Cosmic Consciousness, by Richard Maurice Bucke, , at sacred-texts.com
Jacob Behmen (called The Teutonic Theosopher).
Born 1575; died 1624.
His birthplace was at Alt Seidenberg, a place about two miles distant from Görlitz, in Germany. He came of a well-to-do family, but his first employment was that of a herd-boy on the Lands-Krone, a hill in the neighborhood of Görlitz. The only education he received was at the town school of Seidenberg, a mile from his home. Later he was apprenticed to a shoemaker in Seidenberg. By the year 1599 he was settled at Görlitz as a master shoemaker and married to Katharina, a daughter of Hans Kuntzschmann, a thriving butcher in that town.
Behmen had two distinct illuminations. The first, in 1600 (when he was twenty-five years old), is thus described by Martensen:
Of this first illumination Hartmann says that by it or from it: "He learned to know the innermost foundation of nature, and acquired the capacity to see henceforth with the eyes of the soul into the heart of all things, a faculty which remained with him even in his normal condition" [97: 3]. And in the life prefixed to the works the same circumstance is mentioned in the words that follow:
The first illumination, in 1600, was not complete. He did not at that time really attain to Cosmic Consciousness; he passed into the dawn but not into the perfect day. Of his complete illumination, in 1610 (when thirty-five years old), Martensen says:
Hartmann says of this latter experience:
While he himself speaks of this final and complete illumination as follows:
The expression above, "He was again surrounded," refers to certain other visions which preceded this first (imperfect) oncoming of the Cosmic Sense at the age of twenty-five years. Such visions (it may be said) as seem to be common in the lives of men who afterward become illumined. They belong, no doubt, to such sensitive and highly-wrought nervous organizations as would be possessed by persons who had within them the "eligibility" (as Whitman would have expressed it) of rising to Cosmic Consciousness. Hartmann says of him:
Behmen says, himself, on this point:
Frankenburg writes of him:
And Hartmann on the same subject says:
His life may be read side by side with that of Gautama, Jesus, Paul, Las Casas, Yepes, or even Whitman, without fear that the gentle hearted Behmen should suffer by such comparison, while his death is worthy to stand on record with that of Yepes or Blake. It took place on Sunday, November 20th, 1624.
As utterances of the Cosmic Sense all the writings of Behmen are well-nigh totally unintelligible to the merely self conscious mind. Nevertheless he who is willing to be at the necessary pains will find that like those of Paul, Dante, Balzac, Whitman and the rest, they are a veritable mine of wisdom, some of which may be found by every earnest seeker, though undoubtedly the whole may only be comprehended by those enlightened as he himself was.
To show what has been thought of these books by competent men who have studied them it may be well to quote the words of the editor of "The Three Principles" in the quarto  edition:
And those of Claude de Saint Martin, contained in his letters to Kirchberger:
The extracts which follow (as all others in this volume) are selected not so much for their intrinsic interest and excellence.
nor for what they reveal to us of the nature of the Cosmos, as for the light they assist in throwing on the characteristics of the faculty called Cosmic Consciousness; and for this purpose they are compared with like expressions of men whose spiritual position is similar to that of the inspired shoemaker of Görlitz.
You are a little world formed out of the large one, and your external light is a chaos of the sun and the constellations of stars. If this were not so you would not be able to see by means of the light of the sun [97:137].*
Not I, the I that I am, know these things: But God knows them in me [97:34].*
He alone, therefore, in whom Christ exists and lives, is a Christian, a man in whom Christ has been raised out of the wasted flesh of Adam [97:5].*
Suddenly . . . my spirit did break through* . . . even into the innermost birth of Geniture of the Deity, and there I was embraced with love, as a bridegroom embraces his dearly beloved bride. But the greatness of the triumphing that was in the spirit I cannot express either in speaking or writing; neither can it be compared to anything, but with that wherein the life is generated in the midst of death, and it is like the resurrection from the dead. In this light my spirit suddenly saw through all, and in and by all the creatures, even in herbs and grass, it knew God, who he is, and how he is, and what his will is; and suddenly in that light my will was set on, by a mighty impulse, to describe the being of God. But because I could not presently apprehend the deepest births of God in their being and comprehend them in my reason, there passed almost twelve years before the exact understanding thereof was given me. And it was with me as with a young tree which is planted in the ground, and at first is young
* "Dazzling and tremendous, how quick the sunrise would kill me if I could not now and always send sunrise out of me" [193: 50].
