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Leigh Penman: Climbing Jacob's Ladder. Crisis, Chiliasm and Transcendence in the Thought of Paul Nagel (†1624), a Lutheran Dissident during the Time of the Thirty Years’ War.

Leigh Penman: Climbing Jacob's Ladder. Crisis, Chiliasm and Transcendence in the Thought of Paul Nagel (†1624), a Lutheran Dissident during the Time of the Thirty Years’ War.

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Leigh T.I. Penman, 'Climbing Jacob's Ladder. Crisis, Chiliasm and Transcendence in the Thought of Paul Nagel (†1624), a Lutheran Dissident during the Time of the Thirty Years’ War.' Intellectual History Review 20/2 (2010), 201-226.
Leigh T.I. Penman, 'Climbing Jacob's Ladder. Crisis, Chiliasm and Transcendence in the Thought of Paul Nagel (†1624), a Lutheran Dissident during the Time of the Thirty Years’ War.' Intellectual History Review 20/2 (2010), 201-226.

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Climbing Jacob's Ladder: Crisis, Chiliasm, and Transcendence in the Thought of Paul Nagel (†1624), a Lutheran Dissident during the Time of the Thirty Years' War
Leigh T. I. Penman a a History Faculty, University of Oxford, Online publication date: 11 May 2010

To cite this Article Penman, Leigh T. I.(2010) 'Climbing Jacob's Ladder: Crisis, Chiliasm, and Transcendence in the

Thought of Paul Nagel (†1624), a Lutheran Dissident during the Time of the Thirty Years' War', Intellectual History Review, 20: 2, 201 — 226 To link to this Article: DOI: 10.1080/17496971003783765 URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17496971003783765

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Intellectual History Review 20(2) 2010: 201–226

CLIMBING JACOB’S LADDER: CRISIS, CHILIASM, AND TRANSCENDENCE IN THE THOUGHT OF PAUL NAGEL (†1624), A LUTHERAN DISSIDENT DURING THE TIME OF THE THIRTY YEARS’ WAR
Leigh T.I. Penman
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In September of 1617, following an exhausting procession across the territory of Saxony, testing and enforcing the regulations of the Lutheran administration, a phalanx of grimly clad church inspectors wearily trudged into the picturesque town of Torgau.1 Situated on the banks of the Elbe, Torgau was a city famous for its healthful black beer, brewed from the river’s rushing waters. However, during the course of their subsequent interrogations, the churchmen quickly became alerted to the presence of a less wholesome influence within the city’s walls. According to their handwritten report, they soon learnt of the activities of a certain Magister Paul Nagel. Nagel, an astrologer and resident of Torgau for some seven years, had recently begun to express ‘strange paradoxes’. The local pastor declared that he had not attended services or partaken in the sacraments for some time.2 Information collected from other inhabitants rumoured that Nagel read the books of Valentin Weigel and the German mystics zealously. Stranger still, it was said that he made bizarre prophecies, and regarded himself as the ‘third Elias’.3 The inspectors promptly summoned Nagel to their temporary chambers in the basement of the Torgau Nikolaikirche. When he was confronted with the rumours and accusations concerning his behaviour, Nagel was astonished. As one of the learned – and an upstanding member of the community – he simply could not fathom from where these horrible rumours had sprung, and felt that he had done nothing to deserve them. Naturally he could explain everything. His absence from church was due to a troubling and persistent bout of illness, and, although Nagel had heard
lpenman@unimelb.edu.au LeighPenman 0 2000002010 Society for Intellectual History 20 International 2010 Original Article 1749-6977 History Intellectual Francis Review 10.1080/17496971003783765 RIHR_A_478898.sgm Taylor and (print)/1749-6985 (online)

The author would like to thank Charles Zika (Melbourne) and Grantley McDonald (Tours) for their comments on this article. The research was completed with the benefit of grants from the Herzog August Bibliothek in Wolfenbüttel (where the majority of the research was carried out), and from the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst. Additionally, the author is indebted to the anonymous referees, whose extensive comments and suggestions improved this work a great deal.
1 Wernigerode,

Landeshauptarchivs Sachsen-Anhalt, Abteilung Magdeburg, Rep. A 29b, II Nr. 35, fols 578r–v, 581v–582v. ‘Visitation der Inspektionen Wittenberg, Torgau […] etc.’ (18 September 1617). A summary of conclusions from this protocol is located in Dresden, Hauptstaatsarchiv, MS 10088 Oberkonsistorium, Loc. 1987, 3, 288. 2 Wernigerode, fol. 581v. 3 Wernigerode, fol. 581v. Intellectual History Review ISSN 1749-6977 print/ISSN 1749-6985 online ©2010 International Society for Intellectual History http://www.informaworld.com/journals DOI: 10.1080/17496971003783765

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word of them – who indeed among the learned had not during these troubling times? – he had never read anything of Weigel’s heretical theology.4 Concerning the mystics, Nagel admitted that he was, like Luther himself, an avid reader. He urged his interrogators to practice Gelassenheit, and to read the Theologia Deutsch, a work for which, Nagel reminded them, Luther himself had provided a useful preface.5 Nonetheless, something seemed amiss to his interrogators. Unconvinced of his claims of illness, the astrologer was pressed further on his absence from religious services. Could he have heard anything objectionable preached by the local minister? No, Nagel insisted, he had heard nothing objectionable, although he felt that true Christianity ‘was not wholly dependent on its outward rites’. In order to be truly devout, Nagel continued, one had to allow Christ to dwell bodily in the believer.6 With all manner of strange rumours circulating, the worried churchmen were wary of more extreme types of heresy lurking behind Nagel’s amiable facade. Prompted by some suggestion or another they had heard, they asked Nagel if he kept familiars, an accusation he denied: ‘I am illuminated solely by the Holy Spirit,’ he declared, ‘who appears to me invisibly’. For the benefit of his inquisitors, Nagel defined ‘antichrist’ as all those who lived against the teachings of Jesus.7 Apparently satisfied with these responses – if not entirely convinced by them – the inspectors cautioned the astrologer to attend church more regularly. They allowed him to go free with a stern warning, although they reserved the right to refer the case to the head superintendent.8 Yet where there is smoke, there is often fire. A few short months after their visit, Nagel published a Prognosticon Astrologo-Cabalisticum for the year 1618 which ‘touched upon several secrets and arcana of astronomy’.9 This was a tract that, in the author’s own words ‘was attacked by the ignorant’ as well as the learned, and ‘even seemed to raise the ire of the Devil’.10 Less than a year later, after a mighty comet had burned brilliantly in the night skies above Europe in November and December of 1618, Nagel issued the Stellae Prodigiosae (1619), in which he sketched a complex astrological-prophetic system. Based on proofs derived from biblical and astronomical data, Nagel argued that this confluence of ideas demonstrated that the millennium, a time of future felicity for the church, led in spirit by Christ himself, would dawn in 1624; following the great conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter in the fiery trigon of Leo, Aries and Sagittarius in 1623.11 This ‘millennium’ would endure just 42 years, until the Last Judgement in 1666. Inspired by his discoveries, Nagel embarked on an active programme to publicize his chiliastic philosophy in a series of more than thirty books and pamphlets, most of which were printed between 1619 and 1627. Outraged theologians and natural philosophers stridently condemned his works, and Nagel quickly became one of the most notorious critics of orthodox Lutheranism. All of this, from a man who was raised as a devout Lutheran, and who at one point was even a student in Leipzig and Wittenberg, twin bastions of Lutheran orthodoxy in Saxony, homeland of Luther’s Reformation. Mostly forgotten in our time, Nagel was notorious in his own; reviled by the natural-philosophical and religious establishment as one of the principal agents of chiliastic dissent in the Empire. Following his prophetic emergence in 1617, Nagel’s ideas were attacked by more than a dozen
fol. 582r. Wernigerode, fol. 582r. fol. 582r. 7 Wernigerode, fol. 582r. 8 Wernigerode, fol. 582v. 9 P. Nagel, Ander Theil Complementum Astronomiae und ausfürliche Erklerung des fünffjährigen prognostici 1619. (Halle, 1620), sig. C4v. 10 No copies of this text appear to have survived. For the appraisal, see P. Nagel, Prognosticon Astrologo-Cabalisticum auff das jahr MDCXX. Beschrieben. ([Halle], 1619), 14. Cf. Leipzig UB Ms 0 356, fol. 97r (20 November 1618). 11 See, especially, P. Nagel, Prognosticon Astrologo-Harmonicum Super tres vel plures etiam annos conscriptum. Ausfürliches Prognosticon vber drey oder mehr Jahr beschrieben von 1620 […] . (Halle: n.d. [1620]).
5 6 Wernigerode, 4 Wernigerode,

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opponents.12 Due to his prolific literary output, he inspired a diverse, international readership, as well as a series of imitators. In 1619, a dissident in Töplits, Bohemia, translated one of Nagel’s texts into Czech.13 One Nuremberg astrologer claimed in 1626 to be a ‘discipulus and liebhaber’ of Nagel.14 Several of his opponents made reference to supposed ‘Nagelians’ (Nagelisten) lurking within and without the Holy Roman Empire well into the 1630s.15 Yet despite this notoriety, Nagel’s celebrity, like that of many other Lutheran ‘New Prophets’, faded rapidly after his death; a circumstance almost wholly attributable to the failure of his prophecies for 1624. While in 1680 Friedrich Breckling could still praise Nagel as one of his ‘200 witnesses of [Christian] truth’, by 1700 Gottfried Arnold could only offer that at some point Nagel had been a professor, or tutor, in Leipzig. Given the rapid oblivion into which Nagel sunk, scholarly interest in his life and work has been slow to develop. The earliest scholarly engagements with Nagel tended to be somewhat glib. For Roland Haase, for example, who wrote an often-cited work on the ‘problem’ of chiliasm and the Thirty Years’ War, Nagel was little more than a cipher for ‘Rosicrucian’ interests, a typical reactionary prophet inspired by raging conflicts to express his lamentations.16 For Will-Erich Peuckert, on the other hand, Nagel was a not-particularly interesting astrologer, a minor figure lurking on the fringes of assorted heterodox networks of the early seventeenth century.17 It was not until 1988, however, with the publication of Robin Bruce Barnes’s pioneering work Prophecy and Gnosis, that sustained attention was devoted to Nagel, based on a consideration of a large corpus of printed works. Barnes was the first scholar to demonstrate Nagel’s significance within the cultural matrix of seventeenth-century protestant eschatological expectations, refracted largely through Nagel’s role in the Lutheran debates on chiliastic heresy between 1610 and 1627. Barnes’s careful work demonstrated that Nagel was not an aberration or lone reactionary, but part of a broader movement within Lutheranism critical of the institutionalized faith. Inspired in turn by eschatology, numerology, astrological speculations and popular prophecy, Barnes argued, Nagel and his ilk formed an important counterpoint to prevailing ideas of Lutheran orthodoxy and social discipline.18 This idea of Nagel as part of a culture of dissent has been expanded in more recent research. Alistair Hamilton’s investigation of the reception of 2 Esdras in Germany has shown Nagel was part of an active prophetic textual community.19 Newly rediscovered manuscript evidence takes these observations further. The indefatigable Carlos Gilly, who since the mid-1980s has been
of Nagel’s major opponents, who wrote books and pamphlets explicitly dedicated to the refutation of his work include Andreas Merck, Georg Rost, Philipp Arnold, Peter Crüger, Justus Groscurdt, Nikolaus Hunnius, Phillip Müller, Lorenz Eichstädt, Abraham Scultetus, Johann Wolther, Valentin Kinlen and Gregor Uberschar. The majority of these works were printed between 1620 and 1623 and are considered in L.T.I. Penman, Unanticipated Millenniums. The Lutheran Experience of Chiliastic Thought, 1600–1630 (Dordrecht: Springer, forthcoming). 13 P. Nagel, Complementum Astronomiæ, to gest Duwod a Wyswetlenj Petileté Pranostyky Léta 1619. w Hallu wytisstené […] (Prague, 1620). There is a copy in the British Library. On the translator Michal Longolius, see H. Hallwich, Töplits. Eine deutschböhmische Stadtgeschichte (Berlin, 1886), 300. 14 K. Matthäus, ‘Zur Geschichte des Nürnberger Kalenderwesens. Die Entwicklung der in Nürnberg gedruckten JahresKalender in Buchform’, Archiv für Geschichte des Buchwesens, 9 (1969), 965–1396 at 1144, 1167. 15 See, for example, the remark of John Dury in his ecumenical ‘Purpose and Platforme of the Journeys’ of 1631 (Sheffield, University Library, Hartlib Papers, 18/17/3B), where he announced his intentions in travelling about Europe to engage with ‘the Socinians, Arrians, Anabaptists, Swenkfeldians, Famelists, Weigelians Nagelians, and to purchase the cheife bookes of all their Tenents, and to obserue the difference of their Churches, Orders, and Customes, seruinge, either for decencie, or discipline’. It seems that Dury here used ‘Nagelians’ as a shorthand for millenarian dissidents in general. 16 R. Haase, Das Problem des Chiliasmus und der Dreißigjährige Krieg (Leipzig: Gerhardt, 1933), 97. 17 W-E. Peuckert, Die Rosenkreutzer. Zur Geschichte einer Reformtion (Jena: Eugene Diedrichs Verlag, 1928), 28. 18 R.B. Barnes, Prophecy and Gnosis. Apocalypticism in the Wake of the Lutheran Reformation (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1988), 177–81, 212–14, 238–46. 19 A. Hamilton, The Apocryphal Apocalypse. The Reception of the Second Book of Esdras (4 Ezra) from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment, Oxford-Warburg Studies (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 177–8.
12 Some

