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N. A.

Etude I. The Teaching about the Ungrund and Freedom
(1939 - #349)
"Im Wasser lebt der Fisch, die Pflanzen in der Erden,
Der Vogel in der Luft, die Sonn im Firmament,
Der Salamander muss mit Feur erhalten werden:
Und Gottes Herz ist Jakob Boehmens Element".
["In water lives the fish, the plant in the ground,
The bird in the sky, the sun in the firmament,
The salamander must with fire be sustained,
And God's Heart is Jacob Boehme's element".]
Angelus Silesius
Jacob Boehme has to be termed the greatest of Christian gnostics. The word gnosis I employ here
not in the sense of the heresies of the first centuries of Christianity,2 but in the sense of knowledge
basic to revelation and dealing not with concepts, but with symbols and myths; contemplative
knowledge, and not discursive knowledge. This is also a religious philosophy or theosophy.
Characteristic for J. Boehme is that he had a great simplicity of heart, a child-like purity of soul.
Therefore before death he could exclaim: "Nun fahre ich in's Paradeis" {"Now I journey on into
Paradise"}. He was not learned, not bookish, not schooled a man, but rather a simple craftsman, a
shoemaker. He belonged to the type of the wise-seers from amongst the people. He did not know
Aristotle, he did not know Pseudo-Dionysios the Areopagite, he did not know the Medieval
Scholasticism and mysticism. In him it is impossible, just as it is for the larger part of Christian
mystics, to discern any direct influences of Neo-Platonism. He found his sustenance first of all in the
Bible3 and beyond this he read Paracelsus, Sebast. Franck, Weigel, Schwenckfeld. He lived within the
atmosphere of the German mystico-theosophic currents of his time. Boehme was not a philosopher in
the academic school sense of this word, he was first of all a theosophist, a visionary and myth-creator,
but his influence on German philosophy was enormous. His thinking was not by calculated and clear
concepts, but by symbols and myths. He was convinced, that Christianity had become distorted by the
learned and by the theologians, by the popes and the cardinals. Boehme by faith-confession was a
Lutheran and he died with the final unction of a pastor. But the Lutheran clergy vexed and harassed
him, and forbade him to publish his works. This is a phenomenon typical to all faith-confessions. And
just like with the greater part of mystics and theosophists, he was supra-confessional. It is possible to
discern in him strong Catholic elements, despite his extreme hostility to papism. The origin from which
the knowledge of Boehme derived -- is a very complex problem. This problem involves the possibility
of a personal gnostic revelation and enlightening, by a special cognitive charism. At present they tend
to think, that Boehme was more widely read, than earlier was thought, but certainly least of all can the
teachings of Boehme be explained by borrowings and influences (an explanation unbecoming for such
an original and remarkable thinker). Eckhardt was a man learned and bookish, he knew Aristotle,
Pseudo-Dionysios the Areopagite, Thomas Aquinas, the Medieval Scholasticism and mysticism.
Boehme however was self-made, and with him undoubtedly were primal intuitions. Boehme himself

says about the sources of his cognition: "Ich brauche ihrer Art und Weise und ihrer Formeln nicht, weil
ich es von ihnen nicht gelernt habe; ich habe einen andern Lehrmeister, und der ist die ganze Natur.
Von dieser ganzen Natur mit ihrer instehenden Geburt habe ich meine Philosophie, Astrologie und
Theologie studirt und gelernt, und nicht von oder durch Menschen" {"I use not their art and wisdom
and their formulas, since from them I have learned nothing; I have an other Master-Teacher, and this is
the whole of nature. From this whole of nature with innate birth I have studied and learned my
philosophy, astrology and theology, and nothing from or through man"}.4 There is here a sense of the
Renaissance reaction against the Scholastics and a reorientation towards nature itself. Moreover,
Boehme was convinced, that his knowing was not by his own human powers, but with the help of the
Holy Spirit. "In meinen eigenen Kraeften bin ich so ein blinder Mensch, als irgend einer ist, und
vermag nichts, aber im Geiste Gottes siehet mein eingeborner Geist durch Alles, aber nicht immer
beharrlich; sondern wenn der Geist der Liebe Gottes durch meinen Geist durchbricht, alsdann ist die
animalische Geburt und die Gottheit ein Wesen, eine Begreiflichkeit und ein Licht" {"In mine own
ability I am as blind a man, as is anyone, and am capable of nothing, but in the Spirit of God
throughout all stands my inborn spirit, but not always unwaveringly; but when the Spirit of the love of
God is focused through my spirit, then is the creaturely birth and the Godhead one essence, one
understanding and one light"}.5 Sophia assists him in the perception of the very mystery of God. He
believes, that God "wird dich zum lieben Kinde annehmen und dir ein neu Kleid der edeln Jungfrauen
Sophiae anziehen, und einen Siegelring (Mysterii Magni) an deine Hand des Gemueths stecken; und in
demselben Kleide (der neuen Wiedergeburt) hast du allein Macht, von der ewigen Geburt Gottes zu
reden" {"wilt adopt thee as a beloved child and clothe thee in the new garb of the nobly virginal
Sophia, and a signet-ring (Mysterii Magni) upon thine hand of mind wilt set; and in the selfsame garb
(the new birth-anew) hast thou alone the power, to speak from God's eternal birth"}.6
In contrast to the majority of mystics, Boehme writes not about his own soul nor about his own
spiritual path, nor about what happened with him, but rather what has transpired with God, with the
world and with man. This is a feature distinguishing mystical theosophy from pure mysticism per se.
The mysticism of Boehme belongs to the gnostic type. But Boehme perceives God and the world
through man, his knowledge issues forth from the subject, and not from the object, despite the
predominance in him of nature-philosophy and cosmology. The visible world is a reflection of the
invisible world. "Und die sichtbare Welt ist eine Offenbarung der innern geistlichen Welt, aus dem
ewigen Lichte und aus der ewigen Finsterniss, aus dem geistlichen Gewirke; und ist ein Gegenwurf der
Ewigkeit, mit dem sich die Ewigkeit hat sichtbar gemacht" {"And the visible world is a manifestation
of the inner spiritual world, from the eternal light and the eternal darkness, from the spiritual working;
and it is an opposition of eternity, which eternity itself hath made visible"}.7 Heaven reveals itself
within man. "Ich bin auch nicht in den Himmel gestiegen und habe alle Werke und Geschoepfe Gottes
gesehen, sondern derselbe Himmel ist in meinem Geiste offenbaret, dass ich im Geist erkenne die
Werke und Geschoepfe Gottes" {"I however have not climbed up to Heaven so as to have seen all the
works and creatures of God, but the selfsame Heaven is revealed in my spirit, so that I in spirit perview
the works and creatures of God"}.8 For Boehme, the natural physical elements are essentially the same
in common with the elements of soul. He sees in nature likewise that which is in spirit. Man -- is a
microtheos and a microcosmos. Heaven and hell are within the soul of man. And it from thence only
that there is possible the cognition of God and the world. The unseen spiritual world is the foundational
basis of the visible material world. And God can only be found in the depths of one's own heart. Divine
wisdom is not to be sought for in the academies and books. The world-view of Boehme is symbolic. All
the visible world is but a symbol of the inner world. "Die ganze aeussere sichtbare Welt mit all ihrem
Wesen ist eine Bezeichnung oder Figur der inneren geistlichen Welt; alles was im Inneren ist, und wie
es in der Wirkung ist, also hats auch seinen Charakter aeusserlich" {"The whole external visible world
with all its essence is a sign or figure of the inner spiritual world; all what is in the inner, and how it is

in effect, also indeed has its character externally"}.9 Physical traits signify the spiritual ones. The
preface to the greatest work of Boehme, the "Mysterium magnum", begins with the assertion, that the
visible world -- is a symbol of the invisible spiritual world. "Denn die sichtbaren empfindlichen Dinge
sind ein Wesen des Unsichtbaren; von dem Unsichtlichen, Unbegreiflichen ist kommen das Sichtbare,
Begreifliche" {"The visible and sensible things are an essence of the invisible; from the unseeable and
incomprehensible are come the seeable, the understandable"}.10 The world is a symbol of God: "diese
Welt ist ein Gleichniss nach Gottes Wesen, und ist Gott in einem irdischen Gleichniss offenbar" {"This
world is in likeness to God's essence, and God is manifest in the earthly likeness"}.11 The cognition of
God is a birth of God in the soul. And such a cognition is possible only through the illumination of the
soul by the Spirit of God. Boehme quite distinctly comprehends the limitations of human cognition,
and he speaks about the foolishness of mere human wisdom. But together with this, he possesses a very
sublime conception concerning cognitive knowledge. The cognitive knowledge of God -- is a duty of
man, and for this he was created. Boehme -- is a symbolist, but he is not an idealist in the sense of the
German Idealism of the XIX Century. He -- is a realist. He has not lost that living vital connection with
real being, he has not trapped himself into an abstract world begotten of thought, a world of subjective
experiences. The contemplation of Boehme -- is realistico-symbolic. The cognitive knowing of the
spiritual world was for him a dwelling within the spiritual world, it was of the very life within him.
Being for him was not transformed into an object, set opposite the subject. Cognition transpires within
being itself, it is an event within being.
The gnosis of Boehme was experiential and from life, it arose from the torment over the fate of man
and the world. Boehme had a child-like pure, good and compassionate soul. But his feeling for worldly
life was austhere, not sentimental. His fundamental intuition of being was of an intuition of fire. In this
he was akin to Herakleitos. He had an extraordinarily acute and strong sense of evil in the life of the
world. And therefore he sees a struggle of opposing principles, a struggle of light and darkness. As
regards his sensing of the power of evil and of the struggle of God with the devil, of light and darkness,
he was nigh close to Reformation sources, to the experience of Luther.12 He senses God not only as
love, but also as anger, wrath. He senses within God a poignant and harsh quality. Herein the physical
qualities signify also the spiritual qualities. He sees within the very Divinity a dark nature, an irrational
abyss. As regards his feeling of life, Boehme stands already at the threshold of modern times. He
begins, having his roots still within the Medieval, and a mystical realism is a Medieval trait in him. But
in him already there storms the blood of the man of the Reformation and the Renaissance. With him
there is a Renaissance orientation towards cosmic life, towards nature, and the self-consciousness of
man becomes far higher, than that of the Medieval. As regards the dynamism of his world-concept, his
interest in the genesis and establishing of order, his sense of the struggle of opposed principles, the idea
of freedom fundamental to him, Boehme was a man of modern times. The world is no longer still
conceived of by him, as an eternally forever static order, as a rigid hierarchical system. World life is a
struggle, an establishing of order, a fiery dynamic process. This is nowise similar to the world-concept
of Thomas Aquinas and Dante. Quite more profoundly than the people of the Middle Ages, Boehme
pondered over the problem of the origin of evil, over the problem of theodicy. He was very much
tormented by the question, how God could have created the world, yet foreseeing the evil and
suffering. In the face of the evil and suffering of world life, the anger and wrath of the Father, he sought
salvation in the heart of the Son, of Jesus. There was a moment, when it seemed to Boehme, that God
had withdrawn from the evil world and he seeks God close at hand. Koyre says quite accurately, that
Boehme started out with torment over the problem of evil and he sought salvation first of all, and
thereupon knowledge.13 How is one to conceive of evil in the face of the Absoluteness of the
Divinity? How is one to be saved from evil and from the anger, the wrath of the Divinity, such as is no
longer discerned in the Son, as Love? Boehme has affinity with the gnostics of old in his torment over
the problem of evil. But his resolution is distinct from the merely gnostic by its immeasurably more

Christian character. In any case, Boehme belonged to that profound select group of people, who are
pained by the evil and torment of world life. Boehme was the first in the history of modern thought to
make a distinction, which will thereafter play an enormous role in German Idealism, -- everything can
be discerned only through the other, through opposition. Light cannot be discerned without darkness,
good without evil, the spirit without the opposition of matter.
Boehme wants to decide the question, which has disquieted many a philosopher: how is it possible
to make the transition from God to the world, from the one to the many, from eternity to time? But he
fashioned himself an even more audacious question: how did the Divine Trinity come about, how from
the Divine Nothing, how from the Absolute did there become possible the creation of the world, how
became manifest the Creator, how did the Person become manifest in God? The Absolute of apophatic
theology and metaphysics cannot be as such the Creator of the world. God -- the Creator, as regards
kataphatic theology, is correlative to the creation, is correlative with man. And suchlike it was there
already in Eckhardt.14 An investigation of Boehme's teaching concerning the concept of the Trinity
does not at present enter into my task, and the theme of my study here is rather more limited. The
formulations of Boehme in this regard are not always distinct with exactitude nor dogmatically
satisfactory. But his virtue is in this, that he sees everywhere in the world and in man the Trinitarian
principle, a reflection of the Divine Trinity. The traditional-type theology has always been vexed with
this, that Boehme taught about a theogonic process, about a birth within God, about a dynamic stirring
within God. His understanding of God was to the highest degree dynamic. Christian theological
systems, however, have worked out their teachings about God, employing categories of thought from
Greek philosophy. Thus, the teaching about God, as pure act, comprising within Him no sort of
potentiality, was constructed wholly upon Aristotle. The teaching about the unstirring, self-sufficient,
static God of Christian theology was taken not from the Bible, not from the Christian Revelation, but
from Parmenides, Plato, Aristotle. Within it was reflected the static aspect from Greek ontology. An
unstirring God, God as pure act, is God -- as a concept, and not God -- as life. The predominant
theological doctrine deprives God of inner life, denies any sort of process within God, makes Him
equivalent to an unstirring stone. And this idea ultimately is idolatrous. Not such is the God of the
Bible, the God of Revelation. He is full of inner life and drama, in Him there is dynamic stirring. There
is a tragic aspect within God that is both Biblical and mythological, though too non-theological an
understanding of God. God, undergoing the torment and sufferings of the Cross, God, offering the
sacrifice of love -- is a God dynamic, and not static. Bl. Augustine in a certain sense also admitted of
dynamism in God. L. Bloy defined God, as a lonely and misunderstood sufferer, and in this he was
more correct, than Thomas Aquinas. The tremendous significance of Boehme is in this, that after the
dominance of Greek philosophy and Medieval Scholasticism with their static concept of God, he then
introduces a dynamic principle into the understanding of God, i.e. he sees an inner life within God, the
tragic aspect characteristic of all life. And with Boehme it was bound up with this, that on the one hand
he immersed himself in the Bible and meditated upon it, free from the categories of Greek thought, yet
on the other hand he carried over into his contemplation of God an experience about the evil in world
life and about the contradictions rending the world, about the struggle of light and darkness, of the
sweet and the bitter, of love and anger. Boehme was of the modern type of soul, which stood face to
face afront the problem of evil, unable to still yet humbly bow and hold back through a consciousness
of its own sinfulness. He boldly wanted to gain insight into the origin and meaning of evil. In this he
was a gnostic. He saw a dark principle within the primal sources of being, deeper than being itself. He
was compelled to admit of a dark principle within the Divinity itself, and that there is some positive
meaning to the very existence of evil, which so tormented him. But he does not fall into a Manichaeangnostic dualism, into a dualism of gods. Without evil, good cannot be known. Through evil, the good is