* "The other I am" [193: 32]. "'Tis thee [myself] that for myself I praise" [176: 62]. The recognition of the duplex individuality of the Cosmic Conscious person—i.e., the self conscious self and the Cosmic Conscious self.
* "Christ" here was used as Paul constantly uses the word, as a name—that is, of Cosmic Consciousness.
* The "breaking through" into the Cosmic Sense and the intense feeling of joy and exaltation which thereto belongs. The realization of "heaven, which is pure light; light intellectual, full of love, love of true good, full of joy; joy which transcends every sweetness" [72: 193].
If thou climbest up this ladder on which I climb up into the deep of God, as I have done, then thou hast climbed well: I am not come to this meaning, or to this work and knowledge through my own reason, or through my own will and purpose; neither have I sought this knowledge, nor so much as know anything concerning it. I sought* only for the heart of God, therein to hide myself from the tempestuous storms of the devil [41:237].
Now the will cannot endure the attracting and impregnation,* for it would be free, and yet cannot, because it is desirous; and feeling it cannot be free, it entereth with the attracting into itself, and taketh (or conceiveth) in itself another will, which is to go out from the darkness into itself, and that other conceived will is the eternal mind, and entereth into itself as a sudden flash (of lightning) and dissipateth the darkness, and goeth forth into itself, and dwelleth in itself, and maketh to itself another (or second) principle of another quality (source or condition), for the sting of the stirring remaineth in the darkness [43:5]. The first eternal will is God the Father, and it is to generate His Son—viz., His Word—not out of anything else, but out of Himself; and we have already informed you about the essences, which are generated in the will, and also how the will in the essences is set in darkness, and how the darkness (in the wheel of the anxiety) is broken asunder by the flash of fire, and how the will cometh to be in four forms, whereas in the original all four are but one, but in the flash of fire appear in four forms; as also how the flash of fire doth exist, in that the first will doth sharpen itself in the eager hardness, so that the liberty of the will shineth in the flesh. Whereby we have given you to understand that the first will shineth in the flash of the fire and is consuming by reason of the anxious sharpness, where the will continueth in the sharpness, and comprehendeth the other will in itself (understand in the centre of the sharpness), which is to go out from the sharpness, and to dwell in itself in the eternal liberty without pain or source [43: 15–16].
For Jesus Christ*, the Son of God, the Eternal Word in the Father (who is the glance, or brightness, and the power of the light eternity), must become man, and be born in you, if you will know God; otherwise you are in the dark stable, and go about groping and feeling, and look always for Christ at the right hand of God, supposing that he is a great way off; you cast your mind aloft above the stars and seek
* Two quaint expositions of the generating of the second (Cosmic Conscious) self in the first (self conscious) self.
* "Christ," used as by Paul for the Cosmic Sense—"I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me" [22: 2: 20]. ''Christ who is our life" [25: 3: 4]. "Jesus Christ is in you" [21: 13: 5].
I was as simple concerning the hidden mysteries as the meanest of all; but my virgin* of the wonders of God taught me, so that I must write of His wonders; though indeed my purpose is to write this for a memorandum for myself, and yet I shall speak as for many, which is known to God [43: 31].
Thus we distinguish to you the substance in the darkness;* and though we are very hard to be understood by you, and though also little belief may be afforded to it, we yet have a very convincing proof of it, not only in the created heaven, but also in the centre of the earth, as also in the whole principle of this world, which would be too long to set down here [43: 33].
The scholar said to his master: "How may I come to the supersensual life,* that I may see God and hear Him speak?" His master said: "When thou canst throw thyself but for a moment into that where no creature dwelleth, then thou hearest what God speaketh."
Scholar.—Is that near at hand or far off?
Master.—It is in thee, and if thou canst for awhile cease from all thy thinking and willing thou shalt hear unspeakable words of God.
Scholar.—How can I hear when I stand still from thinking and willing?
