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Philosophiae Teutonicae Censura sive Epistola privata ad amicum

quae responsum complectitur ad questions quinque de philosopho Teutonico Jacobo Behmen illiusque philosophia

(ab autore Latine reddita)

A Critique of the Teutonic Philosophy

Or A Private Letter to a Friend with a Response to Five Questions about the Teutonic Philosopher Jakob Boehme and His Philosophy

(translated into Latin by the author)


Occasion and time of composition: More’s engagement with Boehme’s philosophy can be subdivided into four distinct phases. His initial interest in the Teutonic philosophy goes back to the mid-40s, when Charles Hotham, a friend from his undergraduate years at Christ’s College, defended the proposition that “the souls are traduced or created from nothing either of which is possible” at a Commencement ceremony in March 1646. Hotham went on to publish his dissertation in its original Latin in 1648 and in an English translation in 1650, asking More to contribute a commendatory poem. More started his Behmenist career as a self-professed ignoramus of the Teutonic philosopher parading his utter lack of knowledge about his theosophy in elegant, albeit shallow, Latin verse appended to Hotham’s treatise. It is not without a sense of irony that he entreats his erudite friend “good Charles” to provide an intelligible introduction to a particularly dark and difficult author:

“I ken no Teutonick, good Charles! Then vent

Thyself- and thine own Ingenie depeint.

Write Hothamick, & thine own sense explain;

So shall thy learned page with force detaine

My ravish’d mind” (Hutton, “More and Boehme”, 169).

“Good Charles” in turn gently taunts his “candid More” for a “blinking eye” upon which he blames his Cambridge friend’s inability to pierce through the alleged “Teutonic darkness”. The friendly banter between the two Cambridge friends in the commendatory poetry is continued in the prose of the “Epistle Dedicatory” in which Hotham, once again amicably teasing More, praises Boehme for surpassing even the principal ancient authorities of his friend’s cherished ancient theology:

“I speake plainly what I at this present thinke. Whatsoever the Thrice-great Hermes deliver’d as Oracles from his Propheticall Tripos, or Pythagoras spake by authority, or Socrates debated, or Aristotle affirmed; yea, whatever divine Plato prophesied, or Plotinus proved; this, and all this, or a far higher and profounder Philosophy is ( I think) contained in the Teutonicks writings. And if there be any friendly medium which can possibly reconcile those ancient differences between the Nobler wisdom which hath fixt her Palace in Holy writ, and her stubborn hand-maid, Naturall Reason; this happy marriage of the Spirit and the Soul, this wonderful consent of discords in one harmony, we owe in great measure to Teutonicus his skill” (Hotham, Introduction, Epistle Dedicatory).

As well as being both a pioneering work of British Behmenism and a major metaphysical treatise in its own right, Hotham’s dissertation bears testimony to the author’s early discussions with More at Cambridge. Among the rival theories repudiated in the Introduction is More’s own Origenist doctrine of the pre-existence of souls which Hotham is prepared to view “as the best and noblest Essay natural man hath attained unto” (Hotham, Introduction, 7). However, he rejects his friend’s landmark doctrine on Scriptural grounds. Intriguingly, the author’s own idiosyncratic Behmenist traduciansim of souls conceived by their biological parents hinges upon a cosmology of infinite living space, “in every imaginable point whereof”, Hotham elaborated in concepts that More went on to classify as holenmerist, “dwelt the whole Deity” (ibid., 33). Boehme’s “abyss”, identified by Hotham with the “great deep” of “space-infinite”, “is not purely nothing” (ibid. 33), but second only to God himself in the fullness of its reality. However, whereas God is indivisible, space is distinguished from him by its divisibility: “Although that this bottomlesse Immensurable partake (next under God) most highly of the reality of being, yet is it not God himself, because its divisibility and several other properties are diametrically opposite to the many attributes of the perfect Divine life and essence” (ibid., 34). Rather, spatial infinity, pervaded by the living light of divine Wisdom, must be viewed as the “Body of the Deity” (ibid.). Justice Durant Hotham aided his brother Charles’s attempt to disseminate Behmenist thought in Interregnum England. To this end, he composed an English biography of the Teutonic philosopher entitled The Life of Jacob Boehme which is notable as much for the Hotham brothers’ shared ideal of a deeply irenic and ecumenical Christian religion as it is for the biographical information provided. For one thing, Durand champions a Christian religion of existential inwardness: “God hath sent this last Generation a plain, uncouth Message, bidding man to fight, telling him that he shall have a Heaven, a Joy, a Paradise, a Land, a Territory, a Kingship – but that all this is in himself, the Land to be won is himself” (Jones, Spiritual Reformers, 212). Boehme’s “plain, uncouth message”, for another, is believed to have been given to humankind in a process of gradual historical illumination in which the souls come to participate in God’s fullness. It is a key conviction of the early British Behmenist Hotham that this chasm between God’s fullness and man’s limited understanding should put a stop to all religious pretentiousness and intolerance.

It is highly likely that both Charles Hotham’s cosmology of God’s omnipresence in space and nature and Durand’s biography of a sincere and pious shoemaker philosopher were instrumental in arousing More’s serious interest in the Teutonic philosophy. By the mid-1650s, which mark the second phase of his engagement with the Silesian mystic, More had remedied his earlier ignorance of Boehme’s thought. In the Enthusiasmus Triumphatus of 1656 and in the Mastix his letter to a private Friend appended to this work, More provided thorough doxographical accounts of the Behmenist variety of enthusiasm. In the former work, More includes an overview of Boehme’s teachings in a “promiscuous Collection of divers odd conceits out of several Theosophists and Chymists” without either mentioning the Teutonic philosopher by name or commenting on Behmenist teachings as characteristic and contentious as “That all is God’s self” or “That God the Father is of himself a dale of darkness, were it not for the light of his Son” ( Enthusiasmus Triumphatus, 30). Like other Interregnum sectarians criticized for their presumptuousness in laying claim to exclusive knowledge, Boehme is viewed as an enthusiast whose fancy, fuelled by the agitated movements of his animal spirits, gave rise to an erroneous pantheist or materialist vision of the Divine. A far more nuanced account of the Teutonic philosophy is provided in the appended work in which More goes to some lengths to disassociate Boehme from his fellow enthusiasts, notably the anabaptist David Joris and Heinrich Niclaes, the founder of the Family of Love whom he criticizes so sharply in the original treatise. Whereas the latter two sacrilegiously extolled themselves as Christs incarnate, Boehme is praised by More as a man of great personal holiness and humbleness who never strayed from accepted church teaching. More’s second account is remarkable for its conciliatory tone due indubitably to his chief biographical source, Durand Hotham’s Life:

“But as for Jacob Behmen I do not see but that he holds firm the Fundamentalls of the Christian Religion, and that his minde was devoutly united to the head of the Church, the crucified Jesus, to whom he breathed out this short ejaculation with much Fervency of spirit upon his deathbed, Thou crucified Lord Jesus, have mercy on me, and take me into thy kingdome. But though I be very well assured of the sanctity of the Man, and look upon him as one that is as much beyond the other two, as his boastings of his own person are lesse then theirs who either equalized themselves with, or set themselves above our Saviour, who is God blessed for ever; yet it is to me no argument at all, that whatsoever he writes is from an infallible spirit.”

More goes on to restate his definition of enthusiasm as an excessive imagination causing the soul to experience visions of the Divine to which it cannot withhold its assent. Still, while Boehme must be considered an enthusiast on this count, his stirring expositions of God, thanks to his sanctity and humility, were not entirely without truth or merit. Astonishingly, More is prepared to concede that Boehme’s imaginative theosophy, for all its excess and exuberance, “proved not unsuccessful in sundry apprehensions” (Achermann, “Fromme Irrlehren”, 327–328).

Key to the third phase of More’s Behmenism, which is by far the most fertile one, are his discussions with his sprawling Behmenist and Cabbalist network in Cambridge and Warwickshire. It results in More’s principal work on Boehme’s philosophy entitled Philosophiae Teutonicae Censurae, a comprehensive exposition of the eponymous philosopher’s thought from the vantage point of the author’s own Neoplatonic theologia prisca. Originally written in English in 1670 at the behest of a Friend to whom it was originally addressed as a solely Private Letter, it presupposes and builds upon the heated discussions in which More engaged with his pupils and friends at Christ’s College and, above all, Ragley Hall from about 1666 to the year of its composition. As is indicated by More’s friend John Worthington, More had his “ears full of Behmenism at Ragley” at that time. His, moreover, clearly was a Behmenism based upon a thorough knowledge of Boehme’s complete work purchased for the purpose of intensive study: “I sent several times to enquire of your return, but could not hear of it, till I received yours. I believe, you had your ears full of Behmenism at Ragley; for when I was at London, I met with one, who was to buy all Jacob Behmen’s works, to send thither” (Worthington, Diary and Correspondence, II/2, 287). More and his Cambridge colleagues and friends, notably his “heroine pupil” Anne Conway, the work’s probable addressee, took issue with the Teutonic philosopher’s elusive, albeit profound and challenging, theosophical vision. In a letter to Conway, More critiques Boehme, once again dismissing his metaphysical thought while praising his personal piety and probity: “Honest Jacob is wholsome at the bottom though a philosopher but at random” (Conway Letters, 306). Moreover, More himself provides a vivid sketch of those controversial discussions at the Conways’ Warwickshire estate in his Divine Dialogues of 1666 and 1668. While the elusiveness of the Teutonic philosopher’s thought and language, to which Worthington himself took particular exception, is acknowledged, Boehme’s mysticism of divine interiority, rediscovered by the reformers and enthusiast sectarians of the Interregnum era, is singled out for praise. It is no coincidence that More places his critique of Behmenism in a major exposition of his soul-making theodicy to which the autonomous soul’s moral and intellectual development is key. If God were to intervene whenever man faced an adversity apparently beyond his skills, his agency, the highest purpose of all reality, would in fact be undermined by what More chooses to call an intolerable divine “After-device”:

“For this were an exprobation to the Wisdom of God, as if he had mistook himself in creating of free Agents, and by an After-device thus forcibly ever defeated their free Actings, by denying them the ordinary assistances of Nature. This would be such a force and stop upon the first spring of Motion, that the greatest trials of Mens spirits and most pompous external solemnities would be stifled thereby, or utterly prevent, and all Political Prudence, Sagacity, Justice and Courage would want their Objects” (Divine Dialogues 2,2).

Boehme’s theosophy, however erroneous in its enthusiasm and materialism, is credited with a pivotal role in the British Isles’ painful “trials of Mens spirits” in the civil war era. For one thing, More, drawing upon his earlier enquiry into the causes of religious delusion in his Enthusiasmus Triumphatus, views Boehme’s “language of Nature” as arising not from inspiration, but “a superlative strain of Melancholy” ( Divine Dialogues, 5,16). Likewise, in words close to those in his letter to Conway on the subject, Boehme is seen as “a very serious and well-minded Man, but of a nature extremely melancholick” (ibid., 5,18) in the lineage of enthusiasts like Paracelsus. For another, however, the pious shoemaker’s work, of which John Sparrow and his associates, in one of God’s providential measures, had provided first English renderings from the 1640s onwards, furnished the warring factions of British Christendom with an admirable exposition of the principal Christian virtues of humility and purity. Despite his sharp critique of the Teutonic philosopher’s misguided flights of fancy, the author is willing to accord to him and other well-meaning enthusiasts an important role in salvation history: “For at present, by a kind of oblique stroke, God does notable execution upon the dead Formality and Carnality of Christendom by these zealous Evangelists of an internal Saviour” (ibid.).

It was against this backdrop of the debates at Ragley Hall that Conway approached her friend and mentor and posed him the five quaestiones or “queries” that he set out to answer in his Critique of the Teutonic Philosophy of 1670. Not only are the five questions posed characteristic of Conway who elsewhere asked him very similar questions about related subjects, but they are also clearly linked to the discussions at Ragley Hall outlined in the Worthington and Conway Correspondences and the Divine Dialogues. Conway’s queries can be seen to grow organically from the joint discussions at Ragley Hall. For one, they betray the pupil’s acquaintance with her teacher’s tireless enquiry into enthusiasm and its physiological causes (notably queries 1–3). For another, the Viscountess is well-versed in the possible aporiai of More’s religious philosophy, notably the conundrum that a virtuous soul erring in religious speculation poses to his epistemology of the boniform faculty which posits practical moral goodness as the soul’s foremost avenue to metaphysical theoretical insight (query 6). Her preoccupation with “divine providence” which clearly allowed one of the most devout Christian souls to subscribe to an erroneous materialist notion of God goes back to More’s speculations about the providential role of enthusiasm. The final query may well be regarded as arising from the discussion recorded in the fifth Divine Dialogue. Intrigued by her teacher’s view of enthusiasm as an error which God not only condones, but actively promotes for the sake of the moral progress of the British Isles’ Protestant Christendom, Conway presented him with a query to this effect. The major 4th query in which she asks More to furnish a Neoplatonic reading of Behmenism furnishes impressive evidence for the sincerity of the Ragley circle’s interest in the Teutonic philosophy which they seek to incorporate into their own Platonist theologia prisca. More duly obliged his friend’s request. As well as answering her queries, he added a biographical sketch to his treatise in which he once again drew heavily upon Durand Hotham’s Life of Jacob Boehme, also restating key aspects of the latter’s view of the Teutonic philosopher in the process. Thus, More is careful to emphasize that Boehme’s belief in the historical Christ was genuine and sincere and his loyalty to the church hierarchy of his day was beyond doubt. Moreover, in his biographical introduction, More recommended a reconciliatory middle way in the general assessment of the Teutonic philosopher’s thought, which he himself followed in his own subsequent exposition. Neither should he be revered as an infallible prophet nor should he be reviled as a devilish impostor. Instead, Boehme was a man of admirable piety who can be shown to have been subject to numerous egregious errors in things metaphysical. Still, Boehme in places came close to the truth of the ancient theology of a good Deity at once transcendent to and omnipresent in space and nature and an animate cosmos proceeding from and returning to him.

The fourth and final phase of More’s Behmenism extends from the mid- to the end-1670s, when More translated his major English works into Latin and (re-)published them in his three-volume Opera omnia. Among the works translated was the Critique of the Teutonic Philosophy of which the original English version is now lost. As well as translating it, More added a brief introduction to it in the praefatio generalissima to the second of the three volumes of the Opera omnia and appended several scholia. His remarks in the praefatio in which More expounds to the reader the place of the Censura in his work are of particular interest. His critique of Boehme, the author elaborates, has been deliberately placed between his works against Baruch de Spinoza and those against the Lurianic Cabbala. All of these three major currents of early modern European thought, i.e. Behmenism, Spinozism and Cabbalism, are liable to the same twin errors, namely enthusiasm and materialism. Still, whilst he lambasts Spinoza’s monism as Behmenism in his refutation of the latter’s principal work, the Ethics, More is careful to set Boehme’s materialism apart from the erroneous metaphysics propounded by the Jewish mystic Luria and the Jewish rationalist Spinoza. More’s final remarks about Jacob Boehme are noteworthy for their positive tone.

“Incidentally, since I placed the Kabbala of the Eagle-Eye-Boy last in these Cabbalistic writings, I chose to put the Critique of the Teutonic Philosophy directly after it. The reason is that I reckoned that the latter was exceedingly close to the former considering J.B.’s teaching about the corporeality of the Deity and his divisibility in his Aurora or Daybreak (an error that he clearly was subject to in that work). However, just as I have refuted the Foundations of the Cabbala of the Eagle-Eye-Boy, so have I clearly shown that Jacob Boehme finally overcame that despicable error and attained the truth” (Op. omn. II/1, xiv).

Like his other works, More revisited his Censura for its publication in his Opera omnia. The few scholia added to the fourth quaestio (Op. omn. II/1, 555) and the conclusio (II/1, 561) all bear upon Boehme’s kinship with Spinoza and Luria. While More does not mention the former by name, his pantheism is clearly in his mind when he highlights the necessity of God’s transcendence inferred from his defining first attribute, i.e. his holiness: “However, if one pays sufficient regard to the holiness of the divine majesty, one will both in word and matter make a most religious distinction between the sphere of pure divinity and the sphere of universal nature.” Similarly, More provides a reading of Boehme’s hierarchical cosmos in terms of the Cabbalistic “ancient theology” in his scholia on the Conclusion.

