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Thomas Bromley – Two Examples Of A 17th Century English Theosophical Exegesis Of The Bible

Biblical Patriarchs,

Duomo Baptistry in Florence

Picture by Matthias Kabel


Today’s sharing from the Blue House of Via-HYGEIA is an extract from Thomas Bromley’s ‘Journeys of the Children of Israel, as in their names and historical passages, they comprise the Great and Gradual Work of Regeneration.’ London, 1710.

After the mention in our latest post of the ‘kings of Edom’ mentioned in 1 Chronicles 1-3, here English Boehmist and Philadelphian society member Thomas Bromley offers us an impressive Theosophical exegesis of the names of the ten pre-flood Patriarch as they appear earlier in the same text.

We added also Chapter XII of his ‘The Way to the Sabbath of Rest‘- London, 1655-as its subject encompasses its logical continuation.


Context & Method of the Exegesis

(Excerpt from the Introductory Talk)

‘…For (note: because) such spiritually moral Expositions of Scriptures, that have a real Foundation in the Hebrew Names, and Historical Passages of it, are so far from Prejudicing the Scriptures themselves, or the Souls of those that read them for their true Improvement;  that on the contrary they conduce:

1st, To enlarge our Portion in the use of the Scriptures, to lead us thro’ the Letter, into a Spiritual and more interior Sense;  so that Instead of the Body of the Letter, we possess the Body and Spirit too, and may truly say with Isaac (when he had found the Well Reboboth, i.e. Enlargements) now the Lord hath made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the Land;   especially adding constant Obedience, to this Large Fountain of Practical Knowledge.   

2.  This way of Interpretation tends to habituate us to a constant Introversion in reading the Scriptures, and applying them to the inward Heart-work;  which by most is too much neglected;  Who mind Notions, and increase of Knowledge, more than true Improvement in the New-Birth.

3.  It opens to those who have a gift of Prophesie, an usual way of parabolical Teaching, from the History of the Old Testament; which way of Instruction is very proper to influence the Phantasie {Imagination}, fix upon the Memory, and work vigorously upon the Affections: Especially when accompanied with divine Virtue and Power from the living Word;  as our Saviour’s Discourses were, who spake so much in Parables, and sometimes interpreted them.

4.  It tends to impress the Scripture History more firmly upon our Memories, and to make us the more closely mind what we read, when we find such useful Truths, such practical Verities, so much conducing to the Internal Work, every where Interwoven with it.

5.  It conduceth to demonstrate the transcendant excellency of Scripture History, above others, which only contain a literal Sense; whereas this, besides the literal, comprehends a divine Allegory, a Moral or Spiritual Sense, unlocking the distinct Work of Regeneration, and every where turning us inward, to mind that Work, which is of so great Concern in reference to our eternal Hapiness. And by this Sense within a Sense (as by a Wheel in the midst of a Wheel, Ezek.10.v.10) in the signal Contrivance of divine Wisdom, Eph.3.10. is stiled polupoykilos Multiform or Manifold, or as Tremelius more exactly renders it, plena Varietatibusfull of Varieties. Clearly to this purpose writes Gregory in his Morals, L.20.cap.10 Sacra Scriptura omnes Scientias ipso Locutiones suae more transcendit:  Quia uno eodemque Sermone dum narrat gestum, prodit Mysterium. (that is) The Sacred Scripture transcendeth all Sciences in the very Manner of it’s SpeakingBecause in one, and the same discourse, whilst it relates an History, it discloseth a Mystery. With this Testimony conspire Justin MartyrTertullianChrysostom and others of the Ancients.

6.  This way of Interpretation is not only profitable but Spiritually pleasant, affording fresh Scenes of wholesome Contemplation; where otherwise we should least expect them: By which many Scriptures abounding with hard Names, (and thence seeming to most readers a kind of Tedious and rough Wilderness) are changed into pleasant Gardens, and Springs of Water, yielding the most important, and therefore most delightful Varieties of the New-Birth.’


First Example 

The Journeys of the Children of Israel

importing the Great and Gradual Work of Regeneration

(Excerpt of from the Introductory Talk)

‘Adam, Seth, Enosh, Kenan, Mahalalel,

Jared, Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech, Noah.’

‘One Instance of which for all, I will annex out of the 1st of Chron. chap.1. where we find the Names of the 10 Patriarchs in due Order prefixt to the succeeding Genealogies; which 10 Names I shall briefly reflect on, in that natural Order we there find them.

The first is Adam, which signifieth RedEarthly, an Image representing our natural State in Flesh and Bloodunregenerated as we bear the Image of the Earthly1Cor.15.49.

