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A History of Philosophy in Epitome by Schwegler

He was sent to Goerlitz to learn the shoe maker's art


Boehme was born in 1575, in old Seidenburg, a village of upper Lusace, not far from Goerlitz. His parents were poor peasants. In his boyhood be took care of the cattle, and in his youth, after he had acquired the rudiments of reading and writing in a village school, he was sent to Goerlitz to learn the shoe-maker's art. He finished his apprenticeship and settled down at Goerlitz in 1594 as master of his trade. Even in his youth he had received illuminations or mysterious revealings, which were subsequently repeated when his soul, striving for the truth, had become profoundly agitated by the religious conflicts of the age. Besides the Bible, the only books which Boehme read were some mystical writings of a theosophic and alchymistic content, _e. g._ those of Paracelsus. His entire want of culture is seen as soon as he undertakes to write down his thoughts, or, as he calls them, his illuminations. Hence the imperious struggle of the thought with the expression, which, however, not unfrequently rises to a dialectical acuteness and a poetic beauty. His first treatise, Aurora, composed in the year 1612, brought Boehme into trouble with the chief pastor in Goerlitz, Gregorious Richter, who publicly condemned the book from the pulpit, and even ridiculed the person of its author. The writing of books was prohibited him by a magistrate, a prohibition which Boehme observed for many years, till at length the command of the spirit was too mighty within him, and he took up again his literary
labors. Boehme was a plain, quiet, modest and gentle man. He died in 1624.

To give an exhibition of his theosophy in a few words is very difficult, since Boehme, instead of clothing his thoughts in a logical form, dressed them only in pictures of the sense and obscure analogies, and often availed himself of the most arbitrary and singular modes of expression. A twilight reigns in his writings, as in a Gothic cathedral where the light falls through variegated windows. Hence the magic effect which he has made upon many hearts. The chief thought of his philosophizing is this, viz., that the distinguishing of the self from the not-self is the essential determination of spirit, and hence of God so far as God is to be apprehended as spirit. God, according to Boehme, is living spirit only at the time and in the degree in which he conceives the distinction within himself from himself, and is in this distinction object and consciousness. The distinction of God in himself is the only source of his and of all actuosity and spontaneity, the spring and fountain of that self-active life which produces consciousness out of itself. Boehme is inexhaustible in images by which this negativity in God, his self-distinguishing and self-renunciation to the world, may be made conceivable. The great expansion without end, he says, needs limitation and a compass in which it may manifest itself, for in expansion without limit there could be no manifestation, there must be a contraction and an enclosing, in order that a manifestation may arise. See, he says in another place, if the will were only of one kind, then would the soul have only one quality, and were an immovable thing, which would always lie still and never do any thing farther than one thing; in this there could be no joy, as also no art nor science of other things, and no wisdom; every thing would be a nothing, and there would be neither

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