BOEHME, Jakob

(1575-1624)
Jakob Boehme, after a series of mystical experiences, turned from shoemaking and devoted the rest of his life to preaching and writing about God. Boehme's accounts of his mystical experiences later became a major influence upon other religious movements, such as the Quakers.
Boehme was born and lived much of his life in Görlitz, near the Black Forest in Germany. While gazing at the reflection of the sun in ajar of pewter, Boehme interpreted this to be the manifestation of divine truth. This truth, as he would later write in his letters, was that the universe is a theater wherein an eternal conflict between spirit and matter is waged. Boehme argued that matter is the source and embodiment of all evil; however, without matter, even the divine spirit would not exist. Thus the divine spirit needs matter to exist, and yet matter is what leads to evil—hence the inevitable, necessary conflict between spirit and matter.
When critics confronted Boehme and questioned the authority of the claims he was making, Boehme usually responded by stating that the mystical expe­riences that revealed these truths were not really "his" experiences but the God in him. "Not I," Boehme would write, "the I that I am, know these things, but God knows them IN me." This ultimately led Boehme to argue and preach that true salvation is achieved only when the limited "I" and "self" of a person are transcended, such as Boehme believed occurred during his mystical experiences.
Of the intellectuals who were later influenced by Boehme, perhaps the most significant is F.W.J. Schelling. Schelling was particularly influenced by Boehme's claim that the identity and limits of the self must be overcome, and in doing so, one then comes to recognize the true nature of the relationship between the divine and the worldly. The Quaker movement was also deeply influenced by the writings of Boehme. Boehme represents an important minor tradition within traditional religion—the Gnostic, mystical tradition—and is likely to continue to be associated with other mystics and Gnostics, such as Meister Eckart, Giordano Bruno,* and Paracelsus.*
Bibliography
D. Walsh, The Mysticism of Innerworldy Fulfillment, 1983.
Jeffrey A. Bell

Renaissance and Reformation 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary. . 2001.

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