The second Sheth or Seth, that is Set or Settledas a Foundation: Importing the beginning of Regeneration when the immortal Seed is laid as a foundation of pure Light and Life in us, 1Pet.1.23.

The third is Enosh, that is SicklySorrowfulMiserable, or frail miserable Man;  this Name points at a further Step in the New-Birth, when from the true Light of Life, we discern and feel the Burden of Sin, and how Miserable we are made by it, and therefore as uneasy under it’s remains, cry out with St. PaulOh! wretched Man that I am, who shall deliver me from this body of Death? Rom.7.24.

The fourth Kenan i.e. MourningLamentation, that which riseth from a deep Sense of the Sinfulness of Sin, in our selves and others. And also from particular Reflections upon the Suffering of Christ, wounded for our Transgressions, on whom the Lord hath made to meet the Iniquity of us all;  to such that prophetick Benediction belongs, Blessed are ye that weep now, for ye shall laugh, Luke 6.21.

The fifth is Mahalaleel, (i.e.) Illumination of God, or the praising of God; importing that Dispensation of Joy, and Praise for the Light of God’s Countenance:  for the Salvifick Rays of him (who is the true Helel, that bright and Morning Star) which after such deep Mournings for Sin, and the crucified Jesus, usually Irradiates the Soul, and transfuseth it with the Sense of divine Love, most free Grace, and infinite Goodness, so that the Soul under Kenan, the State of Mourning, may comfort itself with a secure expectation of Mahalaleelthe State of divine Light and Praise, ready to succeed, according to that of the Psalmist, Why art thou cast down my Soul, and why art thou disquieted in me?    Hope thou in God, for I shall yet Praise him for the Help (or Salvation) of his CountenancePs.42.5.

The sixth is Jered or Jared, i.e. Descending, Ruling; in which there are two things considerable. 1st, Christ’s further descent into us, after his reviving appearance in us; that is, his deeper Ingress into the Heart, to possess it’s Properties, and rule there encreasing his glorious Dominion, in great Sweetness, Meekness, Love, Humility and Righteousness. 2dly, Our humbling our selves in the Sense of his abundant Goodness, and by that attaining to be so far exalted, as to reign with him over Self and Sin: Which is to begin to share with Christ in his ThroneRev.3.21. And to enjoy that Empire inwardly which in a more external Sense (as to worship) is ascribed to JudahHosea 11.12. Judah yet ruled with God, or cum Deo fortiwith the strong God, as Tremelius renders it.

The seventh is Enoch, that is, 1. Instructed, or Instructing. 2. Dedication, or Dedicated.

The first Signification implies that Dispensation, when being our selves taught of God, from divine Charity, and the strong Impulses of the Holy Ghost, we take all Opportunities of Instructing others in the Mysteries of the New-Birth: This is the strong Man’s State in Christ;  for not arriving at which, when they had been so long Converted, St. Paul reproves the HebrewsChap.5.12. When for the time ye ought to be Teachers, &c.  See Acts 18.26.

The 2d, which is Dedication, imports, that divine Teaching, which is true Instruction, leads to a Dedication of our selves to God.    The Hebrew Root, whence come Enoch, or Chanoch, with Chanucha derived from it, are applied to the Dedication of the Temple and Altar. 2Chron.7.9. Importing that State in Christ, or under the Dispensation of the Son, in which we wholly dedicate, devote and yield up ourselves to God, as living Stones in his spiritual House, 1Pet.2.5. Confessing by the habitual renouncing of our own Wills, that we are not our own but are bought with a Price, and are therefore obliged to glorify God, in Body and Spirit, which are the Lords1Cor.6.19,20.

The eighth is Methushelahthe Emission or sending forth of Death. This Name seems to have been prophetically given by Enoch to his Son, in reference to the coming Flood; which brake forth about the time that Methushelah expired. In the internal Work it represents that continued suffering and dying State, which attends the Life of Christ, and our thorough Dedication to it;  which being mightily opposed by Satan and his fiery Darts, the Soul is made very sensible of it, our perceptive Faculties being render’d very quick, by the pure Life and Virtue of Jesus opening in them. And here we come experimentally to Witness, that as many of us were baptized into Christ, were baptized into his DeathRom.6.3. That is, into a constant dying to our Wills, and a continued suffering with, and for his Life in us: For we which live are always delivered unto Death for Jesus Sake;  that the Life also of Jesus, might be made manifest in our mortal Flesh2Cor.4.11.

