Saturday, December 31, 2011

Böhme, Tillich and the Gospel of Thomas re: Beginning and End

Here is something to chew on.  The origin and the end are important both in Böhme and the Gospel of Thomas.  The following quote is all over the internet:

"Whatever surges beneath the surface of the Gospel of Thomas, it is not a Syrian Christian wisdom teaching of the second century. The ascetic accepts creation, but always upon the basis of having fallen from it, and always with the hope of being restored to it. That is hardly the aspiration of Jesus in the Gospel of Thomas. Like William Blake, like Jakob Böhme, this Jesus is looking for the face he had before the world was made. That marvelous trope I appropriate from W.B. Yeats, at his most Blakean. If such is your quest, then the Gospel of Thomas calls out to you." -Harold Bloom

Now for representative, mysterious quotes from Böhme's Signature of All Things

CHAPTER III OF THE GRAND MYSTERY OF ALL BEINGS....Courteous reader, observe the meaning right; we understand not by this description a beginning of the Deity, but we shew you the manifestation of the Deity through nature; for God is without beginning, and has an eternal beginning and an eternal end, which he is himself, and the nature of the inward world is in the like essence from eternity.
CHAPTER XIV OF THE WHEEL OF SULPHUR, MERCURY, AND SALT, OF THE GENERATION OF GOOD AND EVIL;...Whatever is risen from the eternal fixity, as angels and the souls of men, remains indestructible in its fixt being; but whatever is risen in the unfixt being, viz. with the motion of time, that does again enter into the first motion from whence it has taken its original, and is a map of its form which it had here, like a picture, or as an image in a glass without life; for so it was from eternity before the times of this world, which the Most High has introduced into an image, into the comprehensible natural life in time, to behold the great wonders of his wisdom in a creaturely being, as we plainly see.
CHAPTER XV CONCERNING THE WILL OF THE GREAT MYSTERY IN GOOD AND EVIL....Every string of this melody exalts and rejoices the other; and it is only a mere ravishing lovely and delightful hearing, tasting, feeling, smelling, and seeing: Whatever God is in himself, that the creature is also in its desire in him; a God-angel, and a God-man, God all in all, and without him nothing else. As it was before the times of this world in his eternal harmony (or voice), so also it continues in the creaturely voice in him in his eternity; and this is the beginning and the end of all things.

Now regarding relevant thought from the Gospel of Thomas from the excellent Metalogos website:

Regarding the beginning:

Gospel of Thomas: Verse 50 Yeshua says: If they say to you: From whence have you come?, say to them: We have come from the Light, the place where the Light has come into being from Him alone; He himself [stood] and appeared in their imagery.

Gospel of Thomas:  Verse 18 The Disciples say to Yeshua (Jesus): Tell us how our end shall be.¹ || Yeshua says: Have you then discovered the origin°, so that you inquire about the end? For at the place where the origin is, there shall be the end. Blest is he who shall stand at the origin—and he shall know the end, and he shall not taste death. (¹Ps 39:4; Isa 48:12, Lk 20:38, Jn 1:1-2, Th 1/19, Rev/Ap 22:13; Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy: ‘To see Thee is the end and the beginning’; T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets: Little Gidding*: ‘The end is where we start from’; Jack Kerouac, Visions of Cody: ‘What kind of journey is the life of a human being that it has a beginning but not an end?’; hyperlinear)  

*We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

T. S. Eliot
Google books presented a portion of the following from J. P. Fourley.  I would have bought it except it is so expensive.  A portion of the section discussing the views of Paul Tillich in relation to Böhme was available:

Paul Tillich, Carl Jung, and the recovery of religion

 By John P. Dourley

In a section titled "Tillich and Boehme on eschatology: the location and nature of blessedness" Dourley says:

"Theologies of creation and its divine motivation connect as naturally with eschatology as do origins with ends and goals. in the form of the question: how possibly can history and its completion in the eschaton bring anything truly new to a self sufficient divinity whose perfect integration is worked from eternity? …..

Let us turn now to Boehme on these issues. In continuity with his thought on creation Boehme's eschatology is less tortured in terms of its own logic and so more compellingly candid in its honesty to the experience that lies behind it. In fact Boehme's depiction of creation tends to coincide with his eschatology. A God compelled to create in order to recognize and reconcile its opposites in the creature completes both itself and created consciousness in one historical process at once creative and eschatological."   (underscore mine - Steve)

The public in general, religious or not, has a fascination with the mystery of creation as well as the end of time.  This is reflected in the interest in where science stands on this, what mythology research has documented, and what each person's religion says.  The above is food for thought.  I plan to continue explorations along this line.  It appears that the material that each of us is comprised of was all united into a tiny pinpoint at the beginning, ie. the moment of the Big Bang.  This means something. 

Monday, December 26, 2011

Böhme, the Mother of all Things, and the Gnostics

When first reading Böhme's The Signature of All Things, it was apparent that it bore a similarity to certain gnostic writings of the early Christian era.  The Apochryphon of John comes to mind where the concern is the origin of the world and how understanding the origin is essential to our discerning who we are and what we should do.  However, that text reflects the pessimistic, classic version of gnosticism for whom the world is a mistake and the physical realm deeply flawed.  Signature would not go as far as that and has a happier feel to it.  Interestingly, they both have a role for the female or mother.

