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Behmenism

Behmenism

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Behmenism, also Behemenism and similar, is the English-language designation for a 17th Century Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

an Christian
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

 movement based on the teachings of German
Germans
The Germans are a Germanic ethnic group native to Central Europe. The English term Germans has referred to the German-speaking population of the Holy Roman Empire since the Late Middle Ages....

 mystic
Mysticism
Mysticism is the knowledge of, and especially the personal experience of, states of consciousness, i.e. levels of being, beyond normal human perception, including experience and even communion with a supreme being.-Classical origins:...

 and theosopher Jakob Böhme
Jakob Böhme
Jakob Böhme was a German Christian mystic and theologian. He is considered an original thinker within the Lutheran tradition...

 (1575-1624). The term was not usually applied by followers of Böhme's theosophy
Theosophy (history of philosophy)
Theosophy , designates several bodies of ideas since Late Antiquity. The Greek term is attested on magical papyri .-Neoplatonism:...

 to themselves, but rather was used by some opponents of Böhme's thought as a polemical term. The origins of the term date back to the German literature of the 1620s, when opponents of Böhme's thought, such as the Thuringia
Thuringia
The Free State of Thuringia is a state of Germany, located in the central part of the country.It has an area of and 2.29 million inhabitants, making it the sixth smallest by area and the fifth smallest by population of Germany's sixteen states....

n antinomian
Antinomianism
Antinomianism is defined as holding that, under the gospel dispensation of grace, moral law is of no use or obligation because faith alone is necessary to salvation....

 Esajas Stiefel, the Lutheran
Lutheranism
Lutheranism is a major branch of Western Christianity that identifies with the theology of Martin Luther, a German reformer. Luther's efforts to reform the theology and practice of the church launched the Protestant Reformation...

 theologian Peter Widmann and others denounced the writings of Böhme and the Böhmisten. When his writings began to appear in England in the 1640s, Böhme's surname was irretrievably corrupted to the form "Behmen" or "Behemen", whence the term "Behmenism" developed. A follower of Böhme's theosophy is a "Behmenist".

Definition


Behmenism does not describe the beliefs of any single formal religious sect, but instead designates a more general description of Böhme's interpretation of Christianity, when used as a source of devotional inspiration by a variety of groups. Böhme's views greatly influenced many anti-authoritarian
Anti-authoritarian
Anti-authoritarianism is opposition to authoritarianism, which is defined as a "political doctrine advocating the principle of absolute rule: absolutism, autocracy, despotism, dictatorship, totalitarianism." Anti-authoritarians usually believe in full equality before the law and strong civil...

 and Christian mystical
Christian mysticism
Christian mysticism refers to the development of mystical practices and theory within Christianity. It has often been connected to mystical theology, especially in the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions...

 movements, such as the Religious Society of Friends
Religious Society of Friends
The Religious Society of Friends, or Friends Church, is a Christian movement which stresses the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers. Members are known as Friends, or popularly as Quakers. It is made of independent organisations, which have split from one another due to doctrinal differences...

, the Philadelphians
Philadelphians
The Philadelphians, or the Philadelphian Society, were a Protestant 17th century religious group in England. They were organized around John Pordage , an Anglican priest from Bradfield, Berkshire, who had been ejected from his parish in 1655 because of differing views, but then reinstated in 1660...

, the Gichtelians
Johann Georg Gichtel
Johann Georg Gichtel was a German mystic and religious leader who was a critic of Lutheranism. His followers ultimately separated from this faith.-Biography:...

, the Society of the Woman in the Wilderness (led by Johannes Kelpius
Johannes Kelpius
Johannes Kelpius , a German Pietist, mystic, musician, and writer, interested in the occult, botany, and astronomy, came to believe with his followers in the "Society of the Woman in the Wilderness" that the end of the world would occur in 1694...

), the Ephrata Cloister
Ephrata Cloister
The Ephrata Cloister or Ephrata Community was a religious community, established in 1732 by Johann Conrad Beissel at Ephrata, in what is now Lancaster County, Pennsylvania...

, the Harmony Society
Harmony Society
The Harmony Society was a Christian theosophy and pietist society founded in Iptingen, Germany, in 1785. Due to religious persecution by the Lutheran Church and the government in Württemberg, the Harmony Society moved to the United States on October 7, 1803, initially purchasing of land in Butler...

, Martinism
Martinism
Martinism is a form of mystical and esoteric Christianity concerned with the fall of the first man, his state of material privation from his divine source, and the process of his return, called 'Reintegration' or illumination....

, and Christian
Esoteric Christianity
Esoteric Christianity is a term which refers to an ensemble of spiritual currents which regard Christianity as a mystery religion, and profess the existence and possession of certain esoteric doctrines or practices, hidden from the public but accessible only to a narrow circle of "enlightened",...

 theosophy
Theosophy (history of philosophy)
Theosophy , designates several bodies of ideas since Late Antiquity. The Greek term is attested on magical papyri .-Neoplatonism:...

. Böhme was also an important source of German Romantic
Romanticism
Romanticism was an artistic, literary and intellectual movement that originated in the second half of the 18th century in Europe, and gained strength in reaction to the Industrial Revolution...

 philosophy, influencing Schelling
Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling
Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling , later von Schelling, was a German philosopher. Standard histories of philosophy make him the midpoint in the development of German idealism, situating him between Fichte, his mentor prior to 1800, and Hegel, his former university roommate and erstwhile friend...

 in particular. In Richard Bucke
Richard Bucke
Richard Maurice Bucke , often called Maurice Bucke, was an important Canadian progressive psychiatrist in the late nineteenth century. An adventurer in his youth, he went on to study medicine, practice psychiatry in Ontario, and befriend a number of noted men of letters in Canada, the U.S., and...

's 1901 treatise Cosmic Consciousness, special attention was given to the profundity of Böhme's spiritual enlightenment, which seemed to reveal to Böhme an ultimate nondifference, or nonduality
Nondualism
Nondualism is a term used to denote affinity, or unity, rather than duality or separateness or multiplicity. In reference to the universe it may be used to denote the idea that things appear distinct while not being separate. The term "nondual" can refer to a belief, condition, theory, practice,...

, between human beings and God
God
God is the English name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism....

. Böhme is also an important influence on the ideas of the English Romantic poet, artist and mystic William Blake
William Blake
William Blake was an English poet, painter, and printmaker. Largely unrecognised during his lifetime, Blake is now considered a seminal figure in the history of both the poetry and visual arts of the Romantic Age...

.

Modern use


Despite being based on a corrupted form of Böhme's surname, the term Behmenism has retained a certain utility in modern English-language historiography, where it is still occasionally employed, although often to designate specifically English followers of Böhme's theosophy
Theosophy (history of philosophy)
Theosophy , designates several bodies of ideas since Late Antiquity. The Greek term is attested on magical papyri .-Neoplatonism:...

. Given the transnational nature of Böhme's influence, however, the term at least implies manifold international connections between Behmenists. In any case, the term is preferred to clumsier variants such as "Böhmeianism" or "Böhmism", although these may also be encountered.