished from Görlitz.
The universe is created according to the words of the Prolog of John the Divine.
God created through his word. He how was triple, from the beginning, understood
in his wisdom individual beings. Seven characteristics progressively reveal the
creative word. The first is harshness : God's conception of Himself. It is
followed by attraction, followed by dread, the result of the first two. The
fourth is the ignation of fire, the basis of sensitive and intellectual life.
From the fire, love-light is emitted, which dissipates the individualism of the
first four characteristics. The sixth is the divine power of speech; the seventh
is the speech itself. Each of the seven characteristics is present in all beings
and reflects the motion from all eternity.
Like God,man was both fire and light. Man's soul began in the fiery inception of
eternal nature and is to stream back to its source as light, as love. As
Boehme's two favourite images describe it, the prodigal son returns, but work
still remains to be done in the vineyard. With a resigned will the journey back
is undertaken and with a resigned will the work in the vineyard is completed.
The arrival home is an experience of divine contemplation and the conclusion of
the work ushers in contemplation of the divine. All creatures return in the
unity of God.
The Universal Brotherhood
and the return to Unity.
Boehme's concept of the Creator is the perfect, unmoving, complete, satisfied,
all-powerfull, all-knowing and infinitely good God. He has created the world and
man for His own glory and for the good of Creation. The act of creation was not
prompted by anything, did not answer any need of God, but was the result of a
purely and simply arbitrary decision. it added nothing to the Divine Being, nor
enriched it in any way. In this context, all creatures participate to the same
life and therefore are included into the unity of God, even the lower reigns of
nature. Boehme's concept of paradise was the original unity of the creation and
simultaneously, the place of return to this primordial unity of the soul after
the mystical marriage of all souls with the Divine Wisdom (Theosophia) - see the
Return to Christ.
Latent Powers in Man.
In this field, as in most of his teachings, the very topic Boehme chooses to
discuss, he has pushed language beyond its limits. He is one who has gone beyond
the axiom of contradiction. All things are created in and by the Word of god and
are reflected in man's word. All things have Kraft, translated into English as Power
or Energy, which is paralleled by the Kraft above all, the Word of God.
Because of the close relationship of the macrocosm and the microcosm, man's
words are to be carefully spoken. A man speaks and has creative power in his
word. Imagination is that aspect of man by which he orients his consciousness.
In itself, it is neutral. It develops the impression in man. Where Imagination
leaves off, Magia begins. Magia is that which pierces through the Imagination
towards the Mysterium Magnum. This search and discovery of Magia is "the
best theology. In it, Faith is founded and discovered." (Six Mystical
Points 5:23). It is the eternal foundation of Magia, which makes things in
itself, where no thing is. It makes Something out of Nothing, and it does this
aside from the activity of the will in Man. "The will has nothing, nor
is there anything that gives something to it. The will has no place where it can
discover itself or rest."(Mysterium Pansophicum). On man's part,
therefore, only when the will of man, his desire and capacity to create outside
the great Plan of the creator, has been totally resigned can the creation of the
Word take place, and the marriage with the Divine Wisdom - or Theosophia - be
Aurora, Ms. 1612
Theosophical Letters, Ms. 1618
De tribus principii, Ms. 1619
On the Threefold Life of Man, Ms. 1620
Fourty Questions on the Soul, Ms. 1620
On the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, Ms. 1620
Six Theosophical Points, Ms. 1620
Six Mystical Points, Ms. 1620
On the Precious Gate on Divine Contemblation, Ms. 1620
De Signatura Rerum, Ms. 1621
Concerning the Birth and Designation of all Beings, Ms. 1622
First Treatise on True Repentance, Ms. 1622
the New Birth, Ms. 1622
True Resignation, Ms. 1622
the Supersensual Life, Ms. 1622
Heaven and Hell, Ms. 1622
Way from Darkness to True Illumination, Ms. 1622
The Second Treatise on True Repentance, Ms. 1623
On the New Life, Ms. 1623
On Holy Prayer with an Order for each Day of the week, Ms. 1623
De Testamentis Christi, Ms. 1623
Conversation between an Enlightened and Unenlightened Soul, Ms. 1624
Consolation Treatise on the Four Humors, Ms. 1624
Theosophical Questions, Ms. 1624
From: King's Garden, Order