Hegel’s Lectures on the History of Philosophy

Section One: Modern Philosophy in its First Statement

WE now pass on from this English Lord Chancellor, the leader of the external, sensuous method in Philosophy, to the philosophus teutonicus, as he is called — to the German cobbler of Lusatia, of whom we have no reason to be ashamed. It was, in fact, through him that Philosophy first appeared in Germany with a character peculiar to itself: Boehme stands in exact antithesis to Bacon. He was also called theosophus teutonicus, just as even before this philosophia teutonica was the name given to mysticism.(1) This Jacob Boehme was for long forgotten and decried as being simply a pious visionary; the so-called period of enlightenment, more particularly, helped to render his public extremely limited. Leibnitz thought very highly of him, but it is in modern times that his profundity has for the first time been recognized, and that he has been once more restored to honour. It is certain, on the one hand, that he did not merit the disdain accorded him; on the other, however, he did not deserve the high honour into which he was elevated. To call him an enthusiast signifies nothing at all. For if we will, all philosophers may be so termed, even the Epicureans and Bacon; for they all have held that man finds his truth in something else than eating and drinking, or in the common-sense every-day life of wood-cutting, tailoring, trading, or other business, private or official. But Boehme has to attribute the high honour to which he was raised mainly to the garb of sensuous feeling and perception which he adopted; for ordinary sensuous perception and inward feeling, praying and yearning, and the pictorial element in thought, allegories and such like, are in some measure held to be essential in Philosophy. But it is only in the Notion, in thought, that Philosophy can find its truth, and that the Absolute can be expressed and likewise is as it is in itself. Looked at from this point of view, Boehme is a complete barbarian, and yet he is a man who, along with his rude method of presentation, possesses a deep, concrete heart. But because no method or order is to be found in him, it is difficult to give an account of his philosophy.

Jacob Boehme was born in 1575 of poor parents, at Altseidenburg, near Görlitz, in Upper Lusatia. In his youth he was a peasant boy who tended the cattle. He was brought up as a Lutheran, and always remained such. The account of his life which is given with his works was drawn up by a clergyman who knew him personally, from information given by Boehme himself. Much is there related as to how he attained to more profound knowledge and wisdom by means of certain experiences through which he passed. Even when a herd tending the cattle, as he tells of himself, he had these wonderful manifestations. The first marvellous awakening that occurred to him took place in a thicket in which he saw a cavern and a vessel of gold. Startled by the splendour of this sight he was inwardly awakened from a dull stupor, but afterwards he found it was impossible for him to discover the objects of his vision. Subsequently he was bound apprentice to a shoemaker. More especially “was he spiritually awakened by the words: 'Your heavenly Father will give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him' (Luke xi. 13), so that, desiring to come to a knowledge of the truth, and yet retaining the simplicity of his mind, he prayed and sought, and knocked, fervently and earnestly, until, while travelling about with his master, he was, through the influence of the Father in the Son, spiritually transported into the glorious pence and the Sabbath of the soul, and thus his request was granted. According to his own account, he was then surrounded with divine light, and for seven days he remained in the supremest divine contemplation and joy.” His master for this dismissed him, saying he could not keep in his service “house-prophets such as he was.” After that he lived at Görlitz. In 1594 he rose in his trade to be master, and married. Later on, “in the year 1600, and in the twenty-fifth year of his age, once more” the light broke upon him in a second vision of the same kind. He tells that he saw a brightly scoured pewter dish in the room, and “by the sudden sight of this shining metal with its brilliant radiance” he was brought (into a meditation and a breaking free of his astral mind) “into the central point of secret nature,” and into the light of divine essence. “He went out into the open air in order that he might rid his brain of this hallucination, and none the less did he continue all the more clearly as time went on to experience the vision in this way received. Thus by means of the signatures or figures, lineaments, and colours which were depicted, he could, so to speak, look into the heart and inmost nature of all creatures (in his book De signatura rerum this reason which was impressed upon him is found and fully explained); and for this he was overwhelmed with joy, thanked God, and went peacefully about his affairs.” Later on he wrote several works. He continued to pursue his handicraft at Görlitz, and died at the same place in 1624, being then a master shoemaker.(2)

His works are especially popular with the Dutch, and for that reason most of the editions are issued from Amsterdam, though they were also surreptitiously printed in Hamburg. His first writing is the “Aurora” or “Morgenröthe im Aufgange,” and this was followed by others; the work “Von den drei Principien,” and another “Vom dreifachen Leben des Menschen,” are, along with several others, the most noteworthy. Boehme constantly read the Bible, but what other works he read is not known. A number of passages in his works, however, prove that he read much — evidently mystical, theosophic, and alchemistic writings for the most part, and he must certainly have included in his reading the works of Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, known as Paracelsus, a philosopher of a somewhat similar calibre, but much more confused, and without Boehme's profundity of mind. He met with much persecution at the hands of the clergy, but he aroused less attention in Germany than in Holland and England, where his writings have been often printed.(3) In reading his works we are struck with wonder, and one must be familiar with his ideas in order to discover the truth in this most confused method of expression.

The matter of Jacob Boehme's philosophy is genuinely German; for what marks him out and makes him noteworthy is the Protestant principle already mentioned of placing the intellectual world within one's own mind and heart, and of experiencing and knowing and feeling in one's own self-consciousness all that formerly was conceived as a Beyond. Boehme's general conceptions thus on the one hand reveal themselves as both deep and sound, but on the other, with all his need for and struggle after determination and distinction in the development of his divine intuitions of the universe, he does not attain either to clearness or order. There is no systematic connection but the greatest confusion in his divisions — and this exists even in his tables,(4) in which three numbers are made use of.

What God is beside nature and Creation.
God in Love
The first Principium.
God in Wrath.
God in wrath and love.

Here nothing definite to hold the moments asunder is shown, and we have the sense of merely doing it by effort; now these and now other distinctions are set forth, and as they are laid down disconnectedly, they again come into confusion.

