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 person and, like Ezekiel and John the Revelator, he strained the boundaries of language to describe what he saw.
Any effort to read JB the way one would read a mathematical or scientific textbook, scribbling notes and diagrams and trying to systematize the meaning with "sharp outward reasoning" will only end in bewilderment. Reading Jacob 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 from the divine. 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.
My favorite example is Systematic Theology: Reason's attempt to encapsulate God in a closed logical system, which is both a sin and an absurdity. But that has not stopped over 1500 authors from writing books titled Systematic Theology, in the English language alone!
Another splendid 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.
"Science cannot abolish faith in the all-seeing God without worshipping blind Reason in His place."
Boehme went out of his way to thwart systematizers. His aim was not to propound a new doctrine or establish a school of thought, but to help the reader to a direct perception of the Infinite.
"We must wholly reject our own Reason; it is not available to help us to the Light, but is a mere leading astray, and keeping us back."
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. Jacob does not require the sacrificium intellectus of Medieval flagellants, nor the intellectual suicide of American fundamentalists. He relegates Reason to a subordinate role among the mind's vast array of powers, chief of which is Imagination.
Imagination is the transcendent faculty and the receptor of Gnosis. Gnosis 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; 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." The subjective nature of his writing has drawn comparisons to the ancient Gnostic literature. And like the Gnostics, he points us not to the external rule-making god of organized religion, but to the Inner Light, "the true light, that lighteth every man that cometh into the world." (John 1:9)
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), Novalis, St. Martin, George MacDonald, 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."
In describing the mysteries of the Cosmos, he used terminology from astrology and alchemy because it was the only scientific language available to him. To modern readers this vocabulary will sound more occultic than scientific. But JB was abreast of the best science of his era. He accepted Copernicus's heliocentric solar system at a time when it was still controversial, not owing to any mathematical demonstration, but because it accorded with his astrological model: "Sol is the Center." On the same basis he correctly postulated that Saturn was farther from the sun than Jupiter when that too was a subject of debate. His Signaturum Rerum was avidly studied by physicians, though the author had never practised medicine!
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."
The universe, we are told, contains hundreds of billions of galaxies. Our own galaxy contains perhaps 400 billion stars and as many planets. Have you ever contemplated the vastness of the Cosmos and wondered how the Creator of it all could care for such miniscule beings as ourselves?
Here is how:
The Creator is a self-replicating fractal who created free and conscious beings in his own image, so that he could know himself through us. As in a fractal, each segment of creation is the image of the Whole. That means you. Each of us contains the Godhead and the Universe.
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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