Context: More’s engagement with Boehme’s thought is tied closely to the rise of “Anglican Behmenism” (Hutin, Disciples Anglais, 42) from the mid-1640s onwards, which, in turn, is part of the larger European tradition of Christian Cabbalism: “Boehme’s writings themselves belong to the more extensive tradition of European Christian Kabbalah, and the appropriation of his ideas in England is best seen in this context” (Smith, Perfection Proclaimed, 186). Its beginnings are relatively humble. In 1644, a seven-page biography of Boehme was published with an equally brief first English selection from Boehme’s Two Theosophical Epistles appearing in print a year later. However, the mid-40s saw the beginnings of a first complete translation of the Silesian shoemaker’s writings. More’s friend Charles Hotham and his brother Durand were part of a small, yet remarkably prolific, group of committed Anglican laymen who actively sought to reconcile the warring factions of British Christendom by disseminating Boehme’s vision of a God dwelling in man’s soul and in nature. To this end, the London lawyer John Sparrow (1615–1665), its chief representative, aided by his brother-in-law John Ellistone and the printer Humphrey Blunden, from 1645 to 1662 produced a complete translation of Boehme’s theosophical writings (see the list in Hutin, Disciples Anglais, 38–39). Not only did More make ample use of the Behmenist circle’s epoch-making translation, but he also shared with its members the political vision of a deeply irenic Christianity put forward in the prefaces and introductions to their pioneering English renderings of the Teutonic philosopher’s writings. At the heart of Sparrow’s and his associates’ philological project is the hope for the “Conjoyning, Uniting and Reconciling of all Parties in Love” (intr. Election of Grace, or Predestination, Bailey, Milton and Jakob Boehme, 59) effected by the inspired Silesian shoemaker’s ecumenical vision. While not denying the Christ of history and the church, the Anglican Behmenist privileged the existential vision God’s omnipresence in man and nature over theoretical dogma: “This outward world”, says Sparrow (introd. Forty Questions), “is the best outward looking-glasse to see whatever hath been, is or shall be in Eternity, and our own minds are the best inward looking-glasse to see Eternity exactly in” (Jones, Spiritual Reformers, 216). Likewise, Elliston impresses upon Boehme’s English readership “an effectual, living, essential knowledge and real spiritual being of it in one’s own soul” (Pref. Epistles), which he places above a religion of dogmatic orthodoxy (ibid. 217). Clearly, More is far more critical of Boehme’s thought proper than Sparrow, Elliston and the Hotham brothers. However, he unequivocally subscribes to the political and ecclesiastical ideal of universal Christian communion underlying their shared universalist Christology of God’s Wisdom in man and nature which should transcend all petty party partisanship so anathema to them and him. While More entertained close personal ties with some members of Anglican Behmenism and made use of their translations and treatises on the subject, there is no source material linking him to the other celebrated Boehme followers of his day. Neither John Pordage and his family nor Thomas Tany receive any mention in More’s letters and works. However, More did know Thomas Bromley, one of Pordage’s followers. Bromley corresponded with Anne Conway, thereby making the acquaintance of her two rivalling mentors Francis Mercury van Helmont and Henry More. Nowhere, however, does More cite Bromley’s Behmenist The Way of the Sabbath of Rest of 1655 (Hessayon, “Jacob Boehme’s Writings”, 90–91). Instead, his unspecific allusions to Boehme’s friends and foes in the biographical introduction to his Censura, none of whom is actually mentioned by name, suggest a fleeting acquaintance with the expansive Behmenist literature of the day.

Metaphysics and Religious Philosophy: While polemical in character and meant to serve as a rebuttal of an author’s erroneous metaphysics, the Censura nevertheless provides an exposition of key tenets of More’s mature religious philosophy, notably his epistemology and ontology. The work’s focus on religious epistemology is due to More’s two-fold approach to the Teutonic philosophy. While he praises the shoemaker mystic’s practical piety, he rejects most of his theoretical philosophy as a product not of reason, but of the imagination. To the twofold approach to Boehme corresponds More’s epistemological distinction between the boniform faculty, by which the soul understands God or pure universal goodness in immediate vision and awareness, and discursive reasoning which errs wherever it fails to embrace its practical first insight into the Divine. The boniform faculty originates in God himself. Just as the “abyss of physical monads” is sensible and subject to touch, so is the “supreme good” known solely in the experiential immediacy of higher spiritual touch and taste: “Hence, as the supreme good is divine tactility or intellectual sweetness, so the abyss of physical monads is the source of natural tactility or palpability” (Op. omn. II/1, 547). As in his earliest works, More cites his favourite expression of divine sensation in support, expressly attributing “divine tactility” and “intellectual sweetness” to the soul’s “boniform faculty: “To that we must refer that word of Plotinus, that the soul, once it contrives to attain the union with it according to its boniform faculty, it κέντρον κέντρῳ συνάπτει, ‘joins its centre with God’s centre’.” (ibid., 549). Likewise, sensation and imagination are shown to originate in the “abyss of physical monads”. Building upon this distinction, More reveals Boehme’s ontology of a corporeal and “discerpible” Deity to have arisen from an agitated religious mind eager to experience God. There is, on a review of Boehme’s major works, no escaping the conclusion that his speculations about the Father as a composite of source spirits, each of which is defined as sensible quality, amount to a materialist metaphysics: “Hence, it is quite obvious that the seven source spirits, according to the author’s expositions in this book of his entitled Aurora, are the highest Deity and that there is nothing beyond them. Therefore, God, in his view, is corporeal and God the Father dark and desolate, bereft of all joy without the Son. And another very clear corollary of that is that God is discerpible.“ (ibid. 539). “Could the total Deity”, exclaims More in sincere disbelief in several places of his Censura, “be depicted as corporeal and discerpible any more clearly?” (ibid.). More’s diagnosis of the coming-to-be of Behmenist materialism takes the form of a blend of psychology and physiology. Couched in the technical vocabulary of the “animal spirits” that mediate between the incorporeal mind and the body, More’s account of Behmenist enthusiasm, paradoxically, views the sincerity and intensity of the Teutonic philosopher’s wistful longing for God as the cause of his erroneous claim to inspiration:

“He had entreated the Holy Spirit for his gift according to the promise with such great faith and intense fervour that the vehemence of his desires and his frequent prayers had heated up the complete fabric of his body and inflamed his animal spirits, and so it was that his imagination acquired such extraordinary strength and vigour. Under these circumstances, that scenery of thought depicted in his Aurora took such hold of his mind that it easily swayed him and made him believe that it was an infallible illumination from God and the fruit of his supplications and prayers.” (ibid. 541).

In subsequent treatises, More further substantiates his claim by carefully comparing Boehme’s account of divine becoming in his two early works, the Aurora and the Three principles, to that of the shoemaker’s own experience of being reborn as well as the stages before and after it. Boehme’s theogony of the Father achieving subjectivity in the Son, for all its heartfelt piety and poetic grandeur, is thereby shown to be an anthropomorphism modelled upon an enthusiast’s religious experience. “Since he, I say, had felt this in his own body before his new birth, he imagined God the Father to be such a dark, disturbed and corporeal essence as he himself had experienced in this condition. This might have been the origin of this fundamental error concerning the corporeity of God.” (ibid., 544).

The dualist ontology delineated in More’s Censura originates in his attempt at a Neoplatonic reformulation of Boehme’s well-meaning, yet misguided, pantheism of “the corporeity of God” to which the author opposes his own view of an absolute both transcendent and immanent to all things in its universal creative goodness. Hence, instead of rejecting Boehme’s theosophy of the seven divine source spirits as yet another variety of loathed contemporary materialism, he views it as falling short of, though approximating, the ancient truth of the six strata of reality envisaged in his own Neoplatonism. Whereas the first three are intelligible in essence and identical to the triune God, the last three constitute the visible world of atoms suffused by the spirit of nature. Each of the higher levels of beings is reflected in the corresponding lower ones:

“The trinity of universal nature is like a shadowy projection of the Trinity of pure divinity through the divine soul. It resembles a tree standing above the bank of a river which projects its shadows into the water with the highest of its branches being the lowest in the projection, while the latter correspond to the former and bear a necessary similarity to them. Likewise, the or abyss of physical monads reflects the image of , the sun, or the supreme good, which the Platonists call τἀγαθόν” (ibid., 547).

The lower world participates in the higher one, striving for its fullness in all of its dynamic motions. However, God must neither be identified with these dynamic processes nor does he require them to achieve awareness of himself, which contradicts his perfection. Instead, the theogonic process described by Boehme with such imaginative vigour are those of the “world soul”, introduced by More as the sum total of nature’s striving for higher forms of mentality: “For if it were not for the vital operations of the spirit of nature, as it fashions things from the abyss of physical monads, the soul of the world would remain in perpetual silence and darkness, having neither perception of itself nor of anything else” (ibid., 554).

Significance and reception: More’s Censura is among the most influential of his works. Its rich reception history in the European republic of letters is due both to its positive portrait of the man Jacob Boehme and the interpretation of his theosophy in terms of its kindred spirits Spinoza and Luria. Paradoxically, the Censura was instrumental in establishing Jacob Boehme’s credentials as a major thinker in the subsequent history of western speculation in which More’s principal work on Boehme, on account of its general reconciliatory tone, is cited as a defence of the Teutonic philosopher. Both Gottfried Arnold (1666–1713) and Pierre Poiret (1646–1719), who played pivotal roles in the German and Dutch dissemination of Boehme’s work, credited “Henricus Morus, that great Philosophus and Theologus in England” with having provided a favourable view of the contested German mystic of whose work he had been extremely cognizant (Achermann, “Fromme Irrlehren”, 314–315). As a consequence, the Protestant theologian Wolfang Jäger (1647–1720) devoted his Tübingen disputation entitled De Jacob. Boehmio judicium Henrici Mori of 1708 to the English “Philosophus and Theologus”, emphasizing More’s critique of Boehme’s thought and faulting him for his rather lenient attitude towards the pious Christian. Poiret, Jäger’s opponent targeted in the disputation, responded to the critique levelled at him. Significantly, Poiret, in his 1721 Vindiciae, deals with More’s Censura in which he now finds evidence of the author’s own heterodox Cabbalism and even Spinozism. More’s view of Behmenist-Cabbalist-Spinozist enthusiasm and cabbalism, of which he became suspected himself in the heated European debates sparked off by the publication of Spinoza’s Ethics, informed Johann Georg Wachter’s hugely influential Der Spinozism im Jüdenthum of 1699 in which More is cited as a major critic of those three spectres of misguided pantheism. It is through his historic Spinozist-Cabbalist reading of Boehme that More’s Censura, the principal work of Cambridge Behmenism, exerted influence upon the nascent Pantheism Controversy in the following century. More’s searching exposition of a Neoplatonist panentheism by which he sought to do justice to divine transcendence and immanence thus emerges as a major source of all subsequent European speculation inspired by the Silesian shoemaker mystic’s daring vision of the Divine.

Preface to the Reader

1. I believe that no-one who knows about the ties of our most wonderful and noble friendship will ever find fault with me for writing this letter at this friend’s invitation. However, I admit that I may seem more blameworthy in publishing what was originally meant for the latter’s private satisfaction only, but not because I believe I have written something heterodox. Indeed, I cannot see that I have taught anything that conflicts with the universal doctrine of the church in its symmetric times. Nor, certainly, do I want to be misunderstood as though when correcting the errors of J.B., I meant to provide absolute and dogmatic definitions or were certain myself about the meaning of what his spirit has brought forth. Instead, we present what seems to us more probable than his apparently clear and explicit assertions, though everything must likewise be subjected to the indubitable rules of the apostolic doctrine. Hence, as regards this, I believe myself sufficiently safe from anybody’s cavils.

2. What I am saying, then, is that I find myself to be subject to criticism from two diametrically opposed camps. The one camp thinks so highly of the author whom we are setting out to examine that they believe anything less than canonization and infallibility, as his most ardent admirers hold, cannot but fall short of the magnitude of his merits. The others, by contrast, malign him as a devilish heretic or scorn him as nothing but a raging enthusiast. As a consequence, none of them can express even a moderate view about him without being themselves suspected of impiety. And if he is found to have devoted some hours to the reading of his writings, he is thought to have squandered so much time on frivolities and trifles or mere rantings and nonsense.

3. But whilst I admit to having exposed myself to the censure of two such greatly diverging judges,[1] I deny that they are in any way entitled to reprimand me. Rather, this great difference between their opinions about the Teutonic philosophy provides a legitimate occasion for an entirely sober and commendable curiosity in enquiring into the matter and finding out about the secrets at its core. It was, after all, even our Saviour’s lot that while he was believed by some to be God’s Son, he was held by others to be possessed by a demon.

4. Now as regards the first kind of people - those who are such devout admirers of Jakob Boehme and who believe him to be infallibly inspired - this letter itself, in which I have clearly shown him to have been deceived by his own inspirations, is proof that they must not find fault with me for taking a different view. In fact, I think they should feel grateful to me, rather than offended, since it is clearly an embarrassment to believe a false opinion of that kind and, because of that, wear another man’s error as the badge of one’s own intellectual servitude, as it were. Imprisoned by the assumption of that man’s infallibility, they are prevented from making any excursions into the free field of the truth or proving and examining things by means of the sober use of their own experience and reasoning. And yet, this is the only genuine and adequate way of philosophizing, everything else amounting to merely possessing faith or conviction.

5. As regards the others, by contrast, i.e. those who either loathe Jakob Boehme as devilish or scorn him as a vile and vain author, this must be due to their ignorance both of the writings and the life of this man. For, far from being devilish, the spirit that reveals itself in his writings is thoroughly Christian. Nothing is inculcated more frequently than humility, love, gentleness and fraternal affection as well as a complete submission to the divine will and the absolute denial and renunciation of ourselves and this world and the vanities of this present life, all hope being put in those ineffable pleasures of which we shall partake together with the holy souls and angels in paradise. And he writes about these things with a more piercing and penetrating sense than any other author whom you may have chanced to read. All of this is clearly the very opposite of the designs of the devil and his reign.

6. To all of that you may add that he certainly was the most ardent champion of the search for the inner pearl, “the Christ in us, the hope of glory”. Indeed, it was his creed that “our salvation lay in the life of Jesus Christ within us”. And yet, no-one speaks with greater reverence and affection about the person of the external Christ than he does. No-one recognizes our personal duties to him more clearly, attributes more to the power and efficiency of the sacraments or insists more expressly upon the necessity of celebrating the Lord’s Supper until the end of all centuries. Finally, there is no-one who more clearly professes the literal resurrection and the personal coming of the Saviour on the Last Day to judge the living and the dead. Consequently, as far as I can see, whatever mistakes J.B. may have made, he made them solely and exclusively because he erred, not at all because he pursued some evil, let alone devilish design or scheme.

7. Moreover, it was apparently not without providence that he was called upon to sting and plague those who, Christians by name only, would only accept an external Christ without caring about how little life and spirit they had within themselves. He was also to lead the Familists, who are smitten with enthusiasm so easily, back from their stupid Sadducism and infidelity in those grand articles regarding the person of the Saviour to the truer and more apostolic faith in Christ again. Hence, they (and the Quakers as they are called) are even more inexcusable now if they still withhold their assent from these principal articles of the Christian faith, considering that an apostle of their own and one who is more inspired than either H.N. or any of the Quakers has affirmed their literal truth so clearly and so expressly against all those inept allegations to the contrary of their allegorical prophet H.N.

8. And finally, we must also consider that J.B., for all his great devotion and passion and his numerous admirable gifts, never sought to found a church of his own or gather people in private conventicles. Instead, he adhered to the public church minister in the place where he lived in dutiful obedience. Moreover, his behaviour towards the superintendent of his place was entirely moderate and peaceful, even after the latter had treated him with some rudeness and disrespect. This might well serve as a supreme example against all the schismatics of our age who have no qualms about separating themselves from the Church and gathering themselves in accordance with the high opinions that they entertain of themselves, if not indeed for the sake of some worldly gain. Thus, they found churches of their own against the Church, tearing apart Christ’s body and insulting the National Church as though its affairs were so corrupt that it would be entirely illicit to get involved in them in any way. All of that is clearly at odds with the behaviour of this peaceful and humble Christian J.B. So I hope, dear reader, that you will be thoroughly convinced by now that he was not possessed by a devilish spirit, an accusation born either from malice or ignorance whenever such unworthy insults are heaped upon him.

9. As regards then his lowly and humble origins, I for my part confess that if you look at his birth, his upbringing and his profession, it is entirely true. However, this makes his other qualities and perfections all the more admirable, so excellent an edifice being erected upon so mean a foundation.

I shall point to some brief episodes taken from the writer of his Life which will show his merits, and so (as I myself think) at the very least place him above contempt, so that no-one need be embarrassed if they set out to read his books and study his philosophy.

10. Thus, first, when he was still a boy and herding the common cattle of the town with the other poor boys, his fellow herdsmen, he was granted the special favour of stumbling upon a very substantial treasure on a mountaintop not far from his town, a vessel filled with coins. However, to this was added the grace that he did not want to touch it. When later on some magician acquired it for himself by means of his art, he purchased this huge bounty at a high price, since he died a sad and shameful death, as J.B. himself reports. This certainly is a privilege not granted to everybody as well as an early sign that J.B. had been given a special sight by the invisible powers.

11. We may assume that in all likelihood one of those invisible powers revealed itself to him in the visible likeness of a grave and venerable man, though clothed in nothing but mediocre attire, pretending to buy a pair of shoes from the apprentice in that trade. After paying the price and taking the shoes with him, he called J.B. by his forename a few metres outside the workshop, even though they had never met before, saying: “Jakob, Jakob, come outside here!” And as he approached him in utter bafflement, he grabbed him at once by his right hand and, fixing his bright and glaring eyes upon him with a strict, yet friendly, countenance, addressed him with serious paternal admonitions and pious instructions, enjoining him to read the Scriptures and prophesying to him what a prodigy he would be to the world.

12. Deeply impressed, the young man became exceedingly devout and an eager reader of the Scriptures, imploring God in frequent fervent prayers that he deign to give him the gift of the Spirit. And at that time, when he was already with his mentor, it happened that, as he himself relates, he was covered in divine light for seven days on end and engaged in the highest contemplation in the realm of pleasures.

13. He was also covered in that light once more when he left his mentor at the age of twenty-five. Examining herbs and grasses on the fields in Görlitz, he looked with an inner glance into their essences, uses and properties which, he claims, were revealed to him through their shapes and signatures.

And about a decade later, once again taken up into the self-same light, he wrote it down from memory in his first book entitled Aurora or the Break of Day, lest the mysteries revealed to him be lost.

