Jakob Boehme (1575-1642) is also known as the mystical shoemaker of Goerlitz. Boehme was a German Christian mystic and theologian, and is considered an original thinker within the Lutheran tradition. He experienced a spiritual awakening at age 25 when he saw sunlight reflecting off the water in a pewter dish. This produced an ecstatic vision by which Boehme perceived God as the unmanifest unity which reflects Itself in Its creation.
According to Boehme, prior to creation God was without knowledge of
Himself for He had no beginning and knew nothing like Himself. Because He desired to experience self-consciousness and self-knowledge, He brought forth the universe from Himself. Thus Boehme viewed the act of creation as an act of self-revelation, and the universe of multiplicity as the mirror of God.
He further goes on to state that the suffering experienced by sentient beings is a necessary component of self-revelation. It is through suffering and opposition that created beings evolve to consciousness and eventually to full spiritual realization. When God’s consciousness is reflected in one of His creature’s fully awakened consciousness, there is an experience of unspeakable, ecstatic love.
In 1612, Boehme wrote the book Aurora, which caused a great scandal. In that book, he says, “I contemplated man’s little spark, what it should be valued before God along side of this great work of heaven and earth. …I therefore became very melancholy and highly troubled. No Scripture could comfort me, though I was quite well versed in it …When in such sadness I earnestly elevated my spirit into God and locked my whole heart and mind, along with all my thoughts and will, therein, ceaselessly pressing in with God’s Love and Mercy, and not to cease until he blessed me…then after some hard storms my spirit broke through hell’s gates into the inmost birth of the Godhead, and there I was embraced with Love as a bridegroom embraces his dear bride. …What kind of spiritual triumph it was I can neither write nor speak; it can only be compared with that where life is born in the midst of death, and is like the resurrection of the dead. …In this light my spirit directly saw through all things, and knew God in and by all creatures, even in herbs and grass. … In this light my will grew in great desire to describe the being of God . . . I did not climb up into the Godhead, neither can so mean a man as I am do it; but the Godhead climbed up in me, and revealed such to me out of his Love.”
Lutheran church authorities did not take kindly to Boehme’s writings, and he was persecuted and threatened with imprisonment. As a result of his publication of Aurora, Boehme was prosecuted by the local pastor. In 1623, Boehme published The Way to Christ. As a result of that publication, Boehme was banished from Goerlitz.
While Böhme was famous in Holland, England, France, Russia, Denmark and America during the 17th century, he became less influential during the 18th century. A revival, however, occurred late in that century with interest from German Romantics, who considered Böhme a forerunner to the movement. Poets such as John Milton, Ludwig Tieck, Novalis and William Blake found inspiration in Böhme’s writings. Coleridge, in his Biographia Literaria, speaks of Böhme with admiration. Böhme was highly thought of by the German philosophers Baader, Schelling and Schopenhauer. Hegel went as far as to say that Böhme was “the first German philosopher.”
Sources include: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jakob_B%C3%B6hme
Excerpts from his writings:
“Love transcends all that human Sense and Reason can reach to. If thou goest about to comprehend it, then it will fly away from thee; but if thou dost surrender thyself wholly up to it, then it will abide with thee, and become the Life of thy Life, and be natural to thee.”
“How is it that so few Souls do find (Rest) when yet all would be glad enough to have it? They all seek it in somewhat, and so they find it not: For where there is somewhat for the Soul to adhere to, there the Soul findeth but that somewhat only, and taketh up its Rest therein, until it seeth that it is to be found in nothing, and goeth out of the somewhat into nothing, even into that nothing out of which all Things may be made… Herein now it is that so very few find this most precious Treasure in the Soul, though every one would so fain have it; and might also have it, were it not for this somewhat in every one which letteth.”
