Skip to main content
Select Source:

Boehme, Jakob (1575-1624)

Boehme, Jakob (1575-1624)

Famous German mystic. His name is sometimes spelled Beem, Behm, Behmon, or Behmont, but the most common form is Boehme, although it is probable that the family name was really Böhme, and Boehme most closely matches the German version.

Born in 1575 at Altsteidenberg in Upper Lusatia, Boehme came from peasant stock, and accordingly his education consisted of brief study at the nearby village school in Seidenberg, and for the greater part of his childhood he tended his father's flocks on Mount Landskrone. Not strong enough physically to make a good shepherd, Boehme left home at the age of 13 to seek his fortune at Görlitz, the nearest town of any size.

To this day, Görlitz is famous for its shoemakers, and it was to a cobbler that the boy went first in search of employment. By 1599 he became a master shoemaker, and soon afterward married Katharina, daughter of Hans Kantzschmann, a butcher. The young couple took a house near the bridge in Neiss Voistadttheir dwelling is still pointed out to touristsand some years later Boehme improved his business by adding gloves to his stock in trade, a departure which sent him periodically to Prague to acquire consignments.

It is likely that Boehme began to write soon after becoming a master cobbler. About the year 1612 he composed a philosophical treatise, Aurora, oder die morgenröte in Aufgang. Though not printed until much later, the manuscript was copied and passed from hand to hand. The writer soon found himself the center of a local circle of thinkers and scholars, many of them people far above him in the social scale. As a result, a charge of heresy was brought against him by the Lutheran church; he was loudly denounced from the pulpit by Gregorius Richter, pastor primarius of Görlitz, and then the town council, fearing to contend with the ecclesiastical authorities, took possession of the original manuscript of Boehme's work and prohibited him from writing.

It seems that he obeyed instructions for a little while, but by 1618 he was busy again, compiling polemical and expository treatises, and in 1622 he wrote short pieces on repentance, resignation, and the like. These last were the only writings published in book form during his lifetime with his consent, but in any event they were not likely to excite clerical hostility. However, Boehme later circulated a less cautious theological work, Der Weg zu Christa, which brought a fresh outburst of hatred on the part of the Church. Boehme left town for a period and met with some of his admirers in Dresden. However, while there he was struck down by fever. He was carried with great difficulty to his home at Görlitz, where he died in 1624.

Boehme's literary output falls into three distinct sections. At first he was concerned simply with the study of the deity, and to this period belongs his Aurora. Second, he grew interested in the manifestation of the divine in the structure of the world and of man, a predilection which resulted in four great works: Die Drei Principien Gottlichens Wes Wescus, Vom Dreifachen Leben der Menschen, Von der Menschwerdung Christi, and Von der Geburt und Bezlichnung Aller Wescu. Finally, he devoted himself to advanced theological speculations and researches, the main out-come being his Von Christi Testamenten and his Von der Chaden-wahl: Mysterium Magnum. Other substantive works include his seven Quellgeister and his study of the three first properties of eternal nature.

Although not an alchemist himself, Boehme's writings demonstrate that he studied Paracelsus closely, and they also reflect the influence of Valentine Weigel and the earliest Protestant mystic, Kaspar Schwenhfeld. Boehme never claims to have conversed with spirits, angels, or saints nor of miracles worked on his behalf, the one exception being a passage where he tells how, when a shepherd boy on the Landskrone, he saw an apparition of a pail of gold. At the same time, he seems to have felt a curious and constant intimacy with the invisible world and he appears to have had a strangely perspicacious vision of the Urgrund, or primitive cause.

His wide influence over people inclined to mysticism has been attributed to the clarity with which he sets down his ideas and convictions. Throughout the latter half of the seventeenth century, his works were translated into a number of different languages. They proved an inspiration to William Law, the author of Christian Perfection and A Serious Call to a Devout Life. Since then various religious bodies that regard Boehme as their high priest have been founded in Great Britain and in Holland, while in America, the sect known as the Philadelphians owe their dominant tenets to him.

Sources:

Boehme, J. Aurora. London: John M. Watkins, 1960.

. The Confession of Jacob Boehme. New York: Harper, 1954.

. Mysterium Magnum. London: John M. Watkins, 1965.

. The Signature of All Things. London: James Clarke, 1969.

. Six Theosophic Points. Lansing: University of Michigan Press, 1970.

. The Three Principles of the Divine Essence. Jacksonville, Fla.: Yoga Publication Society, 1909.

. The Way to Christ. New York: Paulist Press, 1978.

Hartmann, Franz. The Life and Doctrines of Jacob Boehme. New York: McCoy Publishing, 1929.

Martensen, H. L. Jacob Boehme. Rockliff, 1949.

Stoudt, J. J. Sunrise to Eternity. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1957.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Boehme, Jakob (1575-1624)." Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology. . Encyclopedia.com. 21 Jun. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Boehme, Jakob (1575-1624)." Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology. . Encyclopedia.com. (June 21, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/boehme-jakob-1575-1624

"Boehme, Jakob (1575-1624)." Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology. . Retrieved June 21, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/boehme-jakob-1575-1624

Boehme, Jakob

Jakob Boehme (bē´mə, Ger. yä´kôp bö´mə), 1575–1624, German religious mystic, a cobbler of Görlitz, in England also called Behmen. He was a student of the Bible and was influenced by Paracelsus. In his major works, De signatura rerum (tr. The Signature of all Things, 1912) and Mysterium magnum, Boehme describes 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. 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 who, in himself, contains all antithetical principles. Boehme exerted a profound influence on the philosophies of Baader, Schelling, Hegel, and Schopenhauer. Boehme claimed divine revelation and had many followers in Germany and Holland. Societies of Behmenites were formed in England; many of them were later absorbed by the Quakers.

See The Confessions of Jacob Boehme, ed. by W. S. Palmer (1954); study by D. Walsh (1983); biography by F. Hartmann (1985).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Boehme, Jakob." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 21 Jun. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Boehme, Jakob." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (June 21, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/boehme-jakob

"Boehme, Jakob." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved June 21, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/boehme-jakob

Boehme, Jakob

Boehme, Jakob (1575–1624). German Lutheran theosophical writer. Son of a farmer, from 1599 to 1613 he lived as a cobbler in Görlitz in Silesia. He claimed to be a mystic, writing under direct divine inspiration. From the publication of his first work, Aurora (1612), he provoked official opposition. Most of his works were published posthumously, including the famous Signatura Rerum and Magnum Mysterium. Boehme is obscure and difficult, using much abstruse terminology. Boehme was enormously influential, especially on German idealism, and also in England.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Boehme, Jakob." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Encyclopedia.com. 21 Jun. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Boehme, Jakob." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Encyclopedia.com. (June 21, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/boehme-jakob

"Boehme, Jakob." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Retrieved June 21, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/boehme-jakob