The ninth is Lamech, that is, Impoverished, Smitten, Smiting, Slaying, which imports two Things. 1. Our arriving thro’ Tribulation, at the deep Poverty of Spirit, when our Souls are stript of all Self-Confidence, having nothing to glory in, but the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ; and that unmerited Grace and Love, by which we are impowered daily to submit to it. 2. Our becoming wholly conformed, at least internally, to the Crucifixion of Jesus, when we seem to be StrikenSmitten of Godas he was reputed, Isa.53.4. yet all this in meer Love, that the Body of Sin being destroyed, and the Veil of Flesh rent, we might ascend into deeper Union with the Deity; as knowing that having been planted together in the likeness of his Death, we shall be also in the likeness of his ResurrectionRom.6.5.

The tenth and last is Noah, that is, Rest, or Consolation. This imports the third Dispensation, that of the Spirit, after the Labours of Regeneration and full Conformity to Christ’s Death;  for Lamech said of NoahGen.5.29. This same shall comfort us; so saith our Saviour, I will pray the Father, and he shall send you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever, even the Spirit of TruthJohn 14.16,17. Now this Spirit shall comfort us (as it was said of Noah) or make us to rest, (as in the Septuagint) from our Work, and the Toil of our Hands, by making internal and external Obedience easy, by shedding abroad the Love of God in our Hearts;  that noble Principle which is there diffused by the Spirit, Rom.5.5. Which will also comfort us, concerning the Ground which the Lord hath cursed: For if the Spirit of him that raised up Christ from the Dead dwell in us; he that raiseth up Christ from the Dead shall also quicken our mortal Bodies, by his Spirit that dwelleth in us: [Margin Note: Rom.8.11.] So that Vivification, and Transmutation of the terrestrial Body is ascribed to the Spirit, by which therefore Christ will affect this great Work, expressed in other Terms, Phil.3.21. Who shall change our vile Bodies, and fashion them like to his glorious Body, according to the working (or Internal-working, energian) whereby he is able to subdue all things to himself.

Thus we see these Ten Names, which in meer Reading of them cannot be very pleasant to any, or profitable, except to very reflecting Persons; yet affording a delightful and most useful Epitome of the Great Work of Regeneration. The Dispensation of the Father being comprised in the four first, ending in KenanMourning:  As Moses representing the same, left Israel in Abel-Shittimthe Sorrow for Scourges; for the Law is our School- Master unto Christ. Gal.3.24. The next represent the Son’s Dispensation and End in Lamech, i.e. Smiting and Killing, importing our full Conformity to the Death of Christ; that of the Spirit is exhibited in that one Name of Noah;  which being the Crown and Complement of the Work, carried on in the two former Dispensations, (and infallibly following them in all that are made conformable to Christ’s Death) needeth not so distinct a Representation by various Names, as the two former:  For if we have been planted together, in the likeness of Christ’s Death, we shall be also in the likeness of his Resurrection. And if our Perseverance thro’ the internal Baptism of the Father and Son, be secured, that of the Spirit must succeed by a necessary Connexion. Therefore saith our Saviour, John 14.15. If ye love me keep my Commandments, and I will pray the Father and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever. And tho’ this Promise particularly respects the Gift of the holy Ghost, which was in that Age, in an extraordinary manner effused upon Believers, many of which were not prepared, by having passed thro’ the two former Dispensations;  yet it sheweth the Order of the Spirit’s Dispensation, that of effectual unselfish Love:  In that ’tis said, If ye Love me keep my Commandments, and I will pray the Father, &c. Where perseverance under Obedience to the same, that genuine Obedience, that floweth from Love, is made a mean to the then Disciples, of receiving the Blessing of the Comforter; as Perseverance under the Baptism of the Father, and Continuance under the Baptism of Christ’s Suffering, are a necessary Means, and Reparation for the Dispensation or Baptism of the Spirit, our Immersion into the Love of God;  which with it brings Rest, and eternal Consolation;  for in that Dispensation Christ will write upon us the Name of Godand the Name of the City of God, which is the New Jerusalem: That is, He will make us Partakers of the divine Nature, and of the divine Body, which is the Tabernacle of God, called our House which is from Heaven,  2Cor.5.2. With which our Souls being cloathed, and into which fully entered; we shall more securely Sail into the eternal World, that spiritual Land of Peace, than they in Noah’s Ark, thro’ the boisterous Waves, to the Mountains of Ararat, where the Ark rested, Gen.8.4.’

Leud Church in Maramures, Romania, fresco of the Patriarchs.


