Empty Days

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Jacob Boehme

AOL is crashing my computer, so I've put some time into finding ways and means to connect to AOL isp without installing their software. Let's say it's not obvious. Lots of networking stuff to recap. And maybe I still won't find a way. Or maybe I will, because I am sure other more knowledgeable people have dealt with this same problem before and solved it a hundred times over.

In any case I will probably have to format the drive and reinstall windows. On the plus side it keeps me mind away from other stuff.

***

Somehow all this drive to defeat AOL started with some reading this morning of Jacob Boehme's Confessions. Strangely enough, what he has to say made a lot of sense to me - I am not sure how. I suppose there are a number of ways to read such texts, but I found that suspending disbelief (or refusing to analyze) was the best way - otherwise you might as well not read it all. One thing that really surprised me is that Boehme doesn't feel at all antiquated. Perhaps it's the translation, but on the other hand his ideas are actually perfectly intelligible, and even more than that - perfectly modern. Whatever vague idea I had of Boehme certainly never included his being so "up to date". Surprise :-0

One thing I found myself doing while reading him, was trying not to get stuck on symbolism (Satan/God etc). This is his language and he knows no other language - but what he says goes beyond that somehow. I suppose his mystical take on Christianity really brings out the purely spiritual part of it - as opposed to what is usually meant by "religious" (Bible-stumping, in popular language). When he says that most people see only with their eyes and declare that nothing exists but what they so see, I find he has a point.

I read chapter 13 of Confessions. One strange feature is that Boehme writes in short numbered paragraphs, very much like Wittgenstein. Previously I've found a viable connection between L.W. and Swedenborg - this one is really only nominal.

[J.B.'s "Confessions" are not available online, except in Portuguese]

***

Like many mystics of his time, Boehme is classified as an "agnostic". Agnosticism is supposed to be some sort of movement, but basically it's just a general claim that certain things are not knowable, no matter what various texts, sacred or otherwise, might say about it. The paradoxical side of this though is that mystics usually invent cosmologies and laws of their own, claiming that it's all based on their direct experience of those unknownable things. I can certainly understand how this runs against scripture-worship which is the usual characteristic of all traditional religions.

Another paradoxical side of this is that, despite these theories and cosmologies, mystics are not religion-founders. They are exegetes of a strange kind at best. Swedenborg or Boehme were convinced that they were as christian as christian can be. Thanks to these crazy and ardent people christianity still makes some sense beyond the countless absurdities it got loaded with over the centuries. In the end, the greatest paradox of all is that it should be so hard to pierce to the heart of a religion - for it is wrapped in so many layers of pompous gibberish (perhaps like a christmas tree overloaded with decorations) that it is almost easier to understand the mystic than to understand the righteous.

[This is a far-fetched statement - and fortunately it won't carry. Here I think of some remark by Andrew Sullivan who decided that Islam is a religion of hate because a number of pilgrims got stampeded at Mecca. That's stark stupid - and it will carry.]





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