The Life and Doctrines of Jacob Boehme

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The Life and Doctrines of Jacob Boehme

By Franz Hartmann

The Unity of the All

"We are all one body in Christ, and have all the Spirit of Christ within our reach. If, then, we enter into the Christ, we may see and know everything by the power of His Spirit." (Forty Questions, xxvi. 5.)

That which is finite cannot conceive of the infinite; that which has a beginning cannot conceive of that which is without beginning and without an end. Who has measured space? Has it an end? and if so, what is there beyond the utmost limits of space? But if, there is no end to space, does not thought lose itself in seeking to penetrate into its depths? We cannot conceive of infinite space, but we can conceive of limited forms, which are space rendered objective; and in describing a form we describe space in a certain state or condition. Likewise, we cannot describe that which exists eternally in God, nor the eternal processes continually taking place within the divine life, in any other way than by speaking of them as if they had a beginning in time, and by using terrestrial terms, all of which are necessarily inadequate to produce a conception of that which cannot be conceived by the terrestrial mind, because it is infinitely above all terrestrial things.

"I cannot describe to you the whole of divinity as it were in a circle, because God is immeasurable; nevertheless the Godhead is not inconceivable to the spirit resting in the love of God. Such a spirit may grasp eternal truth, one part after another, and in this way it may end in perceiving the whole." (Aurora, x. 26.)

"If I am to make comprehensible the eternal generation, unfolding, or evolution of God out of His own self, I cannot speak otherwise than in a devilish (knowingly erroneous) manner, making it appear as if the eternal Light had ignited itself in the darkness, and as if the Godhead had a beginning. In no other way can I instruct you, so that you may form an approximate conception of it. There is nothing first and nothing last in this generation and evolution, nevertheless in describing it I have to put one thing after another." (Aurora, xxiii. 17–33.)

We do not mean to say that the Deity had a beginning; we merely wish to show the way in which the Godhead has revealed itself by means of nature. God has no beginning in time; He has an eternal beginning and an eternal end." (Signature, iii. i.)

"The Godhead is an eternal band, which cannot perish. It generates itself from eternity to eternity, and the first therein is always the last, and the last the first." (Three Principles, vii. 14.) 1.

That which is subject to the conditions of time may conceive of temporal things; only that which is eternal in man can realise the existence of the eternal.

"We cannot speak the language of the angels, and even if we were to speak it everything would appear to the inhabitants of this world as if it did refer to created beings, and before the terrestrial mind it would represent itself as terrestrial. We are ourselves only parts of the whole, and we can conceive and speak only of parts, but not of the whole." (Threefold Life, ii. 66.)

"I advise the reader, whenever I am speaking of the Godhead and its great mystery, not to conceive of what I say as if it were intended to be understood in a terrestrial sense, but to regard it from a higher point of view, in a supernatural aspect. I am often forced to give terrestrial names to that which is celestial, so that the reader may form a conception, and by meditating about it penetrate within the inner foundation." (Grace, iii. 19.)

God is self-existent, self-sufficient, infinite Will, having no origin. That Will, by conceiving of its own self, thereby creates a mirror within its own self. The same takes place in the microcosm of man. By conceiving of his own self man creates a mirror in which he " feels " his own self, and thereby he becomes self-conscious and realises his existence as an individual being.

"Within the groundlessness (that which by some writers is called the 'Non-Being '—a term without any meaning) there is nothing but eternal tranquillity, an eternal rest without beginning and without an end. It is true that even there God has a will, but this will can be no object for our investigation, as to attempt to investigate it would merely produce a confusion in our mind. We conceive of this will as constituting the foundation of the Godhead. It has no origin, but conceives itself within itself." (Menschwerdung, xxi. 1.)

"Divine Intelligence is a free will. It never originated from or by the power of anything. It is itself, and resides only and solely within itself, unaffected by anything, because there is nothing outside or previous to it." (Mysterium, xxix. 1.)

