The Life and Doctrines of Jacob Boehme

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The Life and Doctrines of Jacob Boehme

By Franz Hartmann

Nature, or the Third Principle

"The godless seeks for God outside of his own self, and the Christless sectarians seek for a personal Christ in history; but the man of God and the true Christian know God and Christ within their own soul."
"We surely believe in a personal and historical Christ; but only after Christ has become personal in a man will he realise the true nature and vocation of Jesus the son of Jehovah."—Johannes.

The image of everything that ever existed was in the light at the time when God began to create a new world. The external world, to which Adam had become subjected in consequence of his degradation, has its origin in God's eternal nature and its prototype in His wisdom, wherein it was spiritually contained from the beginning. We may compare the external world to the imagery seen upon a screen, upon which it has been projected by the light of a magic-lantern. The images represent the world, the pictures on the slide the ether, and the light itself is the Spirit of God.

"The third principle, the spirit and torment of this world, has been hidden from eternity in eternal nature, and was discovered by the light-flaming spirit in God's wisdom and the divine tincture. Then the Godhead moved according to the nature of the producing mother, and the great Mysterium was born, wherein was contained everything that is within the power of eternal nature. This, however, was only a Mysterium, and had no resemblance to any created being. There everything was as if (mixed) together, like a cloud of dust." 1 (Menschwerdung, i. 1, 10.)

"If we rightly consider the creation of this world and the spirit of the third principle, or the spirit of the great world with its stars and elements, we find therein the qualities of the eternal world as if in a state of mixture; wherein Deity willed to manifest the eternal wonders that were hidden, and to bring them into objective existence." (Six Theosophical Points, ii. 6.)

"The external world, in being born (coming into objectivity), makes for itself a new principium or beginning. The generatrix of the temporal is a reproduction of the eternal generatrix, time originates in eternity, and even here eternity, with its wonderful production, appears, in its powers and capabilities, in an especially temporal form and shape." 1 (Mysterium, vi. 10.)

In this external world, called the third principle, there are manifest two powers—the holy divine power and the power of the darkness. The latter is even preponderating.

"The third principle, or the visible elemental world, is an issue of the first and second principles, which is produced by the motion and outbreathing of divine power and divine will. In it is figured the spiritual world according to light and darkness, and brought into a created (objective) condition." (Tabulæ Principiæ, 5.)

"The external world has been outbreathed from the holy and from the dark world. It is, therefore, evil and good, and in love and wrath; but, compared with the spiritual world, it is only like a smoke or a fog." (Mysterium, iii. 10.)

"The word moved the Fiat in all forms of eternal nature, in harmony with the world of light and the world of darkness; so that the desire after the quality of both worlds entered into being. This caused good and evil to originate in the essentiality, and thereby was created the external visible world, with stars and elements as a particular life." (Stiefel, i. 31.)

"This terrestrial world is based upon the world of darkness, and if the good bad not been also embodied therein, there would be in it no other doing than that of the world of darkness; but this is prevented by the divine power and by the light of the sun." 1 (Six Theosophical Points, ix. 17.)

"This world is rooted in evil and good, and there can be neither one of them without the other. But the great misfortune in it is that evil is preponderating therein over good, and the wrath stronger than love, and this is due to the sin of the devil and of man, who excited nature by their perverted desires, so that the world is now powerfully qualified in wrath, acting like a poison within the body." 2 (Mysterium, xi. 15.)

That the darkness has obtained so much power in this world is not the fault of God, but it is due to Lucifer, who corrupted the primordial creation, and who in consequence of Adam's fall is now still more enabled to act within the dark element of nature. 3

"Within all nature there is a continual wrestling, battling, and devouring, so that this world may truly be called a valley of sorrow, full of trouble, persecution, suffering, and labour; for when the spirit of creation went into the middle, it had to form the world from the midst of the kingdom of hell." (Aurora, xviii. 112.)

"Nature, up to the day of judgment, has two inherent qualities; one is lovely, celestial, and holy, and the other one wrathful and hellish. The good quality works with great diligence for the purpose of producing good fruits under the influence of the Holy Spirit, and likewise the evil quality labours for the purpose of producing evil fruits, receiving power and incitement thereto by the devil." (Aurora, Preface, x. 10.)