“But if the Love should proffer itself to a Soul, could not that Soul find it, nor lay hold on it, without going for it into Nothing? No verily. Men seek and find not, because they seek it not in the naked Ground where it lieth; but in something or other where it never will be, neither can be. They seek it in their own Will, and they find it not. They seek it in their Self-Desire, and they meet not with it. They look for it in an Image, or in an Opinion, or in Affection, or a natural Devotion and Fervour, and they lose the Substance by thus hunting after a Shadow. They search for it in something sensible or imaginary, in somewhat which they may have a more peculiar natural Inclination for, and Adhesion to; and so they miss of what they seek, for Want of diving into the Supersensual and Supernatural Ground where the Treasure is hid. Now, should the Love graciously condescend to Proffer itself to such as these, and even to present itself evidently before the Eye of their Spirit, yet would it find no Place in them at all, neither could it be held by them, or remain with them.”
“Why not, if the Love should be willing and ready to offer itself, and to stay with them? Because the Imaginariness which is in their own Will hath set up itself in the Place thereof: And so this Imaginariness would have the Love in it; but the Love fleeth away, for it is its Prison. The Love may offer itself; but it cannot abide where the Self-Desire attracteth or imagineth. That Will which attracteth nothing, and to which nothing adhereth, is only capable of receiving it; for it dwelleth only in nothing, as I said, and therefore they find it not.”
“If thou wilt be like (the Ground and Source of) All Things, thou must forsake All Things; thou must turn thy Desire away from them All, and not desire or hanker after any of them; thou must not extend thy Will to possess that for thy own, or as thine own, which is Something, whatsoever that Something be. For as soon as ever thou takest Something into thy Desire, and receivest it into thee for thine own… then this very Something (of what Nature soever it is) is the same with thyself; and this worketh with thee in thy Will, and thou art thence bound to protect it, and to take Care of it even as of thy own Being. But if thou dost receive no Thing into thy Desire, then thou art free from All Things, and rulest over all Things at once, as a Prince of God. For thou hast received nothing for thine own, and art nothing to all Things; and all Things are as nothing to thee. Thou art as a Child, which understands not what a Thing is; and though thou dost perhaps understand it, yet thou understandest it without mixing with it, and without sensibly affecting or touching thy Perception, even in that Manner wherein God doth rule and see all Things. Thou must resign up thy Will to God; and must sink thyself down to the Dust in His Mercy… If thou dost thus, know that God will speak into thee, and will bring thy resigned will into Himself, in the supernatural Ground; and then thou shalt hear, my Son, what the Lord speaketh in thee.”
“But perhaps it may not be so hard as at first it appeareth to be; make but the Trial, and be in earnest. What is there required of thee, but to stand still, and see the Salvation of thy God? And couldst thou desire any Thing less? Where is the Hardship in this? Thou hast nothing to care for, nothing to desire in this Life, nothing to imagine or attract: Thou needest only cast thy Care upon God, Who careth for thee, and leave Him to dispose of thee according to His Good Will and Pleasure, even as if thou hadst no Will at all in thee. For He knoweth what is best; and if thou canst but trust Him, He will most certainly do better for thee, than if thou wert left to thine own Choice.”
“Whether the Body be in Hell or on Earth, all is alike to him; for whether it be there or here, his mind is still in the greatest Love of God; which is no less than to say, that he is in Heaven.”
“For while thou art in the World, and hast an honest Employment, thou art certainly by the Order of Providence obliged to labour in it, and to finish the Work given thee, according to thy best Ability, without repining in the least; seeking out and manifesting for God’s Glory, the Wonders of Nature and Art… It is permitted to the Eye of thy Reason to seek Food, and to thy Hands, by their Labour, to get Food for the terrestrial Body: But then this Eye ought not with its Desire to enter into the Food prepared, which would be covetousness; but must in Resignation simply bring it before the Eye of God in thy Spirit, and then thou must seek to place it close to this very Eye,
without letting it go. Mark this Lesson well.
Let the Hands or the Head be at Labour, thy Heart ought nevertheless to rest in God. God is a Spirit; dwell in the Spirit, work in the Spirit, pray in the Spirit, and do every Thing in the Spirit; for remember thou also art a Spirit, and thereby created in the Image of God: Therefore see thou attract not in thy Desire Matter unto thee, but as much as possible abstract thyself from all Matter whatever; and so, standing in the Centre, present thyself as a naked Spirit before God, in Simplicity and Purity; and be sure thy Spirit draw in nothing but Spirit.”