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engaged in research and preparation of an exhaustive bibliography of the Rosicrucian movement, has unearthed several significant manuscript sources relevant to Nagel, the most important of which is undoubtedly the prophet’s correspondence with the Leipzig physician Arnold Kerner.20 This correspondence has revealed Nagel’s involvement in a diverse range of projects, and allowed us to ground the prophet further within both local and broader intellectual circumstances. Indeed, in his capacity as a reader and publicist of dissident ideas, Nagel emerges as something of a key figure in early seventeenth-century Lutheranism, and Protestant dissent more broadly. As a member of an ad-hoc network of heterodox correspondents, Nagel knew, read, copied and distributed several significant dissident works, such as the Rosicrucian manifestos and the unprinted works of Valentin Weigel, several years before their publication. Furthermore, Nagel’s correspondence reveals the significant role he played in the circle surrounding Jakob Böhme.21 Indeed, Nagel was actually the first person to set any part of Böhme’s work in print, appropriating sections of Böhme’s Aurora (c.1612), along with unprinted works by Valentin Weigel, in his Prodromus astronomiae apocalypticae (1620).22 Attention has also recently been focused on Nagel for his significance in the history and philosophy of science, more particularly in astronomy. An exhaustive bibliographical survey has revealed that Nagel was, as the author of an unbroken series of annual astrological SchreibCalender published between 1610 and the mid 1620s, one of the more prolific and significant of the non-academic contributors to a seventeenth-century culture of popular astrological and astronomical inquiry.23 Indeed, in his charmingly titled Chiromantia meganthropi (1611), Nagel was perhaps the first German-speaking scholar to consider the significance of Galileo Galilei’s observations of the moons of Jupiter with a telescope, only a few months after the publication of Galilei’s Siderius nuncius in August 1610.24 It was not enough to erode Nagel’s confidence in the Tychonic world system. There presently exist, therefore, several entry points to examining the significance of Nagel’s life and work. In the present article, however, I want to return thematically to Barnes’s original investigation of Nagel as a dissenting Lutheran. More especially, I want to consider the questions of how and why Nagel came to stray from orthodox Lutheranism and turn to a millenarian vision of a harmonious future. Concentrating in particular on Nagel’s development of the idea of a
selection of Gilly’s important works which mention Nagel include: C. Gilly, Adam Haslmayr. Der erste Verkünder der Manifeste der Rosenkreuzer (Amsterdam: In de Pelikaan, 1994); C. Gilly, Cimelia Rhodostaurotica. Die Rosenkreuzer im Spiegel der zwischen 1610–1660 enstandenen Handschriften und Drucke, second edition (Amsterdam: Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica, 1995); C. Gilly, ‘“Theophrastia Sancta”: Paracelsianism as a Religion, in conflict with the established Churches’, in Paracelsus. The Man and his Reputation, His Ideas and their Transformation, edited by O.P. Grell (Leiden: Brill, 1998), 151–85; C. Gilly, ‘The “Midnight Lion”, the “Eagle” and the “Antichrist”: Political, Religious and Chiliastic Propaganda in the Pamphlets, Illustrated Broadsheets and Ballads of the Thirty Years’ War’, Nederlands Archief voor Kerkgeschiedenis, 80 (2000), 46–77; C. Gilly, ‘Die Rosenkreuzer als europäisches Phänomen im 17. Jahrhundert und die verschlungenen Pfade der Forschung’, in Rosenkreuz als europäisches Phänomen des 17. Jahrhunderts (Amsterdam: De Pelikaan, 2002), 19–56. 21 See C. Gilly, ‘Wege der Verbreitung von Jacob Böhmes Schriften in Deutschland und den Niederlanden’, in Jacob Böhmes Weg in die Welt. Zur Geschichte der Handschriftensammlung, Übersetzungen und Editionen von Abraham Willemszoon van Beyerland, edited by Theodor Harmsen and Cis van Heertum (Amsterdam: De Pelikaan, 2007), 71–98 (71–4); L.T.I. Penman, ‘A Second Christian Rosencreutz? Jakob Böhme’s Disciple Balthasar Walther (1558–c.1630) and the Kabbalah. With a Bibliography of Walther’s Printed Works’, in Western Esotericism, edited by T. Ahlbäck (Åbo and Turku: Donner Institute, 2008), 154–72. 22 L.T.I. Penman, ‘Repulsive Blasphemies. Paul Nagel’s Appropriation of Unprinted Works of Jakob Böhme and Valentin Weigel in his Prodromus astronomiæ apocalypticæ (1620)’, Daphnis. Zeitschrift für mittlere deutsche Literatur und Kultur der frühen Neuzeit (forthcoming). 23 K. Matthäus, ‘Zur Geschichte des Nürnberger Kalenderwesens’, 1358, 1143–4; H. Sührig, ‘Die Entwicklung der niedersächsischen Kalender im 17. Jahrhundert’, Archiv für Geschichte des Buchwesens, 20 (1979), 329–794 (411–13); K-D. Herbst, Verzeichnis der Schreibkalendar des 17. Jahrhunderts (Jena: Verlag HKD, 2008). 24 See K-D. Herbst, ‘Galilei’s Astronomical Discoveries Using the Telescope and Their Evaluation Found in a Writingcalendar from 1611’, Astronomische Nachrichten, 330:6 (2009), 536–9.
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‘universal instrument’, which emerged as a central notion in his eschatology, I also want to reflect on the devotional and pietistic implications of this vision. The basis of this article is a detailed biographical survey, which takes advantage of the recent manuscript discoveries and adds several more. By situating Nagel’s intellectual development in its original Lutheran context, we are in a better position to appreciate the nature and inspirations for his dissent from orthodox Lutheranism, and the reasons why it took the forms it did. Additionally, it is possible to link the public expression of Nagel’s dissent – through his numerous chiliastic publications, which promised their audience a pious vision of a felicitous future – to intellectual movements and disputes within Lutheranism, such as the so-called crisis of piety (Frömmigkeitskrise) of the early seventeenth century. A consideration of the trajectory of Nagel’s dissent does not only offer insight into a single early modern life. It also raises potentially significant qualifications to the confessionalization thesis, which, until recently, has dominated the historiography of post-Reformation Germany. Proponents of confessionalization have argued that, during the post-Reformation period, Lutheranism, Calvinism and Catholicism ‘developed into internally coherent and externally exclusive communities distinct in institutions, membership and belief’.25 A liminal figure such as Nagel demonstrates the failure of this sweeping thesis – ‘top-heavy’ in the sense of its privileging of the activities of states and religions above individuals – adequately to reflect the nuances of early modern religious identity, particularly among reputedly heterodox personalities. I argue that Nagel was undeniably a product of Lutheran culture. He was born and raised a Lutheran, and inherited the faith’s apocalyptic leanings. As his many works demonstrate, he identified with the confession substantially even as his ideas gradually radicalized; Weigel and Böhme, for example, were for Nagel supplements to Lutheranism, not replacements. Tellingly, throughout his entire corpus, Nagel never repudiated Luther or the faith outright. On the other hand, he was accused of heresy by some Lutheran theologians, but not by all. Yet, according to the confessionalization thesis, which pictures orthodox confessions as monolithic entities, Nagel was not, and cannot be, considered a Lutheran in any sense of the term. This is clearly problematic, for New Prophets, spiritualists, separatists and prophetic Einzelgänger do not just appear from nowhere. As Ulrich Bubenheimer and Dieter Fauth have shown in several important studies, Nagel’s difficult relationship to Lutheranism is apparently typical of many kryptoheterodox personalities that inhabited the Lutheran confessional spectrum.26 As
Schilling, ‘Confessional Europe’, Handbook of European History 1400–1600, edited by T. A. Brady, H. Oberman and J. D. Tract (Leiden: Brill, 1995), 641. See also, W. Reinhard, ‘Gegenreformation als Modernisierung? Prolegomena zu einer Theorie des konfessionellen Zeitalters’, Archiv für Reformationgeschichte, 68 (1977), 226–52, and the essays collected in Die Reformierte Konfessionalisierung in Deutschland. Das Problem der ‘Zweiten Reformation’, edited by H. Schilling, Schriften des Vereins für Reformationsgeschichte, 195 (Gütersloh: G. Mohn, 1986). For an overview of the early literature on confessionalization, see H. Klueting, ‘Die Reformierten in Deutschland des 16. und 17. Jahrhunderts und die Konfessionalisierungsdebatte der deutschen Geschichtswissenschaft seit ca. 1980’, in Profile des reformierten Protestantismus aus vier Jahrhunderten: Vorträge der Ersten Emder Tagung zur Geschichte des reformierten Protestantismus, edited by M. Freudenberg, Emder Beiträge zum reformierten Protestantismus, 1 (Wuppertal: Foedus, 1999), 17–47. 26 A selection of articles by Fauth and Bubenheimer include: U. Bubenheimer, ‘Von der Heterodoxie zur Kryptoheterodoxie. Die nachreformatorische Ketzerbekämpfung im Herzogtum Württemberg und ihre Wirkung im Spiegel des Prozesses gegen Eberhard Wild’, Zeitschrift der Savigny-Stiftung für Rechtsgeschichte (Kanonistische Abteilung lxxix), 110 (1993), 307–41; U. Bubenheimer, ‘Orthodoxie – Heterodoxie – Kryptoheterodoxie in der nachreformatorischen Zeit am Beispiel des Buchmarkts in Wittenberg, Halle und Tübingen’, in, 700 Jahre Wittenberg: Stadt – Universität – Reformation, edited by S. Oehmig (Weimar: Hermann Böhlaus Nachfolger, 1995), 257–74; U. Bubenheimer, ‘Rezeption und Produktion nonkonformer Literatur in einem protestantischen Dissidentenkreis des 17. Jahrhunderts’, in Religiöse Devianz in christlich geprägten Gesellschaften. Vom hohen Mittelalter bis zur Frühaufklärung, edited by D. Fauth and D. Müller (Würzburg: Religion & Kultur, 1999), 106–25; D. Fauth, ‘Die Typus entwicklung des heterodox Gebildeten im Kontext der Hochorthodoxie/ Zur Sozialgeschichte eines Tübinger Kreises um 1620’, Literaten-Kleriker-Gelehrte. Zur Geschichte der gebildeten im vormodernen Europa, edited by R.W. Keck, E. Wiersing and K. Wittstadt, Beiträge zur historischen Bildungsforschung, 15 (Cologne: Böhlau, 1996), 245–68.
25 H.

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Thomas Kaufmann has recently argued, such personalities, and even the existence of a spectrum of possible seventeenth-century Lutheranisms, has been occluded by the confessionalization thesis. Indeed, based on a series of case studies from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Kaufmann has convincingly argued that orthodox Lutheran polemicists themselves did not dismiss the Schwärmer, chiliasts and dissidents they combated during this period as ‘opponents without’ the faith, but instead as ‘strangers within’.27 Kaufmann’s conclusions recall the synergistic relationship between heresy and orthodoxy outlined in Gottfried Arnold’s long-derided Unparteiische Kirchen- und Ketzer-Historie (1699–1700).28 A detailed study of Nagel and his chiliastic expectations therefore offers not only a useful mirror in which to reflect upon a single person’s intellectual journey, but also the nature of dissident Lutheranism in the early seventeenth century, as well as the impact, positive and negative, of modern historiography on how we understand and engage with these areas.

