Who was Jakob Böhme?
It seems superfluous to ask this question again.
Past and present interpreters of the strange work bearing the name of Jakob Böhme have with greater or lesser success engaged in the task of interpreting the man behind this work.
That Böhme – apart from being what he was – could also repair shoes, is known even by those who have never read a line he wrote. When certain interpreters of his work speak of their author as the ‘cobbler of Görlitz’ it is – at best – a matter of taste. But if you, with me, tend to think that making shoes is a very honourable trade and that this guild of artisans may be very proud of their famous member, it certainly does not betray ‘spiritual affinity’ with the profoundly deep spiritual messenger Jakob Böhme to merely remember the daily work by which he earned his bread. – –
And yet there have always been those for whom the essential nature of such an important man did not seem determined by his occupation here on earth, – for whom it was insignificant that this teacher grew up outside the fold of normal education.
Böhme himself shows all too clearly in his writings how much he felt his lack in acquiring the learning of his times; until the end of his life he worked hard to comprehend the conceptual world of learned friends: so that he might give an account of his own vision and thinking in the words he heard them use.
The need to carry out the trade he had learnt merely for his living was a constant interruption for him; everything we know about the external circumstances of his life clearly shows how much he sought to escape this interruption, in order to follow only the inner impulse of his sublime spirit.
If one really wants to know the spiritual wealth that created its earthly shrine in the person of Jakob Böhme, then one must certainly not approach the writings of the wise man with the predetermined view that one will encounter here more or less homemade conclusions from the contemplative head-scratching of a honest artisan who forgets at his workbench that he is meant to be making shoes fit for their purpose, and who prefers seeking answers to all sorts of metaphysical questions which never leave his pious mind in peace.
Let this be said to all those who, though knowing the name of this wise man, have never read his writings, or put them quickly to one side, taking offence at the obscure words of the admittedly often high-handed and strange sounding diction!
Those who have really thoroughly examined Böhme’s writings, – those who have expended efforts in getting used to their language, – have always learnt to bow respectfully before this man who could write down these things. It has long been testified that this respect appears at its most powerful when the depth of one’s own soul resounds when touched by the wondrous treasures concealed in Jakob Böhme’s profundity…
This, of course, only applies to his knowledge of the pure spiritual world!
Yet despite misinterpretations in the flelds of the physical-sensory universe when he borrows the hoist from others, despite the temporal nature of his conclusions, – and even despite all the shackles of a dogmatically rigid religious form, there stands before us one of the wisest of those who ever sought to get to the core of the ultimate depths of man’s understanding! –
He was a ‘builder of wells’ who built his shaft deep into the original waters of life!
Whoever summons up the courage to descend into this shaft, – for there is no bucket on the end of a rope to draw water here, will find confirmation that he only needs to build a shaft to the same depth in himself in order to find the same living springs in himself as well…
Those, however, who remain caught in the roots of religious allegories which still find hold on the walls of the well shaft Böhme built within himself, seeking to entangle the unsuspecting in their jumbled mass, may be glad when they are finally freed again; and the water in the deep will reflect only their own distressed countenances. –
Let all this be said by way of a preamble, before I can answer the question about the identity of this strange seer Jakob Böhme who was, in his way, so knowledgeable about the world of the spirit. At last he has been accorded by modern research the rank in spiritual history of mankind he deserves, even though he has never wanted for admirers who at times saw with astonishment a certain aspect, at other times different aspects of his being; for no one has been able to gain a complete picture of this great man. –
The answer I have to give at this point applies only to Böhme’s spiritual origins, as are known to me from assured knowledge. What is possible now for me to say will be understood by those who already know that all spiritual occurrences here on earth represent merely the last effect of sublime impulses, born of love, in the realm of essential spirit. –
One will have to remember everything I have had to recount on countless occasions in the past when I described how the divine can only be comprehended by man through the human spirit, and that every influence mankind on earth receives from the realm of the essential spirit emanates from an invisible temple here on earth whose foundation stones are those people on this earth who – despite their earthly activities – live at the same time in full awareness and without any interruption in the pure spirit. – –
Böhme too was guided from this place to carry out his work! –
As a spiritual ‘pupil’ of the spiritual circle I have often described operating in secrecy, he ascended from rung to rung as far as it was possible for him during his earthly life; he truly knew the provenance of his enlightenment.