The manner and system which Boehme adopts must accordingly be termed barbarous; the expressions used in his works prove this, as when, for example, he speaks of the divine Salitter, Marcurius, &c. As Boehme places the life, the movement of absolute existence in the heart, so does he regard all conceptions as being in a condition of actuality; or he makes use of actuality as Notion, that is to say he forcibly takes natural things and sensuous qualities to express his ideas rather than the determinations of the Notion. For instance, sulphur and suchlike are not to him the things that we so name, but their essence; or the Notion has this form of actuality. Boehme's profoundest interest is in the Idea and he struggles hard to express it. The speculative truth which he desires to expound really requires, in order to be comprehended, thought and the form of thought. Only in thought can this unity be comprehended, in the central point of which his mind has its place; but it is just the form of thought that is lacking to him. The forms that he employs are really no longer determinations of the Notion at all. They are on the one hand sensuous, chemical determinations, such qualities as acid, sweet, sour, fierce; and, on the other, emotions such as wrath and love; and, further, tincture, essence, anguish, &c. For him these sensuous forms do not, however, possess the sensuous significance which belongs to them, but he uses them in order to find expression for his thought. It is, however, at once clear to us how the form of manifestation must necessarily appear forced, since thought alone is capable of unity. It thus appears strange to read of the bitterness of God, of the Flagrat, and of lightning; we first require to have the Idea, and then we certainly discern its presence here. But the other side is that Boehme utilizes the Christian form which lies nearest to him, and more especially that of the Trinity, as the form of the Idea: he intermingles the sensuous mode and the mode of popularly conceived religion, sensuous images and conceptions. However rude and barbarous this may on the one hand be, and however impossible it is to read Boehme continuously, or to take a firm grasp of his thoughts (for all these qualities, spirits and angels make one's head swim), we must on the other hand recognize that he speaks of everything as it is in its actuality, and that he does this from his heart. This solid, deep, German mind which has intercourse with what is most inward, thus really exercises an immense power and force in order to make use of actuality as Notion, and to have what takes place in heaven around and within it. Just as Hans Sachs represented God, Christ and the Holy Ghost, as well as patriarchs and angels, in his own particular manner and as ordinary people like himself, not looking upon them as past and historic, so was it with Boehme.

To faith spirit has truth, but in this truth the moment of certainty of self is lacking. We have seen that the object of Christianity is the truth, the Spirit; it is given to faith as immediate truth. Faith possesses the truth, but unconsciously, without knowledge, without knowing it as its self-consciousness; and seeing that thought, the Notion, is necessarily in self-consciousness — the unity of opposites with Bruno — this unity is what is pre-eminently lacking to faith. Its moments as particular forms fall apart, more especially the highest moments — good and evil, or God and the Devil. God is, and the Devil likewise; both exist for themselves. But if God is absolute existence, the question may be asked, What absolute existence is this which has not all actuality, and more particularly evil within it? Boehme is hence on one side intent on leading the soul of man to the divine life, on inducing the soul to pay attention to the strife within itself, and make this the object of all its work and efforts; and then in respect of this content he strives to make out how evil is present in good — a question of the present day. But because Boehme does not possess the Notion and is so far back in intellectual culture, there ensues a most frightful and painful struggle between his mind and consciousness and his powers of expression, and the import of this struggle is the profoundest Idea of God which seeks to bring the most absolute opposites into unity, and to bind them together — but not for thinking reason. Thus if we would comprehend the matter, Boehme's great struggle has been — since to him God is everything — to grasp the negative, evil, the devil, in and from God, to grasp God as absolute; and this struggle characterizes all his writings and brings about the torture of his mind. It requires a great and severe mental effort to bring together in one what in shape and form lie so far asunder; with all the strength that he possesses Boehme brings the two together, and therein shatters all the immediate significance of actuality possessed by both. But when thus he grasps this movement, this essence of spirit in himself, in his inward nature, the determination of the moments simply approaches more nearly to the form of self-consciousness, to the formless, or to the Notion. In the background, indeed, there stands the purest speculative thought, but it does not attain to an adequate representation. Homely, popular modes of conception likewise appear, a free outspokenness which to us seems too familiar. With the devil, particularly, he has great dealings, and him he frequently addresses. “Come here,” he says, “thou black wretch, what dost thou want? I will give thee a potion.”(5) As Prospero in Shakespeare's “Tempest”(6) threatens Ariel that he will “rend an oak and peg him in his knotty entrails . . . twelve winters,” Boehme's great mind is confined in the hard knotty oak of the senses — in the gnarled concretion of the ordinary conception — and is not able to arrive at a free presentation of the Idea.

I shall shortly give Boehme's main conceptions, and then several particular forms which he in turn adopts; for he does not remain at one form, because neither the sensuous nor the religious can suffice. Now even though this brings about the result that he frequently repeats himself, the forms of his main conceptions are still in every respect very different, and he who would try to give a consistent explanation of Boehme's ideas, particularly when they pass into further developments, would only delude himself in making the attempt. Hence we must neither expect to find in Boehme a systematic presentation nor a true method of passing over into the individual. Of his thoughts we cannot say much without adopting his manner of expression, and quoting the particular passages themselves, for they cannot otherwise be expressed. The fundamental idea in Jacob Boehme is the effort to comprise everything in an absolute unity, for he desires to demonstrate the absolute divine unity and the union of all opposites in God. Boehme's chief, and one may even say, his only thought — the thought that permeates all his works — is that of perceiving the holy Trinity in everything, and recognizing everything as its revelation and manifestation, so that it is the universal principle in which and through which everything exists; in such a way, moreover, that all things have this divine Trinity in themselves, not as a Trinity pertaining to the ordinary conception, but as the real Trinity of the absolute Idea. Everything that exists is, according to Boehme, this three-fold alone, and this three-fold is everything.(7) To him the universe is thus one divine life and revelation of God in all things, so that when examined more closely, from the one reality of God, the sum and substance of all powers and qualities, the Son who shines forth from these powers is eternally born; the inward unity of this light with the substance of the powers is Spirit. Sometimes the presentation is vague, and then again it is clearer. What comes next is the explanation of this Trinity, and here the different forms which he uses to indicate the difference becoming evident in the same, more especially appear.

