The Writings of Jakob Böhme

Jakob Böhme (1575-1624) saw a vision of God in a beam of sunlight reflecting off a pewter dish. He wrote many books over the course of his life describing his vision of metaphysics, the interrelationship between God and man, and his interpretations of scripture. He was a major influence on the Quakers, the Martinists, the Philadelphians, Hegel, von Schelling, Jung, and Philip K. Dick, among others. Isaac Newton is known to have studied Böhme intensely, and William Law goes so far as to assert that Newton deduced his Three Laws directly from Böhme's Three Principles, although this is controversial.

An excerpt from Signatura Rerum, Chapter 1, where Böhme writes on the Paracelsian doctrine of signatures:
15. And there is nothing that is created or born in nature, but it also manifests its internal form externally, for the internal continually labours or works itself forth to manifestation: As we know it in the power and form of this world, how the one only essence has manifested itself with the external birth in the desire of the similitude, how it has manifested itself in so many forms and shapes, which we see and know in the stars and elements, likewise in the living creatures, and also in the trees and herbs.

16. Therefore the greatest understanding lies in the signature, wherein man (viz. the image of the greatest virtue) may not only learn to know himself, but therein also he may learn to know the essence of all essences; for by the external form of all creatures, by their instigation, inclination, and desire, also by their sound, voice, and speech which they utter, the hidden spirit is known; for nature has given to everything its language according to its essence and form, for out of the essence the language or sound arises, and the fiat of that essence forms the quality of the essence in the voice or virtue which it sends forth, to the animals in the sound, and to the essentials in smell, virtue, and form.

17. Everything has its mouth to manifestation; and this is the language of nature, whence everything speaks out of its property, and continually manifests, declares, and sets forth itself for what it is good or profitable; for each thing manifests its mother, which thus gives the essence and the will to the form.

An excerpt from Of Heaven and Hell:
The Scholar asked his Master, saying;
Whither goeth the Soul when the Body dieth?

His master answered him;
There is no Necessity for it to go any whither.

What not! said the inquisitive Junius:
Must not the Soul leave the Body at Death, and go either to Heaven or Hell?

It needs no going forth, replied the venerable Theophorus:
Only the outward mortal Life with the Body shall separate themselves from the Soul. The Soul hath Heaven and Hell within itself before, according as it is written, "The Kingdom of God cometh not with Observation, neither shall they say, Lo here! or Lo there! For behold the Kingdom of God is within you." And which soever of the two, that is, either Heaven or Hell is manifested in it, in that the Soul standeth.

Here Junius said to his Master;
This is hard to understand. Doth it not enter into Heaven or Hell, as a Man entereth into a House; or as one goeth through a Hole or Casement, into an unknown Place; so goeth it not into another World?

The Master spoke and said;
No. There is verily no such Kind of entering in; forasmuch as Heaven and Hell are everywhere, being universally co-extended.
How is that possible? said the Scholar.
What, can Heaven and Hell be here present, where we are now sitting? And if one of them might, can you make me believe that both should ever be here together?

Then spoke the Master in this Manner:
I have said that Heaven is everywhere present; and it is true. For God is in Heaven; and God is everywhere. I have said also, that Hell must be in like Manner everywhere; and that is also true. For the wicked One, who is the Devil, is in Hell; and the whole World, as the Apostle hath taught us, lieth in the wicked One, or the evil One; which is as much as to say, not only that the Devil is in the World, but also that the World is in the Devil; and if in the Devil, then in Hell too, because he is there. So Hell therefore is everywhere, as well as Heaven; which is the Thing that was to be proved.

Unfortunately, his writings have not been much digitized, although the site Pass the Word has a nice collection.

The Internet Archive has scans of William Law's translation, but they come in sizes too small or too large for convenient reading.

I have reformatted the original scans, adjusting contrast for easier reading. The lovely images associated with Böhme's works did not come through too clear on the scans and completely disappeared during the textual contrast adjustment, but I may be able enhance them to readability or find an alternate source. So consider these PDFs a beta release, the emblem sequences are too elucidating and beautiful to miss out on. The Spamula blog has some good quality images to check out, and you can find many more all around the net, but it would be nice to have a high-quality digital version of the emblem sequences in this edition.

