THE CONFESSIONS OF JACOB BOEHME
COMPILED & EDITED BY W. SCOTT PALMER
WITH AN INTRODUCTION
BY EVELYN UNDERHILL
ART has not wrote this, neither was there any time to consider how to set it punctually down, according to the right understanding of letters, but all was ordered according to the direction of the Spirit, which often went in haste ; so that in many words letters maybe wanting,and in some places a capital letter for a word.
The Penman's hand, by reason he was not accustomed to it, did often shake;and though I could have wrote in a more accurate, fair, and plain manner, yet the reason I did not was this, that the burning fire often forced forward with speed, and the hand and pen must hasten directly after it ; for that fire comes and goes as a sudden shower.
I can write nothing of myself but as a child which neither knows nor understands anything, which neither has ever been learnt ;and I write only that which the Lord vouchsafes to know in me according to the measure as himself manifests in me.
I never desired to knowanything of the Divine Mystery, much less understood I the way to seek and find it. I knew nothing of it, which is the condition of poor laymen in their simplicity.
I sought only after the heart of Jesus Christ, that I might hide myself therein from the wrathful anger of God and the violent assaults of the Devil. And I besought the Lord earnestly for his Holy Spirit and his grace, that he would please to bless and guide me in him, and take that away from me which turned me from him.
I resigned myself wholly to him,that I might not live to my ownwill, but his ; and that he only might lead and direct me, to the end I might be his child in his son Jesus.
In this my earnest and Christian seeking and desire (wherein I suffered many a shrewd repulse, but at last resolved rather to put my self in hazard than leave off), the Gate was opened to me, that in one quarter of an hour I saw and knew more than if I had been many years together at an University, at which I exceedingly admired and thereupon turned my praise to God for it.
So that I did not only greatly wonder at it, but did also exceedingly rejoice;and presently it came powerfully into my mind to set the same down in writing, for a memorial for myself, though I could very hardly apprehend the same in my external man and express it with the pen. Yet, however, I must begin to labour in this great mystery as a child that goes to school.
I saw it as in a great deep in the internal for I had a thorough view of the Universe,as a complex moving fulness wherein all things are couched and wrapped up ;but it was impossible for me to explain the same.
Yet it opened itself in me, from time to time, as in a young plant. It was with me for the space of twelve years, and was as it were breeding. I found a powerful instigation within me before I could bring it forth into external form of writing ; but whatever I could apprehend with the external principle of mymind, that I wrote down.
Afterwards, however, the Sun shone upon me a good while, but not constantly,for sometimes the Sun hid itself, and then I knew not nor well understood my own labour. Man must confess that his knowledge is not his own but from God, who manifests the Ideas of Wisdom to the soul,in what measure he pleases.
It is not to be understood that my reason is greater or higher than that of all other men living ; but I am the Lord's twig or branch, and a very mean and little spark of his light ; he may set me where he pleases, I cannot hinder him in that.
Neither is this my natural will, that I can do it by my own small ability ; for if the Spirit were withdrawn from me,then I could neither known or understand my own writings.
O gracious amiable Blessedness and great Love, how sweet art thou! How friendly and courteous art thou! How pleasant and lovely is thy relish and taste How ravishing sweetly dost thou smell O noble Light, and bright Glory, who can apprehend thy exceeding beauty ? How comely adorned is thy love! How curious and excellent are thy colours ! And all this eternally. Who can express it?
Or why and what do I write, whose tongue does but stammer like a child whichis learning to speak.'? With what shall I compare it ? or to what shall I liken it ?
Shall I compare it with the love of this world ? No, that is but a mere dark valley to it.
O immense Greatness ! I cannot compare thee with any thing, but only with the resurrection from the dead ;there will the Love-Fire rise up again in us, and rekindle again our astringent, bitter, and cold, dark and dead powers, and embrace us most courteously and friendly.
O gracious, amiable, blessed Love and clear bright Light, tarry with us, I pray thee, for the evening is at hand.
I AM a sinful and mortal man, as well as thou, and I must every day and hour grapple, struggle, and fight with the Devil who afflicts me in my corrupted lost nature, in the wrathful power which is in myflesh, as in all men continually.
Suddenly I get the better of him,suddenly he is too hard for me;yet, not withstanding, he has not overcome or conquered me, though he often gets the advantage over me.
If he buffets me, then I must retire and give back, but the divine power helps me again;then he also receives a blow, and often loses the day in the fight.
But when he is overcome, then the heavenly gate opens in my spirit, and then the spirit sees the divine and heavenly Being, not externally beyond the body,but in the well-spring of the heart.
