Jacob Böhme or Boehme (1575-1624) was a German clairvoyant who wrote several influential books that laid a foundation for theosophy and influenced streams of theology, philosophy and spiritual science into the following centuries.
Boehme was a simple man that was one day visited by a special person, a visit that changed his life. Rudolf Steiner explained that Boehme was inspired by a high individuality that also inspired Bacon, Shakespeare and Balde.
Boehme's inspiration-clairvoyance is explained as 'second sight' and maps to the Sun-man type of clairvoyance, as opposed to the 'lower, astral' imagination or 'higher, higher mental world' intuition (1923-08-25-GA227).
His theosophy was very influencial and served as a beacon for other esoteric followers and teachers. Some famous pupils were ao:
- Johann Georg Gichtel (1638-1710), whose correspondence was published by his disciple as 'Theosophia practica'
- William Law (1686-1761),
- Louis Claude de Saint-Martin (1743-1803).
- biographical: had a vision in 1600, started writing for himself in 1612 (on 'Aurora') which he never finished, then started writing again in 1618 and published 'The Threefold Life of Man' in 1620. In the period 1620-1624 he delivered 25 works (for a list, see Further reading section below).
- Illustrations: Jacob's Boehme's original text do not include any illustrations. One of his editors, the theosophist Johann Georg Gichtel inserted the illustrations by Jan Luycken in the 1682 edition of 'Complete Works'. Later, also William Law provided a number of illustrations in his four volumes of 'The works of Jacob Behmen, the Teutonic theosopher' (1764-1781). See more under 'Further reading' section below.
- more pupils of Jacob Boehme:
- in the UK: Jane Lead (1624-1704) and John Pordage (1607-1681) - and The Philadelphian Society
- Johannes Kelpius (1667 – 1708) who moved to America in 1694
- regarding clairvoyant hearing of the music of the spheres, see also Sun Hero:
Lecture coverage and references
Louis-Claude de Saint-Martin
in 'Le Ministère de l'homme-esprit'
A German author, whose two first works I have translated and published, more specifically 'Aurora' and the 'The three principles', can amply supply what is missing in my own works
(Mysticism at the Dawn of the Modern Age)
is an excellent introductory lecture to Jacob Boehme
In 1575, Jacob Boehme was born as a child of poor people. He was first a herd boy and could hardly read and write. While he tended livestock, already some strange flashes of inspiration lighted up in him. Sometimes it seemed to him, as if any leaf in the trees, as if the animals of the wood had something to say to him, as if all beings of nature spoke to him. Then he was apprenticed to a shoemaker.
During his apprenticeship, he had a strange experience that cannot be discussed in the general public concerning its real basis. Jacob Boehme had to look after the shop once when his master and wife stepped out. However, he should sell nothing. A person entered whose eyes made a particular impression on him. This person wanted to buy something. Jacob said to him, he was not allowed to sell anything. The look of the stranger was something quite extraordinary to him. Then the stranger went out. After a few minutes, Jacob heard calling his name. The stranger said to him, Jacob, you are still small now, but you are destined to something great! Jacob Boehme knew that these words transferred anything remaining to him.
Jacob Boehme tells another experience, about a mountain. Once he saw into a cave where something like gold shone to him. Again, it seemed to him like a revelation, like something that would tell about the concealed forces of nature to him. If one touched that all, it would lose its magic, which one can only understand by occult means.
covers Giordano Bruno, Jacob Boehme, Francis Bacon
covers the language used by Boehme
discusses the types of clairvoyance on the basis of examples such as Swedenborg and Boehme
.. the second of the three types of men of whom I am speaking today is exemplified in Jacob Boehme. He was so fully endowed a man that at certain moments of his life, as though through his natural destiny, his karma, he was able while completely awake to conjure up before him, instead of the sunlit world, dark space. From what I have already said you will be clear that here it is a question not only of the darkness which is absence of light, but of the blotting out of everything perceived by the senses. It was possible for Jacob Boehme, under certain conditions during his life, to be faced by darkness in place of light, by silence and stillness instead of the various sounds in the world, and instead of warmth by something — equally unlike warmth or cold — we might call anti-warmth, and so on. So that, if through Inspiration one had examined these states of his, without experiencing them oneself, one would have had to say that Jacob Boehme, instead of having sunlit space around him, was at certain times faced by complete darkness.