14. After that, however, he wrote many more books following the order and direction of the Spirit, and he wrote them with the same speed with which the latter impelled him on. For he says that there was a burning fire that made him hasten on so that the scribe’s quivering hand had to run after him all the time as it came and went like a sudden and unexpected flood. It was by resigning himself wholly to God, he proceeds to say, living only according to his will and not his own, that a window was opened to him through which he was enabled to see more in a quarter of an hour than if he had spent many years on end at a university.

15. However, although he had seen that great mystery with one single glance, as it were, he could only gradually transfer it to his external man. As a consequence, it would unfold only day by day like a gentle little flower. And what had been, as it were, carried in his womb over a period of twelve years was, on a powerful internal impulse, brought forth in the external shape of his writings. And yet, all of that was still so profoundly mysterious that he himself had difficulty understanding his labours once that helping light had departed from him again.

16. And lest you say that he alone gives this testimony about himself, his first published book, i.e. his Aurora or the Break of Day, made a good many men of great learning flock to him from all parts of the world. Among them was one Baltazar Gualterus from Silesia, a physician who had travelled over every part of Arabia, Syria and Egypt to learn more about the ancient discipline of magic. Upon hearing rumours about J.B. and paying him a visit, he stayed with him for three months, declaring afterwards that he had left him with more satisfaction of mind than he had from any other of the most brilliant thinkers whom he had encountered on his travels before. It was he who posed to him the Forty Questions of the Soul which J.B. answered, and the book can be bought in translations in many different languages.

17. So great was the admiration and suspicion in which that profound science was held that a certain person who was more curious than one ought to be approached him as a most humble suitor, asking him to communicate to him that magic knowledge and power which he suspected him to be gifted with. Indeed, he believed he relied upon the company of some familiar spirit and tried to win him over by offering him money. However, he received a rebuff from Jakob Boehme who reprimanded him most severely, saying that he professed no other faith but that in God and the love for his neighbour and that his allegiance was to no other spirit than the Spirit of God. If he wanted to participate in him, he said, there was a way for him to do that, namely that of sincere repentance and heartfelt prayers to the Father of Lights who was the giver of every good and perfect gift.

18. However, what contributed to the reputation of J.B. more than anything else was that on coming to Dresden, where he had been summoned to be interrogated about his writings before his highness the Prince-elector of Saxony, he performed with great skill in his responses concerning philosophical and theological queries in the presence of many doctors of theology and other learned men. As a consequence, Dr Mesnerus and another doctor then present were heard speaking very highly of him, praising him as a man of admirable spiritual gifts and refusing to serve the malice of his foes in condemning him, regardless of the personal consequences.

19. To all of this you may also add such proof of his piety and the integrity of his spirit as is characteristic of deceased saints when they are insulted after their death. Thus, when an inhabitant of Görlitz where he had lived showed some strangers the so-called sights of the town and, going past the house of J.B., told those strangers, his friends, in a rather insulting manner: “This is the house in which that heretic Jakob Boehme lived”, he immediately dropped dead on the ground. So dear was the memory of this deceased innocent man to divine providence.

20. The circumstances of J.B.’s death prove with some certainty that he was loved by the heavenly powers. Thus, a few hours before his death, he heard remarkable musical harmonies. After he had predicted the hour in which he was to die, he bade farewell to his family and gave them his blessing. He asked his son to turn him to the other side in his bed and said: “Now, I am going from here to paradise.” And so at once he breathed out his soul. I, for my part, confess that I believe that he was not wrong in his prediction at all. For I do not share the opinion of the Mohammedans (who, to that end, leave a curl on their heads so that Mohammed can grab them by that) that man is pulled upwards into paradise by his head, but rather by his heart, in which the root of our regeneration lies and which is the source from which those most divine and delicate sensations of which the human soul is capable spring forth. [2]

21. It was, I believe, primarily because of the perfection of this part that J.B. was so dear to the invisible powers. And notwithstanding his shortcomings in other fields, he was accompanied by such strokes of providence as made him famous all over the world and, as it were, a miracle amongst many good and intelligent men. Furthermore, although he was, for the most part, devoid of it, the repute of his philosophical inspiration nevertheless was like a bait that drew many others towards a sincere reformation of their character and the endeavour to attain that of which no-one need be devoid unless he wants to be. This is the spirit of Life in the new birth which, even if it were without any philosophical science, would rightly continue to be the object of man’s highest striving and such a precious pearl that it is to be cherished above all other things in the universe.

22. Hence, my dear reader, as regards the productions of his brain, which are mere speculations, we certainly cannot praise J.B. for an infallible spirit residing in him. However, from the few little hints which I have given (and you may find fuller and more satisfactory information by reading his Life written by that learned man D.H.) it is clear, I think, that he was not so contemptible an author that anyone sober and interested in things of some importance needs to feel ashamed of undertaking the labour of studying his writings. And this is the aim that I have been pursuing. Farewell.

A Critique of the Teutonic Philosophy Or A Private Letter, etc.

Question I: Whether Jacob Boehme was infallibly inspired?

1. I have finally read those writings of J.B. which you recommended to me, i.e. his Aurora or the Break of Day, his book on the Three Principles and his other one about the Threefold Life of Man and, lastly, his Forty Questions. In addition to these, I have also read parts of the rather long Grand Mystery which deals with the first three chapters of Genesis. While I did not pay such attention to every detail of it that I felt I had understood his intention in every single place, I do think that I have managed to understand it to such a degree that I am sufficiently well-versed to answer the five questions which you have posed to me about him and his philosophy.

2. I will not deny by any means that at first I felt quite an aversion to reading so obscure an author. However, the rich veins of deep moral and divine words which I soon began to discover in him enthralled me so deeply and held my mind in such a grip that the disdain of which I had been so afraid turned into pure pleasure and delectation. So sincere, so simple and so innocent a spirit suffuses his writings that it makes us heed the most necessary duties of Christianity with such effectiveness and moving our minds with such strength and vehemence, while also evincing a wholesome and genuine friendliness. For this reason I am no longer surprised at all that people who are not only endowed with an excellent intellect, but also an equal love of piety and virtue are also drawn towards a certain religious adherence and reverence for the writings of this holy man. And their assumption that something more than human has been at work in these writings does not seem entirely unwarranted, nor does their supposition, at times at least, that all of them are infallibly inspired, especially since the author himself claims so frequently and so confidently that this is the sole source of his writings. And I, for my part, admit that I believe that there is no falseness in this man, but that he was sincere in everything he said.

3. However, whether he thought so correctly or otherwise i.e., “that he was infallibly inspired”, is the first of the questions you have posed to me to answer.

And if he was not infallibly inspired, the second question is “whether he was not affected by some maniac intemperance and what was the reason why he considered himself inspired, as did others.”

The third: “What might have occasioned each particular of J.B.’s principal errors?”

The fourth: “What was he most likely trying to say underneath these errors”, i.e. what would these enthusiastic agitations and fermentations of his soul amount to if they could be put forth in a more clear and distinct light?

The fifth and final question: “How can it be seen as consistent with divine providence, with its goodness and perfection, to permit such an innocent and Christian soul to succumb to so many and manifest errors, coupled with the worst possible error, namely that he believed himself to be infallibly inspired?” These are your questions.

4. I shall answer these questions as briefly as possible. And as regards the first, I say that certainly in those places in which he speaks so passionately and powerfully about meekness, humility, self-denial, love and the like, we may rightly ascribe what he says about that to the Divine Spirit acting on him insofar as the Spirit of life and sanctification is in him. However, when it is said that the spirit of theosophical or philosophical illumination has assisted him in all of his writings, I cannot but point out - even though it is against my will to say anything that might reduce the fame of such a pious and innocent man - that I am absolutely certain of the opposite. And I believe I can convince everybody of that with irrefutable arguments.

5. We shall begin with the sun and the stars. It is a sign of a noble mind and excellent natural genius that a man of such ignoble education brought himself to accept the Pythagorean hypothesis, placing the sun in the centre and having the earth move around it. However, he later added of himself that the sun imparts light and life to all the other stars; that it was made or generated from all the other stars; that the stars are made up of fire and water; that the different species of things proceed from the difference between the stars; that the latter give life, imagination and reason; that they send dreams and visions into the minds of sleeping mortals; that there is a huge darkness between the stars and that the devil rules over his dominium there; that all sciences, arts and methods of acquiring nourishment proceed from the astral spirit of this world. All of that, to my mind, amounts to mere dreams, not inspired truths.

6. The same applies to his many egregious errors about the planets, all of which he believes to be bright, as becomes clear from what he says in Aurora, ch. 3, v. 50: “If the earth were to be taken away, the whole abyss would be as bright in one place as in any other”, even though not only the moon, but Venus, which, like the moon, has different phases, and the other planets are dark as well. Besides, it is nothing but an inept figment to say that Venus, Mercury, Mars and Jupiter, which, as we have pointed out above, are thoroughly dark spheres, should have flown out of the sun or that Mars should set the sun on fire as gall does the heart.

And is it for fear of the earth that Venus does not stand still, but runs and hurries around it? Does it take both Venus and Mercury the same amount of time to go around the earth, even though the former completes its orbit in nine, the latter in about three months? Is the moon the “sack of the properties of the stars”? And does the earth, like some assiduous jay, seek to grab the moon and is this the reason why it pulls the lunar light towards it? To all of that you may add that the sun is the king and heart of the abyss and that the six other planets bring about sense and intellect in the abyss so that all of them together are taken to be the living spirit. However, in truth, the other planets are as mindless and dark as their fellow planet earth and, therefore, cannot contribute any more sense and intellect than it can.

7. There are also two egregious errors concerning the Day of Judgement in the proper sense of the word. The first is that it will occur shortly, even though the expected millennium has not even begun yet. The other is that the stars, too, will perish in this conflagration and that there will be no more time after that.

8. Moreover, there are also other very flagrant errors in his interpretations of Scripture, notably the Apocalypse, which he misinterprets according to his theosophical sense in many places, even though the book as a whole is prophetical in character, as its title, ch. 1, makes clear. And yet, irrespective of that, J.B. refers the vision of the woman about to give birth to a son whom the Dragon sought to devour, to Adam in paradise, endowed with his own Venus womb as though he were that woman. And he interprets the battle of Michael against the Dragon as Michael’s struggle with Lucifer after he had corrupted the divine saltpetre. Likewise, in his interpretation, the seven stars, the seven spirits, the seven golden candlesticks and the seven thunders stand for the seven forms or properties of nature. Furthermore, he places the whore above the Dragon, and he then asks her whether she is the donkey of Christ or the Devil. And it is another obvious mistake of his to say that at the opening of the seventh seal Babylon will fall and the high shepherd will feed his flock, even though the seventh seal was opened about 1300 years ago.

9. Likewise, he reveals his ignorance of both nature and Scripture in saying that “the world, after the fall, has but one eye, for it has lived under the six seals, under the six planets, with its own knowledge. However, you shall see the seventh seal together with the eye of the sun. We here speak what we know” (Threefold Life of Man, 9,107). This is wrong, however. Neither do the planets give any knowledge, nor does the seventh seal still remain to be opened. Rather, as I have said before, it was already opened some 1300 years ago. Moreover, he interprets the seven golden candlesticks and the seven stars as referring to the humanity and the divinity of Christ respectively, even though the Spirit of God himself says: “The seven candlesticks are the seven churches, and the seven stars the angels of the churches” (Rev. 1:20). He further betrays his ignorance in the interpretation of the Scriptures in saying that “it was not the dear man Moses who wrote the story of the creation, but someone else who had knowledge neither about the true God nor the stars” ( Aurora 22,27).

10. Moreover, it is the product of his unrestrained melancholic imagination that he is so confident that he possesses the knowledge of the language of nature and that it can be understood by everyone in his own mother tongue, even though this knowledge was lost in Adam’s fall. For languages are so different that if a word naturally means one thing in one, chances nevertheless are that it will mean quite another thing in another language. Thus, for instance, even though “phur” in “sulphur”, according to his imagination, may stand for the roughness and bitterness of the soul which has its origin in the first principle, the word θεῖον signifies no such thing, both of its syllables being extremely smooth and soft. And it certainly seems unbelievable that common endings of words should have any essential meanings. But he wants “tetragramma” in the Tetragrammaton to designate the first principle, and “ton” the second. However, it is a completely insipid suggestion that the “te” and the “ma” should stand for the first and the fourth property respectively. For this reason, all of this is but vain and vague dreams.

11. However, his inspiration also led him astray in more important matters such as the nature of God whom, as is clear from his Aurora, he frequently makes discerpible and corporeal (assuming we can understand a man’s mind from his own words). “The heaven”, he says, “the earth and everything above the heavens, taken together, are the total God” (ch. 2, v. 61). And in ch. 4: “Light, heat, cold, soft, gentle, sweet, bitter, sour, acid and tone, they all are in God the Father, though in a mild, pleasant and placid mode” (3,16). And this is what he calls “divine saltpetre”. And v. 58: “God created the angels not out of any external matter, but out of himself” (4,58). And ch. 7: “The holy angels were created out of himself, being, as it were, little gods and corresponding to the total God in their qualities” (7,24). And ch. 8: “In the Father are light and darkness, air and water, heat and cold, hard and soft, thick and thin, sound and tone, sweet and sour, bitter and astringent” (8,7). However, all of that was uncorrupted in him before the fall of Lucifer. And in v. 16 the water in him is “likened to the sap or juice in an apple, but very bright and lightsome, like heaven” (8,16). And in ch. 13, v. 65, he likewise says: “The innermost pith or kernel of the total Deity has a very tart and terrible sharpness, a horrible, dark and cold attraction not unlike winter with its cold frost.” In this same chapter he also says that ”an angel is a part or piece of the total Deity, not the total God himself” (13,45). He says so again in v. 145: “God himself is all things, and all things whatsoever are formed or framed out of him, be it in love or in wrath” (13,145).

12. And with regard to the fact that God did not defeat Lucifer in battle at once, he replies in ch. 14: “O dear blind man, it was not a man or a beast rising against God, but God against God” (14,96), i.e. one huge piece of God against the rest of God. And in ch. 21,12, he says that “no new thing has ever been created that is distinct from God himself.” And v. 69: “The whole or universal God is that one body of which all things consist and which is all things” (21,69). And ch. 23: “God is the total or universal essence of things, not excluding water and earth” (23,3). And v. 6: “Now if thou art of any other matter than God himself, how then canst thou be his child?” (23,6). And v. 7: “If the Deity is another substance or thing than his body, then there must be two deities” (23,7). And let us briefly go back to ch. 22, v. 37 where he says that “if God is not in beasts, worms, leaves, herbs and grass, nor in heaven and earth, and if all of this is not God himself, he will commit his book to flames.” Could anyone describe God as more discerpible and corporeal than the author of these passages? And there are many more to this effect. Hence, it is obvious that there was no infallible inspiration directing his pen every time he took it up.

13. However, after that, this erroneous mystery is carried even further for the sake of a more precise and accurate explanation of the eternal generation of the Deity, the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit, from the seven source spirits of God. You can easily see how corporeal the latter are according to his general description once you have heard their names: “Sour, sweet, bitter, heat, light, tone and body” or, as he calls them in his other treatises, “sour, bitter, pain, heat, etc.” And just as he confounds God and nature, he also calls them the “seven spirits of nature”. And he states explicitly that “nature is the whole body of God” (ch. 2, v. 17). And ch. 3,13: “When we consider the whole of nature and its properties”, he says, “then we contemplate the Father.” And yet, in his view, the Father is identical specifically with the first four of the source spirits or forms of eternal nature before we come into the light. And therefore, he says in v. 55: “If the Son did not shine in the Father, the Father would have been a dark valley” (3,55). And he says so in other places in his writings as well. And ch. 7, v. 42: “The Father is the power and the kingdom, the Son the light and splendour in the Father and the Holy Spirit the motion of the powers of the Father and the Son forming all things.”

14. But to pursue his philosophy of the seven source spirits or forms of nature even further, he says in ch. 23, v. 16: “If these seven spirits did not exist, God would not exist, nor would life or any creature.” And ch. 9: “The seven spirits of God comprise all things, even the whole Father who is without beginning or end” (9,74). And in vv. 77–78, he says: “Angels, demons, heaven and earth, trees and stones are made from the body of the seven spirits, and God is all things.” And ch. 10, v. 5: “The seven source spirits are the one eternal and omnipotent God, but, more specifically, they are God the Father.”

Moreover, he writes the following about the eternal generation of the Son in ch. 11, v. 14: “Behold, without the flash all the seven spirits would have been a dark valley. However, when the flash rises up in the heat between the astringent and bitter qualities, then it starts to shinein the sweet water.” And v. 22: “The seven spirits are the Father, and the light so born is their Son.” “The light is the heart of the seven spirits which they generate and at which all of the seven rejoice and triumph” (11,32–33). “And this light”, he says in v. 34, “is the true Son of God, whom we Christians worship and honour, the second Person of the Holy Trinity.” And in v. 35 he says that “all the seven spirits of God together are God the Father.”

And v. 38: “The Son is in the centre like the trunk of a tree pith or the heart, and the light is in the midst. However, the splendour or brilliance in all the powers or virtues of the Father and the Son is the true Holy Spirit whom we Christians honour and worship as the third Person.”

15. Hence, it is quite obvious that the seven source spirits, according to the author’s expositions in this book of his entitled Aurora, are the highest Deity and that there is nothing beyond them. Therefore, God, in his view, is corporeal and God the Father dark and desolate, bereft of all joy without the Son. And another very clear corollary of that is that God is discerpible. Still, even though this is already sufficiently clear from the many places cited above, it is even more conspicuous in ch. 14, v. 10 where he says that the angels “were not new spirits made of any new thing, but old spirits which had been in God from all eternity. They knew very well the right of the Deity and the right of nature and how they should move and stir” i.e. according to what measure and moderation. “They were not to extol or elevate themselves more than they had done when still being a part conjoined with the total Deity”, as he says in vv. 17–18. And in v. 23 he says: “Earth and stones have their origin in the first source spirit.” Could the total Deity be depicted as corporeal and discerpible any more clearly?

