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Behmenism is a general term for the Christian Mystic teachings, and writings of Jakob Boehme (1575-1624), [aka: Bohme, (Böhme, Behmen], a German religious philosopher, Pietist mystic and shoemaker. He was also known as the "Teutonic Theosopher"

Jakob Boehme (1575-1624)

Jakob Boehme was born at Alt Seidenberg, 2 miles from Görlitz in Upper Lusatia, modern Saxony. He came from a good Lutheran family. He seems to have had been somewhat devote as a young lad, and was reported to have had some mystic visions as a lad. He attended the local schools and was a good student. Due to his own poor physical health, he was apprenticed as a cobbler ca. 1590. In 1599, he was admitted as a master craftsman in the local guild, and became a citizen of the town, and was married. He was prosperous in his business affairs, and raised a large family.

Boehme would sometimes come into contact with various men of letters, who were seeking refuge in Görlitz at the time. Boehme became interested in the works of Martin Moller (1547-1606) a German theologian with Calvinistic, and mystic leanings. Moller became the local parish priest about 1600. Boehme was also interested in the works of the Primarius of Görlitz (1600-13), and attended some local community discussion groups on his works.

Boehme appears to have had his own personal religious Epiphany in 1610 while reading the Scriptures. From this experience Boehme began to postulated on a new concept of the Godhead, and God's relationship with Man. These mystic insights seem to be totally original to Boehme.[Ed. Note: A discussion of the religious writing, and teachings of Jacob Boehme, are beyond the scope of this summary. Please check out our Behmenist Bibliography for additional source materials.]

Boehme wrote his first treatise Die Morgenroete im Anfang, oder Aurora in manuscript format in 1612. In 1613, an unauthorized copy of that manuscript was copied by a friend, and was circulated without Boehme's permission. A copy fell into the hands of the local authorities who were not very understanding. Boehme was questioned, jailed for a short period, and censured by the local Lutheran authorities. Boehme was tasked by the new Primarius of Görlitz (1613-24), Pastor Gregor Richter, who seems to have taken a certain dislike to this local shoemaker. Boehme would decided to sell his local shop in 1613, and began traveling for business reasons. Boehme may not have been totally limited to his livelihood as a shoemaker for his trade, as has been suggested.

During 1618, Boehme started writing his devotional treatises on Christian Mysticism in earnest. The majority of his works were written between 1618-1624. His second major work was< cite> Weg zu Christo [The Way to Christ] written in 1620. It was published in 1624 by some wealthy friends. He once again was called before the local authorities, questioned and censured by Pastor Richter. He and his family were than formally expelled from Görlitz in March of 1624. Living outside the town they may have been become engaged in the local yam business.

Boehme was invited by some friends to come and visit them in Dresden. While there, Boehme had hoped to have an audience with the Elector of Saxony while there, but Boehme left the city disappointed. He then returned to Görlitz in mid-1624 only to find that his family was being harassed by the local townsfolk. After a few months of additional traveling, he returned home. He fell ill, and died there on 17 November 1624. His grave site was desecrated by locals a short time later. His wife and family seems to have remained in the general area, trying to survive.

Boehme was a well respected philosopher among various scholarly circles in Europe at the time. Unfortunately for Boehme, the political and religious climate of his own home in Görlitz became rather unwelcoming from the local Church authoriities. Boehme was subject to the personal attacks of the Primarius of Görlitz (1613-24) who seems to have considered this poorly educated cobbler, an affront to the Lutheran Church. "No man is a prophet in his own home" might be a fitting observation.

Many of Boehme's publications were not fully available until after the 1640's. Many of his works were translated into other languages, and were widely distributed in Europe.

The Lutheran Church would take a dim view of Boehme's original writings, and actively tried to restrict access to his works. As his works became better known there was an increased interest in his mystic theology. discourage his teachings, as best as they could. Boehme's teaching were gradually accepted in many scholarly circles throughout Seventeenth-Century Europe, even with the efforts German Lutheran Churches to banish them there possible. Many scholars, and Pietist mystics would be influenced by Boehme's writings.

English Behmenists

English Behmenists developed somewhat independently of their Continental brethren. Not unlike many other Continental religious sects Boehmes teaching were spread from the early seaport communities by foreigner migrants, mostly German. The lack of formal religious group within the German community, and with only German texts was an early limiting factor. Gradually some English scholars with a working knowledge of German read these texts, and became acquainted with Boehme's writings and teachings after 1620.