People who have this experience without being conscious of it — who are, that is, in a light sleep though still feeling themselves to be in the ordinary sunlit world — have what is called second-sight: and this is what Jacob Boehme had in its most pronounced form. Only, in his case, it was applied less to individual particulars on the Earth and more to the constitution of the Earth as a whole. What, then, was his vision?
Now picture this to yourselves. When other people have before them the light of the Sun, Jacob Boehme had — precisely from the point where the visual rays of the eyes meet, on looking at some object far away or near, or from behind the point where a barrier arises when we fold our right hand over our left and shut ourselves off from the outer world — there Jacob Boehme was faced by darkness and silence in respect of all his senses. Imagine this complete darkness! There is a physical picture closely corresponding to it. When you stand before a mirror, you don't see what is behind it — only what is in front. Spiritually, it is the same for anyone who sees in Jacob Boehme's way. The darkness behind creates something in front like a mirror, in which one sees reflected the earthly world in its spirituality. Thus, if you were of the Jacob Boehme type, at certain moments in your life you would look into darkness, and, because this darkness rayed back to you the spiritual life of the Earth, you would behold the spiritual constitution of the Earth and the course of its existence.
It was a powerful second-sight that Jacob Boehme had. Another man may have certain moments in his life when he is faced by darkness which shuts out the physical light, enabling him to look into the spiritual. Then, if he understands how to make the right use of this spiritual mirror, which consists simply in the existence of the darkness, then, through the inner communications between all earthly things, deeds and even thoughts, he will be able when in Europe to perceive a friend in America. For what we perceive with our physical eyes and senses results, above all, from the action of the Sun. But there are also hidden workings of the Sun, active in everything — in minerals, plants, animals, and also in human beings. While you may be in Europe, yet through these hidden workings of the Sun within you, you are in communication with a friend in far-off America, in whom these same forces are active.
[editor note: see remote viewing, eg Joseph McMoneagle]
Hence we can say of people who have second-sight, the gift manifest to the highest degree in Jacob Boehme, that they are in a special sense Sun-men. Just as we normally see the effects of the Sun in the external world, these Sun-men are inwardly permeated by the Sun's hidden forces. And just as our first type was seen to consist of Moon-men, the second type consists of Sun-men, like Jacob Boehme with his second-sight. They are Sun-men who through their natural karma bear within them something which is abnormal today, but for that very reason thoroughly in accordance with reality; for what is abnormal today has been, at some time, quite normal.
Thus, by realising what men with second-sight are able to perceive, by bringing home to ourselves the nature of the Sun's hidden forces, by which these Sun-men are permeated, we are able to say: This living in the hidden effects of the Sun, now abnormal, was normal at an earlier stage of the Earth's evolution, and it will be normal again. It was normal during the stage which as Old Sun preceded the current Earth stage. It was normal then for men everywhere to look into darkness as if into a mirror, in order to have the spiritual reflected back to them. The whole Earth went through that stage of evolution which made man, in his tenuous, volatile materiality at that time, a Sun-man. Consciousness was then very dim. This condition will come again. A man will then be able to penetrate with full consciousness the darkness around him, producing by his own efforts a reflected image of the whole world. By that time we shall have arrived at the Future Venus stage , a future stage of Earth evolution.
Persons wishing to acquire second-sight must cast off their coarse perceptions and sensibility, and the sensations they receive from the physical in their environment; they must draw a free sensibility out of themselves. This can also be arrived at inwardly, though not without danger. It can be done by anyone who fixes his gaze — I am not advising this, simply giving you facts — on some glittering object, so to induce a state of fascination. In this way outer sensibility is weakened, inner sensibility is encouraged, and second-sight is evoked. In ancient times, under certain circumstances, second-sight was evoked quite systematically. Stories of this refer to a “magic mirror”: this was in fact an instrument designed to fascinate and so to damp down outer sensation, thereby calling up inner sensation as its polar opposite. A physical mirror was thus used for calling up a spiritual reflection. The important thing was not what was seen in the physical mirror; the physical mirror merely drove away all outer sensation and inner sensation was evoked. That is how the belief arose that in the magic mirror itself the feelings, the thoughts, and so on, of distant friends could be seen. In reality the person saw the state of soul brought about in himself by the ordinary mirror. Anyone who elicits this kind of seeing sees actual realities. He sees the spiritual activity that goes on in the kingdoms of nature, and he is, as it were, united with everything on Earth that is Sun-like.