"Eternal Freedom has the will, and is itself the will. In the will there is a desire to do or an impulse to wish something. There is nothing besides that will towards which that impulse could be directed. The will therefore sees within itself as within eternity; it sees what it is itself, and thereby creates within itself a mirror." (Forty Questions, i. 13.)

By this eternal mirroring, or God seeing Himself within Himself, divine self-consciousness—that is to say, the self-knowledge of God, or in other words, divine wisdom, exists. The eternal Will, in its aspect as the Father, eternally conceives of itself as the Son, and, so to say, re-expands as the Holy Spirit. The same process on a minor scale takes place in the microcosm of man: for if he finds himself within himself by penetrating to the boundless abyss within himself, he then finds in the self-consciousness of his own manhood that power and strength by whose expansion his will and thought become powerful to act even at unmeasured distances.

Therefore it is said, that the deeper we lower ourselves and enter within our own centre, diving down into the groundless foundation of our own soul, even so deep that the sense of our own personality is completely lost, the higher shall we be exalted into the realm of divine and universal being.

"God is the will of eternal wisdom, and the wisdom eternally generated from Him is His revelation. This revelation takes place through a threefold spirit. First, by means of the eternal Will, as such, in its aspect as the Father; next, by means of the eternal Will in its aspect as divine love, the centre or the heart of the Father; and finally, by means of the Spirit, the power issuing from the will and the love." (Mysterium, i. 2, 4.)

"The Father Himself is the will of the groundlessness (the Absolute). This will conceives within itself the desire to manifest itself to itself. This love or desire is the power conceived by the will or Father within itself—that is to say, the Son, heart, or seat (the first foundation within the non-foundation or groundlessness), the first beginning within the will. The will is outspoken by means of this conceiving itself, and this issuing of the will in speaking or breathing is the Spirit of the Divinity." 1 (Mysterium, i. 2.) "The first inconceivable will without any origin generates within itself the one eternal God—a conceivable will, it being the son of the causeless will, but equally eternal with the former. This other will is the sensitivity and conceivability of the primordial will, by means of which that which is nothing finds itself to be something. By so doing the inconceivable causeless will issues by means of that which it has eternally found, and enters into a state of eternal meditation about its own self. The first causeless will is called the eternal Father; the conceived and generated will of the groundlessness is its inborn Son; the issue of the fathomless will by means of the conceived Son is the Spirit. Thus the one will of the Absolute, by means of the first eternal and beginningless conception, manifests a threefold activity, but nevertheless remains only one undifferentiated will." (Grace, i. 5–12.)

This eternal mirroring, or God beholding Himself within Himself, may be called divine imagination. It is as infinite as the triune Spirit, beholding itself in that infinite mirror of divine wisdom, but it remains a merely passive power in regard to the active will. In the same sense the mind of a man is not the man himself, and the imagination of a man is or should be subject to his will; while a man without the power to think or imagine is unthinkable, and could not exist as a human being.

"The first activity in God is divine contemplation or wisdom, by means of which the Spirit of God, with the outbreathed powers, plays as with one uniform power. This internal imagination is neither great nor little; it has neither beginning nor an end, but it is infinite, and its formative power is without limits." (Grace, i. 14.)

God, in His aspect as the father or creative will, is therefore the active or male element in creation; while divine wisdom, the mother, is the passive productive principle, having no will whatever of her own, but acting entirely according to the will of the father in her. It is true that the will of the father could produce nothing if it were not for the presence of the mother in whom the forms are evolved—or, to express it in other words, He could not create anything if He had not the wisdom to do so; but all the wisdom in the world creates nothing unless it is made active by the will.