In the Aurora, the “Root or Mother of Philosophy, Astrology and Theology,” he gives a method of division in which he places these sciences in proximity, and yet appears merely to pass from one to the other without any clear definition or determination.” (1) In Philosophy divine power is treated of, what God is, and how in the Being of God, nature, stars, and Elementa are constituted; whence all things have their origin, what is the nature of heaven and earth, as also of angels, men and devils, heaven and hell and all that is creaturely, likewise what the two qualities in nature are, and this is dealt with out of a right ground in the knowledge of spirit, by the impulse and motion of God. (2) In astrology the powers of nature, of the stars and elements, are treated of, and how all creatures proceed from them, how evil and good are through them effected in men and animals. (3) In theology the kingdom of Christ is dealt with, as also its nature, and how it is set in opposition to hell, and how in nature it wars with the kingdom of darkness.”(8)

1. What comes first is God the Father; this first is at once divided in itself and the unity of both its parts. “God is all,” he says, “He is the Darkness and the Light, Love and Anger, Fire and Light, but He calls Himself God only as to the light of His love. There is an eternal Contrarium between darkness and light; neither comprehends the other and neither is the other, and yet there is but one essence or substance, though separated by pain; it is likewise so with the will, and yet there is no separable essence. One single principle is divided in this way, that one is in the other as a nothing which yet exists; but it is not manifest in the property of that thing in which it is.”(9) By anguish is expressed that which we know as the absolute negativity — that is the self-conscious, self-experienced, the self-relating negativity which is therefore absolute affirmation. All Boehme's efforts were directed towards this point; the principle of the Notion is living in him, only he cannot express it in the form of thought. That is to say, all depends on thinking of the negative as simple, since it is at the same time an opposite; thus anguish [Qual] is the inward tearing asunder and yet likewise the simple. From this Boehme derives sources or springs [Quellen], a good play on the words. For pain [die Qual], this negativity, passes into life, activity, and thus lie likewise connects it with quality, [Qualität], which he makes into Quallity.(10) The absolute identity of difference is all through present to him.

a. Boehme thus represents God not as the empty unity, but as this self-separating unity of absolute opposites; one must not, however, here expect a clearly defined distinction. The first, the one, the Father, has likewise the mode of natural existence; thus, like Proclus, he speaks of this God being simple essence. This simple essence he calls the hidden; and he therefore names it the Temperamentum, this unity of what is different, in which all is tempered. We find him also calling it the great Salitter — now the divine and now the natural Salitter — as well as Salniter. When he talks of this great salitter as of something known to us, we cannot first of all conceive what it means. But it is a vulgar corruption of the word sal nitri, saltpetre (which is still called salniter in Austria), i.e. just the neutral and in truth universal existence. The divine pomp and state is this, that in God a more glorious nature dwells, trees, plants, &c. “In the divine pomp or state two things have principally to be considered; salitter or the divine power, which brings forth all fruits, and marcurius or the sound.”(11)  This great salitter is the unrevealed existence, just as the Neo-Platonic unity is without knowledge of itself and likewise unrecognized.

b. This first substance contains all powers or qualities as not yet separated; thus this salitter likewise appears as the body of God, who embraces all qualities in Himself. Quality thus becomes an important conception, the first determination with Boehme; and he begins with qualities in his work “Morgenröthe im Aufgang.” He afterwards associates with this the conferring of quality, and in the same place says: “Quality is the mobility, boiling, springing, and driving of a thing.” These qualities he then tries to define, but the account he gives of them is vague. “As for example heat which burns, consumes and drives forth all whatsoever comes into it which is not of the same property; and again it enlightens and warms all cold, wet, and dark things; it compacts and hardens soft things. It contains likewise two other kinds in it, namely Light and Fierceness” (Negativity); “of which the light or the heart of the heat is in itself a pleasant, joyful glance or lustre, a power of life . . . and a source of the heavenly kingdom of joy. For it makes all things in this world living and moving; all flesh, trees, leaves, and grass grow in this world, as in the power of the light, and have their light therein, viz. in the good. Again, it contains also a fierceness or wrath which burns, consumes and spoils. This wrath or fierceness springs, drives, and elevates itself in the light, and makes the light movable. It wrestles and fights together in its two-fold source. The light subsists in God without heat, but it does not subsist so in nature. For all qualities in nature are one in another, in the same manner as God is all. For God” (the Father) “is the Heart.” On another occasion (Vom dreifachen Leben des Menschen, chap. iv. § 68, p. 881) the Son is the heart of God; and yet again the Spirit is called the heart (Morgenröthe, chap. ii. § 13, p. 29) “or fountain of nature, and from Him comes all. Now heat reigns and predominates in all powers in nature and warms all, and is one source or spring in all. But the light in the heat gives power to all qualities, for that all grow pleasant and joyful.” Boehme goes over quite a list of qualities: cold, hot, bitter, sweet, fierce, acid, hard, dense, soft qualities, sound, etc. “The bitter quality is in God also, but not in that manner as the gall is in man, but it is an everlasting power, in an elevating, triumphing spring or source of joy. All the creatures are made from these qualities, and live therein as in their mother.”(12)

