Boehme’s Metaphysics of Evil
At this point, we might turn to the writings of Jacob Boehme (1575–1624), whose work may offer us some insight into how the inquisitorial mind operates. During the most creative part of his life, Boehme had been persecuted by a local Protestant pastor, so he had witnessed the phenomenon ﬁrst hand. In his Six Theosophic Points, Boehme explains how every human being has an inner choice between wrath and love. If we “withdraw into the dark ﬁre of the source of anguish,” then we exist inwardly in “fear and enmity, each form of life being hostile to the other.” By contrast, “God’s kingdom is found only in the bright clear light in freedom, in love and gentleness, for that is the property of the white clear light.”2 We can incarnate one or the other.
According to Boehme, both the dark world of wrath and the light world of love are accessible to us on earth—indeed, they both can be seen manifesting in visible nature.3 We are given the freedom to manifest either one. When we “burn with wrath, envy, falsehood, lying, and deceit,” then we live in or manifest “the dark world’s ﬁre.”4 And if so, then we are not really human but, rather, are demonic beings in human form.5 According to Boehme, “the more evil and hostile a creature is in the dark world, the greater is its might. As the powerful tyrants of this world often exhibit their power in malignity, that men must fear them... just so is this a characteristic of those in the dark world.”6
As a result, Boehme writes, tyrants and those who incarnate the dark world make this visible realm a “murderous den of the devil.” For those who incarnate the dark world pretend to be human, but in fact are not. They “do the butchery, and increase God’s wrath, and kindle the dark world in this outer world.”7
Thus there are two species of man on earth: there are those who serve God in humility and who, like Christ, are persecuted; and there is a species that “calls itself men, walks also in human form, but [in fact is] evil beasts.”8 Those people who incarnate the dark world might claim to be holy and even wear clerical garb, but this is only a disguise: what matters is what they are like inwardly. Full of suppressed fury, cold inhumanity, and arrogance, they vaunt themselves over others and like nothing better than to demonstrate their power over others by inspiring terror and spreading hell on earth.
It is no doubt easy for some readers to dismiss Boehme’s perspective, but it does offer an eschatological and metaphysical context for understanding the phenomenon of totalitarianism. Certainly when we look at the atrocities perpetrated by the various totalitarian states—the industrialized murders committed by the Nazis, the horrific abuses of and murders of Tibetan Buddhists under Chinese Communism, the butchery by Stalin’s secret police, the monstrous regime of the Cambodian Pol Pot, whose minions actually acted out hellish scenes with themselves cast as demons—is it really so hard to believe that human life really can be seen as a struggle between two sides, one meek and humble, the other tyrannical and grasping for the power over life and death? Perhaps such a view seems too dualistic, and yet one wonders whether it would seem so farfetched to the hundred million or hundred ﬁfty million victims of these totalitarian regimes.