In Summary

‘For if we have been planted together,

in the likeness of Christ’s Death,

we shall be also in the likeness of his Resurrection.’

Names Meaning
1. Adam Man – mankind
2. Seth appointed
3. Enosh mortal
4. Kenan – Chenan sorrow
5. Mahalalel the Blessed God
6. Jared – Yared shall come down – descends
7. Enoch teaching or dedicating, (commencement)
8. Methuselah his death shall bring
9. Lamech the despairing
10. Noah rest or comfort


Which gives us this sentence:

Man (is) appointed mortal sorrow; (but) the Blessed God shall come down

teaching (that) His death shall bring (the) despairing, rest or comfort.’


Second Example

The Way to the Sabbath of Rest‘:

C H A P.   XII.

1.  The Soul’s Conformity to Christ’s descent into Hell.   2. This Principle of God’s Wrath is spread through the World.   3. Luke 8. 31. Explained.   4. Visibles proceed from Invisibles.  5.  HellWhy call’d the Heart of the Earth.  6.  Christ having past this way, draws all Men after him.   7.  We may feel the Anguish of Hell, without having past thro’ it as Conquerors.   8.  A Hymn of praise for this Conquest.


1. A F T E R  this death upon the Mystical Cross, the Soul in Conformity to Christ’s progress, passeth through a state Analogous to that of Christ’s descent into Hell, being that Principle which stands as a smoaking Furnace before the Entrance of Paradise, into which none can pass, but those that are dead with Christ, and washed from the Pollutions of Flesh and Spirit by the Blood of the Lamb. For whosoever retain the spots of Guilt will be kept back by God’s Wrath, which in this Principle, burns like Fire, Isa. xxx. 33.

2. This also is spread (at least potentially, as to its Root) through the whole World, yet invisible to the outward Eye. In this the Dragon and all Evil Angels are;  for Jud. Epist. ver.6. The Lord reserves the fallen Angels in everlasting Chains under Darkness, or, as 2Pet. ii. 4. hath cast them into Hell, and delivered them into Chains of Darkness, to be reserved unto Judgement. Now though the fallen Angels are every where tempting the Saints, yet they are always in the Chains of this invisible Darkness, which could not be if this were not every where in this World.   Whence, Ephes. vi. 12. it is called, the Darkness of this World: Of which the chief Devils are the Kossmokraatores or Worldly Rulers. And although evil Spirits receive some Refreshment by mixing with the Souls of Men, which are cloathed with the Animal sensitive Nature, and live in the Spirit of the World; yet they are still in Chains under this Darkness as in their proper Center.   And although it is said, Lu. viii. 30.

3. That the Devils, whose name was Legion, besought Christ, (after they were cast out of the Man) that he would not command them to go into the Deep, as though the Deep or bottomless Pit, had been at a distance from them:   Yet the meaning is, that they might not wholly go out of the Spirit of the World, and out of Union with it, deeper into the Center of Darkness and Wrath; for in Union either with Men or Beasts who live in the Spirit of the World, they receive some mitigation of their Torment, which they have not, when they are naked and uncloathed in the Abyss: Therefore their going into the Abyss from union with the Spirits of Men or Beasts, is not as we depart from one Room into another (which are disjoyned by outward distance) but a sinking deeper from the Circumference towards the Center, from the outward to the inward, which we call the Dark World and Hell: Which (according to the sight and experience of some deep mystical Men) is made up of the Spiritual Sulfur, Mercury and Salt, not united and harmoniz’d in sweet proportion, for then they would be Paradise;  but as in discord and disproportion working in contrary Motions, through the absence of that pure Balsamical Oil, which flowing from the heart of God, makes Paradise so delightful.

I deny not but some great Sea-Monster is (in the Letter) here described; but that the Devil is here also alluded to, and intended, is not only my Judgment, but of many of the Ancients, as appears clear by ver. 34. which is a Key to the Rest.

