We are very pleased to present greetings to us by friends of Jacob Boehme all over the world
The symbolism for the Crucifixion is well known but a symbol for the Resurrection was a mystery to me, however, after some time researching I first concluded that a very ancient design was one of the earliest Christian symbols, the so-called “Iota Chi Cross”. A central shaft with an X superimposed on it making a six arm figure. Later I discovered that the same six part pattern is the symbol for the lily* (or Lilium) recalling the six petals of the flower, an ancient sign of rebirth and renewal. It all made sense to me. The lily was the symbol for the Resurrection. Therefore, the Iota Chi was not a “Cross” at all but the Lilium.
*Jacob Boehme, Mysterium Magnum, 1623, trans. John Sparrow, Electronic Edition, 2009, 29:54.
Dear David, thank you so much. The picture, which seems to be so simple, shows a deep sense of the spirit of this symbol. Thomas Isermann
We have understood much of Boehme's psychology when we assume in his concept of the soul, not separate geometric spheres of good and evil, but rather an intricate intertwining. No one would be afraid of a God who is only good, and the world of darkness would be easy to avoid if it was always only dark.
An illustration of Böhme, that depicts precisely this thought, can be found in the second German Complete Edition of the Complete Writings, published in Hamburg in 1715. So far there is no explanation or commentary on this graphic, no interpretation, no illustration or consideration in the works dedicated to illustrations on Böhme. The artist is unknown. It is preceded in the second volume of the edition by the six-part appendix with the biographical reports, as if giving 10direction to the history of reception.
The equilateral triangle standing on its vertex puts the embodiment of Boehme's three-principle doctrine in the corners: at the top left is the divine sphere, represented by the angels Michael and Uriel, below is the world of Lucifer drawn with a black background, and at the top right is the cosmic, our visible world, represented by the planets of the solar system. At the intersection of the bisectors of the angles we see Christ on the cross, whose outstretched arms with the legs also form a triangle standing on its vertex. From the three angles three spirals are released, which circle around the figure of Christ as if in a whirlpool. Optically emphasized is the dark sphere that dominates. Worms, fire-breathing dragons, flying monsters in the movements of a crows whirl close to the putti and flying angel heads. Here, evil is poured and swirled together with good.
One more thing is noticeable: the two spiral arms of the bright area have texts: "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests", a quotation from Luke 2; 14, adorns the heavenly sphere. The worldly sphere bears the inscription: "Our Heal in [now three words one above the other:] Suffering / Life / Love of Jesus Christ in us". The three words written on top of each other are remarkable: as alliterations on "L" they again stand for the three principles of Bohemia: "Leiden" (Suffering: dark side), "Liebe" (love: light side), and "Leben" (life: the world around us, surrounded by metaphysical powers). Several times, therefore, this dynamic whirlpool quotes the tripartite structure of Boehme's teaching. The dark world with the fire-breathing mythical creatures, by the way, is not only black: no writing is assigned to it. While the texts of the Bright One communicate with each other, in the demonic speechless underworld one hears only the hissing of darkness, which wants to convince the viewer in this unique cosmic miniature that negativity makes us spin in a whirl until we are dizzy.
Thomas Isermann (Many thanks for help translating by David Reif)
The Printed Word
Christosophia oder Der Weg zu Christo “Christosophia or the Way to Christ” by Jacob Boehme
This is the first American edition of Christosophia published on the Ephrata Cloister letterpress in 1811 by Jacob Ruth. The Cloister printing press published over 125 books including the Martyr’s Mirror which was the largest book printed in colonial America. Ephrata Cloister was also a unique communal society where celibates living on the property drew some inspiration from Boehme.
The Works of Jacob Behmen, the Teutonic Philosopher: Volume II (1764)
The Works of Jacob Behmen is a near complete four volume set of Boehme’s work in English. This set has somewhat erroneously become known as the William Law edition. Law is best known for being an Anglican priest who refused to take the oath of Hanoverian King George. He is also remembered for A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life. Law had an interest in mysticism and threw himself into translating Boehme. He included the beautiful engravings of Dionysius Andraes Freher. Despite being known as the Law edition, the four volume set was actually published posthumously and mostly based on the first English translations by John Ellistone and John Sparrow between 1645 and 1662.