In order really to understand Jacob Boehme's writings, one must take their whole content as deriving from a complicated, wonderful second-sight.
covers the 'Inspiration' clairvoyance of the Jacob Boehme type and onedimensional, spiritual sun rays
I have already described how the hidden forces of the Sun - not the forces of the external physical sunlight - are revealed to men of the Jacob Boehme type. These hidden Sun-forces do not spread out three-dimensionally, but are perceived in one dimension only. An older, more instinctive Initiation-knowledge could, and did, come to perceive this through Inspiration, but without a clearly conscious knowledge of what it was. Much that is still handed down in the ancient records of long past epochs of mankind is to be understood only when one knows: This refers to the spiritual world that is one-dimensional, the world we find through Inspiration; as regards our earthly life it refers to the hidden forces of the Sun and Stars. Between going to sleep and waking we do not live in Sun-forces that are outwardly displayed, but in those that are hidden.
and - as a parenthesis here - links this to the 'old stones' as remnants of ancient times, see also Druidic and Trotten mysteries
These hidden forces of the Sun can, for example, pass through certain kinds of stone which are impenetrable to physically perceptible Sun-forces, and by passing through them become one-dimensional. If anyone has acquired Inspirational vision, then, although he may not perceive the physical light, he can see the hidden Sun-forces penetrating the otherwise opaque stone; thus the stone is permeable for the Sun's hidden forces and also for the forces of Inspiration.
In very ancient periods of human evolution on Earth, such expedients were not needed. But when the old instinctive clairvoyance, which in those days was the basis of Initiation-knowledge, was on the wane, these aids were adopted as a short cut — we might say — to the perception of things no longer perceptible through instinctive Inspiration. People had recourse to such measures in the following way, for example. Imagine a number of stones set up beside one another, with other stones laid across the tops of them. If this is so arranged that on certain occasions the penetrating rays of the Sun fall on the covering stone, then the physical rays of the Sun will be held up by the stone and the hidden rays will pass through.
When anyone trained to it places himself so that he can look into this structure from the side, he will see the spiritual, one-dimensional rays of the Sun shining through and vanishing into the earth. If, when all this was no longer perceived through instinctive clairvoyant powers, a short cut of that kind were taken, it enabled anyone looking from the side into the shadow-zone to perceive the world of spiritual Sun-rays which we experience every night during sleep. Hence in such contrivances, to be met with in this very district, we can see by what means, during a long transitional period, certain wise leaders of mankind tried to penetrate to the hidden forces of the Sun, which a man such as Jacob Boehme could do instinctively through simply beholding earthly things.
Although such collections of stones can be seen to-day in appropriate places, their real significance can be brought out only through what Spiritual Science reveals. Otherwise people are left with a superficial explanation which misses the real point.
Jacob Boehme possessed this atavistic power when he looked a the plant and saw the quality of salt below, the mercurial in the middle and the phosphoric above. Thus we can see in the spirit of a man such as Boehme, who was a natural Sun-Initiate, a capacity belonging to an earlier period of civilization, that primal civilization before there was any reading or writing. You completely misunderstand him if you read works such as the Mysterium Magnum, the De Signatura Rerum or the Aurora and do not see that in this stammering presentation there is something quite similar to what I described in relation to the Druids. Boehme was not initiated in an external sense, but his Sun-Initiation rises within him like a repetition of an earlier earthly existence. We can trace this into the very details of his biography.