"The devil resides in this world, and he continually infests external nature; but he has his power only in the wrath, in bitter desire." 1 (Menschwerdung, i. 2, 4.)

God acts with the holy power of his inner world against the corrupting power of Lucifer, but the external world is not thereby changed in its own particular essence. 2

"The inner world, the world of light, dwells in the external world, and the latter receives power from the former. She blooms in the external power, but this power knows nothing of it." (Six Theosophical Points, vi. 2.)

"The powers of eternity work through the powers of time, like the sun that shines through water, while the water does not apprehend the sun, but only receives the heat; or, like a fire, which glows in the iron, but the iron remains iron nevertheless." (Mysterium, xii. 20.)

"The spiritual world is hidden within the visible elementary world, and acts through the latter, and by means of the separator, or the soul of the outer world, it shapes itself in all things according to the character and quality of each thing; but the visible being receives the invisible one not in its own power, neither does the external thing become changed into the inner one, but the inner power merely takes shape therein, as we may see if we observe the growth of herbs, trees, and metals." (Contemplations, iii. 19.)

"We see that the earth has a great hunger and desire after the power and the light of the sun, and likewise the external being craves for the interior one. Thereby it receives the form of the latter as a light and power, without, however, being able to grasp the interior spirit itself; for the spirit does not dwell in the exterior, but has possession of its own self in its own interior state." 1 (Six Theosophical Points, vi. 9.)

God exercises this blissful power especially by means of the sun, who, being a true image of the divine heart of love, illuminates all the visible world, and restrains the wrath of the dark world.

"The Godhead, the divine light, is the centre of all life, and likewise in the manifestation of God the sun is the centre of life." (Signature, iv. 17.)

"God the Father generates love by means of His heart, and the sun symbolises His heart. He is in the external world a symbol of the eternal heart of God, which gives to all beings and existences their power." (Signature, iv. 39.)

"God gave to the external world the light, by the out-breathing of His power through the rays of His light, and with the sun and the moon He rules within the things of this world. The stars take their light from the outpoured radiance . of His light, and by means of this very light God ornaments the earth with beautiful plants and flowers, and makes glad everything that lives and grows. (Prayer, xlvii.)

"This world has a natural God of its own, namely, the sun; but he takes his being from the fire of God, and this again from the light of God. Thus, the sun gives his power to the elements, and they give theirs to the creatures and herbs of the earth." (Six Theosophical Points, v. 13.)

"The abyss of hell is in this world, and the sun is the only cause of the existence of water, and of the fact that the depth above the earth is lovely, pleasing, mild, and delightful." (Threefold Life, vi. 3 6.)

"All that is powerful in the essence of the holy world is hidden in the wrath and curse of God in the quality of the dark world; but it blooms by means of the power of the sun and the light of external nature through the curse and the wrath." 1 (Mysterium, xxi. 8.)

As the sun rules over all the terrestrial world, he must be present in his essence and power everywhere in that world.

"The sun is not very different from water, for water has the quality and essence of the sun. Without that the water would not receive the light of the sun. Although the sun is a body having a form, nevertheless the essence of the sun is also in water, but not manifest. In fact, we recognise that the whole world is all sun, and the locality of the sun would be everywhere if God would want to ignite it and cause it to become manifest, for all existence begins in the light of the sun." 1 (Six Theosophical Points, vi. 10.)

"If God would ignite the light by means of the heat, the whole world would be sun (manifest), for the power of the sun is everywhere, and before the body of the sun existed the whole locality of the world was as shining as the sun is at present, but not so insupportable, but mild and delightful." 2 (Aurora, xxv. 63.)

The planets are also ruled by the sun, from which they receive their powers, and they communicate these powers in their turn to terrestrial objects.

"The sun is the centre of the constellation (solar system), and the earth is the centre of the elements. Both, if compared with each other, are like spirit and body, or like man and woman. But the constellation has still another woman, wherein it breeds out its substance, namely, the moon, she being the wife of all the planets, but especially of the sun." 3 (Mysterium, xi. 31.)