As English translations of Boehmes' writings became more available to a larger readership, and the general public Boehem's writings would become more popular in England. Some manuscripts seem to have been available as early as the late 1640's. A biography of Boehme was produced about 1645 by Richard Whittaker. Boehme's works were being translated into English after 1645 by the following translators:John Sparrow (1615-1665?); Humphrey Blunden (1609-1654?), a publisher and bookseller, and, John Ellistone (d.1652)

English Behmenist philosophical and mystic views were often heard, and being voiced during the Interregnum. Individuals such as Morgan Llwyd(1619-59), was a Welsh poet and a radical puritan, who was an early admirer of Boehme. An advocate of Boehme was the Rev.James Pordage who was known for his own Familist leanings.Peter Sterry, the chaplain to General Oliver Cromwell, was well acquainted with the teachings of Boehme. There was a growing interest in some English social and literary communities of London, and in England to Behmenism.

The Behmenist movement had two basic advantages over earlier religious groups. English Behmenism was being spread as a religious philosophy of Christian Mysticism. The English Church authorities had no need to search for conventicles. The Church of England may have disagreed with Jacob Boehme writings, but during the Proprietorship, Boehme's Christian Mysticism teachings were being tolerated at its early beginnings in England.

Most of the early English Behmenists were regular members of the Church of England, and attended their local parish church as required. Some of the early English Behmenists movement might eventually merged with some of the other Christian denominations of the period. The early Quakers movement was often an early home for some. These early Quakers would incorporated some aspects of Boehme's teachings into their own religious philosophy.

Boehme's own goal through his writings he hoped he might help to lead Man into a fuller and richer religious experience, and awakening to a fuller apprehension of the very nature God. Boehme was a Christian mystic, but he did not necessary reject the basic message of the Bible, but he did have his own unique interpretation of that work. He raised questions on the nature of God, that most organized Christian Churches of the period would take exceptions to, and which most did. Boehme raised issues between the message of faith through the Bible, and the public institution of the Church being at odds with the Message. He did not reject the concept of the Trinity, but did had a slightly different point of view of its fuller implications for Man. The Christian Mysticism of Boehme's writings opened up new world of possibilities to many Separatists groups of the period, and for later generations to come.

Behmenist views were often heard during the Interregnum.Morgan Llwyd(1619-59), was a Welsh poet and a radical puritan, who was an early admirer. An advocate of Boehme was the Rev.James Pordage who was known for his own Familist leanings.Peter Sterry, the chaplain to Oliver Cromwell, was well acquainted with the teachings of Boehme.

The Rev. John Pordage, and Mrs. Jane Leade

Behmenism came to England by 1640 and was supported by a groups on individuals that keep the faith alive. There was no center for the movement until The rev. John Pordage and Mrs. Jane Lead(e) began the Philadelphian Society in London (1668-1706).

John Pordage(1607-1681)was an Anglican priest, astrologer, alchemist, and a Christian mystic according to reports. He was born in London of a good family, his early life is still somewhat sketchy. The are some questions regarding a possible formal M.D. degree, or as an attribution only? He was ordained into the Church of England during the early 1640's. He became the rector of a small local parish at Bradfield, Berkshire by 1647. He was given an independent living as a gift for his astrology work by a prosperous admirer.

The Rev. Pordage seems to have been a competent clergy for the period, but with some nonconformist leanings. Pordage establish a small community near his parish for the well being of some nonconformists including some Familists, and Behmenists during the period from 1647 to 1655, which was later closed by Church instructions. The Rev. Pordage began to be questioned by the local Church authorities regarding his theological views, but was usually released. Pordage's oldest son was a barrister [Lincoln's Court] with some prominent clients. A Church Council would allege nonconformist irregularities to Pordages' activities, and teachings, the charges were dropped. After a few attempts, Pordage was finally tried before a Church Commission formed by the Long Parliament looking into possible irregularities within the clergy. Pordage was charged and found guilty of not following the proper Church regulations, and standards. He was removed from his parish church, and the Church of England for cause. There were allegations that Pordage only real crime may have been in having some pro-Loyalists sentiments towards the Crown?

Pordage was a free man during 1655-1663 from the Church of England, but with his independent living still in tack. This period needs more research,but Pordage may have become better acquainted of Jacob Boehme and his writing during this period. By 1663, Pordage was considered by many as something of a prominent scholar on the works of Boehme. Some have even questioned the extent of his real understanding of Boehme's teachings?

