Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Alchemical Theology in Boehme

Böhme's correspondences in "Aurora" of the seven qualities, planets and humoral-elemental associations:
  • 1. Dry - Saturn - melancholy, power of death;
  • 2. Sweet - Jupiter - sanguine, gentle source of life;
  • 3. Bitter - Mars - choleric, destructive source of life;
  • 4. Fire - Sun/Moon - night/day; evil/good; sin/virtue; Moon, later = phlegmatic, watery;
  • 5. Love - Venus - love of life, spiritual rebirth;
  • 6. Sound - Mercury - keen spirit, illumination, expression;
  • 7. Corpus - Earth - totality of forces awaiting rebirth.
In "De Tribus Principiis" or "On the Three Principles of Divine Being" Böhme subsumed the seven principles into the Trinity:
  • 1. The "dark world" of the Father (Qualities 1-2-3);
  • 2. The "light world" of the Holy Spirit (Qualities 5-6-7);
  • 3. "This world" of Satan and Christ (Quality 4).
(via Wikipedia)

One can see “Boehme's alchemical understanding of salvation” where he translates his anthropological theology into alchemical language...

"the true Adamic man whom God made out of the Earth-matrix in whom stands the covenant and gift is similar to a tincture in coarse lead;the tincture consumes in itself, through its own desire, the coarsenessof the lead as the coarse Saturn, kills the saturnine will, leads his own will, understood as the tincture-will and selfhood up into lead and through the lead is transformed into gold."
100 -Mysterium Magnum; oder Erklarun uber das erste Buch Mosis in Theosophia Revelata... (Hamburg 1715) Chapter 51, in Miller, "The Theologies of Luther and Boehme," 2785)

Boehme did however systematise the symbols of the alchemists and it is for this reason that his views deserve mention here. A recent expositor writes: ‘Boehme did more than borrow a large part of his vocabulary from alchemy, he took over the whole alchemistic world-view, which he developed into a philosophic system.’ 

His best-known treatises include Of the Three Principles of the Nature of God, (1619) and The Way to Christ, (1624), The Signature of all Things, and Mysterium Magnum.

As well as alchemical themes his writings contain Kabbalistic concepts.  Boehme describes the absolute nature of God as the abyss, the nothing and the all, the primordial depths from which the creative will struggles forth to find manifestation and self-consciousness.  The Father, who is groundless Will (c.f. Kabbalah - Keter the first principle is identified with Will), issues forth the Son, who is Love.
Boehme held that everything exists and is intelligible only through its opposite. Thus, he believed, evil is a necessary element in goodness, for without evil the will would become inert and progress would be impossible. Evil is a result of the striving of single elements of Deity to become the whole; conflict ensues as man and nature strive to achieve God.  God himself, according to Boehme, contains conflicting elements and antithetical principles within His nature.

Concerning the Three Principles of the Divine Essence
preface 7

the will of God is put into, and written in our minds, so that we very well know what we should do

9. Seeing therefore we are in such horrible
danger in this world, that we are environed with
enemies on every side, and have a very unsafe
pilgrimage or journey to walk ; and above all, we
carry our worst enemy within us, which we our-
selves hide, and desire not to learn to know it,


The fundamental conception of Jacob Boehme's philo-
sophy might be characterized as Pantheo-dualistic ; that
is to say, he attempts to harmonize the undeniable claim
of Pantheism that God is not to be known out of and
apart from Nature, but in it and through it ; with the
equally undeniable fact of dualism, i.e. the evident
opposition in this divine world of good and evil.

ch1 6. Behold, there are especially three things in
the originalness, out of which all things are, both
spirit and life, motion and comprehensibility, viz.
Sulphur, Mercurius, and Sal. But you will say 2 wherein the
that these are in nature, and not in God ; which cousisteth.
indeed is so, but nature hath its ground in God,
according to the first Principle of the Father
7. Now to speak in a creaturely way, Sulphur, 
Mercurius, and Sal, are understood to be thus. 
S U L is the soul or the spirit that is risen up, or 
in a similitude [it is] God : P H U R is the prima 
materia, or first matter out of which the spirit is 
generated, but especially the harshness : Mercurius 
hath a fourfold form in it, viz. harshness, bitterness, 
fire, and water : Sal is the child that is generated 
from these four, and is harsh, eager, and a cause of 
the comprehensibility. 

"The tincture is nothing else but an exulting joyful mighty will, and a house of the soul, and a pleasant paradise of the soul..."

Boehme on the Principle of Fire

"The principle of fire is the root, and it grows in its root. It has in its proprium sour, bitter, fierceness and anguish. And these grow in its proprium in poison and death the anguished stern life, which in itself gives darkness, owing to the drawing in of the harshness. Its properties make sulphur, mercury, and salt; through the fire's property makes not Sul in sulphur, but the will of freedom makes Sul in sulphur, while the principle goes forward."

Linden Emblems and Alchemy p.61 "Boehme split sulphur in the Paracelsian trinity--sul, phur, mercury, and sal--in order to fit the four realms created by the cross. The seven metals of alchemy are also arranged in the diagram. Interestingly, only six are arranged on the wheel, the seventh, Mercury, is missing; it is represented by the wheel itself."

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