Master.—When thou standest still from the thinking and willing of self, the eternal hearing, seeing and speaking will be revealed to thee, and so God heareth and seeth through thee.* Thine own hearing, willing and seeing hindereth thee, that thou dost not see nor hear God.
Scholar.—Wherewithal shall I hear and see God, being He is above nature and creature?
Master.—When thou art quiet or silent, then thou art that which God was before nature and creature, and whereof He made thy nature and creature. Then thou hearest and seest with that therewith God saw and heard in thee before thy own willing, seeing and hearing began.
Scholar.—What hindereth or keep eth me back that I cannot come to that?
* So as proof or argument for some of his most spiritual and recondite doctrines—optimism, immortality, unending growth, expansion and evolution—Whitman appeals to the common phenomena of nature and life. He says: "I hear you whispering there O stars of heaven, O suns—O grass of graves—O perpetual transfers and promotions, if you do not say anything how can I say anything" [193:77]?
* So Balzac tells us: "From abstraction [self consciousness] are derived laws, arts, interests, social ideas. It is the glory and scourge of the world: Glorious, it creates societies; baneful, it exempts man from entering the path of specialism [Cosmic Consciousness], which leads to the Infinite" [5: 142].
* The same doctrine is repeated over and over in the Suttas. Compare also Carpenter [56: 166–174].
Master.—If thou rulest over all creatures outwardly only,* then thy will and ruling is in a bestial kind, and is but an imaginary transitory ruling, and thou bringest also thy desire into a bestial essence, whereby thou becomest infected and captivated, and gettest also a bestial condition. But if thou hast left the imaginary condition, then thou art in the super-imaginariness, and rulest over all creatures, in that ground out of which they are created, and nothing on earth can hurt thee, for thou art like all things, and nothing is unlike to thee [50:76].
His master said to him very kindly:* Loving scholar, if it were that thy will could break off itself for one hour from all creatures and throw itself into that, where no creature is, it would be ever clothed with the highest splendor of God's glory, and would taste in itself the most sweet love of our Lord Jesus, which no man can express, and it would find in itself the unspeakable words of our Lord concerning his great mercy; it would feel in itself that the cross of our Lord Christ would be very pleasing to it, and it would love that more than the honor and goods of the world [50:78].
Master.—Though thou lovest the earthly wisdom now,* yet when thou art ever-clothed with the heavenly [wisdom] thou wilt see that all the wisdom of the world is but folly, and that the world hateth but thy enemy—viz., the
* The "cross of Christ," from the point of view of what might be called the Pauline type of these men, means simply the deprivation of the good things of self consciousness and the bearing of the so-called evils of the self conscious life. But these goods are seen by them not to be good, and these evils not to be evils, and to reach that point of view (in Cosmic Consciousness) is the one good thing. "To arrive there is to depart hence, going away out of one's self as far as possible from this vile state to that which is the highest of all. Therefore, rising above all that may be known and understood temporally and spiritually, the soul must earnestly desire to reach that which in this life [the self conscious life] cannot be known and which the heart cannot conceive; and, leaving behind all actual and possible taste and feeling of sense and spirit, must desire earnestly to arrive at that which transcends all sense and all feeling" [203: 74].
* "We speak wisdom among the perfect; yet a wisdom not of this world" [20: 2: 6]. "If any man thinketh he is wise among you in this world let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God" [20:3: 18–191. The wisdom of self consciousness is p. 189 foolishness from the point of view of the Cosmic Sense.
Scholar.—What is the virtue, power, height and greatness of love?*
Master.—Its virtue is that nothing (whence all things proceed), and its power is (in and) through all things, its height is as high as God and its greatness is greater than God; whosoever findeth it findeth nothing, and all things.
Scholar.—Loving master, pray tell me how I may understand this.
Master.—That I said its virtue is that nothing, thou mayest understand thus*: When thou art gone forth wholly from the creature, and art become nothing to all that is nature and creature, then thou art in that eternal one, which is God himself, and then thou shalt perceive and feel the highest virtue of love [50–1:81]. Also, that I said whosoever findeth it findeth nothing and all things; that is also true, for he findeth a supernatural, supersensual abyss, having no ground, where there is no place to dwell in; and he findeth also nothing that is like it, and therefore it may be compared to nothing, for it is deeper than anything, and is as nothing to all things, for it is not comprehensible; and because it is nothing, it is free from all things, and it is that only good, which a man cannot express or utter what it is. But that I lastly said, he that findeth it,* findeth all things, is also true; it hath been the beginning of all things, and it ruleth all things. If thou findest it, thou comest into that ground from whence all things are proceeded, and wherein they subsist, and thou art in it a king over all the works of God [50: 81].
