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Jacob Boehme


Jacob Boehme

The German mystic and theosophist, Jacob Boehme (or Jakob Böhme), was born in Altseidenburg in 1575. He tended cattle as a boy, and later earned his living as a cobbler in Goerlitz, but became deeply depressed at a world in which 'the God-fearing fare no better than the Godless' and could find no consolation in his estimable knowledge of Scripture. In 1600, he experienced a mystical breakthrough that he compared to a resurrection from the dead, and now felt a unity with nature that defined the work that eventually followed:

In this light my spirit suddenly saw through all, and in and by all creatures, even in herbs and grass it knew God, who he is, and how he is, and what his will is: And suddenly in that light my will was set on by a mighty impulse, to describe the being of God.

From the publication of Aurora in 1612 to the end of his life, Boehme tried to set down his understanding of God and the universe in over thirty books, leading almost inevitably to persecution from the Church. Boehme wrote, 'whatsoever I could grasp sufficiently to bring it out, that I wrote down', and the resulting books, such as Morning Redness, The Signature of all Things and Mysterium, mixed terminology from alchemy and kabbalism with Lutheran theology, though in an entirely Christocentric way. In Boehme's philosophy, God is the Ungrund or 'Groundless', the undistinguished unity that creates by negation. The impenetrable nature of these works led to their being neglected after Boehme's death in Silesia in 1624. Translations into English by William Law in the eighteenth century brought them to a wider audience. His ideas would later influence the visionary poet and painter William Blake, and the psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung.

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