Jakob Boehme – Alchemical Drawings

JAKOB BOEHME

VISIONARY

compiled by Dee Finney

10-12-08 – DREAM   I was taking care of a young blonde infant, whom they called Bomi.  His mother was a blonde with fly-away hair.I found out then, when his other female relatives came to visit that their name was really Boehme and they all had the fly-away blonde hair – even through several generations of women.Boehme’s Heart

Symbol by early 17th-century Christian mystic Jakob Boehme
including a tetractys of flaming Hebrew letters of the Tetragrammaton

 

Jakob Boehme  –  (1575-1624), German Lutheran theosophical author

Boehme, the German mystic, was born in the East German town of Goerlitz in 1575. He had little in the way of an education and made his living as a shoemaker; he married and had four children.One day in his master’s shoe shop, a mysterious stranger entered who, while he seemed to possess but little of this world’s goods, appeared to be most wise and noble in spiritual attainment. The stranger asked the price of a pair of shoes, but young Böhme did not dare to name a figure, for fear that he would displease his master. The stranger insisted and Böhme finally placed a valuation which he felt was all that his master possibly could hope to secure for the shoes. The stranger immediately bought them and departed. A short distance down the street the mysterious strangestopped and cried out in a loud voice, “Jakob, Jakob, come forth.” In amazement and fright, Boehme ran out of the house. The strange man fixed his eyes upon the youth—great eyes which sparkled and seemed filled with divine light. He took the boy’s right hand and addressed him as follows: “Jakob, thou art little but shall be great, and become another Man, such a one as at whom the World shall wonder. Therefore be pious, fear God, and reverence His Word. Read diligently the Holy Scriptures, wherein you have Comfort and Instruction. For thou must endure much Misery and Poverty, and suffer Persecution, but be courageous and persevere, for God loves, and is gracious to thee.” Deeply impressed by the prediction, Boehme became ever more intense in his search for truth. At last his labors were rewarded. For seven days he remained in a mysterious condition during which time the mysteries of the invisible world were revealed to him. It has been said of Jakob Boehme that he revealed to all mankind the deepest secrets of alchemy.

His thought drew on interests including Paracelsus, the Kabbala, alchemy and the Hermetic tradition. His first written work, Aurora, went unfinished, but drew to him a small circle of followers. Like Eckhart and others, Boehme’s thought drew fire from the church authorities, who silenced Boehme for five years before he continued writing in secrecy. He again raised the cockles of church authorities, and he was banished from his home. He died soon thereafter, in 1624, after returning home from Dresden. His last words spoken, as he was surrounded by his family, were reported to be, “Now I go hence into Paradise.” His thought has since influenced major figures in philosophy, especially German Romantics such as Hegel, Baader, and Schelling. Indirectly, his influence can be traced to the work of Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Hartmann, Bergson, and Heidegger. Paul Tillich and Martin Buber drew heavily from his work — as did the psychologist, Carl Jung, who made numerous references to Boehme in his writings.

 

Diagram by Boehme, incorporating the Kabbalistic Tree of Life, the traditional Four Elements,
a Christian mandala, and other themes

Graphic from Bruce B. Janz’s external link Jacob Boehme Resources page

From an early age he saw visions, and throughout his life he claimed to be divinely inspired.  In his manuscript The Morning Redness Arising, written in 1612, he recorded his visions and expounded the attributes of God.  The work was condemned as heretical by local ecclesiastical and civil authorities, and Boehme was forced to flee to Dresden, Saxony. There he was cleared of charges of heresy and allowed to return to Görlitz.  His best-known treatises include Of the Three Principles of the Nature of God, (1619) and The Way to Christ, (1624), The Signature of all Things, and Mysterium Magnum.

As well as alchemical themes his writings contain Kabbalistic concepts.  Boehme describes the absolute nature of God as the abyss, the nothing and the all, the primordial depths from which the creative will struggles forth to find manifestation and self-consciousness.  The Father, who is groundless Will (c.f. Kabbalah – Keter the first principle is identified with Will), issues forth the Son, who is Love.

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. Evil is a result of the striving of single elements of Deity to become the whole; conflict ensues as man and nature strive to achieve God.  God himself, according to Boehme, contains conflicting elements and antithetical principles within His nature.  (c.f. Sri Aurobindo – the Supermind(Godhead Truth-Consciousness) which contains and reconciles all opposites within Itself)

Although Boehme’s style is very turgid and heavy, his works were widely read and popular in Germany, the Netherlands, and Great Britain. His English followers called themselves Behmenists. Many of them later were absorbed into the Quaker movement.  Boehme’s writings have influenced modern Western thought in both philosophy and theology.  He exerted a profound influence on the philosophies of Baader, Schelling, Hegel, and Schopenhauer. His ideas have also had a formative influence on Theosophy.

