Jakob Boehme

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Jakob Boehme

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, ...

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...ndon: 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:

Merkel, Ingrid. "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): 6-17.

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