discerned. As regards the character of his thought concerning Divine matters Boehme is no NeoPlatonist, as were the majority of Christian mystics. Boehme likewise was not at all a monist, and he
does not at all teach about emanation. Everywhere for him it is a matter of will and contradiction. The
moral sense of evil in Luther was transformed in Boehme into the metaphysical. The metaphysics of
Boehme is voluntaristic, and not intellectualistic, as was the Greek and Medieval metaphysics. The
voluntarism of Boehme is a new principle, introduced by him into philosophy, and German philosophy
would tend to develope it along further. It is only Boehme's voluntarism also that has rendered possible
a philosophy of freedom. The whole of Boehme is saturated with the magic of will, which at its primalbasis is still dark and irrational. Boehme to the very end is seriously concerned with the problem of evil
and he approaches it neither as the pedagogue nor as the moralist, nor from the point of view of tending
to infants. Being for him is a fiery current. And this fire in the darkness -- is both cold and scorching:
"ein jedes Leben ein Feuer ist" {"every life is a fire"}.15 The will is fire. The primal-basis of being is a
ravenous and hungry will. In response to it issues forth light and love. The potentiality of darkness lies
in the very depths of being, in the Divinity itself.16 It is bound up with meonic freedom.
The mysterious teaching of Boehme about the Ungrund, about the abyss, without foundation, dark
and irrational, prior to being, is an attempt to provide and answer to the basic question of all questions,
the question concerning the origin of the world and of the arising of evil. The whole teaching of
Boehme about the Ungrund is so interwoven with the teaching concerning freedom, that it is
impossible to separate them, for this is all part and parcel of the same teaching. And I am inclined to
interpret the Ungrund, as a primordial meonic freedom, indeterminate even by God.17 We tend to see
that the teaching of Boehme concerning the Ungrund is not distinguished by any clarity of precision,
such as is characteristic to a concept. But such a demand would be improper in approaching it, there
cannot be such a precision in concept concerning the Ungrund and being, this is an area situated at the
very limits of rational concepts. In what regard do the teachings of Boehme come nigh to that of the
traditional rational theology, which has the desire to know nothing corresponding to the Ungrund? I
have always tended to think, that the theodicy, worked out by the prevailing systems of rational
theology, only but transforms the relationship between God and the world into a comedy, into a mere
play of God with Himself, and it reflects upon the ancient slavery of man, his being crushed down into
cowering fear. This -- is an ontology of sin. Boehme has no desire to conceive of the mystery of the
world-creation, but as of a tragedy, a tragedy not only of man, but also of God. The only thing that
saves the rational kataphatic theology is this, that at a certain moment it is transformed into an
apophatic theology and then asserts, that we stand facing a mystery unfathomable and unapproachable,
before which we have to bow. But the kataphatic theology too late recourses to the mystery, as to its
sole salvation and only way out, after it has already rationalised everything so much so, that it has
become impossible to breathe. This theology both goes too far in the rationalisation of Divine mysteries
and too early on, it proclaims an interdict for knowledge, it asserts agnosticism. In this it is distinct
from theosophy, which both more admits the irrationality of Divine matters and permits more the
possibility of an endless movement in the cognition of these mysteries, but a cognition not through
concepts. Theology however operates primarily through concepts, especially the Catholic school
theology, so beautifully worked out. I term it a comedy, this following conception from the kataphatic
rational theology. God is perfect and unstirring, having no need of anything, and as self-sufficing, allpowerful, omniscient and all-good He created the world and man for His own glorification and for the
good of the creation. The act of the world-creation was neither evoked by nor answered any sort of
need in God, it was the product purely of free chance, it nowise added up to anything more for the
Divine being and nowise enriched it. God endowed His creature, man, with his fatal freedom, and sees
in the freedom the worthiness of His creation and a likeness to Himself. Man however made bad use of
his freedom, he rose up in revolt against his Creator, he fell away from God and in his fall he dragged
down after him the whole of creation. Man, having transgressed the will of God, fell under a curse and

the power of the law. The whole of creation groans and weeps. Such was the first act. In the second act
begins the Redemption and there transpires the Incarnation of God for the salvation of the creature. The
image of the Creator is replaced by that of the Saviour. But it is remarkable, that this whole cosmology
and anthropology is constructed upon the principle of a pure monotheism, without any sort of
relationship to Christ or to the revelation of the MostHoly Trinity. This is a dualistic theism, knowing
nothing about the aspect of the Trinity within the Deity, knowing only the monarchic teaching about
God, i.e. a teaching non-Christian. The comedy or play of God with Himself here involves also this,
that God, having endowed man with freedom, in His Omniscience knew also all the consequences of
this freedom -- sin, evil, worldly torment and suffering, the eternal perishing and the eternal torments in
hell of an indeterminable, and evidently, enormous number of beings, created by Him for bliss. Man is
rendered an insignificant plaything, innately having received freedom, but together with this there is
imposed upon him an immense responsibility. He is great of stature only in his falling. For God
everything transpires within eternity and in the act of world-creation, so that in eternity are predestined
both the temporal and the eternal torments. This inevitably leads to the teaching about the
predestination of some to salvation, for others however to eternal perdition, a teaching, to which Bl.
Augustine had already inclined and which Calvin took to its conclusion. God in thus having created
man, predestined him to eternal perdition, since He knows the consequences of freedom, He knows,
what a man will choose. A man has received his freedom from God, he does not possess it of himself
and this freedom is wholly set within the grip of God, wholly determined by Him, i.e. ultimately, it is
fictitious. God awaits a response from the creature to His call, so that the creature should love God and
dwell in a godly life, but ultimately it is that God is awaiting an answer from Himself, He plays
Himself a game, since He Himself endows the freedom and He knows Himself the consequences of
this freedom, for Him it is clearly apparent. The problem of Ivan Karamazov is posited at greater depth
and carries over into eternity. The matter involves not merely the tears of a child in the temporal earthly
life, but about the torments both temporal and eternal of an enormous quantity of living beings, having
received the fatal gift of freedom from God, knowing, what this gift signifies and to what it will lead.
The soteriology of the traditional theological systems can readily be interpreted, as an unseemly
correction by God of a mistake created by Him and assuming the form of a criminal penal process. The
rational kataphatic theology, in its cosmology and anthropology having forgotten about God in Trinity,
having forgotten about Christ, about the God of Love and Sacrifice and having relegated the mystery of
the Christian Revelation to the part concerning Redemption, and not concerning the world-creation,
cannot as such rise about this Divine Comedy and only therein but builds a fictitious theodicy. The
theological teaching about the freedom of the will bears a pedagogical, moral-juridical character and
does not penetrate down into the primal foundations of the mystery of freedom. All that is necessary is
that there should be someone to punish. And in such a sort of outlook, the apophatic and the kataphatic
get all hopelessly jumbled together. J. Boehme was one of the few bold enough to rise above this
rational kataphatic theology and to perceive the mystery of the world-creation, as a tragedy, and not as
a comedy. He teaches about a process not only cosmogonic and anthropogonic, but also concerning a
theogonic process. But the theogony does not at all signify, that God has a beginning, that He arises
within time, it does not mean, that He comes about to be within the world process, as with Fichte or
Hegel, it signifies, that the inner eternal life of God reveals itself, as a dynamic process, as a tragedy
within eternity, as a struggle with the darkness of non-being. The teaching about the Ungrund and
freedom is also a bold attempt to apperceive the world-creation from the inner life of the Divinity. The
world-creation bears a relationship to the inner life of the Divine Trinity, and cannot be for It something
completely external. The principle of evil thus acquires an actual seriousness and tragic aspect. The
cosmogony and anthropogony of Boehme is pervaded by the Christian Revelation, it does remain
something Old Testament, but it is within the New Testament light, in the light of Christ. Boehme
teaches about a serious "Quall [Qual] des Abgrundes",18 about the torment in the dark abyss, which
the light of Christ has to conquer.

The teaching of Boehme about the Ungrund was not all immediately worked out, and was as yet
not there in the "Aurora". It was chiefly revealed in the "De signatura Rerum" and in the "Mysterium
magnum". It answers the need of Boehme to penetrate the mystery of freedom, the origin of evil, the
struggle of darkness and light. In Chapter III of the "De signatura Rerum", which is entitled "Vom
grossen Mysterio aller Wesen" {"Of the Great Mystery of All Being"}, Boehme says: "Ausser der
Natur ist Gott ein Mysterium, verstehet in dem Nichts; denn ausser der Natur ist das Nichts, das ist ein
Auge der Ewigkeit, ein ungruendlich Auge, das in nichts stehet oder siehet, denn es ist der Ungrund;
und dasselbe Auge ist ein Wille, verstehet ein Sehnen nach der Offenbarung, das Nichts zu finden"
{"For out of nature is God a Mysterium, i.e. the Nothing; for from out of nature is the Nothing, which
is an eye of eternity, a groundless eye, which stands nowhere nor sees, for it is the Ungrund and the
selfsame eye is a will, i.e. a longing for manifestation, to discern the Nothing"}.19 The Ungrund thus
is the Nothing, the groundless eye of eternity, yet together with this it is will, without foundation,
unfathomable and indeterminate will. But this -- is a Nothing, which is "ein Hunger zum Etwas" {"an
hunger to be something"}.20 And together with this the Ungrund is freedom.21 Within the darkness of
the Ungrund there is ablaze a fire and this is freedom, a freedom meonic with potential. According to
Boehme, freedom is contrary to nature, but nature has issued forth from freedom. Freedom is a
semblance of the Nothing, but from it issues something. The hunger of freedom, of the groundless will
to something has to be satisfied: "das Nichts macht sich in seiner Lust aus der Freiheit in der
Finsterniss des Todes offenbar, denn das Nichts will nicht ein Nichts sein, und kann nicht ein Nichts
sein" {"The Nothing loves to make itself manifest from out of freedom in the deathly darkness, for then
the Nothing wills not to be the Nothing, and cannot be the Nothing"}.22 The freedom of the Ungrund
is neither light, nor darkness, neither good, nor evil. Freedom lies within the darkness and thirsts for the
light. And freedom is the cause of light. "Die Freiheit ist und stehet in der Finsterniss, und gegen der
finstern Begierde nach des Lichts Begierde, sie ergreifet mit dem ewigen Willen die Finsterniss; und
die Finsterniss greifet nach dem Lichte der Freiheit und kann es nicht erreichen, denn sie schleusst sich
mit Begierde selber in sich zu, und macht sich in sich selber zur Finsterniss" {"Freedom exists and is
set within the darkness, and over against the dark desire is still yet the desire for light, it seizes the
darkness with the eternal will; and the darkness aspires after the light of freedom and cannot attain it,
for then it passes with desire over into itself, and attains in itself but to the darkness"}.23 Boehme
apophatically and as an antinomy describes the mystery, transpiring in the depths of being, at that
depth, which is contiguous with the primordial Nothing. In the darkness there is kindled a fire and a
glimmer of light, the Nothing comes to be something, the groundless freedom gives rise to nature. And
two processes occur: "Die Freiheit [...] ist des Lichts Ursache, und die Impression der Begierde ist der
Finsterniss und der peinlichen Quaal Ursache. So verstehet nun in diesen zwei ewige Anfaenge, als
zwei Principia: eines in der Freiheit im Lichte, das andre in der Impression in der Pein und Quaal der
Finsterniss; ein jedes in sich selber wohnend"{"Freedom [...] is the cause of the light. And the
impression made of the desire is the cause of darkness and painful torment. So there arises now in this
two eternal points of departure, as two principles: one in freedom in the light, the other in the
impression made in the pain and torment of the darkness; ; each living in itself"}.24 Freedom, as the
Nothing, as meonic, possesses in itself no substantial essence.25 Boehme was perhaps the first in the
history of human thought to have seen, that at the basis of being and prior to being lies a groundless
freedom, the passionate desire of the Nothing to become something, the darkness, within which would
blaze the fire and light, i.e. he was the originator of an unique metaphysical voluntarism, unknown to
Medieval and ancient thought.26 Will, i.e. freedom, is at the origin of everything. But Boehme thinks
it is so because the conjectured Ungrund, the groundless will lies within the depths of the Divinity, and
prior to the Divinity. The Ungrund is also the Divinity of apophatic theology and is together with this

an abyss, a free Nothing deeper than God and outside God. In God there is a nature, a principle distinct
from It. The Primal-Divinity, the Divine Nothing -- is on the other side of good and evil, of light and
darkness. The Divine Ungrund -- is somehow prior to the arising within eternity of the Divine Trinity.
God arises, realises Himself from out of the Divine Nothing. This is a path of thought about God akin
to that, whereupon Meister Eckhardt makes a distinction between the Godhead (Gottheit) and God
(Gott). God, as the Creator of the world and of man, corresponds with the creation, He arises from the
depths of the Godhead, the unfathomable Nothing. This is an idea that lies deep down within German
mysticism. Such a path of thinking about God inevitably involves an apophatic theology. Everything,
that Boehme says concerning the Divine Ungrund, relates to the apophatic, the negative theology, and
not to the kataphatic positive theology. The Nothing is deeper and more primieval than anything that is,
the darkness27 is deeper and more primordial than light, freedom is more primordial and deeper than
any nature. The God of kataphatic theology is already something and He as such signifies a thinking
about a second-level aspect: "und der Grund derselben Tinctur ist die goettliche Weisheit; und der
Grund der Weisheit ist die Dreiheit der ungruendlichen Gottheit, und der Grund der Dreiheit ist der
einige unerforschliche Wille, und des Willens Grund ist das Nichts" {"And the ground of the selfsame
tincture is the Godly wisdom, and the ground of the Wisdom is the Trinity of the ungrounded Godhead,
and the ground of the Trinity is the one unfathomable Will, and the ground of the Will is the
Nothing"}.(Italics mine. N.B.)28 This also is a theogonic process, a process of the birthing of God
within eternity, within eternal mystery, which is described in accord with the method of apophatic
theology. And this therefore is all the less heretical, than it would seem to the exclusive adherents of the
kataphatic, i.e. rationalising theology. The pondering of Boehme lies deeper than all the second-tier
rationalising kataphatics. Boehme opens out a path from the eternal foundation for nature, from the free
will of the Ungrund, i.e. the ungroundedness without foundation, which is the natural ground of the
soul.29 Nature always is secondary and derivative in aspect. Nature is not the will, is not freedom.
Freedom is uncreated. "Wenn ich betrachte, was Gott ist, so sage ich: Er ist das Eine gegen der
Kreatur, als ein ewig Nichts; er hat weder Grund, Anfang noch Staette; und besitzet nicht, als nur sich
selber: er ist der Wille des Ungrundes, er ist in sich selber nur Eines: er bedarf keinen Raum noch Ort:
er gebaeret von Ewigkeit in Ewigkeit sich selber in sich: er ist keinem Dinge gleich oder aehnlich, und
hat keinen sonderlichen Ort, da er wohne: die ewige Weisheit oder Verstand ist seine Wohne: er ist der
Wille der Weisheit, die Weisheit ist seine Offenbarung" {"When I ponder, what God is, I then say: He is
the One in contrast to the creature, as an eternal Nothing; He has neither a ground, a beginning nor
state; and is of naught, save only of Himself: He is the Will of the Ungrund, He is in Himself only One,
He occupies no space nor place: from eternity in eternity in Himself He comes to be: He is like or
similar to no thing, and hath no particular place, which He inhabits: the eternal Wisdom or
Intelligibility is His habitation: He is the Will of the Wisdom, the Wisdom is of His manifestation"}.30
God comes about to be everywhere and always, He is both the foundational ground and the
The Ungrund mustneeds first of all be understood as freedom, a freedom in the darkness. "Darum
so hat sich der ewige freie Wille in Finsterniss, Pein und Quaal, sowohl auch durch die Finsterniss in
Feuer und Lichte, und in ein Freudenreich eingefuehret, auf dass das Nichts in Etwas erkannt werde,
und dass es ein Spiel habe in seinem Gegenwillen, dass ihm der freie Wille des Ungrundes im Grunde
offenbar sei, denn ohne Boeses und Gutes moechte kein Grund sein" {"So therefore in the darkness
doth the eternal free will have itself the pain and torment, just also as with the fire and light through the
darkness, and it passes over into a kingdom of joy, so that the Nothing can be known as something,
and that it should have a playing out in its opposition of wills, so that by it the free will of the Ungrund
should have a ground upon which to manifest itself, for without the evil and the good it would have no
ground upon which to be"}.31 Freedom is rooted in the Nothing, in the meonic, it is also the Ungrund,
"Der freie Wille ist aus keinem Anfange, auch aus keinem Grunde in nichts gefasset, oder durch etwas