Hence, it is clear from this egregious error that J.B. was not infallibly inspired at all when writing his Aurora, even though he constantly reminds his reader that he was with such confidence. This is sufficient reason in itself why we do not believe him inspired in his other writings, no matter how vehemently he may insist that he is.

16. However, we are not done yet. Rather, we shall list further errors (for such they seem to me to be), occurring in this treatise and in others. Thus, as we have already noted before, he keeps on saying that the angels were created out of God in a downright material fashion.

17. Also that he believes the spirit of animals to have its origin in the third principle in the elemental and astral realm is odd, for in the Key he says that reason and an astute mind are nothing but the constellation of external stars. However, let us move on.

18. That the seven source spirits have no origin at all. And as regards this abyss, he says that not even God knows what it is, lacking both a beginning and an end and not having anything that is similar to him.

19. That hell and the world of fire and darkness is everywhere. And Grand Mystery, ch. 8, v. 28: “The heaven is in hell and hell in heaven, and yet the one is not manifest to the other. And although the Devil should go many millions of miles, desiring to enter heaven and see it, yet he would still be in hell and not see it. Likewise, the good angels cannot see the darkness.”

20. That the Devil cannot see in sunlight, but only in darkness.

21. That the soul is propagated in a human fashion like a shoot growing from a tree.

22. That before the creation of angels God was engaged in an eternal game and sport or play amidst the source spirits bubbling over.

23. That the individual man Adam had an angelical, celestial or paradisiacal body before the fall.

24. That Adam was a virgin before the fall and had a womb in him, while also being male.

That, had he stood firm, he would have been able to procreate out of himself magically, the child being born without any separation of bodies like sunrays going through the water.

25. That the soul is the roughest and coarsest part in man, as it consists of the first four properties, namely “sour, bitter, pain, heat” and that if its origin were soft, it would have had no robustness at all.

26. That Adam before his sleep, when he still had his angelical shape, could not see the sunlight, even though his eyes were open all the time.

27. That Adam had neither intestines nor genitalia before the fall and that his Venus womb was taken away from him and formed into a woman.

28. That the seven Liberal Arts proceed from the seven forms or spirits of nature.

29. That the new-born human souls are reborn in the soul of Christ, being brought forth from Mary and in the heart of God.

30. That the shapes and shadows of all things and words endure after the destruction of this world.

31. That a fiery flash consumes all things in the first four forms or properties so that the devils, stripped of their bodies, become all blood and scarlet red.

That no intelligence can be without a body, nor can the spirit itself exist without it.

32. That there are multitudes of intelligent spirits everywhere in the whole abyss between the earth and the stars, but they are completely mortal, having their origin in the spirit of the external world.

33. That the astral body is the soul of the great world, depending upon the sun, but being the true rational life of all creatures.

34. That the creation of nature occurs for God to make himself manifest to himself and to contemplate himself in the works of nature without which he would have remained unknown to himself.

35. That God made three principal throne angels, namely Michael, Uriel and Lucifer, and that the swelling of Lucifer’s fiery pride corrupted the divine saltpetre. He elevated himself so far in opposition to God that God was forced to assemble the troops of Michael and Uriel to beat and defeat him. And that out of the corrupted saltpetre, made such by Lucifer, and the bolts of lightning of this war, this external world was created which comprises the earth with the abyss and all the stars around it.

If we find all or at least some of these errors in the Teutonic philosopher, we must indeed acknowledge that he was not infallibly inspired.

Question II: Whether he was not affected by some maniac intemperance and what the reason was that he considered himself inspired, as did others.

However, I do not see any necessity why we should conclude that if he was not inspired, he must have been a maniac. We do have to acknowledge, though, that he is an enthusiast, since he so confidently claims to be inspired, even though in reality he is not, at least not in matters of philosophical speculation.

And even assuming that he was in fact subject to gross hallucinations in his divination and enthusiasm, do we not see that quite a few people who claim for themselves more than ordinary intelligence and reason have erred more grossly and more dangerously? Do they possess a better light when, advancing feigned arguments of their own making, they entirely eliminate the faith of the Christian religion, all sense of morality and every hope and aim of a future state after this life by means of their syllogisms? No matter how much he may have erred in other matters, this enthusiast of ours, by contrast, does retain a firm and clear sense and conviction of all these things.

2. And it was not madness, but rather a rash and ill-considered judgement and an imprudent adherence to the opinions of such men as were generally held to be moderate and sober that managed to seduce our author into the assumption of such a corporeal Deity. Of all doctrines that we find in him this to me seems to be the harshest one, even though others, by contrast, find nothing harsher and more difficult to conceive and acknowledge than something incorporeal. Thus, Marcus Aurelius, for instance, that extremely wise and virtuous emperor, calls human souls ἀποσπάσματα θεοῦ, “parts torn out of the deity”, as it were. And the other Stoics and even Cicero himself speak in this gross way all too frequently. However, all these expressions clearly point to a corporeal Deity.

And all those - and they are by no means few in number - who declare the souls of brutes and the inferior soul of man to be corporeal, thus attributing perception, cognition, imagination and memory to matter, open the door wide to denying the necessity for any spiritual substance whatever. Consequently, they should not be astonished at all that the enthusiasm of the Teutonic philosopher pushed him further through that door than those who had opened it for him would want to follow.

And so let us compare highly cautious and subtle philosophical reasoning to a most fervent enthusiasm in terms of their effects. Is it more probable that vital motion, intellect and perception are to be attributed to certain parts of matter (in which, in the living play and struggle of the source spirits, the different parts of matter stroke and perceive one another in light, as J.B. puts it) so that, I say, being endowed with knowledge, they can by themselves bring about the order of all the most elegant forms and most useful structures of the things that we can see? Or can matter, relying on no other thing than locomotion, solely by virtue of the collision of certain parts with others, arrange itself into the order of things that we perceive in the universe? If, I say, you take a look at these two figments, the one shouting “mathematical proof”, the other “infallible inspiration”, I, for my part, raise the question in earnest: Which of the two is to be deemed more insane, reason or enthusiasm?

Confidence is as madly misplaced here as it is there, and the error of either position stems from the same source, namely the lack of the necessary level of moral prudence and its εὐαισθησία, as the Pythagoreans call it, its spiritual sensibility which it contains.

4. For, to move on to the other part of this question, it followed from the imperfect and incomplete state of his purification at that time, which J.B. defends so strenuously in his writings, that he was liable to this error. Thus, as he did not believe in such a perfect victory over his own body as might have been possible (at least in others), he lacked that respect and fear which might have stopped him from prophesying before his time. If the body has not been subdued completely, it will most certainly, albeit insensibly, play all kinds of tricks with a man’s mind and he will necessarily have to face up to those of his own in a sufficient degree before he tries and dares to do something in this field that is beyond his faculties. And therefore, man must be ten thousand times more sedulous and diligent in the purging of his heart even from the least stain, especially pride and self-admiration, than in the heating of his brain when pursuing any kind of knowledge out of curiosity.

5. It is not that I am not sufficiently convinced that J.B had a good and sincere enough heart and experienced the pains of generation in reaching the new birth. And yet, that unbelief was such a large obstacle to the growth of the new man that his new birth could not yet reach the “body of the stars and elements” (as he calls it) in such a way as might have made him safe from the disadvantages of his enthusiastic temperament.

6. However, he was aware of his own integrity according to the light given to him and believed, and rightly so, that all true and sound wisdom proceeded from the “Father of Lights” (Jas. 1:17). He had entreated the Holy Spirit for his gift according to the promise with such great faith and intense fervour that the vehemence of his desires and his frequent prayers had heated up the complete fabric of his body and inflamed his animal spirits. And this is how it was that his imagination acquired such extraordinary strength and vigour. Under these circumstances, that scenery of thought depicted in his Aurora took such hold of his mind that it easily swayed him and made him believe that it was an infallible illumination from God and the fruit of his supplications and prayers. He resembled Eve who believed her firstborn child to be the promised offspring that was to crush the serpent’s head.

As a consequence, even though it was an error, it was an example of his pious gratitude that, since he believed that he had been completely filled with light and truth, he ascribed it solely to divine grace, not the gifts of his own genius or his own assiduity and diligence.

7. The other thing which might have made him more prone to assume he had had a supernatural illumination was the familiarity he had acquired with the writings of H.N. above all, but also those of other such men who declared that they had achieved such an illumination. All of them spoke so fervidly and so rapturously about the holiness of life to which J.B. aspired in such earnestness. And they declared so expressly what sublime illuminations and admirable gifts they had received from the Holy Spirit that the hope of being granted an illumination himself became so present to this innocent and entirely sincere candidate for such an illumination that he believed himself illuminated immediately and unwittingly whenever something happened to him that had any semblance of it whatsoever. And his natural temperament, too, made him err in this fashion.

8. However, the reason why others have thought him to be inspired is that genuine inclination to believe and trust the word of a virtuous man. And certainly the sincere and savvy style of his writings, in which he insists upon all-embracing holiness with such vehemence and inveighs against all kinds of vice in such simple freedom and fervour, might easily convince any reader of the author’s piety and integrity.

Besides, his lowly family origins and education and his alleged illiteracy could not but add to the assumption that such sublime and unexpected speculations of so illiterate a person could not have flown from any other source than from the Spirit of God. However, this is precisely the mistake which people make.

9. For there are many places in his writings in which he states clearly that he has read the books of learned authors. And especially in his Aurora, he says that he has read the writings of astronomers and understands their theories sufficiently well, also recounting how he himself approves of the order and positions of the planets, preferring the Copernican hypothesis over all others. And in the Three Principles, he says that he has perused a good many excellent writings to further his research on the Pearl, etc. See also ch. 13, v. 21: “I can”, he says, “hardly enumerate all those fastidious hills of books on the soul.” And there are many other places. And on account of the great similarity between their imaginings, I have not the slightest doubt that he read the works of Paracelsus. He had therefore collected enough matter to burn and boil in his heated brain.

10. However, all of this serves rather to prove that he was not inspired than to discover the reasons why men thought he was. This has already been sufficiently dealt with above.

Question III: What might have occasioned each particular of J.B.’s principal errors?

The third question is of far greater importance provided we are successful in giving an answer to it: “What might have occasioned each of his principal errors in his individual inspirations”, such as that most fundamental error of all, i.e. the eternal generation of the Deity in the motion of the seven source spirits or seven properties of nature, or his imagining God the Father to be a “dark valley” ( Aurora, 3,55) without the birth of the Son whom he calls the “heart of God”?

2. In Aurora, ch. 9, vv. 28–29, he writes about this birth as follows: “The heat is generated between the astringent and the bitter qualities in the sweet fountain water, and there the light is kindled in the heat.” And vv. 36–37: “You cannot understand that unless the Holy Spirit kindles your soul so that this light itself shines in your heart. And then this light itself will be generated in you as in God and rise up in your astringent and bitter qualities, and in your sweet water, and it will triumph as in God. After this has happened, then you will finally understand my book and not before.” Hence, the process of regeneration which he had experienced in himself caused him to conceive of the nature of God and the generation of his Son in the self-same fashion.

3. Likewise, ch. 10, v. 103: “All the three Persons are generated in your heart.” And v. 108: “As the Deity is generated in a creature, so the Son is generated in the self-same way in the universal abyss of the Father, in all its parts and places.” And in the book about the Three Principles, ch. 9, v. 34: “For as is happens in the desire and the anguish of the birth in the holy Deity before the light breaks forth, so you, oh man, must seek to be born again in pain, in longing and in a desiring will, etc.” And in the Threefold Life of Man, ch. 2, v. 5: “It is not so difficult to contemplate eternal nature, just as God also contemplates the kingdoms of the heavens and of hell. You need only seek to be reborn or regenerated out of the darkness into the light, without which you cannot reach the depth in the centre.” And finally in his book on the Three Principles, ch. 10, where he expresses his thirst for the most sublime knowledge, he similarly recounts that it is to be sought in a new birth.

4. It is abundantly clear from this, I think, that he believes the process of our regeneration to be an exact representation of the eternal generation of the Deity, i.e. of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, as he falsely imagines. And therefore, since we experience anguish, darkness and bitterness and suffer from a burning heat of desire without the joy and pleasure of light as long as we feel such a violent yearning for the birth of Christ in us, he concludes that the Father is “the first desire and longing for the Son” (ch. 7, v. 13 in his book on the Three Principles) in the generation of the Deity. Moreover, he identifies the first four fountain spirits which precede the light with God the Father who, he says, is “a dark valley without solace or joy” without the Son. And indeed, what solace and joy could there be in “astringency, bitterness, anguish and heat”? It is these four properties which, according to him, are God the Father in the proper sense. And it is light, the latter’s heart or Son, which corresponds to Christ’s birth in us, as he becomes our internal light and joy after our anguish and longing for him. But whereas we are subject to wrath under the Father, nevertheless we dwell in love after the Son’s birth, being wholly reconciled to God. Thus, J.B. ignorantly transfers to his theosophical speculation those moral mysteries of the Father and the Son which are emphasized so frequently in Familism and which he himself experienced.

And that, coupled with the observation of the sour, bitter and sweet juice in the bark of a tree to which the heat of the sun is added to generate the fourth property (Aurora, ch. 9, v. 54) is the occasion of this principal and most fundamental error concerning the nature and Trinity of God.

5. Moreover, he extends the nature of the Father to be sevenfold in number, as he says in his Aurora, ch. 9, v. 74: “The seven spirits of God comprise all things, even the whole Father who is without beginning or end.” I believe that he sought this number because of the seven planets and the seven chemical bodies, which are matters of great importance to him and which he frequently identifies with the seven source spirits. I pass over here what he suspected to be the hidden meanings of the seven seals, the seven trumpets, the seven thunders, the seven golden candlesticks and, above all, the seven spirits of God. It was probably such intimations which carried enough weight to fix his imagination on the number seven, even though there is no reason in the matter itself why he should restrict or extend these properties of nature, as he calls them, to exactly this number.

And this may suffice to lay open the occasion of this first and most fundamental error of the Teutonic philosopher. We shall now briefly go through all his other errors, following the order in which we have listed them.

6. So the first error is that concerning the sun and the stars, that the sun, as he says, imparts life and light to all the other stars and that it was generated from all the other stars. The source of this error, I believe, was that he was so certain and confident of his knowledge about the eternal generation of God and the similarity that this world bore to it. Thus, he likens the orbiting stars to God the Father, and the sun to the Son, hence taking it for granted that as the Son is generated by the Father, so the sun is generated by the stars. Likewise, as the Son illumines and vivifies the Father, so the sun illumines and gives life to the stars.

7. Moreover, he believes the stars to be made up of fire and water. I think it was their placid and gentle and, as it were, cooling light and, as he supposed, their fixed position in their respective orbits (his imagination straying into the popular view here) which made him resort to this fancy and way of speech.

Moreover, he imagines that they give life, imagination and reason and send dreams and visions into the minds of sleeping men, that all arts, sciences and trades come from the stars and that there is a huge darkness between the stars. I suspect very strongly that these imaginings were, among other things, occasioned by the writings of Paracelsus (see my Enthusiasmus Triumphatus). Likewise, his interest in and love of astrology made him take the view that the different species of things proceeded from the difference between the stars, because this was the sole source of his knowledge about them.

8. For these errors concerning the planets likewise have their origin in his penchant for astrology. Thus, he had to make them things of supreme excellence in order to attribute to them such admirable effects, rather than suppose them to be as mindless and dark as the earth. He was also blinded by their splendour into accepting this view all the more readily. And it was for this reason, I believe, that he thought that Venus, Mercury, Mars and Jupiter had flown out of the sun like sparks from a raging fire.

Moreover, the everyday comparison between the two worlds, the “big one” and the “small one” generally called microcosm and macrocosm might have furnished him with further occasion to elaborate upon this analogy in even more detail in his own little fashion. Hence, we must not be surprised at all that, after making the sun the heart, he wants to make Mars, which has a reddish appearance and is generally termed the fiery planet, the gall. Likewise, he says elsewhere that Saturn corresponds to the solid cranium, calling the stars either the “top” or “crown of the head”.

9. And since he attributes senses to the planets, he was all the more inclined to imagine that Venus, that tender feminine planet, was afraid on seeing Earth and therefore preferred rather to orbit it at a great distance than come close to it. And that he makes the moon the “sack of astral properties” is due to the fact that he supposes it to correspond to the seventh source spirit or property of nature, i.e. body and the home of the other six properties. And thus, the moon is supposed to receive and transmit the influxes of all the stars. Hence, he found it reasonable that the earth should drink the lunar rays so avidly.

10. And as regards the Day of Judgement, the strong impression that such a terrible and dreadful subject had left on his melancholic imagination easily induced in him a sense of its being much closer at hand than it was in reality. And his view that all the stars of the heaven will perish in the conflagration of the earth may well be due to his misunderstanding of certain Scriptural expressions and his own fantasy that the earth and all the stars in their orbits constitute one single living being made up of the saltpetre corrupted by Lucifer and to be purged and purified again on the Day of Judgement.

11. As to his errors in the interpretation of the prophetical places of Scripture, notably the Apocalypse, the strong and lively impression that the mystery of the seven source spirits had left upon his fancy and belief made him imagine that they and other notions depending upon them were hidden in those visions. So his mysteries, according to his own opinion at least, were of such dignity and profundity that he suspected all the more readily that these prophecies, written in a highly sublime and mystical style, were replete with them. Nowhere, however, did he test whether these things actually corresponded, the fiery wheel of his imagination turning so quickly that it only allowed him to touch upon things briefly without dwelling on them in any detail.