"Wisdom stands before God like a mirror or reflection, wherein the Godhead sees its own self and all the great wonders of eternity, which have neither a beginning nor an end in time, but whose beginning and end is eternal. Wisdom is a revelation of the holy Trinity; but this is not to be understood as if she were revealing herself to God by her own power or choice, but the divine centre, the heart and essence of God, becomes revealed in her. She is like a mirror of the Godhead, and like any other mirror, she merely holds still; she does not produce an image, but merely conceives it." (Menschwerdung, i. 1, 12.)

That which the father eternally desires to give, the mother eternally desires to receive.

Life is male, the earth, or "matter," is female. The earth does not cause a seed to grow, but the seed planted into the earth carries within itself the power to grow; the earth merely furnishes the material which the life in the seed extracts from the earth. Likewise the mother does not create the child, but merely furnishes the materials required by the creative spirit existing within the child, and which, before it is born, attracts from the organism of the mother that which it needs, comparable to the way in which, after the child is born, it draws its nutriment from the mother's breast. 1 "Wisdom is the outspoken word of divine power, knowledge, and sanctity, an antithesis of the unfathomable unity in essentiality, wherein the Holy Spirit forms and imagines. She is passive, but the Spirit of God is active, like the soul in the body." (Clavis, v. 18.)

This eternal Trinity is inconceivable in its aspect as a spiritual potentiality, in the same sense as a fire is inconceivable if it does not burn; but as the burning fire reveals itself by means of the light and the heat, likewise the divine power reveals itself in a threefold aspect in eternal nature.

"The threefold Spirit is a unity, an only being; or to speak more correctly, not a being, but eternal Reason; consequently a mystery comparable to the intelligence of man, which is also incomprehensible." (Mysterium., i. 5.)

"God in His primitive aspect is not to be conceived of as a being, but merely as the power or the intelligence constituting the potentiality for being—as an unfathomable, eternal will, wherein everything is contained, and which, although being itself everything, is nevertheless only one, but desirous of revealing itself and to enter into a state of spiritual being. This takes place by means of the fire in the desire of love, i.e., in the power of the light." (Mysterium, vi. 1.)

"Here we have not yet cause to say that God is three persons, but He is threefold in His eternal evolution. He gives birth to Himself in trinity; and in this eternal unfoldment He is nevertheless an only being, neither Father, nor Son, nor Spirit, but only the eternal Life or God. The Trinity will become comprehensible in His eternal revelation only when He reveals Himself by means of eternal nature—that is to say, in the light by means of the fire." (Mysterium, vii. 9–12.)

"Within the stillness of eternal freedom the Father does not yet appear as a father. He appears as such only when He is desirous to create, and conceives within Himself the will to generate nature, within Himself." (Threefold Life, iv. 64.)

We cannot conceive of a man without a body of some kind, nor of a universal God without a universal nature. The very essence which constitutes "man" is will and intelligence manifesting itself in a human form. God begins to exist as a being only when He is manifesting Himself in nature. From all eternity has God thus been revealing Himself to Himself; and the cause of this self-revelation rests first of all in the will of God in the Trinity and in the longing of eternal wisdom.

"Of eternity we cannot speak otherwise than as of a spirit, for everything was spirit in the beginning; but it has also from all eternity evolved itself into being." (Menschwerdung, i. 2.)

"That which is tranquil and without being, resting within itself, does not contain darkness, but is a calm, clear, lucid happiness. This then is eternity without anything else, and means above all God. But as God cannot be without being, He conceives within Himself a will, and this will is love." (Threefold Life, ii. 75.)

"The whole of the divine Being is in a state of continual and eternal generation comparable to the mind of a man, but immutable. There are continually thoughts born from the mind of man, and from them arises desire and will. From desire and will originates action, and the hands do their work, so as to render it substantial., Thus it is with eternal evolution." (Three Principles, ix. 3 5.)

"At first the will is as thin as a nothing, and therefore it desires and longs to be something, and to become manifest to itself. This nothingness causes the will to enter into a state of desire, and this desire is an imagination. The will beholding itself in the mirror of wisdom causes its own image to appear within the groundlessness, and thus it creates a foundation in its own imagination." (Menschwerdung, ii. 1.)

