The Confessions of Jacob Boehme, by Jacob Boehme, ed. W. Scott Palmer , at sacred-texts.com
MY beloved Reader, I tell thee this, that everything has its impulse in its own form. It always makes that very thing with which the spirit is impregnated; and the body must always labour in that wherein the spirit is kindled. When I consider and think why I thus write many wonders and leave them not for other sharper wits, I find that my spirit is kindled in this matter whereof I write; for there is a living running fire of these things in my spirit, and thereupon (let me purpose what I will) yet they continually come uppermost, so that I am made captive thereby, and it is laid upon me as a work which I must do. Therefore, seeing it is my work wherein my spirit drives, I will
write it down for a memorial in such a manner as I know it in my spirit and as I attained to it; I will set down no other thing than that I myself have tried and known, that I be not found a liar before God.
Now, then, if there be any that have a desire to follow me and would fain have the knowledge whereof I write, I advise him to accompany me in this way, not at present with the pen, but with the labour of his mind; and then he shall find how I could come to write thus.
Seeing I have in hand the matter of repentance, therefore I certify the reader than in my earnestness this pen was given me, which the Oppressor would have broke. With him I began an earnest fight, insomuch that he would have cast me down to the ground under his feet had not the Spirit of God helped me, so that now I stand up.
Therefore, if we will speak of this most serious matter, we must go from Jerusalem
to Jericho, and see how we lie among murderers who have so wounded and beaten us that we are half dead; and must look about us for the Samaritan with his beast, that he may dress our wounds and bring us into his inn. O how lamentable and miserable it is, that although we are so beaten by the murderer that we are half dead, yet we feel our smart no more! Oh, if the physician would come and dress our wounds, that our soul might revive and live, how we should rejoice! Thus speaks desire, and has such longing heartfelt wishes; yet although the physician is here, the mind can in no wise apprehend him, because it is so much wounded and lies half dead.
My dear Mind, thou supposest thou art very sound, but thou art so beaten that thou feelest thy disease no more. Art thou not very near unto death? How then canst thou account thyself to be sound? O my dear Soul, boast not of
thy soundness. Thou liest fettered in heavy bonds, yea, in a very dark dungeon; thou swimmest in a deep water which rises up to thy very lips, and thou must continually expect death. Besides, the Oppressor, thine own corrupt nature, is behind thee with a great company of thy worst enemies, whereby he draws thee continually down by his chains towards the horrible deep, the abyss of hell; and his crew assault thee, and run upon thee on all sides, as hounds upon their quarry.
Then says Reason, Why do they so? O my dear Soul, they have great cause for it; thou hast been their hind, and thou art broken out of their park; besides thou art so strong that thou hast broken down their park-wall and taken possession of their dwelling. Thou art their worst enemy and they thine; and if thou wast but gone out of their enclosure they would be content, but thou being in it still the strife continues, and has no end till the
[paragraph continues] Ancient of Days comes, who will part you asunder.
Dost thou suppose that I am mad that I write thus. If I did not see and know it I should be silent. Dost thou still say thou art in the garden of roses? If thou thinkest thou art there, see well whether thou art not in the Devil's pasture, and art his most beloved hind which he fattens to the slaughter for his food.
O dear Soul, turn, and let not the Devil capture thee; regard not the scorn of the world; all thy sorrow must be turned into great joy. And though in this world thou hast not great honour, power and riches, that is nothing; thou knowest not whether to-morrow it will come to be thy turn to die. Why then dost thou contend and strive so much after worldly honour that is transitory? Rather endeavour after the tree of paradise, which thou mayst carry with thee and wherein thou shalt rejoice eternally for its growth and fruit.
Oh! is not that a blessed welfare when the soul dares to look into the Holy Trinity, wherewith it is filled, so that its powers grow and blossom in paradise, where songs of praise break forth, where the ever-growing fruit springs up endlessly according to thy desire, where there is no fear, envy, nor sorrow, where there is love one of another, where everyone rejoices in the form and beauty of another?
Beloved Mind, if thou hast a desire to this way and wouldst attain it, then thou must use great earnestness; it must be no lip-labour, with the heart elsewhere. No, thou canst not attain it thus. Thou must collect thy mind with all thy purposes and reason, wholly together in one will and resolution, and desire to turn from thy abominations; and thou must set thy thoughts upon God and goodness with a steadfast confidence in his mercy. Then thou wilt attain it.
Thou must continue steadfast in this resolute purpose; and though thou gainest no strength into thy heart, and though the Devil should beat down thy tongue so that thou canst not pray to God, yet thou must continually hold and go on in this thought and purpose. The more thou pressest forward the weaker the Devil is; the more earnestly thou pressest forth from the Devil and thy sins, the more mightily does the kingdom of God press into thee. Have a care that thou dost not depart from this thy will before thou hast received the jewel, the pearl of divine wisdom and knowledge; though it holds off from morning till night, and still from day to day, if thy earnestness be great, then thy jewel will also be great which thou shalt receive in thy victory.
None knows what it is but he that has found it by experience. It is a most precious guest; when it enters into the soul there is a very wonderful triumph
there; the bridegroom embraces his beloved bride, the hallelujah of paradise sounds. Oh! must not the earthly body needs tremble and shake at it? Yet though it knows not what it is, all its members rejoice. What beauteous knowledge does the Virgin of the Divine Wisdom bring with her! She makes learned indeed; and though one were dumb, yet the soul is crowned in God's works of wonder, and must speak of his wonder; there is nothing in the soul but longing to do so; the Devil must begone, he is quite weary and faint.
Thus the seed of paradise is sown. But observe it well; it is not instantly become a tree. How many storms must the soul undergo and endure! How often is it overwhelmed by sins! For all in this world is against it, it is as it were left alone and forsaken; even the children of God themselves assault it; and the Devil does plague the poor soul, trying to lead
it astray, either with flattery that it may flatter itself, or else with the burden of sins in the conscience. He never ceases, and thou must always strive against him; for so the tree of paradise grows, as corn does in the tempestuous winds. If it grows high and comes to blossom, then thou wilt enjoy the fruit; and thou wilt understand better what this pen has written and what moved me to write. For I was a long time in this condition, many storms went over my head. Therefore this shall be for a lasting memorial and continual remembrance to me.
Now, says Reason, I see no more in thee, nor in any such as thou art, than in other poor sinners; thine must needs be but a hypocritical pretence; besides, says Reason, I also have been in such a way, and yet remain in wickedness still and do that which I would not do; I am still moved to anger, covetousness and malice. What is the matter that a man does not
perform what he purposes, but that he does even what himself reproves in others, and that which he knows is not right?
Here the tree of paradise is not discerned. Behold, my beloved Reason, this tree is not sown into the outward man, he is not worthy of it, he belongs to the earth; and the poor soul is often brought into sins to which it does not consent, the body being drawn into that which the soul rejects. Now when this is so, it is not the soul that works it. The soul says, This is not right, nor well; but the body says, We must have it that we may live and have enough. So it is, one time after another. And a true Christian knows not himself; how then should he be known by others? Also the Devil can hide him sufficiently that he may not be known; that is his masterpiece, when he can bring a true Christian into wickedness, to fall into sins, while this is not discerned by him, but he reproves the
sins of others yet is sinning, outwardly, himself.
I do not say that sin in the old man is no hurt; though indeed it cannot sway the new man yet it scandalizes him. We must with the new man live to God and serve him, though it is not possible to be perfect in this world; we must continually go on and hold out: the new man is in a field where the ground is cold, bitter, sour and void of life.