“The virtues of the stars are nature itself. Everything in this world proceeds from the stars. That I shall prove to you if you are not a blockhead and have a little reason. If the whole Curriculum or the whole circumference of the stars is considered, we soon find that this is the mother of all things, or the nature from which all things have arisen and in which all things stand and live, and through which all things move. And all things are formed from these same powers and remain eternally therein.” Thus it is said that God is the reality of all realities. Boehme continues: “You must, however, elevate your mind in the Spirit, and consider how the whole of nature, with all the powers which are in nature, also extension, depth and height, also heaven and earth and all whatsoever is therein, and all that is above the heavens, is together the Body and Corporeity of God; and the powers of the stars are the fountain veins in the natural Body of God, in this world. You must not conceive that in the Body of the stars is the whole triumphing Holy Trinity, God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. But we must not so conceive as if God was not at all in the Corpus or Body of the stars, and in this world. . . . Here now the question is, From whence has heaven, or whence borrows it this power, that it causes such mobility in nature? Here you must lift up your eyes beyond nature into the light, holy, triumphing, divine power, into the unchangeable holy Trinity, which is a triumphing, springing, movable Being, and all powers are therein, as in nature: of this heaven, earth, stars, elements, devils, angels, men, beasts, and all have their Being; and therein all stands. When we nominate heaven and earth, stars and elements, and all that is therein, and all whatsoever is above the heaven, then thereby is nominated the total God, who has made Himself creaturely in these abovementioned” many “Beings, in His power which proceedeth forth from Him.”(13)

c. Boehme further defines God the Father as follows: “When we consider the whole nature and its property, then we see the Father: when we behold heaven and the stars, then we behold His eternal power and wisdom. So many stars as stand in the whole heaven, which are innumerable, so manifold and various is the power and wisdom of God the Father. Every star differs in its quality.” But “you must not conceive here that every power which is in the Father stands in a peculiar severed or divided part and place in the Father, as the stars do in heaven. No, but the Spirit shows that all the powers in the Father,” as the fountainhead, “are one in another as one power.” This whole is the universal power which exists as God the Father, wherein all differences are united; “creaturely” it, however, exists as the totality of stars, and thus as separation into the different qualities. “You must not think that God who is in heaven and above the heaven does there stand and hover like a power and quality which has in it neither reason nor knowledge, as the sun which turns round in its circle and shoots forth from itself heat and light, whether it be for benefit or hurt to the earth and creatures. No, the Father is not so, but He is an All-mighty, All-wise, All-knowing, All-seeing, All-hearing, All-smelling, All-tasting God, who in Himself is meek, friendly, gracious, merciful, and full of joy, yea Joy itself.”(14)

Since Boehme calls the Father all power, he again distinguishes these as the seven first originating spirits.(15)  But there is a certain confusion in this and no thought-determination, no definite reason for there being exactly seven — such precision and certainty is not to be found in Boehme. These seven qualities are likewise the seven planets which move and work in the great Salitter of God; “the seven planets signify the seven spirits of God or the princes of the angels.” But they are in the Father as one unity, and this unity is an inward spring and fermentation. “In God all spirits triumph as one spirit, and a spirit ever calms and loves the others, and nothing exists excepting mere joy and rapture. One spirit does not stand alongside the others like stars in heaven, for all seven are contained within one another as one spirit. Each spirit in the seven spirits of God is pregnant with all seven spirits of God;” thus each is in God itself a totality. “One brings forth the other in and through itself;” this is the flashing forth of the life of all qualities.(16)

2. As what came first was the source and germ of all powers and qualities, what comes second is process. This second principle is a very important conception, which with Boehme appears under very many aspects and forms, viz. as the Word, the Separator, Revelation — speaking generally the “I,” the source of all difference, and of the will and implicit Being which are in the powers of natural things; but in such a way that the light therein likewise breaks forth which leads them back to rest.

a. God as the simple absolute existence is not God absolutely; in Him nothing can be known. What we know is something different — but this “different” is itself contained in God as the perception and knowledge of God. Hence of the second step Boehme says that a separation must have taken place in this temperament. “No thing can become manifest to itself without opposition; for if it has nothing to withstand it, it always goes forward on its own account and does not go back within itself. But if it does not go back into itself as into that from which it originally arose, it knows nothing of its original state.” Original state [Urstand] he makes use of for substance; and it is a pity that we cannot use this and many other striking expressions. “Without adversity life would have no sensibility nor will nor efficacy, neither understanding nor science. Had the hidden God who is one solitary existence and will not of His own will brought Himself out of Himself, out of the eternal knowledge in the Temperamento, into divisibility of will, and introduced this same element of divisibility into an inclusiveness” (Identity) “so as to constitute it a natural and creaturely life, and had this element of separation in life not come into warfare, how was the will of God which is only one to be revealed to Himself? How could a knowledge of itself be present in a solitary will?”(17) We see that Boehme is elevated infinitely above the empty abstraction of the highest reality, etc.

Boehme continues: “The commencement of all Beings is the Word as the breath of God, and God has become the eternal One of eternity and likewise remains so in eternity. The Word is the eternal beginning and remains so eternally, for it is the revelation of the eternal One through and by which the divine power is brought into one knowledge of somewhat. By the Word we understand the revealed will of God: by the Word we mean God the hidden God, from whom the Word eternally springs forth. The Word is the efflux of the divine One, and yet God Himself as His revelation.” is more definite than Word, and there is a, delightful double significance in the Greek expression indicating as it does both reason and speech. For speech is the pure existence of spirit; it is a thing which when once heard goes back within itself. “What has flowed out is wisdom, beginning and cause of all powers, colours, virtue and qualities.”(18)

