PART I. Visionary Pansophism and the Narrativity of the Divine
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PART I  Visionary Pansophism and the Narrativity of the Divine Although, ultimately, there may be no difference between William Blake’s and W. B. Yeats’s common assessment of Boehme as a visionary and Hegel’s assessment of Boehme as protophilosopher,1 especially given Boehme’s tying of vision to interpretive capability and intellectual capacity, still it is probably best to commence with Boehme’s status as a visionary. For the visionary quality of Boehme’s work, which makes possible articulation of the divine milieu, seems at once to be more basic than the undoubtedly tenacious, if not obsessive, return to the question Heidegger regards as basic to philosophy—that is, Why is there something rather than nothing? and to make more sense of Boehme’s multiple lines of influence , in poetry, theology, and pace Heidegger, in philosophy. One might even suggest that vision provides a kind of ‘meta-aesthetic’ that gets parsed differently in distinct discursive genres, performatively and persuasively in poetry, intentionally and reflectively self-legitimatingly in philosophically tempered discourses , and as the aim of heuristic holism in theology, which can offer partial but not full justification for that which integrates the thematic regions of theology and its tasks. Whether this ‘meta-aesthetic’ view is sustainable or not depends , obviously, in significant part on how the as yet untreated relations between Boehme and Blake, and Boehme and the German Idealists, Hegel and Schelling get articulated. More than groundwork, however, can be provided in a treatment of Boehme that registers his rich comprehensiveness. Visionary ascription, however, brings with it its own set of difficulties. One difficulty is that visionary ascription may encourage the view that the two documented experiences of Boehme’s being overwhelmed by a reality of superabundant significance (1600, 1612) helps somehow to explain the complex, indeed inclusive or pansophistic, scope of Boehme’s elucidation of reality.2 Obviously , Boehme’s personal and essentially private experiences have no such explanatory capability. On the one hand, Boehme’s actual experiences of illumination are too indeterminate to offer the slightest clue with regard to the depiction of the superdeterminate encompassing divine reality, rendered in his texts. On the other hand, what amounts to an experiential reductionism devalues not only the processes of interpretation within experience and subsequent to it, but also the centrality of the processes of interpretation of Scripture and nature that drive Boehmian texts—and also, of course, drive the traditions of such interpretation. Required, then, is precisely what I take one of Boehme’s ablest commentators , Andrew Weeks,3 to call for—that is, a hermeneutical historical qualification of vision that accompanies a shift of focus to Boehme’s texts themselves. Vision or visionary functions not so much as an answer to the question of fundamental identity of Boehme’s thought, so much as a pragmatic counter that has problemata on both subjective and objective sides. On the subjective side, it is clear that Boehme thinks of vision as an unexpected “glimpse into the center” (Zentralschau). It is an effect of a pregiven capacity for a form of knowing (Verstand ) that transcends conceptual knowledge (Vernunft).4 At the same time, Boehme not only suggests the accompanying ministrations of spirit (Aurora, preface, # 22–25; Mysterium Magnum [MM], preface) but in typical Reformation fashion suggests that Spirit is constitutive. In one of his letters Boehme makes the following profession: “I can write of myself no otherwise than a child that knows and understands nothing, neither has learned anything save what God has chosen to know in him” (Epistle 22). And on the objective side, while vision is encompassing or pansophistic in scope, it also seems fundamentally tied to argumentative reason, for fundamental questions seem to drive a vision, whose presentation represents the answer. Boehme’s famous setting forth of his program in the preface to his great hexameron , Mysterium Magnum (# 11) provides an eloquent example: 1. We will signify and declare what the center and ground of all essences is. 2. What the divine manifestation (though the speaking of the Word of God) is. 3. How evil and good have their original from one only ground, viz. light and darkness; life and death; joy and sorrow; and how it is in its ground; also whereunto every essence and source is profitable and unavoidable . 4. How all things have their beginning? from the great mystery, viz. from the spiration of the eternal One. 5. How the eternal One introduces itself into sensation, perception and division; to the knowledge of...


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