geformet... Sein rechter Urstand ist im Nichts" {"The free will is from no sort of origin, likewise upon
no sort of ground is it constituted, nor through anything is it formed... Its proper primal setting is in the
Nothing"}.32 The free will has within it both good and evil, both love and wrath. "Darum hat der freie
Wille sein eigen Gericht zum Guten oder Boesen in sich, er hat Gottes Liebe und Zorn in sich" {"The
free will therefore hath its own court for the good and the evil within it, it has its proper path within it,
it hath God's love and wrath within it"}.33 The free will likewise possesses within it both light and
darkness. The free will in God is of the Ungrund within God, of the Nothing within Him. Boehme
provides a profound interpretation to the truth about the freedom of God, which likewise the traditional
Christian theology admits of. He teaches about a freedom of God, deeper than that of Dun Scotus. "Der
ewige goettliche Verstand ist eine freier Wille, nicht von Etwas oder durch Etwas entstanden, er ist
selbst eigener Sitz und wohnet einig und allein in sich selber, unergriffen von etwas, denn ausser und
vor ihm ist nichts, und dasselbe Nichts ist einig, und ist ihm doch auch selber als ein Nichts. Er ist ein
einiger Wille des Ungrundes, und ist weder nahe noch ferne, weder hoch noch niedrig, sondern er ist
Alles, und doch als ein Nichts" {"The eternal Divine mind is a free will, not having arisen from
anything nor through anything, it is itself its own seat and abides at one and alone in itself, ungrasped
by anything, for then beside it and before it is nothing, and the selfsame Nothing is at one, and is
moreover itself as the Nothing. It is the one Will of the Ungrund, and is neither near nor far, neither
high nor low, but is rather the All, and moreover as the Nothing"}.34 For Boehme chaos lies at the root
of nature, chaos, i.e. freedom, the Ungrund, will, an irrational principle. In the Divinity itself there is a
groundless will, i.e. an irrational principle. Darkness and freedom for Boehme are always correlative
and conjoined. God Himself is also freedom and freedom is at the beginning of all things: "darum
sagen wir recht, es sei Gottes, und die Freiheit (welche den Willen hat) sei Gott selber; denn es ist
Ewigkeit, und nichts weiters. [...] Erstlich ist die ewige Freiheit, die hat den Willen, und ist selber der
Wille" {"We properly therefore say, such would be God, and the Freedom (which hath the Will) would
be the selfsame God; therefore it is eternity, and nothing further. [...] Firstly is the eternal Freedom,
which hath the Will, and is the selfsame Will"}.35 Boehme was apparently the first in the history of
human thought to have posited freedom at the primal foundation of being, deeper and more primary
than all being, deeper and more primary than God Himself. And this would bear enormous
consequences for the history of thought. Such an understanding of the primacy of freedom would have
induced terror in both the Greek philosophers and the Medieval Scholastics. And this would open up
the possibility of a completely different theodicy and anthropodicy. The primal mystery of being is a
kindling up of light within the dark freedom, in the Nothing is also the solid firmness of the world from
this dark freedom. Boehme speaks wondrously about this in the "Psychologia vera": "denn in der
Finsterniss ist der Blitz, und in der Freiheit das Licht mit der Majestaet. Und ist dieses nur das
Scheiden, dass [...] die Finsterniss materialisch macht, da doch auch kein Wesen einer Begreiflichkeit
ist; sondern finster Geist und Kraft, eine Erfuellung der Freiheit in sich selber, verstehe in Begehren,
und nicht ausser: denn ausser ist die Freiheit" {"Then in the darkness is the flash of lightning, and in
the freedom is the light with majesty. And this is only the point of departure, so that [...] the darkness be
made material, while however therein is no manner of intelligibility; rather only a dark spirit and
power, a fullness of freedom in itself, i.e. in desire, and nothing else: for the else is but freedom"}.36
There are two wills -- the one within the fire, the other within the light.37 Fire and light -- are basic
symbols for Boehme. "Denn die Finsterniss hat kalt Feuer, so lange bis es die Angst erreicht, dann
entzuendet sich's in Hitze" {"For the darkness possesses a cold fire, to the extent of attaining anguish,
then it sparks itself forth into heat"}.38 The fire -- is the origin of everything, without fire there would
be nothing, only the Ungrund would be: "und waere Alles ein Nichts und Ungrund ohne Feuer" {"And
without the fire all would be a Nothing and the Ungrund"}.39 The passage over from non-being to
being is accomplished through the blazing up of fire from out of freedom. Within eternity there is the
primeval will of the Ungrund, which is outside of nature and prior to nature. Fichte and Hegel,
Schopenhauer and Hartmann proceeded from this point, although they de-Christianised Boehme.

German idealist metaphysics passes in transition directly from the Ungrund, from the unconscious,
from the primary act of freedom, passing over to the world process, and not to the Divine Trinity, as
with Boehme. The primal mystery of being according to Boehme consists in this, that the Nothing
seeks to become something. "Der Ungrund ist ein ewig Nichts, und machet aber einen ewigen Anfang,
als eine Sucht; denn das Nichts ist eine Sucht nach Etwas: und da doch auch Nichts ist, das Etwas gebe;
sondern die Sucht ist selber das Geben dessen, das doch auch nichts ist als bloss eine begehrende
Sucht" {"The Ungrund is an eternal Nothing, and it opens upwards to an eternal beginning, as with a
passion; for then the Nothing is a passion for something: and therein yet moreover it is the Nothing,
giving forth into something; for the passion is itself the fruition of such, and the yet still Nothing is a
bare desiring passion"}.40 The teaching of Boehme concerning freedom is not some psychological or
ethical teaching about the freedom of the will, but is rather a metaphysical teaching about the primal
basis of being. Freedom for him is not a grounding of moral responsibility upon man nor a regulation
of the relationship of man to God and neighbour, but rather an explanation of the genesis of being and
together with this the genesis of evil, as a problem ontological and cosmological.
The evil has happened from a bad inner-imaging, i.e. from the imagination. The magic effect of the
imagination plays an enormous role in the world-view of Boehme. Through it the world was made and
there occurred the downfall of the devil into the world. The fall of the creation for Boehme is a matter
not of the human, but of the angelic world, wherein the human world arises later and has to set right the
deed wrought by the fallen angel. The fall of Lucifer is defined by Boehme thus: "Denn Luzifer ging
aus der Ruhe seiner Hierarchie aus, in die ewige Unruhe" {"Then Lucifer went from out of the tranquil
repose of his hierarchy, out into an eternal unrest"}.41 There occurs a confusion of the hierarchical
centre, a transgression of the hierarchical order. And here is how Boehme describes the Fall: "Dass sich
der freie Wille im Feuerspiegel besah, was er waere, dieser Glanz machte ihn beweglich, dass er sich
nach den Eigenschaften des Centri bewegte, welche zuhand anfingen zu qualificiren. Denn die herbe,
strenge Begierde, als die erste Gestalt oder Eigenschaft, impressete sich, und erweckte den Stachel und
die Angstbegierde: also ueberschattete dieser schoene Stern sein Licht, und machte sein Wesen ganz
herb, rauh und streng; und war seine Sanfmuth und recht englische Eigenschaft in ein ganz streng, rauh
und finster Wesen verwandelt: da war es geschehen um den schoenen Morgenstern, und wie er that,
thaten auch seine Legionen: das ist sein Fall" {"Thus the free will caught sight of itself in the fire
reflection, what it was, and the brilliant luminance of this caused it to agitatedly shake, so that it itself
shook the unique ordering of the centre, which had initially started the process of qualification. Then
the severe bitter desire, as a first form or quality, made its impression, and aroused hurt and anguished
desire: therein this beautiful star overshadowed its light, and made its nature to become quite
embittered, rough and severe; and its gentleness and rather angelic quality was transformed into total
severity, a rough and dark nature: so the bright morning star was lost, and how he acted, so acted his
legions: that is his Fall"}.42 The Fall through sin occurred from a dark desire, from a lust, from a bad
inner imagination, from the dark magic playing out of the will.43 Boehme tends to describe the Fall
mythologically, never in clear concepts. The devil experiences a fiery torment in the darkness because
of his own false desire (Begierde). Without Boehme's teaching about the Ungrund and about freedom,
the origin of the Fall and evil would be incomprehensible. The Fall and evil for Boehme represents a
cosmic catastrophe, a moment in the world creation, a cosmogonic and anthropogonic process, the
result of the struggle of contrary qualities, of darkness and of light, of rage and of love. The
catastrophes are prior to the arising of our world, prior to our aeon was many another aeon. Evil
possesses also a positive significance in the arising of the cosmos and of man. Evil is a shadowing of
light, and light presupposes the existence of darkness. Light, the good and love for their revealing have
need of a contrary principle, in opposition. God Himself possesses two visages, a visage of love and a
visage of wrath, a bright and a dark visage. "Denn der heiligen Welt Gott und der finstern Welt Gott
sind nicht zween Goetter: es ist ein einiger Gott; er ist selber alles Wesen, er ist Boeses und Gutes,

Himmel und Hoelle, Licht und Finsterniss, Ewigkeit und Zeit, Anfang, und Ende: wo seine Liebe in
einem Wesen verborgen ist, allda ist sein Zorn offenbar" {"For the holy world God and the dark world
God are not two Gods; there is only one God; He is Himself all being, He is the bad and the good,
heaven and hell, light and darkness, eternity and time, the beginning, and the end: wherein lies
concealed His love in a being is all therein His wrath revealed"}.44 And further on: "Die Kraft im
Lichte ist Gottes Liebefeuer, und die Kraft in der Finsterniss ist Gottes Zornfeuer, und ist doch nur ein
einig Feuer, theilet sich aber in zwei Principia, auf dass eines im andern offenbar werde: denn die
Flamme des Zornes ist die Offenbarung der grossen -- Liebe; in der Finsterniss wird das Licht erkannt,
sonst waere es ihm nicht offenbar" {"The power in the light is God's love-fire, and the power in the
darkness is God's wrath-fire, and is but yet only one selfsame fire, it divides itself over into two
principles, in order that the one be revealed in the other: for the flame of wrath is the revelation of great
-- love: in the darkness will be known the light, elsewise would nothing be revealed to it"}.45 With
Boehme there was a teaching of genius in this, that the love of God amidst the darkness is transformed
into wrath, thus perceived. Boehme thinks always in oppositions, in antitheses, in antinomies. All life is
fire, but the fire has a twofold aspect: "der ewigen Leben zwei in zweierlei Quaal sind, und ein jedes
stehet in seinem Feuer. Eines brennet in der Liebe im Freudenreich; das andere im Zorne, im Grimme
und Wehe, und seine Materia ist Hoffart, Geiz, Neid, Zorn, seine Quaal vergleichet sich einem
Schwefel-Geist: denn Aufsteigen der Hoffart im Geiz, Neid und Zorn macht zusammen einen
Schwefel, darinnen das Feuer brennet, und sich immer mit dieser Materia entzuendet" {"The two
eternal lives are in a twofold tension, and each one is set within its own fire. The one burns within love
in a state of joy; the other within wrath, in fury and woe, and its material is pride, greed, envy, anger. Its
torment makes of it a sulphurous-spirit: then the arousal of pride, in greed, envy and wrath mix
altogether that sulphur, wherein the fire doth burn, and is always fired up with this material"}.46 But
Christ upon the Cross hath transformed the wrath into love. "Am Kreuze musste Christus diesen
grimmigen Zorn, welcher in Adams Essenz war aufgewacht, in sein heiliges, himmlisches Ens trinken,
und mit der grossen Liebe in goettliche Freude verwandeln" {"Upon the Cross Christ had to suffer that
furious wrath, which had in Adam's essence been aroused, imbibing it into His holy and heavenly
Being, and with great love in godly joy transformed"}.47 Boehme's understanding of the Redemption
is cosmogonic and anthropogonic, a continuation of the world creation.
Schelling, in his book, "Philosophische Untersuchungen ueber das Wesen der menschlichen
Freiheit" {"Philosophic Investigations Concerning the Nature of Human Freedom"}, moves along the
lines of Boehme's ideas concerning the Ungrund and freedom, although he does not always correctly
understand Boehme. Clearly echoing Boehme resound the words of Schelling: "Alle Geburt ist Geburt
aus Dunkel ins Licht" {"All birth is a birth from darkness into light"}. The initial primal creation is
nothing other, than a birth of light, as a surmounting of darkness. In order that there be the good from
darkness, from a potential condition that should pass over into an actual condition, freedom is
necessary. Being for Schelling is will. He is the first in German philosophy to develope Boehme's
voluntarism. Things possess their ground not in God Himself, but in the nature of God. Evil is possible
only because, that in God there is that, which is not God, which is an ungroundedness in God, a dark
will, i.e. the Ungrund. Nature both for Schelling, and for Boehme, is an history of spirit, and for
Schelling everything, which is examined within nature, within the objective world, leads forth through
the subject. The idea of process within God, of a theogony, is taken by Schelling from Boehme. In his
"Philosophie der Offenbarung" {"Philosophy of Revelation"}, Schelling makes an heroic effort to
surmount German idealism and break through into philosophic realism. And Boehme helps him in
this.48 Schelling attempted to surmount the pantheistic monism of German idealist philosophy. He was
aware, that pantheism is incompatible with freedom. The pantheistic denial of evil leads to a denial of
freedom. The fundamental basis of evil, according to Schelling -- is predicated to the utmost. Evil is the
ungroundedness of existence, i.e. bound up with the Ungrund, with potential freedom. All this involves

Boehme's motifs. But closer to Boehme and more in accord with him was Fr. Baader, who to the
extreme felt poisoned by the idealist rift from being and like Schelling became immersed in Boehme.
Fr. Baader was Catholic, but a Catholic very free and very in the spirit of Eastern Orthodoxy. Baader
with a remarkable simplicity and clarity finds justified Boehme's dynamic understanding of God, with
the admitting of a genesis within the Divine life. If there were no genesis within the self-consciousness
of God, then the Divine self-consciousness would be bereft both of life and of process.49 A dynamic
understanding of God means also, that God for us is alive, has an inner life, that within the Divine life
is the dramatism common to all life. This is perhaps inconsistent with Thomas Aquinas and with the
Scholastic theology, but it is consistent with the Biblical Revelation. Baader indeed provides a
remarkable definition of evil, as a sickness, a distortion of the hierarchical order, a displacement of the
centre of being, after which being passes over into non-being.
Characteristic to Boehme's world-view is that he hated the idea of predestination. And in this he
was not a man in the Protestant spirit.50 He wanted to defend the goodness of God and the freedom of
man, both alike undermined by the teaching about predestination. He was prepared to sacrifice the
almightiness and omniscience of God and admit, that God not foresee the consequences of freedom. He
asserts, that God did not foresee the downfall of angels. This problem deeply tormented him and in this
torment was the moral significance of his creative path. But Boehme herein does not always say one
and the same thing, and his thoughts tend to be antinomic and even contradictory. Characteristic to him
was an antinomic attitude towards evil. And similar to him in this is our Dostoevsky. The evil, so
tormentive for Boehme, finds its explanation in this, that at the primal basis of being lies the Ungrund,
the dark, irrational, meonic freedom, a potentiality determined by nothing. The dark freedom is
unpenetrable for God, He does not foresee its results and is not answerable for evil as regards its origin,
it is not created by God. The teaching about the Ungrund removes from God the responsibility for evil,
which the almightiness and omniscience of God evokes a sense of. Yet amidst all this Boehme sees the
Ungrund in God Himself, within God there is the dark principle, there is the struggle of light and
darkness. It might be said, that the dark principle (dark here does not mean evil) is in the Gottheit, in
the Godhead, but not in Gott, not in God. Boehme to the extreme sets in opposition the Person of the
Son, as love, in contrast to the Person of the Father, as wrath. In the Son already there is no sort of dark
principle, He is all entirely light, love, good. But thereupon the Father is transformed into the Divinity
of apophatic theology. And herein are to be sensed gnostic motifs. But the evil, which so torments
Boehme, has for him also a positive mission. The Divine light can reveal itself only through the
opposition of the other, the darkness set opposite. This is a condition of every actualisation, of every
genesis. The evil is not only a negative principle, but also positive. Yet amidst this, the evil remains evil
and has to burn itself out, has to be conquered. Everywhere in nature there is the struggle of opposing
principles, and not calm, not an eternal order. And this struggle of opposing principles possesses also a
positive significance. Only through it there is revealed the supreme light, good, love. Being is a
combination of contrasting opposites, of the yes and the no.51 The yes is impossible without the no.
And the whole of being and the Divinity itself -- is in a fiery movement. But this does not mean, as the
German idealist metaphysics at the beginning XIX Century tended to assert it, that God is merely
becoming, merely the end of the world process. Hell does exist for Boehme, but in the hell of Boehme,
just as in the hell of Swedenborg, they do not suffer. With Boehme already there was that new manner
of soul, which could not say like Thomas Aquinas, that the righteous one in paradise takes delight at
contemplating the torment of the sinner in hell. The thoughts of Boehme concerning freedom and evil
remain antinomic. His thoughts, begotten of a basic intuition of the Ungrund, were not logically
harmonious and consistent. When the German idealist metaphysics attempted to harmonise them and
take them to their logical conclusion, within an higher consciousness, it failed to surmount the tragic

