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Charles Buck Theological Dictionary


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A name given to those mystics who adopt the explications of the mysteries of nature and grace, as given by Jacob Behmen. This writer was born in the year 1575, at Old Seidenburg, near Gorlitz, in upper Lusatia: he was a shoemaker by trade. He is described as having been thoughtful and religious from his youth up, taking peculiar pleasure in frequenting public worship. At length, seriously considering within himself that speech of our Saviour, My Father which is in heaven will give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him, he was thereby thoroughly awakened in himself, and set forward to desire that promised Comforter; and, continuing in that earnestness, he was at last, to us his own expression, "surrounded with a divine light for seven days, and stood in the highest contemplation and kingdom of joys!"

After this, about the year 1600, he was again surrounded by the divine light, and replenished with the heavenly knowledge; insomuch as, going abroad into the fields, and viewing the herbs and grass, by his inward light he saw into their essences, use, and properties, which were discovered to him by their lineaments, figures, and signatures. In the year 1610, he had a third special illumination, wherein still farther mysteries were revealed to him. It was not till the year 1612 that Behmen committed these revelations to writing. His first treatise is entitled Aurora, which was seized on and withheld from him by the senate of Gorlitz (who persecuted him at the instigation of the primate of that place before it was finished, and he never afterwards proceeded with it farther than by adding some explanatory notes. The next production of his pen is called The Three Principles. In this work he more fully illustrates the subjects treated of in the former, and supplies what is wanting in that work.

The contents of these two treatises may be divided as follow:

1. How all things came from a working will of the holy triune incomprehensible God, manifesting himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, through an outward perceptible working triune power of fire, light, and spirit, in the kingdom of heaven.

2. How and what angels and men were in their creation; that they are in and from God, his real offspring; that their life begun in and from this divine fire which is the Father of light, generating a birth of light in the Holy Spirit, or breath of divine love in the triune creature, as it does in the triune Creator.

3. How some angels, and all men, are fallen from God, and their first state of a divine triune life in him; what they are in their fallen state, and the difference between the fall of angels and that of Man.

4. How the earth, stars, and elements, were created in consequence of the fallen angels.

5. Whence there is good and evil in all this temporal world, in all its creatures, animate and inanimate; and what is meant by the curse that dwells every where in it.

6. Of the kingdom of Christ; how it is set in opposition to the fights and strives against the kingdom of hell.

7. How man, through faith in Christ, is able to overcome the kingdom of hell, and triumph over it in the divine power, and thereby obtain eternal salvation; also how, through working in the hellish quantity of principle, he casts himself into perdition.

8. How and why sin and misery, wrath, and death, shall only reign for a time, till the love, the wisdom, and the power of God shall in a supernatural way (the mystery of God made man) triumph over sin, misery, and death; and make fallen man rise to the glory of angels, and this material system shake off its curse, and enter into an everlasting union with that heaven from whence it fell.

The year after he wrote his Three Principles, by which are to be understood the dark world, or hell, in which the devils live; the light world, or heaven, in which the angels live; the external or visible world, which has proceeded from the internal and spiritual worlds, in which man, as to his bodily life, lives;

Behmen produced this Three fold Life of Man, according to the Three Principles. In this work he treats more largely of the state of man in this world:

1. That he has that immortal spark of life which is common to angels and devils.

2. That divine life of the light and Spirit of God, which makes the essential difference between an angel and a devil, the last having extinguished this divine life in himself; but that man can only attain unto this heavenly life of the second principle through the new birth in Christ Jesus.

3. The life of the third principle, or of this external and visible world. Thus the life of the first and third principles is common to all men; but the life of the second principle only to a true Christian or child of God.

Behmen wrote several other treatises, besides the three already enumerated; but these three being, as it were, the basis of all his other writings, it was thought proper to notice them particularly. His conceptions are often clothed under allegorical symbols; and in his latter works he had frequently adopted chemical and Latin phrases to express his ideas, which phrases he borrowed from conversation with learned men, the education he had received being too illiterate to furnish him with them: but as to the matter contained in his writings, he disclaimed having borrowed it either from men or books. He died in the year 1624. His last words were, "Now I go hence into Paradise." Some of Behmen's principles were adopted by the late ingenious and pious William Law, who has clothed them in a more modern dress, and in a less obscure style.

See Behmen's Works; Okely's Memoire of Behmen.

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These files are public domain.
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Bibliography Information
Buck, Charles. Entry for 'Behmenists'. Charles Buck Theological Dictionary. 1802.

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Saturday, July 20th, 2019
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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