PAUL NAGEL: A LIFE
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A native of Leipzig, Nagel was born c.1580. Probably unable to afford the perigrinatio academica so beloved by his contemporaries, the gifted student was educated after 1593 at Leipzig university, where he most probably studied mathematics, and perhaps theology, probably with the benefit of scholarships from the Merseburg Stift and city authorities.29 On 24 September 1605, he received the title of magister artium in Wittenberg.30 Shortly thereafter, he found employment as an astrologer and private tutor in both Leipzig and Wittenberg.31 In addition to his mathematical proclivities, Nagel was also a practising alchemist. He collected recipes from the likes of Edward Kelley,32 and would maintain several significant alchemical contacts throughout his life, including with the mysterious Polish noble Michael Sendivogius,33 the Leipzig physician Arnold Kerner and Jakob Böhme’s Silesian disciple, sometime head of the Electoral-Saxon laboratories in Dresden, Balthasar Walther.34
Kaufmann, ‘Nahe Fremde – Aspekte der Wahrnehmung der ‘Schwärmer’ im frühneuzeitlichen Luthertum’ in Interkonfessionalität – Transkonfessionalität – binnenkonfessionelle Pluralität. Neue Forschungen zur Konfessionalisierugsthese, edited by K. von Greyerz, M. Jakubowski-Tiessen, T. Kaufmann and H. Lehmann (Heidelberg: Gütersloher Verlagshaus, 2003), 181–2; T. Kaufmann, ‘Proches étrangers. Aspects de la perception des “Schwärmer” par la première orthodoxie luthérienne’, Bulletin de la Société de l’Histoire du Protestantisme Français, 148 (2002), 47–79. 28 G. Arnold, Unparteiische Kirchen- und Ketzer-Historie, 2 vols (Leipzig, 1699–1700). 29 G. Erler, Die jüngere Matrikel der Universität Leipzig, 1559–1809 als person- und ortregister bearbeitet und durch nachträge aus den Promotionslisten ergänzt, 2 vols (Leipzig: Giesecke & Devrient, 1909), vol. 1, 310: ‘Nagel, Pa[ul] Lips[iensis,] n[on iuravit] 4gr[oschen] i[m] S[ommer] 1593 M 170.’ The designation non iuravit means that Nagel was either less than thirteen or eighteen years of age at the time of matriculation (Erler is unclear on this point), therefore was not required to swear an academic oath. The charge of 4 groschen paid by Nagel was considerably lower than the typical sum demanded of bürgerliche students, that being 111/2 groschen, suggesting Nagel came from a family of limited means. On later patronage received from the city of Leipzig, see P. Nagel, Catoptromantia physica. Divinatio ex speculo astrologico. Das ist: Gründlicher Bericht und natürliche Weissagung aus der […] umbwaltzung des kugelrunden himlischen Gewelbes und gestirneten Firmaments, etc. (Leipzig: C. Nerlich, 1610), sig. B4r. 30 See Album Academiae Vitebergensis. Jüngere Reihe. Theil 1. 1602–1660, edited by B.Weissenborn, 2 vols (Magdeburg: Historische Verein, 1934) vol. 1, 35. 31 On teaching in Wittenberg, see P. Nagel, Astronomiae Nagelianae Fundamentum verum & principia nova: In welchem durch etzliche Fragen sonderliche Geheimnus proponirt und reserirt warden (n.p., 1622), sig. L2r. 32 Karlsruhe, Badische Landesbibliothek [hereafter BLB], MS Allerheiligen 3, p. 225. On Kelley, see M. Wilding, ‘A Biography of Edward Kelley, the English Alchemist and Associate of Dr. John Dee’, in Mystical Metal of Gold. Essays on Alchemy and Renaissance Culture, edited by S.J. Linden (New York: AMS Press, 2007), 35–90. 33 See Leipzig Universitätsbibliothek [hereafter UB], MS 0 356 fols 13r, 17r, 19r, etc. 34 On Walther, see E. Worbs, ‘Balthasar Walther. Ein Porträt aus dem schlesischen Frühbarock’, Schlesien, 11 (1966), 8–13; L.T.I. Penman, ‘A Second Christian Rosencreutz?’; L.T.I. Penman, ‘“Ein Liebhaber des Mysterii, und ein großer Verwandter desselben”: Toward the Life of Balthasar Walther, a Wandering Paracelsian Physician’, Sudhoffs Archiv, 94 (2010), forthcoming.
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A typical product of his Lutheran background and education, Nagel possessed a deep eschatological and prophetic awareness.35 In 1605, while in the tiny Saxon estate (Rittergut) of Dallwitz, he printed his first tract, a belated reaction to the new star of 1604.36 The event was significant, Nagel argued, for the star’s appearance coincided with the grand conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn; an astronomical event that took place around once every twenty years. This constellation of events, in what had until recently been believed to be a static and unchanging heaven, attracted the attention of many observers. Demonstrating his adoption of the pessimistic eschatology inherent to the Lutheran world view, Nagel subjected his readership to a catalogue of coming horrors,37 arguing that the conjunction proved that the Last Judgement was nigh:
Oh, how great shall be the woes [weheflagen] amongst the divines in many places in Germany. There will be many false sects, many gruesome errors shall appear, and the learned will be turned against one another, which will cause a great tumult and uproar.38

Given the heterodox turn that his life would take later, it is tempting to read this passage as a prediction of the troubles for his native faith that Nagel himself would provoke. While the Himmels Zeichen was typical of contemporary Lutheran apocalyptic exhortations, the book established an enduring feature of both Nagel’s Weltanschauung and the persistent logic of his eschatology; a logic that would remain constant even as he shifted from a pessimistic to an optimistic millenarian eschatology. This constant was Nagel’s belief in the systematic influence of astronomical events and the heavenly bodies themselves upon both the individual and society. Although the significance of the heavenly signs of 1604 was expressed primarily in terms of religious conviction in the Himmels Zeichen, the catalyst for these expressions was in fact Nagel’s observations of the natural world. This approach was undoubtedly shaped by the literature Nagel collected, read and absorbed during this period, much of which emphasized the interdependence of the twin books of scripture and of nature. A 1608 compilation of manuscripts prepared by Nagel and preserved today in Halle reveals that, from 1603, he had been industriously authoring astrological and natural philosophical tracts, as well as collecting and copying extracts from significant magical, natural philosophical, and alchemical works. In addition to excerpts from Cardano on astrological practice – more especially on the predictive qualities of spirits and angels – the Halle volume contains significant portions of the pseudo-Paracelsian Archidoxes magica, excerpts from Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa’s De occulta philosophia concerning magical languages, an alchemical-astrologicalmetallurgical recipe for smithing a sword identical to that carried by Paracelsus, as well as numerous summaries of anonymous works concerning astrological influences.39 Yet Nagel’s familiarity with these texts did not seem to impact negatively on his essentially Lutheran world view. In 1609 he arrived in Torgau, shortly after acquiring a five-year stipend from the Leipzig City Council, offered in exchange for producing an annual astrological calendar calculated especially for the city.40 Thereafter, Nagel began to author works of predictive astrology and medicine influenced by Paracelsian cosmology and cosmogony. In addition to the Catoptromantia Physica (1610), in which he cited Paracelsus regularly,41 another work from this period was his Chiromantia Meganthropi (1611, although written in 1610), a Hermetic treatise

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35 On 37 P.

this, see Barnes, Prophecy and Gnosis. was the home of the nobleman Hans von Großenhain, from whom Nagel later received financial support. Nagel, Himmels Zeichen. Grosse Conjunctiones Planetarum superiorum, vnd newer Wunderstern so Anno 1604. den 29 Septembris erschienen, etc. (Halle, 1605), sig. C2v. 38 Nagel, Himmels Zeichen, sig. C4r. 39 Halle, Universitätsbibliothek MS 14 B 31. 40 Nagel, Catoptromantia Physica, sig. B4r. 41 Nagel, Catoptromantia Physica, multiple references to Paracelsus appear after sig. B2r.
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which explored the idea of astrological influence on the individual through the ‘palmistry’ of the heavenly bodies. Nagel’s interest in the implications of magical and kabbalistic worldviews for astronomy and astrology is further demonstrated in his contemporary correspondence with the Saxon diplomat Nicolaus van Vicken, in which Nagel attempted to sketch the outline of a Judicium astrologophysicum.42 During this period Nagel argued that it was essential for the seeker of wisdom to master the twin books of nature and of scripture, an epistemological dichotomy which reflected his dual appreciation of astronomy and theology. Yet while this idea did not necessarily contradict the Lutheran doctrine of sola scriptura, Nagel’s incorporation of Paracelsian perspectives into an expanding prophetic worldview may nevertheless be viewed as a slight surrender of his strict Lutheran background, and an indication that Nagel himself was on a path to more radical ideas. However, despite his attraction to predictive astrology, Nagel still supported the notion of the absolute freedom of God in all matters, thereby escaping charges of fatalism, crypto-Calvinism and other heresies from his orthodox counterparts.43 Toward the end of 1611, however, Nagel’s occupation with magical Paracelsian ideas was furthered when he established contact with Prince August of Anhalt-Plötzkau. As Carlos Gilly has documented, August’s small Plötzkau court was a centre for occult, alchemical, Rosicrucian and Weigelian enthusiasm during the opening decades of the seventeenth century.44 Nagel joined the court, perhaps only for a short period, as an astrologer, although he would continue to correspond and share books with August for several years thereafter, and appears to have visited the prince on several occasions.45 In the Plötzkau castle library, Nagel encountered prophetic and heterodox writings that would definitively change his life and his outlook. In 1612 or 1613, more than a year before its first printing, Nagel there transcribed a copy of the Rosicrucian Fama Fraternitatis from a manuscript provided by the Rosicrucian publicist, Adam Haslmayr. Nagel’s copy of the Fama still survives today, bound together with more than a dozen other prophetic, astrological and kabbalistic tracts in a folio preserved in London.46 In addition to several popular prophetic works of the sixteenth century, the volume also contains kabbalistic explications of Revelation and Daniel, as well as works that, tellingly, are critical not only of the Catholic Church, but also increasingly so of orthodox Lutheranism.47 Nagel also encountered the works of Valentin Weigel (1533–88) in Plötzkau. Weigel was a mould-breaking figure. Like Nagel, he was a Saxon and a student of Wittenberg University. He eventually became a pastor in Zwickau, and offered no objection to the Formula of Concord when it was promulgated in 1577. On the surface, Weigel was a typical orthodox Lutheran. However,

Copies of two letters to Vicken from Nagel, dated 19 August 1611 and 11 January 1612, together with Vicken’s replies, can be found in Vicken’s Album amicorum preserved today in Stralsund, Kulturhistorisches Museum, Inv.-Nr. A 1993: 160, Mag. 27, fols 21r–27r. 43 For his explicit rejection of astrological fatalism, see P. Nagel, Catoptromantia physica, sigs A2v–A3r. 44 See Gilly, Adam Haslmayr; G. Hoppe, ‘Zwischen Augsburg und Anhalt. Der rosenkreuzerische Briefwechsel des Augsburger Stadtarztes Carl Widemann mit dem Plötzkauer Fürsten August von Anhalt’, Mitteilungen des Vereins für Anhaltische Landeskunde, 6 (1997), 26–56. 45 For an appointment as astrologer, see T. Churton, The Golden Builders: Alchemists, Rosicrucians and the First Freemasons (Lichfield: Signal Press, 1998), 134–5; concerning continued contact and the sharing of books with August, see Nagel’s letter to Kerner, (23 July 1619) in Leipzig, UB MS O 350, fol. 8r and fol. 27v (March 1621). 46 London, Wellcome Institute for Medical History Library [hereafter Wellcome], MS 150, fols 129r–139r. 47 Most critical of contemporary Lutheranism is the text entitled ‘Der Menschen Zustandt, so künftig ist’, in Wellcome MS 150, fols 42v–51v.

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in secret, he wrote and issued a series of decidedly heterodox works, relentlessly critical of the doctrines of institutionalized Lutheranism.48 As Gilly has documented, Prince August played an important role in the printing of Weigel’s suppressed theological writings, which began to appear on bookstalls after 1609.49 Nagel’s Explicatio oder Auszwicklung der himmlischen Kräffte (1613) demonstrates that he had generous access to Weigelian works, both genuine and spurious, several years before they appeared in print. Indeed, he implored his readers to:
read studiously and attentively the Gebetbüchlein of that most learned man Valentin Weigel, concerning how one may pray in spiritu & veritate. Also [to read] his little tract about the old and new Jerusalem, which reports on how the stars and signs of heaven govern us.50

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Although Nagel here emphasized the devotional and astrological significance of these books, both Weigel’s Gebetbüchlein and the pseudo-Weigelian Von dem Himmlischen Jerusalem contained significant chiliastic and mystical elements, to which Nagel was also undoubtedly exposed. In any event, Nagel’s initial reaction to Weigel’s corpus was positive. In a portrait first printed on the title page of his Prognosticon Astrologicum for 1614, and recut for a later Prognosticon of 1619, Nagel boldly advertised his advocacy of Weigel’s mystical theology of personal salvation ˜ (Figure 1).51 A frame to Nagel’s left contained the words γνωθι σεαυτóν (know thyself). This maxim was the title of one of Weigel’s principal expressions of his radical mysticism, and the philosophical basis of his repudiation of earthly institutionalized authority.52 To Nagel’s right were portrayed a series of concentric circles containing the words sensus, ratio, mens, with the tetrahedron, representing the Holy Trinity, at its centre. This was another formula dear to Weigel. By late 1612 or early 1613, therefore, Nagel was already espousing a philosophy at the very least influenced by Weigelian principles. Unfortunately, we have little evidence concerning the course of Nagel’s life and thought between 1613 and 1617. While this is partly the result of the fact that none of Nagel’s astrological publications from this period are extant, it may also have been due to pressing domestic affairs.53 In October 1613, following a brief courtship, Nagel married Maria Staufenbuhl of Wittenberg in a ceremony in Torgau.54 The marriage may have afforded Nagel expedient connections. Maria’s
Figure 1. Paul Nagel, from the title page of his Prognosticon astrologicum (1619). Courtesy of Houghton Library, Harvard University, *GC6 N1317 619p