antinomy of evil and freedom, it sought to annul, it dulled down into a primordial monism the acute
and burning awareness of evil and freedom. Boehme's teaching about the Ungrund explains as deriving
from freedom the origin of evil, the downfall of Lucifer, drawing after him in the Fall the whole of
creation, yet together with this the Ungrund carries over into God Himself and explains a genesis, the
dynamic process within the Divine life. Herein becomes possible a break with extreme monism and
extreme dualism, alike mistaken from the perspective of the Christian revelation. The thinking of
Boehme is all as it were on a slender edge and constantly subject to danger from the opposite sides, but
his fundamental intuition is a matter of genius, organic and fruitful. The teaching concerning the
Ungrund and freedom run counter to Greek rationalism, with which the Medieval Scholasticism was
infected and from which even the Patristic thought was not free. Boehme has to be acknowledged as
the founder of the philosophy of freedom, which is genuinely a Christian philosophy.52 The non-tragic
and rationalistic optimism of Thomas Aquinas gives way to a tragic philosophy of freedom. Freedom -is the source of tragedy.
Hegel attempted to apply an optimistic character to the very principle of contradiction and the
struggle of opposing principles. He transferred life over into the concept and made the concept itself to
be the source of dramatism and passion. After Thomas Aquinas, Hegel represents a second genius-like
flaring up of rationalism. But at the foundational basis of Hegel's philosophy lies an irrational principle.
The Divinity for Hegel is a primordially unconscious Deity, which comes to consciousness only
through human philosophy, in the philosophy of Hegel himself. The irrational has to become
rationalised, within the darkness there has to be awakened the light. The rational perception of the
irrational, lying at the ground of being, is a fundamental and grandiose theme of German metaphysics.
German philosophy is that of the metaphysical northlands. The world is not illumined naturally and
from the start by the solar light, it is plunged in darkness, light is obtained through a plunging into the
subject, from the depths of the spirit. In this lies a deep-rooted difference of German thought from the
Latin. German thought understands the reason differently, than does the Latin. Within the German
understanding, reason stands afront the irrational darkness and has to bring light into it. In the Latin
understanding, antiquity's understanding, reason from the start illumines the world, like the sun, and the
reason within man but reflects reason in the nature of things. The German idea however comes from
Boehme, from the teaching about the Ungrund, about freedom, about the irrational principle, lodged
within the depths of being. With Boehme begins a new era in the history of Christian thought. His
influence is enormous, but externally not so obvious, acting moreso like an inner engrafting. This
influence is obvious only in Fr. Baader and Schelling. But it is there also in Fichte, in Hegel, in
Schopenhauer.53 And very strong is Boehme's influence in Romanticism and in occult currents.54
Without Boehme's intuitions of genius, the rationalism of antiquity and Scholastic philosophy, as also
the rationalism of modern philosophy, of Descartes and Spinoza, count not be surmounted. Only a
mythologic consciousness could have seen an irrational principle within being, wherein the philosophic
consciousness had always seen but a rational principle. Boehme returns metaphysics back to the
sources of the mythological consciousness of mankind. But his mythological consciousness itself is
nourished by the wellsprings of the Biblical Revelation. From Boehme comes the dynamism of
German philosophy, and it might even be said, the dynamism of all the thought of the XIX Century.
Boehme was the first to have conceived of the world, of life as a passionate struggle, as movement,
process, an eternal genesis. Only amidst such an intuition of world life could there become possible the
phenomenon of Faust, could there become possible Darwin, Marx, Nietzsche, already so remotely
sundered from the religious ponderings of Boehme. The teaching of Boehme about the Ungrund and
about freedom makes it possible to explain not only the origin of evil, even though antinomically, but
also to explain the creativity of the new in world life, creative dynamics. Creativity by its nature is a
creativity from out of meonic freedom, from out of nothing, from the Ungrund, it presupposes this
unfathomable wellspring within being, it presupposes the darkness, underlying the enlightening. There

was an aberration of Boehme in this, that he thought the Ungrund, the dark principle was in God
Himself, rather than seeing the principle of freedom in the Nothing, in the meonic, outside of God. It is
necessary to distinguish between the Divine Nothing and the non-being outside God. But the thought of
Boehme is inconducive to the understanding, it is somewhat coarse. Boehme would not have consented
to this, that within God is the source of evil. This also is something that tormented him. His thought
remains antinomic, not subject to logical explication. But his moral will was pure, not for an instant
poisoned by an inner evil. Boehme -- was a pious Christian, fervently believing, and with a pure heart.
His viprous wisdom was combined with a simplicity of heart, with faith. This mustneeds always be
kept in mind in making judgements on Boehme. Boehme was neither a pantheist nor a monist, nor was
he a Manichaean. Carriere also correctly says, that Boehme was neither a pantheist, nor a dualist.
Boehme's idea about the Ungrund tended not only to be further developed, but also distorted,
within German philosophy, similar to what resulted from the wellsprings of the Christian revelation,
from the Christian realism. German metaphysics thus became prone to imperialism, to monism, it
taught about God, as coming about to be within the world process. But the voluntarism of Boehme was
very fruitful for philosophy, just as also was the teaching about the struggle of opposing principles, of
light and darkness, about the necessity of opposition for the developement of positive principles. The
metaphysics of Boehme is a musical Christian metaphysics and in this it is in character for the German
spirit. In this it is distinct from the architectural Christian metaphysics of Thomas Aquinas, in character
for the Latin spirit. The German metaphysics of the XIX Century attempted to convey a musical theme
into a conceptual system. In this grandiose scope of their project was also the cause for the breakdown
of their systems. At present a revival of Boehme has become feasible. He is written about in a series of
new books. He can be of help in surmounting not only the routines of Greek thought and Medieval
Scholasticism, but also that German Idealism, upon which he himself had an inner influence. Just also
as with Fr. Baader, Boehme for us as Russians ought to be nearer and dearer than other thinkers of the
West. By the unique traits of our spirit we are called to construct a philosophy of tragedy, and foreign to
us is the optimistic rationalism of European thought. Boehme so loved freedom, that he saw therein the
authentic Church, only where there is freedom. Boehme had an influence on Russian mystical currents
of the late XVIII and early XIX Centuries, but they assimilated him naively and without any creative
working out. He was translated into the Russian language and penetrated right down into the segments
of the common people, into the theosophy of the people, where they esteemed him as almost a father of
the Church. Curiously, Herzen, in his "Letters Concerning the Study of Nature", spoke enthusiastically
about Boehme. Boehme's influence later on can be found in Vl. Solov'ev, but it was overshadowed by
the rationalistic schematism. The philosophy of Vl. Solov'ev cannot be called a philosophy of freedom
or a philosophy of tragedy. But in the Russian thought of the beginning XX Century those closest to
Boehme were writing along suchlike lines. The guardians of Orthodoxy, having an especial taste for the
detection of heresies, tend to fear the influence of Boehme, as being someone non-Orthodox, a
Protestant, as well as a gnostic and theosophist. But actually the whole Western world is non-Orthodox,
the whole of the thought of Western Europe is a non-Orthodox thought. From such a point of view,
indeed, it would become necessary to flee any involvement with Western thought and moreover
struggle against it, as a temptation and evil. This is a most unadulterated form of obscurantism and a
return to our old empty-headedness. The Christian world in its most creative period nourished itself
upon the pagan thought of antiquity. And in any case Boehme was more a Christian, than was Plato,
who stands for high esteem with us as regards the Patristic tradition, and moreso also than Kant, who is
held in high regard by many Orthodox theologians, e.g. Metropolitan Antonii. Boehme is very difficult
a challenge for the understanding and from him can result very diverse and contrary conclusions. I see
the significance of Boehme for Christian philosophy and Christian theosophy to be in this, that he
attempted by his contemplation to surmount the grip of Greek and Latin thought over the Christian
consciousness, he immersed himself in the primal mystery of life, which the thought of antiquity had

avoided. Christian theology, and not only the Catholic theology, is so overgrown with Greek thought,
with Platonism, Aristotelianism and Stoicism, that any infringements upon the routines of this thought
are regarded as an infringement upon the Christian Revelation. And indeed the Greek teachers of the
Church were learned in Greek philosophy, they were Platonists and upon their thinking lies the imprint
of the limitedness of Greek rationalism. This thinking failed to resolve the problem of the person, the
problem of freedom, the problem of creative dynamics. Boehme not only was not an Aristotelian, he
also was not a Platonist, and his influence lies outside the struggle between Eastern Platonism and
Western Aristotelianism. Boehme was nigh close only to Herakleitos. I think, that there has to be
surmounted in Christian philosophy not only the Aristotelianism, but also the Platonism, as
representing a philosophy static and of a repetitive world, incapable of pondering the mystery of
freedom and creativity. The teaching of Boehme about Sophia, to which I shall shift in the following
etude, is not a Christian Platonism, as Russian Sophiology tries to conceive of itself, its sense is
altogether different. Boehme's teaching concerning the Ungrund and freedom needs however to be
further developed regarding the distinction between the Divine abyss and Divine freedom, in contrast
to the meonic abyss and meonic freedom.55 In the final inexpressible depths of the mystery this
distinction also will dissipate, but at the threshold in approach of this mystery, this distinction ought to
be made.
Nikolai Berdyaev.
2002 by translator Fr. S. Janos -- with the great and gracious assist of Fr Michael Knechten in
correction of the German portions of the original Put' text, and his intensive review with the translation
from German.
(1930 - 349 -en)
feb. 1930, No. 20, p. 47-79.
1 The edition, which I have used and from which I make citations, is "Jakob Boehme's Saemmtliche
Werke herausgegeben von K. W. Schieber" ["Jacob Boehme's Collected Works edited by K. W.
Schieber"], in seven volumes from the 1840's. From books about Boehme, I have used: FR. BAADER,
"Vorlesungen uber J. Boehme's Theologumena und Philosopheme" {"Lectures on J. Boehme's
Theologumena and Philosophy"}; the third volume from 1852 has also his "Vorlesungen und
Erlaeuterungen zu J. Boehme's Lehre"{"Lectures and Insights into J. Boehme's Teachings"}; the
thirteenth volume of the "Collected Works" is 1855; M. CARRIERE, "Die Philosophische
Weltanschaung der Reformationzeit" {"The Philosophical WorldView of the Reformation Period"}
(there is a large chapter about Boehme); MARTENSEN, "Jakob Boehme. Theosophische Studien"
{"Jacob Boehme. Theosophical Studies"}; HARLESS, "Jakob Boehme und die Alchymisten" {"Jacob
Boehme and the Alchemists"}; EMILE BOUTROUX, "Le Philosophe allemand Jacob Boehme" {"The
German Philosoph Jacob Boehme"}; DEUSSEN, Jacob Boehme; ELERT, "Die voluntaristische Mystik
Jacob Boehmes" {"The Voluntaristic Mysticism of Jacob Boehme"}; BORNKAMM, "Luther und
Boehme"; HANKAMMER, "Jacob Boehme"; "Jacob Boehme Gedenkgabe der Stadt Goerlitz zu
seinem 300 jaehrigen Todestage. herausgegeben von Richard Jecht" {"Jacob Boehme Commemoration
in the City of Goerlitz for his 300th Year of Repose. edited by Richard Jecht"}, 1924; RUFUS M.
JONES, "Geistige Reformatoren des sechzehnten und siebzehnten Jahrhunderts" {"The Spirit of the

reformers of the Sixteen and Seventeen Hundreds"}, 1925, Quaker Publishing (American author); R.
STEINER, "Mystik" {"Mysticism"}; and the most recent thorough investigation on Boehme: A.
KOYRE, "La Philosophie de Jacob Boehme", 1929.
2 I consider it incorrect to term the old gnostics as Christian heretics. Having been begotten of the
religious syncretism of the Hellenistic era -- they were not so much distorters of Christianity with the
pagan wisdom of the East and Greece, as rather enrichers of this wisdom by Christianity.
3 Close to Boehme, the German Christian theosophist of the XVIII Century, Oetinger, said about
Boehme: "Gott habe ihm durch Offenbarung gezeigt, welche diejenige Grundweisheit sei, welche zur
hl. Schrift gehoert" {"God hath shown him through Revelation, what is that fundamental wisdom,
which doth hearken to the Holy Scripture"}. "Die Theosophie Fr. Chr. Oetingers", von Auberlen, p.
4 Vide "Jacob Boehme's Saemmtliche Werke" -- edited by K. W. Schiebler, Leipzig, 1831-1846 (used
for this and the quotations to follow); Vol. II, "Aurora", p. 255.
5 Vide Vol. II, p. 260.
6 Vide Vol. III, "Die Drei Principien Goettlichen Wesens" {"The Three Principles of the Godly
Essence"}, p. 26-27.
7 Vide Vol. I, p. 144.
8 Vide Vol. II, "Aurora", p. 19.
9 Vol. IV, "De signatura Rerum", p. 346.
10 Vol. V, p. 3.
11 Vide Vol. VI, "De incarnatione Verbi", p. 319.
12 Bornkamm accurately points this out in his book, "Luther und Boehme", though he exaggerates the
affinity of Boehme with Luther.
13 Vide A. Koyre, "La philosophie de Jacob Boehme", p. 30 and p. 25.
14 This was beautifully expressed by Valentin Weigel: "Gott ist in sich selber einig und hat keinen
Namen. [...] Er wird aber entweder fuer sich selbst, absolute, betrachtet, ohne alle Kreaturen, wie er in
seiner verborgenen Einigkeit ist, oder respectu creaturarum, wie er sich haelt und erzeigt in der
Offenbarung mit seiner Kreatur. Absolute, allein und fuer sich selbst, ohne alle Kreatur, ist und bleibt
Gott personlos, zeitlos, staettelos, wirkunglos, willenlos, affektlos und also ist er weder Vater noch
Sohn noch heiliger Geist, er ist die Ewigkeit selber ohne Zeit, er schwebt und wohnt in sich selber an
jedem Ort, er wirkt nichts, will auch nichts, begehrt auch nichts. Denn was sollte er wirken, begehren
oder wollen? Ist er doch mit seiner seligen Ruhe und Ewigkiet das vollkommene All, es ist ihm alles
gegenwaertig und nichts zukuenftig noch vergangen, darum begehrt er nichts, darum hofft er nichts, er
besitzt alle Dinge in sich selbst, und ist keines Dinges beduerftig. [...] Aber respektive d.i. in, mit und
durch die Kreatur wird er persoenlich, wirkend, wollend, begehrend, nimmt Affekte an sich, oder laesst
sich unserthalben Personen und Affekte zuschreiben. Da wird er zum Vater und wird zum Sohne und ist

der Sohn selber, er wird zum hl. Geiste und ist selber der hl. Geist, er will, wirkt und schafft alle Dinge
und ist alle Dinge, er ist aller Wesen Wesen, aller Lebendigen Leben, aller Lichter Licht, aller Weisen
Weisheit, aller Vermoegenden Vermoegen" {"God in Himself is one and has no name. [...] He will
however either have to be considered for Himself an absolute, apart from all creatures, as He is in His
hidden oneness, or respectu creaturarum, as He is and manifests Himself in revealing Himself with His
creature. Absolutely, alone and but for Himself, without any creature, is and remains God such as is
personless, timeless, stateless, inactive, without will or affect, and is also neither Father nor Son nor
Holy Spirit, He is Himself eternity without time, He is present and abides in Himself in every place, He
works nothing, likewise wills nothing, likewise desires nothing. For then, what is He supposed to work,
to desire or will? He is indeed in His blissful repose and eternity the perfect All, all is in the present for
Him and there is nothing future nor of the transitory past, therefore He desires nothing, therefore He in
hope expects nothing, He sustains all things in Himself, and is needful for His things. But respective,
i.e. in, with and through the creature He is as Person, active, willing, desiring, He assumes upon
Himself affect, or lets it be ascribed to Him in semblance to us of Person and affect. Therein He will
become the Father, and the Son and is the Son Himself, and the Spirit and is Himself the Spirit, He
wills, forms and creates all things and is all things, He is at the essence of all essence, the life of
everything alive, the light of all alight, the wisdom of everything profound, the capacity of everything
possible"}. "Deutsche Froemmigkeit, Stimmen deutscher Gottesfreunde". Verlegt bei Diederichs 1917,
p. 183.
15 Vide Vol. III, "Die drei Principien goettlichen Wesens", p. 385.
16 The English follower of Boehme, Pordage, speaks about "the eye of the Ungrund from eternity".
Vide his "Theologia mystica".
17 A nothingness in the sense of me on, and not ouk on.
18 Vide Vol. IV, "Vom dreifachen Leben des Menschen", p. 25.
19 Vide Vol. IV, p. 284-285.
20 Vol. IV, p. 286.
21 Vol. IV, p. 287, 288, 289.
22 Vol. IV, p. 406.
23 Vide Vol. IV, p. 428.
24 Vol. IV, p. 429.
25 Vol. IV, p. 429.
26 The elements of voluntarism were there already in Dun Scotus, but altogether different, than with
27 The darkness here is not as yet evil.
28 Vide Vol. IV, "Von der Gnadenwahl", p. 504.

