The Life and Doctrines of Jacob Boehme

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The Life and Doctrines of Jacob Boehme

By Franz Hartmann


"For a long time efforts have been made to transform a whore into a virgin, but thereby her whoredom has only been ornamented and increased. If this whore is to perish, then all the sects will have to perish, together with the animal whereupon she rides, for they are all only images of the whore." (Myster. Magn., xxxvi. 69.)
"Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus."

He who has grasped the meaning of the writings of Jacob Boehme, of which the foregoing pages are merely a condensed review or summary (written for the purpose of encouraging the study of his works) will not ask for a corroboration of the truth of his doctrines by man-made authorities, but he will find that corroboration in Christ. On the other hand, he who is not able to open his own eyes to the perception of eternal truth, and to see the divine light by the power of that divine light within himself, will always be in doubt, no matter how many books he reads. Thus the perplexed "freethinker," imagining that he can find divine wisdom somewhere else except in wisdom itself, and the benighted "sectarian," who seeks for Christ in some external Church, outside of Christ, are like the blind, stumbling about in the dark, seeking for the truth in external things, in books and authorities, but not in the truth itself. They may read one book to-day, and if it is according to their taste, imagine it to be true; and to-morrow perhaps they will get hold of some other book in which contrary assertions are presented, and if they appear more plausible to them than those of the first, they will reject the former and swear to the truth of the latter, until at some future day perhaps still another book is accepted by them, still more plausible than the rest.

"I say it openly and publicly, that all that is patched together out of fancies and opinions, wherein a person has not divine self-knowledge, but from which he merely draws conclusions, is nothing but Babel, and not wisdom; for the work has to be done, not by seeming and fancy, but by self-knowledge in the Holy Spirit." (Epistl. xi. 39.)

"Of this we complain about Babel, that they are so blind, and have so little knowledge of God. They have thrown away Magia and philosophy, and accepted the Antichrist. Now they are devoid of understanding. They have a science, but no real knowledge. They have broken the mirror and are looking through spectacles." (Forty Questions, xxi. 16.)

What, then, it is asked, is poor humanity to believe? Is there no way by which they may determine what is true and what false? Are they to accept the doctrines of the "Christian" Churches or "esoteric Buddhism," or some Eastern theology, or the doctrines of those that are called "theosophists;" or shall they reject everything, read nothing, and care for nothing except their temporal comforts?

To this we would answer, that there is no salvation anywhere except in the Christ; that is to say, in eternal truth itself. No one can actually know what is and what is not true as long as the truth is not alive and conscious within himself. No one can know divine wisdom unless he is a god. It is said that we may test all things and keep that which is best; but to be able to judge of what is best in the end we have to be ourselves in intimate connection with the Best; i.e., we must be in possession of God. We cannot judge between wisdom or folly if we are not wise; we cannot know what is really good if we depart from the foundation of eternal Good.

"The spirit of this world does not know its own self, unless it be that another light shines into that spirit—a light wherein the mind may rest and know its own self." (Threefold Life, v. 28.)

"The touchstone of the Christian is his love towards God and mankind." (Threefold Life, xiii. 42)

"Learn to know the guide from the inner world and also the guide from the outer world, so that ye may know the magic school of both worlds. Then will your mind be free from delusions, for in delusion there is no perfection. The spirit must be capable of grasping the mystery. The Spirit of God must be the guide in man's desire. Without that man will be merely in the external mystery, in the external heaven of the constellation, which also frequently strongly kindles and drives the human soul; but he has not the divine magic schooling, such as exists only in a simple and childlike mind." (Epistl. xi. 62.)

"The external guide works and shines merely in the mirror; but the inner one lights up the essential being, and this it could not do unless guided by the Spirit of God. Therefore he who knows the celestial school is with God, and will be a Magus, without doing much effort, if he is held by God and driven on by the Holy Spirit." (Epistl. xi. 62.)

No one, except he who lives in the light and in whom the light is a living reality, can know or perceive light. To him who is and has always been immersed in darkness every theory about the nature of light is nothing more than a theory. This is true alike in regard to the external sunlight as it is in regard to the light of the spirit. The external light of the sun is the cause of all external life, activity in all terrestrial beings, and the spiritual divine light is the life of the soul. The realm of that light is the only true and infallible, but unknown, Church of Christ, wherein alone salvation can be found, and there is no other Church possessing the power of redeeming mankind, because that "Church" is not a system wherein the qualities of the light are described, but the light itself, and only the light can overcome the darkness; the darkness cannot redeem itself. That light can only be found in itself, but not in the darkness, where it has not become manifest. 1

The "true Church of Christ" means the spiritual and divine aspect of humanity as a whole, and to whatever denomination, "Christian" or "unchristian," a person may belong externally, if he has found the true light of the Christ, i.e., his own conscience, within himself, then is he a member of the true Church of Christ, and a "member of the inner circle," an "initiate" and "adept;" but if he has not found the Christ within himself, then all his titles and pretensions are worthless and ridiculous.