Of the Son Boehme says: “The Son is” of the Father and “in the Father, the heart of the Father or light, and the Father beareth him ever, from eternity to eternity.” Thus “the Son is” indeed “another Person from the Father, though no other,” but the same “God as the Father,” whose image he is.(19) “The Son is the Heart” or the pulsating element “in the Father; all the powers which are in the Father are the propriety of the Father; and the Son is the heart or the kernel in all the powers in the whole Father, and he is the cause of the springing joy in all powers in the whole Father. From the Son the eternal joy rises and springs in all the powers of the Father, as the sun does in the heart of the stars. It signifies the Son, as the circle of the stars signifies the manifold powers of the Father; it lightens the heavens, the stars and the deep above the earth, working in all things that are in this world; it enlightens and gives power to all the stars and tempers their power. The Son of God is continually generated from all the powers of his Father from eternity, just as the sun is born of the stars; He is ever born and is not made, and is the heart and lustre shining forth from all powers. He shines in all powers of the Father, and his power is the moving, springing joy in all the powers of the Father, and shines in the whole Father as the sun does in the whole world. For if the Son did not shine in the Father, the Father would be a dark valley; for the Father's power would not rise from eternity to eternity, and so the divine Being would not subsist.”(20) This life of the Son is an important matter; and in regard to this issuing forth and manifestation Boehme has likewise brought forward the most important assertions.

b. “From such a revelation of powers in which the will of the eternal One contemplates itself, flows the understanding and the knowledge of the something [Ichts], since the eternal will contemplates itself in the something [Ichts].” “Ichts” is a play upon the word “Nichts” (nothing), for it is simply the negative; yet it is at the same time the opposite of nothing, since the Ich (Ego) of self-consciousness is contained in it. The Son, the something, is thus “I,” consciousness, self-consciousness: God is not only the abstract neutral but likewise the gathering together of Himself into the point of Being-for-self. The “other” of God is thus the image of God. “This similitude is the Mysterium magnum, viz. the creator of all beings and creatures; for it is the separator” (of the whole) “in the efflux of the will which makes the will of the eternal One separable — the separability in the will from which powers and qualities take their rise.” This separator is “constituted the steward of nature, by whom the eternal will rules, makes, forms and constitutes all things.” The separator is effectuating and self-differentiating, and Boehme calls this “Ichts,” likewise Lucifer, the first-born Son of God, the creaturely first-born angel who was one of the seven spirits.” But this Lucifer has fallen and Christ has come in his place.”(21) This is the connection of the devil with God, namely other-Being and then Being-for-self or Being-for-one, in such a way that the other is for one; and this is the origin of evil in God and out of God. This is the furthest point of thought reached by Jacob Boehme. He represents this Fall of Lucifer as that the “Ichts,” i.e. self-knowledge, the “I” [Ichheit] (a word which we find used by him), the inward imagining of self, the inward fashioning, of self (the being-for-self), is the fire which absorbs all things. This is the negative side in the separator, the anguish; or it is the wrath of God. This divine wrath is hell and the devil, who through himself imagines himself into himself. This is very bold and speculative; Boehme here seeks to show in God Himself the sources of the divine anger. He also calls the will of the something [“Ichts”] self-hood; it is the passing over of the something [“Ichts”] into the nothing [Nichts], the “I” imagining itself within itself. He says: “Heaven and hell are as far removed from one another as day and night, as something and nothing.” Boehme has really here penetrated into the utmost depths of divine essence; evil, matter, or whatever it has been called, is the I = I, the Being-for-self, the true negativity. Before this it was the nonens which is itself positive, the darkness; but the true negativity is the “I.” It is not anything bad because it is called the evil; it is in mind alone that evil exists, because it is conceived therein as it is in itself. “Where the will of God willeth in anything, there God is manifested, and in that manifestation the angels also dwell; but where God in any thing willeth not with the will of the thing, there God is not manifested to it, but dwelleth” (there) “in Himself without the co-operating of the thing;” in that case that thing is its own will, and there the devil dwelleth and all whatever is without God.”(22)

Boehme in his own way sets forth the form assumed in this process in a pictorial manner. This “Separator deduces qualities from itself, from which the infinite manifold arises, and through which the eternal One makes itself perceptible “ (so that it is for others) “not according to the unity, but in accordance with the efflux of the unity.” Implicit Being and the manifold are absolutely opposed through the Notion, which Boehme did not have: Being-for-self implies Being-for-another and retrogression into the opposite. Boehme sways backwards and forwards in apparent contradictions, and does not well know how to find a way out of the difficulty. “But the efflux is carried on to the greatest extreme possible, to the generation of fire” — dark fire without light, darkness, the hidden, the self;(23) — “in which fiery nature,” however, since this fire rises and shoots up, “the eternal One becomes majestic and a light,” and this light which there breaks forth is the form which the other principle assumes. This is the return to the One. “Thereby” (through fire) “the eternal power becomes desirous and effectual and” (fire) “is the original condition” (essence) “of the sensitive” (feeling) “life, where in the Word of power an eternal sensitive life first takes its origin. For if life had no sensitiveness, it would have no will nor efficacy; but pain” — anguish, suffering — first “makes it” (all life) “effectual and endows it with will. And the light of such kindling through fire makes it joyous, for it is an anointment,” joy and loveliness “of painfulness.”(24)

Boehme turns this round in many ways in order to grasp the something [Ichts], the Separator, as it “rises”(25) from the Father. The qualities rise in the great Salitter, stir, raise, and move [rügen] themselves. Boehme has there the quality of astringency in the Father, and he then represents the process of the something [Ichts] as a sharpness, a drawing together, as a flash of lightning that breaks forth. This light is Lucifer. The Being-for-self, the self-perception, is by Boehme called the drawing together into a point. That is astringency, sharpness, penetration, fierceness; to this pertains the wrath of God, and here Boehme in this manner grasps the “other” of God in God Himself. “This source can be kindled through great motion or elevation. Through the contraction the creaturely Being is formed so that a heavenly Corpus may be” intelligibly “formed. But if it” — the sharpness — “be kindled through elevation, which those creatures only can do which are created out of the divine Salitter, then it is a burning source-vein of the wrath of God. The flash is the mother of light; for the flash generates the light, and is the Father of the fierceness; for the fierceness abides in the flash as a seed in the father, and that flash generates also the tone or sound” — the flash is, speaking generally, the absolute generator. The flash is still connected with pain; light is what brings intelligence. The divine birth is the going forth of the flash, of the life of all qualities.(26) This is all from the Aurora.

