On mystics and Böhme

Jakob Böhme was certainly not only the ‘cobbler from Görlitz’ as people with more than dubious taste like to call him. Furthermore, he was not just ‘a cobbler, and a poet besides’. All these crude allusions to the trade by which he earned his daily bread, a trade that certainly did not require any higher education, are inadmissible. What I said about Jakob Böhme in the small collection of individual and self-contained treatises published under the title ‘Showing the Way’, is intended, as you rightly understand, to show that Böhme had been a spiritually appointed  pupil of the Luminaries of the First Light. This status was something so sacred to him that he sought to cover it in a shroud of mystery. However much has  

been written about Böhme, no one has been in the position to understand this spiritual relationship. It must also be said that Jakob Böhme describes his experiences and insights in such a baroque and personal manner, descriptions which become even more confused through the incorrect use of Latin and Latinised words he had learnt from his scholarly friends, that one must already have a very precise knowledge of these experiences to recognise what he was trying to describe.

  It is a different case with the German mystics, like the anonymous Teutonic knight from Frankfurt who wrote the ‘Theologia deutsch’, and Tauler, Seuse and Meister Eckhart.

  These were scholarly men who followed hard philosophical paths to attain their insight which they  

found then difficult to protect from the condemnation of the Church.

  The scholarly poet Johann Scheffler (Angelus Silesius) was in the opposite situation. As a Protestant he eventually took refuge in Catholicism by reinterpreting every Catholic teaching as a poetic symbol.

  For me a phenomenon separate from the others is the ‘pious’ – in the deepest sense of the word – canon Thomas à Kempis who wrote the four books on The Imitation of Christ which are, of course, Catholic in intention and replete with so much peace giving goodness.

  But all these men had no conscious relationship at all with the Luminaries of the First Light, even though in all of them you can find isolated remarks which might tempt one into supposing that at least

the hidden existence of the Luminaries of the First Light was intuited within the circles of medieval German mystics.

  The fact that they unwittingly received so much spiritual help and guidance from the source they perhaps intuited emerges from what I have already told you at the time about the nature of this spiritual help. However, it is also clearly visible in the sermons and writings of Tauler, Seuse and Meister Eckhart as soon as you carefully remove the often ill-fitting ecclesiastical cloak placed upon certain statements of confession and teaching to protect those making them from ending up on the pyre. The spiritual influence of the Luminaries of the First Light is seen in many places in Thomas à Kempis and Angelus Silesius, who is primarily to be regarded as a poet with mystical sensitivity.

  Yet despite all the respect I have for these ancient German mystical theologians and philosophers, – despite all the love I hold for the wondrously still and noble Thomas à Kempis, and with all the joy felt for the magnificently concise and sometimes even quarrelsome Angelus Silesius, I must advise you for the time being to delay studying mystical writings of any kind until you feel so certain of your own path that the occasional pursuit of byways will no longer confuse you in the direction leading to your goal.

  This advice, however, is meant only to keep you from delaying too long on your path; for, in the time you would need to arrive at a judgement which would come to you anyway quite by itself, you

can move a good way nearer to your goal. Do not forget either that the writings of all those mentioned – with the sole exception of Jakob Böhme – are dealing with opinions on the worlds of the eternal spirit which were thought up and made up, at times condensed into a fervent emotional experience, in a demanding struggle with oneself, whilst you have the almost incomprehensible fortune to have been guided from the start upon the path leading to eternal reality…

  May you be blessed with every blessing entrusted to me as true spiritual power guided by my will!


Bô Yin Râ