Boehme, Jacob

Boehme, Jacob

(Germ. BOHME; often written BEHMEN in English), a theosophist or mystical enthusiast, was born at Old Seidenburgh, a short distance from Gorlitz, in Upper Lusatia, 1575. His parents being poor, he was employed in tending cattle from a very early age, and afterward apprenticed to a shoemaker, a business which he continued to follow after his marriage in 1594. He had the good fortune, for one in his station at that period, to learn reading and writing at the village school, and this was all the education he received; the terms from the dead languages introduced into his writings, and what knowledge he had of alchemy or the other sciences, being acquired in his own rude way subsequently, chiefly, perhaps, from conversation with men of learning, or a little reading in the works of Paracelsus and Fludd. He tells several marvellous stories of his boyhood: one of them is, that a stranger of a severe but friendly countenance came to his master's shop while he was yet an apprentice, and warned him of the great work to which God should appoint him. His religious habits soon rendered him conspicuous among his profane fellow-townsmen; and he carefully studied the Bible, especially the Apocalypse and the writings of Paul. He soon began to believe himself inspired, and about 1660 deemed himself the subject of special revelations. Acquiring a knowledge of the doctrines of Paracelsus, Fludd, and the Rosicrucians, he devoted himself also to practical chemistry, and made good progress m natural science. Revolving these things in his mind, and believing himself commissioned to reveal the mysteries of nature and Scripture, he imagined that he saw, by an inward light, the nature and essences of things. Still he attended faithfully to the duties of his humble home, publishing none of his thoughts until 1610, when he had a fresh "revelation," the substance of which he wrote in a volume called Aurora, or the Morning-Red, which was handed about in MS. until the magistrates, instigated by Richter, dean of Gorlitz, ordered Boehme to "stick to his last" and give over writing books. In seven years he had another season of "inward light," and determined no longer to suppress his views. In five years he wrote all the books named below, but only one appeared during his life, viz. Der Weg zu Christo (1624, translated into English, The Way to Christ, Lond. 1769, 12mo). Richter renewed his persecutions, and at last the magistrates requested Boehme to leave his home. To avoid trouble Boehme went to Dresden. It is said that he had not been there long before the Elector of Hanover assembled six doctors of divinity and two professors of the mathematics, who, in presence of the elector, examined Boehme concerning his writings and the high mysteries therein. "They also proposed to him many profound queries in divinity, philosophy, and the mathematics, to all which he replied with such meekness of spirit, depth of knowledge, and fulness of matter, that none of those doctors and professors returned one word of dislike or contradiction." Soon after Boehme's return to Gorlitz, his adversary Richter died; and three months after, on Sunday, November 18, 1624, early in the morning, Boehme asked his son Tobias if he heard the excellent music. The son replied "No." "Open," said he, "the door, that it may be better heard." Afterward he asked what the clock had struck, and said, "Three hours hence is my time." When it was near six he took leave of his wife and son, blessed them, and said, "Now go hence into Paradise;" and, bidding his son to turn him, he fetched a deep sigh and departed. His writings (all in German) are as follows:

1. Aurora

2. Of the Three Principles (1619) :

3. Of the Threefold Life of Man (1620):

4. Answers to the Forty Questions of the Soul:

5. Of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ; Of the Suffering, Death, and Resurrection of Christ; Of the Tree of Faith:

6. Of the Six Points, great and small:

7. Of the Heavenly and Earthly Mystery:

8. Of the Last Times, to P. K.:

9. De Signatura Rerum:

10. A Consolatory Book of the Four Complexions:

11. An Apology to Balthasar Tilken, in two parts:

12. Considerations upon Isaias Stiefel's Book:

13. Of True Repentance (1622):

14. Of True Resignation:

15. A Book of Regeneration:

16. A Book of Predestination and Election of God (1623):

17. A Compendium of Repentance:

18. Mysterium A Magnum, or an Exposition upon Genesis:

19. A Table of the Principles, or a Key of his Writings:

20. Of the Supersensual Life:

21. Of the Divine Vision:

22. Of the Two Testaments of Christ, Baptism and the Supper:

23. A Dialogue between the Enlightened and Unenlightened Soul:

24. An Apology for the Book on True Repentance, against a Pamphlet of Gregory Richter:

25. A Book of 177 Theosophic Questions:

26. An Epitome of the Mysterium Magnum:

27. The Holy Weeks, or the Prayer Book:

28. A Table of the Divine Manifestation:

29. Of the Errors of the Sects of Ezekiel A Meths and Isaias Stiefel, or Antistiefelius II:

30. A Book of the Last Judgment

31. Letters to Divers Persons, with Keys for Hidden Words.

These works certainly contain many profound philosophical truths, but they are closely intermingled with singular and extravagant dreams respecting the Deity and the origin of all things. He delivered these as Divine revelations. Swedenborg, St. Martin, and Baader are his legitimate successors. A large part of the matter of his books is sheer nonsense. After his death his opinions spread over Germany, Holland, and England. Even a son of his persecutor Richter edited at his own expense an epitome of Boehme's works in eight volumes. The first collection of his works was published by Heinrich Betke (Amst. 1675,4to). They were translated into Dutch by Van Beyerland, and published by him (12mo, 8vo, and 4to). More complete than Beyerland's is the edition by Gichtel (10 vols. 8vo, Amst. 1682). This was reprinted with Gichtel's manuscript Marginalia (Altona, 1715, 2 vols. 4to), and again, with a notice of former editions and some additions from Gichtel's Memorial/a (1730). More recently an edition of his complete works was published by Schiebler (Leipz. 1831-47, 7 vols.; new edit. 1859 sq.). The best translation of his works into English is that by the celebrated William Law (Lond. 1764, 2 vols. 4to). Several accounts of his views were published about the end of the 17th century; among these the following may be mentioned: Jacob Boehme's Theosophic Philoscphy, unfolded by Edward Taylor, with a short Account of the Life of J. B. (Lond. 1691-4). The preacher and physician John Pordage, who died in London 1698, endeavored to systematize the opinions of Boehme in Metaphysica vera et divina, and several other works. The Mletaphysica was translated into German in three volumes (Francf. and Leipzig, 1725-

28). Henry More also wrote a Censura Philosophice Teutonicce on the mystical views of Boehme. Among the most zealous supporters of Boehme's theosophy in England were Charles and Durand Hotham, who published Ad Phiosophiam Teutonicam, a Carlo Hotham (1648); and Mysterium Magnum, with Life of Jacob Behmen, by Durand Hotham, Esq. (1654, 4to). We have also Mlmoirs of the Life, Death, Burial, and Wonderful Writings of Jacob Behmen, by Francis Okely, formerly of St. John's College, Cambridge (Northampton, 1780, 8vo). Claude St. Martin published French translations of several of Boehme's writings. Sir Isaac Newton, William Law, Schelling. and Hegel were all readers of Boehme. William Law, in the app. to the 2d ed. of his Appeal to all that Doubt or Disbelieve the Truths of the Gospel (1756), mentions that among the papers of Newton were found many autograph extracts from the works of Boehme. Law conjectures that Newton derived his system of fundamental powers from Boehme, and that he avoided mentioning Boehme as the originator of his system, lest it should come into disrepute; but this may well be doubted. It is said that Schelling often quotes Boehme without acknowledgment. Boehme's writings have certainly influenced both theology and philosophy to a considerable extent. In Germany he has followers still. For modern expositions of his system, more or less correct, see Hegel, Gesch. d. Philosophie, 3:300327; Baur, Christl. Gnosis, 558 sq.; Fouque, J. Bohme, ein biog. Denkstein (Greiz, 1831); Umbreit, J. Bohme (Heidelb. 1835); Hamberger, Die Lehre J. Bohme's, etc. (Munich, 1844); Fechner, J. Bohme (Gorlitz, 1857); Pcip, J. Bohme, der deutsche Philosoph (Leipz. 1860). See also Wesley, Works, 3:254; 4:74, 400; v, 669, C99, 703; Hagenbach, History of Doctrines, ii, 168, et al.; Mosheim, Ch. Hist. 3:391; Tennemann, Man. Hist. Phil. § 331; Hurst, History of Rationalism, ch. i; Dorner, Person of Christ, div. ii, vol. ii, 319 sq.; English Cyclopcedia, s.v.

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