29 Vide Vol. IV, p. 607.

30 Vide Vol. V, "Mysterium magnum", p. 7.
31 Vide Vol. V, p. 162.
32 Vide Vol. V, p. 164.
33 Vide Vol. V, p. 165.
34 Vol. V, p. 193.
35 Vol. VI, "Psychologia vera", p. 7.
36 Vol. VI, p. 14.
37 Vol. VI, p. 15.
38 Vol. VI, p. 60.
39 Vol. VI, p. 155.
40 Vol. VI, "Mysterium pansophicum", p. 413.
41 Vol. V, "Mysterium magnum", p. 61.
42 Vol. V, "Mysterium magnum", p. 41.
43 Vol. IV, "De signature Rerum", p. 317-318.
44 Vide Vol. V, p. 38.
45 Vol. V, p. 38.
46 Vol. III, "Die drei Principien goettlichen Wesens", p. 385.
47 Vide Vol. V, p. 133.
48 In his final period, the period of the "Philosophy of Mythology and Revelation", Schelling was
indebted to Boehme as regards his basic ideas, but he was very unjust to him and expressed
judgements, lacking in truth. "Was dem Theosophismus zu Grunde lieget, wo er immer zu einer
wenigstens materiell wissenschaftlichen oder speculativen Bedeutung gelangt -- was namentlich dem
Theosophismus Jakob Boehmes zu Grunde liegt, ist das an sich anerkennenswerthe Bestreben, das
Hervorgehen der Dinge aus Gott als einen wirklichen Hergang zu begreifen. Diess weiss nun aber
Jakob Boehme nicht anders zu bewerkstelligen, als indem er die Gottheit selbst in eine Art von
Naturprocess verwickelt. Das Eigenthuemliche der positiven Philosophie besteht aber gerade darin,
dass sie allen Process in diesem Sinne verwirft, in welchem naemlich Gott das nicht bloss logische,
sondern wirkliche Resultat eines Processes waere. Positive Philosophie ist insofern vielmehr in

direktem Gegensatz mit allem und jedem theosophischen Bestreben" {"What lies at the basis of
theosophy, what it always has arrived at as least material scientific or speculative meaning -- what in
particular lies at the groundwork of the theosophy of Jacob Boehme, is itself a praiseworthy effort to
understand the emanation of the things from God as an actual process. Yet this however is what Jacob
Boehme but managed to accomplish, that he entangles the Godhead Itself within an aspect of the
nature-process. The peculiarness of Positive Philosophy rests directly upon this, that the entire process
would reject the sense, in which God namely be not merely logical, but rather the actual result of a
process. Positive Philosophy is far contrary and in direct contrast to all and every theosophic
endeavour"}. ("Schellings Saemmtliche Werke", Zweite Abteilung, Dritter Band, -- "Philosophie der
Offenbarung", B. I., 1858, p. 121). "Sowie J. Boehme ueber die Anfaenge der Natur hinaus und ins
Concrete geht, kann man ihm nicht mehr folgen; hier verliert sich alle Spur, und es wird stets ein
vergebliches Bemuehen bleiben, ihn aus dem verworrenen Concept seiner Anschauungen ins Reine zu
schreiben, was man auch nacheinander Kantsche, Fichtesche, naturphilosophische, zuletzt sogar
Hegelsche Begriffe dazu anwendet" {"When J. Boehme goes far out beyond the beginnings of nature
and into the concrete, one knows not how to follow him further; here all traces are lost and it instead
will remain a vain effort, to inscribe from the confused concept its intuition in pure, which one after the
other the Kantian, the Fichtean, the Nature-Philosophy, and finally the more pervasive Hegelian,
employs therein"}. (Ibid. p. 124). "Dem Rationalismus kann nichts durch eine That, z.b. durch freie
Schoepfung, entstehen, er kennt bloss wesentliche Verhaeltnisse. Alles folgt ihm bloss modo aeterno,
ewiger, d.h. bloss logischer Weise, durch immanente Bewegung... Der falsche Rationalismus naehert
sich eben darum dem Theosophismus, der nicht weniger als jener im bloss substantiellen Wissen
gefangen ist; der Theosophismus will es wohl ueberwinden, aber es gelingt ihm nicht, wie am
deutlichsten an J. Boehme zu sehen. Wohl kaum hat je ein anderer Geist in der Glut dieses bloss
substantiellen Wissens so ausgehalten wie J. Boehme; offenbar ist ihm Gott die unmittelbare Substanz
der Welt; ein freies Verhaeltniss Gottes zu der Welt, eine freie Schoepfung will er zwar, aber er kann sie
nicht herausbringen. Obgleich er sich Theosophie nennt, also Anspruch macht, Wissenschaft des
Goettlichen zu seyn, ist der Inhalt, zu dem der Theosophismus es bringt doch nur die substantielle
Bewegung, und er stellt Gott nur in substantieller Bewegung dar. Der Theosophismus ist seiner Natur
nach nicht minder ungeschichtlich als der Rationalismus. Aber der Gott einer wahrhaft geschichtlichen
und positiven Philosophie bewegt sich nicht, er handelt. Die substantielle Bewegung, in welcher der
Rationalismus befangen ist, geht von einem negativen Prius, d.h. von einem nichtseyenden aus, das
sich erst ins Seyn zu bewegen hat; aber die geschichtliche Philosophie geht von einem positiven, d.h.
von dem seyenden Prius aus, das sich nicht erst ins Seyn zu bewegen hat, also nur mit vollkommener
Freiheit, ohne irgendwie durch sich selbst dazu genoethigt zu seyn, ein Seyn setzt, und zwar nicht sein
eignes unmittelbar, sondern ein von seinem Seyn verschiedenes Seyn, in welchem jenes vielmehr negirt
oder suspendirt als gesetzt, also jedenfalls nur mittelbar gesetzt ist. Es geziemt Gott, gleichgueltig
gegen sein eignes Seyn zu seyn, nicht geziemt ihm aber, sich um sein eignes Seyn zu bemuehen, sich
ein Seyn zu geben, sich in ein Seyn zu gebaeren, wie J. Boehme diess ausdrueckt, der als Inhalt der
hoechsten Wissenschaft, d.h. der Theosophie, eben die Geburt des goettlichen Wesens, die goettliche
Geburt ausspricht, also eine eigentliche Theogonie. [...] Dass nun freilich die positive Philosophie nicht
Theosophismus seyn koenne, diess liegt schon darin, dass sie eben als Philosophie und als
Wissenschaft bestimmt worden; indess jener sich selbst nicht Philosophie nennen und auf Wissenschaft
verzichtend aus unmittelbarem Schauen reden will" {"Nothing is known to rationalism through action,
i.e. to originate through action a free creation, it knows merely the bare essential conditions. All follow
it blindly modo aeterno, in an eternal i.e. blindly logical manner, through an immanent movement...
The false rationalism comes nigh close in points to theosophy, caught up no less than it in bare
substantial knowledge; theosophy itself seeks by and by to surmount it, but if successful, it would be
for naught, as clearly is seen with J. Boehme. Scarcely ever has another spirit in the glow of this bare
substantial knowledge been so noticeable as J. Boehme; God is revealed for him as the unmediated

substance of the world; he indeed wants a free creation, a free condition of God in relation to the world,
but he cannot produce it. Though it calls itself theosophy, making pretension to be the knowledge of
God, it is rather a content, which theosophy introduces into it, only still a substantial movement, and it
postulates God only in the substantial movement therein. Theosophy of its nature is nowise less
historical than rationalism. But the God of a genuine historical and positive philosophy moves nothing,
He acts. The substantial movement, in which rationalism is involved, proceeds from a negative Prius, a
first principle, i.e. from an unfathomable such that it is the first in being to have movement; historical
philosophy however proceeds from the positive, i.e. from the fathomable Prius, a first principle, such
that it is not the first in being to have movement, yet also only with a perfect freedom, without
somehow through itself being obliged to be, a setting of being, indeed not uniquely unmediated,
without the having from its being a different being, in which this is on the contrary denied or suspended
as legitimate, since in this case only the directly immediate is legitimate. God has to be effortlessly in
His own being. He should not have to make the effort to be, should not Himself have to be allowed
being, should not Himself be born into His being, as J. Boehme tends to express it, with all the whole
content of the utmost knowing, i.e. theosophy, with even the birth of the Divine Being, speaking about
a birth of God, as some sort of an actual theogony. Positive philosophy certainly cannot grant this now
of theosophy, the reason for this is that it is philosophy and knowledge; for this cannot call itself
philosophy, because it renounces of knowledge and speaks of an unmediated view"}. (Ibid, p. 124126). Schelling himself might be quite the more guilty than Boehme in a tendency towards naturalism
and rationalism. The intuitions of Schelling, bearing primarily a philosophic character, would be thus
less primary, than the intuitions of Boehme. But Schelling is subtle in his remark, that theosophism is
not historical and not felicitous for the understanding of history.
49 Vide "Franz von Baader's Saemmtliche Werke", Vol. 13, "Vorlesungen und Erlaeuterungen zu Jacob
Boehme's Lehre" {"Lectures and Explanations on Jacob Boehme's Teachings"}, p. 65.
50 This is stressed particularly by Koyre. Vide his "La philosophie de Jacob Boehme", p. 158.
51 This is well elucidated in the book of Koyre. Vide p. 395-396.
52 Vide Charles Secretan, "La philosophie de la liberte".
53 Kroner, in his notable history of German Idealism, "Von Kant bis Hegel", points to J. Boehme,
alongside Eckhardt and Luther, as one of the sources for German philosophy.
54 Vide the recently arisen and extraordinary interest as regards the material in the two tome collection
of Viatte, "Les sources occultes du Romantisme". Everywhere is apparent the enormous influence of
55 Modern psychology and psychopathology scientifically discern the Ungrund within the human soul
and call it the unconsciousness. But they do not adequately make a distinction between the
subconsciousness and the supra-consciousness, between the lower and the uppermost abyss. Vide the
summation in the book of Dwelshauvers, "L'Inconcient".
With the Ungrund is connected likewise archaic man. In this regard especially important is

Etude II. The Teaching about Sophia and the Androgyne.

J. Boehme and the Russian Sophiological Current.
(1930 - #351)
Boehme has a most remarkable teaching about Sophia, essentially the first in the history of
Christian thought. His was a completely original intuition. The sophiology of Boehme cannot be
explained by influences and borrowings.1 If Boehme in his intuition of the Ungrund tends to see
darkness, then in the intuition of Sophia he tends to see light. Boehme's understanding of Sophia has its
own theological and cosmological side, but overall it is primarily anthropological. Sophia for him is
bound up with the pure, the virginal, the chaste and integrally whole image of man. Sophia is likewise
purity and virginity, the integral wholeness and chasteness of man, the image and likeness of God in
man. Boehme's teaching about Sophia is inseparable from his teaching about androgyny, i.e. the initial
integral wholeness of man. Man possesses an androgynic, bisexual, masculine-feminine nature. Innate
to man was Sophia, i.e. a Virgin. The fall through sin is also a loss of his Sophia-Virgin, which has
flown off to the heavens. Upon the earth instead has arisen the feminine, Eve. Man grieves with
longing for his lost Sophia, his lost virginal state, the wholeness and chasteness. Half a being is a being
torn asunder, having lost the integral wholeness. In his teaching about androgyny Boehme stands in the
same line, which is to be found in the "Symposium" of Plato, and the Kabbala. "Siehe! ich gebe dir ein
gerecht Gleichniss: du seist ein Juengling oder Jungfrau, wie denn Adam alles beides in einer Person
war" {"Behold, I give a correct comparison, for thou art divided into a youth or a maiden, whereas
Adam was all both in one person"}.2 The unique aspect of Boehme's teaching about Sophia is in this,
that it is first of all a teaching about the Virgin and virginity. The Divine Wisdom within man is a
virginity of soul, the Virgin, lost by man in the fall through sin and shining in the heavens. "Die Seele
sollte sein der schoene Juengling, der geschaffen war; und die Kraft Gottes die schoene Jungfrau, und
das Licht Gottes die schoene Perlen-Krone, damit wollte die Jungfrau den Juengling schmuecken"
{"The soul was supposed to be a beautiful youth, as which it was created; and the power of God a
beautiful Virgin, and the light of God a beautiful Pearl-Crown, wherewith the Virgin wanted to adorn
the youth"}.3 Adam, who initially was an androgyne, in his fall through sin by his fault lost his Virgin
and found the woman. "Adam hat durch seine Lust verloren die Jungfrau, und hat in seiner Lust
empfangen das Weib, welche ist eine cagastrische Person; und die Jungfrau wartet seiner noch
immerdar, ob er will wieder treten in die neue Geburt so will sie ihn mit grossen Ehren wieder
annehmen" {"Adam through his lustful desire has lost the Virgin, and in his desire has come to perceive
the womanly, which is a transitory person; and the Virgin yet ever awaits, whether he will again appear
in a new birth so that it again can be assumed by him with great honour"}.4 Eve -- is the child of this
world and is created for this world: "die Heva ist zu diesem zerbrechlichen Leben geschaffen worden;
denn sie ist die Frau dieser Welt" {"Eve is formed for this fragile life; and thus she is the woman of this
world"}.5 Androgyny likewise is the image and likeness of God in man: "allein das Bild und
Gleichniss Gottes, der Mensch, welcher die zuechtige Jungfrau der Weisheit Gottes in sich hatte: so
drang der Geist dieser Welt also hart auf die Bildniss nach der Jungfrau; hiermit seine Wunder zu
offenbaren, und besass den Menschen, davon er erst seinen Namen Mensch kriegte, als eine vermischte
Person" {"Alone hath man in himself the image and likeness of God, which is the chaste Virgin of the
Wisdom of God: thus also strongly impressed upon the spirit of this world is the image still of the
Virgin, herewith revealing its miracle in possessing man, because he foremost hath the Name of Man,
as a composite Person"}.6 The initial and pure image of man is the image of the virginal-youth. The
Sophia aspect is a constitutive sign of man, as an integrally whole being. The Virgin is also the Divine
Wisdom. And here is a most lucid definition of Sophia by Boehme: "Die Weisheit Gottes ist eine ewige

Jungfrau, nicht ein Weib, sondern die Zucht und Reinigkeit ohne Makel, und stehet als ein Bildniss
Gottes, ist ein Ebenbild der Dreizahl" {"The Wisdom of God is an eternal Virgin, not a female, but a
chasteness and purity without a blemish, and represents also an image of God, it is a like image in form
of the Trinity"}.7 In another place he says: "Und die Jungfrau der Weisheit Gottes, welche Gott der
Vater durchs Wort ausspricht, ist der Geist der reinen Elements, und wird darum eine Jungfrau genannt,
dass sie also zuechtig ist und nicht gebieret, sondern als der flammende Geist im Menschen-Leibe
nichts gebieret" {"And the Virgin of the Wisdom of God, which God the Father hath bespoken through
the Word, is the Spirit of the pure element, and is therefore termed a Virgin, being chaste and not giving
birth, but rather as a flaming spirit in man -- not birthgiving of body"}.8 And here is a corresponding
statement: "Dieses Ausgesprochene ist ein Bildniss der hl. Dreizahl, und eine Jungfrau, aber ohne
Wesen, sondern eine Gleichniss Gottes: in dieser Jungfrau eroeffnet der heilige Geist die grossen
Wunder Gottes des Vaters, welche sind in seinen verborgenen Siegeln" {"This out-speaking is an image
of the Holy Trinity, and a Virgin, but without essence of being, save as a likeness of God: in this Virgin
the Holy Spirit makes manifest the great wonder of God the Father, hidden in its seals"}.9 "Diese
Weisheit Gottes, welche ist eine Jungfrau der Zierheit und Ebenbild der Dreizahl, ist in ihrer Figur eine
Bildniss gleich den Engeln und Menschen, und nimmt ihren Urstand im Centro auf dem Kreuz, als eine
Blume des Gewaechses aus dem Geiste Gottes" {"The Wisdom of God which is a virginal adornment
and in likeness of the Holy Trinity, is in its figure an image like unto angels and men, and takes its
unique stand centred upon the Cross, as a flowering of the outgrowth from the Spirit of God"}.10
Boehme many a time repeats, that "Die Weisheit Gottes ist eine ewige Jungfrau" {"the Wisdom of God
is an eternal Virgin"}. Sophia, the eternal Virgin, the virginalness is an heavenly element within man.
Boehme definitively teaches, that Sophia is non-created: "die Jungfrau ist ewig, ungeschaffen und
ungeboren: sie ist Gottes Weisheit und ein Ebenbild der Gottheit" {"The Virgin is eternal, uncreated
and unborn: it is the Wisdom of God and a likeness of the Godhead"}.11 For Boehme therefore man
also is more, than a mere creature, in him there is the eternal, the heavenly, the Divine element, the
element of Sophia. The soul was as a virgin, man was created with a virginal and pure soul, i.e. to it
corresponded the heavenly and Divine element. It is necessary to seek the Sophia-virgin in man. "Denn
er weiss die Jungfrau nun nirgends zu suchen als im Menschen, da er sie zum ersten hat erblicket"
{"Thus he knows now to search out the Virgin nowhere but in man, for there he hath first perceived
it"}.12 This tends to explain the predominantly anthropological character of his teachings about
Sophia. The appearance of man the androgyne, the virginal man, and the appearance of the earthly
halves of man, the masculine and the feminine, -- are various moments of an anthropogonic and
cosmogonic process, various stages of the world creation. Between these two moments lies catastrophe.
Earthly man has heavenly antecedents. "Die Bildniss ist in Gott eine ewige Jungfrau in der Weisheit
Gottes gewesen, nicht eine Frau, auch kein Mann, aber sie ist beides gewesen; wie auch Adam beides
war vor seiner Heven, welche bedeutet den irdischen Menschen, darzu thierisch: denn nichts bestehet
in der Ewigkeit, was nicht ewig gewesen ist" {"The image in God is an eternal Virgin abiding in the
Wisdom of God, not feminine, also not masculine, but in both abiding; suchlike was Adam in both
before his Eve, which signifies the earthly man, therein animal-like: thereof nothing subsists in eternity,
which is not of eternity"}.13 The androgynic, sophian image of Adam is likewise the heavenly and
previously existent man. And therefore only he as such inherits eternity. "Adam war vor seiner Eva die
zuechtige Jungfrau, kein Mann und kein Weib, er hatte beide Tincturen, die im Feuer und die im Geiste
der Sanftmuth, und haette koennen selber auf himmlische Art, ohne Zerreissung gebaeren, waere er nur
in der Proba bestanden. Und waere je ein Mensch aus dem andern geboren worden, auf Art, wie Adam
in seiner jungfraeulichen Art ein Mensch und Bildniss Gottes ward: denn was aus dem Ewigen ist, das
hat auch ewige Art zu gebaeren, sein Wesen muss ganz aus dem Ewigen gehen, sonst bestehet nichts in
Ewigkeit" {"Adam was until his Eve a pure virgin, neither male nor female, he had both aspects, as in
fire and in the spirit of meekness, and had ability himself of an heavenly sort, unsplit to give birth, were
he only to withstand the test. And man otherwise ever would be born of the sort, that Adam was as man