"Wisdom, the eternal virgin, the playmate of God to His honour and joy, becomes full of desire to behold the wonders of God that are contained within herself. Owing to this desire, the divine essences within her become active and attract the holy power, and thus, she enters into a state of permanent being. By this she does not conceive of anything within herself; her inclination is resting in the Holy Spirit. She merely moves before God for the purpose of revealing the wonders of God." 1 (Three Principles, xiv. 87.)

The possibility of such an "external" or corporeal revelation of God rests in the divine magic power, which exists within the divine life itself. It is the power of the magic will to produce that which it desires.

"The magic power is the Spirit desirous for being. It is essentially nothing but will, but it enters into existence. It is the greatest mystery; it is above nature, and forces nature to assume forms according to the form of its will. It introduces the foundation into the abyss of the groundlessness, and changes nothing into something. It is the mother of eternity and of the essentiality of all beings. In it are contained all the forms of the latter. It is not the intellect, but it acts according to the will of the intellect. It is not majesty, neither the power itself, but a desire entering into the dark nature (matter) and proceeding by means of that dark nature into the fire, and through the fire into light. Through this magic power the wonders of the number Three become revealed by means of nature." (Six Mystical Points, v. 1–11.)

"The corporeity of God results from His essentiality. This essentiality is not spirit, but it appears like impotency if compared with the power wherein the Three resides. This essentiality is the element of God, wherein is life but no intelligence." (Threefold Life, v. 53.)

A thesis presupposes the antithesis. In the One there exists no relation. There can be no consciousness manifest without something to be conscious of, and without that which is to be conscious. Without nature there could be no freedom of nature; without the positive there could be no negative; without the dark basis of fire there could be no light.

"The One has nothing within itself which it could possibly desire, neither can such a unity feel its own self. This is possible only in a state of duality." (Theosophical Questions, iii. 3.)

"If everything were only one, that one could not become manifest to itself. If there were no anguish joy could not be known." (Mysterium, iv. 22.)

"God introduces His will into nature for the purpose of revealing His power in light and in majesty, to constitute a kingdom of joy. If there were no nature originating within the eternal unity, there would be nothing else but eternal tranquillity. Nature entering into a state of pain, the tranquillity becomes changed into motion, and the powers become audible as the word." (Grace, ii. 16.)

"The One, the 'Yes,' is pure power, and the life and the truth of God, or God Himself; but God would be unknowable to Himself, and there would be in Him no joy or perception, if it were not for the presence of the 'No.' The latter is the antithesis or the opposite to the positive or the truth; it causes the latter to become revealed, and this is only possible by its being the opposite wherein eternal love may become active and perceptible." (Theosophical Questions, iii. 2.)

"If there is to be a light, there must be a fire. The fire produces the light, and the light renders the fire manifest; it receives the nature of the fire within itself and resides in the fire." (Mysterium, xl. 2.)

"Joy enters the state of desire for the purpose of producing a fiery love, a realm of happiness, which could not exist in the tranquillity." (Signature, vi. 2.)

"The majesty of God could not become revealed in power, joy, and magnificence, if it were not for the attraction caused by desire. Likewise there could be no light, if desire were not entering and overshadowing, and thereby creating a state of darkness, which grows until the ignition of the fire takes place." (Grace, ii. 14.)

Relative good cannot exist without relative evil, and evil cannot exist without good. The fire can no more exist without the light than the light without the fire. No multiplicity is possible without the unity. Each requires and therefore desires the other.

"Light and darkness are opposed to each other, but there is between them a link, so that neither of them could exist without the other." (Threefold Life, ii. 86.)

"In God there are two states, eternally and without end—namely, the eternal light and eternal darkness. The light is God, and in the darkness there would be no pain if it were not for the presence of the light. The light causes the darkness to long for the light and to suffer anguish therefor." (Three Principles, ix. 30.)