Weigel, see A. Weeks, Valentin Weigel (1533–88): German Religious Dissenter, Speculative Theorist, and Advocate of Tolerance (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1999). A very interesting article by Horst Pfefferl attempts to argue that Weigel’s philosophy was not as oppositional to Lutheran interests as his audience (both contemporary and modern) have represented. See H. Pfefferl, ‘Das neue Bild Valentin Weigels – Ketzer oder Kirchenmann? Aspekte einer erforderlichen Neubestimmung seiner kirchen- und theologiegeschichtlichen Position’, Herbergen der Christenheit. Jahrbuch für deutsche Kirchengeschichte, 18 (1993–4), 67–79. 49 Gilly, Adam Haslmayr, 127. 50 P. Nagel, Explicatio oder Auszwicklung der himmlischen Kräffte/ Aus rechtem Fundament und Grunde der Astrologischen Kunst/ ohn alle Superstition, Heucherley und Argwohn oder Aberglauben/ mit fleiß gestellet und gerichtet auff das Jahr […] so uns gibt und zeiget das wort IVDICIVM (Leipzig, 1613), sig. D1r. The works referred to are V. Weigel, Ein schön Gebetbüchlein, Welches die Einfeltigen vnterrichtet (Magdeburg, 1617) and the pseudo-Weigelian, Vom Alten und Newen Jerusalem (n.p., 1619), sigs A4v ff. 51 P. Nagel, Prognosticon Astrologicum, Von Allerley Zufällen: Aus rechtem wahrem Grunde der Astronomischen Kunst gestellet auff das Jahr nach Christi Jesu unsers Erlösers und Seligmachers Geburt 1614 (Leipzig, 1613), sig. A1r. The portrait may be viewed online at: http://www.gbv.de/du/services/gLink/vd17/14:695076N_001,800,600. The recut image was printed in P. Nagel, Prognosticon astrologicum aus rechtem warhafftigen astronomischen Grunde gestellet vnd gerichtet auff das Jahr nach Christi Jesu vnsers lieben Herrn vnd Erlösers seligen Geburt. M.DC.XX. (Leipzig, [1619]). 52 V. Weigel, Gnothi Seauton – Nosce te ipsum – Erkenne dich selbst: Zeiget vnd weiset dahin/ daß der Mensch sey ein Microcosmus, das gröste Werck Gottes/ vnter der Himmel (Magdeburg, 1615). 53 A compilation of Nagel’s alchemical papers survives (Karlsruhe, BLB MS Allerheiligen 3), however its content betrays little of relevance concerning Nagel’s eschatology. 54 See E. Wentscher, ‘Auf Spuren der Staufenbuhl und des Wittenberger Buchdrucks’, Familie und Volk , 2:1 (1953), 253–7, 284–7.

48 On

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Figure 1. Paul Nagel, from the title page of his Prognosticon astrologicum (1619). Courtesy of Houghton Library, Harvard University, *GC6 N1317 619p.

father, Wolfgang Staufenbuhl (1545–1621), was a bookseller in Wittenberg, and had served as a member of the City Council there since 1580.55 While it does not seem that his spouse’s family shared any of Nagel’s nascent heterodox proclivities, the Torgau prophet must have been pleased with his newly forged connections to one of Saxony’s most upstanding book families, and the inside connection to the trade it afforded him. It appears, however, that Nagel, for the most part, kept his apparently increasing interest in Weigelian, Paracelsian and other dissident ideas, which he perhaps viewed as crucial innovations to the Lutheran faith, to himself. In any event, it appears that he was keen to portray himself as a
55 Wentscher,

‘Auf Spuren der Staufenbuhl’, 286.

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confessing, orthodox Lutheran. This is partly reflected in the materials that survive concerning his life from this time. A manuscript volume of c.1613–14 suggests that Nagel devoted much of his time to alchemical pursuits. It evinces little of his millenarian prophetic expectations, if indeed he had formulated any by this point, or of his interest in Weigelian ideas.56 In 1615, Nagel attempted to win financial favour from the Saxon elector by praising him as a new St George in an elegant poetic pamphlet.57 By 1617, however, when he was called before the Lutheran church inspectors in Torgau’s Nikolaikirche, it is clear that Nagel exercised a keen interest in heterodox ideas, which he attempted to cover by dissimulation. Nagel’s failure to openly confess his knowledge of Weigel’s works and philosophy during this questioning indicate his acute awareness that he supported an oppositional philosophy; or at least that knowledge of such publications could endanger his social standing. That strange rumours had spread concerning Nagel calling himself the ‘third Elias’ in Torgau further indicate that his reception of Weigelian and Rosicrucian ideas had adopted a distinctly eschatological expression. Other evidence confirms Nagel’s growing heterodox proclivities in and after 1617. Nagel’s correspondence with Arnold Kerner in Leipzig reveals that between 1617 and 1618, while he was studying Weigel’s works and refusing to attend church, Nagel was also busy establishing contacts with a variety of heterodox groups and personalities inside and outside Saxony. He was, for example, a good friend of Abraham von Einsiedel, a minor Saxon noble who periodically experienced bizarre visions of a millennial future.58 Nagel was also personally acquainted with, and a lukewarm follower of, the antinomian sect of Esajas Stiefel (c.1560–1627) based in Erfurt and Langensalza. While Stiefel has been examined in depth elsewhere, in a fine work by Ulman Weiß, it suffices here to say that the Thuringian took Weigel’s teachings to their logical extreme; Stiefel claimed that he had successfully internalized Christ’s teachings and, on account of this success, was himself incapable of sin. He therefore declared himself ‘Esajas Christus,’ and believed that he and his followers were already living in the prophesied millennial age, because they had achieved a state of perfection.59 Nagel also established contact at this time with the circle around the Lusatian theosopher Jakob Böhme. One of Nagel’s closest friends was the Silesian physician Balthasar Walther, who would stay at Nagel’s Torgau home on several occasions.60 Nagel was one of the earliest readers of Böhme’s manuscript work Morgen Röte im Aufgang (1612) and incorporated sections of it into his Prodromus astronomiae apocalypticæ of 1620.61 Additionally, he prepared handwritten copies of Böhme’s tracts,62 and dedicated several of his works to Böhme’s noble supporters.63 These activities indicate that, by 1617, when he printed his Prognosticon AstrologoCabalisticum, Nagel had cultivated a distinctly heterodox outlook on orthodox Lutheranism and its institutions, and had cleaved to doctrines and personalities that promoted the idea of a forthcoming period of felicity on earth. Nagel’s search for extra-Lutheran confirmation of his ideas would continue in the following years. In 1618, Nagel actively sought out works
majority of the texts in Nagel’s compilation Karlsruhe, BLB MS Allerheiligen 3 appear to have been copied between 1613 and 1614. See A. Schlechter and G. Stamm, Die Handschriften der Badischen Landesbibliothek in Karlsruhe. Band 13. Die kleinen Provenienzen (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2000), 187–94. 57 P. Nagel, Triumphus et victoria Georgii herois fortissimi equitis aurati et cataphract […] Heroico Carmine conscripta (Leipzig, 1615). 58 On Einsiedel, see D. Colberg, Das Platonisch-hermetische Christenthum, second edition, 2 vols (Leipzig, 1710) vol. 1, 264; V. König, Genealogische Adels-Historie oder Geschlechts-Beschreibung, 3 vols (Leipzig, 1727–36), vol. 1, 280–2. 59 On Stiefel, see the exhaustive work by U. Weiß, Die Lebenswelten des Esajas Stiefel, oder, Vom Umgang mit Dissidenten (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2007). 60 See Leipzig, UB MS 0 356, fol. 36r (30 September 1621) and fol. 40r (21 October 1621) describing visits by Walther. 61 P. Nagel, Prodromus astronomiae apocalypticae, Welcher vns fürstellet die gewisse warhafftige fundament der Weissagung: Handelt auch Von den beyden Bewegungen des hellgestirnten Firmaments so wol des Kirchen Himmels was solche seynd. […] Vnd insonderheit wenn sich der Leo Rugiens cap. 10 einstellen werde (Danzig, 1620), sigs C1r–C2v. 62 Leipzig, UB MS 0 356, fol. 21r (18 November 1620). 63 On this, see Penman, ‘Repulsive Blasphemies’.
56 The

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by non-Lutheran authors such as Robert Fludd and the Jesuit Ludovico Carbone (1545–97) to illuminate his millenarian expectations concerning the perfection of society and mankind.64 Yet this quest did not mean that Nagel turned his back entirely on Lutheranism. As the manuscript Löwen Gebrüll (c.1620–1) demonstrates, although Nagel continued to see Luther as an important prophetic figure, he clearly believed that the Reformer had not gone far enough in his efforts. Additionally, Nagel believed that Luther’s mission had been for the most part betrayed by the scholasticism of the institutionalized church that bore his name.65 Nagel’s criticism of ‘scholastic Lutheranism’ is a pointer to the lingering influence upon his thought of the so-called Frömmigkeitskrise, or ‘crisis of piety’, that had been developing within Lutheranism since the final years of the sixteenth century.66 The crisis was initiated by the publication of the works of several authors of Lutheran devotional literature, such as Phillip Nicolai, Paul Gerhard and Johann Arndt, all of which were issued between 1596 and 1610. In their works, these authors offered a gentle criticism of orthodox Lutheranism by shifting the focus of Pastoral attention away from ‘dry’ doctoral disputation, offering the reader in its place a more individual opportunity to experience the Lutheran doctrine of justification, specifically in their hearts.67 The unexpected popularity of these works established a perceptual divide between communal and individualistic experiences of the faith. Hard-line Lutheran theologians felt that the new devotional books (Frömmigkeitsschriften) were mere distractions from the true battle of doctrine, and attempted to suppress these works; a reaction manifested most clearly in the publication delay of Johann Arndt’s Wahres Christenthum after 1605. One theologian, Paul Tarnow, went so far as to link the ‘New Evangelists’ who wrote devotional works to the ‘New Prophets’ who spread prophesies of a felicitous future; both were cancers that undermined the foundations of the faith, and were ‘the reason for the present unhappiness and discord visited upon us’.68 The unwillingness of strict Lutherans to accept the ‘revolution’ of popular devotional literature in opening up new and personal experiences of the faith was in turn condemned by enthusiasts and authors of the devotional works. It is perhaps no coincidence that the long-suppressed works of authors such as Valentin Weigel, with their catch-cry of ‘know thyself’, and a vaguely devotional style, began to appear in print after 1608, during the wave of interest sparked by the publication of Arndt’s Wahres Christenthum. Evidently, these mild Weigelian works were marketed and sold, at least initially, to a Lutheran audience looking for more Frömmigkeitsschriften. Nagel, it appears, took the inspiration of this new devotional literature rather too far. He associated the freedom of personal piety with some of the prophetic literature of the period. His reception of both Arndt and Weigel, as well as his belief in his own significance as a prophetic
64 L. Carbone, Interior Homo, Vel De Suiipsius Cognitione (Cologne, 1617–18). Nagel mentioned this book in his 20 November 1618 letter to Kerner (Leipzig, UB MS O356, fol. 98v) and again in P. Nagel, Philosophia Novae Astronomiae nostrae particula insignis. Von dem Reich der Natur, wie dasselbe praefigurire abmahle vnd abbilde die beyden Reich: nemlich Christi und der Welt Reich (n.p., 1621), sig. A4v. 65 Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, MS Cgm 4416/9, fols 41r, 191r–191v et passim. 66 On the notion of the Frömmigkeitskrise, see K. Holl, Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Kirchengeschichte, 3 vols (Tübingen: Mohr, 1921–8), ‘Die Bedeutung der grossen Kriege für das religiöse und kirchliche Leben innerhalb des deutschen Protestantismus’, vol. 3, 302–84. W. Zeller, Der Protestantismus des 17. Jahrhunderts, Klassiker der Protestantismus, 5 (Bremen: Carl Schünemann Verlag, 1962); J. Wallmann, ‘Reflexionen und Bemerkungen zur Frömmigkeitskrise des 17. Jahrhunderts’, in Krisen des 17. Jahrhunderts. Interdisziplinäre Perspektiven, edited by M. Jakubowski-Tiessen (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 1999), 25–42. 67 See T. Robisheaux, ‘Penance, Confession, and the Self in Early Modern Lutheranism’, Ideas and Cultural Margins in Early-Modern Germany. Essays in Honor of H.C. Erik Middelfort, edited by M.E. Plummer and R.B. Barnes (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2009), 117–30 (120). D. Sabean, ‘The Production of Self during the Age of Confessionalism’, Central European History, 29 (1998), 1–18. 68 P. Tarnow, Pandora Tarnoviana. Das ist/ Beschreibung des Neuen Evangelij, welches eine Uhrsach ist alles Unglücks in der werthen Christenheit (Quedlinberg, 1663), sig. B4r. The first edition of this work appeared in 1624.