There rises up a flash of the Light in the sensibility or thoughts of the brain, and therein the Spirit does contemplate.
For man is made out of all the powers of God, out of all the seven spirits of God,as the angels also are. But now seeing he is corrupted, therefore the divine moving does not always unfold its powers and operate in him. And though it springs in him, and if indeed it shines, yet it is incomprehensible to the corrupted nature.
For the Holy Ghost will not be held in the sinful flesh, but rises up likea lightning-flash, as fire sparkles and flashes out of a stone when a man strikes it.
But when the flash is caught in the fountain of the heart, then the Holy Spirit rises up, in the seven unfolding fountain spirits, into the brain, like the dawning of the day, the morning redness.
In that Light the one sees the other,feels the other, smells the other, tastes the other, and hears the other, and is as if the whole Deity rose up therein.
Herein the spirit sees into the depth of the Deity; for in God near and far off is all one;and that same Godis in his three-foldness as well in the body of a holy soul as in heaven.
From this God I take my knowledge and from no other thing; neither will I knowany other thing than that same God.
And he it is which makes that assurance in my spirit, that I steadfastly believe and trust in him.
Though an angel from heaven should tell this to me, yet for all that I could not believe it, much less lay hold on it; for I should always doubt whether it was certainly so or no. But the Sun itself arises in my spirit, and therefore I am most sure of it.
The soul liveth in great danger in this world;and therefore this life is very well called the valley of misery, full of anguish,a perpetual hurly-burly, pulling and hauling,warring, fighting, struggling and striving.
But the cold and half-dead body does not always understand this fight of the soul. The body does
not know how it is with it, but is heavy and anxious ; it goes from one business to another, and from one place to another; it seeketh for ease and rest.
And when it comes where it would be,yet it finds no such thing as that which it seeks. Then doubtings and unbelief come upon it ; sometimes it seems to it as if God had quite cast it off.
It doth not understand the fight of the spirit, how the same is sometimes down and sometimes uppermost.
Thou must know that I write not here as a story or history, as if it was related to me from another. I must continually stand in that combat, and I find it to be full of heavy strivings wherein I am often struck down to the ground, as well as all other men.
But for the sake of the violent fight,and for the sake of the earnestness which we have together, this revelation has been given me, and the vehement driving or impulse to bring it so to pass as to set all down on paper.
What the total sequel is, which may follow upon and after this, I do not fully know. Only sometimes future mysteries in the depth are shown to me.
For when the flash rises upin the centre,one sees through and through, but cannot well apprehend or lay hold on it ; for it happens to such an one as when there is a tempest of lightning, where the flash of fire opens itself and suddenly vanishes.
So it goes also in the soul when it breaks quite through in its combat. Then it beholds the Deity as a flash of lightning;but the source and the unfolding of sins covers it suddenly again.
For the old Adam belongs to the earth, and does not,with the flesh, belong to God.
In this combat I had many hard trials to my heart's grief. My Sun was often eclipsed or extinguished, but did rise again ; and the oftener it was eclipsed the brighter and clearer was its rising again.
I do not write this for my own praise,but to the end that the reader may know wherein my knowledge stands, that he might not seek from me that which I have not, or think me to be what I am not.
But what I am, that all men are who wrestle in Jesus Christ our King for the crown of the eternal Joy,and live in the hope of perfection.
I marvel that God should reveal himself thus fully to such a simple man, and that he thus impels him also to set it down in writing ; whereas there are many learned writers which could set it forth and express it better, and demonstrate it more exactly and fully than I, that am a scorn and fool to the world.
But I neither can nor will oppose him;for I often stood in great striving against him, that if it was not his impulse and will he would be pleased to take it from me ; but I find that with my striving against him I have merely gathered stones for this building.
Now I am climbed up and mounted so very high that I dare not look back for fear a giddiness should take me; and I have now but a short length of ladder to the mark to which it is the whole desire,longing, and delight of my heart to reach fully. When I go upward I have no giddiness at all ; but when I look back and would return, then am I giddy and afraid to fall.
Therefore have I put my confidence in the strong God, and will venture, and see what will come of it. I have no more but one body, which nevertheless is mortal and corruptible; I willingly venture that.If the light and knowledge of my God do but remain with me,then I have sufficiently enough for this life and the life to come.
Thus I will not be angry with my God, though for his Name's sake I should endure shame, ignominy, and reproach, which springs, buds, and blossoms for me every day, so that I am almost inured to it : I will sing with the prophet David, Though my body and soul should faint and fail,yet thou, O God, art my trust and confidence ; also my salvation and the comfort of my heart.
First Published in 1920