"As the stars, full of desire, draw unto themselves the power of the sun, likewise the sun penetrates also powerfully into the stars, so that they receive their light from the power of the sun. The stars then send again their ignited power as their product into the elements." (Grace, ii. 26.)

But as the stars have their origin from the world of light and from the world of darkness, not only the good, but also the evil, existing in the terrestrial world comes from them.

"With the creation of the constellation good and evil became manifest, for in them is manifest the wrathful fiery power of eternal nature, as well as the power of the holy spiritual world, as an outbreathed essence. Thus there are many dark stars which we cannot see, and there are many shining ones which we see." 1 (Mysterium, x. 36.)

"The evil, like the good, in all things comes from the stars; and as the creatures upon the earth are in their qualities, likewise are also the stars." (Aurora, ii. 2.)

"All that lives and exists is awakened and brought to life by the stars, for they are not only fire and water, but they also possess hardness and softness, sourness and sweetness, bitterness and darkness, even all the powers of nature, and everything that is contained in the earth." (Threefold Life, vii. 46.)

"The constellation is the cause of all arts and science, also of all order and harmony in this world, because it awakens the trees and metals, enabling them to grow. In the earth is everything that is contained within the stars; the constellation ignites the earth, and all this taken together is only one spirit." 1 (Threefold Life, vii. 48.)

In their relations to the earth and the elements, the stars act the part of a higher, living, and, so to say, male power.

"The stars are a quintessence, a fifth form of the elements, and, so to say, the life of the four." (Threefold Life, vii. 45.)

"The starry sky rules in all creatures as it were in its own property. This sky is the man, and 'matter,' or the watery form, is his wife, who gives birth to what heaven creates." 2 (Three Principles, vii. 33.)

"The upper desires the lower and the lower the higher. The hunger of that which is above is directed powerfully to the earth, and the hunger of the earth strives for that which is above. Thus, compared with each other, they are like body and soul, or like man and woman, generating children with each other." (Grace, v. 19.)

But it must be understood that there is a distinct life in the earth. This is proved by her products, and also by her desire for the sun, in consequence of which she is continually turning around. 3

"If you behold the earth and the rocks you will acknowledge that there is a life in them; for if this were not so, there would be in them neither gold nor silver, and neither herbs nor grasses." (Aurora, xix. 57.)

"Each being desires the other. That which is above desires that which is below, and the lower desires the higher. Thus the earth is filled with hunger after the stars and after the spiritus mundi, so that they have no peace." (Clavis, 110.)

"The earth is turning around because she has both fires, the hot and the cold fire, and that which is below always desires to rise upwards towards the sun, because she receives spirit and power only from the sun. Therefore she is turning. The fire, her desire for light, is turning her, for it wishes to be ignited, and to have a life of its own. Having nevertheless to remain in death, still it desires after the life above and attracts the latter, and opens its centre for ever to receive the tincture and fire of the sun." 1 (Threefold Life, xi. 5.)

The four elements are actually only qualities of the true one element, which is hidden behind the external four elements.

"That which we call at present four elements are in fact not elements, but merely qualities of the one true element." (Three Principles, xiv. 54.)

"The quintessence is a paradisiacal substance in the celestial world, but enclosed in the external world; that is to say, not imprisoned therein, but only rendered invisible." (Clavis Specialis.)

"Fire, air, water, and earth have issued from the centre of nature, and consisted in the ignition of one substance. Since that ignition took place they appear in four forms, which are called 'elements;' but they are still interiorly, and in reality there exists, only one. There are not four elements in heaven, but only one; but all four states are contained therein." (Threefold Life, v. 105.)

From this superterrestrial basis have proceeded the external terrestrial elements. There was first separated from it the fire, next the air, then the water, and finally the element of earth. 1

"The four forms which are hidden within the one true element have become active by means of the ignition or excitation of the lower principles, and they now appear in their external substance comprehensible to the creatures." (Threefold Life, v. 105.)

"From the fire originates the air, and from the air the water, and from the water earth; i.e., a substance which is of an earthly nature, and thus the elements are merely an external manifestation of the inner eternal element and an ignited smoke of the latter." (Mysterium, vii. 19.)

The elements having issued from their original unity, strongly desire each other, but at the same time there are dissensions and strifes among them.

