Quirinus Kuhlmann

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1689 engraved portrait of Quirinus Kuhlmann, described as "poet, chiliast, and false prophet

Quirinus Kuhlmann (February 25, 1651 – October 4, 1689) was a German Baroque poet and mystic. Kuhlmann insisted upon the importance of the events of his life as confirmation of his divine mission.[1]

Known for his travels throughout Europe, Kuhlmann spent the last years of his life in Russia, where he was executed because he was considered theologically and politically dangerous.

Early life[edit]

Born in Breslau (Wrocław) in Silesia to a Lutheran merchant, Quirinus Kuhlmann studied at the Magdalena-Gymnasium with the help of a scholarship, as his father had died when Kuhlmann was young.[2]

As a boy, Kuhlmann suffered from a speech impediment and was often mocked for his condition. Some scholars believe that this may have been why he began to frequent Breslau’s libraries from an early age.[2]

Kuhlmann's first book 'Unsterbliche Sterblikeit' of 100 epigrammatic Alexandrine Quatrain Epitaphs was published in 1668, before he left for the University of Jena in September 1670[3]


Heavenly Love-Kisses (1671)[edit]

Kuhlmann compiled an anthology of sonnets in Himmlische Liebes-Küsse (Heavenly Love-Kisses, XL1, (The Mutability of Human Affairs )1671)[1]), (the title being derived from Heinrich Muller's book)[4] which depict the union of a human soul with Jesus Christ in a sequence of fifty Sonnets, in Alexandrine lines that hover between sixteen and seventeen syllables, of monosyllabic stem words, in individual notes or measures by Virgules, having an idiosyncratic sonnet rhyme scheme, and a complete permutation phrase, (Welchelsatz) in its first twelve lines.[5] (a modern verse poem form has been derived from Kuhlmann's XL1 format), [6]

It is a Proteus verse form constructed so that the words can be changed without destroying its meter or rhyme .(Harsdorffer's 'Poetischer Trichter'1648 providing Kuhlmann with the model for these sonnets)[7] The language in the poem aspires to dramatize, in purely mathematical terms, its deepest theurgic vocation in Logos; to bring Cosmos into Being[8] to perfect a poetic form that precipitates an experience of endless Parataxis.

The sonnet (including eight explicitly modelled on Song Of Songs)[9] with thirteen potential permutations,that contains the possibility of saying and knowing everything there is to know in the sciences and yet at the same time signal the utter vanity of such an attempt.[10]

This 'ideal' Kuhlmann poetic form, a parataxis, permutating, combinato mechanically combined to produce a clear expression of concepts and thus 'Mathesis universalis' whereby all variations keep their sense, no 'new 'sense with a new message is produced[11] and thereby to ascribe the powers of invention to a transcendent , combinatory God who alone has world and time enough to read all the sonnet's redundant permutations.[12]

This fascination with Combinatorics (a mechanical means of determining the possible permutations and range of a series of concepts by arrangement in tables, columns, triangular and circular charts [13]) was fueled by Kuhlmann's discovery of 'Ars magna sciendi sive Combinatorics '(1669) by Athanasius Kircher.[14]


Kuhlmann's early poetry included a book of epicedia, or funeral poems (1668), an epithalamium (wedding poem, 1668), and a eulogy that praised a literary society called Fruchtbringende Gesellschaft ("Fruit-bringing society", 1670).[15] As Gerhart Hoffmeister writes, "the acclaim he received made him feel like a 'second Opitz' – perhaps an early sign that he was becoming overly self-confident or even delusional before a grave illness (typhoid fever?) struck him in 1669.[16]

Very little is known of Kuhlmann's residence in Jena (between September 1670 and August 1673),[17] except that, in 1672 he produced his prose works 'Lehrreicher Gesschictit Herold' and 'Der Lehr-Hof-Tugend-Sonnen-Blumen' with over 500 aphorisms, short essays and 100 short moralistic stories[18]

In Kuhlmann's 'Der Kuhlpsalter' (1677) almost every poem contains allusions to Kuhlmann's life [19] which is so inextricably interwoven with his poetry, that some knowledge of that life is necessary in order to interpret his poems.[20]

Kuhlmann received the imperial laurels('poetes laureates') in 1672 from the Graf of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt[21] after receiving attention for his paraphrases( i.e.Heavenly-Kisses XL1) of Song of Songs and other mystical sources.[15] Later at Leiden in 1673,Kuhkmann's prose became conversation with others, his poetry conversation with God.[22]