Boehme’s Leben

Boehme’s Mysterium Magnum


Drawing on the left by Jacob Boehme from his Theosophische Wercke, Amsterdam, 1682.
Note the Phoenix (soul) of rebirth rising through the Alpha-Omega ‘gap’ in the cycle as symbolised by the Ouroborus
(serpent-snake) and where it is swallowing its own tail.
The side angles of the triangle are 52 degrees – the same as the Great Pyramid of Giza.
Note also the cross intersecting the center of the triangle.
other images of the mysterium magnum
http://doraballa-ommo.blogspot.com/search?q=magnum

“Aurora” and writings

Boehme had mystical experiences throughout his youth, culminating in a vision in 1600 that he received through observing the exquisite beauty of a beam of sunlight reflected in a pewter dish. He believed this vision revealed to him the spiritual structure of the world, as well as the relationship between God and man, and good and evil. At the time he chose not to speak of this experience openly, preferring instead to continue his work and raise a family.Jacob Boehme’s persecutions and suffering began with the publication of his first book, “Aurora,” at the age of thirty-five. then not withstanding five years of enforced silence, banishment from his home town, and an ecclesiastical trial for heresy, his “interior wisdom” began to be recognized by the nobility of Germany; but at this time, at the age of forty-nine, Boehme died, “happy,” as he said, “in the midst of the heavenly music of the paradise of God.”

Then after another vision in 1610, he began writing his first treatise, Aurora, or Die Morgenroete im AufgangAurora was circulated in manuscript form until a copy fell into the hands of Gregorius Richter, the chief pastor of Görlitz, who considered it heretical and threatened Boehme with exile if he did not stop writing. After years of silence, Boehme’s friends and patrons persuaded him to start again, and circulated his writings in handwritten copies. His first printed book, Weg zu Christo (The Way to Christ, 1623), caused another scandal; he spent the last year of his life in exile in Dresden, returning to Görlitz only to die. In this short period, Boehme produced an enormous amount of writing, including his major works De Signatura Rerumand Mysterium Magnum. He also developed a following throughout Europe, where his followers were known as Behmenists.

The son of Boehme’s chief antagonist, the pastor primarius of Görlitz Gregorius Richter, edited a collection of extracts from his writings, which were afterwards published complete at Amsterdam with the help of Coenraad van Beuningen in the year 1682. Boehme’s full works were first printed in 1730.

Theology

The chief concern of Boehme’s writing was the nature of sinevil, and redemption. Consistent with Lutheran theology, Boehme preached that humanity had fallen from a state of divine grace to a state of sin and suffering, that the forces of evil included fallen angels who had rebelled against God, and that God’s goal was to restore the world to a state of grace. Where Boehme appeared to depart from accepted theology (though this was open to question due to his somewhat obscure, oracular style) was in his description of the Fall as a necessary stage in the evolution of the Universe.[2]

A difficulty with his theology is the fact that he had a mystical vision, which he reinterpreted and reformulated.[3] To Boehme, in order to reach God, man has to go through hell first. God exists without time or space, he regenerates himself througheternity, so Boehme, who restates the trinity as truly existing but with a novel interpretation. God, the Father is fire, who gives birth to his son, whom Boehme calls light. The Holy Spirit is the living principle, or the divine life.[4]

Cosmology

In Boehme’s cosmology, it was necessary for humanity to depart from God, and for all original unities to undergo differentiation, desire, and conflict — as in the rebellion of Satan, the separation of Eve from Adam, and their acquisition of the knowledge of good and evil — in order for creation to evolve to a new state of redeemed harmony that would be more perfect than the original state of innocence, allowing God to achieve a new self-awareness by interacting with a creation that was both part of, and distinct from, Himself. Free will becomes the most important gift God gives to humanity, allowing us to seek divine grace as a deliberate choice while still allowing us to remain individuals.

Boehme saw the incarnation of Christ not as a sacrificial offering to cancel out human sins, but as an offering of love for humanity, showing God’s willingness to bear the suffering that had been a necessary aspect of creation. He also believed the incarnation of Christ conveyed the message that a new state of harmony is possible. This was somewhat at odds with Lutherandogma, and his suggestion that God would have been somehow incomplete without the Creation was even more controversial, as was his emphasis on faith and self-awareness rather than strict adherence to dogma or scripture.

