Stiefel (or Stieffel), Esaias

Stiefel (Or Stieffel), Esaias, the head of a mystical sect which engaged much attention at the beginning of the 17th century, has already been partly treated of in this Cyclopoedia in the art. METH, EZECHIEL (q.v.). He was a merchant of Langensalza, in Thuringia, who was led away, through self conceit and a fondness for curious speculations, into a fanatical mysticism which, in connection with Meth, his nephew, he endeavored to propagate. His followers soon became numerous among his own kindred and towns people, and then in wider circles. He was repeatedly cited before tribunals, and remonstrated with in the hope of a peaceful settlement of the troubles he occasioned; and he frequently renounced his errors, but as constantly returned to them again. He eventually died in the faith, however, at Erfurt, Aug. 12, 1627. About a century later his memory was revived by Christian Thomasius, in the third part of his Hist. der Weisheit u. Thorheit (1694), and by Gottfried Arnold, in his Kirchen- u. Ketzer-Historie (1700), 4, 1-49. The over tolerant spirit in which these authors had discussed Stiefel's heterodoxy occasioned a critique of Arnold's book by pastor Uthe, of Langensalza (Anmerkung über Arnold's Erzahlungen [1714]). Stiefel has, however, been almost entirely dropped out of sight by the literature of today. The mysticism of Stiefel was carried beyond all proper limits by his fondness for paradox; and his worst errors of statement grew out of his perversions of ordinary language. He called himself Christ, and declared himself to be Christ revealed anew, without intending to positively identify himself with Christ. He also laid claim to the possession of divine attributes, for which he was rebuked by no less a personage than Jacob Bohme (see Wullen, Bluthen aus J. Bohme's Mystik [Stuttg. and Tüb. 1838], p. 31, 89; also Kernhafter Auszug aus allen Schriften J. Bohme's [Amst. 1718, 4to ], p. 923 sq.); though upon other matters Bohme sympathized with Stiefel and excused his enthusiastic rantings (see Apolog. Stieff.). Comp., in addition to works already referred to, the accusation against Stiefel entitled Abyssus-Satano Styffeliana, and Herzog, Real-Encyklop. s.v.

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