And it is certainly indicative of the extraordinarily strong hold that these impressions had over his imagination that he was forced to deny that “it was the dear man Moses who wrote the story of the creation, but someone else who had knowledge neither about the true God nor the stars” ( Aurora 22,27), only because the things themselves did not match his own preconceptions. Those, however, who understand the Cabbala also understand that this work shows that this “dear man Moses” was the wisest philosopher ever to exist on earth and that the author of this work understood the nature of the stars and of God sufficiently clearly.

12. It is obvious to everybody who has perused his writings how it came to pass that he thought he had acquired knowledge of the language of nature. Thus, in Aurora, ch. 10, v. 89, he says that “Adam gave names to the creatures according to their natures, which is the very language of nature itself, knowledge of which”, he says, “was imparted to him by the Spirit of God which”, he adds, “has a delight in and a love and longing for him.” (20,89). There is quite a similar place in the Threefold Life of Man, ch. 3, v. 18: “From the language of nature all things have taken their names. The schools of the third principle of this world do not understand it, but the theosophical schools of Pentecost understand it well.” Add to this the passage in ch. 2, v. 2: “Those learned in history books, who pride themselves on foreign languages, do not understand their own mother tongue. If they understood it (together with the spirits of the letters), they would also have understood nature.” And ch. 5, v. 85: “The language of nature will be understood in everyone’s mother tongue, even though its knowledge was lost in the fall of Adam.” “However”, he says, “he will regain it in the regeneration.”

13. I, for my part, admit that nothing in J.B. struck me as more absurd and preposterous than his boasting of his knowledge of the language of nature. Now, however, on seeing through the occasions of this error with such clarity, I am not so astonished any more, since it is his principal error that he did not know how to duly distinguish between the outer skin of the Mosaic Cabbala and its inner marrow or mystery in which the true philosophy consists. And therefore, he assumed the retrieval of something that had in fact never existed anywhere. For there has never been, nor can there ever be, a language that could by its very nature transmit to the mind with precision the distinct nature of a thing. Instead, the exact meaning of primitive words cannot but be the object of an agreement, as everyone who seriously reflects upon this matter will readily acknowledge. It was J.B.’s error about Moses’s writing which accounts for why he took a different view.

However, once he had made this mistake and assumed that we were to be restored to everything we had lost in Adam’s fall in our regeneration, he at once imagined that the gift of understanding the language of nature had also been restored to him by virtue of his new birth. And he was induced to think so all the more strongly because it allowed him to brag and boast against those who prided themselves on their foreign languages. This, as you can see from these places, increased and invigorated his rivalry with them. And in this enthusiastic fantasy he readily allowed himself to be deceived, so that he too might boast about his interpretations of the language of nature, just as the erudite do about their knowledge of Latin, Greek and Hebrew.

14. Now, however, as regards his opinion about God whom, as has been established in great detail from his Aurora, he makes corporeal and discerpible, an opinion he certainly entertained at that time, we have already indicated the occasion of this error. He began from the assumption that the process of regeneration was a perfect image of the eternal generation of the Deity. Therefore, just as he had felt in himself that bitterness, sourness, anguish and fire so crassly and corporeally in the labours of his new birth before the breaking forth of light and love, which is Christ according to the spirit, he imagined that the birth of the eternal Son of God could not be any different. Nor could the Father out of whom he was generated be any different from the one who is so corporeal that, considered without the birth of the Son, he can in himself become bitter, sour, disturbed, passionate, dark, harsh and more of that kind. Since he, I say, had felt this in his own body before his new birth, he imagined God the Father to be such a dark, disturbed and corporeal essence as he himself had experienced in this condition. This might have been the origin of this fundamental error concerning the corporeity of God.

15. Undoubtedly, this occasioned many of his other errors as well, like the one immediately following concerning the creation of angels out of God as if he were the matter out of which they were made.

Nor is it surprising at all that he should have believed the souls of brutes to have their origin in the “elemental and astral realm”, since he had already assumed that God himself, who had life and intellect, was nevertheless a corporeal essence. And I want to pass over the question of whether this fantasy might also have been prompted in him by the writings of Paracelsus.

Also, that the seven source spirits have no origin at all is perfectly consistent with his doctrine that they are God the Father. Nor is it a mindless conjecture that an infinite and eternal body, supposing that it possesses perception and intelligence in itself, cannot comprehend itself. Indeed, it can be rightly considered a corollary of the corporeity of God.

16. And I believe that he imagined that hell or the world of fire and darkness is everywhere because of the (somewhat lame) comparison with a lamp and flames of fire: there is fire in the lamp even when there is a flame enveloping it. Or perhaps it is because darkness immediately follows the removal of light that he imagines the darkness to have already been present, albeit as yet undetected.

Moreover, the claim that neither the good angels perceive darkness nor the devils the light of the sun follows, I contend, from his view about the three persons of the Trinity not comprehending one another. And therefore, those individual creatures which belong to the first principle of the world of fire and darkness have perception in this principle alone, the creatures of light having perception in the light world. And from here he extended it to cover all principles: no creature has perception save in its own principle and therefore the Devil cannot perceive anything in sunlight, since this external world, of which the sun is a part, is not the first, but the third principle. The three persons cannot comprehend one another because, as he points out elsewhere, they are persons. And again it is through the consideration of fire, flames and air that he seems to been drawn to this opinion: fire does not comprehend the flame proceeding from it, nor does the flame comprehend the air proceeding from both of them or, as his imagination added, the other way round.

17. That the soul is propagated like a shoot from a tree seemed to him an obvious thing to believe, because he was inclined to assume all things to be corporeal. Besides, his ignorance of the philosophical Mosaic Cabbala, which made him adopt the view that Adam was ἀνδρόγωνος[3] and able to procreate through himself, might have further confirmed his fantasy concerning the transmission of souls.

And that there was an eternal succession of playful struggles amongst the source spirits is a necessary entailment of his tenet in which he identifies them with God the Father. Otherwise, God would, for eternity, [4] have been without life and light. A corporeal Deity necessarily implies an eternal succession of motions. Since this is impossible, it is obvious that God cannot be corporeal.

18. His view, moreover, that Adam had an angelical body before the fall, was a virgin, had a womb in him and was able to propagate from himself in a magical fashion results solely from the fact that he collapses and confounds the outer shell and the mystery of the Mosaic narrative into one. For when he imagined that the individual man Adam was created for paradise and that paradise was so sublime a condition or state that he was entirely devoid of the desire for intercourse with women, it followed that he pictured this one Adam as a magically fertile man-maiden who would raise up his own progeny in the aforementioned fashion.

19. That he believes the soul to be such a rough or coarse and firm thing consisting in the four principles of “sourness”, “bitterness”, “anguish” and “heat” has been, I dare say, suggested to him by what he felt and detected of them in his more aggressive passions. And the rule of opposites made him subscribe to the opinion that, had its origin been soft, it would have had no robustness.

The reason why Adam could not perceive the sun while he was in his angelical body is also why he believed that good angels were unable to perceive darkness, or devils light.

And that Adam had no intestines or genitals before the fall is due to the same reason for which he was pictured as a pure man-virgin with a womb, namely because intestines and intercourse did not fit into the paradisiacal state. However, after his fall, no other part of the body into which he had been cast could have more aptly been taken away from him to form the woman than that which J.B. calls his “Venus womb”.

20. That he believed the seven Liberal Arts to proceed from the seven source spirits is solely due to the fact that they are both seven in number. For he referred everything that is seven by number to the seven source spirits, even the seven sons of Japheth.

The pious occasion of his opinion about the shapes and shadows of all things and words that will remain after this life may have arisen from the article of faith that everybody will give an account of every single work and word on the Last Day.

Furthermore, his assumption that we are born again in the soul of Christ, as brought forth from Mary, was, I think, occasioned by the death of the souls in the fall of Adam’s soul, which, in his view, was why they propagated, even though no souls had propagated from Christ’s soul who died chaste.

That he imagines the spirits of evil demons, robbed of their bodies, to be all blood and scarlet red is a fantasy that the “fiery flash” might have struck into his fancy, making him believe that their own heat and fire had robbed them of their bodies.

21. That neither a spirit nor an intellect is without a body was an obvious thing for him to make up since he assumed God to be corporeal and such as could perceive himself only through his manifestations in his creatures.

As regards the multitudes of intelligent spirits in the abyss between the earth and the stars, who are nevertheless mortal, it is an opinion that he might have taken from Paracelsus, as I have already noted above, and he found it easy to assume its truth owing to his corporeal imagination.

And the same can be said about the fact that he makes the astral body both the soul of the great world and the rational life of all creatures.

However, that God cannot make himself manifest to himself without the creation of something distinct from him is an inference that, I contend, he drew from the use of mirrors, since no-one can contemplate his own face without another object reflecting it back to him.

22. And finally, as regards the three throne angels Michael, Uriel and Lucifer, he himself admits to having made them three so that they correspond to the Divine Trinity. However, as for the fall and the battle of Lucifer in which Michael fought with him, there were certain places in Scripture that occasioned him to make this up. Thus, he interpreted the war of Michael and his angels against the Dragon in the Apocalypse expressly, albeit ignorantly, as referring to this terrible battle. And that this external world was created from the corrupt saltpetre, made such through Lucifer’s rebellion and the enormous bolts of lightning and struggles of the two other throne angels and their legions against him, is a fantasy that he introduced to give an account of the origin of natural as well as moral evil, i.e. why things of such deformed and squalid appearances should exist in the world.

23. And thus I have as briefly as possible reviewed all the deepest sources of J.B.’s errors. I have listed them in the same confused and muddled order in which I came across the errors myself. Following this example, others could give similar accounts of other errors which are to be found in his works, for I admit that I have not noted all of his errors.

Question IV: What, then, might have been the most likely productions of his soul in his errors, i.e. what would these enthusiastic agitations and fermentations of his soul amount to if it could be put forth in more clear and distinct light?

We are now coming to the fourth question which is both more difficult to answer and stranger than all the others. I do not consider it my duty to enquire as to which truth his soul might have aspired in every single one of his aforementioned errors, but only in those which seem to me to be the most significant ones and in which we are more likely to succeed. Before dealing with the matter itself, I think it may be worthwhile to present to you that chart or diagram of the “seven spirits” appended to his Key. In brief, it looks like this:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Form Acerbum, Amarum, Angor Mundus tenebrosus. Ignis Tenebrosus, Lucidus Mundus igneus. Lux sive Amor, Sonus sive Mercurius, Substantia sive Natura Mundus lucidus.

2. This is the chart of the “universal forms” in the complete comprehension of all things. He makes them seven because of his predilection for that number. However, it is superfluous to distinguish the fire world from the light and dark worlds. * And therefore, we shall cross out , the sun. And since ☽ is not a fitting symbol of the divine body or the substance of the light world, we shall do away with this rather vile planet and put the Sun, , which is a very bad emblem of the dark world, in its place. In this way, , the sun, and , Saturn, will correspond to one another in complete opposition. Thus, in his Aurora, he, too, calls or Saturn an “astringent, frigid and austere sun” as well as the heart of “all corporeality and palpability” (26, 1–2).

3. Now it is also worth mentioning what J.B. himself says about this chart. “Above all”, he says, “it is to be observed that the seventh and the first properties are always considered to be one, as are the second and the sixth and, likewise, the third and the fifth, and that the fourth is only a boundary” or limit that sets things apart. Hence, the syzygies ☽ and , and and and are all meant to show the analogy that obtains between those of one world and those of another, i.e. those of dark fire and light fire or those of love and wrath. “And so”, he says, “the effluence of divine manifestation, in terms of the three properties, is natural in the first principle, before the light, but spiritual in the second principle, in the light.” And hence, I say, let us cross out ☽ and replace it with in these couplings. And then will correspond to , the sun, in the light world, and to, Saturn, in the dark world.

4. And in this way there will be a close affinity and similarity to the old cabbalistic diagram of the six universal forms in the complete comprehension of all things of which I shall provide a structured overview in the following chart:

1 Supreme Good

2 Eternal Intellect Trinity of Pure Divinity

3 Divine Soul

Form 4 World Soul

5 Spirit of Nature Trinity of Universal Nature

6 Abyss of Physical Monads

Here the hypostases of the two trinities correspond to one another in a clear ἀντιστοιχία,[5] (the sun) to (Saturn), (Jupiter) to (Mercury), and (Venus) to (Mars). The trinity of universal nature is like a shadowy projection of the Trinity of pure divinity through the divine soul. It resembles a tree standing above the bank of a river which projects its shadows into the water with the highest of its branches being the lowest in the projection, while the latter correspond to the former and bear a necessary similarity to them. Likewise, the or abyss of physical monads reflects the image of , the sun, or the supreme good, which the Platonists call τἀγαθόν.[6]

5. Hence, as the supreme good is divine tactility or intellectual sweetness, so the abyss of physical monads is the source of natural tactility or palpability. And as τἀγαθόν is the uniform lucidity and clarity of divinity, so the abyss of monads is uniform darkness, albeit one that can be ignited into universal splendour and light, thereby creating the “one element” mentioned by J.B. And it is the true Lucifer with his divine saltpetre who corresponds to , the sun or the supreme good, that “Father of lights” (Jas. 1:17) and inaccessible Phosphor who is most properly called the “heart of God”, since he is the first centre of life and light in the Trinity of pure divinity. And on this hypothesis, therefore, the “Lucifer of nature” corresponds to the “heart of God”, not the Son, as he is not the heart of the godhead, but its mind and intellect, i.e. .

6. To this mind or intellect, i.e. , otherwise named Zeus [in Greek] or Jupiter (as the mythologers call the eternal intellect, the Son of the divine , Saturn, or Κρόνος, which, in Proclus, means the same as Ἀκρόνος, i.e. τἀγαθόν, to which corresponds τὸ ἀγαθοειδές[7] in human souls), which is also called ὁ θεῖος λόγος,[8] corresponds in exact analogy , Ἑρμῆς, i.e. the λόγος προφορικός,[9] the interpreter, the word spoken, or the λόγος σπερματικός,[10] namely the spirit of nature in the projected shadow. Indeed, Jupiter or is perceptive intellectual omniformity, whereas Mercury or is imperceptive and plastic omniformity. And conversely note that J.B. calls , this Mercury, sound and tone as well, to which, in Aurora, he ascribes the forming of all things.

Nor must we omit here that as , Saturn, once ignited into light, becomes the Lucifer of nature, so , because of a natural Nemesis incorporated into it, becomes the Michael of nature, and the Michael of divinity who brandishes the sword of eternal reason against all transgressors who have sinned against the supreme good, and pleads the cause of the latter in all rational creatures.

7. And to , Venus, finally, ἡ θεία ψυχή or the divine soul (which Plotinus calls ἡ οὐράνια ἀφρόδιτη), κὰτἀντιστοιχίαν, very appositely corresponds (Mars), since the one is the fire of love, the other the fire of anguish. Venus, , as it is the true Uriel in the fire of divine love in pure divinity, plunges itself wholly into the enjoyment of divine wisdom and goodness, into the free and shining majesty of the divine. , Mars or the world soul, on the other hand, as it is the Uriel of nature, has its own longing and imagining which is directed towards and determined by nothing but particularities and selfities, [11] and, being wholly bereft of divine influx, it is the origin of fiery desire and strife.

The divine soul is impregnated by the eternal mind or intellect and, on account of its union with the supreme good, instilled with ineffable lust. The world soul is the source only of sensation, imagination and the association of phantasmata[12] and it is exclusively occupied with sensing and grasping the variety of corporeal nature. It rudely seduces us into false reasonings caused by self-love, which blocks out the illumination of pure divinity.

8. This is a brief description of the two general spheres of all things, the one of pure divinity, and the other of universal nature. And if the latter could be severed from the former, notably the world soul from the divine soul, it would certainly, as Plotinus says, change into a δαίμων μέγας[13] or, as I should rather like to put it, a μέγας δράκων.[14] If, by contrast, it were so fully exposed to the sphere of pure divinity, it would all but completely change into one enormous paradise of God. And taken together and viewed as one immense six-fold sphere, whose forms penetrate one another throughout, all the six forms – this Whole, or Universe - is called Θεός by that same philosopher, * i.e. the whole or complete Deity or universal origin from which all particular things proceed.

9. And this, surely, could help us in our attempt to conjecture what it is that J.B. probably strives for in his errors. For, even where the target is not hit, the proximate reach reveals the original target of those who shot the arrow. And certainly we cannot but surmise that * in reality Jakob Boehme, absorbed as he was with his “seven forms” or “source spirits”, aimed for no more than these six. And therefore, in terms of numbers, he was not far off the target.

10. Moreover, as regards the eternal generation of God or the holy Trinity in seven source spirits, his words clearly show that he has been led astray in the sphere of universal nature which he has falsely taken for God. Indeed, he strayed about in its lowest extremities as if he had been covered in nightly darkness, searching for the eternal generation of the Deity in , Saturn, or the dark abyss of physical monads. And it is from the coagulation of this Saturn, i.e. astringency, that the subtle and bitter life of the thinnest element of all, which is more subtle than the globuli, arises. [15] Moreover, the light and gentle as well as peaceful form and fashion of the globuli is that “sweetness” or “sweet water”, as he calls it in the Aurora. At the same time, their agitation creates heat, which is the fourth source spirit. And from the fermentation of this heat, from which originates a hissing and a gleaming, emerges the quick light amidst the disjointed globuli everywhere throughout the whole abyss. And this, in his view, is the blessed birth of the Son of God or the heart of God, since he, in reality, is nothing more than the “Lucifer of universal nature”. He does not even correspond to the Son of God in pure divinity, but to the divine , the sun, or Phosphor, i.e. the majesty of God the Father, who is the true heart of pure divinity.