There are still deeper forces which can be active in men, the forces of the outermost planet of our solar system. Modern astronomy does not regard it as the outermost since it has added two more — though even orthodox astronomers are worried because the movement of the moons does not properly fit, (The moons of Neptune and Uranus move in the opposite direction to the satellites of other planets,) but since it is the spatial arrangement with which they are concerned, they have added Uranus and Neptune. These, however, cause trouble because their moons are a little crazy compared with the ordered moons of Jupiter and other planets. In reality one must say that, for a living, concrete grasp of the planetary system, Saturn is the outer-most planet. Now just as a man can be under the influence of the Moon-forces which I described in detail, or of the Sun-forces, which I only outlined, he may also be under the influence of Saturn-forces. The activity of Saturn, as it rays into the planetary system and thus also into man, is like a cosmic historical memory. Saturn is, as it were, the memory, the recollection, of our planetary system, and if you want to know anything about the history of that system, you cannot really get it by astronomical speculation. Even external science is becoming rather desperate about all this because nothing fits. But the problem is not rightly tackled.
We have often spoken among ourselves about the so-called theory of relativity and the idea that it is never possible to talk of absolute motion; that there is nothing but relative motion. We can either say that the Sun moves and the Earth stands still, or that the Earth moves and the Sun stands still — as we have done in modern times. It makes no difference which one says, since everything is relative. And on one occasion here in Stuttgart, at a meeting of the Anthroposophical Society when we were talking about relativity, a supporter of the theory showed his audience clearly how it is all the same whether you take a match and strike it on the box, or take the box and move it past the match: in either case you light the match. This was meant as a serious scientific statement, and there is nothing to be said against it. Perhaps some simple soul might have thought of nailing the box to a wall — and then we should have had a little bit of “absolute.” We might somehow have moved the whole house and we should have had relativity again — but this might have been difficult! Yet it one takes the whole physical world, Einstein is quite right in saying that within the world there is nothing absolute, everything is relative. Unfortunately he stops at relativity, and it is just this relativity that ought to lead us on to look for something absolute, not in the physical world but in the spiritual. Everywhere nowadays, science — were it only rightly understood — offers us entry into the spiritual world. It is not a question of amateurish but of genuine exact science, and genuine science — except that it is not thought through to the end even by its experts — will lead to the spirit. Ordinary physical investigation cannot really tell us what this Saturn of our universe is. Saturn is in a sense the memory of our planetary system; everything that has occurred within that system is preserved in Saturn, and a Saturn-Initiate can learn of all those happenings.
Now just as our relation to the Moon can appear in a one-sided form in men as an inheritance of an older period of human evolution, with the result that they become sleep-walkers, or, again, as the spiritual forces of the Sun may emerge so that a man will not see the sunlight with open eyes but will see into the darkness in which Nature is mirrored, and then he will see as Boehme did — in the same way it is possible to experience our relation to the forces of Saturn, which work particularly on the head and implant in the human being a passing memory during his life on the Earth. These Saturn-forces can appear in a peculiar way, and
- just as we can talk of “Moon-men” who are the ordinary sleep-walkers,
- and of “Sun-men” such as Boehme, or in a lesser degree, Paracelsus,
- so we can also speak of a Saturn-man. This is what Swedenborg was. His is another case which should worry ordinary science — though it does not!
covers Jacob Boehme, Paracelsus, Swedenborg
Adalbert Graf von Keyserlingk
writes about Rudolf Steiners second visit to Koberwitz in 1922 in The Birth of a new Agriculture (p59)
Rudolf Steiner said: 'Boehme, Shakespeare, Bacon and Balde .. all had the same initiation teacher'.
I asked if this ‘initiator’ had been a bearer of the Holy Spirit.
‘Yes, of course’ he replied, ‘Boehme himself describes how he had met with the Holy Spirit in his jouth’
confirms the above, that there was one Individuality inspiring not just Boehme but also Bacon, Shakespeare and Balde.