This light is the Atma-Buddhi, eternally shining into the Manas (mind). It is the light of Buddha, because without that light Gautama could not have become a "Buddha," i.e., "enlightened." It is the light of Jesus of Nazareth, for without that light the germ of divinity that sleeps within the peaceful corner, the mystic "Bethlehem" within the soul of man, that child could not become Christ. It is the light of every human being, for it is the centre and the sun of his own eternal life, the fountain of all his knowledge, for only in that light rests the recognition of eternal truth.

"The will of God is open to every man, by whatever name the man may be called. . . . Of what use are creeds and opinions to him who has attained self-knowledge? Opinions are not the Spirit of Christ that gives life, but the Spirit of Christ gives testimony to our spirit that we are children of God. He is in us, and we do not need to seek for Him in opinions." (Threefold Life, xi. 82.)

"You need not hunt for any place or locality to find the Holy Ghost; for as the sun rises and shines until it sets, so the Christ shines into all places and hidden corners from the beginning of His humanity unto eternity. The community of Christ is everywhere and in all countries, wherever men and women avoid sin and enter into the will of God." (Threefold Life, xi. 88.)

Humanity resembles a tree, of which Christ is the trunk, the individual souls the branches, and the ever-changing personalities that successively appear upon the earth are the leaves. Within the trunk all are one. The branches differ in their shapes; some are big, others small, and grow bigger from year to year. But the leaves drop off in the autumn and grow again in the spring; they may rustle and stir in contrary directions when the wind blows, they may have separate and opposite interests to fight for, but the tree remains one. The tree may live without the individual leaves, but the leaves cannot continue to exist without the tree. Only within the trunk of the tree, and not in any separate association of leaves, can we find the source of our life and our origin and know our true nature. Therefore Boehme is continually advising us to strive for that trunk of our tree of life, and for that fountain of eternal light and life. He who seeks in Boehme's book for information to gratify his curiosity is usually disappointed, because Boehme does not profess to teach anything outside of Christ, or to supply us with any knowledge which we may not find within ourselves, if we seek like him within the interior fountain. He even protests against wanting to know anything that is not in Christ, and says that such things as cannot be found in Christ are worthless and vain.

"Christ" means the Way and the Truth; it means Eternal Life for humanity and for every individual. No one would ever think of seeking for the source of his own life anywhere except within his own inner soul, for the universal life awaits him only in so far as it is active within himself.

Nevertheless this is exactly that which the inhabitants of Babel are not willing to see. 1 They seek for God everywhere except within the Divinity that is dormant within themselves. They dream of some God in the sky whom they expect to come and to save them, while they neglect to save themselves. They seek for information from books, but never listen to the voice of that Word by whose power the All was created, and which speaks within their own hearts.

This want of understanding in regard to the true Redeemer of mankind is the cause of all social troubles with which mankind is at present afflicted, because they cannot see that all true salvation must come from within and not from without, and that merely external reforms are of little value as long as the selfishness of man, which is the root of all evils, is not reformed within.

The fact that the sacred name of Christ has been and is continually misunderstood, misapplied, and prostituted by "Christians" and "anti-Christians," by bigots and rationalists, does not change the truth of His being the spiritual light of the world, and the spiritual light within the soul of every individual being, man, woman, or child. To seek for the Christ within one's self (not in dreams and visions), but within one's own inner consciousness, and to practise the power of clinging to Him, exclusively of other thoughts and desires, a practice which requires the continual exercise of repelling all that is vulgar and low, is the only "practical occultism" worthy of any attention.

All the accusations brought forth, either justly or unjustly, against the Christian Churches, all the vilifications and maledictions hurled against Church authorities, have never had as much effect upon the true Church of Christ as a breath of air would upon a leaf, for while the external Church, with its desire for temporal power and authority, will for ever remain the great courtezane, riding upon the beast created by her pride and selfishness, the spiritual Church of Christ rests in eternal tranquillity safely in God. This Church is inaccessible to aggressions of any kind from external sources, because it is divine, internal, and invisible. All the faults for which the "Christian Church" has been blamed, all the innocent blood that she has spilled in the abused name of Christ, all the curses which those Churches have loaded themselves with by their misdeeds, have nothing to do with the true Church of Christ, they belong to the devil parading under the garb of a saint. The history of bigotry is not the history of what ought to be properly called the Christian Church; it is the history of human ignorance, villainy, and superstition. Such corruption has nothing to do with true Christianity, any more than a wart upon a man's body has to do with the man's intelligence. Sects and sectarians are not the Church, the external body of Christ. They are the necessary effects of unnatural causes, and as such they must exist until the mental and spiritual darkness of the world is dissolved by the light of the Truth, which is, and always will be, the only Redeemer of man. When this light once penetrates into all the depths of the soul, then will the darkness cease to exist, and as man will thereby come into possession of real self-knowledge, there will be nothing that he does not know, for man himself will then be the Truth, the Christ; the All having been swallowed up by the Christ in Him who is the Lord 1 of all. Therefore Boehme says:—

"The Man-Christ (man having become Christ by Christ becoming man) is Lord over all, and comprehends within Himself the whole of divine existence. There is then no other place where we can recognise God except within the substance of Christ (in us), because in Him resides substantially the fulness of Divinity." (Questions, i. 153.)