With respect to the outside world, however, he was required to observe silence by strict command.
He was himself certainly not destined to become a Luminary here on earth within the circle of the ‘Luminaries of the First Light’.
All too earthly flames still blazed within him around the golden-white light of the divine spirit when he entered earthly life. He had in no sense already completed those millennia of that spiritual development which each ‘Luminary’ must have attained before experiencing himself here in the body of an earthly animal.
Jakob Böhme’s work has shown the world what is possible to obtain for a truly worthy human being who has been ‘accepted’ to become a pupil of the light, although the world could not know from which source flowed the power for that work…
It was impossible for interpreters of Böhme’s writings to have any authentic knowledge of the original conditions of his visionary nature; – it was impossible for them even to suspect that spiritual guidance was working in him of whose existence on earth only a few, who are not allowed to speak, had ever gained knowledge. – – –
And yet it is not impossible that Böhme once made an allusion to trusted friends, an allusion which appeared permissible to him and led to a later narrative account by his first biographer. Today people do not know what to make of it which resulted in its being believed to be merely part of the construction of a myth.
It might therefore be worth mentioning that Böhme’s biographer and friend reports:
“And it may well be that something like a hidden glimmer and tinder were added and inserted from without, through the magical and astral influence of starry spirits, into this holy fire of love.” (*)
(*) Italics by Bô Yin Râ.
This suggests at least that the biographer suspected something of the genuine connections, if he did not indeed know more than he wanted to say from allusions made by Böhme in his conversations. – –
Certainly much food for thought is provided for all who see through this genuine connection when, following the above quotation, the account narrates how once “a strange, badly dressed, yet refined and honourable man” came to Böhme in his master’s shop when he was young in years. At that time he was there alone, and the man suddenly, despite being a complete stranger, called him by his name, which much frightened Böhme.
The narrative continues:
“Then the man took him by the right hand with a serious but friendly gaze and, his eyes shining with light, looked straight and intensely into his eyes and said: Jakob, you are small, but you will grow and become a very different person and man”… etc., etc.
“Whereupon the man pressed his hand, looked again intensely into his eyes, and went upon his way.”
In the same context the account tells how Böhme thereafter changed; a ‘short time later’ his enlightenment, his ‘spiritual calling and Sabbath day… took place.’
Though it is far from my intention to want to judge the value one should give to this account, I still think that some indication is at least worth giving here. –
Since I have not set myself the task of interpreting Böhme’s writings I may content myself with this one indication. Nevertheless, I think it far from impossible that those who are thoroughly acquainted with these writings could also show me many mysterious passages in Böhme’s own texts which might be cited here – –
Let it suffice that I have directed the reader’s attention to these references.
What should explicitly be mentioned here, however, is the unique source of exposure of Böhme’s spiritual origins, as it became clear from frequent observation that even the best expounders of the spiritual phenomenon that is Jakob Böhme are incapable of perfectly interpreting either the man or the writings, if they have no knowledge of Böhme’s connections to the spiritual circle of the ‘Luminaries of the First Light’.
The reasons why the wise visionary was once duty-bound to keep silent do not exist any more today; the influence of his writings is made easier if one knows about his spiritual origins and can correctly interpret traces of them in his work.
The elements of his work conditioned by his times and his very personal situation, – originating in a world of ideas that had to be accepted unless he wanted to endure far more bitter suffering at the hands of their adherents than they otherwise would impose upon him, – all these elements can be released from this work without taking anything essential away from it.
But the essence which then remains was more than three hundred years ago, indeed written for today’s age as well!
It can never age, for it originates in eternity: – the everlasting ‘today’!
Jakob Böhme merely gave the form of words to the vision of his soul in which it could, for himself, be permanently comprehended and kept. For he was not the lord and master of this vision but always had to wait until it was shown to him once more from the realm of the spirit; what he had seen at any one time always risked being lost again. – – –
It is no wonder he often gave what was real and essential such confused and tangled embellishments; for it seemed to him that only such arabesques could give form to things unutterable.
As a naturally powerful creator of language in the fashion of his age, he compelled words to give form to his image-filled experience; it was of little concern to him if the words struggled to absorb the overabundance of his inner visions.
Only loving immersion can ever release the inner sense from his words. – – –