Jakob Böhme : biography
Jakob Böhme (probably April 24, 1575. Some sources say he was born "on or soon before" 24 April 1575. – November 17, 1624) was a German Christian mystic and theologian. He is considered an original thinker within the Lutheran tradition, and his first book, commonly known as Aurora, caused a great scandal. In contemporary English, his name may be spelled Jacob Boehme; in seventeenth-century England it was also spelled Behmen, approximating the contemporary English pronunciation of the German Böhme.
The chief concern of Böhme’s writing was the nature of sin, evil and redemption. Consistent with Lutheran theology, Böhme 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.
There are some serious departures from accepted Lutheran theology, however, such as his rejection of sola fide, as in this passage from The Way to Christ:
"For he that will say, I have a Will, and would willingly do Good, but the earthly Flesh which I carry about me, keepeth me back, so that I cannot; yet I shall be saved by Grace, for the Merits of Christ. I comfort myself with his Merit and Sufferings; who will receive me of mere Grace, without any Merits of my own, and forgive me my Sins. Such a one, I say, is like a Man that knoweth what Food is good for his Health, yet will not eat of it, but eateth Poison instead thereof, from whence Sickness and Death, will certainly follow."
Another place where Böhme may 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.F. von Ingen, Jacob Böhme in Marienlexikon, Eos, St. Ottilien 1988, 517 A difficulty with his theology is the fact that he had a mystical vision, which he reinterpreted and reformulated.Ingen 517 According to F. von Ingen, to Böhme, in order to reach God, man has to go through hell first. God exists without time or space, he regenerates himself through eternity, so Böhme, who restates the trinity as truly existing but with a novel interpretation. God, the Father is fire, who gives birth to his son, whom Böhme calls light. The Holy Spirit is the living principle, or the divine life.Ingen 518
However, it is clear that Böhme never claimed that God sees evil as desirable, necessary or as part of divine will to bring forth good. In his Threefold Life, Böhme states: "[I]n the order of nature, an evil thing cannot produce a good thing out of itself, but one evil thing generates another." Böhme did not believe that there is any "divine mandate or metaphysically inherent necessity for evil and its effects in the scheme of thing."Musès, Charles A. Illumination on Jakob Böhme. New York: King’s Crown Press, 1951 Dr. John Pordage, a commentator on Böhme, wrote that Böhme "whensoever he attributes evil to eternal nature considers it in its fallen state, as it became infected by the fall of Lucifer… ." Evil is seen as "the disorder, rebellion, perversion of making spirit nature’s servant",Stoudt, John Joseph. Jakob Böhme: His Life and Thought. New York: The Seabury Press, 1968 which is to say a perversion of initial Divine order.
Böhme’s correspondences in "Aurora" of the seven qualities, planets and humoral-elemental associations:
- 1. Dry – Saturn – melancholy, power of death;
- 2. Sweet – Jupiter – sanguine, gentle source of life;
- 3. Bitter – Mars – choleric, destructive source of life;
- 4. Fire – Sun/Moon – night/day; evil/good; sin/virtue; Moon, later = phlegmatic, watery;
- 5. Love – Venus – love of life, spiritual rebirth;
- 6. Sound – Mercury – keen spirit, illumination, expression;
- 7. Corpus – Earth – totality of forces awaiting rebirth.