The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Bohme, Jakob
BOHME, be'me, or BOHM, Jakob, one of the most renowned mystics of modern times: b. 1575, Altseidenberg, a village in upper Lusatia; d. Görlitz, November 1624. Böhme, being the son of poor peasants, remained to his 10th year without instruction, and employed in tending cattle. Raised by contemplation above his circumstances, and undisturbed by exterior influences, a strong sense of the spiritual, particularly of the mysterious, was awakened in him, and he saw in all the workings of nature upon his mind a revelation of God, and even imagined himself favored by divine inspirations. He became afterward a shoemaker; and this sedentary life seems to have strengthened his contemplative habits. In 1594 Böhme became a master shoemaker in Görlitz, married, and continued a shoemaker during his life, but withdrew himself more and more from the world. If we take into view his retirement, his piety, his rich and lively imagination, his imperfect education, his philosophical desire for truth, together with his abundance of ideas, and his delusion in considering many of those ideas as immediate communications of the Deity, we have the sources of his doctrine and his works. His first work, ‘Aurora, oder die Morgenröte,’ was written in 1616, and contains his revelations on God, man and nature. This gave rise to a prosecution against him; but he was acquitted, and called upon from all sides to continue writing. One of his most important works is ‘Description of the Three Principles of the Divine Being.’ His works contain profound and lofty ideas, mingled with many absurd and confused notions, but the basis of his thought is the theory that everything exists and becomes intelligible only through its opposite. The first collection of his writings was made in Holland in 1675 by Henry Betke; a more complete one in 1682 by Gichtel (10 vols., Amsterdam), from whom the followers of Böhme, a religious sect highly valued for their silent, virtuous and benevolent life, have received the name Gichtelians. Another edition appeared in Amsterdam in 1730 under the title ‘Theosophia Revelata’ (2 vols.); the most complete in six volumes. In England, also, Böhme's writings have found many admirers. William Law published an English translation of them, two volumes. A sect, taking their name from Böhme, was likewise formed in England, and in 1697 Jane Lead, an enthusiastic admirer of his, established a particular society for the explanation of his writings, under the name of the Philadelphists. In very recent years his views have taken on fresh importance, his fundamental principle having been perceived as akin to that underlying the philosophical systems of Spinoza, Schelling and Hegel. Consult Hartmann, ‘Life and Doctrines of Böhme’ (1893).