"The four elements are only qualities of the one in-differentiated element. Therefore there is a great anxiety and desire among them. They constitute interiorly only one sole principle, and therefore they instinctively long one after the other and each seeks for the inner principle within each other." (Clavis, 106.)

"After from the one element, which has only one single will, the four elements had originated, which are now existing in one single body, there is among them much strife and dissension. Heat is against cold, and fire against water; the air is against earth, and each causes the death and breaking-up of the other." (Signature, xv. 4.)

In many of the products of the earth—for instance, in many of the minerals—the true essence seems to be entirely hidden in death; but in others, especially in the noble metals and precious stones, it still manifests its brightness. 1

"It seems strange to the reasoning mind, if we observe the earth with its solid rocks and its rough and harsh appearance, that big rocks and stones have been created, whereof a part is useless, and which are only an obstacle for the creatures of this world." (Mysterium, x. 1.)

"The terrestrial consciousness corrupted the celestial one, and the former became the Turba of the latter. Likewise, the Fiat made the earth and stones out of the eternal essentiality." (Menschwerdung, i. 9.)

"But in the earth we find still another tincture hidden away which is like the celestial one, especially in the precious metals." 2 (Six Theosophical Points, vi. 2.)

"Gold is nearly related to the divine substantiality or celestial corporeity. This would be seen if we could dissolve the dead body of the gold and cause it to become a volatile, active spirit, but this is only possible by means of the power of God." 3 (Signature, iii. 39.)

"As far as precious stones are concerned, carbuncles, rubies, delphines, onyx, &c., they have their origin there where the flash of light arose within love. This flash is born in meekness, and is the heart in the centre of the sourcive spirits. Therefore are such stones so mild, lovely, and at the same time so powerful." 1 (Aurora, xviii. 17.)

As it is in regard to the mineral kingdom, so it is in regard to the vegetable and animal kingdoms. There the power of death has also penetrated into everything; but there also are formations existing which show a relationship with the paradise.

"Before the fall the paradise was efflorescing through all trees and through all the fruits which God created for man. But when the earth was cursed, the curse penetrated into all fruits, and now everything became good and bad. In all things was death and rottenness, which formerly was only in the one tree, called the tree of knowledge of good and evil." (Threefold Life, ix. 15.)

"The fruits of the earth are not entirely in the wrath of God, for the incorporated word, being immortal and imperishable, was blossoming out again in the body of death, and produced fruits from the mortified body of the earth." (Aurora, xxi. 24.)

"Some animals, especially the tame ones, are closely related to the one element; others, especially the ferocious ones, have more relationship with the four elements." (Three Principles, xviii. 10.)

"There are poisonous animals and worms grown out of the wrathful quality, and formed after the centre of the dark world. They love to dwell only in the dark, and hide themselves away from the sunlight. Furthermore, there are many creatures which the spiritus mundi has formed out of the realm of phantasy, such as monkeys and certain animals and birds, who like to play pranks and torment and disturb other creatures, so that one is the enemy of the other, and they are all fighting against each other. On the other hand, there are also good and kind creatures, made after the type of the angelic world, such as the tame animals and birds: among them, however, there are also bad qualities to be found." (Grace, v. 20.) 1

In each external thing there is hidden an eternal and imperishable something, which issues again in an ethereal form out of the degraded body of the terrestrial substance. 2

"In each external thing there are two qualities, one originating from time and the other one from eternity. The first or temporal quality is manifest, the other one hidden." (Signature, iv. 17.)

"In the beings of this world we find everywhere two beings in one—first, an eternal, divine and spiritual being, and then one that has a beginning, and is natural, temporal, and corruptible. The outbreathed desire—that is to say, the love of the divine power for nature, wherefrom nature and self-will have originated—is longing to get rid of the natural perverted self-will, and is destined, at the end of time, to be free of the illusion thus acquired, and to be brought into a clear, crystalline nature." (Contemplations, i. 30.)