"All that God the Father is, and all that is in Him, will then appear within me (in man) as a form, an image of the essence of the divine world. All colours, powers, and virtues of His eternal wisdom will be manifest in me as His true image. I shall myself be the manifestation of the spiritual divine world and an instrument for the Spirit of God, wherein He plays with Himself. I shall be His stringed instrument and celestial harp, and not only "I," but all my co-members in the gloriously constructed stringed instrument of God." (Signature, xii.)

This means that when the Divine Light (the Atma-Buddhi or "Christ" in humanity) becomes fully manifested within the mind (Manas) in man, then will the man (Manas) be illumined by it, and be itself that Light, Atma-Buddhi Manas or Christ. Thus, when man enters the true Church, i.e., the spiritual realm of divine light of wisdom, then will that light of divine wisdom penetrate him, and mau, having become all "mind," will be rendered self-luminous and self-knowing thereby. All that prevents man from entering into that state is his selfish will and egoism, and therefore when man, relatively to his own selfish will (constituting his own terrestrial self), has become entirely helpless, as if nailed to a cross, and if his selfish will has died upon that cross, then will take place his glorious resurrection as a divine being, even as the very Christ Himself. Then will his former illusion, whereby he imagined himself to be an isolated being and a thing separate from the rest of humanity, have passed away, and he will recognise the God in him, and himself as that God, living in the Light that pervades the All, and being himself the All, and with arms outstretched upon the cross of life, drawing to his heart every human being by the power of divine love.

This divine love is neither a chimera nor a dream, nor the belief in it a superstition, but it is the most substantial reality; for it is the very essence of that of which the world has been created. Its beauty can be perceived by man in everything by means of what is beautiful in himself, and it is tangible to the soul touched by it. It is not confined in gross material bodies, but superior to everything. It is self-existent and free, and causes the soul,, the light, to arise out of the dark fiery will, comparable to a beautiful plant growing out of the dark soil. It is not an unconscious mechanical force or attraction, but divine will and self-consciousness, in other words, the Spirit of God.

The realm of this divine love-light is the only true church, outside of which no salvation can be found, neither by scientific acquisitions nor by anything that is inferior to divine love. The true divine self of every human being is a member and an inhabitant of that church, and he who severs his connection with it throws away his own life.

Science says that each thing has an aura of unknown extent wherein the qualities of that thing are revealed, and the same truth may perhaps be more correctly expressed by saying that each thing and each being is a part of an individual power of unknown size, possessing certain qualities, and having evolved a form or organism, wherein some of these qualities have become manifest. Thus our visible material bodies are only a manifestation of a part of the true man living in the kingdom of light. The real man is an inhabitant of heaven, it is merely his shadow which walks in mortal form upon the earth.

Not to identify ourselves with the shadow, but to attain the knowledge of our celestial self, is the object of this terrestrial life.

This recognition of one's own divine self no mortal being can attain by his or her own power, because only that which is immortal in man can recognise itself as being immortal. Without the presence of eternal truth that truth cannot be recognised, nor can, in the absence of light, the darkness illumine itself.

It is therefore not sinful man, the shadow, that can know the true light, the Christ; but Christ recognising His own divine image in man. Thus Christ lives in the sanctuary of man, and all that is capable in man of recognising the Christ in him, lives in the Christ; but if man has attained that state in the Christ, he will then cease to be merely a man, but free of the illusion of self, he will know himself to be God. He will then no longer desire to attain, or to become something, but rest in his own divine self-consciousness, knowing his shadowy self to be nothing but a delusion, and his divine self All in the Christ.

314:1 "Abel is the fundamental church representing God. The church of Cain is to be converted through Abel. Therefore God has not rejected the church of Cain in so far as not to be willing to receive any member thereof; but the true church is like a lamb among the wolves on account of the wolfish natures of the members usually composing that church." (Three Principles, xx. 89.)

"How blind are those who imagine that they are not permitted to touch the great mystery, and that this could only be done by man-made priests. Wherever true Christians are assembled, there is the temple of God." "You are all on good terms with the church, but no one is willing to enter the temple of Christ. Nevertheless there is no other salvation than to enter out of death into life. Unless you do so you will for ever remain in darkness." (Threefold Life, xi. 81.)

316:1 Every one thinks he does not belong to Babel, but Babel is as big as the world.

318:1 "A thing which is a unity, having only one will, does not fight against itself; but if there are many different kinds of will in one thing, each of them then wants to go its own way. If one will is the Lord over the others, having them entirely in his power, then does the complex of the thing constitute only one being, for the many wills are obedient to their lord. Thus life is a cause of trouble, for it exists in many different wills, each essence having a will of its own which may be put into action. Thus the life of man is its own enemy, one form fights the other, and this is the case not only in man, but in all creatures; it be then, that the forms of life obtain a mild, lovely Master, to whose power they must obey. He can break their self-will and power. This Lord is the light of life, the master over all the qualities. He can tame them all, and they love to submit to him, for the light gives them mildness and power. They give their will to the life-light, and it endows them with mildness." (Six Points, iv. 4.)



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