Balthasar Walther's Biography (Books)
Balthasar Walther (1558 - c. 1631) was a Silesian physician and Christian Kabbalist of German ethnicity. Born in Liegnitz in modern Poland, Walther was a significant influence on the thought of the German theosopher Jakob Bohme. As an itinerant Paracelsian enthusiast, Walther was active throughout the Holy Roman Empire, in Poland, Transylvania and elsewhere. He died in Paris sometime before December 1631.
Balthasar Walther born in Liegnitz, Silesia, Walther attended the University of Frankfurt/Oder where he studied medicine. A gifted student and an evident enthusiast of Paracelsian medicine, he thereafter received a series of appointments to Ducal courts throughout the Holy Roman Empire as a physician, alchemist and laboratory technician. Intensely interested in magic and kabbalistic wisdom, early in his life Walther collected several magical tracts, the manuscripts of which survive in European libraries to this day. In order to deepen his acquaintance with kabbalistic and magical teachings, between 1597 and 1599 Walther traveled to Africa and the Holy Land in order to learn at the feet of Jewish and Arab practitioners. Several years after his return to Europe, he made the acquaintance of Jakob Bohme, probably in late 1617. In 1612 he became a close friend of Boehme. In 1619-20 he studied with Boehme. Along with the likes of the Torgau chiliast Paul Nagel, Walther became a fiery propagandist and promoter of Bohme's work, although for several years he was torn between Bohme's doctrines and those of Bohme's arch-rival, the antinomian Esajas Stiefel. After several years of proselytizing on Bohme's behalf, Walther died in Paris, probably before 1631.
Despite Balthasar Walther's influence, as well as his enthusiasm for kabbalistic and magical tracts, Walther himself only composed two major works, neither of which reflected these interests to any great extent:
- Ode Dicolos Tetrastrophos, totum re- demtionis opus, a Christo Seruatore nostro hu- mano generi praestitum, breuiter com- plectens... (Zerbst: Faber, 1585). A devotional poetic work.
- BREVIS ET VERA DESCRIPTIO RERVM AB ILLVST. AMPLIB. ET FORTIB. MILITIae CON- trapatriae suae Reiq[ue] Pub. Christianae hostes Duce ac Dn. Dn. Jon Michaele, Mol- dawiae Transalpinae sive VValachiae Palatino gestarum, In eiusdem aula Tervvisana fideliter collecta opera & studio. (Gorlitz: Rhambau, 1599). A biography of the Wallachian Prince Michael the Brave.
- A third work, although actually written by Jakob Bohme, was inspired by 40 questions proposed to the philosopher by Walther himself concerning the nature of the human soul. It seems clear that Walther's interests influenced the content of Bohme's responses. The first edition of these Forty Questions on the Soul (to use its English title) was provided by Johann Angelius Werdenhagen, a friend of Walther, shortly after the physician's death in Paris:
- Vera I. B. T. XL Quaestionibus explicata, et rerum publicarum vero regimini: ac earum Maiestatico iuri applicata, a Iohanne Angelio Werdenhagen I.C.C. (Amsterdam: JanBon, 1632).
Despite his significance to and influence upon the theosophy of Jakob Bohme, Walther has attracted little scholarly attention and remained something of a historical cipher. A contemporary biographical account, printed within 20 years following Walther's death is provided in:
- Abraham von Franckenberg, 'Grundlicher und warhafter Bericht von dem Leben und Abschied des in Gott selig-ruhenden Jacob Bohmens...[c.1651]' in Jakob Bohme, Samtliche Schriften. Faksimile-Neudruck der Ausgabe von 1730,(Stuttgart: Friedrich Frommanns Verlag, 1961) vol. 10, ? 18, p. 15.
- Ulmann WeiB: Die Lebenswelten des Esajas Stiefel oder Vom Umgang mit DiBidenten, Stuttgart 2007
- Jacob Bohmes Weg in die Welt. Ed. by Theodor Harmsen (Pimander Texts and Studies published by the Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica 16), Amsterdam 2007, 73-83, 461-474 & paBim
Scholarly articles dedicated to Walther's life and works are:
- Leigh T.I. Penman, 'A Second Christian Rosencreuz Jakob Bohme's Disciple Balthasar Walther (1558-c.1630) and the Kabbalah. With a Bibliography of Walther's Printed Works.' Western Esotericism. Selected Papers Read at the Symposium on Western Esotericism held at Abo, Finland, on 15-17 August 2007. (Scripta instituti donneriani Aboensis, XX). T. Ahlback, ed. Abo, Finland: Donner Institute, 2008: 154-172.
- Erich Worbs, 'Balthasar Walther. Ein Portrat aus dem schlesischen Fruhbarock.' Schlesien 11 (1966), 8-13.
- Georg Gustav Fulleborn. 'Balthasar Walther aus Glogau, ein Schuler Jakob Bohmes.' Die schlesischen Provinzialblatter. Literarische Beilage 20 (1794), 353-360.