"Behold a tree. Outwardly it has a hard and rough shell, appearing dead and encrusted; but the body of the tree has a living power, which breaks through the hard and dry bark and generates many young bodies, branches, and leaves, which, however, all are rooted in the body of the tree. Thus it is with the whole house of this world, wherein also the holy light of God appears to have died out, because it has withdrawn into its principle, and therefore it seems dead, although it still exists in God. But love ever again and again breaks through this very house of death and generates holy and celestial branches in this great tree, and which root in the light." (Aurora, xxiv. 7.)

All these external formations proceed from the fire-life by means of the tincture and the oily, spiritual quality, which manifests its power and activity in contrast with the elements. 1

"Each thing is like a fire. However, the torture of the fire is not a true life, but the tincture that originates from the fire." (Threefold Life, viii. 18.)

"As the spirit is in a thing, so is the tincture, for the tincture issues from the spirit and is its delight." (Three Principles, xiii. 45.)

"Where a desire exists there is a fire, for the fire desires substantiality, so that it may have something to consume. It cannot make for itself any substantiality, but it makes a tincture, and that tincture produces the substantiality." (Threefold Life, viii. 33.)

"The tincture produces all colours, because it introduces the quality of fire and light into the water. Thus it also transforms water into blood." (Six Mystical Points, i. 5.)

"The oily quality is in stones, metals, herbs, trees, animals, and men. The deadly quality is in the earth, in water, fire, and air. Those four qualities are, in fact, like a dead body; but the oil therein is a light or a life, wherefrom results the desire or the growth, the outblooming from this deadly quality. The oily quality could not, however, be a life if it were not in the anxiety of death. The latter arouses the former, and renders it movable, because the oily quality desires to fly from the anxiety, and to issue from thence, and thereby the growth is caused. Thus death itself has to be a cause of life and motion." (Signature, viii. 5.)

The external appearance or signature of things is a symbol of what they actually are in their inner essence, or of what principle is preponderating in their character, and therein is the basis of the language of nature.

"All the external visible world, in all its states, is a symbol or figure of the internal spiritual world. That which a thing actually is in its interior is reflected in its external character." (Signature, ix. 1.)

"That principle which in the spirit of its action is superior to the rest, engraves its character principally upon the corporeal being, and the other qualities are only secondary additions to it, as may be seen in all living creatures." (Signature, ix. 4.)

"The inner form characterises man, also in his face. The same may be said of animals, herbs, and trees. Each thing is marked externally with that which it is internally and essentially. For the internal being is continually labouring to manifest itself outwardly. Thus everything has its own mouth for the purpose of revealing itself, and therein is based the language of nature, by means of which each thing speaks out of its own quality, and represents that for which it may be useful and good." 1 (Signature, i. 11–17.)

164:1 The external consciousness was hidden within the internal one, in the same sense as the character of a tree is hidden within the seed.

165:1 We find the same fundamental law in all departments of nature. A new world is only a "nebular spot," a dust of cosmic matter, as long as it has not formed an organised centre. Likewise man resembles a "nebula" of unlimited extent, of which only the organised kernel (the physical body) is visible; and so man begins to exist as a spiritual being only when the universal Spirit takes form within his soul.

166:1 The visible sun in the sky is the exterior manifestation of an invisible spiritual power. As the visible sunlight dries up swamps and destroys impurities, so is the spiritual sunlight opposed to the evil influences that arise from the astral plane.

166:2 Nature exists in universal man, and be is existing in her. Nature receives her consciousness from man, and as the will in him has become tinctured with evil desires, so nature—the product of his imagination—became tinctured with evil likewise.

166:3 Neither Christ, nor "Lucifer," nor "the Antichrist," is, as the vulgar interpretation has it, outside of the soul of the world, but a power active within the latter, in the same sense as a man's disease does not exist outside of his own body, but within it.

167:1 If it had not been for Lucifer's seduction and Adam's fall, primordial man would have remained for ever in blissful ignorance of the lower qualities, in a spiritual state, which he could not have fully enjoyed, because he did not know its opposite, namely, suffering. Thus the devil brought suffering into the world, and is therefore man's benefactor; provided that man learns by the experience afforded to him in this way, and does not become absorbed by evil, but conquers it.

167:2 If it were not for the omnipresent and superior power of good, there would be no possibility for man to conquer his evil desires. This absolute good is the One, without which the Two (relative good and evil) could not exist.