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‘third Elias’, show that he connected newfound devotional freedom with chiliastic cognates foreign to orthodox Lutheranism, taking pride in his revelatory role. Nagel’s ultimate decision to promote such ideas in print, couching them within the matrix of chiliastic expectation, shows that he saw a more public, and perhaps even pastoral, application for his visions. Combined with a growing oppositional attitude to institutionalized Lutheranism, Nagel might have even seen himself, like Arndt and Weigel before him, as something of a devotional author: a writer who would give spiritual sustenance to himself and to his audience. This pastoral turn is evident in all his writings which promise imminent relief from the tortures of the age, chief among them his Prodromus astronomiae apocalypticae (1620), Philosophia novae (1621) and the Tabula aurea (1624).69 The impact of the new devotional individualism upon Nagel’s thought might have been hastened by worsening conditions within the Empire. Nagel, who from the very beginning adhered to a pessimistic-apocalyptic worldview, was sensitive to all possible events of eschatological significance. He would no doubt have noted the rumors of imminent war that arose periodically in the course of the 1610s.70 Although Nagel lived in the centre of a comparatively stable Saxon state, news of trouble was possibly amplified, rather than dulled, by this circumstance, especially given the region’s thriving print industry. In any event, the interests of Lutheran Saxony were, in an environment in which Calvinism was gaining ground on the Lutheran faith, perceived as increasingly threatened. Mirroring the confused produced by the Frömmigkeitskrise, at a time when their court preachers insisted that it was ‘better to be Papist than Calvinist’,71 many Lutheran Saxons must have found themselves plagued by troubling questions of conscience. Could – or should – a good Lutheran really betray the Protestant cause by siding with Babylon and the forces of the Antichrist against the Calvinists for the worldly political benefit of a single Lutheran state? To many it seemed that the Electoral court was privileging fleeting worldly expediency over salvation in eternity. Yet despite the controversial diplomatic efforts of Elector Johann Georg I, and the rushed construction of the Dresden arsenal, which could reportedly equip an army of 10,000 men with a day’s notice, Saxony was still precariously wedged between feuding states and kingdoms, including rebellious Bohemia and Calvinist Anhalt. Saxony’s lasting position of ‘political papism’ further assured that allies, protestant or otherwise, would be hard-won should the situation in the Empire worsen.72 Nagel himself keenly followed Saxony’s political fortunes. As mentioned previously, in 1615 he had praised Saxony’s Elector in an artful poem celebrating the ruler’s political mastery. But while this pamphlet bespoke Nagel’s awareness of the macro-political situation in the Empire – and also of the need to provide financially for a growing young family – evidence of a coming dramatic change could also be felt more locally, indeed in Torgau itself. In 1617, at precisely the time in which Nagel’s investment in heterodox millenarian ideas reached the printed page, a series of premature deaths threw the local church into disorder. Before September 1617 three prominent churchmen, including the long-serving superintendent Tobias Beuther, died.73 Beuther’s position was not filled again until early 1618. In such a state, the spiritual authorities were poorly positioned to deal with the needs of their congregation, especially as plague had
69 P. Nagel, Prodromus astronomiae apocalypticae; Nagel, Philosophia Novae Astronomiae; P. Nagel, Tabula Aurea M. Pauli Nagelii Lips. Mathematici, Darinnen Er den Andern Theil seiner Philosophiae Novae proponiren vnd fürstellen thut (n.p., 1624). 70 On these rumours, see G. Parker, The Thirty Years’ War, second edition (London: Military Heritage Press, 1987), 12. 71 See J.G. Walch, Historische und Theologische Einleitung in die Religions-Streitigkeiten, welche sonderlich ausserhalb der Evangelisch-Lutherishen Kirche entstanden, 5 vols (Jena, 1735), vol. 3, 488–527. 72 Concerning the Saxon politics of this period, see A. Gotthard, ‘“Politice seint wir bäptisch”: Kursachsen und der deutsche Protestantismus im frühen 17. Jahrhundert’, Zeitschrift für historische Forschung, 20 (1993), 275–319; F. Müller, Kursachsen und der böhmische Aufstand 1618–1622 (Münster: Aschendorff Verlag, 1997). 73 See Wernigerode MS, fols 574r–v.

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threatened the city at regular intervals during the previous decade, adding to growing inclinations toward existential doubt. To someone who viewed himself as a prophet chosen by God, it must have seemed like an ideal time to speak out. The appearance of a foreboding comet in the night sky at the end of 1618 only encouraged Nagel’s public expression of his convictions.74 Adding to difficulties of domestic and international conscience were Nagel’s personal circumstances. In his letters to Kerner, Nagel made frequent reference to a reoccurring – and perhaps life threatening – illness that left him myopic, with ‘great pains in his hands, arms and legs’.75 On occasion, the pain left him bedridden for days at a time, leaving him unable even to hold a pen. Such bouts of illness would only have added to his apparently precarious financial circumstances. Although Nagel’s prophetic tracts often featured dedications to lofty patrons, and earned thereby a small fee, Nagel’s greatest source of income was that provided by the occasional provision of astrological nativities, tutoring sons of local nobility, and the small revenue earned from the sale of his annual astrological calendars and other works.76 Concerning this period, Nagel stated that he was very often a ‘patient’; hardly the ideal conditions in which to provide for a wife and child.77 Nagel’s social life in Torgau would not have been helped by the unfavourable rumours that circulated about him, which must have undermined his standing in the community and considerably disrupted his social network. During the 1617 visitation, he complained that ‘the people here accuse me of so many things that I can scarcely believe it when I hear about them’.78 As the questions of his inquisitors demonstrate, these rumours not only encompassed ‘paradoxical’ religious beliefs, but even extended to suspicions of Nagel keeping familiars.79 Nagel’s letters from this period offer a similarly bleak picture of ongoing ostracism, and are peppered with references to various hardships. In 1619, he remarked that he battled not only against his illnesses, but also against his ‘many enemies’ within and without Torgau.80 That same year, both the spiritual and secular authorities whom Nagel rejected joined forces against him. In the early months of that year, Nagel was summoned to the twin centres of secular and spiritual power in Saxony – Dresden and Wittenberg – and forced to account for his heretical ideas before a church tribunal.81 The constant pressure from church authorities not only provoked spiritual and personal angst: heavy financial punishments were also meted out, which Nagel found impossible to pay. The financial situation was heightened by pressures similarly beyond Nagel’s control. In September

74 P. Nagel, Stellae prodigiosae seu Cometae per oculum triplicem observation & explication: Das ist: Des newen Cometen und Wunder Sterns im October, November und December 1618 erschienen, warhafftige Deutung und Außlegung per Magiam insignem (Halle, 1619). 75 Some examples from Nagel’s correspondence include Leipzig UB MS 0 356, fol. 7r (24 July 1619) and fol. 52r (29 April 1622). 76 Leipzig, UB MS 0 356 fols 8r, 10v, 19v, 74v and 76r refer to Nagel’s provision of nativities, the final reference being to a set of three ordered by the alchemist Sendivogius for the princely sum of 100 Reichsthalers. On fol. 38v, Nagel makes reference to teaching ‘Geometria’ at the home of von Einsiedel. There is an opportunity here to correct an entrenched and often repeated error: several secondary sources incorrectly assert that Nagel was rector of the Latin school in Torgau. However, Nagel’s name does not appear among those of teachers or staff named in the Wittenberg visitations of 1617 or 1624 (Wernigerode MS, fols 578r–v, 581v–582v), nor is his name included in any contemporary records of the Torgau Gymnasium. See, further, J.C.A. Bürger, Friedrich Joseph Grulicks Denkwürdigkeiten der altsächsischen kurfürstlichen Residenz Torgau aus der Zeit der Reformation, 2nd edn (Torgau, 1855), 183–4. 77 P. Nagel, Astronomiae Nagelianae Fundamentum verum, sig. A4v; for mention of his family see Leipzig, UB MS 0 356, fol. 14v. 78 Wernigerode MS, fol. 582v. 79 Wernigerode MS, fol. 582v. 80 Wernigerode MS, fol. 7r (24 July 1619). 81 Wernigerode MS, fol. 7r. See also, W. Friedensburg, Urkundenbuch der Universität Wittenberg, 2 vols (Magdeburg: Selbstverlag für die Provinz Sachsen und für Anhalt, 1927), vol. 2, 37, which reproduces an electoral order of 11 February 1619 that forbade the trade of several of Nagel’s tracts in the Saxon book market, along with the works of Weigel.

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1621, Nagel complained to Kerner that the entire town was suffering under ‘inflation that ever worsens’.82 Gradually, as Nagel refused to heed the warnings of his interlocutors, friends and neighbours, and continued to issue chiliastic pamphlets, the noose tightened. In early September 1622, Nagel voiced a fear that his mail was being intercepted, stolen, and read by parties conspiring against him.83 He may have been right. Scarcely ten days later, following an inquisitorial procedure against him conducted by local authorities, Nagel had to endure the humiliation of a public hearing and penance. Worst of all, his wife Maria, perhaps finally tired of the troubles of conscience and social pressures provoked by her husband’s activities, had betrayed his true beliefs to the inquisitors.84 According to his own account, Nagel was effectively alone, mired in depression and under ‘attack from friend and foe alike’.85 Despite this, Nagel never gave up hope that his millenarian predictions for 1623 to 1625 would ultimately prove correct. The signs appeared not only in the macrocosmic heavens, but also in the microcosm of Torgau as well. In 1623, as the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in the fiery trigon burned overhead, Dr Zapf, chief pastor and superintendent at the Torgau Marienkirche, was struck dead by a heart attack in the middle of one of his sermons, toppling from the pulpit to the stone floor of the church.86 It was Zapf who, only a few months earlier, had initiated a second inquisitorial procedure against Nagel. We can only imagine the joy, and perhaps simultaneously the fear, that Nagel felt upon reception of the news of Zapf’s passing – for he was no doubt absent from the church when the incident occurred – which must have seemed to confirm, through the mechanism of divine justice, the rectitude of his expectations. He celebrated the imminent change in the fortunes of humanity in his Trigonus Igneus (1623), a jubilant pamphlet printed under the glorious pseudonym ‘Paul Sonnenschein’.87 It was, however, all for naught. In 1624, the heavenly kingdom that Nagel had awaited and predicted with such confidence never dawned. As one of the few New Prophets of the time who actually had the courage to deal with the fact of his disappointed prophecy, in a work written later in the year Nagel remained steadfast in his convictions, insisting that all of his predictions would see fruition by 1630, at the very latest.88 Still, given his notoriety, Nagel’s career would end ignominiously. He died, perhaps suddenly, perhaps as the cumulative result of his many illnesses, at the end of November 1624. Two contemporary chronicles recorded that, having refused to renounce his errors before his death, Nagel was subsequently interred without ceremony (ohne Sang und Klang) in unconsecrated ground in Torgau on 1 December.89 In a sermon held directly after the burial, the local

UB MS 0 356, fol. 37r. (21 September 1621). UB MS 0 356, fol. 62r (12 September 1622). 84 Leipzig, UB MS 0 356, fols 64r–v (22 September 1622), in which Nagel describes the hearing to Kerner. 85 Leipzig, UB MS 0 356, fol. 64v. 86 Bürger, Denkwürdigkeiten, 130. 87 P. Nagel [Paul Sonnenschein], Trigonus Igneus, Was derselbe mit sich bracht in vergangenen Zeiten. Und was auch solcher fewriger Triangul, neben der grossen Conjunction […] bringen werdt (n.p., 1623). Although stylistically the tract clearly stems from Nagel’s pen (despite the dissimulatory claim that the author is in fact a ‘student of Nagel’), Nagel confirms his authorship of the tract in Leipzig, UB MS 0 356, fol. 76r (4 November 1623). 88 P. Nagel, Prognosticon Astrologicon Auffs Jahr 1625 (Halle, [1624]), sigs C2r–v. 89 See Bürger, Denkwürdigkeiten, 183. Throughout this valuable work, Bürger cites several contemporary manuscript chronicles once in the collection of the Schulbibliothek of the Städtischen Gymnasium in Torgau. According to the editors of a recent volume of the Handbuch der historischen Buchbestände in Deutschland, this collection was dispersed in 1965, its materials divided between the Sächsische Landesbibliothek in Dresden and the GDR’s so-called Zentralantiquariat in Leipzig. See Handbuch der historischen Buchbestände in Deutschland, 27 vols, edited by F. Krause with W. Guth and D. Debes (Hildesheim: Olms, 1997), vol. 17, 38. Unfortunately, no manuscripts of the Schulbibliothek, let alone the appropriate chronicles themselves, are to be found in the collections of the present Sächsische Landes- und Universitätsbibliothek in Dresden.
83 Leipzig,

82 Leipzig,

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superintendent railed against Nagel’s heresies at length to a horrified public.90 In death, the Lutheran church, for so long the object of Nagel’s scorn, was finally able to reassert its authority over him. If he was divisive in life, Nagel remained equally so in death. Other tales, now impossible to substantiate, circulated concerning his burial. In 1740 Zedler recorded that, after officials in Torgau refused to bury Nagel’s body, several townswomen took pity on the astrologer’s fate and interred him outside the city walls. Their efforts subsequently discovered, the women were sentenced to languish for a month in prison. As for Nagel, his body was disinterred and left to rot in the fields.91 Another version tells that the townswomen themselves disinterred Nagel, although for what reason I cannot say, after he had been buried for eight days.92 The confusion surrounding Nagel’s burial reflects his polarizing effect on the opinions of the contemporary public; the disregard shown his corpse was a very real reminder to the other citizens of Torgau about the dangers of flirting with heresy. Nagel’s legacy, however, lived on. A series of astrological Schreibkalender were issued in his name in Nuremberg between 1625 and 1630.93 Similar publications were issued in Halle as late as 1627.94 In 1628, Nagel’s opponent Petrus Crüger dismissed the chiliastic ruminations of the Nagelianer and Nagelisten that continued to appear throughout the Empire. The world remained in chaos, not paradise, precisely as Nagel had left it. But with his demise, Nagel did indeed perhaps reach that land of freedom from troubles and doubt that he had awaited all along: the year 1624 delivered a new Golden Age of everlasting peace, albeit a very personal one, precisely as he had predicted.