In the Quæstionibus theosophicis Boehme makes particular use of the form of Yes and No for the separator, for this opposition. He says: “The reader must know that in Yes and No all things consist, whether divine, devilish, earthly, or what they may be called. The One as the Yes is pure power and life, and it is the truth of God or God Himself. He would be unknowable in Himself, and in Him there would be no joy nor elevation, nor feeling” — life — “without the No. The No is a counter-stroke of the Yes, or of the truth” (this negativity is the principle of all knowledge, comprehension), “that the truth may be manifest and be a something wherein there is a contrarium in which there is the eternal love, moving, feeling, and willing, and demanding to be loved. And yet we cannot say that the Yes is separated from the No, and that they are two things in proximity; for they are only one thing, but they separate themselves into two beginnings and make two centra, where each works and wills in itself. Without those two, which are continually in strife, all things would be a nothing, and would stand still without movement. If the eternal will did not itself flow from itself and introduce itself into receptibility, there would be no form nor distinction, for all powers would” then “be one power. Neither could there be understanding in that case, for the understanding arises” (has its substance) “in the differentiation of the manifold, where one property sees, proves and wills the others. The will which has flowed out wills dissimilarity, so that it may be distinguished from similarity and be its own something — and that something may exist, that the eternal seeing may see and feel. And from the individual will arises the No, for it brings itself into ownness, i.e. receptivity of self. It desires to be something and does not make itself in accordance with unity; for unity is a Yes which flows forth, which ever stands thus in the breathing forth of itself, being imperceptible; for it has nothing in which it can find itself excepting in the receptivity of the dissentient will, as in the No which is counterstroke to the Yes, in which the Yes is indeed revealed, and in which it possesses something which it can will. And the No is therefore called a No, because it is a desire turned inwards on itself, as if it were a shutting up into negativity. The emanated seeking will is absorbent and comprehends itself within itself, from it come forms and qualities. (1) Sharpness, (2) Motion, (3) Feeling. (4) The fourth property is Fire as the flash of light; this rises in the bringing together of the great and terrible sharpness and the unity. Thus in the contact a Flagrat [Schrack] results, and in this Flagrat [Schrack] unity is apprehended as being a Flash or Gleam, an exulting joy.” That is the bursting forth of the unity. “For thus the light arises in the midst of the darkness, for the unity becomes a light, and the receptivity of the carnal will in the qualities becomes a Spirit-fire which has its source and origin out of the sharp, cold astringency. And according to that, God is an angry” and “jealous God,” and in this we have evil. “(a) The first quality of the absorption is the No; (b) Sharpness; (c) Hardness; (d) Feeling; (e) the source of fire, hell or hollowness, Hiddenness. (5) The fifth quality, Love, makes in the fire, as in pain, another Principium as a great fire of love.”(27) These are the main points under the second head. In such depths Boehme keeps struggling on, for to him conceptions are lacking, and there are only religious and chemical forms to be found; and because he uses these in a forced sense in order to express his ideas, not only does barbarism of expression result, but incomprehensibility as well.

c. “From this eternal operation of the sensation the visible world sprang; the world is the Word which has flowed forth and has disposed itself into qualities, since in qualities the particular will has arisen. The Separator has made it a will of its own after such a fashion.”(28) The world is none other than the essence of God made creaturely.(29) Hence “if thou beholdest the Deep” of the heavens, “the Stars, the Elements and the Earth,” and what they have brought forth, “then thou” certainly “comprehendest not with thy eyes the bright and clear Deity, though indeed it is” likewise “there and in them.” Thou seest only their creaturely manifestation. “But if thou raisest thy thoughts and considerest . . . God who rules in holiness in this government or dominion, then thou breakest through the heaven of heavens and apprehendest God at His holy heart. The powers of heaven ever operate in images, growths and colours, in order to reveal the holy God, so that He may be in all things known.”(30)

3. Finally what comes third in these threefold forms is the unity of the light, of the separator and power: this is the spirit, which is already partially implied in what has preceded. “All the stars signify the power of the Father, and from them issues the sun” (they make themselves a counterstroke to unity). “And from all the stars there goes forth the power which is in every star, into the Deep, and the power, beat and shining of the sun goes likewise into the Deep” — back to the stars, into the power of the Father. “And in the Deep the power of all stars, together with the heat and lustre of the sun, are all but one thing, a moving, boiling Hovering, like a spirit or matter. Now in the whole deep of the Father, externally without the Son, there is nothing but the manifold and unmeasurable or unsearchable power of the Father and the Light of the Son. The Light of the Son is in the Deep of the Father a living, all-powerful, all-knowing, all-hearing, all-seeing, all-smelling, all-tasting, all-feeling Spirit, wherein is all power, splendour, and wisdom, as in the Father and the Son.”(31) That is Love, the softener of all powers through the light of the Son. We see that the sensuous element thus pertains to this.

Boehme really has the idea that “God's essence” (which has proceeded from the eternal deep as world) “is thus not something far away which possesses a particular position or place, for” essence, “the abyss of nature and creation, is God Himself. Thou must not think that in heaven there was some manner of Corpus” — the seven spirits generate this Corpus or heart — “which above all other things is called God. No; but the whole divine power which itself is heaven and the heaven of all heavens, is so generated, and that is called God the Father; of whom all the holy angels are generated, in like manner also the spirit of all men. Thou canst name no place, either in heaven or in this world, where the divine birth is not. The birth of the divine Trinity likewise takes place in thine own heart; all three persons are generated in thy heart, God the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. In the divine power everywhere we find the fountain spring of the divine birth; and there already are all the seven qualifying or fountain spirits of God, as if thou wouldst make a spacious creaturely circumscribed circle and hadst the deity therein.”(32) In every spirit all are contained.