11. Moreover, to further pursue his errors in the abyss, from light emerges sound and tone, which he also calls “divine Mercury”. The latter is the sixth source spirit (light being the fifth), which he identifies with the Holy Spirit, making him the fashioner of all things. For, once the abyss has been suffused with light, the source spirits can see, perceive and contemplate one another, and it is through this knowledge that the whole mass of the abyss is given the order of all of its requisite shapes and forms. All of that together makes up divine corporeity, as he also calls the seventh source spirit body. Indeed, everything that he says in his Aurora appears to boil down to no deeper mystery than this: according to his theosophy, at least as expounded in that treatise and as is clear from those frequent figures of speech occurring in that work, the eternal generation of God and the holy Trinity reaches no further than to these modifications of the abyss of physical monads.

12. It is certainly true that he does sometimes seem to distinguish between an inner birth and external one. And yet, this does not at all solve the difficulty. Rather, it is a sign that he himself did not find his own speculation to be so consistent in itself that his mind did not bring forth some other more coherent theory as well. And on the principle of charity, I assume that the description I have given would have seemed to him more suitable and appropriate, because he might have come up with his seven source spirits here, too, if he had wanted to.

Thus, the coagulation of the abyss into the most subtle matter and globuli (whose playful struggle, nevertheless manages to create the Lucifer of universal nature) might have furnished the place for two of his forms, namely the “astringent” and the “bitter” ones. And then Mercury, , or the spirit of nature differentiates the homogeneity of the dark and subtle monads of the abyss into heterogeneous particles, acting as the true fashioner of all corporeity. At a certain point in time it causes to break forth the seats of anguish and solicitude for corporeal life, thereby creating the natural Nemesis – this spirit corresponds to his third form, which he expressly calls “Anguish”. And then our , Mars, or Uriel of nature, will occupy the place of his , the sun, which I, for one, have crossed out. And in all of that he might also have found what he terms the “eternal bond” in his book On the Three Principles, not because it is eternal by itself, but because it is as eternal as anything that is not pure divinity can be.

13. The world soul is rightly called , Mars, since without the influx from pure divinity and a paradisiac body, it would be a fiery and furious devil, a δαίμων μέγας in the worst possible way, i.e. a μέγας δράκων, so that the sphere of universal nature would have been a true world of fire and darkness, as J.B. says. However, it is an error of utter blindness and madness to call this God the Father! We shall light upon God the Father in due time. Moreover, we first meet the divine soul, which corresponds to the Holy Spirit, in pure divinity. It is the heavenly Venus, the “fire of love” or the “Uriel of pure divinity”. And it could well be the fifth form in Jakob Boehme, which he also calls “light” or “love”.

14. And the of pure divinity, the eternal intellect or divine wisdom, according to which all things are formed, corresponds exactly to his sound and tone, his sixth form which he makes the fashioner of all things. He is also the true eternal Son of God who is not the heart, but the wisdom in the Deity. In reality, the heart is the most inward and profound centre, the sweetest and most supreme goodness, the purest substantial and uniform lucidity, the immense divine tactility in pure divinity. To that we must refer that word of Plotinus, that the soul, once it contrives to attain the union with it according to its boniform faculty, κέντρον κέντρῳ συνάπτει, “joins its centre with God’s centre”. And this must be substituted in the place of J.B.’s seventh form, which he calls “body” and by which he understands God’s “corporeity”, even though there is no such thing in pure divinity. Rather, the root substance is there, which is infinitely more substantial than all corporeal nature.

15. We may assume with some confidence that J.B.’s mind attempted to bring forth something like that and that this theory and description might have appealed to him, because, for one thing, his chart, in some respects at least, agrees with the one that I have put forth and because, for another, he finally (i.e. in The Threefold Life of Man) expressly declares that pure divinity is to be conceived the way I have described it in my chart.

However, lest we do any violence to the truth, he does seem to have some idea in chapter 26 of his Aurora that there is some other thing or essence distinct from that body of nature. For after the description of the dark abyss in v. 56, which appears to be a fitting description of the abyss of physical monads, he says that “there are seven spirits of God in this dark valley”. And in vv. 63–64, he continues: “When the seven spirits do not wrestle, but there is universal peace and quiet all over the whole abyss outside, inside and above all the heavens, this house is called eternity. However, it is not called God, but the non-omnipotent body of nature, in which the Deity is not dead, but hidden in the kernel of the seven spirits. And such a house was the whole space of this world when the Deity hid itself from the horrible devil until the sun and the stars began to emit their light” (26, 62–65). This certainly seems to indicate that his mind was even then drawn to an incorporeal Deity.

16. Moreover, ch. 2, v. 75 of The Threefold Life of Man quite expressly contradicts his earlier view of God the Father as a “dark valley” and a corporeal Deity: * “Now that which is still and without an essence in itself, that has no darkness in it, but is merely a still, clear, and lucid joy, without essence, that is the eternity which exists without anything, and it is called the God above all other things, for there is nothing evil in it, and it exists without an essence. God the Father is so in himself, but without a name, for he is in himself the light, clear and bright eternity without essence, if we speak merely of the light of God” (2,75–76).

And again in ch. 5, v. 29: “The Father's property is no darkness, but darkness is generated in stern desire. Rather, the Father's property is the light, clear, free eternity, which has a will to nature”, etc. (5,20). See also The Grand Mystery, ch. 1, v. 4. There, the eternal will is called the Father, the mind conceived from the will the Son, and the product of will and mind the Holy Spirit. This does not differ much from the Trinity of pure Divinity in our chart, for here, too, he supposes the latter to exist before nature and creation.

17. Furthermore, in The Threefold Life of Man, ch. 4, v. 64, he says: “For the Father generates nature out of the eternal still freedom, which he is himself, and yet in the stillness, he is not called Father, but because of the eternal nature which he generates” (4, 64) and in v. 86: “We mean but one God in three persons of one essence and will. However, we give you to understand about the Trinity that there are three centres therein, which are known in eternal nature, although they are not known outside or beyond nature. For outside nature, the Deity is called Majesty, but in nature, it is called Father, Son and Holy Spirit” (4,86). These places in his writings are remarkable indeed, and so are those which free him from that egregious error of making pure divinity either dark or discerpible and corporeal. And there are places in his Aurora which are altogether opposed to that, stating clearly that the Trinity is beyond nature in its still and bright eternity, as it is also clear from his diagram at the beginning of his Grand Mystery. Moreover, his overly-complex sevenfold distinction of the pure divinity preexisting nature and creation is certainly due to his rash and superstitious affection for the number seven which he had already used for the seven “source spirits” in Aurora.

18. However, when he explains his intention in these other writings, he makes the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (whom we Christians, he says in the Aurora, worship as the Trinity) solely a manifestation of the Trinity in eternal lucid freedom, which is to be called God above all other things. However, we Christians do not worship the trinity of nature, but the Trinity of pure divinity. On discovering the latter trinity, J.B. should have stopped calling the trinity of nature the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Instead, he should have acknowledged the errors he had made in the Aurora and admitted having inadvertently erred in the sphere of universal nature, as he had not yet penetrated to the sphere of pure divinity and of that still and shining Trinity. His trinity in eternal nature cannot by any means express its image as aptly as the Trinity of our sphere of universal nature in its inverse projection from the sphere of still and lucid eternity that transcends nature.

19. For in our chart of a twofold sphere, , Saturn, corresponds very aptly to , (Mercury) to (Jupiter), and (Mars) to (Venus), as has already been noted. And even though in terms of essence is not derived from , nor from or, the energy of , nevertheless depends upon and that of , Mars, upon both. For, if did not exist, both of them would have remained inactive. These two trinities, therefore, are the only universal forms of the whole comprehension of all things, from which all things have their being. And it is to these six that, as far as I can judge, the mind of J.B. aspired if only he could have attained to their distinct knowledge, not his seven which have no other foundation than the hallucinations of his own imagination. He would not then have sought any other number than three in pure divinity and three in universal nature, which he calls eternal, since his claim that the spirits are seven in number is without a rationale either in the latter or in the eternal bright freedom, i.e. the sphere of pure divinity.

And thus we have finished our enquiry into what J.B. may have wanted to say in his doctrine of the eternal generation of God and the Trinity in his seven source spirits. Let us now speculate about his intentions in other topics which he covers.

20. I cannot even surmise what truth his claim that the stars are fire mixed with water might bear some resemblance to, nor was the sun generated from all other stars, but rather solely from that matter from which the others were likewise generated. Nor can this sun be said to illumine and vivify all stars. Rather, the Lucifer of universal nature, who corresponds to , the sun, in the intellectual world, gave light and substance to the stars. Considering, however, that the subtle matter moves from one vortex to another, all stars could be said to be nourished, though not generated, from one another.

And now the universal world lies, as it were, weakened in the ether, as the stars’ subtle light insinuates itself into it. (For even though the Lucifer of universal nature does not shine everywhere, he nevertheless insinuates himself into all things which have life, sense and perception). Moreover, the soul of the world and all other souls move, think, imagine and exercise all their other operations by virtue of that astral influence. Therefore, the stars may in that way also be said to give life, imagination and reason, founding arts and sciences and sending visions, dreams, etc. For all of these come into being by virtue of the hidden light of the stars or the Lucifer of universal nature.

21. However, since dark planets lack this light altogether, I cannot perceive any approximation of any truth whatsoever in imagining that there might be some obscurity and darkness in the region of the stars, unless perhaps there are some dark planets which move around the fixed stars and which always serve as dwelling places for fallen spirits.

And I believe that if Jakob Boehme had looked deeper into the matter, he might have been more content with adopting the old cabbalistic doctrine that the planets were born from suns than in imagining that they flew from the sun according to his description. His other figments about planets, if I understand them correctly, are entirely alien to all philosophical truth. Instead, he generally subscribes to the view that the world is an animate substance.

22. And as regards the Day of Judgement, if by Judgement Day were to be understood the pouring of the seventh vial, his calculations might be more tolerable. However, the notion that on Judgement Day, when the earth is burned, all the stars in the sky will perish is a reckless, albeit wide-spread, fiction. Nor can I take a different view about his attempts at interpreting the Apocalypse, and about his expertise in the language of nature as he explains it.

23. Moreover, had he thought through his reasoning more fully and more carefully, he would, I think, have realized that he himself had made God corporeal by arguing * that God comprised the whole world of the six general forms and orders of things, for that also includes the abyss of physical monads which is material and corporeal. Hence, in a true interpretation, he should not have held that the sphere of pure divinity was corporeal, nor even the soul of the world or the spirit of nature, but only the external production of the form furthest removed from the centre of pure divinity, i.e. the abyss of physical monads in which the five remaining forms are to be found everywhere.

And therefore, when he says that God is all things and that all things, i.e. air, water, earth, stones and everything else, proceed from God, this is to be understood of God in the above-mentioned Plotinian sense, namely as comprising the whole world of the universal forms of things. For earth, water and stones, all the corporeal things of the starry sky and all the sensible things of nature, consist in the abyss of physical monads.

24. And when he says that angels proceed from God as from their matter, we must understand this carefully too, namely in the sense that their bodies alone proceed from the abyss of physical monads, not their spirits. As to their bodies, I say, they come to be from God in that loose sense. As to their living and intelligent spirits, however, they do not come to be from, but solely in accordance with pure divinity, as they imitate and participate in its intellectual faculty. In terms of their essence, they come to be in accordance with the soul of the world and the spirit of nature, if they are not indeed far above essence.

And what he says about angels is to be understood of the human souls in their paradisiac state as well, so that * both men and angels are not only μικρόκοσμοι, but μικρόθεοι, not only “little worlds”, but “little gods”. Only if we take it in this sense is Jakob Boehme’s dictum “that angels are tiny Gods from the one total or universal God” acceptable. For nothing is discerpible or physically divisible except for matter.

25. And the same applies to his assertion that the souls of brutes are generated from the stars and the elements, which is true only insofar as it pertains to their bodies and the operations of their souls. Moreover, we must understand what he calls the “elemental and astral reign” in conjunction with the soul of the world and the spirit of nature. Their union with the Lucifer of universal nature and the elements is such that they could neither act nor live without them. And therefore, if we consider them one single sphere of forms, J.B. must be understood in the following fashion: the bodies of brutes come to be from the elemental and astral principle together, their souls coming to be in accordance with, not from the soul of the world and the spirit of nature. For besides the plastic faculty, the souls of brutes possess sensation, imagination, memory and the association of phantasmata.

However, the truth of his assertion that reason and the sharpness of mind stem from this sphere extends no further than to his own crafty and self-centred reason insofar as it is crafty and self-centred. Rather, pure reason is to be derived from the omniform intellect and from the divine soul in the sphere of pure divinity.

26. Moreover, when he says that the seven spirits of nature are unoriginated and that God cannot comprehend himself in this infinity, this “lacking all origin” shows that he did strive for pure divinity. However, the fact that he says that the latter cannot comprehend himself shows that in this inquiry about God in his Aurora or the Break of Day his mind had not been able to advance above the sphere of Mars or the world soul. For, while infinity is incomprehensible to the imagination, the eternal shining freedom in pure divinity comprehends both itself and all things.

27. His view about hell or the world of fire and darkness which he believes to be everywhere is true only about its potentiality. The total sphere of universal nature could certainly change into a world of fire and darkness. And then Mars would be its great devil or universal Beelzebub. And the infernal Mercury would fill the universe with monstrous and horrendous forms by means of his corrupted and contaminated divine saltpetre.

However, no such thing as a world of fire and darkness, viewed as one universal form of nature, exists yet in reality. For the Lucifer of universal nature proves to be everywhere beneficent as well as pure and paradisiac except for places where darkness or another tendency towards it have taken hold and adjacent regions which have let in these forces of darkness. Compared to the other spheres of universal nature, however, their number is less than is one grain of sand in comparison to the whole globe of the earth. Divine providence is so triumphant throughout the immense sphere of nature that it almost constitutes a universally flourishing paradise of nature.

Indeed, the seeds of this paradise insert themselves into the elemental world and the regions of darkness so that its power is felt by the pure and more perfectly regenerated souls. There is very little of hell anywhere except in the devil and in vicious men who make a hell for themselves in this elemental world.

That Adam did not see the sun before the fall and that good angels cannot perceive darkness nor the light of evil unless we want to attribute sensation to naked spirits without a body seems to me to have been said without any reason whatsoever, nor can I conjecture what he might want to say here unless he wanted speak by way of moral allegory.

However, the notion that the soul is propagated in the same way as a small shoot or a young twig is from a tree, is true only in that it is by virtue of the tree that a shoot, rooting itself in the ground, subsequently becomes a cause and principle by which it grows by itself, bearing fruit and blossoms. However, this principle is not a substance taken from the tree, but the spirit of nature operating in it. The tree certainly provided the occasion for the spirit of nature to pursue its work in the shoot and carry it on till the tree was complete. In this way, the foetus in the uterus furnishes an individual soul with the occasion to exercise its life and operation upon this body, directing it, actuating it and governing it for a certain period of time. However, unlike the foetus which is made from their bodies it is not a part of the parents. And somewhere J.B. writes as if he had held the pre-existence of the soul.

29. However, as to the eternal successive struggle of the seven spirits before the creation of the angels, I believe that he wanted this successive struggle to be of such infinite duration that, counting from our time backwards, we cannot exhaust it with any number as though the eternity of pure and shining divinity were not beyond that. However, J.B. did not reach further in his Afterglow, but lost his way in the sphere of , Mars, as I have already said above.

30. His supposition that before the Fall the one human being Adam had a heavenly, paradisiacal and angelical body devoid of intestines and genitals points to human souls being in a prelapsarian angelical state. Moreover, that this one human being was a man-maiden, had a womb and could magically produce other angelical Adams similar to himself certainly indicates that divine providence had destined masses of souls to be in such an angelical state. And that, finally, the Venus-womb of Adam was formed into Eve after the fall and that both sexes were given intestines and genitals certainly shows this state of gross food and drink and carnal intercourse to be the state of fallen souls.

Thus, mixing the outer layer and inner mystery of the text in this way, J.B. seems to have tried to attain to the Philosophical Mosaic Cabbala, i.e. the one which I myself have delineated in the Threefold Cabbala in the first three chapters of Genesis.

31. What he says about the harshness of the soul in its first four properties, i.e. “sourness”, “bitterness”, “anguish” and “heat”, must in the proper sense be understood of the plastic part of the soul. When it is united with the body, and is properly its life not yet sense perception, it nevertheless transmits the feeling of vital properties from the body to the perceptive part of the soul. In this gross terrestrial body, these will easily feel bitter and sour, especially when bitter and sour passions have been aroused. In an angelical body, by contrast, all things are sweet and pleasant.

However, in both robustness is identical with the plastic part, corresponding to the spirit of nature in the universal sphere of nature that moves all bodies capable of motion, no matter how gross and heavy. This spirit both separates what is separated and presses together what is pressed together. And the plastic part in the spirits of men and demons is that by which they have a hold over that matter which they are actuating and which demons can press together in such a way that at times it becomes solid, uttering a shrill crystalline or metallic sound. The plastic part is harsh and quite cumbrous, stirred by the influence of will and desire, which produces all of this.