In 1669, at the age of eighteen, Kuhlmann claimed to have had experienced a prophetic vision,'a Zug du Gott', an illumination vision of Jesus Christ,[23] after reading Jakob Bohme's 'Mysterium Magnum' and after making the acquaintance of Johann Rothe and his followers [2] became convinced he was the new Jesuel eschatologically announcing the 'New Millennium', his poem 'Love-Kisses XL1' recording that birth.[24]

Kuhlmann later enrolled at the University of Jena,staying from September1670 through August 1673[25] with the purpose of studying law, but spent his time reading and writing mystical texts and did not produce a single poem(apart from those in his prose composed before he left Breslau).[26]

Kuhlmann seems to have suffered from depression, and he was reported to have covered his walls with reflecting "turkish papers" to brighten his room in order to be transformed into a mystic mood.[27]

At his native Breslau, he further neglected his studies and read some nine hundred books, inspiring him to write his own comprehensive history of the world, called Lehrreicher Geschicht-Herold (Instructive History-Messenger, 1672).[15]

Kuhlmann left for Leiden,in 1673, to further his studies[28] where he was about to defend his law dissertation, Kuhlmann converted to Chiliasm and Mysticism [29] and proclaimed himself a millenniarist, "son of the Son of God," and missionary to men of all faiths,[30] causing him at the time, to be described as 'a representative of one of the main movements in religious fanaticism'.[31] Kuhlmann, later at Easter 1675,left for Lübeck, the centre of dissident movements .[32]

He unsuccessfully attempted, both in Western and Eastern Europe — including visits to London and the East to attempt an audience with Mehmed IV, Sultan of the Ottoman Empire[33] — to find adherents to his ideals, which included religious union and utopianism, upon which he expounded in his De Monarchia Jesuelitica (1682).[30]

Kuhlmann's poetry was written with the messianic goal of having Protestant powers and Ottomans join forces to destroy Catholic Europe, the House of Habsburg, and the Pope and establish the "Kingdom of Jesus."[34]


Kuhlmann was imprisoned in Arkangel[35] before he traveled to Moscow in 1689 in order to convince the Russian czar to join this alliance, and established himself in the German colony in Moscow.

In Moscow Kuhlmann lived in the house of an adherent named Conrad Nordermann. Eventually, however, both men were denounced by Joachim Meinecke, the chief pastor of Moscow Lutherans, as theologically and politically dangerous, were arrested and tortured, and finally burned at the stake for heresy.[34]


Rudolf Borchardt (1877-1945) referred to Kuhlmann as 'the greatest and most dangerous poet in German literature' [36] and Kuhlmann's mystical poems, (which include the collection Der Kühlpsalter (1684–6)),each of which had a heading note, date and circumstance of its composition,[37] influenced both the poetry of the late Baroque, and the movements of Pietism and Empfindsamkeit / Sensibility (1750s-1770s).

In 1962, Robert L. Beare wrote that "in recent years Quirinus Kuhlmann has been the subject of much interest, not merely because he is one of the most striking of German Baroque writers, but also because his life has unusual features not always associated with poets – seldom is a poet burned alive, no matter how critics may roast his work!"[38]


