Contact: Dr. Heinrich C. Kuhn
Document created: 2003-10-23
Last update: 2003-10-24
Andreae, Johann Valentin
Böhling, Frank (ed. & trans.)
Theca Gladii Spiritus
bearbeitet, übersetzt und kommentiert
Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt [Frommann-Holzboog] 2003
Series: Gesammelte Schriften ; 5
Price: € 92
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This title was reviewed by: Hereward Tilton of "Seminar für Geistesgeschichte und Philosophie der Renaissance (LMU München)"
Item arrived at GGREN on: 2003-10-08
Review was finished on: 2003-10-20
The Theca Gladii Spiritus ("Sheath of the Spiritual Sword") constitutes the fifth volume of a new edition of the collected works of Johann Valentin Andreae published by Frommann-Holzboog. A compilation of 'short philosophical aphorisms', the work is not only an interesting expression of that curious admixture of pietist, chiliastic and Hermetic sentiments characteristic of heterodox Lutheranism immediately prior to the Thirty Years War, but also an important testimony to Andreae's own role in the perplexing phenomenon of early Rosicrucianism. It appeared anonymously in 1616 from Lazarus Zetzner in Straßburg, and the only clue regarding its authorship is given in the brief foreword, which states that the aphorisms were found amongst the notes of the late Tobias Hess, some having been excerpted from printed and manuscript sources, others being the fruits of his own pious contemplation. Through these aphorisms (according to the foreword) Hess had passed judgment upon his age, whilst at the same time finding consolation in them for his own private unhappiness.
For those readers familiar with Andreae's relationship to the 'serious jest' of Rosicrucianism, this initial subterfuge of the foreword will come as no surprise. Hess was Andreae's mentor and colleague at the University of Tübingen — a one-time lawyer, physician, dabbler in alchemy and adept in theology and millennialist prophecy, who was branded by the Medical Guild of Tübingen as "a disciple of that impious Paracelsus." He formed the focal point of an "intimate league of friends" in which Andreae spent some years following his premature departure from Tübingen due to an unspecified scandal; such was the influence of Hess on the young Andreae that Gilly has described him as the prototypic theologian-scientist lying behind the legendary founder of the Rosicrucian Fraternity, Christian Rosenkreutz. Nevertheless, Hess was not the author of the Theca Gladii Spiritus. As Frank Böhling points out in his short introduction to the work, Andreae himself confesses in his autobiography that the Theca Gladii Spiritus "belongs entirely to me"; the false ascription to Hess given in the foreword was only another attempt by Andreae to distance himself from the furore engendered by the Rosicrucian manifestos. Indeed, the attentive reader of the time could not fail to note that aphorisms 175 to 202 in the Theca Gladii Spiritus are strewn about in various parts of the second Rosicrucian manifesto, the Confessio Fraternitatis. Furthermore, Martin Brecht has shown that many other aphorisms in the work are present throughout Andreae's corpus.
The meaning of the work's title is revealed in aphorism 771, "Take the sword of the spirit, that is to say, the Word of God" — a citation from Paul's letter to the Ephesians, chapter 6, where it is said (verse 13): "Therefore take the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand." Something of the millennialist foreboding stalking Europe in Andreae's time is also revealed in aphorism 175: "Now that the world falters and the coming end of her age hastens, Jehovah reverses the order of Nature" (famous words also to be found in the opening lines of the Confessio Fraternitatis). In the course of the Theca Gladii Spiritus Andreae's own 'intimate league of friends' — and by extension the Rosicrucian brotherhood — is implicitly revealed as an archetypal community of the faithful: thus aphorism 452, "Perfect and blessed by happiness is the friendship of those who God so binds together through His secret ordinance, that they concur on matters in which divine will and the laws of Nature meet." A few lines later we are told that Christendom itself is just such a "Brotherhood" of the pious, renouncing the world, living in Christ and serving the poor — a confirmation of Lucas Jennis' description in 1624 of the Brotherhood R. C. as the fraternitas Regni Christi. That the Christian ideal toward which Andreae strove was also very much humanist and Hermetic is evinced by his remarks on "the letters and signs of the magical language" which "express the nature of things" and constitute "the language of Adam and Enoch" (aphorisms 189, 190). Alas, in the confused language of Babylon no trace of the prisca sapientia remains, and although the Book of Nature lies open for all to see, there are few who read and understand it (aphorism 186). As we may glean from much of the Rosicrucian literature of the time, this parlous state of affairs (or 'bestial estate', as Raphael Eglinus put it) was widely believed to be approaching its end, and the twin evils of Scholasticism and 'papism' would be overthrown: for just as the mathematician can predict the eclipse of heavenly bodies, so there is also foreknowledge of the eclipse of the Church (aphorism 188).
Böhling's translation from the Latin into German is decent and his annotations concise and incisive, although there are places where more could have been explained to the reader — for example, with regard to the curious figure of 'Christian Cosmoxenus' who emerges in a couple of the aphorisms, and whose 'Zodiac' (i.e. personal virtues associated with the twelve astrological signs) Andreae inserts towards the end of the book. Cosmoxenus (literally 'stranger to the world') appears to be another personification of Andreae's Christian ideal, at once 'in the world, but not of the world'; he is the "progeny of human weakness and misery" who nevertheless has been born again, and who "carries the weight of the past in order to strive for the future" (aphorism 2). As such he encapsulates the mystical, world-rejecting tone of this intriguing work.
An important acquisition for scholars of Rosicrucianism, early modern Lutheranism, pietist strands of thought and counter-Reformation German history; also suited for the interested German layperson and Christian; original Latin with German translation; well produced in blue cloth.
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Author1: Andreae, Johann Valentin Author2: Böhling, Frank (ed. & trans.) main Title: Theca Gladii Spiritus subtitle: add. information: bearbeitet, übersetzt und kommentiert series: Gesammelte Schriften ; 5 place of publ.: Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt publisher: Frommann-Holzboog year: 2003 no of pages etc.: 316 pp. ISBN: 3-7728-1431-X currency: € price: 92