in his virginal kind and in the image of God: for that what is of eternity would give birth of an eternal
sort, its being must entirely enter into eternity, else it nowise would subsist in eternity"}.14 Man fell
asleep in eternity and awoke within time. He initially did not appear within time, he is a child of
eternity. The sophian and androgynic aspect, the virginal man is likewise a sign of eternity in man. The
losing by man of the Virgin, i.e. the androgynic image, is a losing of Paradise. "Adam war ein Mann
und auch ein Weib, und doch der keines, sondern eine Jungfrau, voller Keuschheit, Zucht und
Reinigkeit, als das Bild Gottes; er hatte beide Tincturen vom Feuer und Licht in sich, in welcher
Conjunction die eigene Liebe,
als das jungfraeuliche Centrum stund, als der schoene paradeisische Rosen- und Lustgarten, darinnen
er sich selber liebete" {"Adam was man and also was woman, and was naught other than a virgin, full
of chastity, modesty and purity, a being in the image of God; he had moreover aspects of fire and light
in himself, in conjunction with which was an unique sort of love, set centred within the virginal, as
with the beauty of the paradisical rose garden and the garden of desire, wherein he would have love for
himself"}.15 The image of God is a "maennliche Jungfrau" {"manlike virgin"}, not a woman and not a
man.16 Wherefore the fallen soul doth cry out: "Gieb mir zu trinken deines suessen Wassers der
ewigen Jungfrauschaft!" {"Give me to drink of thine sweet waters of an eternal virginalness!"}.17
The virginity of man does not mean the tearing away and isolation of the masculine nature from
the feminine and the feminine from the masculine, but rather on the contrary -- their unification. The
virginal man is not half a man, not man chopped apart in half. Both the masculine and the feminine -are halves, i.e. beings sundered in half. Asceticism and renunciation by each of their half, be it the
masculine or the feminine, is still not the wholeness nor virginalness, is still not the returning to man of
his lost Virgin. Suchlike are the inferences from Boehme's teaching about Sophia and the androgyne. In
this Boehme is unique. The mystical intuition of Boehme about the androgyne can be substantiated by
modern science, which is compelled to admit the bisexuality of human nature. The mere half
differentiation into the masculine or the feminine nature does not possess an absolute character.18 Man
is a being of twofold sexuality, but with a variable degree of the presence of the masculine and the
feminine principle. A being, such as would be absolutely masculine or absolutely feminine, i.e.
absolutely half, would not be human. A woman, having nowise in herself any of the masculine element,
would not be human, but rather a cosmic element, in which would lack for personness.19 A man,
nowise having included within himself any of the feminine element, would be an abstract being, bereft
of any cosmic basis and any connection with cosmic life. The nature of the person is androgynic, it is
constituted as a combination of the masculine and the feminine principle. But the masculine principle is
predominantly anthropological and creative, whereas the feminine principle is predominantly cosmic
and birth-giving. And in this context can be developed the intuitive insights of Boehme. The mystical
meaning of love involves also a seeking of the androgynic image, i.e. an integral wholeness, which is
unattainable within the confines of the psycho-physical arrangement in the makeup of man, it
presupposes an egress beyond it.20 The androgynic image of man does not possess an adequate
physical image upon the earth, within our natural conditions. Hermaphroditism is a distorted and sick
caricature of it. The myth concerning the androgyne belongs to the very profoundly old myths of
mankind. This myth finds its justification upon a quite deep and esoteric interpretation of the book of
Genesis, though it be not characteristic to any prevailing theological teachings. However, a teaching
about the androgyne can be found in the Kabbala. Those theological teachings which are afraid of any
teaching about the androgyne hence deny it, and in consequence of their exoteric character deny also
the Heavenly Man, Adam Kadmon, and teach only about the earthly, the natural and empirical man, i.e.
they admit of only an Old testament like anthropology, set retrospectively from the perspective of sin.
Boehme however discerned a celestial and seraphic anthropology, the heavenly origin of man. The
anthropology of Boehme is bound up with Christology. His Christology and Mariology are bound up
with the teaching about Sophia and the androgyne.

Boehme definitely teaches about the androgynic aspect of Christ: "er weder Mann noch Weib war,
sondern eine maennliche Jungfrau" {"He was neither man nor woman but rather a manlike Virgin"}.21
Boehme taught, that God became incarnate as Person only in Christ, in the Second Hypostasis of the
Trinity, and therefore already Christ had to be an androgyne, a virginal-youth, i.e. the image of the
perfect Person.22 Christ Himself was not only neither masculine nor feminine in our earthly sense, but
He likewise freed us from the griphold of the masculine and the feminine. "Und als Christus am Kreuz
unser jungfraeulich Bild wieder erloesete vom Manne und Weibe, und mit seinem himmlischen Blute
in goettlicher Liebe tingirte; als er diess vollbracht hatte, so sprach er: Es ist vollbracht!" {"And as
Christ on the Cross hath redeemed anew our virginal image from being man and woman, and with His
heavenly Blood in Godly Love hath it blotted; He this did consummate, as He said: It is
consummated!"}.23 Christ has transfigured the evil-wrought nature of Adam.24 In following the
Apostle Paul, Boehme all the time teaches about Adam and Christ, about the Old and the New Adam.
"Christus wurde ein Gottmensch, und Adam und Abraham in Christo ein Menschgott" {"Christ became
the God-Man and Adam and Abraham in Christ a man-god"}.25 This means also, that God was
incarnated, became man, so that man might become divinised, become deified. In Boehme can be
found elements of that teaching about God-manhood, which in Russian thought chiefly was developed
by Vl. Solov'ev. Christ in His human self died in the wrath of God and was resurrected in eternity in the
will of God.26 The human nature, however, had to remain, had to abide. "Verstehet, dass die Natur des
Menschen soll bleiben, und ist nicht ganz von Gott verstossen, dass also ein ganz fremder neuer
Mensch sollte aus dem Alten entstehen; sondern aus Adams Natur und Eigenschaft, und aus Gottes in
Christi Natur und Eigenschaft, dass der Mensch sei ein Adam-Christus; und Christus ein ChristusAdam; ein Menschgott, und ein Gottmensch" {"Understand, that the nature of man has to remain, and
is not entirely obliterated by God, and that also an entirely different new man should result from the
old; for from Adam would be the nature and the unique aspect, and from God in Christ would be the
nature and the unique aspect, so that man would be an Adam-Christ; and Christ a Christ-Adam; a ManGod, and a God-Man"}.27 Here, certainly, the words Man-God and God-Man possess different a
meaning, than in Dostoevsky. Boehme boldly takes to its conclusion the Christian teaching concerning
Adam and Christ. "Nun ist aber doch Adam in seiner Natur, und Christus in der goettlichen Natur Eine
Person worden, nur ein einiger Baum" {"Yet still above Adam in his nature, Christ in His Divine nature
would be One Person, only as it were but one single tree"}.28 This is also what I would term a
Christology of man.29 In Christ, man is conveyed up to Heaven, to the Holy Trinity. Man-Adam
through the dying of the evil will is transformed into Christ.30 But this does not mean, that according
to Boehme, Christ was merely a divinised man. Christ -- is the Second Hypostasis of the Holy Trinity,
but in the Second Hypostasis is existent an heavenly humanness. In traditional theology there was
never taken to its final point the teaching, that Christ was the Second Adam. The exoteric character of
theology was determined by the stifling of man by sin. Boehme attempted to see farther and more
profoundly, but he expresses what he sees antinomically, with contradictions, and sometimes even
confusedly. He initially sensed, that man lives in three worlds, in the dark, in the light and in the
external world.31 Hence arises the difficulty of the contemplation and cognition of man, the light is
distorted by the dark and the external world. But Christ, according to Boehme, took his humanness not
only from Heaven, but also from earth, otherwise He would have remained foreign to us and would not
have been able to set us free.32 Boehme was not a monophysite. He says about Christ: "Also
verstehest du, dass dieser Engel groesser ist als ein Engel in Himmel; denn er hatte (1) einen
himmlischen Menschenleib, und hat (2) eine menschliche Seele, und (3) hat er die ewige
Himmelsbraut, die Jungfrau der Weisheit, und hat (4) die heilige Trinitaet, und koennen wir recht
sagen: Eine Person in der heiligen Dreifaltigkeit im Himmel, und ein wahrer Mensch im Himmel, und
in dieser Welt ein ewiger Koenig, ein Herr Himmels und der Erden" {Understand also, that this Angel
is greater than an Angel in Heaven for He hath (1) an Heavenly human body, and hath (2) an human

soul, and (3) He hath the Heavenly-Bride, the Virgin of Wisdom, and hath (4) the Holy Trinity; and
correctly do we say Virgin: a Person of the Holy Trinity in Heaven, and a true Man in Heaven, and in
this world an eternal King, the Lord of both Heaven and earth"}.33 The incarnation of Christ leads to
this, that His humanity is present everywhere. "Nun so er denn Mensch ist worden, so ist ja seine
Menschheit ueberall gewesen, wo seine Gottheit war; denn du kannst nicht sagen, dass ein Ort im
Himmel und in dieser Welt sei, da nicht Gott sei; wo nun der Vater ist, da ist auch sein Herz in ihm, da
ist auch der heilige Geist in ihm. Nun ist sein Herz Mensch worden, und ist in der Menschheit Christi"
{"So now thus as He is become Man, so indeed in His humanness extended throughout all, where His
Divinity was; for thou canst not say, that there be a place in Heaven or in this world, where God is not:
where now the Father is, there is His Heart in Him, there also is the Holy Spirit in Him. Now is His
Heart become Man, and is in the humanness of Christ"}.34 This thought about the presence of Christ
everywhere and as Man pervading all life is very close in Russian religious thought to that of Bukharev.
The teaching of Boehme concerning the dying off of the Old Adam and about rebirth in Christ is fully
in accordance with the traditional Christian teaching. He teaches about being reborn again, and about
this, that Christ lives already within man, as taught also the Christian mystics. This represents a
developing of the thought of the Apostle Paul. He often says, that "wohnet denn Christus in Adam, und
Adam in Christo" {"for Christ abides in Adam, and Adam in Christ"}. The proximity and closeness
between God and man, between Heaven and earth, represents for Boehme the very essence of
Christianity. "Gott muss Mensch werden, Mensch muss Gott werden, der Himmel muss mit der Erde
Ein Ding werden, die Erde muss zum Himmel werden" {"God had to become Man, Man had to become
God, Heaven had to become one thing with the earth, the earth to Heaven must become"}.35 From this
is apparent how off target would be any accusation against Boehme of an inclination towards a
Manichaean dualism. Characteristic for Boehme is that he always sought salvation from evil in the
heart of Jesus Christ and found in Him the power of the liberation and transfiguration of the world. But
the most original thing in the Christology of Boehme -- is in its connection with the teaching about
virginity, i.e. the sophianic, and the Mariology deriving from it. The intuition of Sophia and the
androgynic image of man remains a fundamental intuition of light in Boehme, just as the intuition of
the Ungrund is a fundamental intuition of darkness.
Boehme sensed profoundly, that the very essence of Christianity is bound up with this, that Christ
was born of the Virgin and of the Holy Spirit, and in this he is profoundly distinct from the later
Protestantism, which lost faith in the virginity of the Mother of God, and distinct also from Luther
himself, for whom the cult of the Mother of God was foreign. When Boehme first hearkened to the
word "Idea", he exclaimed: "I behold an heavenly pure Virgin". This also was an intuition of Sophia.
God became Man in virginity: "und in dieser lebendigen Jungfrauschaft, als in Adams himmlischer
Matrice, ward Gott Mensch" {" And in this vitally living virginity, as in Adam the Heavenly Mother,
God became Man"}.36 In order that God should enter into our world, within the race of Adam and Eve
there had to appear a pure Virgin. "Sollte uns armen Hevae Kindern nun gerathen werden, so musste
eine andere Jungfrau kommen, und uns einen Sohn gebaeren, der da waere Gott mit uns, und Gott in
uns" {"It was now needful for us children of poor Eve, that there had to come an other Virgin, and give
birth a Son for us, that therein should be God with us, and God in us"}.37 The Sophiology of Boehme
becomes concrete within the Mariology. After man's downfall through sin the Virgin Sophia flies off
from him to Heaven, while upon the earth becomes the spousal Eve. The Virgin of Adam is transferred
into the wife of Adam and in woman remains only the element of virginity.38 The Virgin-Sophia
returns to earth in Mary, the Mother of God. Mary receives Her immaculate virginity not from Her
racial inheritance, not from Her birth from the proto-mother Eve, but from the Heavenly Virgin.
Descending upon Her and becoming flesh of Her is Sophia. "Also auch sagen wir von Maria: sie hat

ergriffen die heilige, himmlische, ewige Jungfrau Gottes, und angezogen das reine und heilige Element
mit dem Paradeis, und ist doch wahrhaftig eine Jungfrau in dieser Welt, von Joachim und Anna
gewesen. Nun aber wird sie nicht eine heilige, reine Jungfrau genannt nach ihrer irdischen Geburt: das
Fleisch, das sie von Joachim und Anna hatte, war nicht rein ohne Makel; sondern nach der himmlischen
Jungfrau ist ihre Heiligkeit und Reinigkeit" {"Moreover we say about Mary: She hath taken on the
holy, heavenly, eternal Virgin of God, and is wrought the pure and holy element with that of Paradise,
and is yet truly still a Virgin in this world, begotten of Joachim and Anna. But now She is not called an
heavenly and pure Virgin in accord with Her earthly birth: the flesh, that She hath from Joachim and
Anna, was not pure without blemish; but rather in accord with the heavenly Virgin is Her holiness and
purity"}.39 And further on: "die Seele Mariae hat die himmlische Jungfrau ergriffen, und die
himmlische Jungfrau hat der Seele Mariae das himmlische neue, reine Kleid des heligen Elements, aus
der zuechtigen Jungfrauen Gottes als aus Gottes Barmherzigkeit, angezogen, als einen neuen
wiedergebornen Menschen" {"The soul of Mary hath taken on and become the heavenly Virgin, and
thereby the heavenly Virgin hath of the soul of Mary a new and pure garment of the holy element, from
the chaste Virgin of God as from the mercy of God, and is wrought as an again-born Man"}.40 The
Virgin for Boehme abides in Heaven: "Die Jungfrau aber, als die goettliche Kraft, stehet im Himmel"
{"The Virgin however, as a Godly power, is in Heaven"}.41 Within the Mariology of Boehme are to be
sensed very strong Catholic elements. With Boehme there is a genuine cult of the Mother of God, quite
foreign to the Protestant world. In certain of his formulations, Boehme comes very close to the dogma
of the Immaculate Conception. He admits of the workings of a special act of God's grace upon the
Virgin Mary, as it were excluding Her from the sinful race of Eve. Certainly, Boehme's formulation
does not correspond to the demands of the rational piety of the Catholic theology, but in essence he is
very close to the Catholic cult of the Virgin Mary. Boehme admits of two elements in Mary -- the
heavenly, from Sophia, from the eternal Virginity, and the earthly -- from Adam and Eve. The heavenly
and virginal element in Her was victorious.42 The difference in Boehme's point of view from that of
the Catholic dogma is in this, that the dogma of the Immaculate Conception looks upon the Virgin
Mary instrumentally, as a tool of God's Providence for salvation, whereas Boehme sees here the
struggle of contrary elements. The descent of the Heavenly Virgin unto Mary is a working of the Holy
Spirit, "Himmlische Jungfrau ist ein Glast [Glanz] und Spiegel des hl. Geistes" ["The Heavenly Virgin
is a reflection and mirroring of the Holy Spirit"}.43 The image of Mary for Boehme is likewise an
androgynic image, as is every virginal, integrally whole image. With Boehme it was not the cult of the
Eternal Feminine, but rather the cult of Eternal Virginity. The cult of the Virgin is likewise the cult of
Sophia, the Wisdom of God, since the Wisdom of God is likewise an eternal and heavenly Virgin. The
feminine nature of Eve cannot be a subject of veneration and it is not ascribable to wisdom, is not
sophianic, but in it is an element of the sophianic, i.e. of virginity.
The sophiology of Boehme does not bear a natal character, it is not bound up with sexual birth. It is
only that the birth from the Virgin and the Holy Spirit is holy and saving for the world. But the birth of
Christ from the Virgin transforms and sanctifies feminine nature, liberates it from the harsh aspects of
femininity. "Darum ward Christus von einer Jungfrau geboren, dass er die weibliche Tinctur wieder
heiligte, und in die maennliche Tinctur wandelte, auf dass der Mann und das Weib wieder ein Bild
Gottes wuerden, und nicht mehr Mann und Weib waeren sondern maennliche Jungfrauen, wie Christus
war" {"Therefore was Christ born of a Virgin, so that He again should sanctify the womanly aspect and
make change in the manly aspect, from the man and the woman again be rendered an image of God,
and be no more man and woman, save as man-like virgins, as was Christ"}.44 The transfiguration and
deification of human nature, of both man and of woman, is always a transformation into a virginal and
androgynic nature. "Und als Christus am Kreuz unser jungfraeulich Bild wieder erloesete vom Manne
und Weibe, und mit seinem himmlischen Blute in goettlicher Liebe tingirte; als er diess vollbracht
hatte, so sprach er: Es ist vollbracht!" {"And as Christ on the Cross hath redeemed again our virginal

