Introduction
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Introduction This is a book on the post-Reformation, German speculative mystic Jacob Boehme (1575–1624).1 In one sense at least, it shares the universe of commentary and criticism with works by Ernst Benz, Hans Grunsky, Alexandre Koyré, John Joseph Stoudt, and Andrew Weeks.2 In it, I am no less convinced of the historical importance of Boehme and of his religious and metaphysical depth, no less intent on rescuing Boehme’s thought and discourse from the oblivion into which it has fallen, and no less interested in persuading that the archaic discourse and thought of this obscure Silesian shoemaker, who is a devout Lutheran, is important in ways we do well to recognize. This is also a book in which the “history of effects” of Boehme’s work is central, even if I postpone much of the discussion of such effects for future volumes .Thus, at least in an anticipatory mode, it belongs in the same interpretive space as the explorations in English, German, and French of the influence of Boehme on philosophical, religious, and literary thought and discourse from the seventeenth century onward. It belongs in the same interpretive space as the various studies on the influence of Boehme on the philosophical discourse of Hegel and Schelling,3 but also on the philosophical discourse of Leibniz, and even the scientific discourse of Newton.4 At the same time this text belongs in the same interpretive space as studies on the history of effects of Boehme’s discourse on religious thought in general—for example, in esoteric thought of the eighteenth century with particular reference to the eccentric figures of John Pordage and Jean Lead, on the one hand, and Swendenborg and Louis Claude de Saint Martin on the other.5 This text belongs in the same interpretive space as discussions on the influence of Boehme on the more speculative wing of eighteenth-century Pietism, both German and English,6 and reflections on the Boehme retrievals prosecuted in the nineteenth century by the Roman Catholic religious thinker Franz von Baader and somewhat later by Bishop Martensen, Kierkegaard’s bête noir.7 And again, this text belongs in the same interpretive space as studies in the relationship of Boehme to the literary tradition—for 1 example, his influence on Milton and Romantic and post-Romantic poetry in German and English.8 Ultimately, however, this book represents a genre with very few instances—that is, a genre in which Boehme’s corpus is named as a privileged site of the return of a Gnostic modality of thought in modernity— what I have called Gnostic return. Precisely as such, Boehme is a point of origin for other better known discourses: religious (e.g., Thomas Altizer and Jürgen Moltmann), philosophical (e.g., Hegel and Schelling), and even literary (e.g., William Blake and Harold Bloom). In this sense, the main interpretive company this text keeps is that of nineteenth -century German theologians, who saw in Boehme a post-Reformation discursive event with consequences that could be traced into Romanticism and Idealism.The classic expression of this view is provided by Ferdinand Christian Baur in his magisterial Die christliche Gnosis (1835).9 And later texts of the great Protestant historian of dogma, particularly his work on the Trinity,10 fill out the claim made in his earlier text. The other major German theologian who interests himself in making such a claim is the admittedly derivative, and largely forgotten , Roman Catholic theologian, Franz Anton Staudenmaier (1800–1856).11 Staudenmaier accepts the main lines of Baur’s analysis, specifically his views that there exists a line of thought in the post-Reformation and post-Enlightenment fields of discourse that give evidence of Gnostic return, and that Boehme and Hegel respectively represent the origin and culmination of Gnostic return in the modern field. Staudenmaier, however, mourns what Baur celebrates. Granting to Baur, and not to Staudenmaier (who at every turn presupposes him) the patent on a Gnostic return that features the seventeenth-century theosophist, I argue here that Baur is right to claim that Boehme can be regarded as the proximate origin of the emergence of Gnosticism in modern discourse, which emergence signifies a reemergence after an eclipse. But I do so with a tone that is more nearly that of Staudenmaier than Baur himself.That is, I argue Baur’s case with a tone more of mourning than celebration, where this tone suggests that Christian thought has not been delivered from authority, but...


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