The Aurora (1656)
First English edition of the seminal work of Jacob Boehme. London: Printed by John Streater, for Giles Calvert, and are sold at his Shop at the Black Spread Eagle at the West-End of Pauls, 1656.
Despite being Boehme’s magnum opus and widely circulated, the Aurora was a collection of his notes. It remained incomplete at his death in 1624.
The translator, John Sparrow, translated most of Boehme’s writings into English. He is honored for his translating efforts in the British Museum and National Portrait Gallery where he is immortalized in an engraving connecting him with Boehme.
Jacob Boehme was a shoemaker living in Goerlitz (a small town on the border between Germany and Poland). He was a simple man, not wealthy and not poor, and without a formalized education. He was of devout Lutheran faith. Yet, he had several mystic experiences culminating in an intense experience after his 25th birthday. The legend is that he entered a dark room where a single ray of light lit on a pewter dish causing within him an ecstatic state of illumination.
He kept his experience to himself thinking and praying over what had been experienced - ultimately sinking into melancholy thinking the experience must have had a diabolic origin. Finally, after twelve years, he began writing notes so that he would not forget what had been revealed to him and was convinced that his vision had a Divine origin. On an off chance, a wealthy friend caught notice of his writing in his cobbler’s shop and asked to borrow his notebooks. These writings were passed around and his fame soon spread as the simple yet “God taught Philosopher”.
But when this had given me many a hard blow and repulse, doubtless from the [holy] spirit, which had a great longing yearning towards me, at last I fell into a very deep melancholy and heavy sadness, when I beheld and contemplated the great deep of this world, also the sun and stars, the clouds, rain and snow, and considered in my spirit the whole creation of this world. Wherein then I found to be in all things, evil and good, love and anger, in the inanimate creatures, viz. in wood, stones, earth and the elements, as also in men and beasts. Moreover, I considered the little spark of light, man, what he should be esteemed for with God, in comparison with this great work and fabric of heaven and earth. But finding that in all things there was evil and good, as well in the elements as in the creatures, and that it went as well in this world with the wicked as with the virtuous, honest, and Godly; also that the barbarous people had the best countries in their possession, and that they had more prosperity in their ways than the virtuous, honest and Godly had. I was thereupon very melancholy, perplexed and exceedingly troubled, no Scripture could comfort or satisfy me, though I was very well acquainted with it, and versed therein; at which time the devil would by no means stand idle, but was often beating into me many heathenish thoughts, which I will here be silent in. But when in this affliction and trouble I elevated my spirit (for I then understood very little or not at all what it was), I earnestly raised it up into God, as with a great storm or onset, wrapping up my whole heart and mind, as also all my thoughts and whole will and resolution, incessantly to wrestle with the love and mercy of God, and not to give over, until he blessed me, that is, until he enlightened me with his holy spirit, whereby I might understand his will, and be rid of my sadness. And then the spirit did break through. But when, in my resolved zeal, I gave so hard an assault, storm and onset upon God, and upon all the gates of hell, as if I had more reserves of virtue and power ready, with a resolution to hazard my life upon it, (which assuredly were not in my ability without the assistance of the spirit of God), suddenly, after some violent storms made, my spirit did break through the gates of hell, even into the innermost birth or geniture of the Deity, and there I was embraced with love, as a bridegroom embraceth his dearly beloved bride. But the greatness of the triumphing that was in the spirit I cannot express, either in speaking or writing; neither can it be compared to anything, but to that wherein the life is generated in the midst of death, and it is like the resurrection from the dead. In this light my spirit suddenly saw through all, and in and by all the 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.
