The Confessions of Jacob Boehme, by Jacob Boehme, ed. W. Scott Palmer , at sacred-texts.com
MEN have always been of the opinion that heaven is many hundred, nay, many thousand, miles distant from the face of the earth, and that God dwells only in that heaven.
Some have undertaken to measure this height and distance, and have produced many strange and monstrous devices. Indeed, before my knowledge and revelation of God, I held that only to be the true heaven which, in a round circumference, very azure of a light blue colour, extends itself above the stars; supposing that God had therein his peculiar Being, and did rule only in the power of his Holy Spirit in this world.
But when this had given me many a
hard blow and repulse, doubtless from the Spirit, which had a great longing yearning towards me, at last I fell into a very deep melancholy and heavy sadness, when I beheld and contemplated the great Deep of this world, also the sun and stars, the clouds, rain and snow, and considered in my spirit the whole creation of the world.
Wherein then I found, in all things, evil and good, love and anger; in the inanimate creatures, in wood, stones, earth and the elements, as also in men and beasts.
Moreover I considered the little spark of light, man, what he should be esteemed for with God, in comparison of this great work and fabric of heaven and earth.
And finding that in all things there was evil and good, as well in the elements as in the creatures, and that it went as well in this world with the wicked as with the virtuous, honest and godly; also that the barbarous people had the best countries in
their possession, and that they had more prosperity in their ways than the virtuous, honest and godly had; I was thereupon very melancholy, perplexed and exceedingly troubled, no Scripture could comfort or satisfy me though I was very well acquainted with it and versed therein; at which time the Devil would by no means stand idle, but was often beating into me many heathenish thoughts which I will here be silent in.
Yet when in this affliction and trouble I elevated my spirit (which then I understood very little or nothing at all what it was), I earnestly raised it up into God, as with a great storm or onset, wrapping up my whole heart and mind, as also all my thoughts and whole will and resolution, incessantly to wrestle with the Love and Mercy of God, and not to give over unless he blessed me, that is, unless he enlightened me with his Holy Spirit, whereby I might understand his will
and be rid of my sadness. And then the Spirit did break through.
But when in my resolved zeal I gave so hard an assault, storm, and onset upon God and upon all the gates of hell, as if I had more reserves of virtue and power ready, with a resolution to hazard my life upon it (which assuredly were not in my ability without the assistance of the Spirit of God), suddenly my spirit did break through the gates of hell, even into the innermost moving of the Deity, and there I was embraced in love as a bridegroom embraces his dearly beloved bride.
The greatness of the triumphing that was in my spirit I cannot express either in speaking or writing; neither can it be compared to any thing but that wherein life is generated in the midst of death.
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 movings of God 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 and tender, and flourishing to the eye, especially if it comes on lustily in its growing; but does not bear fruit presently, and though it has blossoms they fall off: also frost and snow and many a cold wind beat upon it before it comes to any growth and bearing of fruit.
So also it went with my spirit: the first fire was but a beginning and not a constant and lasting light; since that time many a cold wind blew upon it, yet never extinguished it.
The tree was also often tempted to try whether it could bear fruit, and showed itself with blossoms; but the blossoms were struck off till this very time, wherein it stands in its fruit.
From this light now it is that I have my knowledge, as also my will, impulse and driving; and therefore I will set down the knowledge in writing according to my gift, and let God work his will. Though I should enrage the whole world, the Devil, and all the gates of hell, I will look on and wait what the Lord intends with it.
For I am too, too weak to know his purpose; and though the Spirit affords in the light some things to be known which are to come, yet according to the outward man I am too weak to comprehend them.
The animated or soulish spirit, which unfolds its powers and unites with God, comprehends it well; but the animal body attains only a glimpse thereof; just as by
a lightning-flash. This is the state of the innermost moving of the soul, when it breaks through the outermost in an elevation by the Holy Ghost. But the outermost presently closes again, for the wrath of God is stirred up there as fire is struck from the stone, and holds it captive in its power.
Then the knowledge of the outward man is gone, and he walks up and down, afflicted and anxious, as a woman with child who is in her travail, and would willingly bring forth, but cannot and is full of throes.
Thus it goes also with the animal body when it has once tasted of the sweetness of God. Then it continually hungers and thirsts after it; but the Devil in the power of God's wrath opposes exceedingly, and so a man in such a course must continually be anxious; and there is nothing but fighting and warring for him.
I write not this for my own glory, but
for a comfort to the reader, so that if perhaps he be minded to walk with me upon my narrow bridge, he should not suddenly be discouraged, dismayed, and distrustful, when the gates of hell and God's wrath meet him and present themselves before him.
When we shall come together, over this narrow bridge of the fleshly working, to be in yonder green meadow to which the wrath of God does not reach, then we shall be fully requited for all our damages and hurts we have sustained; though indeed at present the world accounts us for fools, and we must suffer the Devil to domineer, rush, and roar over us.
Now observe: if thou fixest thy thoughts concerning heaven, and wouldst willingly conceive in thy mind what it is and where it is and how it is, thou needst not to cast thy thoughts many thousand miles off, for that place, that heaven, is not thy heaven.
And though indeed that is united with
thy heaven as one body, and so together is but the one body of God, yet thou art not become a creature in that very place which is above many hundred thousand miles off, but thou art in the heaven of this world, which contains also in it such a Deep as is not of any human numbering.
The true heaven is everywhere, even in that very place where thou standest and goest; and so when thy spirit presses through the astral and the fleshly, and apprehends the innermost moving of God, then it is clearly in heaven.
But that there is assuredly a pure glorious heaven in all the three movings aloft above the deep of this world, in which God's Being together with that of the holy angels springs up very purely, brightly, beauteously, and joyfully, is undeniable. And he is not born of God that denies it.