And therefore, his claim that if the origin of the soul were soft, it would be devoid of any robustness must be understood solely with regard to its later acquisition of that robustness which resulted from its own ferocity. For the plastic part in angels, owing to their paradisiacal body, is soft, and yet there is no doubt that they possess an extremely firm, stable and indestructible robustness which, nevertheless, is also extremely fast and agile at the same time.

32. That the seven Liberal Arts proceed from the seven forms of nature is said without any aim. For pure and translucent reason, whose most excellent products are to be found in at least some of these Arts, rises above the sphere of universal nature and has its origin in the sphere of pure divinity, i.e. the omniform intellect in God.

And the truth of his dictum that human souls are reborn from Mary in the soul of Christ extends no further than the fact that, when the Son of God deigned to be born a man, the time had already come when a serious, extraordinary and efficient offer of grace by which they were able to regenerate and become sons of God was made to humankind.

And as regards the shapes and shadows of all things and words which, as J.B. insists time and again – though he fails to explain in what they actually consist - will endure beyond the play of this world without either a spirit or a substance, it certainly cannot be understood in the sense that they will be floating around in the universe without any subject. Instead, they will be inscribed * in the memory of the world soul which serves as God’s immense register, as it were. Alternatively, all of this was meant solely as a fiction or as nothing but a simple insanity of his.

33. And as to what we find with him so often, that the devils are completely bloody and “excarnated”, i.e. without bodies, must not be misconstrued as if they did not have any bodies at all. For, according to what follows a little later, they would also in that case lack intelligence. Rather, they are bereft of any body whatsoever that might contribute to their peace and pleasure. The gleaming fire that rages in them does not entirely rob them of body, but rather the softest and oiliest part is burned and dissipated in seconds, leaving nothing but its bitter, sour and acid part which resembles flameless red-hot coal. Such, by analogy, is the nature of their body. The body of which they have been bereft is pure, benign and cheerful light.

34. Furthermore, when he says that no intellect or spirit can subsist without a body, this is only to be understood of created spirits, not of any spirit that is by essence above the sphere of universal nature. Thus, let us suppose that the spirits of men and angels, in terms of their essence, were created in accordance with the soul of the world and the spirit of nature, even though they possess faculties which extend into the sphere of pure divinity in imitation and participation. Still, because of the fact that, in terms of their essence, they were created in accordance with the sphere of universal nature, their union with a body is necessary for their operations so that they fall into a state of silence without it.

35. Now as regards his opinion about the countless intelligent spirits who are completely mortal, who, as he teaches, have their dwelling places everywhere between the earth and the stars and who have their origin in the spirit of the “external world”, we must consider the following:

Firstly, there is no “external world” that he is in any position to refer to except that which is made of the four elements, and in which the Lucifer of universal nature inheres. However, the Lucifer of universal nature, dwelling beyond the confines of any elemental world is himself the most external world that one can find there.

Secondly, no elemental or external world in the sense described extends from its centre to the stars, but must be confined by its own atmosphere.

Thirdly, there are no intelligent spirits who solely originate in the external world, but only their bodies do. Their souls, by contrast, correspond in their essence to the soul of the world and the spirit of nature.

And lastly, these souls must not be considered mortal as though they were to be reduced to nothing. Rather, being created solely with an elemental vital congruity, they probably pass over into a state of silence once their elemental body dissolves, being capable neither of heaven nor of hell.

Moreover, in terms of their essence, men and angels are in their first state created in accordance with the sphere of universal nature, possessing three forms, namely Uriel, Michael and Lucifer, which is their eternal bond and the origin of their immortality. Hence, their vital congruity extends to all mutations in universal nature. And thus, souls, especially human ones, have the ability to actuate a terrestrial body as well as an aerial and an ethereal one. And therefore, they live on after death according to God’s order in nature, being either miserable or happy, depending on which of their faculties are awakened, as they either receive the influx of ferocious and or that from the sphere of pure divinity. This is the sum of truth which may be aimed at in this place.

36. And that the astral body, depending upon the sun, makes the soul of the great world, appears to come close to the following truth: the Lucifer of universal nature who not only comprises our sun, but also all other stars, is vitally united with the soul of the great world. Such is the degree of their union that neither the , Mars, nor the , Mercury, of universal nature can operate without him. This is what is true about it. However, it is wrong, I hold, to claim that this world soul is the rational life of all creatures as it only supplies the association of phantasmata and some subtle slyness in pursuing whatever fulfils its cravings.

37. Moreover, he believes the creation of nature to have occurred in order for God to make himself manifest to himself as though he would have remained unknown to himself without it. It seems that Jakob Boehme’s imagination has fallen out of the sphere of pure divinity into the sphere of universal nature here, as he attributes that to pure divinity which applies only to the world soul considered in conjunction with the spirit of nature. For if it were not for the vital operations of the spirit of nature, as it fashions things from the abyss of physical monads, the soul of the world would remain in perpetual silence and darkness, having neither perception of itself nor of anything else.

38. And lastly, as to the principal throne angels whom J.B. has made up, namely Michael, Lucifer and Uriel, he views them as corresponding to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Moreover, he relates how Lucifer, assisted by Michael and Uriel, rebelled and waged a battle against God. As a consequence, God’s saltpetre and his pure corporeity became corrupted amidst the hurly-burly of that war. And this was the occasion for the creation of the whole of the visible world which comprises the stars and the elements, this world being a mixture of good and evil. (He calls it the “world of the four elements” in his Key and distinguishes it from the “dark world” and the “light world”, both of which he calls “internal” worlds. He also terms these three worlds - the dark world, the light world and this external world - the “three principles”). The sole truth which we may have some right to credit him with aspiring to here is, I claim, roughly the following: Instead of these three potent throne angels, who correspond to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, there are three forms of that kind in the sphere of universal nature which we, too, have called Uriel, Michael and Lucifer, corresponding to the Uriel, Michael and Phosphor in the sphere of pure divinity. Nor was there any such terrible battle before the creation of this external world with the first rudiments of this world, however vast, being made of the scattered sulphurous vapour and dust of all that lightning and fulguration. Rather, it was a completely quiet spiritual conflict.

Nor did that throne angel Lucifer whom J.B. imagines to have cut off a huge part of God have such power, when he and his legions fought against such a Michael und Uriel and their legions. Rather, certain angels defected from the divine light which shone upon them from the Phosphor of pure divinity, and began to sense themselves with more than usual pleasure and taste their individual selfities in a more palpable fashion in the universal Lucifer of Nature, as they dwelt in parts with a corporeality appropriate to them (even though they should, on the contrary, have kept their boniform faculty united with the free supreme good in the eternal and bright freedom of the deity). And thus, by kindling their desires for lesser things, they imperilled the divine saltpetre which they threatened to smear and pollute. It was then that the Michael of pure divinity, Christ according to his deity, and Uriel, the divine soul or Holy Spirit, and their armies and powers rushed into the fray to quench the rebellion. The Michael of universal nature, who encompasses in himself the Nemesis of erring souls, and , Mars, or Uriel of the aforementioned nature also cut and pricked them with their fiery red-hot iron to force them back into the sphere of pure divinity as they were falling.

39. However, the corruption of the divine saltpetre and the body of the Lucifer of universal nature wrought by the fallen spirits extended no further than the effects it had upon the kind of corporeality appropriate to them. And therefore, this corruption could not provide enough matter for the completion of so vast an external word, comprising as it did the whole visible orb consisting of the earth, the sky and the stars.

In his providential care, however, God foresaw the fall of those spirits who had been immaculate at their creation in paradise and prepared prisons for them according to the order and course of nature. And this, surely, furnished the occasion for the creation of the “elemental world” in the proper sense and the transformation of the most resplendent lights of the natural Lucifer into the dark and gloomy globes of earth, water and air in which the devil, with his legions, is no less a prince and a prisoner than are the human souls in the prisons of their earthly bodies.

40. It is only in the elemental world, therefore, that one can find chambers of hell, it being transformed into one universal hell in the conflagration. However, it would be an immense insult to providence to admit there to be an actual hellish prison or a world of fire and darkness, whether full or empty, extending as far as the Deity itself. And this may suffice by way of conjecture about the productions of J.B.’s mind in the enthusiastic theories related above.

Scholia on Qu. IV

Sect. 2. “And therefore, we shall cross out , the sun”: And rightly so, for the sun or fire or rather the fiery world is, as it were, a genus which comprises the dark world and the light world. For the dark world is fiery too, and so is the light world, as clearly indicates. And therefore, I suspect that by “boundary or limit that sets things apart” he understood the common boundary or terminus in which both worlds concur and coincide, as do two opposing species that concur in their genus. However, owing to his ignorance of logic, he said “limit” (i.e. “boundary”) instead of “genus”.

Sect. 3. “i.e. the whole or complete deity or universal origin, etc.” It is true that Plotinus conceived of the world or the universe as God. However, if one pays sufficient regard to the holiness of the divine majesty, one will both in word and matter make a most religious distinction between the sphere of pure divinity and the sphere of universal nature.

Sect. 9. “In reality Jakob Boehme aimed for no more than these six, etc.” This is clear from what we have said in Sect. 2, where we have proved that the fire world is only a genus which comprises the dark world and the light world. As each of them has only three forms, it is necessary that there are six in total.

Sect. 16. “Now that which is still and without an essence in itself, etc.” If it were entirely without an essence, it would be nothing at all. Hence, it is probable that by “essence” he understood some corporeity.

Sect. 23. “that God comprised the whole world of the general forms and orders of things, etc.” I have already pointed out in the context of sect. 9 how rash and improper it is to attribute the three inferior forms to the Deity. Nevertheless, this is much more tolerable than to make God entirely corporeal.

Sect. 24. “both men and angels are not only μικρόκοσμοι, but μικρόθεοι, etc.“, i.e. in the Plotinian sense which links the world and God, making them one deity. This is also the sense of that word of Philo who calls the world a μέγας ἄνθρωπος[16] and man a little world. Moreover, such terms seem to me to be absolutely incompatible with divine holiness. Meanwhile, J.B. may be excused for his ignorance and rashness a little, as he did not disagree too much with such great philosophers.

Sect. 32. “in the memory of the world soul which serves as God’s immense register, as it were, etc.“ To my mind, it is absolutely certain that the world soul possesses neither reason nor free will. And without reason, it also lacks recollection, but (if it has any at all) it may have some passive memory at least, one that is almost mindless and, if it has any remembrance in it, it must be elicited by someone else. However, these things are covered in immense and impenetrable obscurity and darkness.

Question V: How can it be seen as consistent with divine providence, with its goodness and perfection, to permit such an innocent and Christian soul to succumb to so many and manifest errors, coupled with the worst possible error, namely that he believed himself to be infallibly inspired?

We have already reached the final question: How does it fit with the goodness of providence to allow such an earnest and serious soul to succumb to such gross errors and yet all the while think himself inspired in them, which is the greatest error of all?

I, for my part, admit that it struck me as a discordant phenomenon in divine providence at first. However, after I had looked into the matter a little more deeply, I could not see why in fact I should take exception to it at all. Undoubtedly, J.B. was no more inclined to have an error impressed upon his imagination with such strength than is any other virtuous man to be carried away by a fever or a fit of madness. Hence, he rather seemed to exhibit an illness than a vice, which is all the more consistent with the goodness of both man and providence, which we allow to inflict illness on good as well as bad and vicious people without taking offence.

2. And yet, does this also apply to the fact that he thought the error which was so strongly impressed upon him to be the fruit of divine inspiration, attributing his own errors to God? I reply that it was a sign of his own weakness that he took his error for a truth of great importance, but a mark of his pious gratitude that, once he had taken it for such, he reckoned his illumination as a gift from God.

Nevertheless, you will say that this helps more to justify man than providence, but the problem remains why a man who had such an honest heart should have had such a weak brain. This problem is not unlike that of virtue and wealth: why should such a wise and virtuous man have such little power and wealth in this world? But there is no reason why man, because God has given him one great good, should also claim all the others as if he alone had a right to them. Why is it that God distributes his gifts and charismas abundantly everywhere, rather than allowing people to possess one at a time so that, seeing that one by itself and in clearer contradistinction to the natures of others, we may know the meaning and power of all of them in themselves and in conjunction with others?

3. Or why should God hinder the gradually emerging first attempts of our mind, as it comes to be in our new birth, which has its own state of childhood very much like that in nature? Or which father or grandfather, I beseech you, would take exception to his son or grandson’s first philosophical babblings, even though, in his childlike chatter, the boy mistakes his half-linen black cap for a natural part of his head and takes his long beard, which constantly moves while he is speaking, for his principal instrument of speech? In a similar fashion, we may assume, our heavenly Father takes little offence at the errors of his children who, thanks to their new birth, feel both a passionate love for him and a yearning for knowledge of his nature, but are subject to a good many gross errors in the reflections they undertake upon him in their infancy. Jakob Boehme, I claim, was first in this state when he took the azure ether and the stars to be a part of God the Father, even though they are not even his silver nightcap. Thus, when he was a little boy, he certainly thought and wrote like a little boy. Afterwards, however, his intellect attained to a purer and more spiritual Deity.

4. Indeed, if apart from the infantile age of the new man we also consider the vigour of the old man and the remains of the vicious nature in J.B., as he himself admits quite candidly (and his contempt and scorn for the authors whom he believes to be unilluminated is certainly more than obvious), why should we assume that it would bring discredit on providence to let so presumptuous a seeker for mysteries, who had not sufficiently purified himself yet, lapse into errors so obvious to everybody? Why should it not also allow such a passionate champion of an imperfect character and life to lay himself open to posterity, that notwithstanding his confidence in his inspirations, his views were also erroneous and imperfect, thus preventing anyone from groundlessly claiming the right to philosophical inspiration?

5. However, his error and confidence meanwhile provided quite an enjoyable and useful scene to the knowing audience, as this infantile and innocent enthusiast (who, I do not doubt, did have his share of the regeneration and sanctification wrought by the Spirit of God) was driven by such presumptuousness in his fits that he believed himself to know more profound mysteries than all profane philosophers and theologians, who supposedly were theologians only by name, in all the countries of the world. And like an impudent and over-confident little boy in his father’s family, he charged all those who were not yet scholars by virtue of a new birth in the school of Pentecost with being ignorant, most vehemently and freely berating and exposing the deceptions and ruses of the family servants. And in order for his puerile game to seem all the more perfect, he would imitate the learned languages and spoke in his own “jargon”, i.e., he would interpret all kinds of words mystically and according to the language of nature, as boys at home are wont to imitate the erudition of preachers who use Latin and Greek phrase in the pulpit, using the words of a fictitious barbarous language which they make up at their pleasure.

What, then, does this extremely confident provocation on the part of this puerile athlete amount to, if not to a general reproach of the general profanity of the erudite caste who, though professing the Holy Spirit, nevertheless expect no aid or help in the regeneration of their souls towards the purity and sanctity required of them so that they can make use of their reason all the more safely?

6. Besides, it is certainly true that this Jakob Boehme was an uneducated foe and detractor of reason, who, though professing nothing but the Spirit, was patently wrong in his inspirations nevertheless. But did it bring any shame on providence that it allowed this scene of things to proceed so that posterity might learn the following from it: neither should we trust our reason in its purely natural and not yet sanctified state without the required purification of our minds and the aid of the Spirit of God, nor must we profess an illumination of the Spirit in philosophical speculation before we have had the opportunity and experience of making correct use of natural reason.

7. And since he so obviously was a patron of imperfection, it was possible that even this proved quite useful, since he is closer to those furthest removed from perfection and, therefore, better suited to lend them a hand. If they were to be exhorted by no other people than by those who demanded perfection from the outset, the task ahead would seem so formidable that they would be deterred from setting out to do anything at all. However, a man such as J.B., who is so extraordinarily sincere and fervid in promoting an inner and vital justice without any boasting about having achieved perfection in it, seems to be a more suitable instrument for winning over those who, while being hindered by great natural impediments, nevertheless have a propensity towards God.

8. Moreover, if we consider the confused, obscure and erroneous arguments in his theoretical writings, coupled with his confidence that they are divinely-inspired, as well as his declaration that no-one is capable of penetrating their depths unless he is regenerated and devotes all his strength to reaching the highest level of holiness of which he is capable, what more efficient device could there be to make those curious about the profound mysteries strive for piety with all their power and continue to strive for it forever? For never will they fully master that which is wrong in several places and obscure in most, while being put forth as divinely-inspired in all of them.

9. For once a theory, no matter how important and how sacred it is, has been mastered, the effort mostly ceases and the passionate striving for holiness calms down. Instead, we display the prize attained as a kind of conceptual ornament of our brain like a feather in our cap. Moreover, our heart easily becomes prone to fornicate with vanity, our victory being changed into mere pride and carelessness of spirit.

Consequently, it would indeed deter any virtuous and intelligent man from writing down any great, albeit not absolutely necessary, mysteries in a clear and distinct fashion, if even after they had been expressed in most clear and cogent proofs, they still continued to look like parables or riddles to vicious and unworthy men who “seeing will not see or understand and believe” (Is. 6:9). Such is the just and innermost Nemesis that God has inserted into the very nature of things. For this reason, you may also add that once someone has seen he may nevertheless still turn out to be blind depending upon how he changes his own inner life.