In the year 1600, Jacob Boehme was reportedly struck by a ray of light shining on a polished pewter dish. His biographer, Abraham von Frankenberg writes, “ enraptured a second Time with the Light of God, and with the astral Spirit of his Soul, by Means of an instantaneous Glance of the Eye cast upon a bright Pewter Dish, (being the lovely Jovialish Shine or Aspect) introduced into the innermost Ground or Center of the recondite or hidden Nature.”
The pewter apple is displayed to remind us of the theodicy of Boehme. A theodicy is an explanation to why an omnibenevolent God would permit evil. He is a devout Christian and has given, perhaps better than any Theologian or Philosopher, that good and evil exist as potentialities in God but that it is Man, who by turning away from God’s Will, creates the evil. The apple, consistent with Western Philosophy, reminds us of the Fall of Man. Boehme writes in the opening to the Aurora, “Even as the apple on the tree becometh corrupt, rotten and worm-eaten, when frost, heat, and mildew fall on it, and easily falls off and perisheth: So doth man also when he suffers the devil to rule in him with his poison.”
“Visita Interiora Terrae Rectificando Invenies Occultum Lapidem,” “Visit the interior of the earth and rectifying (purifying) you will find the hidden stone.” The motto is taken from L’Azoth des Philosophes by the 15th Century alchemist Basilius Valentinus.
Here is a cavern that resembles the Three Principles of Boehme.
This particular installation is meant to be experienced and you are welcome to enter the cavern. Bow your head, the door is very low. Be sure to re veil as others will follow after you.
Themes from the Illustrations
“The Disciple said to the Master: Master, how may I come to the Supersensual Life, so that I may see God, and hear God speak? The Master answered and said: When you can throw yourself into That, where no Creature dwells, if only for a Moment, then you will hear God speak. Disciple. Is that place where no Creature dwells near at hand; or is it far off? Master. It is in you. And if you can, for a time, cease from all your own thinking and willing, then you will hear the unspeakable Words of God.”
In Boehme’s writing, his cosmology involves Three Principles or worlds. The First Principle is a dark world of creation and of the Father. The Second Principle is a world of Light and the Son. The Third Principle is situated between these two and exists in both as the Holy Spirit – a world of Light and Darkness. In his philosophy, this is our reality and man must rise up out of the outer darkness and inwardly into the world of Light.
Gelassenheit is a common spiritual theme in German mysticism. It is found from the 13th century in the writings of Meister Eckhart, the medieval Gottesfreunde or Friends of God, 17th century Jacob Boehme, George Fox of the Society of Friends, and Martin Heidegger of modern philosophy. Translated, it takes on a variety of meanings but often “yieldedness” or “resignation”. This is a common theme for Boehme for he writes that men must yield their will up to the God’s Will. Man is a “half dead angel” juxtaposed between an outer animalistic world of darkness and inward paradisiacal world of Light.
“God's love lives in the resigned will, by which the soul is made holy and comes to divine rest. When the body breaks up, the soul is pressed through with divine love and illuminated with God's light, as fire glows through iron.
Engravings of Dionysius Andreas Freher
Boehme had no formal training and his system of philosophy is often hard to logically follow.
Where it lacks in structure, it is made up for in his visionary experience and the works of Boehme have found many artistic representations. The engravings here are of Dionysius Freher who not only engraved many images illustrating Boehme’s thought, but he also delivered several exegetical interpretations that are worthy in their own right.
One of the neatest features of the William Law editions of Boehme are the additions of “pop-up” artwork of Freher. Pages would have multiple folding doors that would open up and wheels that would spin to reveal additional hidden symbols. These interactive pieces of art were the first of their kind and were designed with the utmost care. They commanded handsome prices in their day and are considered priceless works of art today.
The six smaller engravings were colored by Adam McLean in 2002. McLean is a modern day alchemist who has written and published a wide array of alchemical, Rosicrucian, and Masonic texts and art. In addition to his publishing, he also runs an art gallery in Scotland.
Clint Stevens, Houston, Texas