All these things — working with external methods, seeking out similarities in the way of thought in Shakespeare's dramas and Bacon's philosophic works — all these are barren superficialities. They do not get at the real truth. For the truth is that at the time when Bacon, Shakespeare, Jacob Boehme, and a fourth were working on the earth, there was one Initiate who really spoke through all four. Hence their kinship, for in reality it all goes back to one and the same source. Of course, these people who dispute and argue do not argue about the Initiate who stood behind, especially as this Initiate — like many a modern Initiate — is described to us in history as a rather intolerable fellow. But he was not merely so. No doubt he was so sometimes in his external actions, but he was not merely so. He was an individuality from whom immense forces proceeded, and to whom were really due Bacon's philosophic works as well as Shakespeare's dramas and the works of Jacob Boehme, and also the works of the Jesuit, Jacob Balde.
adds an intriguing perspective in the context of the archangel regents (periods of 354 years, see Spiritual hierarchies and their eigenperiods)
In this context it is most important to be in touch with those personalities who were associated with nature knowledge in the Raphael epoch. A deeper knowledge of nature, a deeper understanding of medicine can be communicated through many a personality who, to clairvoyant perception, emerges out of the spiritual twilight of this age (from the ninth to the fifteenth centuries) and can inform us of the current conceptions of matter and of the current ideas of man's relationship to the whole Cosmos. When we look into this age with spiritual vision, we meet with many personalities who are unknown because their names have not been handed down to posterity, yet these personalities exist in reality.
Many of these personalities appear before us and we say:
- there stands “Paracelsus major,” but we have no record of his name, whilst “Paracelsus minor” lived in a later age, in the Gabriel epoch, and had reminiscences of the nature wisdom of Paracelsus major, though no longer in the pure, sublime and spiritual form of Paracelsus major.
- Then “Jacob Boehme minor” appears before us in the later Gabriel epoch. And again we say: This personality proclaimed sublime truths which he learned from various traditional teachings and which gave stimulus to his inspiration. When “Jacob Boehme major” who is not known to posterity and whose name is only mentioned occasionally, like those of Alanus ab Insulis and Brunetto Latini, appears before us, then for the first time we really understand “Jacob Boehme minor.”
The Pre-Renaissance epoch, at the close of which the famous figures of Dante and Brunetto Latini, and the School of Chartres, stand out like solitary luminaries, whilst Scotus Erigena (815-877) appears like some erratic boulder in their midst — this epoch contains something that can provide powerful spiritual stimulus. External, medieval history is shrouded in darkness, but this darkness conceals the presence of powerful personalities who can illumine the epoch of which I have just spoken.
Note  - Historical perspective - waves and counterwaves
Positioning: the wave or impulse of 1600-1620
- Jacob Boehme (1575-1624) had clairvoyant vision and worked diligently and very structured to convey his 'spiritual research' into earth language and written communication. Though his 25 main works were delivered in a period of four years 1620-1624, we can assume he had his clairvoyant vision since the year 1600. His work published as 'theosophy' provided a foundational base for a whole spiritual movement of followers.
- Robert Fludd (1574-1637) was a contemporary of Boehme. After a period 1598-1604 he started his study of medicine, following the views of Paracelcus, and ultimately ended up becoming a doctor. He was a contemporary of Kepler (1571-1630) with who he mailed extensively. His major work was published 1617-1624: 'Utriusque Cosmi, Maioris scilicet et Minoris, metaphysica, physica, atque technica Historia'.
- From the wikipedia page of Robert Fludd (editor italics highlight):
The second manifesto had decidedly anti-Catholic views which were popular at the time of the Counter Reformation. These manifestos were re-issued several times, and were both supported and countered by numerous pamphlets from anonymous authors: about 400 manuscripts and books were published on the subject between 1614 and 1620. The peak of the "Rosicrucianism furore" came in 1622 with mysterious posters appearing on the walls of Paris, and occult philosophers such as Michael Maier, Robert Fludd and Thomas Vaughan interested themselves in the Rosicrucian world view. Others intellectuals and authors later claimed to have published Rosicrucian documents in order to ridicule their views. The furore faded out and the Rosicrucians disappeared from public life until 1710 when the secret cult appears to have been revived as a formal organisation.
- From the wikipedia page of Robert Fludd (editor italics highlight):
- As a third milestone in this period 1600-1620, we observe that this was the also time after the publication of Johannes Valentinus Andreae's (1586-1654) inspired work 'Chymische Hochzeit Christiani Rosencreutz anno 1459' published in 1616 (now known as 'Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz in 1459', though it was only first translated in English in 1690).