“When thou canst throw thyself into That, where no Creature dwelleth, though it be but for a Moment, then thou hearest what God speaketh. It is in thee. And if thou canst, my Son, for a while but cease from all thy thinking and willing, then thou shalt hear the unspeakable Words of God.
When thou standest still from the thinking of self, and the willing of self;
When both thy intellect and will are quiet, and passive to the Impressions of the Eternal Word and Spirit; and when thy Soul is winged up, and above that which is temporal, the outward Senses, and the Imagination being locked up by holy Abstraction,” then the Eternal Hearing, Seeing, and Speaking will be revealed in thee; and so God heareth “and seeth through thee,” being now the Organ of His Spirit; and so God speaketh in thee, and whispereth to thy Spirit, and thy Spirit heareth His Voice.
Blessed art thou therefore if that thou canst stand still from Self-thinking and Self-willing, and canst stop the Wheel of thy Imagination and Senses forasmuch as hereby thou mayest arrive at length to see the great Salvation of God being made capable of all Manner of Divine Sensations and Heavenly Communications. Since it is nought indeed but thine own Hearing and Willing that do hinder thee, so that thou dost not see and hear God.
When thou art quiet and silent, then art thou as God was before Nature and Creature; thou art that which God then was; thou art that whereof He made thy Nature and Creature: then thou hearest and seest even with that wherewith God Himself saw and heard in thee, before ever thine own Willing or thine own Seeing began.”
“If thy Will could break off itself for one Hour, or even but for one half Hour, from all Creatures, and plunge itself into That where no Creature is, or can be, presently it would be penetrated and clothed upon with the supreme Splendour of the Divine Glory, would taste in itself the most sweet Love, the Sweetness whereof no Tongue can express, and would find in itself the unspeakable Words of our Lord concerning His Great Mercy.”
“Thou shalt find that in thine own Power, and without such a total Surrender to God, and to the Life of God, thou canst never arrive at such a Rest as this, or the true Quiet of the Soul, wherein no Creature can molest thee, or so much as touch thee.
This is not to be done by thyself, but by the Light and Grace of God received into thy Soul, which will if thou gainsay not, break the Darkness that is in thee, and melt down thine own Will, which worketh in the Darkness and Corruption of Nature, and bring it into the Obedience, whereby the Partition of the Creaturely Self is removed from betwixt God and thee.
There is nothing more required of thee at first, than not to resist this Grace, which is manifested in thee… but to be obedient and passive to the Light of God shining through the Darkness of thy Creaturely Being, which comprehendeth it not.”
“Upon this entire Surrender and yielding up of thy Will, the Love of God in thee becometh the Life of thy Nature; it killeth thee not, but quickeneth thee, who art now dead to thyself in thine own Will… So then it is no longer thy Will, but the Will of God; no longer the Love of thyself, but the Love of God, which moveth and operateth in thee; and then, being thus omprehended in it, thou art dead indeed as to thyself, but art alive unto God. So being dead thou livest, or rather God liveth in thee by His Spirit; and His Love is made to thee Life from the Dead. Never couldest thou with all thy seeking, have comprehended it; but it hath apprehended thee…The Treasure of Treasures is found.
As thou comest to have thine own Power faint and weak and dying, the Power of God will then work in thee and through thee. If (Love) but once kindle a Fire within thee, thou shalt feel it in the burning up thyself, and swiftly devouring all Egoity, or that which thou callest I and Me, … (which is) divided from the Deity, and Fountain of thy Being. And when this enkindling is made in thee, then the Love doth so exceedingly rejoice in thy Fire, as thou wouldst not for all the World be out of it; yea, would rather suffer thyself to be killed, than to enter into thy something again. This Fire now must grow hotter and hotter, till it shall have perfected its Office with respect to thee, and therefore will not give over, till it come to the seventh Degree. Its Flame hence also will be so very great, that it will never leave thee, though it should even cost thee thy temporal Life; but it would go with thee in its sweet loving Fire into Death; and if thou wentest also into Hell, it would break Hell in Pieces also for thy Sake, Nothing is more certain than this; for it is stronger than Death and Hell.”
