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II

JACOB BÖHME

248. Parallel between Mystics and Sectaries.-All secret societies have some connection with mysticism, secret itself, delighting in mystery, as the loving soul delights in surrounding the beloved object with mystery. Sectaries to some extent are the parents of mystics. The silent adoration of the Infinite, in which mystics delight, has its counterpart in the worship of progress, liberty, and truth, to which sectaries devote themselves. Progress, liberty, truth, are attributes of the highest humanitarianism. The mystics are the men of thought, the sectaries the men of action. However remote the thoughts of the former may seem from application to everyday life, from political strife, they get have a positive influence on human belief and will. The mystics behold in paradise that same ideal, transfigured, enlarged, and perpetuated, which the sectaries pursue on earth.

249. Character and Mission of Mystics. — The mystics continue the school of ancient initiations, which to many nations were their only philosophy, science, and liberty. They are the priests of Infinity; in their tenderness they are the most tolerant of men, pardoning all, even the devil; they embrace all, pity all. They are, in a certain sense, the rationalists of prayer. By means of syntheses, trances, and raptures, they arrive at a pure and simple understanding of the supernatural, as popularly understood, which they adore more with their imagination and affection, than with the learned and sophisticated conceits of theology. Therefore the mystics of all creeds resemble each other; theirs is a region common to all religions, the universal home of the soul—a height from which the innumerable horizons of conscience are seen to meet.

250. Merits of Böhme.The prince of mystics is without contradiction Jacob Böhme; in fact, compared with him, all other mystics sink into utter insignificance, as mere vision

aries, whose rhapsodies, though sometimes poetical, were always fantastical and useless to the world, because not founded on the truths of Eternal Nature. Böhme was a visionary, but a visionary of the stamp of Columbus; to him also it was given to behold with his mental eye a hidden world, the world of the Properties of Eternal Nature, and to solve the great mystery, not of this earth alone, but of the universe. He was emphatically a central philosopher, who from his standpoint could survey the whole sphere, within and without, and not merely an outer segment of its shell. He could therefore see the causes of things, and not their effects only. There is, I do not deny it, much in the writings of Böhme that cannot be maintained or proved, much that appears as pure alchymistical and cabalistic reverie, the disease of the age in which he lived. But though he may often be wrong in his deductions, he is always right in fundamentals. And even after rejecting all that is doubtful or absolutely erroneous, there is left so much which science and experiment demonstrate to be absolutely true, that it is hard to remember that all this was enunciated by a man who had no learning and never made an experiment in his life, and at a time when none of the scientific truths he put forth were even dreamt of by scientific men. Even if he had made known nothing but the Seven Properties of Nature (11), the key to all her mysteries, he would for ever rank among the greatest lights of science. I confess I am at a perfect loss to account for this extraordinary knowledge in an untutored shoemaker, such as Böhme was. If there were any work extant, or known to have been extant before or at his time, in which an account of the Seven Properties was given, I should say, he must have copied from that, though this theory would still leave the original discoverer unknown; but no trace either actual or traditional of any such work, or of the knowledge of these properties-except of such as is implied in the universal veneration in which the number seven has ever been held—is anywhere discoverable. True, Böhme’s terminology is chiefly borrowed from the alchemists, but not his knowledge. Whence then did he derive it? No one who has studied

its details can doubt of their truth. No one before him has put them forth. Is then intuition possible? Was Böhme endowed with that gift? This is in fact a greater secret than any handed down in any secret society, ancient or modern. Of course scientific men, as they are called, laugh at Böhme as a mad dreamer, just as the Royal Society laughed at the electric discoveries of Franklin

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- he was a printer who had actually worked at the press, what could he know of electricity? How could he solve a problem that had puzzled the most learned of their members ? And how can Böhme, the despised and illiterate shoemaker, teach the scientists of our day anything? But the fact remains, that in the writings of this poor cobbler lie the germs of all the discoveries in physical science hitherto, and yet to be, made.

251. Böhme's Influence. - I am well aware that this assertion will again meet with the derision it has hitherto encountered. Yet the reader who has accompanied me thus far ought to pause ere he joins the laughers. He will have had ample proofs that I accept nothing on mere authority, however high it may be considered. I want proof, positive proof, of any alleged fact, before I accept it as fact. If, therefore, with this disposition on my part, and after the study of Böhme's works, pursued for a number of years, with opportunities such as few have had—for the hierophant that initiated me into the mysteries of the German theosopher was undoubtedly the most learned Böhmite in this or any other country; in fact, the only man that understood him thoroughly—if under these circumstances I entertain the opinions expressed in the foregoing paragraph, they cannot well be without foundation. But whoso is not to be convinced by Böhme's demonstration of the Seven Properties cannot be convinced by any argument. And Böhme's writings have not been without a deep and lasting, though latent, influence on modern philosophy and science. Even Newton was largely indebted to him. Among Sir Isaac's papers there were found large extracts out of Böhme's works, written with his own hand; and he thence learnt that attraction is the first and fundamental law of nature.