CRISIS AND TRANSCENDENCE In works on historical instances of millenarianism influenced by sociological theory, crisis has often been identified as a factor explaining the basic appeal of millenarian visions to a mass audience. The early studies of Cohn, Hobsbawm, Thrupp, Lanternari and others emphasized that millenarian ideas tended to find a resonance among the downtrodden, the dispossessed and the poor, precisely in those times when their societies were threatened by chaos and disaster.95 While more recently scholars have demonstrated that eschatological and millenarian ideas can also
Bürger, Denkwürdigkeiten, 183. The November 1624 date is accurate, or at the least fits the sparse available evidence: the final letter from Nagel to Arnold in (Leipzig, UB MS 0 356, 78r–9r) is dated 14 March 1624. The passage in Nagel, Prognosticon Auffs Jahr 1625, sig. C2v, demonstrates that this work was written in late 1624. The first printed edition of Nagel’s Raptum Astronomicum (issued in 1625, discussed in the text below) is described in the subtitle as a ‘hinderlassene Entdeckung und beschreibung’; where ‘hinterlassen’ evidently indicated that the text was ‘left behind’ or ‘bequeathed’ by Nagel. Alternatively, J.H. Zedler, Grosses vollständiges Universal-Lexicon aller Wissenschafften und Künste, 64 vols (Leipzig, 1732–54), vol. 23, 233 gives 1625 as the date of death, while most other sources, incongruously, repeat the date 1621. 91 The story was first printed in Zedler, Universal-Lexicon, vol. 23, 233 and has been repeated by the likes of Jöcher and in the article on Nagel by G. Frank, Allgemeine deutsche Biographie, 56 vols (Leipzig, 1875–1910), vol. 23, 215–16. 92 See Bürger, Denkwürdigkeiten, 183. 93 K. Matthäus, ‘Zur Geschichte des Nürnberger Kalenderwesens’, 1358. All calendars were issued by the Endter firm in Nuremberg, and were formerly in the collection of J.A. Endter, which has now disappeared. After observing the list of calendars collected by Endter, Matthäus remarked that that only on the final edition of 1630 appeared the indication that Nagel was ‘deceased’. 94 [Pseudo-] P. Nagel, Alter vnd neuer Schreib Calender (Halle, 1627). A copy is in Hildesheim, Stadtbibliothek, VII A 82, 3. Band. Salfeldt was not Nagel’s regular printer in Halle, and the text itself contains few hallmarks of Nagel’s authorship. 95 E. Hobsbawm, Primitive Rebels. Studies in Archaic Forms of Social Movement in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1959); N. Cohn, The Pursuit of the Millennium. Revolutionary Millenarians and Mystical Anarchists of the Middle Ages, third edition (London: Pimlico, 1993); Millennial Dreams in Action. Essays in Comparative Study, edited by S. Thrupp (The Hague: Mouton, 1962); V. Lanternari, The Religions of the Oppressed. A Study of Modern Messianic Cults, translated by L. Sergio (London: Gibbon & Kee, 1963).
90 See

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support essentially conservative positions, there remains little doubt that crisis, or rather a perceived sense of crisis, plays an important role in encouraging the expression of, or even fostering chiliastic expressions.96 Nagel’s biography provides a case in point for recognizing the nuanced impact of crisis on chiliastic expression. Indeed, Nagel is a particularly interesting figure, for much of the groundwork of his later millenarian expectations was laid in Plötzkau and elsewhere in 1611 and 1612, well before the more general crises of war, inflation and famine that struck the Holy Roman Empire after 1618, and seemingly even before the series of personal crises – of health, social stability – began to play such a disruptive role in Nagel’s domestic life. However, if crisis played only a limited role in encouraging Nagel’s early interest in dissident doctrines, I contend that it played a substantial role both in influencing Nagel’s decision to publicize openly these ideas in print, and indeed the very shape and form of their expression. The nature and characteristics of Nagel’s elaborate prophetic and millenarian system itself comprised a reasoned reflection of, and response to, the crises around him. If crisis means chaos, disorder and uncertainty, then Nagel wanted to find and identify the antitheses of these conditions. In each of his printed works, beginning with the Prognosticon Astrologo-Cabalisticum of 1617, the chief recurring element in Nagel’s prophetic work was a desire to posit order; to identify and apply axiomatic and infallible rules that demonstrated beyond all reasonable doubt that a period of felicity and spiritual enlightenment would commence shortly after 1623. While a desire for astrological certainty was also a feature of traditional Lutheran apocalypticism, the quest to impose order upon chaos in Nagel’s works drew upon two separate experiential realms.97 First, the exterior – prophetic patterns Nagel identified in the external world, such as the twin books of nature and scripture, parts both of the prophetic continuum established in Daniel, Revelation and 2 Esdras – and second, the interior: a personal, deep-seated dissatisfaction with the current state of the world, with Lutheran orthodoxy, that reflected Weigelian spirituality and the new emphasis on the individual within the Frömmigkeitsschriften. These two elements – the exterior and the interior – were combined in Nagel’s encapsulation of the benefits of the doctrines of the School of the Holy Spirit, or as he also named it, ‘the School of Daniel and the Magi’. Drawing on the works of Lutheran dissident Julius Sperber and others, Nagel saw this School, which he believed had existed, invisibly, since the time of Christ, as the ultimate answer to the deficient state of the world. ‘It is the office (Amt) of the Holy Spirit [working within his intangible school] to provide us with comfort, to remind us of what Christ said, to lead us in truthfulness, and to tell us what the future awaits’, declared Nagel.98 Implicit in this statement was a tremendous lack of confidence in all branches of worldly authority, particularly spiritual authority. It combined the exterior prophetic background of the eschatological drama itself with more personal devotional ideas of ‘comfort’ and ‘truthfulness’. Nagel’s millennial kingdom, the ‘regal summer’ in which ‘all devout Christians will be redeemed’ was, like that of Weigel, one to be understood spiritually.99 It would last only a short time comprising ‘a Golden Age, a true golden time […] a time of temperance, in which the golden freedom, love, fidelity,
96 For

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a recent study emphasizing the conservative role of eschatology, see J.K. Jue, Heaven Upon Earth. Joseph Mede (1586–1638) and the Legacy of Millenarianism (Dordrecht: Springer, 2006); for an excellent collection on the impact of crisis, see Krisen des 17. Jahrhunderts. Interdisziplinäre Perspektiven, edited by Jakubowski-Thiessen et al. 97 As Barnes notes, this ‘distinctive Lutheran attitude toward astrology arose from the need to retain prophetic certainty in a time when the whole evangelical heritage seemed increasingly threatened. Luther’s heirs sought comfort in the idea that every event, no matter how upsetting, was necessary for the completion of the divine plan.’ Barnes, Prophecy and Gnosis, 154–5. 98 From P. Nagel, ‘Prognosticon for 1621’, cited in G. Arnold, Unparteyischen Kirchen- und Ketzer-Historie […] I–IV (Frankfurt, 1729), vol. 3, 53. 99 P. Nagel, Prognosticon astrologicum aus rechtem warhafftigen astronomischen Grunde gestellet vnd gerichtet auff das Jahr nach Christi Jesu vnsers lieben Herrn vnd Erlösers seligen Geburt. M.DC.XX. (Leipzig, [1619]), sig. B2v; Cf. Nagel, Tabula Aurea, sig. C4v.

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justice, understanding, wisdom, truth, modesty, holiness and fear of the Lord will exist’.100 In short, it was the opposite of the world that Nagel confronted every day. While the teleology of Nagel’s vision revolved around a spiritual comfort before the Last Judgment, the logic that underwrote his convictions was the synthesis of biblical prophecy with astronomical events. Nagel’s idea of the Heavenly School impacted the logic of his astrological expectations, for the signs of the times could only be interpreted by those personally illuminated by God. At the same time, having been instructed by the Holy Spirit, recipients of this illumination had a duty to share the wisdom granted them with others. Nagel, somewhat prone to verse-form declarations, encapsulated his beliefs in the following manner:
For only Christ the Lord, In his heart pure, knows future things, that are prophesied by his servants to his holy believers. In comparison with His wisdom, all human arts are valueless. Whosoever does not always take care that the spirit of God lives in him, he can truly produce nothing of value concerning future things. Without timidity I proclaim mere lies and swindles [betrügerey] shall be his art. Therefore, if you want to prophesy and not seduce the people [away from true belief] Hear now the Lord in his Spiritual School That has its place and seat within you101

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For Nagel, the teachings of ‘heathen’ astronomers and orthodox theologians offered a mere sketch or framework (Stuckwerk) of true religiosity, upon which such scholars hung their gaudy trappings of decidedly worldly knowledge. In comparison with men like Julius Sperber and other prophets blessed with true insight by the Holy Spirit, their theology encapsulated ‘nothing more than naked letters’, it was ‘mere theory, and not practice’.102 Nagel compared the Lutheran scholastics, with their endless disputations and academic digressions, with the fractious scorpions of Revelation 9:3: they were those who unjustly held power over the earth. The entire edifice of their knowledge was directed not toward revealing the truth about the coming times and preparing the faithful for them, but instead for the glorification of their own names. It was only in the School of the Holy Spirit that ‘all the mysteries and the magnalia of God may be learned’.103 By passing on to an audience through his printed works the secrets revealed to him by the Holy Spirit, Nagel wanted to offer readers in the general public a supplicatory vision of existence that bypassed the corruptions of worldly authority. Collectively, his corpus might therefore be viewed as something of an ersatz series of chiliastic Lutheran Frömmigkeitsschriften. Nagel was gambling much to speak out in this manner. The majority of his works after 1617 predicted that the great conjunction of 1623 would initiate a spiritual Golden Age in the hearts of all true Christians. Nagel was, of course, well aware that the expectation of a future millennium, a time of feasting and joy for the saved, was a heresy according to Lutheran doctrine. In one text of 1622, Nagel denied vehemently that he was a ‘Chileast [sic]’, and therefore a heretic, for he

100 Nagel, 101 102 Nagel,

Prognosticon Auffs Jahr 1625, sig. B3r. As cited in Arnold, Kirchen und Ketzer-Historie, vol. 3, 54. Prognosticon cabalisticum, 28. 103 Nagel, Tabula Aurea, sig. A4v.

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did not claim that the forthcoming Golden Age would be a worldly one.104 Unfortunately, Nagel appears to have been ignorant of the category of chiliasmus subtilis, introduced into Lutheran heresiography in 1615, which specifically forbade spiritual as well as worldly visions of a felicitous future.105 In any event, Nagel claimed that recognition of the true doctrine was essentially a matter for the individual, one of personal spiritual purity. The events of Revelation 20, Nagel argued, clearly took place in the future, for not all prophecies concerning the Last Days had come to pass. Any other opinion was a lie.106 With a pure heart, a reader of his works could see ‘that Christ will possess a special kingdom or order upon earth’.107 Those who believed that this was a heresy, he claimed, ignored the words of the Bible, and spoke ‘against the most manifest testimony of holy scripture’ (contra manifestissima sacræ scripturæ testimonia).108 Such persons displayed, with their claims that nothing more than the Judgement Day awaited humanity, a ‘monstrous vanity’.109 Possessing a university education, Nagel bolstered his arguments as much as possible with the weight of prior authority. In addition to scripture, Nagel’s millennial vision was informed by several other traditions. Nagel linked the biblical millennium with broader hopes of a coming third or Golden Age, a medieval Joachite idea which he in turn inherited from prophetic authors of the late sixteenth century: among them Julius Sperber, Eustachius Poyssel, Guillaume Postel, and even the Lutheran theologian and author of devotional literature, Philip Nicolai.110 His sources were naturally not only religious. Astrology also played a chief role. As Genesis told, the firmament was created by God at the world’s beginning, and as this ephemeral world culminated in a Golden Age, the secrets of the heavens would once again be revealed; for ‘it was in the starry heavens that God represented the Kingdom of Christ, the kingdom of the Son of God upon earth’.111 To Nagel the firmament itself was therefore a book of mysteries, from which one could read the secret of a salvation that depended not only on the second coming of Christ, but also on the reception of heavenly knowledge from the angelic world. With reference to Agrippa, Nagel declared that in the Book of the Heavens one could ‘read the Scriptura Malachim,112 the true writing of the Angels’, which, however, ‘no man can understand until he lives angelically, and follows in the footsteps of Christ the Lord of Lords’.113 The objective of Nagel’s enquiries was to bring the knowledge of the upper waters (heavenly spheres) together with the lower waters (corrupt reality) ‘in harmony and consensus’.114 This consensus was expressed in all his works as a unification of the stars and the Bible. For Nagel, the two existed in a decidedly exegetical harmony: ‘for [the book of] Revelation is our true astronomy, and our astronomy is the true Revelation’.115 To the initiates, students and members of the inchoate School of the Holy Spirit, the truth of this knowledge would crystallize following the great conjunction of 1623, in the subsequent dawning of the Kingdom of Christ in their hearts. Although Nagel’s vision was therefore primarily spiritual, the coming of the Kingdom of Christ would not only have an impact on the interior life of true Christians. Through the influence of
104 P.