 From the Apochryphon of John:
The Father is surrounded by light.
He apprehends himself in that light
His self-aware thought (ennoia) came into being.
Appearing to him in the effulgence of his light.
She stood before him.
Arising out of the mind of the Father
The Providence (pronoia) of everything.
Her light reflects His light.
She is from His image in His light
She praised Him
            For she arose from Him.
 [This, the first Thought, is the Spirit’s image]
She is the universal womb
She is before everything
She is:
            First Man
            Holy Spirit

From the Signature of All Things:


Section 32. After the creation of the highest spirits, God created this visible world with the stars and elements as an external birth out of the mother of all essences; all which proceeded out of the eternal beginning, and took a temporal beginning: For here we are to consider, that the eternal pregnatrix moved itself, and enkindled its own form [or similitude], where then the one became corporeal in the other; but afterwards God created the earth, which we are thus to consider of.


Section 1. As it is before mentioned, all things proceed out of one only mother, and separate themselves into two essences, according to the right of eternity, viz. into a mortal and an immortal, into life and death, into spirit and body; the spirit is the life, and the body is the death, viz. a house of the spirit: As the holy Trinity stands in the birth, so also is the external birth: There is likewise essence and spirit in heaven; a figure of which we see in this outward world, where there are four elements, and yet there is but one only element, which separates itself into four properties, viz. into fire, air, water, and earth, as is above mentioned.

It is not commonly known that in the Aramaic language the gender of the word spirit is feminine.  For some early Christians, then, the Holy Spirit was seen as a kind of Mother so that the Trinity was formed by a Father, a Mother and a Son. 

I am not a Gnostic.  But I find them fascinating in part because I do not understand them and how they came to their place.  Some mysteries are worth pursuing and some are not.   Maybe this one is.  Böhme lived over a thousand years after the gnostics faded away from Christendom.  But somehow his feelings overlap in some degree with them.  Do they have a shared delusion or some useful insights?  The next post will find correspondence with the Gospel of Thomas.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

God and the Cosmos in Jacob Boehme's Signature of All Things

I'm nearing the end of The Signature of All Things.   It has been a long and hard slog through it and I never know whether its prose or poetry.  Probably both.  Most of it inscrutable to me.  But somehow it seems significant.


    The whole outward visible world with all its being is a signature, or figure of the inward spiritual world; whatever is internally, and however its operation is, so likewise it has its character externally; like as the spirit of each creature sets forth and manifests the internal form of its birth by its body, so does the Eternal Being also
    So likewise God dwells in all things, and the thing knows nothing of God; he likewise is not manifest to the thing, and yet it receives power from him, but it receives the power according to its property from him, either from his love, or from his wrath; and from which it receives, so it has its signature[156]  externally; and the good is also in it, but as it were wholly shut up [or hidden] to the iniquity [or evil]; an example of which you have in bushes, and other thorny and pricking briars, out of which notwithstanding a fair well-smelling blossom grows; and there lie two properties therein, viz. a pleasant and unpleasant; which overcomes, that shapes [forms or marks] the fruit. 
    The Being of all beings is but one only Being, but in its generation it separates itself into two principles, viz. into light and darkness, into joy and sorrow, into evil and good, into love and anger, into fire and light, and out of these two eternal beginnings (or principles) into the third beginning, viz. into the creation, to its own love-play and melody, according to the property of both eternal desires.

On his influence, I found which has this to say:

"His thought has since influenced major figures in philosophy, especially German Romantics such as Hegel, Baader, and Schelling. Indirectly, his influence can be traced to the work of Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Hartmann, Bergson, and Heidegger. Paul Tillich and Martin Buber drew heavily from his work -- as did the psychologist, Carl Jung, who made numerous references to Boehme in his writings."

That is quite a lineup. 

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Can you learn anything after age 25?

Mike Lofgren is a retired former House and Senate Staffer.  I enjoyed reading an interview with him as he related his career and how things have changed and was particularly struck by this quote from him which I take as a word of good advice to me and everyone.  Let us not cease learning.

Most people cease learning after age 25 or so, but if you continually question the premises of things, you end up where I am; it depends on how intellectually curious and open-minded you are. There was never a huge contradiction. I wasn't living a double life. I was still a government employee doing the best I could on budget issues.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Once Obscure Jacob Boehme now on You Tube

A couple of years after I was fresh out of college, Harding U. that is, I was reading an interview with Henry Miller, of Tropic of Cancer fame. Don't remember which magazine. He described how he had recently become so excited because he came across something very difficult to get and rare, a book by Jacob Boehme. So he planted the seed in my head that something mysterious and wonderful awaited a person who would have to be both lucky to make the encounter with him and prepared to appreciate the experience. Way back in the ancient days of the 1970's, it was not easy to get one's hands on rare books. There were no computers and no internet. I suppose the avid person could badger the local library and with some luck and persistence track down less common offerings.

That memory remained lodged in a dusty corner of my mind for a great many years. Boehme is so far removed from the Southern Protestantism of the US and I've had no friend or advocate to surface and awaken the curiosity. Now, some thirty or more years later, the internet has introduced me to many friends and informative sites and made available what was previously inaccessible. So, not long ago I downloaded The Signature of All Things, one of the later books by him and prepared to wade through it.

He lived at the boundary of the Medieval and Modern and is not easy to understand. So, the last two days I've been googling him to see what I could learn to help me through. There are a number of insights to be blogged about later. But for this evening, I will simply link to this You Tube posting that presents him in a way about which he would certainly marvel.

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