The above sketches that the inspiration of Andreae of a very impactful work, together with the publication of influential works by Boehme, Fludd , are all part of a wave of spiritual science that is happening. An important impulse spreading an influence of theosophy and rosecrucianism.
The three milestones above are part of a broader wave with many others (e.g. Jan Baptist van Helmont (1577–1644)). See also Sources of spiritual science.
To put it in historical perspective of what is going on in the world: this same period is also the time a new dawn with Luther (1483-1546) manifesto and protestant reformation (1517), whilst Copernicus is publishing his main work in 1543.
Relate the above to the quote 1917-09-25-GA176 and 1918-06-25-GA181 on the History page, lectures which state explictly that "the Thirty Years' War, lasting from 1618 to 1648, was a counterforce effort to damp the rosecrucian impulse". The above wave at the start of 17th century fell dead on its intended broader cultural impact, though it survived in a way and as a source of inspiration for a minority of souls in later generations.
The events that led to the Thirty Years' War made impossible the [spiritual] movement which Johann Valentin Andrae (the writer of a work inspired by a Bodhisattva) wanted to bring about. (1917-09-25-GA176) .. Then came the Thirty Years War, the tomb of much which should then have come to mankind. What should have been then understood, was not understood, was even consigned to oblivion (1918-06-25-GA181)
After the end (in 1648) of the Thirty Years War that shook Europe and 'damped' (or 'de-railed') this impulse by dragging the European people down into the earthly concerns through this war, in 1650 Thomas Vaughan (1621-1666) published 'Anthroposophia Theomagica'.
One could read into this, that Steiner's choice for the name 'anthroposophy' (which he pointed out was borrowed from Vaughan) to follow theosophy, is to be seen in the above context, as Steiner was obviously very aware of the above, the impetus he was to give, and what was to follow.
The wave of 1880-1900
The 20th century similary knew a 30 years war as a 'damper' for the spiritual impulse in the new Michael age starting in 1879 and the end of the dark age kali yuga in 1899, leading to the awakening of the first early natural clairvoyance (re Christ in the etheric from the 1930s onwards). This is also the context for the theosophical and anthroposophical movements part of The Michaelic stream.
In the quote below, Rudolf Steiner says some prophetic words:
Today we again find ourselves within two streams, two possibilities, which must of necessity affect one another.
- On the one hand there is Anthroposophy with the impulse to further human evolution;
- on the other hand there is all that which has brought about events, similar in nature to those that caused the Thirty Years' War.
It depends upon mankind whether once again what ought to happen is prevented from happening.
Lethargy, love of ease might well paralyze the present attempt. Whether things would then take their course as they did when the attempt made by Valentin Andrae was paralyzed is another matter.
It is interesting to study further sources to contemplate that the 20th century war may have been planned and designed to serve a specific agenda with both faces, a mundane (exoteric, political-economical) covering also a spiritual (esoteric), two sides of the same coin.
Some examples are, ao:
- (1) the map of Europe published in 1890 in the English magazine 'Truth' (showing the map Europe more or less how it would look after the two world wars), see Schema FMC00.489
- (2) C.G. Harrison's lectures of 1894 (also predicting the next great European war, and: the end of independance of the small states)
- (3) the book by Francis Delaisi (1873-1947): 'La guerre qui vient' of 1911.
For further positioning, see also:
- Terry M. Boardman: 'Mapping the Millennium: Behind the Plans of the New World Order'
- T.H. Meyer: 'Ludwig Polzer-Hoditz, A European: A Biography' - (pages 64-68)
- Rudolf Steiner, H. and Eliza Von Moltke: 'Light for the New Millennium' - (introduction pages 9-10)
- Rudolf Steiner volumes GA173, GA174 and GA178
References and further reading
- wikipedia page with list of works
- Reference sites:
- Jacob Boehme Online, by Wayne Kraus (see also his books)
- International Jacob Boehme Society (website in EN/DE)
- Franz Hartmann: 'The Life and Doctrines of Jacob Boehme' (1891), online version
- Illustrations to Jacob Boehme's works:
- William Law's illustrations: see Man past and future#References and further reading
- see also this page in FR or translated in EN