"The will having issued from the state of unity (by assuming a position, as it were, against the unity in desiring its own self), enters as a state of desire, and this desire is magnetic—that is to say, indrawing; but the unity as such is outflowing; it seeks to issue outwardly, so as to become revealed. The will having issued from the state of unity, desires to enter within itself, so as to attain sensation in the unity, and that thereby the unity may attain sensation in the will." (Theosophical Questions, iii. 9.)

"The light-life has its own motion and impulse, and likewise the fire-life; but the latter generates the former and the former is the lord of the latter. If there were no fire, there would be no light and no spirit; and if there were no spirit to breathe upon the fire, the latter would be extinguished and darkness would rule. Each of the two would be nothing without the other; both are mutually dependent upon each other." (Forty Questions, i. 62.)

There is, however, no equality between this duality, for the unity is superior to the multiplicity, freedom to nature, light to fire; the higher always rules the lower.

"The will as such is an insensible life, but it finds the desire, and in willing to desire it constitutes itself in a being. The will is superior to the desire, for although the desire is an exciting cause for the will, the will is a life without a cause and it is also intelligence. It is therefore, lord over desire. It rules the life of the desire and uses it as it pleases. This eternal will-spirit we know to be God, but the active life of the desire is eternal nature." (Inner Mystery, i. 1; iii. 2.)

"God is from eternity Power and Light, and is therefore called God according to that, but not according to the fire-spirit. In regard to the latter, we speak of it not as God, but as 'the wrath of God' and the consuming part of His power. The light of God has also the quality of the fire, but in it the wrath is changed into love; hate and bitter pain into mild beneficence and sweet desire or satisfaction." (Menschwerdung, i. 5–16.)

"The fountain of love is a clasping and keeping of the stern wrathfulness, an overcoming of the harsh power, because meekness takes away the rule of the acrid and hard power of the fire. The light of peacefulness keeps the darkness imprisoned and resides in the darkness. The stern power desires only wrathfulness and imprisonment in death; but the mildness issues like a sweet growth, it blossoms out and overcomes death, giving eternal life." (Threefold Life, ii. 92.)

"When love becomes revealed in light by means of the fire, it streams over nature and penetrates her, like the sunshine penetrating an herb or fire penetrating through iron." (Clavis, viii. 36.)

To understand the above it is only necessary to realise these things within one's own being. To the speculating intellect they will for ever remain a mystery.

Not in the trunk, the root, the branches, or the leaves, but only in the flower of a plant, can be found the germ that produces the fruit or seed from which a new plant of a similar kind may grow. Likewise, not in the passions of man, nor in his intellectual acquisitions, but only in the spiritual efflorescence of his soul, exists the germ for the new-born being capable of obtaining consciousness of its own immortality.

59:1 God is unchangeable, and has no beginning in time; the "beginning " refers only to the manifestation of His power in nature. Nature resembles a continually revolving wheel, wherein forms in which the power of God becomes manifest are born and die. The death of one form is the birth of another. Thus life is born out of death; but that which produces life and causes death is eternal.

61:1 The possibility of a being conceiving of its own self is experienced by its awakening to a consciousness of its own self.

63:1 Terrestrial men and women are male and female organisms, in which the active and passive elements of creation are manifesting themselves in their external expression. Each man has in him male and female elements. A woman in whom merely the principle of will were active, without the presence of thought, would be nothing but an accumulation of blind force. p. 64 A man without any female element, i.e., without any will, would be like a mirror full of images, but incapable to produce anything. The true woman, in the ideal marriage of the soul, has no other thought than that of her husband; neither does the true man will any thing that is not compatible with the desire of his wife.

66:1 Thus divine wisdom in man does not speculate or "draw logical conclusions," neither is it dependent for knowledge on communications received from anybody; but it is the power of the true living faith, i.e., the power of the spirit of man to grasp spiritual truths existing within its own self.



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