image from being man and woman, and hath extirpated it with His heavenly Blood in Godly Love; as
did He this, so spake He: It is consummated!"}45 Boehme was one of the few with an understanding
of the metaphysical depths of sex. What is said about sex in theological tracts generally bears a pathetic
and superficial character, and runs but along moralistic-pedagogical lines. The whole metaphysics of
Boehme, all his teachings about the fall through sin and salvation is bound up at depth with sex, with
the loss of the Virgin-Sophia and the finding of it again. The human soul mustneeds be co-united with
its Virgin: "die Jungfrau soll sein unsere Braut und werthe Krone, die wird uns geben ihre Perle und
schoene Krone und kleiden mit ihrem Schmuck: darauf wollen wir's wagen um der Lilie willen, ob wir
gleich werden grossen Sturm erwecken, und ob der Antichrist von uns hinrisse die Frau, so muss uns
doch die Jungfrau bleiben; denn wir sind mit ihr vermaehlet. Ein jedes nehme nur das seine, so bleibet
mir das meine" {"The Virgin should our bride and worthy crown be, which on us bestow its pearl and
beauteous crown and cloth and jewel whereof for the lily will rouse our desire, if well we weather the
great storm, and if from us the Anti-Christ carry off the wife, so mustneeds still the Virgin remain to us;
then shall we with her be wed. Each one takes only his own, and thus remains to me mine"}.46 The
rebirth of the soul is bound up in the encounter with the Virgin: "so wird dir entgegnen die zuechtige
Jungfrau hoch und tief in deinem Gemuethe; die wird dich fuehren zu deinem Braeutigam, der den
Schluessel hat zu den Thoren der Tiefe. Vor dem musst du stehen, der wird dir geben von dem
himmlischen Manna zu essen: das wird dich erquicken, und wird stark werden und ringen mit den
Thoren der Tiefe. Du wirst durchbrechen als die Morgenroethe: und ob du gleich allhier in der Nacht
gefangen liegest, so werden dir doch die Strahlen der Morgenroethe des Tages im Paradeise erscheinen,
in welchem Orte deine zuechtige Jungfrau stehet, und deiner mit der freudenreichen Engelschaar
wartet; die wird dich in deinem neuen wiedergebornen Gemuethe und Geiste gar freundlich annehmen"
{"Thus will respond the chaste Virgin high and low in thine tenderness; which should lead thee to thine
Bridegroom, and which hathe the key to the gates of the deep. Before this must thou stand, and be
given of the heavenly manna to eat: to quicken thee, that thou be strong to wrestle with the gates of the
deep. Thou wilt break forth like the dawn: and if as such throughout all the night thou be caught up in
prison, so for thee will the gleams of the dawn of day shine forth in paradise, in which place doth thine
chaste Virgin abide, to await thee amidst the rejoicing of the pure angelic hosts; so as to uplift thee in
thine anew reborn tenderness in spirit fully rejoicing"}.47 Boehme is remarkable in this, that although
the metaphysical profundity of sex stands at the centre of his contemplation, his teaching about Sophia
is distinct by its heavenly purity and detachment, fully free from any vileness. Sex becomes fully
sublimated. And amidst this in him there is not that clipped-wing aridity, which results in sexlessness of
thought. Boehme strives not towards the negative sexlessness, characteristic to arid ascetic teachings,
but to a positive virginal integral-wholeness, i.e. to a transfiguration of sex, to a transfiguration of man,
as a sexually sundered being. Virginity is not sexlessness, but deific sex. Integral wholeness and
fullness is connected not with a negation of sex, but the rather by a transfiguration of sex, with the
alleviation of the yearning of sex as regards integrality. In this is the mystical meaning of love, which
Boehme himself did not adequately reveal.
The thoughts of J. Boehme concerning man are akin to those of the Kabbala. Boehme admits the
existence of Adam Kadmon -- the heavenly man. But the thought of Boehme, in contrast, is deeply
pervaded by Christianity. In the Kabbala was a teaching about Sophia-Wisdom. In 2 Sephiroth -Hokhmah is Wisdom. But Wisdom in the Kabbala -- is the theoretical reason -- and is the masculine
element. The feminine element however is revealed as Binah -- the practical reason.48 Boehme's
teaching about the Virgin-Sophia is foreign to the Kabbala and is not derived from it. It appears instead
as the fruit of his profound Christian meditations and ponderings. In the gnostics of old there was
likewise Sophia. The feminine principle, rather subdued in Judaism, was taken by them from Greece,

from the pagan world.49 But it would be difficult to find anything in common between the Hellene
Simon Magus and the Sophia-Virgin of Boehme. Moreover, in the Helene it is hidden as a profound
symbolism and presentiment. And it mustneeds likewise be mentioned, that the mystical gnosis of
Boehme bears a supra-confessional character. Even as a Lutheran Protestant, Boehme had within him
strong Catholic elements, and likewise elements akin to the Orthodox East. As a theosophist in the
noblest and profound sense of this word -- he by a path of mystery imbibed within him the whole of
worldly wisdom. But all the same, he always directly strove after the Biblical revelation. The
"Mysterium magnum", the greatest of his works, represents a Biblical esotericism. Characteristic to
Boehme was his lofty outlook on man, and in this I see his greatest significance. He derived this lofty
idea of man through a process of understanding such as it deeply immersed in Biblical Christian
revelation. From Christianity he reached anthropological conclusions, which are impossible to be found
in the teachers of the Church. He surmounts the limitedness of the Old Testament anthropology and
cosmology. In him is to be sensed the breathing of a new spirit, a new world epoch. He belongs to the
epoch of the Reformation and the Renaissance, yet amidst this he transcends their boundaries. His
perspective simultaneously is oriented both to the depths of spirit, and to cosmic life, to nature. The
first strong impact of Boehme was in England. He had an influence upon George Fox, the founder of
Quakerism. And he was early translated into the English language. Both Newton and Milton read him.
But the first consequential representative of Boehmism, one who further developed Boehme's ideas,
was the English mystic and theosophist of the XVII Century, Pordage. And Pordage teaches also about
the eye of the Ungrund. Pordage wrote a book, likewise bearing the title "Sophia". In it, in the tradition
of Boehme, was expressed the teachings of a Christian theosophy concerning Sophia. And for him also
Sophia-Wisdom is an eternal Virgin. The teaching of Pordage concerning Sophia does not possess the
freshness and originality of Boehme's contemplations, but it is interesting and worthy of attention, as a
developing of Boehme's ideas. Pordage says, that Sophia heals the wounds, quenches the thirst situated
in darkness.50 Within the deep abyss awakens a wise spirit. Wisdom operates likewise also within
man. The Virgin-Wisdom (Sophia) appears in man as the source of strength.51 Pordage in particular
stresses, that within man it is Sophia-Wisdom that makes everything happen. "Wisdom is my inward
rouser, my guide, my strength, my initiator, it pervades and orders my life".52 For Pordage, Sophia is
an all-pervasive Divine energy and its activity is very similar to the activity of the Holy Spirit. He says,
that the wine of Sophia is the bracing draught of life.53 His teaching about Sophia can be termed
vitalistic. "And the spirit of virginal Wisdom is mother of the soul, just like as the spirit of eternity is
father of the eternal spirit."54 Pordage very clearly distinguishes between spirit and soul and he sees
the eternal person of man in the co-uniting of spirit and soul. The pure will for him is a virginal will.
And the virginal will loves Wisdom.55 God's heart is alive within the human heart and paradise
mustneeds be sought within the human heart. God lives in man and man lives in God. Here is an
especially important definition for Sophia. Sophia says concerning itself: "I am the virginal Wisdom of
my Father, Who without me could do nothing, just as I could do nothing without the Father, Son and
Holy Spirit".56 "One with the Holy Trinity, that which I do, the Father Son and Holy Spirit do, I do
nothing of Myself, but within Me doth act the Holy Trinity".57 Clearly, for Pordage Sophia is not
created, not a creature. He is particularly insistent upon this, that Sophia is rooted within the Holy
Trinity. All the feminine figures of the Bible appear as figures and images of Sophia, right on up to the
Virgin Mary".58 Pordage comes to identify Sophia with the Holy Trinity and in this he goes farther
than Boehme. -- "I Wisdom by my essence am the pure Divinity and one with the Holy Trinity; and
that, which I do, the Holy Trinity doeth in me".59 The service rendered of Wisdom and renewal is
accomplished through fire. Sophia also acts, like fire. The new Heaven and the new earth are not
outside man, but within him.60 But in Pordage it is very difficult to find a separately distinct definition
of Sophia. Sophia is likewise the spirit of Christ. "The spirit of Wisdom and the spirit of Christ are one
and the selfsame spirit... The Spirit of Wisdom is the Spirit of Christ and the Spirit of Christ is the
Spirit of Wisdom".61 Man through Sophia becomes a new creature and Sophia creates a new earth.

Sophia leads man into a new world. The new earth through Sophia is created for the eternal man. Only
for spiritual man will it be knowable. For Pordage, Sophia is the power transfiguring the creature. The
teaching about Sophia assumes an all-encompassing character, it has a broad sweep in comparison with
Boehme and loses its more subtly pious character, of being first of all a teaching about the virginalness
of man. The sophiology of Pordage has an affinity with the sophiology of Fr. S. Bulgakov. "The
MostHoly Trinity neither acts nor creates anything without its eternal Wisdom, just as Wisdom can do
nothing without the eternal MostHoly Trinity... The MostHoly Trinity acts in Wisdom and through
Wisdom and Wisdom acts in the MostHoly Trinity, through it and with it".62 I certainly do not think,
that Pordage had any sort of a direct influence upon the sophiology of Fr. S. Bulgakov. Fr. S. Bulgakov
derived his teaching about Sophia from other sources, but as regards the all-encompassing character in
the understanding of Sophia, there is between them an affinity. Pordage associates closely the teaching
about Sophia with the teaching about the Holy Trinity. Boehme's first influence was in England, first of
all upon Pordage. Then in France upon Saint-Martin, a very remarkable and influential Christian
theosophist.63 However, in Germany as Boehmists mustneeds be reckoned Oetinger64 and Fr.
Baader, especially Fr. Baader, the greatest and most remarkable of the Boehmists and the most churchly
in his world-outlook. But even still quite earlier Boehme had inspired the great Catholic mystic and
poet, Angelus Silesius. Boehme likewise had influence upon wide circles of occultists, theosophists,
and mystical-masons, but often therein poorly understood and vulgarised.65
In Russia the influence of Boehme can be found upon our homegrown theosophist Skovoroda,
although the influence of Weigel upon him evidently was stronger than that of Boehme. Boehme was
very highly esteemed, although very poorly known and poorly understood, by the representatives of the
mystical and masonic currents of the late XVIII and early XIX Centuries -- Novikov, Schwarz,
Lopuchin, Labzin et al. More direct upon us was the influence of such second-rate Christian
theosophists, as Jung-Stilling and Eckartshausen.66 During the XIX Century the Russian romantic and
Schellingite Odoevsky imbibed within him elements of Boehme's Christian theosophy, yet in this
moreso of Pordage and Saint-Martin, than of Boehme himself.67 With Vl. Solov'ev begins the
sophiological current in Russian religious philosophy and theology. Does this current rest upon the
spirit of J. Boehme? Imperceptibly and unconsciously Boehme's spirit has acted here, since Boehme is
the source of the teaching about Sophia. But on the conscious level Fr. P. Florensky and Fr. S.
Bulgakov are repulsed by Boehme, and Vl. Solov'ev is quite hesitant to allude to him. But essentially
between the teachings of J. Boehme about Sophia and the Russian teaching about Sophia, as it was
formulated among us, there is a difference. If there be compared the sophianism of Boehme and the
sophianism of Vl. Solov'ev, then the clear preference ought to be given to J. Boehme. The teaching of
Boehme, as it relates to him, is distinguished by a greater purity and abnegation. If he is not always
distinct for a logical clarity, he is always however distinct with an ethical clarity, and in him there is no
sort of anything murky. All the sophiology of Boehme arose out of his vision of heavenly purity and
virginalness, it was bound up with the intuition of the Divine light. The Divine Sophia is not for a
single instant blurred by the earthly Aphrodite. The earthly Sophia for him thus is the Virgin Mary.
Boehme's teaching concerning Sophia is profoundly and completely Christian, in it there are no pagan
elements. As regards Vl. Solov'ev, amidst all his enormous merits in the setting of the problem, it is
regretably impossible to say, that his teaching concerning Sophia was entirely chaste and renunciatory.
He allowed of a great murkiness in his sophianic settings. His poetry witness to this. At the meeting in
Egypt he has journeyed not to that Sophia -- the Heavenly Virgin, the Wisdom of God. With Vl.
Solov'ev there was a cult of eternal femininity, i.e. a cosmic cult. In Sophia what allured him were the
features of feminine charm. In feminine beauty there is indisputably a glint of the Divine world. In St
John of the Ladder (Climacus) there is a remarkable statement: "One may have caught sight of an

extraordinary feminine beauty, and have glorified exceedingly the Creator in it, and from this single
such sight have become ablaze with love for God and shedding tears abundant. An amazing spectacle
indeed! What might be a pitfall of perdition to some, for him instead would supernaturally serve to the
receiving of eternal glory. If such a man in like instances have always such indeed an awareness and
action, then he is resurrected, incorrupt even before the universal Resurrection".68 Thus wrote a very
austere ascetic. But the woeful problem is in this, that with Vl. Solov'ev the image of Sophia becomes
twofold, and deceptive images of Sophia appear for him. He tormentively sought out his Virgin in the
nocturnal and subconscious element, and often got it confused with the cosmic allure. Vl. Solov'ev was
tormented with the new religious thirst, so that "in light undimmed by a new goddess the heavens
should merge with the watery deeps".
"All, wherein worldly Aphrodite be beauteous,
The joy of homes, and forests, and seas, -All has in common the beauty transcendent,
More pure, more powerful, and alive more, more fully".
There was a right thirsting for the religious transformation of all creatures, of all the cosmos within
beauty. At a moment of insight he saw everywhere "one but image of feminine beauty" and then it was
the beauty of the cosmos. The cosmos thus is a feminine nature and the cosmos transfigured is beauty.
The Sophia of Vl. Solov'ev is totally and exclusively cosmic, it was not through a contemplation of the
Divine Wisdom and it does not possess, as with Boehme and Pordage, a direct relation to the Holy
Trinity. The "image of feminine beauty" within the cosmos, within the created world, can shoe forth not
only from an upward abyss, but also from the lower abyss, and can be a deceptive and false allure, it
can seem as a Sophia sundered off from the Logos and not receptive of the Logos, i.e. a non-wise
femininity. The tragic encounter of Vl. Solov'ev with Anna Schmidt, a gifted mystic of genius,
witnesses to a great inauspiciousness in Solov'ev's sophianic formulations and searchings.69 He was
repulsed and fled the unattractive and not pretty image of A. Schmidt, the most remarkable woman,
whom he was to happen to meet in life, since he was searching for a sophianic charm and beauty, he
was seeking the features of an earthly Aphrodite. And moreover, in the capacity of being a romantic,
Vl. Solov'ev was afraid of its realisation and was incapable for it. Vl. Solov'ev's cult of Sophia was
something totally romantic, and in it was not a religious realism. The very conceiving of Anna Schmidt
herself as Sophia, as the Church and Bride of Vl. Solov'ev was defined by the duplicity and murkiness
of Solov'ev's sophianic outlook and searchings. Vl. Solov'ev attains to a quite great abnegation and
loftiness only in his remarkable article, "The Meaning of Love".
Vl. Solov'ev had quite great an influence upon the Russian poetry of the beginning XX Century, as
regards its sophianic theme. We see this with A. Blok, with A. Bely, and partially with Vyacheslav
Ivanov. The greatest of our poets at the beginning of the century, A. Blok, picked up on all the
murkiness of Solov'ev's sophianic mindset. Vl. Solov'ev himself believed in Christ and remained
faithful to Christianity. But the Russian sophianic-poets for the most part believed in Sophia, while not
believing in Christ. This Sophia altogether was already lacking for wisdom and was foreign to the
Logos. The Beauteous Lady of A. Blok is this unknowable Sophia. It eternally tempts and it eternally
deceives, its image is twofold. Herein we find ourselves at a very great distance from Boehme. I do not
regard it proper to subject the Russian poetry of the beginning XX Century to any sort of theological
judgement. It would make no sense to do this. We experienced at the beginning of the century a
remarkable poetic renaissance. But into our poetry entered murky and distorted sophianic moods. Poets
have the right to sing of the Beautiful Woman and can make the claim, that "Das Ewig-Weibliche zieht
uns hinan" {"The Eternal Feminine impels us wherever"}. But this is an altogether different plane and a
different area, than the religio-philosophic, theosophic and theological teaching of Sophia the Wisdom

