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Boehme, Jacob (1575-1634)


Jacob Boehme was a German shoemaker who at the age of twenty-five experienced a mystical transformation that changed him into a mystic. The mysticism that he advocated was according to his Lutheran faith. He held that God abounded in the far reaches of the universe, but mystical visions could bring this divine presence nearer.

Included in his Lutheran beliefs Boehme thought both good and evil emanated from God; they kept the cosmos in balance, but good tended to orientate it toward God. However, this cosmic balance can be interrupted by evil, or the evil factor that is focused upon too much at the expense of ignoring the light good factor. This interruption Boehme attributed to Lucifer. Lucifer, the greatest angel, combined both qualities in nature, but freely chose to unbalance the world when choosing darkness only. He seeks to twist the world that God has made and so enters into our "center," the ground of being our souls, where he uses all of his craft to bend us away from integration and harmony. But so long as the soul remains in "resigned humility just as a fountain depends upon its source, ceaselessly drawing and drinking water that flow forth from God" it will be safe and at peace.

Being interested in astrology and cosmology Borhme equated God, the father, to the sky, and Jesus Christ to the sun. The light from the stars represented the Holy Spirit. To achieve union with God Borhme came to believe a person must go through a process of "spiritual rebirth," recognizing that the divine essence lies within oneself. Like the Kabbilists (see Kabbalah) who greatly influenced his thinking, Boehme believed in the concept of the macrocosm and microcosm-people mirror the universe and are a reflection of God. Thus, the mystic way is essentially a path of self-realization.

Nevertheless, he thought, life on earth was a constant struggle between good and evil; and in some incidences evil seemed to have the upper hand. He therefore felt constrained to "wrestle with the love and mercy of God" in order "to break through the gates of Hell." Like a true mystic, Boehme adopted the view that human will had to subjugate itself to God's will because the latter represented true Reality. A.G.H.


Sources: 62; 82, 52.