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Nagel, Alter vnd neuer Schreib Calender (Halle, 1622), cit. Sührig, ‘Entwicklung der nidersächsischen Kalender’, 466. 105 See J. Wallmann, ‘Zwischen Reformation und Pietismus. Reich Gottes und Chiliasmus in der lutherischen Orthodoxie’, Verifikationen. Festschrift für Gerhard Ebeling (Tübingen: Mohr [Paul Siebeck], 1982), 187–205. 106 Leipzig, UB MS 0 356, fol. 97v (20 November 1618). 107 Nagel, Prognosticon Cabalisticum auff das jahr MDCXX, 27. 108 Cit. Arnold, Kirchen- und Ketzer-Historie, vol. 3, 54. 109 Leipzig, UB MS 0 356, fol. 98v (20 November 1618). 110 On this see Penman, Unanticipated Millenniums, ch. 1. 111 Nagel, Tabula Aurea, sig. C3r. 112 Popularized by Agrippa. Nagel copied the alphabet out into a volume of his manuscripts. See Halle, UB, MS M 14B 31, fol. 13r. 113 Nagel, Tabula Aurea, sig. C4r. 114 Nagel, Tabula Aurea, sig. D1r. 115 Nagel, Tabula Aurea, sig. D1v.

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their newly enlightened actions, it would also have an impact on the exterior life. The millennium would flourish for 42 years, until the dawn of the Last Judgement in 1666.

THE UNIVERSAL INSTRUMENT: ITS FUNCTION IN CHAOS AND TRANSCENDENCE Nagel’s exegetical vision of a harmonious future manifested itself in several ways. His many chiliastic works – particularly those printed from late 1618 forwards – are all, in essence, sequels to one another. Outside of his theosophical masterpiece, the Tabula aurea (1624), rarely did his books present anything radically different from those they followed; an utterly bewildering selection of geometrical, kabbalistic and mathematical figures, culled from choice passages from the Bible, the natural world or, indeed, out Nagel’s own head. As the crucial dates of 1623 and 1624 approached, Nagel’s works provided ever more frantic, diverse, impenetrable and complex proofs that the millennium would soon dawn.116 Already in 1622, Nagel could write with some justification that he had ‘tested these matters [concerning the millennium] so diversely in my writings, that I can scarcely believe that there are some who remain blind, and cannot acknowledge nor see the certainty and truth of my prophecies’.117 Indeed, Nagel’s intricate chronological investigations were admired by many observers, including the author of the influential Wahres Christenthum, Johann Arndt.118 By tethering the mysteries of the Holy Spirit to a series of complex numerical equations, Nagel reduced, in a conceptual sense, the mysteries of the Godhead to a sort of axiomatic spiritual mathematics. This suited his quest for order. Salvation could be assured through Nagel’s kabbalistic theology because his system was as precise as clockwork, which literally counted down to the millennium. The prophet was particularly pleased with the numerous ‘correspondences’ he discovered between the Bible, the heavens and in nonbiblical traditions, because all these interlocking systems of thought, when reduced to a spiritual mathematics and added, subtracted, multiplied or divided together, ‘proved’ the rectitude of his system. However, there was one number, or rather one mystical numerical object, that Nagel prized above all others: a mystical number that would provide the answer to the riddle of life, the universe and everything. Nagel variously called this number or ‘instrument’ – as he preferred to describe it in reference to its metaphysical utility – the ‘kingly instrument’ (königliches Instrument). It may be seen as the ultimate manifestation of the axiomatic trend in Nagel’s thought, and therefore the clearest manifestation of his desire to discover and impose order, purpose and supplication in the phenomenal world.

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116 One

of Nagel’s favourite methods of calculation involved the use of ‘trigonal numbers’ (Trigonalzahlen), a multiplication technique he borrowed from the works of the Ulm mathematician and prophet, Johann Faulhaber. On Faulhaber and the Trigonalzahlen, see I. Schneider, Johannes Faulhaber 1580–1635. Rechenmeister in einer Welt des Umbruchs (Berlin: Birkhäuser Verlag, 1993). 117 P. Nagel, Wächterbuchlein vnd Letztes Stundgeschrey wie hoch es am Tage sey, vnd vmb welche Stunde des Nachts […] Wird auch zu Ende M. Phillippo Arnoldi […] geantwortet (n.p., 1622), sig. G2v. There were, of course, spectacular prophetic misfires along the way. For example, in his Prognosticon Harmonicum, sigs B3v–B4r, Nagel predicted that a new star would appear in June or August of 1623, an event which, of course, never occurred. 118 F. Breckling, ‘Catalogus testium veritatis post Lutherum continuatis huc usque’, [n.d., 1690s?] in Arnold, Kirchenund Ketzer-Historie, vol. 4, 1096: ‘M. Paulus Nagelius ein Adeptus Astrologus, der viele wunderbahre schrifften zum verstand der mystischen Astrologie herauß gegeben, und darin von dem sel. Joh. Arnd hochgehalten ist.’

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As Reinhard Breymayer has pointed out, the idea of a universal instrument appears to have stemmed from the heterodox literature of the late sixteenth century.119 In terms of identifying Nagel’s own sources, we can be rather more specific. His initial inspiration appears to have been the pseudo-Paracelsian Archidoxes magicae (c.1570), extracts from which Nagel copied into a manuscript compilation before 1610. In book five of this work, its author mentioned a speculum constellatione, a simple but powerful tool of catoptromantic astronomical divination, prepared under specific zodiacal influences, which the text also described as the königliches Instrument.120 It is likely that Nagel associated this speculum, or looking-glass, with yet other accounts. In 1621, the pseudo-Weigelian Zwey schöne Büchlein […] von dem leben Christi, which may have circulated in manuscript for some years prior, referred allegorically to a plumb line, right-angle and divider, ‘by which all things might be measured, be they in the kingdom of God, or whether they stem from it’.121 Nagel’s vision might also have been informed by works of the late sixteenthcentury Lutheran prophet Eustachius Poyssel, who regularly spoke of the Key of David (Schlüssel Davids), in his many tracts, which seemed to possess a similar function.122 Nagel’s conception of the universal instrument, however – informed by a close reading of Revelation 11:1–2 – was more coherent than these forerunners. First, the königliches Instrument was no physical instrument or set of instruments at all, but rather, a golden measure (güldene Meßstab). The scope of its powers, Nagel proclaimed, was ‘almost unbelievable’.123 It could plumb and reveal the deepest secrets, not only of the heavens, but of all of nature (including the homo interior), as well as the prophetic works of the Bible. Nagel stated that this omnipresent instrument reached from the earth right up to the upper waters of creation,124 it exceeded the powers of all human tools, and could not be bought with gold or silver.125 Connecting directly to Nagel’s ruminations on the School of the Holy Spirit, Nagel declared that possession of the instrument was a gift of God.126 He explicitly stated that only readers of Weigel’s Gnothi Seauton would be able to grasp the essential nature of his allegory and be granted understanding of the instrument, its use and application.127 The discovery of the golden measure was therefore the ultimate confirmation of the rectitude of Nagel’s prophetic system. It was the proof of an imminent release from the chaos and crises of the world. Although Nagel’s view on the universal instrument derived from prior sources, he was not simply prepared to take its existence for granted. Indeed, he wrestled with the concept for some time. Although he had suspected the existence of an apocalyptic ‘golden measure’ as early as
119 See R. Breymayer, ‘Das Königliche Instrument. Eine religiös motivierte meßtechnische Utopie bei Andreas Luppius (1686), ihre Wurzeln beim Frührosenkreuzer Simon Studion (1596) und ihre Nachwirkung beim Theosophen Friedrich Christoph Oetinger (1776)’, in Das Andere Wahrnehmen. Beiträge zur europäischen Geschichte. August Nitschke zum 65. Geburtstag gewidmet, edited by M. Kintzinger, W. Stürner and J. Zahlten (Vienna: Böhlau Verlag, 1991), 509–32. At the time of writing, Breymayer was unaware that the author of the Königliche Instrument was Nagel, for he discovered the text in a late seventeenth-century collection of tracts attributed to Paracelsus. 120 For the text, see Paracelsus, Sämmtliche Werke. Erste Abteilung, edited by K. Sudhoff, 14 vols (Munich and Berlin: Oldenbourg, 1922–9), vol. 14, 479–85; Nagel had copied this interesting section in one of his manuscripts, see Halle UB MS M 14b, 31ff. 121 On this work, see the remarks in F.C. Oetinger, Biblisches und emblematisches Wörterbuch, edited by G. Schäfer, M. Schmidt and K. Aland, Texte zur Geschichte des Pietismus, 3/7 (Berlin: de Gruyter, 1999), vol. 2, 327–8. 122 See P. Nagel, Cursus Quinquenalis Mundi: Wundergeheime Offenbarung deß trawrigen vnnd betrübten zustands welcher in nechstkünfftigen Jahren vermuhtlich sich begeben und zutragen soll (Halle, 1620), sig. E2v, where he cites the works of ‘Eustachius Postel’ – I take this to be a conflation of the names of Guillaume Postel and Eustachius Poyssel, both of whose works Nagel knew thoroughly. On Poyssel, see Barnes, Prophecy and Gnosis, 167–8, 173–4, 197–8 and 223–4. 123 P. Nagel, Raptum Astronomicum, Das ist: Hinderlassene Entdeckung und Beschriebung eines rechten und uber Königlichen Instruments (n.p., 1625), sig. B3r. Nagel attributed no less than forty-two separate powers to the instrument. 124 Nagel, Raptum Astronomicum, sig. B1v. 125 Nagel, Raptum Astronomicum, sig. B2v. 126 Nagel, Raptum Astronomicum, sig. B2v. 127 Nagel, Raptum Astronomicum, sig. B3r.

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1619 – and perhaps even earlier – he was, despite his manifold calculations, unable to identify it.128 Nagel’s search was, at first, methodical and bible-centric. Initially, he investigated the weighty scriptural numbers 666, 42, 33 and others; adding, multiplying and dividing them as he saw fit, in accordance with some invisible logic. Yet although he struck out in various directions in hope of finding a solution to the mystery, he remained without luck. Suddenly, however, in December and January of 1619 and 1620, Nagel discovered a most important clue, which caused him to shift the emphasis of his search. This clue was found not in the Bible, but in the natural world. More than that, it was in fact the natural world itself. Just as Nagel had concluded that the heavens were ‘nothing other than a book written by the glory of God’,129 Nagel determined that the basis of his reckonings must have something to do with the physical size of the planet easiest to measure – the Earth.130 The size of the Earth, and the proportions of the universe, were products of the wisdom of its great architect. As such, Nagel set out to measure the planet. Following some brief astrological calculations, Nagel reckoned that the earth’s circumference at the equator was equal to 5,614 German miles. This result – vastly inaccurate though it was – proved to be a revelation.131 For 5,614 happened to coincide precisely with Nagel’s earlier chronological declaration that the world would endure for exactly 5,614 years before the Last Judgement. This coincidence of geography, sacred history, chronology, biblical prophecy and astronomy was impossible for the prophet to overlook, and confirmed 5,614 as the güldene Meßstab, the ‘secret wonder-number’ which he had so long sought.132 Nagel’s discovery was written up in a lengthy manuscript composed in 1620, under the dramatic title Raptus Astronomicus (Astronomy seized).133 It would not appear in print, however, until after the prophet’s death. The posthumous publication of the text was not due to Nagel’s own suppression of the work; it is far more likely due to the expenses associated with printing such a lengthy volume, particularly as it featured a series of unique woodcuts which would have to have been commissioned at substantial cost. It should come as no surprise then, to learn that the text was first issued unillustrated, in a heavily abridged quarto pamphlet in 1625. In 1627, the complete text, together with woodcuts, was printed in two quarto volumes.134 Within its pages, the significance of the number 5,614 as the hidden ‘key’ to the universe was demonstrated by numerous kabbalistic, gematric, magical and mathematical arguments. For example, with reference to Daniel 12:7 and the prophet’s division of the ages into ‘a time, times and half a time’ (reflecting the Joachimite three ages of the earth), Nagel began with the year 1604 (the date of the new star and great conjunction) as the ‘time’, added 3,208 (twice 1604, the ‘times’) and finally 802 (half a time) in order to again confirm the 5,614 years which creation would
128 Nagel Prodromus astronomiæ apocalypticæ, sigs B1v–B2r: ‘Und ich wil hier nichts schreiben von einem wunderbahrn Universalinstrument und gantz güldenen MeßStabe.’ Yet even at this early point, the prophet realised he would only be able to achieve the mature goals of his prophetic program ‘wann ich unser Königliches Universal instrument und recht güldenen Meßstab entdecken [kann]’ (sig. F1v). 129 Nagel Prodromus astronomiæ apocalypticæ, sig. C3v. 130 Nagel Prodromus astronomiæ apocalypticæ, sig. F1v. 131 One German mile was equivalent to approximately 6.4 km. Nagel therefore calculated the earth’s circumference to be around 35,929.6 km, well short of the actual distance of c. 40,075 km. 132 Nagel tested the number 5,614 extensively in his Philosophia novae astronomiae, sig. K2v etc., where he linked the number to the cycle of great conjunctions of Jupiter and Saturn, the correct size of the seven known planets, the prophecies of 2 Esdras, Daniel, Revelation and other biblical books. 133 Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Cod. 15392 Nr. 1, fols 1r–151r. ‘Raptus Astronomicus das ist Weissagung aus dem 1. 2. und 3. Himmel aufs 1620 und 1621. Jahr.’ 134 Nagel, Raptum Astronomicum (1625); P. Nagel, Raptus Astronomicus Das ist Astronomische gewisse warhafftige Prophecey und Weissagung/ aus dem Ersten/ Andern und Dritten Himmel/ wie solche darinn befunden worden, Von M. Paulo Nagelio Sel: im Jahr 1620 beschrieben/ dergleichen zuvor nie gesehen noch gehöret. Jetzo aber menniglichen zum Druck gebracht. 2 vols (n.p., 1627). The claim on the title page that the manuscript had never before seen print is naturally false – presumably, it was set in print by a rival group to those who had published the 1625 edition.