In 1663, Pordage along with a number of other former clergy who had been dropped under the Long Parliament, were being re-instated under the reign of King Charles II. Pordage was given a new parish probably in, or around Greater London. It was during this period that The Rev. John Pordage made the acquiescence of Mrs.Jane Leade (1623-1704) a citizen of London. Mrs. Leade may have approached The Rev. Pordage, as a personal instructor of the works of Jacob Boehme. A friendship would developed on their mutual interest in spreading Behmenism in the City of London.

Jane W. Leade (1623-1704)

Mrs. Jane W. (nee Ward) Lead(e)(1623-1704)was born in Norfolk, to a prominent Gentry family with strong religions leanings. She was given all of the social and educational advantages of a family of their social standing. As an adult Jane had reported some religious visions which she accepted as real. During a visit to London, she meet, and would finally wed Mr. William Ward, a prosperous man of business, and a distant kindsman. They had four daughters, three died before their time. They may have spend most of the married life living in Greater London.

During 1663, Mrs. Jane W. Lead(e) met The Rev. John Pordage, who was recently re-instated back into the Church of England. Mrs. Lead(e) would soon become part of a of small circle of London friends of The Rev. Pordage. They including some university graduates, and others who were interest in various aspects of esoteric philosophy, theosophy, mysticism, and the Divine. Pordage may have taken an interest in Mrs. Leade's due to her earlier mystic visions. Pordage was considered an authority on Jacob Boehme which was probably a regular topic of discussion. Mrs. Leade may have engaged The Rev. Pordage as a tutor on Boehme for a period of time.

The Philadelphia Society (1668-1706)

The friendship of The Rev. Pordage, and Mrs. Jane W. Leade had some positive outcomes for the London Behmenist movement. From 1663-68, Pordages' small circle of friends would form the early core of Behemism in London. Individuals such as: Jane Leade, Thomas Bromley (15, and Edmund Brice. Probably after some local discussions, there was a general agreement to form a organization in London promoting Christian Mysticism, general aspects of mysticis, and the works of Jacob Boehme, and Behmenism. Pordage may have given the blessing to the project unofficially, and his name on the letterhead. The general operational public face was Mrs. Jane Leade, who function as its titular Director from 1668 to the early 1770's.

The Philadelphia Society of London, or the Philadelphians was formed by the efforts of a number individuals. The name came from an illusion from The Book of Revelations. A Society was decided on as the best format for public interaction to the City of London. The general format was to spread the basic teaching of Behmenism, Christian Mysticism and other broad forms of mysticism. The Society ushered in a flowering of a growing interest of Christian Mysticism, and Behmenism to English Society. They held meeting and public discussion groups. There were printed pamphlets on the topic of mysticism. Mrs. Jane Leade would become a major writer of the period in her own right on the general topic of Mysticism. The Society helped to form a public core for English Behmenism interests for the period. Mrs. Leade managed the society from, 1668 until he husband death in Feb., 1700's. Mrs. Leade had a faithful associate in the person of Dr. Frances Lee (MD.) (1661 who helped to keep the society functioning. The society gradually faded from view after the death of Mrs. Leades in 1704. The Society served a primary function in spreading the works of Jacob Boehme. The Philadelphia Society in London opened a new worlds of Christian Mysticism, Behmenism, and the large arena of Mysticism to England society.

Boehme's teaching and writing provided a conduit for many mystical and spiritualistic influences of the late Middle Ages into English society including: Pietism, Schwenckfeldianism, Rosicrucianism, the works of Paracelsus (1493-1541), and the Hermetic Tradition. His works also influences other theologians, and scholars of the period. Boehme exercised a great deal of thought in Germany, and in the English-speaking countries.

Boehme's writings and his teachings continue to have an influences in many corners of modern society at a philosophical level. Many writers and scholars have been influences by this former German cobbler since 1620.