William Law's 4-Volume translation of Jakob Böhme:

    1. The Aurora [PDF] 38M
    2. The Three Principles [PDF] 45M

    1. The Threefold Life of Man [PDF] 31M
    2. The Answers to Forty Questions Concerning the Soul [PDF] 15M
    3. The Treatise of the Incarnation [PDF] 18M
    4. The Clavis [PDF] 5M

    1. The Mysterium Magnum [PDF] 76M
    2. Four Tables of Divine Revelation [PDF] 10M

    1. Signatura Rerum [PDF] 22M
    2. Of the Election of Grace [PDF] 24M
    3. The Way to Christ [PDF] 15M
    4. A Discourse between a Soul hungry and thirsty after the Fountain of Life, the sweet Love of Jesus Christ; and a Soul enlightened. [PDF] 2M
    5. A Treatise of the Four Complexions [PDF] 4M
    6. Of Christ's Testaments, Baptism, and the Supper [PDF] 12M

Update: Most of Boehme's writings were only available in low-contrast scans when this post was written; there are now transcriptions available at www.jacobboehmeonline.com


Secret Symbols of the Rosicrucians of the 16th and 17th Centuries

This opaque work is one of the few documents accepted as "authentically" Rosicrucian aside from the Fama Fraternitatis, the Confessio Fraternitatis, and The Chymical Wedding.

A gorgeous color edition in German is available online at the University of Wisconson History of Science and Technology digital collection. For easier viewing, these high-quality images have been collected in a pdf.

An English translation by the AMORC is available online at the Rose+Croix Journal resources page.

There are also several incomplete or altered versions of these figures floating around. The good folks at Celephais Press have duplicated Franz Hartmann's version with this comment:
The only thing I have to say in mitigation for preparing an e-text of this travesty of the Geheime Figuren is that the complete English translation is in copyright and I have no real desire to pick a fight with AMORC.


The Book of Lambspring

The images for Lambspring at levity are rather small, larger images of these engravings with Spanish titles can be found in this photo gallery.

The library at the University of Salzberg has a lovely hand-painted color edition in German. For easier viewing, this series of images has been made into a pdf.


The Most Holy Trinosophia

The Trinosophia is one of two books attributed to the Comte de Saint-Germain.

Manly P. Hall's translation can be read in parallel with the French at the Sacred Texts site, but the pictures are in black and white and they neglect some of the smaller images and illuminated letters.

A sorta low-rez color scan can be found here, in a Flash "page-turning" display. The original book is absolutely beautiful.

I've taken the images from the SWF and made a PDF out of them for easier reading.

The other book of St. Germain's is the "triangular book", which has never been reprinted. Update! Adam McLean produced a reproduction of the triangular book.

This alchemy list thread contains some information about the two copies of the triangular book and an English translation of (some of?) the text.

I found these images of the triangular book here.

Update 3/31/2011: Since this post was first written, several boxes from the Manly P. Hall collection have been scanned and are available at archive.org, including a very high quality color scan of the triangular book!

Update 4/01/2011: Iona Miller has informed me that the above images are actually from an earlier, non-public triangular book. Thanks Iona!

Large archives

The number of alchemy texts already online is scarcely believable, since the entire body of work as literature has been largely forgotten, nevermind the comsological/philosophical aspects. Still, according to Adam McLean, only 1% of extant texts are online.

Take some time to browse around these sites:

Adam McLean's Alchemy Site
The primary online source, massive and well-categorized.

Rex Research Alchemy pages
There is a lot of overlap here with Adam McLean's site, but Robert Nelson has several texts not found elsewhere, including Mary Anne Atwood's Hermetic Philosophy & Alchemy and the influential Ordinall of Alchimy by Thomas Norton.

The AZOGUE journal maintains a large archive.

Alan Pritchard maintains an extensive biliography, including a section for online texts.

Relevant texts can also be found at the Internet Sacred Text Archive in the alchemy, freemasonry, Rosicrucian, and sub rosa sections.

European Cultural Heritage Online, many interesting source text scans.

The Twilit Grotto, etexts of many of the most important Renaissance thinkers, John Dee, Agrippa, Johannes Trithemius, Giordano Bruno, etc.

Lullian Arts has hypertexts and applications relating to Raymond Lull's mnemonic techniques.

The Newton Project is digitizing some of Newton's more speculative and theological writings that have seldom been seen before. Also Robert Boyle's work diaries are online.

Theatrum Chemicum Electronicum (1st ed. 1602), an electronic reproduction of Lazarus Zetzner's 6-volume >5000pp compendium, mostly in Latin. Electronic edition by Rafal Prinke. Not to be confused with Elias Ashmole's Theatricum Chemicum Brittanicum (1652). The UPenn images of Ashmole's collection have been collected into a pdf.

The Complutense University of Madrid has around 120 manuscripts (mostly latin) online, including Bibliotheca Chemica Curiosa, compiled by Jean-Jacques Manget.

The Manly P. Hall manuscript collection is now online at archive.org

Berthelot's Collection des anciens alchimistes grecs:
Vol. 1
Vols. 2-3
Vols. 3-4

C.G. Jung's alchemical collection is also currently being digitized.

The Swiss site e-rara has the Alchemy, Magic and Kabbalah (Foundation of the Works of C.G.Jung) and Historical scientific literature (ETH-Bibliothek)

I would also like to point out Mike Dickman's original translations and the R.A.M.S. collection, which is not online, but can be ordered on CD-ROM.