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supposedly endure.135 This is only a hint of the sorts of interdependent calculation Nagel produced to document the efficacy of the instrument. Using the figure of Jacob’s ladder, Nagel attempted to represent other correspondences between the heavenly bodies, the zodiac, the twelve Apostles, twelve tribes of Israel, the Church Fathers and others in an allegorical representation of reaching the different spheres of creation by passing through rituals of personal piety and purification, penetrating the upper waters of creation and ultimately establishing contact with angelic wisdom.136 In another diagram, the ‘cœlum oraculare’ (Figure 2), Nagel confirmed the unity of all Biblical prophecies by positing a bizarre series of gematric correspondences between the chapter and

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Figure 2. Thaler.

The ‘Cœlum Oraculare’ from Nagel, Raptus Astronomicus, II (1627), S1v. Courtesy of Hans-Jörg

135 Nagel, 136 See

Raptus Astronomicus, vol. 1, sig. D4r. J. Reuchlin, De arte cabalistica (Hagenau, 1517), sig. xxiv.

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verse numbers of specific biblical prophecies.137 These were represented on a prophetic rota, or wheel. In order to illustrate the logic of his considerable ingenuity to readers, Nagel explained one of the hundreds of correspondences; Nagel began with the fact that there are collectively 123 chapters in the works of the major Old Testament prophets Daniel, Isaiah, Ezechiel and Jeremiah. When the apocalyptic number 666 was divided by 123, the result was, according to Nagel, 5.51 [sic, the solution is actually 5.41]. In the fifth and fifty-first chapters of Isaiah, Nagel therefore asserted, one could find prophecies which would shortly come to pass, which then pointed to the forthcoming third and golden age.138 In this fashion, he stated, the seeker of the universal instrument could work through all significant prophetic numbers and derive solace and inspiration from the prophecies to which the appropriate mathematical solutions pointed. For Nagel, such diverse and interdependent ‘kabbalistic proofs’ fed his Hermetic convictions and, importantly, demonstrated beyond all reasonable doubt, both to himself and – presumably – his readers, the existence of an underlying magical system of the world. This system rendered the course of time, and therefore the assurance of salvation, as predictable as ‘clockwork’.139 This clockwork universe also confirmed the rectitude of Nagel’s theosophical and pneumatological ideas concerning the Holy Spirit, and therefore his dissent from mainstream Lutheranism. One could only find the golden measure, apply the Universal Instrument, escape the mortal world, and enter the millennial kingdom when one had been truly inspired by the Holy Spirit and allowed Christ into one’s heart. Nagel’s was a self-legitimating, infallible, holy system, a far cry from the hypocrisy, the ‘disputes and squabbling [Schwätzerey]’ conducted by representatives of the worldly ‘churches of mere walls [Mauerkirchen]’, all of whom insisted on persecuting Nagel and his readers.140 In short, Nagel offered his readers hope for the future, and a delivery from chaos. Although Nagel’s sense of his own prophetic significance was great, and he often emphasized the unique nature and originality of his chiliastic magical vision in his tracts, he was keen to stress that anyone had the ability to partake in the coming millennial kingdom. Even if readers were unable to follow his numerous and diverse proofs of the signs of the times, or wished to ignore them outright, Nagel still left directions for them to discover the key to the universal instrument, and thus enter the Kingdom of God:
Figure 2. The ‘Cœlum Oraculare’ from Nagel, Raptus Astronomicus, II (1627), S1v. Courtesy of Hans-Jörg Thaler.

Wait for a joyous night when the heavens are beautiful and clear and without cloud or wind. Climb to the peak of a very high mountain and look to the east. Observe the sky with care until you see a beautiful star in forma ignis ascend. When it has appeared, wend your eyes in the direction of the midday sun, where the mighty star Heliodes shines. Look next to where the sun sets in the evening, there will stand the great star Erothea. Finally, turn and face the direction of midnight. There you will discover the splendid star Apechides. Immediately after you have observed these four stars – and I speak here no falsehoods – you will begin to feel their power and their impression start to work their influence deep within yourself. The bolts and seals of your understanding will spring open, and there you will find the key of which I have spoken.141

Nagel does not address the fact that verses only began to be numbered in German Bibles during the late sixteenth century. 138 Nagel, Raptus Astronomicus, vol. 2, sig. S2r. 139 Nagel, Prodromus astronomiæ apocalypticæ, sig. D2r. 140 Nagel, Prognosticon Auffs Jahr 1625, sig. A4v. 141 Nagel, Tabula Aurea, sig. A4v. The allegory of the ascent of the mountain was popular in alchemical literature of the period. Nagel’s major source for this idea, however, was probably E.D.F.O.C.R. Sen., Gründtlicher Bericht, von dem vorhaben, Gelegenheit und Innhalt der löblichen Bruderschafft deß Rosen Creutzes, Gestellt durch einen unbenannten, aber doch Führnehmen derselbigen Brüderschafft Mitgenossen (Frankfurt, 1617), a Rosicrucian reply that contains very similar language and sentiment.

137

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SUPPLICATION AND TRANSCENDENCE As can be gathered from the preceding discussion, Nagel’s vision of a spiritual millennium and the presentation of his elaborate proofs of the coming Golden Age was by no means elitist. While some of his prophetic contemporaries had been seduced by their own supposed status as prophets favoured by God and abandoned themselves to a ‘criminal arrogance’ – as in the case of the Bohemian emigré Paul Felgenhauer – or indeed proclaimed that they were, in fact the Messiah – as did Esajas Stiefel and Ezechiel Meth – Nagel shunned the attention that came with his revelations. He actively turned away ‘disciples’ who visited him in Torgau, and promoted in its place his systematic prophetic system.142 Nagel’s promulgation of his chiliastic vision was zealous. Between 1617, when he first expressed his chiliastic hopes for the future, and 1624, when he died, Nagel printed more than thirty books and pamphlets on the subject of the forthcoming paradise. While these works often contained polemic against his many enemies, they were apparently intended as an evangelical herald to a new kind of Lutheran piety or Frömmigkeit, which claimed authority not from the moribund churches and pointless doctrinal disputes of this world, but the angelic intelligences of the next. As far as Nagel was concerned, a sort of enlightened transcendence was the only appropriate reaction to the chaos and corruption of this world. Whoever refused to accept the ‘philosophical gold’ of the Holy Spirit would remain doomed to corruption. As Nagel eloquently stated in his Raptus Astronomicus:
Now whomsoever wishes to enter the angelic world, to see the angels rise and descend, indeed wishes to do so himself, he must leave behind everything worldly, temporal and corruptible; all proud, fleshly life and being, carnal desire and sin. He steps upon the ladder, does not look back, and climbs along with the angels. For whatever remains below (was unten bleibt) will be corrupted.143

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The necessity of transcending the mortal world was emphasized in many of Nagel’s later works, perhaps in conjunction with his increasing physical ailments. One of the more notable expressions of this desire for transcendence was expressed in the Prognosticon auffs Jahr 1625, written toward the conclusion of 1624, and perhaps merely days before his own death. In this final work, the prophet wrote to his audience of the necessity of possessing the ‘divine gold [aurum divinum]’, which, in a sense similar to alchemical transmutation, could redeem and purify the individual in a new birth, allowing him to make contact with the Godly intelligences. According to Nagel, there could be no other way forward, for those who do not strive for this gold ‘wish to remain resigned in Sin and in the old birth […] they shall have no part in this [forthcoming new] age, and therefore they will be judged alongside the beasts’.144

CONCLUSIONS Although Nagel spoke out against individual theologians who opposed his work, and against the stale doctrinal disputes that dominated the Lutheran faith, he never outright rejected the confession in which he was raised. Like Valentin Weigel before him, Nagel’s chiliastic vision of a future spiritual harmony was not intended to function in opposition to the general teachings of the faith with which he identified, but rather to reform, nuance and improve them. Nagel’s doctrines were considered heretical by many of his orthodox Lutheran counterparts. However, Nagel himself
142

143 Nagel, 144 Nagel,

Leipzig, UB MS 0 356, fol. 31v (Nagel to Kerner, 30 July 1621). Raptus Astronomicus, sig. L2v. Prognosticon Auffs Jahr 1625, sig. B3r.

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never stated that he was anything other than a Lutheran. Although his vision of future harmony ultimately took on a chiliastic form and was decidedly influenced by spiritualist doctrines, the roots of Nagel’s apocalyptic faith initially thrived in evangelical soil. Nagel’s path from orthodox Lutheran to critic of the faith was not sudden. It was the product of a cumulative series of revelations, incidents, influences and pressures, both personal and public. The basic intellectual convictions which underwrote the expression of Nagel’s ultimate chiliastic spirituality were encountered relatively early in his intellectual development. Shortly after his departure from Wittenberg in 1605, Nagel manifested an interest in prophetic and magical literature, collecting extracts from the likes of Paracelsus, Agrippa and others. In 1612, his nascent heterodox proclivities were buttressed when he spent some time at the castle library of August von Anhalt-Plötzkau. There, he became familiar with assorted Rosicrucian, prophetic and Weigelian works. He quickly advertised his interest and intellectual investment in this material both in his manuscript extracts, as well as in his own printed work, as the portrait of 1613, with its Weigelian formulae, demonstrates. In the background, developments within the Lutheran faith also seem to have played a crucial role in fostering Nagel’s interest in ideas of a forthcoming felicitous future. First, there was the Frömmigkeitskrise, which gripped Lutheranism in the first two decades of the seventeenth century. The impact of this crisis on Nagel was twofold. First, as a sympathetic reader of Weigel, Philip Nicolai and Johann Arndt, Nagel may have been disillusioned by the reaction of hardline Lutheran theologians to the popularity of the new devotional literature, prompting him to distance himself from the ‘dry’ orthodoxy of institutionalized Lutheranism. Second, however, as a Lutheran intellectual inclined to the new devotional approach to spirituality, Nagel may also have found himself considered with suspicion by strict orthodox opponents of the devotional movement. Thus, set against the confession, Nagel sought out yet further works of potentially heterodox character. This was not of itself a problem, as long as Nagel did not openly attach himself to ‘heterodox’ or controversial ideas. Indeed, in the period leading up to 1617, Nagel did not publish any works that expressed his evidently increasing fervour for Weigelian and chiliastic notions. In Torgau, however, suspicions and rumours spread concerning his activities. These were revealed with the arrival of the Saxon church inspectors in 1617, after which time Nagel became a person of interest to Saxon authorities. Whether or not his ‘discovery’ was a direct trigger for Nagel finally to publicize the ideas he may or may not have been harbouring is difficult to determine. Upheavals in the local church may have encouraged him to speak out, so too his conviction that he had been chosen by the Holy Spirit as a prophet, or third Elias. His decision is likely to have been further influenced by a crisis of conscience engendered by the Saxon stance of ‘political Papism’, adopted in the early phase of the Bohemian rebellion. Nagel may have felt that a corrective to the orthodox position was therefore necessary. In any event, it was not until the Thirty Years’ War proper commenced in 1618 that Nagel chose to outline the full details of his chiliastic expectations in a series of publications, ending only with his death at the end of 1624. These tracts emphasized the connections between the mysteries of heaven and earth, of scripture and nature, signs all pointing to an imminent release from this world in a future period of felicity. By its very nature – positing a divine order in increasing chaos of personal illness, war, poverty and crippling inflation – this reaction to exterior events seems to have been intended to function as a desperate vision of supplication, a strange and lingering by-product of the Frömmigkeitskrise. Such a feeling of comfort was not just intended for Nagel himself, but also for the broader community, Nagelisten and otherwise. History Faculty, University of Oxford

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