  1. ^ Beare Robert L , ' Quirinius Kuhlmann:Where and When' MLN, vol 77, no 4 October 1962
  2. ^ a b Wilhelm Schmidt-Biggemann, “Salvation Through Philology: The Poetical Messianism of Quirinus Kuhlmann (1651-1689),” in Peter Schäfer, Mark R. Cohen (ed.), Toward the Millennium: Messianic Expectations from the Bible to Waco (Brill), 259.
  3. ^ Beare, Robert L, Quirinus Kuhlman:The Religious Apprenticeship' PMLA vol 68 no 4 September 1953
  4. ^ 'Der Himmlische Liebeskuss order Ubung dis Wahren Christientumn' Frankfurt 1659
  5. ^ Love-Kiss XLI, Quirinus Kuhlmann and Richard Sieburth. 'Poetry vol 194, no 1, The Translator Issue, April 2009
  6. ^ Verse form
  7. ^ Johnson Christopher D ,'N+2, or a late Renaissance Poetics of Enumeration', MLN vol 127 , 2012
  8. ^ Seiburth, Richard Translator Notes, 'Poetry ' vol, 194, no 1 April 2009
  9. ^ Johnson, Christopher D,'N+2,or a late Renaissance Poetics of Enumeration'MNL vol 127, 2012
  10. ^ Johnson Christopher D. 'N+2, or a late Renaissance Poetics of Enumeration',MNL vol 127, 2012
  11. ^ Westerhoff, Jan C, 'Poeta Calculans', Journal of the History of Ideas, vol 6, no 3 1999
  12. ^ Johnson, Cristopher D 'N+2, or a late Renaissance Poetic Enumeration'MLN vol 127 2012
  13. ^ Beare Robert L ,'Quirinus Kuhlmann:The Religious Apprenticeship' PLMA vol 68 no 4 September 1953
  14. ^ Siebirth Richard, Translator'note- 'Poetry vol 194 no 1 2009
  15. ^ a b c Literary Encyclopedia: Quirinus Kuhlmann
  16. ^ Hoffmeister, Gerhart, 'Quirinus Kuhlmann' The Literary Encyclopedia July 2, 2007
  17. ^ Spahr Blake Lee 'Quirinus Kuhlmann:The Jena Years' MLN vol 72 no 8 December 1957
  18. ^ Beare Robert L 'Quirinus Kuhlmann:The Religious Apprenticeship' PLMA vol 68 no 4 September 1953
  19. ^ Beare Robert L, 'Quirinus Kuhlmann' Where and When ,MLN vol 77,no 4 Oct1962
  20. ^ Beare Robert L, 'Quirinus Kuhlmann: Where and When?' MLN vol. 77, no 4 October 1962
  21. ^ Beare Robert L ,'Quirinus Kuhlmann:The Religious Apprenticeship 'PLMA vol 68 no 4 September 1953
  22. ^ Beare Robert L, 'Quirinus Kuhlmann:The Religious Apprenticeship' PLMA vol 68 no4 September 1953
  23. ^ Qurnarius Seine Schleudersteine
  24. ^ Sieburth, Richard 'Translator Note ' 2009
  25. ^ Spahr Blake Lee, 'Quirin Kuhjmann:The Jena Years' MLN vol 72 no 8 December 1957
  26. ^ Beare Robert L 'Quirinus Kuhlmann:The Religious Apprenticeship' PMLA vol 68. no 4September 1953
  27. ^ Wilhelm Schmidt-Biggemann, “Salvation Through Philology: The Poetical Messianism of Quirinus Kuhlmann (1651-1689),” in Peter Schäfer, Mark R. Cohen (ed.), Toward the Millennium: Messianic Expectations from the Bible to Waco (Brill), 262.
  28. ^ Liber Inscriptionium 19th September 1673, Leden University
  29. ^ Beare Robert L , 'Quirinus Kuhlmann: The Religious Apprenticeship' PLMA vol 68 no 4 September 1953
  30. ^ a b http://encyclopedia.jrank.org/Cambridge/entries/070/Quirinus-Kuhlmannf.html[permanent dead link]
  31. ^ Akten des Geistelichen Ministeriums Bd VII -(Alter Zahlung) 1680
  32. ^ Beare Robert L , 'Quirinus Kulmann:The Religioius Apprenticeship' PMLA vol.68 no 4 September 1953
  33. ^ Wilhelm Schmidt-Biggemann, “Salvation Through Philology: The Poetical Messianism of Quirinus Kuhlmann (1651-1689),” in Peter Schäfer, Mark R. Cohen (ed.), Toward the Millennium: Messianic Expectations from the Bible to Waco (Brill), 267.
  34. ^ a b Wilhelm Schmidt-Biggemann, “Salvation Through Philology: The Poetical Messianism of Quirinus Kuhlmann (1651-1689),” in Peter Schäfer, Mark R. Cohen (ed.), Toward the Millennium: Messianic Expectations from the Bible to Waco (Brill), 269.
  35. ^ Letter 17 Dec 1689 from Pastor Franciscus Laurentius Schrader quoted in Robert L Beare, 'Quirinus Kuhlmann:Where and When'MLN, vol 77. no 4, 1962
  36. ^ Beare Robert L, 'Quirinus Kuhlmann:Religious Apprenticeship' PMLA, vol 66 no 4 Sept 1953
  37. ^ Beare, Robert l, 'Quirinus Kuhlmann:Where and When 'MLN, vol 77, no 4 1962
  38. ^ Robert L. Beare, “Quirinus Kuhlmann: Where and when?”, MLN (The Johns Hopkins University Press), Vol. 77, No. 4, German Issue (Oct., 1962), 379.


Unsterbliche Sterblikeit (1668)

Wedding Poem (1668)

Fruit-bringing Society(1670)


Sonnenblumen (1671)

Instructive History-Messenger(1672)

Lehrreicher Gestientherold (1673)

Kircheriana de arte magna sciendi sapientia (1681)

De Monarchic Jesuelitica(1682)

Der Kuhlpsalter(1684)

Paralipomena (Chronicles on Kuhlpsalter) (1688)

External links[edit]