Copernican Cosmotheism: Johann Jacob Zimmermann and the Mystical Light

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Johann Jacob Zimmermann (1642–1693) is a forgotten proponent of heliocentrism in seventeenth-century Lutheran Germany. In Scriptura Sacra Copernizans (1690), he located himself within an unusual genealogy of Copernicanism, in which the usual heroes of the scientific revolution were missing. And in a pseudonymous work, Exercitatio theoricorum Copernico-coelestium (1689), there was no holding back for theological speculations. Zimmermann’s cosmology carried metaphysical and especially religious significance. Always interpreted morally and spiritually as well, light and darkness were responsible for the matter and fundamental physical forces of his world. In spite of Zimmermann’s appeal to Italian philosophers of the Renaissance, he was much more influenced by Johann Arndt and Jacob Boehme. Their contemplation of nature, and the sun in particular, was taken up by Zimmermann and carried further. According to him, light had Trinitarian properties because of which it was even identified with God. This latent cosmotheism can be placed in the context of contemporary debates on Boehme’s orthodoxy and Pietist enthusiasm.

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  • 5

    Aker‘Johann Jakob Zimmermann’86.

  • 6

    HartmannJohann Heinrich Horb324–325; Fritz ‘Konventikel in Württemberg’ 111. On proof correctors see Grafton Humanists with Inky Fingers esp. 43–44.

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  • 14

    ZimmermannExercitatio theoricorum100. ‘Theologiae Platonico Christianae’.

  • 15

    ShantzAn Introduction to German Pietism25–30. On Arndt’s education and ties to Paracelsianism see Schneider Der fremde Arndt: Studien zu Leben Werk und Wirkung Johann Arndts (1555–1621) 83–155.

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  • 16

    Martin‘Jacob Boehme and the Anthropology of German Pietism’120–121. On Boehme see Weeks Boehme.

  • 19

    ZimmermannExercitatio theoricorum4. ‘τὰ ἀόρατα τοῦ Θεοῦ’. See also 101 where Zimmermann translated the phrase as ‘Gottes unsichtbahres Wesen’ which I have reflected in the English rendering.

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  • 21

    Anonymous‘[Review:] Exercitatio theoricorum’262. ‘Eidem plus tenebrarum offundere quam lucis accendere.’

  • 23

    Shapin & SchafferLeviathan and the Air-Pump207–224; Henry ‘Henry More versus Robert Boyle’.

  • 27

    DearThe Intelligibility of Nature24–28. For a more detailed discussion of Huygens and Newton see Guicciardini Reading the Principia 121–125.

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  • 35

    SchneiderDer fremde Arndt135.

  • 37

    ArndtLiber naturae3–4. ‘Darumb fraget der Interpres S. Dionysii warumb Gott das Liecht zu erst geschaffen? und antwortet: Quia ab ipsa Divina luce plusquam intelligibili statim emanat lux omnium simillima Deo. Darumb nennet er Lucem imaginem bonitatis Dei. und sagt. Lux superintelligibilis sey in Gott. Lux intelligibilis in Engeln und Menschen/ Lux visibilis in der Sonnen.’

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  • 40

    ArndtLiber naturae6. ‘So leuchtet auch aus der Sonnenliecht eitel reine/ innigliche/ heisse unnd brünstige Liebe Gottes … Er ist selbst dz. ewige unendliche liecht. Darumb hat er uns die Sonne geschaffen. Sie leuchtet uns/ Darumb leuchtet Gottes Liebe aus der Sonnen.’

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  • 53

    ZimmermannScriptura S. Copernizans20. ‘Also ermangeleten auch die falsche Apostel …/ welche von ihrer fleischlichen Geburt an/ … von Anbeginn in Blindheit und Finsternis des Hertzens leben/ des wahren Lichtes aber der Weißheit/ welches einig aus der innerlichen Wiedergeburt herstammen kan/ … und nur des äusserlichen Vernunfft-Lichts geniessen; anbey aber behalten sie in ihrem Hertzen die Tunckelheit der Finsternis in Ewigkeit.’

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  • 55

    Martin‘Language of Canaan’; Brecht ‘Die deutschen Spiritualisten’212.

  • 56

    ZimmermannScriptura S. Copernizans62. ‘Wie nun hier das Copernicanische Systema in solcher Comparation gut Lutherisch ist; so wäre hergegen das Ptolomaische auff der Reformirten Seiten; da nicht die finstre Erde Schuld hätte an ihrer Nacht/ sondern die Sonne selbsten/ weil sie sich durch ihren Untergang der Erden entzöge/ und ihres Lichts beraubte.’ For further alignments see Exercitatio theoricorum 131–133.

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  • 63

    ZimmermannTergemina lucis mysticae mysteria7. ‘Praeprimis Fontem redolet lux orta Perennem Qui lux ipse sibi tempus in omne manet. Est etenim triplex persona sed unus et idem Qui residet rutuli rector in arce poli. Nam prolem aeternam Calido sectatur amore Aeterni titulum qui patris unus habet. Lux de luce micans Clarum de lumine Lumen Spargit progenies indubitata patris. Cuncta Movet merito dicendus Motor et altor Spiritus aetheria qui datus axe venit. Usque adeo patrem et sobolem cum flamine sancto Fulgida tergeminae lucis imago refert.’ In the fourth line I have read ‘rutuli’ as a misprint for ‘rotuli’. The translation reflects my reading of Zimmermann’s poem as tending towards identification rather than analogy. A good example is ‘refert’ in the last line: while this could be figuratively rendered as ‘represents’ I have chosen a more literal translation.

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  • 70

    Westman‘Magical Reform and Astronomical Reform’59–68.

  • 72

    LeinkaufMundus Combinatus327–334.

  • 73

    WestmanThe Copernican Question317–318.

  • 76

    ZimmermannExercitatio theoricorum134. ‘Quoad titulum: Pater Noster Qui Es In Coelis: adumbrat eum quam optime ipse sol in centro universi.’

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  • 81

    ZimmermannExercitatio theoricorum118. ‘Sicuti enim Lux spiritalis ut jure vocant Primigenia cujus per universum diffusio et expansio primum in creatione divinitatis opus fuit postmodum die quarto creationis in solare corpus seu centra lucida corporalia hinc inde cogebatur et condensabatur.’

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  • 83

    E.g. ZimmermannExercitatio theoricorum101. ‘Sed ab aeterno luce vestitus … splendore nempe suae gloriae … e centro deitatis in totam abyssum relucente … id est Filio Suo.’

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  • 87

    ZimmermannExercitatio theoricorum122. ‘E sinu deitatis tanquam tabernacula per verbum Fiat egressus’.

  • 89

    WincklerSend-Schreiben72. ‘Ich will jetzo nicht sagen/ wie lästerlich es gesprochen/ daß die Sonne aus dem Schooß der Gottheit durch das Wort fiat herauß gegangen/ da die Sonne nicht ist eine Geburt des Schooßes/ sondern Gottes Fingerwerck’.

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  • 91

    WincklerSend-Schreiben72. ‘Der Liebhaber J. Böhmens’.

  • 92

    E.g. SchneiderGerman Radical Pietism6.

  • 93

    See Weeks‘Introductory Commentary’58.

  • 94

    ZimmermannExercitatio theoricorum101. ‘Ex abysso Patris’; ‘ex … abysso Deitatis’.

  • 105

    ZimmermannExercitatio theoricorum100. ‘Theologiae Platonico Christianae’.

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