of God. The Russian theological sophianism is certainly very distinct from the poetic sophianism. Fr. S.
Bulgakov in his recent books makes the greatest efforts to attain a purified theological teaching about
Sophia, in accord with tradition. He is far removed from the sophianism of Vl. Solov'ev, and foreign to
him is the sophianism of J. Boehme.70 Fr. S. Bulgakov desires to be a theologian, and not a
theosophist. In this is the difficulty of his position. But his sophiology can have reproaches made
against it only quite otherwise, than those made in vulgar and ignorant accusations of a sophianic
"heresy". The Russian sophianic current can weaken the awareness of the freedom of the human spirit
and its creative vocation in the world. Man gets wrapped up in the divinely-cosmic sophianic energy
and therein his lot can become but a passive swooning. The cosmic element, just like the feminine,
begins to predominate over the elements anthropological, the masculine. And this impedes the
strengthening of the consciousness of the person, of the person's activity and responsibility. As for
Boehme's teaching about Sophia, primarily anthropological in character, and positing at its centre the
virginal integral wholeness of man, it is impossible to say, that it would lead to such results. We have
already seen, that Boehme was totally lacking in any Monophysite and Pantheistic tendency. He did not
betray man over into the grip of cosmic forces, as theosophists tend to do. The world-concept of
Boehme -- is personalistic. Boehme himself did not draw any anthropological deductions from his
teachings. But in him are given the foundations for a Christian anthropology.
With Boehme there was a certain annoyance to his contemplations, its getting all mixed up with
astrological and alchemist teachings and terminology. But in him also was a pure vision of truth. He
caught sight clearly of darkness, evil, struggle, the contradictions of being, and he saw also Divine
Wisdom, virginal purity, light. He was a man intoxicated with God and the Divine Wisdom. All his
being was oriented to the heart of Jesus Christ and his theosophy was imbued with Christology.
Western Christian thought has tended to neutralise and secularise the cosmos. This occurred alike in
both Thomas Aquinas and in Luther. God's cosmos, bearing upon itself the imprint of God the Creator
and transfused with Divine energies, tended to wither and die in the consciousness of the Christian
West. It was replaced by a neutralised nature, the object of scientific nature-knowledge and technology.
In the Christian theosophy and cosmology of Boehme, spirit is revealed within nature, God is revealed
within the cosmos, the whole of world life is comprehended, as a symbol of the Divinity. For Boehme
what stood at the centre was justification, as it did for Luther, as it did for the Catholic theology, but
rather the transfiguration of the creature. And the theme of Sophia is a theme about the possibility of
such a transfiguration. Boehme was not a pantheist, but he denied that a transcendent chasm exists
between God and the creation, between God and the world. He did not think the world process to be
something completely external to God and having no sort of relation to the inner life of the Divine
Trinity. The gist of the whole teaching about Sophia consists in this, that it brings in a triadic and
immediate principle between the Creator and the creature, a co-unifying principle. In context of the
categories alone of God-Creator and world-creature it is impossible to overcome the hopeless dualism
and the transcendent chasm. But Christianity puts to rest the transcendence-immanence aspect and
simultaneously it does not permit of any identicalness between God and the world nor of any chasm
between them. God's creation bears upon itself the imprint and seal of God the Creator, the imprint of
God's Wisdom, which conveys the sophianic aspect. For otherwise, in the life of the world, in the
cosmos and man there would not be any beauty, nor meaning, nor harmony. The sophianic aspect is
also the beauty of the creature. The sophianic aspect in man is his purity, his wholeness, chasteness,
virginalness. This purity, wholeness, chasteness, virginalness is also in all the creation, as the
possibility of its transfiguration. The Virgin-Sophia has flown off to Heaven, but its image is reflected
also upon the earth and the earth to itself. The transfiguration of the earth is possible only through the
sophianic aspect. the total denial of any sophiology leads to a deadened dualistic theism, and ultimately
to deism. God will have in the final end departed the world. The tremendous significance of J. Boehme
and of Christian theosophy in the West is in this, that they rose up against the process of godlessness

and neutralisation of the creaturely world, the cosmos. And moreover, Boehme is not given to a nontragic cosmic optimism. Within the world acts not only the Divine Wisdom, but also dark and irrational
I have said already in my prior Etude, that the influence of Boehme upon German philosophy was
enormous. But apart from Fr. Baader, it must be pointed out, that least of all has German philosophy
developed the teaching about Sophia. Even in Fichte can be found the hidden influence of Boehme. But
the forcefully-masculine spirit of Fichte is directly contrary to the sophianic spirit, and he is the most
anti-sophianic of philosophers, with him the cosmos is transformed into the material resisting the
activity of the I. Likewise anti-sophianic is the philosophy of Hegel and even moreso that of
Schopenhauer. Within German Idealist philosophy the greatest success was had instead by Boehme's
intuition concerning the dark irrational will and concerning the struggle of opposing principles within
being. The teaching about Sophia became the lot not so much of philosophy, as rather theosophy.
Philosophy in its literal meaning is the love for Sophia, but it tends readily to forget this its nature.
Husserl wants even to forbid philosophy to love wisdom. Still, the teaching about Sophia is about
God's Wisdom (theosophy), and not the love of wisdom (philosophy). Yet even here the academic
theologians of the schools have failed to develope the teaching about Sophia. It is almost impossible to
find it with the teachers of the Church. With St. Athanasias the Great and others, Sophia becomes
identified with the Logos and subsumed under the Second Hypostasis. This is explained by the fact,
that within the traditional theological consciousness, both the Eastern Patristic and the Western
Scholastic, there were yet not only not clearly resolved, as rather not even clearly posited the problems
of a religious cosmology and a religious anthropology. The whole cosmology and anthropology of
traditional theology was subordinated to the soteriological problem and bound up exclusively with the
teaching about sin and salvation. The mystery of God's creation, the creative mystery of the creature
involves not only the being saved from sin, but also of bearing within it the imprint of the Creator and
being pervaded with Divine energies, this has remained hidden over time. Upon this mystery have
touched only a few Christian mystics and genuine theosophists, gnostics, ahead of their time. The
greatest of them was J. Boehme. But the thought of modern times has tended to naturalise Boehme's
intuition about the mystery of the world-creation, the mystery of the creature, and it has become bereft,
of what Boehme revealed.
The Russian religious thought of the late XIX and early XX Centuries has posited very acutely the
problems of religious cosmology and religious anthropology, the problems of the relationship of
Christianity to the creaturely world. In this is its enormous and as yet unacknowledged significance.
The problematics underlying this, as yet lacking in any generally obtaining resolution, have assumed
various forms. At one point it became, whether a new revelation of the Holy Spirit be possible, amidst a
new world epoch within Christianity, at another point it intensified over the problem of man and his
creative vocation, and of the existence of an ab-eternal humanness within the bosom of the Holy
Trinity, and then it was over the problem of Sophia and the sophianic aspect of the creature. This
problem became vital on the concrete level in the new understanding of the relationship of Christianity
to culture and to society. There opened up herein several currents. They waged between them a
struggle, but all were tormented by one and the same theme. Among the thinkers of the century past
who anticipated the problematics of the XX Century and who influenced it -- were Bukharev,
Dostoevsky, Vl. Solov'ev, V. Rozanov, N. Fedorov. This is also that current of Russian religiophilosophic and religio-social thought, which at one time we tended to call the "New Religious
Consciousness", an expression since become trite, vulgarised and disparaged, but essentially preserving
its own significance and its own truth. The problematics of the new religious consciousness cannot be
extinguished and abolished by any sort of reaction of the times involving a theological and churchlysocial conservatism, for with it is connected the future of Christianity. Fr. P. Florensky, who sometimes

speaks with hostility and scorn about "the new religious consciousness", is himself one of its
representatives. everything, that he says about the possibility of a new out-pouring of the Holy Spirit
and about the sophianic aspect of the creature in his book, "The Pillar and the Ground of Truth",
signifies the setting of all these selfsame themes, of the "new religious consciousness", which is subject
to cleansing and deepening, but not annulling. J. Boehme, to whom Russian theologians of a sophianic
bent tend to react negatively, was nonetheless one of those geniuses, who have anticipated the settings
of the problem in dealing with the mystery of God's creation. The academic school theology of all the
faith-confessions is totally impotent in contending against these problematics and quelling the agitation
evoked by them. We ought spiritually to imbibe the great clear-sighted seers of the past, whilst freeing
their contemplation of certain tangles and murkiness, and bring them into accord with the basic truth of
the Church of Christ. The sources for the insights and ponderings of Boehme remain for us enigmatic,
as is everything primal in origin. In Boehme was a philosophic dialectics, but the sources of his
cognition were not dialectical, but rather purely intuitive and of clear vision. The attempts to develope
sophiology in Boehme's direction ought not to cause yet greater suspicion against this current of godlywisdom, but on the contrary, to lessen and remove this suspicion. If there be disregarded the suspicions,
connected with the mindsets of the ignorant and of obscurantism, with the hostility towards every
creative thought in theology and religious philosophy, then still there remains the suspicion of an
insufficient cleansing of the teaching about Sophia, in a muddling together of the heavenly with the
earthly, of the Virgin Mary with Aphrodite. Yet least of all does this obtain in regards to Boehme's
teaching about Sophia. Sophia for Boehme is likewise purity, virginity, chastity. Boehme's teachings
present the challenging tasks of a new Christian anthropology, of the surmounting of the slavery
subjection of man under the Old Testament consciousness, in a bold attempt at discerning the mysteries
of the creation within the light of Christ. Boehme is not a theologian, he is -- a theosophist in the finest
sense of the word, and his contemplations are not easily to be carried over into the traditional
theological language. Least of all was Boehme an "heretic" as regards the condition of his heart, as
regards his spiritual disposition, and the final resolution of this question does not belong to the
academic school theological teachings. Boehme was indeed not fully free of naturalism. And upon the
teachings of Boehme, certainly, lies the imprint of a certain limitedness of his epoch, the epoch of the
Reformation and the Renaissance, and that too of his faith-confession and his people, -- he thought like
a typical German. But he indeed more than others broke out of the thickets of this limitedness. Many of
us, as Orthodox Russians of the XX Century, think otherwise, than might a German craftsman of
genius from the late XVI and early XVII Centuries. but we can sense in him a brother after the spirit,
his thought resonates for us, and we can find common issue with it beyond all the separate faithconfessions and nationalities, beyond all the separate times and places, just as we ought to find
common cause with everything spiritually genuine that is lofty and high, even though it appear a
foreign world for us.
Nikolai Berdyaev
2002 by translator Fr. S. Janos -- with the great and gracious assist of Fr Michael Knechten in
correction of the German portions of the original Put' text, and his intensive review with the translation
from German.
(1930 - 351 -en)

1930, No. 21, p. 34-62.

1 Koyre could not find any sort of source, from which Boehme had taken his teachings about Sophia.
2 Vol. III, "Die drei Principien goettlichen Wesens" {"The Three Principles of the Godly essence"}, p.
3 Vol. III, p. 115.
4 Vol. III, p. 117.
5 Vol. III, p. 187.
6 Vol. III, p. 188.
7 Vide Vol. IV, "Vom dreifachen Leben des Menschen" {"Of the Threefold Life of Man"}, p. 70.
8 Vol. III, p. 295.
9 Vol. IV, p. 69.
10 Vol. IV, p. 71. [not p. 21; Correction of Berdiaev's or printer's error. MK].
11 Vol. IV, p. 156.
12 Vol. III, p. 141 [not Vol. II; Correction of Berdiaev's or printer's error. MK].
13 Vol. IV, p. 96.
14 Vol. IV, p. 261.
15 Vide Vol. V, "Mysterium magnum", p. 94.
16 Vol. V, p. 140.
17 Vol. V, p. 409.
18 The school of Freud is conducive to such an understanding of the relative aspect of the half
differentiation. Freud claims, that sex floods through all the organism of man.
19 Quite with genius did Bachofen express his idea concerning the feminine and masculine principle.
In the correlation of the masculine and feminine principle he sees a symbolic correlation between the
sun and the earth, between spirit and flesh. Vide the fine exposition of Bachofen in the book of Georg
Schmidt, "Bachofens Geschichtsphilosophie" {"Bachofen's Philosophy of History"}, 1929.
20 In this vein is the very remarkable article of Vl. Solov'ev, "The Meaning of Love".
21 Vol. V, "Mysterium magnum", p. 463 [not p. 464; Correction of Berdiaev's or printer's error. MK].

22 Vol. V, p. 32.
23 Vol. V, p. 101.
24 Vol. V, p. 133.
25 Vol. V, p. 287.
26 Vol. V, p. 316.
27 Vol. V, p. 420.
28 Vol. V, p. 421.
29 Vide my book, "The Meaning of Creativity. Attempt at a Justification of Man" (in English
published under title, "The Meaning of the Creative Act").
30 Vol. V, p. 528.
31 Vide Vol. I, "Der Weg zu Christo" ("The Way to Christ"), p. 104.
32 Vol. III, p. 302.
33 Vol. III, p. 307.
34 Vol. III, p. 316.
35 Vol. IV, "De Signatura Rerum", p. 374.
36 Vol. V, p. 465.
37 Vol. III, p. 296.
38 Vol. V, p. 327.
39 Vol. III, "Die drei Principien goettlichen Wesens", p. 298.
40 Vol. III, p. 298-299.
41 Vol. III, p. 119.
42 Vide Vol. VI, p. 206.
43 Vol. VI, p. 697.
44 Vol. V, p. 482.
45 Vol. V, p. 101.

46 Vide Vol. III, p. 117-118.

47 Vide Vol. III, p. 184-185.
48 Vide "Die Elemente der Kabbalah", Erster Theil, Theoretische Kabbalah; Uebersetzungen,
Erlaeuterungen und Abhandlungen von Dr. Erich Bischoff, 1920.
49 Vide Hans Leisegang, "Die Gnosis", Leipzig, 1924.
50 I shall quote from Pordage using the 1699 edition of the German translation (written in 1675):
"Sophia, das ist Die hold-seelige ewige Jungfrau der Goettlichen Weisheit". The citations in Russian
translation are from me, N.B.
51 Vide "Sophia", p. 17.
52 Vide "Sophia", p. 21.
53 Ibid., p. 26.
54 Ibid., p. 38.
55 Ibid., p. 86.
56 Ibid., p. 123.
57 Ibid., p. 126.
58 Ibid., p. 146.
59 Ibid., p. 161.
60 p. 162.
61 p. 193.
62 p. 193.
63 Vide A. Franck, "La philosophie mystique en France a la fin du XVIII Siecle. Saint-Martin et son
maitre Martinez Pasqualis.
64 Vide August Auberlen, "Die Theosophie Fr. Chr. Oetigers nach ihren Grundzuegen", 1859.
65 Vide the still interesting book of Viatte, "Les sources occultes du Romantisme".
66 Vide the book of Bogoliubov, "Novikov".
67 Vide the detailed and scrupulous, though also lacking in dogmatic understanding, explanation of the
mystico-theosophic influences upon Odoevsky in the book of Sakulin, "Iz istorii russkago idealisma".

68 Vide "Prepodobnago otsa nashego Ioanna Igumena Sinaiskoi gory Lestvitsa" ("Our Monastic Father,
Hegumen of Mount Sinai, John of the Ladder"), 1909, p. 122.
69 Vide the book, "Iz rukopisei A. N. Schmidt" ("From the Manuscripts of A. N. Schmidt"), one of the
most remarkable mystical books in the Russian language, but nigh close to madness.
70 Fr. S. Bulgakov in his book, "Svet Nevechernii" ("Light Unfading"), provides a quite inaccurate
explanation of the teachings of Boehme, especially the part concerning Boehme's teaching about
Sophia, and is very unjust to him. Boehme falls victim to the struggle against modern currents, against
the influences of German Immanentism and Spiritualism.