To Boehme this trinity is the complete universal life in each individual, it is absolute substance. He says: “All things in this world are according to the similitude of this ternary. Ye blind Jews, Turks, and Heathens, open wide the eyes of your mind: I will show you, in your body, and in every natural thing, in men, beasts, fowls, and worms, also in wood, stone, leaves, and grass, the likeness of the holy ternary in God. You say, there is but one Being in God, and that God has no Son. Open your eyes and consider your selves: man is made according to the similitude and out of the power of God in his ternary. Behold thy inward man, and then thou wilt see it most plainly and clearly, if thou art not a fool and an irrational beast. Therefore observe, in thy heart, in thy veins, and in thy brain, thou hast thy spirit; and all the powers which move in thy heart, in thy veins, and in thy brain, wherein thy life consists, signify God the Father. From that power springs up [gebäret] thy light, so that thou seest, understandest, and knowest in the same power what thou art to do; for that light glimmers in thy whole body; and the whole body moves in the power and knowledge of the light; this is the Son which is born in thee.” This light, this seeing and understanding, is the second determination; it is the relationship to itself. “Out of thy light goes forth into the same power, reason, understanding, skill, and wisdom, to govern the whole body, and to distinguish all whatsoever is externally without the body. And both these are but one in the government of thy mind, viz. thy spirit, which signifies God the Holy Ghost. And the Holy Ghost from God rules in this spirit in thee, if thou art a child of light and not of darkness. Now observe: in either wood, stone, or herbs there are three things contained, neither can anything be generated or grow, if but one of the three should be left out. First, there is the power, from which a body comes to be, whether wood, stone, or herbs; after that there is in that” thing “a sap which is the heart of the thing. And thirdly there is in it a springing, flowing power, smell, or taste, which is the spirit of the thing whereby it grows and increases. Now if any of these three fail, the thing cannot subsist.”(33) Thus Boehme regards everything as this ternary.

When he comes into particulars we see that he is obscure; from his detailed explanations there is therefore not much to be derived. As showing his manner of apprehending natural things I shall give one more example of the manner in which, in the further working out of the existence of nature as a counterstroke to the divine knowledge, he makes use of what we call things as Notions (supra, p. 192). The creaturely, he says, has “three kinds of powers or Spiritus in different Centis, but in one Corpore. The first and external Spiritus is the coarse sulphur, salt and Mercurius, which is a substance of four elements” (fire, water, earth, air) “or of the stars. It forms the visible Corpus according to the constellation of the stars or property of the planets and now enkindled elements — the greatest power of the Spiritus mundi. The Separator makes the signature or sign” — the self. The salt, the salitter, is approximately the neutral: mercury [Merk or Mark] the operating, unrest as against nourishment; the coarse sulphur, the negative unity. “The other Spiritus is found in the oil of sulphur, the fifth essence, viz. a root of the four elements. That is the softening and joy of the coarse, painful spirit of sulphur and salt; the real cause of growing life, a joy of nature as is the sun in the element” - the direct principle of life. “In the inward ground of that coarse spirit we see a beautiful, clear Corpus in which the ideal light of nature shines from the divine efflux.” The outward separator signs what is taken up with the shape and form of the plant which receives into itself this coarse nourishment. “What comes third is the tincture, a spiritual fire and light; the highest reason for which the first separation of qualities takes place in the existence of this world. Fiat is the Word of each thing and belongs according to its peculiar quality to eternity. Its origin is the holy power of God. Smell [Ruch] is the sensation of this tincture. The elements are only a mansion and counterstroke of the inward power, a cause of the movement of the tincture.”(34) Sensuous things entirely lose the force of sensuous conceptions. Boehme uses them, though not as such, as thought-determinations; that constitutes the hard and barbarous element in Boehme's representations, yet at the same time this unity with actuality and this present of infinite existence.

Boehme describes the opposition in creation in the following way. If nature is the first efflux of the Separator, two kinds of life must yet be understood as in the counterstroke of the divine essence; beyond that temporal one there is an eternal, to which the divine understanding is given. It stands at the basis of the eternal, spiritual world, in the Mysterium Magnum of the divine counterstroke (personality) — a mansion of divine will through which it reveals itself and is revealed to no peculiarity of personal will. In this centrum man has both lives in himself, he belongs to time and eternity. He is universal in the “eternal understanding of the one good will which is a temperament; the original will of nature, viz. the comprehensibility of the Centra, where each centrum in the divisibility shuts itself in one place to egotism and self-will as a personal Mysterium or mind. The former only requires a counterstroke to its similarity; this latter, the self-generated natural will also requires in the place of the egotism of the dark impression a likeness, that is a counterstroke through its own comprehensibility; through which comprehension it requires nothing but its corporality as a natural ground.” Now it is this “I,” the dark, pain, fire, the wrath of God, implicitude, self-comprehension, which is broken up in regeneration; the I is shattered, painfulness brought into true rest — just as the dark fire breaks into light.(35)

Now these are the principal ideas found in Boehme; those most profound are the generating of Light as the Son of God from qualities, through the most living dialectic; God's diremption of Himself. Barbarism in the working out of his system can no more fail to be recognized than can the great depths into which he has plunged by the union of the most absolute opposites. Boehme grasps the opposites in the crudest, harshest way, but he does not allow himself through their unworkableness to be prevented from asserting the unity. This rude and barbarous depth which is devoid of Notion, is always a present, something which speaks from itself, which has and knows everything in itself. We have still to mention Boehme's piety, the element of edification, the way in which the soul is guided in his writings. This is in the highest degree deep and inward, and if one is familiar with his form these depths and this inwardness will be found. But it is a form with which we cannot reconcile ourselves, and which permits no definite conception of details, although we cannot fail to see the profound craving for speculation which existed within this man.