4. Now all things in this visible World are compounded of these three Material Principles, SulfurMercury and Salt; so are the Invisible Worlds, in their spiritual Nature, from whence the Visible World proceeded, and in which it is erected; for Heb. vii. 3. The things  which are seen were made, may eck phynomainohn, not of things that do appear, but consequently out of things invisible, as the Vulgar Latin hath it, ut ex invisibilibus visiblia sierent, and to the same Sense is the Syriack Version.   But to proceed, the dark World (Rev. ix. 2.) is called the Abyss or Bottomless Pit; and whosoever go down into this Sea, see God’s Wonders in the Deep, Psal. 107. 24.  for there is the Great Leviathan, the crooked Serpent, the Dragon, Isa. 27. 1. Out of whose mouth, Job 41. 19. 20. 21. go burning Lamps, and sparks of Fire leap out:   Out of his Nostrils goeth Smoak, as out of a seething Chaldron: His breath kindleth Coals, and a flame goeth out of his Mouthv. 31he maketh the Deep to boil like a Pot of Ointment34. He beholdeth all high Things:  He is a King over all the Children of Pride, which are the Principalities, Powers and spiritual Wickednesses of this dark World;    many of which in their dark Bodies bear the forms of terrible Beasts, Rev. ix. 3. 17. Into this Region, Christ descendeth after his giving up of the Ghost upon the Cross;   for this is a distinct Article of the ancient Creed, and agrees with Act. ii. 27. Thou wilt not leave my soul in Hell, which was prophetically spoken by the Psalmist, of Christ’s descending into Hell, and of his Redemption from it; and Ephes. iv. 9. ’tis said, that before he ascended, he descended into the lower Parts of the Earth, which cannot be meant of his outward Body, that lay in, or near the surface of the Earth: Or as in Matt. 12. 40.  into the Heart of the Earth: Where there is a parallel made betwixt Jonas and Christ, the Type and the Anti-type; which cannot well correspond except Christ descended into the Spheres of the inward spiritual Leviathan, as Jonas into the Belly of the outward: From whence (in Type of Christ)  he said, Jonah. ii. 2. Out of the Belly of Hell cried I, and thou heardest my Voice.

5. Now Hell or the dark World, may be called the heart of the Earth, 1. In allusion to that large  Sphere or Lake of Fire, which according to Des Cartes and some learned Hermetick Philosophers, is seated in and about the Center of the Earth. 2dly, In that according to the eternal Gradation of Beings and Principles, it may be said to be within, in the Middle or Center of it, the Earth and all terrestrial Matter being more outward, in the Circumference. And though Hell is called  to skotos to exoteron (Matt. 8. 12) the utter or more outward Darkness, yet that’s spoken in relation to Paradise, and the eternal World, not in reference to the Earth and this World.

(v) Matt. vii. 14.

6. Now Christ having passed through this Principle into Paradise, draws us all after him, according to that Promise; When I am lifted on the Cross, I will draw all men unto me. Now this is no other Way, than that he went through himself; for there is but one way into everlasting Life, and the Kingdom of Glory; and that very narrow too, according to Christ’s Words, Strait is the Gate and narrow, or afflicted (v) tethlimmenay Hodos  is the way that leads into Life, and few there be that find it:   Even they only who deny themselves and take up their Crosses, and follow him, who is the Way, not only through this World, but even through Death and Hell also;  for, though in conformity to his Pattern, we come to be cast into Hell, which (Matt. 13. 50.) is called the Furnace of Fire, (typed forth by Nebuchadnezzar’s fiery Furnace, into which the three Children were cast): Yet the Son of God walks there with us, keeping us from that Torment and Pain, which the damned undergo; and making us (with him) to triumph over Principalities and Powers, and to conquer them by the Blood of the everlasting Convenant; which quenching the Fire of Wrath, raiseth the Spirits of the obedient out of this dark Grave, into the Joys of Paradise.

7. But we must know that in our Progress we may many times be cast into Terror and Anguish;  yea feel Hell awakened in us, and afterwards be delivered by some influence of Christ’s Spirit, and infusion of his Love, and yet be short of his Resurrection, and of passing through Hell as Conquerors;  which can never be till we descend thither without Guilt, in Child-like Innocency, with the Candle of the Lord in our Hands, which is the Pillar of Fire which alone can lead us through this Night, into the Day of Paradise. To which State whoever attain, cannot but sing thus in the joy of their Spirits.


(a) Jud. Epist. verse 6.


(b) Ezek. 37.  12. 13.


8. Ye Morning Stars, Ye Sons of Light,
Rejoice with Jubilation:
(a) once ye did when that first Night
Was scatter’d by Creation.
Behold the Prince of Night is thrown
Into his proper Place:
And he that cast the Dragon down,
(b) rais’d me by his Grace,
And now I stand above that Grave,
Where Wrath entombed is;
And wait, that rich Crown to receive,
Which will be perfect Bliss.


Moscow school, Dionysius and his workshop. ‘Descent into Hell’, icon from the Ferapontov Monastery. Tempera on wood, 312x105x4, State Russian Museum, Saint Petersburg, Russia.


Thomas Bromley’s trilogy:
Thomas Bromley – Two Examples Of A 17th Century English Theosophical Exegesis Of The Bible

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