“For Love enters even into that where the Godhead is not manifested in this glorious Light, and where God may be said not to dwell. And entering thereinto, Love begins to manifest to the Soul the Light of the Godhead: and thus is the Darkness broken through, and the Wonders of the new Creation successively manifested…
If thou desirest to see God’s Light in thy Soul, and be divinely illuminated and conducted this is the short Way that thou art to take not to let the Eye of thy Spirit enter into Matter, or fill itself with any Thing whatever; either in Heaven or Earth; but to let it enter by a naked Faith into the Light of the Majesty; and so receive by pure Love the Light of God, and attract the Divine Power into itself, putting on the Divine Body, and growing up in it to the full Maturity . . .
Wait for and attend the Supernatural and Divine Light, as that superior Light appointed to govern the Day, rising in the true East, which is the Centre of Paradise; and in great Might breaking forth as out of the Darkness within thee, through a Pillar of Fire and Thunder Clouds, and thereby also reflecting upon the inferior Light of Nature a Sort of Image of itself, whereby only it can be kept in its due Subordination, that which is below being made subservient to that which is above; and that which is without to that which is within…”
“Therefore, unless Reason or the Light of Nature be sanctified in my Soul, and illuminated by this superior Light, as from the central East of the holy Light-World, by the Eternal and Intellectual Sun; I perceive there will be always some Confusion, and I shall never be able to manage aright either what concerneth Time or Eternity: But I must always be at a Loss, or break the Links of Wisdom’s Chain.
It is even so as thou hast said. All is Confusion, if thou hast no more but the dim Light of Nature, or unsanctified and unregenerated Reason to guide thee by; and if only the Eye of Time be opened in thee, which cannot pierce beyond its own Limit. Wherefore seek the Fountain of Light, waiting in the deep Ground of thy Soul for the rising there of the Sun of Righteousness, whereby the Light of Nature in thee, with the Properties thereof, will be made to shine seven Times brighter than ordinary. For it shall receive the Stamp, Image, and Impression of the Supersensual and Supernatural; so that the sensual and rational Life will hence be brought into the most perfect Order and Harmony. ”
“Cease but from thine own Activity, steadfastly fixing thine eye upon one point, and with a strong purpose relying upon the promised grace of God to bring thee out of thy darkness into His marvellous light. For this end gather in all thy thoughts, and by faith press into the Centre, laying hold upon the Word of God, which is infallible, and which hath called thee. Be thou then obedient to this call; and be silent before the Lord, sitting alone with Him in thy inmost and most hidden cell, thy mind being centrally united in itself, and attending His will in the patience of Hope. So shall thy light break forth as the morning; and after the redness thereof is passed, the Sun Himself, which thou waitest for, shall arise unto thee, and under His most healing wings thou shalt greatly rejoice; ascending and descending in His bright and salutiferous beams. Behold this is the true supersensual ground of life.”
“To the Children of God, that which is despised of the World is the Greatest Treasure; yea, so great a Treasure it is, as no Life can express, nor Tongue so much as name what this enflaming, all-conquering Love of God is. It is brighter than the Sun; it is sweeter than any Thing that is called sweet; it is stronger than all Strength; it is more nutrimental than Food; more cheering to the Heart than Wine, and more pleasant than all the Joy and Pleasantness of this World. Whosoever obtaineth it, is richer than any Monarch on Earth and he who getteth it, is nobler than any Emperor can be, and more potent and absolute than all Power and Authority.”
“There is a certain Greatness and Latitude of Heart in Love, which is inexpressible; for it enlarges the Soul as wide as the whole Creation of God. And this shall be truly experienced by thee, beyond all Words, when the Throne of Love shall be set up in thy Heart.
Whosoever finds (Love), finds Nothing and All Things; that is also certain and true. But how finds he Nothing? Why, I will tell thee how. He that findeth it, findeth a Supernatural Supersensual Abyss, which hath no Ground to stand on, and where there is no Place to dwell in; and he findeth also Nothing is like unto it, and therefore it may fitly be compared to Nothing; for it is deeper than any Thing, and is as Nothing with Respect to All Things, forasmuch as it is not comprehensible by any of them. And because it is Nothing respectively, it is therefore free from All Things; and is that only Good, which a Man cannot express or utter what it is; there being Nothing to which it may be compared, to express it by.”