the scientific elaboration of the axiom is all Newton's own, and it detracts nothing from his glory that he learnt the law from Böhme. Newton even went further; he and Dr. Newton, his relative, set up furnaces, and were for several months hard at work in quest of the tincture so largely spoken of by Böhme. But the influence of this author is still more strikingly seen in the writings of Francis Baader, a German physicist of the present day, who has pursued his scientific inquiries by the light-feebly caught, it is true, in his mind's mirror—of Böhme’s revelations. The greatest philosophic thinkers of this and the preceding century have drunk at the spring of Böhme's writings, and the systems of Leibnitz, Laplace, Schelling, Hegel, Fichte, and others,

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are distinctly permeated by his spirit-but none sufficiently, and hence no one of their systems is satisfactory. Goethe was well versed in Böhme, and many allusions in his writings, which the critics can make nothing of, may be explained by passages from Böhme.

Thus the commentators and translators of “Faust” have made the most ridiculous guesses to the meaning to be attached to the “Mothers," to whom Faust is to descend in his search for Helen. The “

“Mothers the first three properties of nature (11), and all the instructions given by Mephistopheles to Faust before his descent ad inferos form a highly poetical, and at the same time philosophical, description of them. If scientific men, instead of laughing at Böhme, would study his works, we should have no Darwinism, no theories of the sun's refrigeration, and no President of the British Association propounding the monstrous doctrine that life on this earth had its origin in the life carried hither on fragments struck off other planets and celestial bodies and falling on this globe-a theory which, even could it for one moment be entertained, would still leave the question, "Whence came life?” unanswered. Nor should we have the Huxleys and Tyndalls assuming that life can be put into a creature, after its material body is made, which is no better than assuming that a circle and its roundness are two separate things—that first comes the figure and afterwards its roundness. Böhme, whom they look upon as a dreamer, would show them, the real dreamers, that life makes the body to manifest itself; when a growing acorn puts forth sprouts, it is the life creeping out, feeling its way, and clothing itself in matter as it goes along, and in order to go along. Let scientists read that magnificent chapter beginning with: “We see that all life is essential; it manifests itself by the germing of the essences. What theology might learn from Böhme cannot be comprised in a few words: the vexed questions of the origin of evil, predestination, Christ's flesh and blood which are to regenerate man, their nature and action, are all profoundly and pseudoscientifically expounded in the writings of this author. But as he had no academic title, nor even common education, they despise him; and yet some of these very men will put faith in equally illiterate spiritualists.

252. Sketch of Böhme's Life.—Jacob Böhme was born at Görlitz, in Upper Lusatia, in 1575. In his childhood he was engaged in tending cattle. In this solitary life and the constant contemplation of nature he felt himself a poet, and, as he imagined, destined for great things. He saw an occult

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meaning in all the voices of the country; and, believing that therein he heard the voice of God, he lent his ear to a revelation he regarded as coming from God Himself through the medium of nature. At the age of fifteen or sixteen he was apprenticed to a shoemaker at Görlitz. The sedentary occupation increased his tendency to mysticism. Severe and zealous for good manners and morals, and quite wrapped up in himself, he was considered proud by some, and mad by others. And indeed, having received no education whatever, his ideas were necessarily confused, obscure, and disconnected. In 1594 he married. Though a good husband and good father, he did not cease from being a visionary; and, driven to it by frequent dreams, which he attributed to the influence of the Holy Spirit, he finally decided on writing. His first work was the “ Aurora,” the best known, but the most imperfect, of all his writings, both as regards style and matter. It brought upon him the persecution of the clergy, at whose instance the magistracy of Görlitz prohibited his writing any more—an order which he obeyed for a number of years; but eventually the promptings of his spirit were no longer to be withstood, and he entirely gave himself up to the composition of his numerous writings during the last six years of his life, in which he produced among other works the "Mysterium Magnum," the “Signatura Rerum," the “Threefold Life," the “Six Theosophic Points,” the “Divine Contemplation,” the “Supersensual Life,” all of which contain, amidst much that is incongruous, whimsical, obscure, and unintelligible, passages of such profound knowledge and comprehensive meaning that no true philosopher dares to despise them, and which in fact will yet be recognised as the only solid bases of all true science. Now and then we meet in his writings with passages of such poetic beauty, such lofty views of Deity and Nature, as surpass all the conceptions of the greatest poets of all ages. His works, written in German, during his lifetime circulated only in manuscript; they were afterwards translated into Dutch, and from this language they were rendered into English. The German edition of his works, full of errors, did not appear until 1682. In France, St.Martin, le Philosophe Inconnu, translated some of them into French. His greatest commentator was Dionysius Andreas Freher, a German, who lived many years in this country, and whose works, all written in English with the exception of two, written in German, and translated into English by the present writer-exist only in manuscript, copies of some of them being in the British Museum, whilst the originals were

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