10. And finally, if we consider the true and living Church of Christ, whose minds are engaged in a work of regeneration and new birth in all sincerity, it may have various ages of its own, as the truth of life, while existing in all of them, does not always do so according to an adult intellect. And an example of a church in diapers, as it were, has, in my view, recently been seen in that of those followers of H.N. [17] who, while acknowledging the Apostles’ Creed according to its general and orthodox sense, undertake no philosophical reflection whatsoever. Instead, they devote themselves wholly to the purification of their hearts and the stirring and nourishing of the internal life and spirit of love, caring conscientiously for the new-born Christ in them. And I, for my part, admit that I consider Jakob Boehme a shoot from this tree, as it were, but the way he led his life showed him to have grown out his cradle and his diapers. Having reached the age of a toddling and chattering little boy, he inquired into the mysteries of knowledge and confidently, though frequently confusedly, declared what he thought about things. And, as I have described above, he most freely and outspokenly reprimanded all the vices that he discovered in his father’s household.

11. Besides, why should we expect from someone at that age that, having said a few things quite felicitously, he could not therefore err in any others? Or why should the Father have prevented him from speaking altogether just because he could not say all things wisely, especially since he foresaw that there would be others at a later and more mature stage of life who, having attained a more adult intellect, would correct the earlier errors? Moreover, he was aware that this growth was that of one single body only, namely that of the true and living church which gradually grows into perfection, this gradual progress in knowledge being more useful to the growth of the holiness of life and the strengthening of our divine faith than if all of it at once had been found at the beginning.

12. For that which is old oftentimes loses something of its power, and the most celebrated medicines, if they had been invented of old, would have long lost their power of curing diseases. Hence illumination must be gradual, since every newly-invented device constitutes a new attempt by providence to snatch us up into faith and holiness of life.

It is then as clear as it can possibly be that such a phenomenon as Jakob Boehme was rather a jewel than a stain in divine providence, even though, as regards his opinion about his own inspiration, he was plainly deceived.


1. Even though we cannot by any means admit that he was infallibly inspired, we cannot but confess that it is an extraordinary event and quite admirable that such an uneducated man should so manifestly stumble upon the main outlines of the ancient wisdom which was really inspired. We have every reason to believe that his education, insofar as it was Christian, acquainted him with the doctrine of the Trinity. But what could have made him choose the Pythagorean system of the world over the Aristotelian one had it not been for his great mind or something superior to it that gave him aid and guidance? And the fact that he attributes an angelical body to Adam before his fall, if we interpret it cabbalistically, clearly implies the pre-existence of the souls, that excellent third dogma in the Mosaic Cabbala.

2. Even though he expressly opposes this doctrine in saying that it is propagated like a shoot from a tree, he nevertheless says in his book on The Threefold Life of Man, as if being driven by a kind of ecstatic paroxysm, that “the mind is generated from the eternal quiet peace and existed before the time of this world in the wisdom God and was fertile rain in its eternal quiet mother where it had not yet been created a spirit.” Here it is clear from * the expression “it had not yet been created a spirit” that it must be conceived as still being in a state in which, perhaps, it did not yet actuate or form a body or, at least, no terrestrial one.

And his expression “was fertile rain” accords extremely well with the Mosaic Cabbala which views souls which descend εἰς γένεσιν[18] into these elemental bodies, as “higher waters”. Likewise, Synesius calls his soul a λιβὰς οὐράνια, i.e. “a drop of heavenly rain“.

3. And the fact that he calls the soul “mind” rather than “soul” here may well be interpreted as referring to a state of the soul in which it might conceivably have been before the Lucifer of universal nature and the paradise, * when the Mars and Mercury of universal nature were in absolute silence and Saturn, if he did exist at all, was still only a monadic abyss. For then the pure mind rested in its mother, in Venus, i.e. the sphere of pure divinity, namely the divine soul, while its plastic part, in terms of its corporeal operations, was entirely silent. Its intellect, by contrast, was wholly actuated by the eternal omniform Intellect and its boniform faculty was firmly focused on the Supreme Good. However, he seems to intimate that the human minds, even though they were once fixed in divine tranquillity, nevertheless subsequently rained down from the sphere of pure deity into paradise. After their fall there, they sank even further, some even into this elemental world.

This is thoroughly Platonic, even reaching to the sublime level of Plotinus. Apart from that, it would require * a more thorough inquiry whether or to what degree it is right. However, it cannot in any way be disputed that he holds the pre-existence of the soul.

4. Besides these three doctrines, there are other memorable mentions of the ancient Cabbala of fire in his work. Thus, for instance, he says: “The heavens consisted of the powers of God, the stars [which were so many suns] of heavens. And the elements, earth, water, ear and living beings consisted of stars.” This accords quite well with the Mosaic Cabbala. And the following claim, which we find more than two or three times in his work, is closely related to this: “Before this elemental world, the whole depth or complete abyss was all light and splendour.” Likewise, he says “that the sun of this world was generated from that one pure element”, i.e. the Lucifer of universal nature.

And lastly, his understanding of the Cherubim with the flaming sword who guard the entrance to paradise as the state that we have to pass through before being readmitted there is right on target in a felicitously cabbalistic fashion (if we compare his interpretation to the Philosophic Cabbala).

5. There are certainly such extraordinary approximations of the ancient cabbala in many places of his writings that, if I could believe that it was rather born from a secret greater inspiration than from his inborn qualities coupled with the imagination of a melancholy temperament, I might indeed suspect that there was some good genius, a guardian of that ancient wisdom, occasionally working upon his mind to make it form a representation of it. However, since the temper of his animal spirits and the slightness of his education had made him less susceptible to such impressions, we find that all of that resembles an image reflected from a roaring sea, an abrupt, obscure and confused representation.

6. Still, no matter in how extraordinary and unexpected a fashion certain matters appear to have been communicated to him, I understand them to be prophetic as well as philosophical in character. I shall give only a few instances here:

Firstly, he foresaw the time of the rediscovery of that ancient theory about the motion of the earth around the immobile sun stationed in the midst of the planets in a manner which amounted to a divination rather than a prediction. Thus, he declared that “those who said that the sun rose talked about it like blind men judging about colours, not knowing that it was the centre.” He added, moreover, that this mystery was reserved for the seventh sounding of the trumpet.

This conjecture of his about the sounding of the seventh trumpet appears to me to be more accurate than that of others who, while being quite successful exegetes of the Apocalypse in other regards, hold that the sounding of this trumpet has not yet begun. Hence, it is admirable that J.B. hit the target in making the sounding of the seventh trumpet begin as early as the times of Copernicus whose Astronomy was first published in Nuremberg in the year 1543. This happened when the Reformation had already begun and Luther was still alive.

7. However, as regards the Apocalypse itself, it was one of his most felicitous predictions in the proper sense that its true understanding was about to become known. This is so true that since the time when he wrote down that prediction (and since that time no more than a mere fifty years have passed) it has been fulfilled to such a degree that almost all of the Apocalypse is as clear and lucid now as a house made of crystal amidst the rays of the sun. This prediction is all the more admirable as J.B. himself does not seem to have understood one single sentence of it correctly.

8. And not only is his prediction about the way in which the final destruction of the Antichrist will be brought about most pleasant and agreeable to all men of virtue, but it also strikes me as entirely probable: “Thou shalt not be broken by weapons and instruments of war, oh thou hypocrite, but thy lies shall strangle thee.” And in another place: “No sword shall kill the harlot, but her own mouth shall imprison her spirit.”

9. And in another place he writes the following about a certain recently-awakened Antichrist: “Now the branches and the twig are against the old Antichrist, his uncle, but there will be someone who will bind them too and who will put the truth before their very eyes.” And a little later: “This is the sign of the final Antichrist in his reign and his opinions: They deny the body and blood from which we are reborn in God”, i.e. all of their religion consists in nothing but formulas and opinions, whereas the substantiality of life and the power of the spirit in the new birth is a matter entirely strange and alien to them.

10. And as for the Reformation in general, although they left the external Babylon, great hardship and misery awaits them because of their pride and greed which oppose the spirit of love, as it was predicted in the epistle to the church of Sardis.

11. And finally, I should also like to add his predictions about the times of the lily which he treats numerous times, notably in his book On the Three Principles. This expression stuck in his mind either because he knew it due to his familiarity with the books of the Familists, whose title pages frequently depict two hands joined together with a lily inside them and a few littles lines written beneath, or from that typos of the Church in the Song of Solomon in which it is said: “Like a lily among the thorns, so is my darling among the maidens” (Song 2:2). In any case, regardless of whether he knew about it from the one or the other, it is quite a significant typos of that state of the Church which will emerge in the age of Philadelphia. And the Family of Love all too rashly and preposterously boast that they are this very church, also laying claim to the type, i.e. the lily, as J.B. himself insinuates, whom I consider, I admit, to be a shoot of that premature tree, as it were.

12. In reality, we do not yet live in either the times of the lily or in the Philadelphian ages. However, there are those who are so cautious and so innocuous in their admiration for the Father of the Family that they both follow Jakob Boehme in acknowledging all the practical duties of the external Christ and all the apostolic truths pertaining to him and observe all the commandments that he ordered us to observe till the end of the world. At the same time, they also strive in all sincerity to fulfil the prime aim of all, namely the promotion of his new birth in themselves and others. All of them work for their salvation in the life of Jesus Christ within them, as the creed of J.B. says: “Our salvation lies in the life of Jesus Christ within us”. Like their brethren of the Reformation who are of this mind, they cannot yet rise to the constitution of the Philadelphian church, but they may nevertheless be considered to be those “few names even in Sardis“ (Apoc. 3:4) of whom there is such honourable mention as the seeds of that pure and glorious Philadelphian church. Though today lying scattered amidst thorns, they will finally bring about one “wholesome field of lilies”, transforming the whole world into one most beautiful lily field for God, as is clear from our interpretation of the Epistle to the Seven Churches. Thus, the “times of the lily”, which J.B. mentions so frequently and about which he says such splendid things, are identical to the age of the Philadelphian church.

14. And his prediction about these times is so far beyond and above his usual ways (in one respect, at least) that his mind may rightly seem to have been in another state of ecstasy when writing down this prophecy. Though a most formidable slanderer and assailant of reason, he can nevertheless write the following about these times: “The lily will not be found in strife and warfare, but in a friendly, humble and benign spirit, coupled with good and sound reason. This will dissipate and dispel the smoke of the devil and flourish in due time.”

What character could suit the Philadelphian church better than “a friendly, humble and benign spirit”? Or what could be a better prefiguration of that clarity and comprehensibility by which those times will be graced than “good and sound reason”? That, for sure, will dispel the mist and dust raised so far either by the devil or by wrathful superstition.

15. And speaking about the Jews, the Turks and the other Gentiles, he says: “It is not necessary at all that you expect any other time. No other time is imminent but the time of the lily, and the sign of that time is the sign of Elijah.”

This is said as though it referred to the seven successive ages of the churches. In that sense, no other time is imminent than that of the lily, i.e. that of Philadelphia which stirs the expectation of the Jews, the Turks or all other nations. For it is in these times that the whole of Israel will be saved and that all the nations will walk in the light of the New Jerusalem. This name, “Church of the Lilly” (that pure, sincere, immaculate, meek, friendly and benevolent church), is the one that the Philadelphian church bears.

16. And he says that the sign of the approach of these times will be the arrival of Elijah in the spirit. As he has pointed out concerning “good and sound reason” above, the latter will be the great restorer of a wisdom and theosophy so holy, so heavenly, so sound and so coherent that no power and reason of the human mind will ever find any stain or weakness in it or seek to refute it in any way.

17. And accompanying this light will be a fire and, with it, a fiery spirit that shall go forth to smoulder and burn all improbity and hypocrisy. The light of that wisdom will seek to correct our life and strengthen our faith and redeem our souls from the vain desires and pleasures of this region of decay and death, leading us to the perpetual thirst for true justice and perfect holiness and to an incessant yearning for those pleasures and glories which are above in the sight of God and his holy angels.

18. The heat of this heavenly fire will devour all the terrestrial fervour of wrath, lust, distrust, pride, contention, persecution and whatever else opposes our love of God and our neighbour. This is the promised spirit of Elijah which will convert the hearts of fathers to their sons and the hearts of sons to their fathers. This is the spirit which will infuse princes with paternal love for their subjects and the subjects with filial reverence for and sincere obedience to their princes. And this, finally, is that dispensation of life and power which will fill all the countries of the globe with sound, true and sanctifying knowledge, with justice, prosperity and peace.

19. I have entered a plain which makes everybody, once he has arrived there, long to explore every little part. All the same, I am afraid that the length of this letter of ours may already be wearing you down. Hence, to finish at last our principal topic at hand, namely the inspiration of J.B., I, for my part, think - and I believe I have furnished sufficient evidence - that Jakob Boehme was not infallibly and constantly inspired in his writings, not even in those places where he explicitly purports to have been inspired. Still, his mind nevertheless seems to have been granted a variety of intuitions from which, in turn, sprang eruptions in philosophical matters as well as prophecies regarding the church in which we may perceive a certain miraculous and unexpected providence or blessed fortune, as these hot enthusiastic passions of his were not far off the mark.

Thus, even though he lacked that infallible and supernatural inspiration in external things, he nevertheless seems to have been no stranger to the mysteries of the spirit of love in our new birth. What he writes about that process is full of wisdom and personal experience, and he seems to have done well in reaping its fruits in the measure of regeneration which he had attained.

20. This regeneration is a more real perfection of man than the highest infallible inspiration, just as it would be a greater perfection for a horse, if it were possible, to be transformed and acquire the true nature of a man than to be ridden and governed by the noblest hero that has ever existed. And therefore, J.B.’s writings strike me as being of great importance indeed because, even though they are not particularly accurate guides in speculations about external matters, they are extremely useful and valuable in the promotion of the work of our regeneration in extinguishing pride, oppression, avarice and all self-will and in leading our souls into the free light of divine love by which it may come to participate in the divine nature and revel and feast in the heavenly communion of the holy angels, which is a favour vastly preferable to the knowledge of the most subtle philosophical theories.

21. This is a plausible and the most favourable account of Jakob Boehme and his philosophy that I have been able to provide you with. And I, for my part, believe that every author of such innocence and simplicity should be accorded the same fairness with which I have interpreted his writings. For I would not mind vouching for him at all that he had no intention whatsoever to undermine the ancient apostolic faith in any way, but rather was convinced that he had been given a more accurate and profound revelation of things.

As to those, however, who, on the pretence of inspiration and spirituality, reduce Christian faith to inane allegories and who jeer at those of orthodox faith leading a life of most sincere piety and justice as carnal people because they have not followed them far enough in sinking into unbelief, the break of day will reveal their shame to the world, and the synagogue of would-be prophets and impostors will be exposed. And even though they boast of their spirituality so much, other apostolic men will nevertheless consider them ψυχικοὶ τὸ πνεῦμα μὴ ἔχοντες, as the Apostle himself declares about people of that self-same kind: They will be judged to be “merely psychic men” or “carnal people devoid of spirit” (Jude 1:19).


Scholia on the Conclusion

Sect. 2. “From the expression “it had not yet been created a spirit, etc.” In the cabbalists, the word “spirit” is thought to be the appropriate term for the soul as having descended into the Jetzirathic world. For then the soul is called רוח, “spirit”, just as it is called נשמה in the Briathic world. However, I would think that in this place J.B. described the ignorant aziluthic state of the soul in which the soul is termed חייה (which is also a name of the Holy Spirit in John the Evangelist) if it were not for the fact that he neither calls the mind “life” nor takes away all clothing from it. Regardless of the cabbalists’ teachings, I do not think that this is the aziluthic state.

Sect. 3. “When the Mars and Mercury of universal nature were in absolute silence, etc.” Or rather, they did not yet exist at all. For why should they already have existed since they could not yet engage in their operations without the abyss of monads unless we wanted this abyss or matter to be eternal? Neither Mars nor Mercury were ever in complete silence even then.

“While its plastic part, in terms of its corporeal operations, was entirely silent, etc.” It must necessarily be like this if we suppose that no body had yet come into existence and that the soul was only affected by the divine soul.

“It would require a more thorough inquiry, etc.” In fact, if we abandon all arid Plotinian sublimities and subtleties and instead consult in earnest the Divine Oracles, we shall find that indeed the happiest state of the soul is not one without any body at all. For Christ who will save us in the most perfect fashion orders us not to hope for the complete abolition of all corporeity, but its glorification.

[1] Iudiciorum, “judgements”, may be a mistake, since More obviously wants to say iudicium, “judges”.

[2] More here references his landmark doctrine of the boniform faculty which he views as the soul’s supreme power of knowing the Divine in intuitive vision.

[3] Androgynous.

[4] The accusative aeternitatem, conspicuously spelt with a capital diphthong and put between commas, has no grammatical connection with the rest of the sentence. It has been translated as an accusative of time, as in in aeternitatem.

[5] Opposition.

[6] The good.

[7] Boniform

[8] The divine word.

[9] The word uttered.

[10] The spermatic word.

[11] The neologism ipsitates, literally translated as “selfities”, designates the egocentric striving of the lower hypostasis.

[12] I.e. mental images.

[13] A great demon.

[14] A great dragon.

[15] It is not clear which of the preceding phrases the genitive tenuissimi omnium Principii refers to. In the above translation, the comma after vividitas has been deleted: The primordial life is that of the atom-like first elements. If the comma were retained, tenuissimi omnium Principii would have to refer back to Saturni two lines before, which would not only be syntactically harsh, but also yield a less philosophically satisfactory sense, as the whole of Saturn would be designated a single element. Either way, the overall philosophical agenda remains unaffected, as More charges Boehme with attributing a rudimentary form of life to tiny material atoms.

[16] A large human being.

[17] I.e. Henry Nicklaes, the founder of the Family of Love.

[18] Into coming-to-be.

Cite as: Henry More, ‘Philosophiæ Teutonicæ censura (English translation by Christian Hengstermann)’, from Opera omnia, I (1679), 529-561,, accessed 2020-10-21.