Scholar.—Loving master, I can no more endure anything should divert me, how shall I find the nearest way to it?*
Master.—Where the way is hardest there walk thou, and take up what the world rejecteth; and what the world doth, that do not thou. Walk contrary to the world in all things. And then thou comest the nearest way to it. . . .
Master.—That thou sayest also,* thou shouldst be accounted a silly fool is true; for the way to the love of God is folly to the world, but wisdom to
* "O Bhikshu, empty this boat (i.e., empty yourself of the things of self consciousness); if emptied it will go quickly; having cut off passion and hatred, thou wilt go to Nirvâna" [156: 86].
* He who is fit (says Whitman) can enter into possession of all things [193: 214].
* If you wish to attain the divine life (Cosmic Consciousness), says Yepes, you must cast away every satisfaction, temporal and spiritual (of the self conscious man) [204: 534], "forgetting the things which are behind [the things of self consciousness] and stretching forward to the things which are before" [24: 3: 13]. And this seems to be the universal dictum.
* "The natural [merely self conscious] man receiveth not the things of the spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him" [20: 2: 14].
Then the scholar asked his master further, saying: "Whither goeth the soul when the body dieth, be it either saved or damned?"
Master.—It needed no going forth.* Only the outward moral life with the body do separate themselves from the
soul; that soul hath heaven and hell in itself before, as it is written. The kingdom of God cometh not with outward observation, neither shall they say, to here, or to there it is, for behold the kingdom of God is within you: And whether of the two, viz., either heaven or hell, shall be manifest in it, in that the soul standeth [50:82–3].
Scholar.—What, then, is the body of a man?
Master.—It is the visible world,* an image and essence of all that the world is; and the visible world is a manifestation of the inward spiritual world, (come) out of the eternal darkness, out of the spiritual weaving (twining or connection) and it is an object or resemblance of eternity, wherewith eternity bath made itself visible; where self-will and resigned-will, viz., evil and good, work one with the other; and such a substance the outward man also is; for God created man out of the outward world, and breathed into him the inner spiritual world, for a soul and an understanding life, and therefore in the things of the outward world man can receive and work evil and good.
Scholar.—What shall be after this world, when all things perish?
Master.—The material substance only ceaseth*—viz., the four elements, the sun, moon, and stars, and then the inward world will be wholly visible and manifest. But whatsoever hath been wrought by the spirit in this time, whether evil or good, I say, every work shall separate itself there in a spiritual manner, either into the eternal light, or into the eternal darkness; for that which is born from each will penetrateth again into that which is like itself [50: 86].
* Says Whitman: "Not the types set up by the printer return their impression, the meaning, the main concern, any more than a man's substance and life, or a woman's substance and life, return in the body and the soul, indifferently before death and after death. Behold the body includes and is the meaning, the main concern, and includes and is the soul; whoever you are, how superb and divine is your body or any part of it" [193: 25].
* "The soul is of itself, all verges to it, all has reference to what ensues, all that a person does, says, thinks, is of consequence, not a move can a man or woman make, that affects him or her in a day, month, any part of the direct lifetime, or the hour of death, but the same affects him or her onward afterwards through the indirect lifetime" [193: 289].
a. In the case of Jacob Behmen there was the initial earnestness of character which belongs to the class of men of whom this book treats.
b. There was (almost certainly), though we are not told of it in so many words, the subjective light.
c. There was extraordinary intellectual illumination.
d. And equal moral elevation.
e. There was the sense of immortality.
f. Loss of the fear of death (if he ever had it, as is likely, since he seems to have been quite an ordinary boy and young man).
g. There was the suddenness, the instantaneousness, of the awakening of the new life.
h. At the time of his illumination he was at the typical age—namely, thirty-five years.