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Jacob Boehme

Jacob Boehme
Jacob Boehme  (1575-1624)
(image from the external link Christian Classics Ethereal Library)

The Protestant mystic Jacob Boehme was born in Altseidenberg, Silesia.  He received only an elementary education but was an enthusiastic student of the Bible and the works of the alchemist Paracelsus. Apprenticed to a cobbler in his youth, Boehme later opened his own shop in Görlitz, Saxony.

Frontpiece from Mysterium Pansophicum
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 wthin 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.

Encartataken mostly from "Boehme, Jakob," Microsoft (R) Encarta. Copyright (c) 1994 Microsoft Corporation. Copyright (c) 1994 Funk & Wagnall's Corporation.

Web links Links Web links

infoplease entry Boehme or Böhme, Jakob - brief but good intro (I have incorporated most of it into the above page)

Jakob Boehme, life and writings, from the 9th Edition of The Encyclopaedia Britannica - Vol. III, 1878,

Complete Jacob Boehme texts, very well laid out; capture the spirit of the original.  Includes:

Four complete texts.

Christian Classics Ethereal Library More Jacob Boehme resources in the Christian Classics Ethereal Library.

Jacob Boehme Resourcesincludes annoitated links Jacob Boehme Resources from B. Janz's Web Pages
- collects existing resources from the WWW on the work, world, and influence of Jacob Boehme, and adds some of the authors's own resources, in an effort to support research and teaching on Boehme.

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page by M.Alan Kazlev
page uploaded 28 May 1998, last modified 4 and 5 August 2004 WF and MAK