168:1 The earth, like every other cosmic body, is a form of manifestation of will, and has a sensation of its own. Every part of the earth strives for the full enjoyment of the beneficent sun-rays, and when arriving at the meridian it would fain stand still, as if in mute adoration and worship of the glory of the celestial orb, but is pushed on by those parts that follow. Thus every part alternatively embraces the sunlight and sinks again into darkness once during the daily revolution of our planet.

169:1 The world is the body of universal man; the spiritual sun is his heart, and the moon is the symbol of his imagination (or fancy). The true meaning of Boehme's writings, like those of the Bible, will only be understood if we cease to look upon the cosmos from our limited personal point of view, and, by becoming identified in our consciousness with the All, realise that the All is our Self.

170:1 It may be remarked that at the time of Jacob Boehme it was not generally known that the sun has a hydrogen atmosphere, nor that water was composed of oxygen and hydrogen, the most combustible gas.

170:2 The same doctrine applies to the light of the spirit. The Christ-spirit is everywhere; but it is not manifest in every person. Little would it benefit the blind to know of the light merely from hearsay. Little would it profit the "Christian" if he knew of a historical Christ, and could not perceive the glory and majesty of the Atma Buddhi within his own soul. Boehme says—

"The light and the power of Christ arises within His children in the interior foundation and illumines the whole course of their life. Within this fountain of light is the kingdom of God in man. He who is not in possession of it cannot bring it into himself by means of any creed, opinions, or theories; but if he possesses it, then from that fountain will arise many streams of pure love." (Communion v. 18.)

170:3 So with the mind of man, it being the "constellation of stars, thoughts, and mental powers wherein he lives," he receives its light from the divine p. 171 sun that shines in the centre of his own being. There are thoughts of which we are conscious, and others which remain hidden until they are called forth by that power which rests in the spirit of man.

171:1 This is also asserted in Sinnett's Esoteric Buddhism. Ideas have their regular revolutions in the mental world, comparable to the planets in the sky. They arise and disappear from the mental horizon of the individual, and also from that of humanity as a whole, according to cosmic laws.

172:1 To realise the nature of the relation existing between the macrocosm and the microcosm, it is necessary that man should learn to realise his own existence as a macrocosmic being. Without such a practical realisation, a merely theoretical study of such mysteries is difficult, and of little use.

172:2 All material forms are nothing but ultimate expressions of ideas, shaped into forms by thought and caused to grow and become objective by the power of will which is inherent in everything.

172:3 There is only one universal life; but its action becomes differentiated and modified in each individual form by the qualities of the latter. It then becomes therein, as it were, a distinct and separate life, differing not in essence but in quality from that of other forms. This individual life constitutes the individuality of the form. The external expression which results from the action of this individual life constitutes the personality.

173:1 If the whole world is a manifestation of consciousness, there can be nothing absolutely unconscious in it. Each thing has its own state of consciousness, but is not necessarily therefore self-conscious or aware of its own qualities. If it were so, the world would be a hell.

174:1 The same order may be observed in the microcosm of man. First comes the desire, which is of a fiery nature; then the idea, which is still airy and indefinite, but which becomes concrete as a thought by the aid of the "watery element," and ultimately there results the act or the material corporification.

175:1 In the mineral kingdom precious stones may be compared to the eye in the animal realm, in so far as the same is said to be the mirror of the soul; i.e., of the interior quality.

175:2 All forms are expressions of originally spiritual powers, and the qualities of such powers are more manifest in precious stones than in any other material substance.

175:3 For this reason it requires the possession of divine power to practise alchemy. It is a divine and not merely a "natural" science.

176:1 For the true signification and magic powers of precious stones see "In the Promos of the Temple of Wisdom."

177:1 For description of the elementals inhabiting the astral plane see Paracelsus.

177:2 The spiritual being is the one that is not subject to the dissolution of the physical form, but "reincarnates" periodically; that is to say, it creates for itself again other forms in which it may find to a certain extent an outward expression. (Compare Myster. Magn., 29, 45.).

178:1 In other words, each thing is an expression of will-power. The will alone, however, does not constitute its true consciousness; the latter results from the action of the will upon the imagination.

179:1 See Magic, White and Black.



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