Thou must know that this world in its innermost unfolds its properties and powers in union with the heaven aloft
above us; and so there is one Heart, one Being, one Will, one God, all in all.
The outermost moving of this world cannot comprehend the outermost moving of heaven aloft above this world, for they are one to the other as life and death, or as a man and a stone are one to the other.
There is a strong firmament dividing the outermost of this world from the outermost of the upper heaven; and that firmament is Death, which rules and reigns everywhere in the outermost in this world, and sets a great gulf between them.
The second moving of this world is in the life; it is the astral, out of which is generated the third and holy moving; and therein love and wrath strive one with the other.
For the second moving stands in the seven fountain spirits of this world, and is in all places and in all the creatures as in
man. But the Holy Ghost also rules and reigns in that second, and helps to generate the third, the holy moving.
This, the third, is the clear and holy heaven which unites with the Heart of God, distinct from and above all heavens, as one heart.
Therefore, thou child of man, be not discouraged, be not so timorous and pusillanimous; if thou in thy zeal and earnest sincerity sowest the seed of thy tears, thou dost not sow it in earth but in heaven; for in thy astral moving thou sowest, and in thy soulish moving thou reapest, and in the kingdom of heaven thou possessest and enjoyest it.
If man's eyes were but opened he should see God everywhere in his heaven; for heaven stands in the innermost moving everywhere.
Moreover, when Stephen saw the heaven opened and the Lord Jesus at the right
hand of God, then his spirit did not first swing itself aloft into the upper heaven, but it penetrated into the innermost moving wherein heaven is everywhere.
Neither must thou think that God is such a kind of Being as is only in the upper heaven, and that the soul, when it departs from the body, goes aloft many hundred thousand miles off. It needs not do that; it is set in the innermost moving, and there it is with God and in God, and with all the holy angels, and can suddenly be above and suddenly beneath; it is not hindered by any thing.
For in the innermost the upper and nether Deity is one body and is an open gate. The holy angels converse and walk up and down in the innermost of this world by and with our King Jesus Christ; as well as in the uppermost, aloft in their quarters, courts or region.
Where then would or should the soul
of man rather be than with its King and Redeemer Jesus Christ? For near and afar off in God is one thing, one comprehensibility, Father, Son and Holy Ghost, everywhere.
The gate of God in the upper heaven is no other, also no brighter, than it is in this world. And where can there be greater joy than in that place where every hour and moment beautiful, loving, dear, newborn children and angels come to Christ, which are passed through death into life? Where can there be greater joy than where in the midst of death life is generated continually? Does not every soul bring along with it a new triumph? and so there is nothing else but an exceedingly friendly welcoming and salutation there.
Dost thou think my writing is too earthly? If thou wert to come to this window of mine thou wouldst not then say that it is earthly. Though I must indeed use the earthly tongue, yet there is a true
heavenly understanding couched under it, which in my outermost moving I am not able to express.
I know very well that the word concerning the three movings cannot be comprehended or apprehended in every man's heart, especially where the heart is too much steeped, soaked, or drowned in the flesh. But I cannot render it otherwise than as it is, for it is just so; and though I write mere spirit, as indeed and in truth it is no other, yet such a heart understands only flesh.
Thou shouldst not suppose that which I write here to be as a doubtful opinion, questionable whether it be so or no; for the gate of heaven and hell stands open to the spirit, and in the Light it presses through them both and beholds them, also proves and examines them.
And though the Devil cannot take the Light from me, yet he hides it often with the outward and fleshly moving, so that
the astral is in anxiety and in a strait, as if it were imprisoned.
But these are only his blows and strokes whereby the seed of paradise is covered and obscured. Concerning which also the holy apostle Paul saith that a great thorn was given him in his flesh and he besought the Lord earnestly to take it from him, whereupon the Lord answered, Let my grace be sufficient for thee.
For he also was come to this place and would fain have had the Light without obstruction or hindrance, as his own in the astral moving. But it could not be; for wrath abides in the fleshly moving, and he must endure corruption there. If wrath should be wholly taken away from the astral, then in that he would be like God and know all things as God himself does.
Which now in this life that soul only knows which unfolds its powers in union with the Light of God, and even that soul cannot perfectly bring it back again into the
astral. Just as an apple on a tree cannot bring its smell and taste back again into the tree or into the earth, though it be indeed the son of the tree, so it is also in the nature of man.
The holy man Moses was so high and deep in this Light that it glorified, clarified, or brightened the astral also, whereby the outermost of the flesh in his face was clarified, brightened, or glorified.
He also desired to see the light of God perfectly in the astral; but it could not be, for the bar of the wrath lies before it. Even the whole and universal nature of the astral in this world cannot comprehend the Light of God; and therefore the Heart of God is hidden, though it dwells in all places and comprehends all.
Thou seest how the wrath of God in the outermost of nature lies hid and rests, and cannot be awakened unless men themselves awaken it, who with their fleshly moving
unfold their powers to stir up and unite with the wrath in the outermost of nature.
Therefore if anyone should be damned into hell he ought not to say that God has done it, or that he wills it to be so. Man awakens the wrath-fire in himself, and this, if it grows burning, afterwards unites with God's wrath and the hellish fire, as one thing.
For when thy light is extinguished, then thou standest in the darkness. Within the darkness the wrath of God is concealed, and if thou awakenest it, then it burns in thee.
There is fire even in a stone: if you do not strike upon it the fire remains concealed; but, if you strike it, then the fire springs forth, and if any combustible matter be near it, that will take fire and burn, and so there comes to be a great fire. Thus it is also with man, when he kindles the wrath-fire which is otherwise at rest.