Marian views

Boehme believed that the Son of God became human through the Virgin Mary. Before the birth of Christ, God recognized himself as a virgin. This virgin is therefore a mirror of God’s wisdom and knowledge.[5] Boehme follows Luther, in that he views Mary within the context of Christ. Unlike Luther, he does not address himself to dogmatic issues very much, but to the human side of Mary. Like all other women, she was human and therefore subject to sin. Only after God elected her with his grace to become the mother of his son, did she inherit the status of sinlessness.[6] Mary did not move the Word, the Word moved Mary, so Boehme, explaining that all her grace came from Christ. Mary is “blessed among women” but not because of her qualifications, but because of her humility. Mary is an instrument of God, an example, what God can do: It shall not be forgotten in all eternity, that God became human in her.[7]

Boehme, unlike Luther does not believe that Mary was the Ever Virgin. Her virginity after the birth of Jesus is unrealistic to Boehme. The true salvation is Christ not Mary. The importance of Mary, a human like every one of us, is that she gave birth to Jesus Christ as a human being. If Mary would not have been human, to Boehme, Christ would be a stranger and not our brother. Christ must grow in us as he did in Mary. She became blessed by accepting Christ. In a reborn Christian, like in Mary, all that is temporal disappears and only the heavenly part remains for all eternity. Boehme’s peculiar theological language, involving firelight and spirit, which permeates his theology and Marian views, does not distract much from the fact that his basic positions are Lutheran, with the one exception of the virginity of Mary, where he holds a more temporal view.[8]

Influences

Boehme’s writing shows the influence of Neoplatonist and alchemical writers such as Paracelsus, while remaining firmly within a Christian tradition. He has in turn greatly influenced many anti-authoritarian and mystical movements, such as the Religious Society of Friends, the Philadelphians, the Gichtelians, the Society of the Woman in the Wilderness, the Ephrata Cloister, theHarmony Society, the Zoarite SeparatistsMartinism, and Christian theosophy. Boehme was also an important source of German Romantic philosophy, influencing Schelling in particular. [9] In Richard Bucke‘s 1901 treatise Cosmic Consciousness, special attention was given to the profundity of Böhme’s spiritual enlightenment, which seemed to reveal to Boehme an ultimate nondifference, or nonduality, between human beings and God. Boehme is also an important influence on the ideas of the English Romantic poet, artist and mystic William Blake.

In later works—The Way to Christ (1622), The Mysterium Magnum (1623), and De Signatura Rerum (1623)—he praised the spiritual life, criticized the growing formalism of the Lutheran church, expressed traditional German mystic teachings, discussed Paracelsan speculative alchemy, and considered questions of freedom, good, and evil.  Alcott, who purchased the English translation (by John Sparrow and John Elliston) in William Law’s four-volume edition in 1842, extolled Boehme as “the master mind of these last centuries.”

Quote

“When thou art gone forth wholly from the creature [human], and art become nothing to all that is nature and creature, then thou art in that eternal one, which is God himself, and then thou shalt perceive and feel the highest virtue of love. Also, that I said whosoever findeth it findeth nothing and all things; that is also true, for he findeth a supernatural, supersensual Abyss, having no ground, where there is no place to dwell in; and he findeth also nothing that is like it, and therefore it may be compared to nothing, for it is deeper than anything, and is as nothing to all things, for it is not comprehensible; and because it is nothing, it is free from all things, and it is that only Good, which a man cannot express or utter what it is. But that I lastly said, he that findeth it, findeth all things, is also true; it hath been the beginning of all things, and it ruleth all things. If thou findest it, thou comest into that ground from whence all things proceed, and wherein they subsist, and thou art in it a king over all the works of God.” [The Way to Christ, 1623]

Jacob Boehme was concerned about “the salvation of his soul.” Although daily occupied, first as a shepherd, and afterward as a shoemaker, he was always an earnest student of the Holy Scriptures; but he could not understand “the ways of God,” and he became “perplexed, even to melancholy, — pressed out of measure.” He said: “I knew the Bible from beginning to end, but could find no consolation in Holy Writ; and my spirit, as if moving in a great storm, arose in God, carrying with it my whole heart, mind and will and wrestled with the love and mercy of God, that his blessing might descend upon me, that my mind might be illumined with his Holy Spirit, that I might understand his will and get rid of my sorrow . . .

“I had always thought much of how I might inherit the kingdom of heaven; but finding in myself a powerful opposition, in the desires that belong to the flesh and blood, I began a battle against my corrupted nature; and with the aid of God, I made up my mind to overcome the inherited evil will, . . . break it, and enter wholly into the love of God in Christ Jesus . . . I sought the heart of Jesus Christ, the center of all truth; and I resolved to regard myself as dead in my inherited form, until the Spirit of God would take form in me, so that in and through him, I might conduct my life.

“I stood in this resolution, fighting a battle with myself, until the light of the Spirit, a light entirely foreign to my unruly nature, began to break through the clouds. Then, after some farther hard fights with the powers of darkness, my spirit broke through the doors of hell, and penetrated even unto the innermost essence of its newly born divinity where it was received with great love, as a bridegroom welcomes his beloved bride.

“No word can express the great joy and triumph I experienced, as of a life out of death, as of a resurrection from the dead! . . . While in this state, as I was walking through a field of flowers, in fifteen minutes, I saw through the mystery of creation, the original of this world and of all creatures. . . . Then for seven days I was in a continual state of ecstasy, surrounded by the light of the Spirit, which immersed me in contemplation and happiness. I learned what God is, and what is his will. . . . I knew not how this happened to me, but my heart admired and praised the Lord for it!”

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