But Jacob Boehme explains:
I never desired to know anything of the Divine Mystery, much less understood I the way how to seek or find it. I sought only after the heart of Jesus Christ...
In this my earnest Christian seeking and desire, the gate was opened unto me, so that in one quarter of an hour I saw and knew more than if I had been many years together at an University...
For I saw and knew the Being of all Beings, the Byss and Abyss; also the eternal generation of the Holy Trinity; the descent, and origin of this world, and of all creatures, through the divine Wisdom; I knew and saw in myself all the three Worlds; namely, the Divine, Angelical, and Paradisical World and then the Dark World, the original of the Nature to the Fire; and then thirdly, the external, and visible World, being a Procreation, or External Birth; or as a substance expressed, or spoken forth, from both the internal and spiritual Worlds; and I saw, and knew the whole working Essence in the evil, and in the good; and the mutual origin, and existence of each of them; and likewise how the fruitful bearing Womb of Eternity brought forth...
And presently it came powerfully into my mind to set the same down in writing...
The result is a unique literature; the great mysteries of Creator and Creation wound in the homespun prose of a shoemaker.
Jacob was no wordsmith. He was a visual thinker and, like Ezekiel and John the Revelator, he strained the boundaries of language to describe what he saw.
Any effort to systematize his meaning with "sharp outward reasoning" will only end in bewilderment. Reading Boehme is an interior mystical journey rather than a cognitive exercise.
In Boehme, "Reason" is synonymous with "Self." This doctrine may ring a strange note in our ears, but if we pursue the thought that "reason" and "self," "intellect" and "ego" are different words for the same thing, it will open for us a new path toward self-understanding.
As illustrated in the Eden parable, humanity has fallen into a state of estrangement and disarray. What Blake called "the dark reasoning Specter" is the center of the human personality, the false self, which worships as idols the formulations of reductive logic.
Systematic Theology, for example: reason's attempt to encapsulate God in a closed logical system, which is both a sin and an absurdity. Fashioning a Jehovah out of mental fabric is no less an act of idolatry than carving a Baal out of stone. But that has not stopped over 1500 authors from writing books titled Systematic Theology, in the English language alone!
Another example is atheism, which defines itself against the god of the systematic theologians, and is thus no more than an antithetical spin-off of church dogma - a derivative absurdity. (You do not believe in a gigantic old man who sits on a throne in the sky with tablets of stone in one hand and a quiver of lightning bolts in the other? Good for you. Neither do I. In relation to such a god, we are all atheists here.)
Boehme went out of his way to thwart systematizers. His aim was not to propound a new doctrine or establish a school of thought.
Our whole doctrine is nothing else but an Instruction to show how man may create a kingdom of light within himself. He in whom this spring of divine power flows, carries within himself the divine image and the celestial substantiality. In him is Jesus born from the Virgin, and he will not die in eternity.
He did not despise reason, any more than he despised eyesight. Reason is a wonderful faculty, but an absurd god. Like fire or water, it is a good servant and a bad master.
For reason is nothing else but an human constellation, which is a dark draught, or resemblance of all the principles; it standeth only in an imaginary figure, and not in the divine science. But if the divine light be manifest, and shineth therein, then the divine word beginneth to speak therein out of the eternal knowledge, and then reason is a true mansion or receptacle of divine knowledge and revelation, and even then it may be rightly and truly used; but being void of this it is no more than an astrum of the visible world.
This divine knowledge is not at variance with reason, but it often takes reason a long time to catch up with inner perception. Boehme received the illumination described above at the age of 25, but it took him twelve years to find the language to explain it to others.
The Boehmean literature has been described as "a picnic to which Jacob brings the words and the reader brings the meaning."
That is the nature of transrational symbolic language and helps explain how JB could be named as an influence by thinkers as diverse as Isaac Newton, John Milton, George Fox, Jane Lead, William Law, Blake, Coleridge, Goethe, Angelus Silesius, Hegel (and his nemesis Schoepenhauer), Bishop Martensen (and his nemesis Kierkegaard), Carl Jung (and his nemesis Martin Buber), St. Martin, George MacDonald, Emerson; theosophists Helena Blavatsky and Rudolph Steiner, sorcerer Eliphas Levi, Quaker Rufus Jones, evangelical missionary Norman Grubb and physicist Basarab Nicolescu.
Isaac Newton sequestered himself with Boehme's books for several weeks, believing that they contained all the mysteries of Creation. He emerged from his study with the Theory of Gravity. Though he did not credit Boehme with the discovery, William Law declared, "Newton hath plowed with Behmen's Heifer!" For Boehme had written long before, "The three first Properties of Nature are Attraction, Resistance and Rotation."
As a Cosmologist, JB was aware that he was projecting the contents of his own psyche on the Cosmos, and rightly so, since the human mind is a microcosm of the Macrocosm.
MAN can undertake nothing from the Beginning of his Youth, nor in the whole Course of his Time in this World, that is more profitable and necessary for him, than to learn to know himself.
Therefore man, who is so noble an image, having his ground in time and eternity, should not run headlong in such blindness, seeking his native country afar off from himself, when it is within himself.
If you would find him, seek him in his source or property, which is everywhere; all is full of God, and he shineth in the darkness; God is in your dark heart, though in another Principle; knock, and it shall be opened unto you; the Holy Spirit of God is the key in the centre: go out from the desire of the flesh, in a true earnest repentance, and put all your will, reason, and thoughts into the mercy of God; and so the Word of God (viz. his beloved Heart) will get a form in you: and then you stand before the crib where Jesus is born: and then incline yourself towards the Child, and offer him your heart, and Christ will be born in you.
(COLLECTIONS 1 & 2)
WORKS OF JACOB BEHMEN: WILLIAM LAW EDITION
FOR A LARGER SELECTION OF BOOKS BY AND ABOUT J.B. SEE
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