Primary Sources

Boehme, Jakob, [1575-1624], Die Morgenroete in Aufgang or Aurora (1612)

______, [Another ed.] [English Trans.] Aurora. That is, the Day-spring, translated by John Sparrow, (1656)

______, [Another ed.] (1914)

______, [Another ed.] Barker, C.J. (ed.) (1967)

______, Weg zu Christo (1622)

______, Die drei Prinzipien göttlichen Wesens

______, [Another ed.] [Engl. trans.] Concerning the Three Principles of the Divine Essence, Sparrow, J. (trans.) (1910)

______,De Signatura Rerum (1651)

______, {English trans.] [Another ed.]The Signature of All Things and other writings by Jacob Boehme (1912)

______, [Another ed.] (1965)[EEb,1641-1700; 171:1 Wing B3419 [Buddecke 119]

______, Mysterium Magnum (16??)

______, [English trans.] Mysterium magnum, or An exposition of the first book of Moses called Genesis, translated by John Sparrow (1654); EEb,1641-1700;125:5 Wing (2nd. ed.) B3411

______, [Another ed.] [English trans.] Mysterium magnum, or An exposition of the first book of Moses called Genesis, translated by John Ellistone and John Sparrow (1654); EEb,1641-1700; 125:5 Wing B3411A; EEBO

______, Tafeln von den dreyen Principien göttlicher Offenbarung

______, [English trans.] Foure tables of divine revelation ;[EEb, 141-1700; 125:5]

______, Von Christi Testamensis

______, De triplici vita hominis (1620)

______, Sex puncta mystica (1620)

______, Antistifelius (1621)

______, Dialogues on the Supersensual Life (1624)

______, The Confessions of Jacob Behmen ... to which is prefixed the life of the author (1764-81)

______, Works. Schiebler, K.W., (ed.) (1831-47)

______, Works Schiebler, K.W., (ed.) (1922, reprint)

______, [Works]. Samtliche Schriften Faksimile Neudruck der Ausgabe van 170 begonnen von August Faust neu Herausgegeben von Will-Eririch E. Peuckert (1986) [11 vols.]

______, [Another ed.] (1951-61)

______, Von der Gnadenwahl (1623)

______, [Another ed.] {Trans. English, Concerning the election of grace. Or Of Gods will towards Man. Commonly called Predestination translated by John Sparrow, (1655)

Bromley, Thomas [1629-1691], The Way to the Sabbath Rest, or the Soul's Progress in the Work of the New-Born, ... (1655;1744); [Thomason Tracts;130:E.865(3)] Wing (2nd ed. 1994) 4888A

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______, An Introduction to the Teutonic Philosophie. Being a determination ... (1650);

______, The life of Jacob Behmen (1653)

Law, William [ ], (1752)

Lead,Jane Ward, [1623-1704], The Revelation of Revelations (1683;1981); [EEb, 1641-1700; 1507:11], Wing (CD-ROM,1996,L789

______, Des Garten-Brunns (1698) [German baroque literature, Harold Jantz collection; no. 1529, reel 320]

______, [Another ed], Fountains of Gardens (1696); [EEb;1641-1700;1912;12], EEBO

Lee, Francis [1661-1719] [Attributed], The State of the Philadelphian Society, Or, The Grounds of their Proceedings Consider'd,; in Answer to a Letter from Philistines, ... (1697); [EEb; 1641-1700; 1743:15)] Wing (CD-ROM,1996)L842

Pordage, John [1608-1681], Innocency appearing through the dark Mists of pretended Guilt, &c., 1655 (1655)

______, Truth appearing through the Clouds of undeserved Scandal, &c. (1655)

______, A just Narrative of the Proceedings of the Commissioners of Berks ... against John Pordage &c. (1655)

______,[Attributed] The Fruitful Wonder ... By J. P., Student in Physic (1674)

______, Theologia Mystica, or the Mystic Divinitie of the Eternal Indivisible ... &c. By a Person of Qualitie, J.P., M.D., Dr. Edward Hooker (ed.), with a Preface by Jane Leade (1683)

______, Philosophia Mystica, &c. (1683)

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______, The Dark Fire World, &c. ( )

______, The Incarnation of Jesus Christ, &c. ( )

______, The Spirit of Eternity, &c. ( )

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______, Natures restorative: or, Health-producing spirit (167?)

Philadelphian Society (London, England), The Declaration of the Philadelphian Society of Engl;and. Easter-Day, 1699. Addressed to the Catholic Church representatives and diffuse (1699); [EEb: 1641-1700:2744:12), Wing (1972 ed,) D737.

Taylor, Edward [1575-1624], (ed.), Jacob Boehme's Theosophick Philosophy Unfolded (1691); [EEb, 1641-1700; 126.3,616:11],Wing(2nd ed. 1994) B3421)

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______, "Der Prophet Jacok Boehme: Eine Studie über den Typus nachreformatorische Prophetentums", In Akademie der Wissenschaften und der Literatur [in Mainz]. Abhandlungen der Geistes- und Sozialwissenschaftlichen Klasse, Jahrg. 1959, Heft 3

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