Jakob Böhme and the three principles of the divine

 Theosophia revelata, das ist, Alle göttliche Schriften, Jakob Böhme, 1730 US public domain via wikimedia
Theosophia revelata, das ist, Alle göttliche Schriften, Jakob Böhme, 1730 US public domain via wikimedia

In Fearful Symmetry,  (1947) Northrop Frye discusses Böhme’s work in relationship to William Blake. This is a great book, highly recommended for all those interested in the imagination. According to Frye, Böhme’s work concerns itself with three stages or ‘principles.’ Frye succinctly describes these principles:

“The first ‘principle’ is God conceived as wrath or fire, who torments himself inwardly until he splits open and becomes the second principle,” (p. 157)

The second principle involves a split within God; it is a split between light as love and darkness as pain. Frye continues:

[The second principle is] “God as love or light leaving behind his empty shell of pain, which, because it is now God-forsaken, is abstract and dead.” (ibid)

The third principle is the created universe. This is the world of inorganic matter, created out of God’s pain. Frye continues:

[The third principle is] “This pure pain is Satan or Lucifer, now cast off from God, who is also the inorganic matter of the created universe, the created universe being the third principle.” (ibid)

The fall of Adam reflects these three principles. Frye says:

“The fall of Adam, therefore, was on the one hand a yielding to death and slavery to nature, and on the other a yielding to a tightly enclosed pain which is also the wrath of God.”

Later Frye adds that “the fall of man involved a fall in part of the divine nature.” (p.41) In Northrop Frye’s view, this loss of divine nature is a loss of imaginative capacity.

Reference:

  1. Northrop Frye’s Fearful Symmetry: A Study of William Blake- 1947
  2. Image from Jakob Bohme, Beschreibung der drey Principien göttliches Wesens- 1682  p.3
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