1. Jacob Böhme's Leben und Schriften (in his Works, Hamburg, 1715, 4), No. I. § 18, pp. 11, 12; No. V., § 2, p. 54 and the title-page; No. I. § 57, pp. 27, 28.
2. Jacob Böhme's Leben und Schriften, No. I. 2-4, pp. 3, 4; § 6, 7, p. 5; § 10, 11, pp. 7, 8; § 28, 29, pp. 17, 18.
3. Jacob Böhme's Leben und Schriften, No. VI. § 3-8, pp. 81-87; No. I. § 12-17, pp. 8-11.
4. Theosophische Sendbriefe, 47th Letter (Werke, Hamburg, 1715, 4), p. 3879.
5. Trostschrift von vier Complexionen, § 43-63, pp. 1602-1607.
6. Act I. Scene 2.
7. Von Christi Testament der heiligen Taufe, Book II. chap. i. § 4-5, pp. 2653, 2654.
8. Morgenröthe im Aufgang, Preface, § 84, 85, 88, p. 18.
9. Von wahrer Gelassenheit, chap. ii. § 9, 10, p. 1673.
10. Von den drei Principien göttlichen Wesens, chap. x. § 42, p. 470.
11. Von der Gnadenwahl, chap. i. § 3-10, pp. 2408-2410; chap. ii. § 9, p. 2418; § 19, 20, p. 2420; Schlüssel der vornehmsten Puncten und Wörter, § 2, p. 3668; § 145, 146, pp. 3696, 3697; Morgenröthe, chap. iv. § 9-21, pp. 49-51; chap. xi. § 47, pp. 126, 127, etc.
12. Morgenröthe, chap. i. § 3-7, 9-24, pp. 23-27; chap. ii. § 38-40, pp. 34, 35; § i. p. 28 [see Law's translation].
13. Morgenröthe, chap. ii. § 8, 14-18, 31-33, pp. 29-34 [see Laws' translation].
14. Morgenröthe, chap. iii. § 2, 8-11, pp. 36-38.
15. Morgenröthe, chap. iv. § 5, 6, p. 48; chap. viii. § 15-chap. xi. 46, pp. 78-126.
16. Morgenröthe, chap. iii. § 18, p. 40; chap. x. § 54, p. 115; § 39, 40, p. 112; chap. xi. § 7-12, pp. 119, 120.
17. Von göttlicher Beschaulichkeit, chap. i. § 8-10, p. 1739
18. Von göttlicher Beschaulichkeit, chap. iii. § 1-3, pp. 1755, 1756
19. Morgenröthe, chap. iii § 33-35, p. 44 (cf. Rixner: Handbuch d. Gesch. D. Philos. Vol. II. Appendix, p. 106, § 7).
20. Morgenröthe, chap. iii. § 15, 18-22, pp. 39-41.
21. Von göttlicher Beschaulichkeit, chap. iii, § 4, 5, p. 1756, § 12, p. 1758; Morgenröthe, chap. xii. § 99-107, p. 149, 150; chap. xiii. § 92-104, 31-52, pp. 166-168, 157-160; chap. xiv. § 36, p. 178; Von den drei Principien göttlichen Wesens, chap. iv. § 69, p. 406; chap. xv. § 5, 543, 544.
22. Morgenröthe, chap. xiii. § 53-64, pp. 160-162; Vierzig Fragen von der Seele, XII. § 4, p. 1201; Von sechs theosophischen Puncten, V. 7, § 3, p. 1537; Von wahrer Gelassenheit, chap. i. § 1-7, pp. 1661-1663; Von göttlicher Beschaulichkeit, chap. i. § 23-26, pp. 1742, 1743; Von der Geburt und Bezeichnung allor Wesen, chap. xvi. § 49, p. 2391; Vom übersinnlichen Leben, § 41, 42, p. 1696 [see Law's translation].
23. Von der Menschwerdung Jesu Christi, Pt. I. chap. v. § 14 p. 1323; Von den drei Principien göttlichen Wesens, chap. x. § 43, p. 470.
24. Von göttlicher Beschaulichkeit, chap. iii. § 11, p. 1757.
25. Infra, p. 213.
26. Morgenröthe, chap. viii. § 15-20, pp. 78, 79; chap. x. § 38, p. 112; chap. xiii. § 69-91, pp. 162-166; chap xi. § 5-13, pp. 119, 120.
27. 177 Fragen von göttlicher Offenbarung, III. § 2-5, 10-16, pp. 3591-3595.
28. Von göttlicher Beschaulichkeit, chap. iii. § 12, 14, pp. 1757, 1758
29. Rixner: Handbuch d. Gesch. d. Philos. Vol. II. Appendix, p. 108, § 5 (from Boehme's Morgenröthe, chap. ii. § 16, pp. 30, 31; § 33, p. 34).
30. Morgenröthe, chap. xxiii. § 11, 12, pp. 307, 308 (cf. Rixner: Handb. d. Gesch. d. Philos. Vol. II. Appendix, p. 108, § 5); Theosophische Sendbriefe, I. § 5, p. 3710.
31. Morgenröthe, chap. iii. § 29, 30, p. 43 [see Law's translation].
32. Von göttlicher Beschaulichkeit, chap. iii. § 13, p. 1758; Morgenröthe, chap. x. § 55, 60, 58, pp. 115, 116 (chap. xi. § 4, p. 118).
33. Morgenröthe, chap. iii. § 36-38, 47, pp. 44-46 [see Law's translation].
34. Von göttlicher Beschaulichkeit, chap. i. § 33, p. 1745; chap. ii. § 29, p. 1754; chap. iii. § 15, 18-24, 27, 29, pp. 1758-1761; Von den drei Principien göttlichen Wesens, chap. viii. § 5, p. 433; Mysterium Magnum, oder Erklärung des ersten Buchs Mosis, chap. xix. § 28, pp. 2830, 2831.
35. Von göttlicher Beschaulichkeit, chap. i. § 23-39, pp. 1742-1746; chap. ii. § 1-13, 15-30, pp. 1747-1754.

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