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Biographies > Jacob Boehme - Teutonic Sound Current Adept

by Peter Holleran

   "Not I, the I that I am, know these things; but God knows them in me." (1)

   The humble cobbler Jacob Boehme (1575-1624) was one of the most illustrious of the German mystics. Indeed, his writings and biography seem to suggest that, while no doubt eventually reflecting the pro-Christian bias of his enculturation, he in fact may have taught and transmitted some form of what is known as Shabd Yoga, or the yoga of the sound current or Word such as popularized in the Sant Mat tradition. This is remarkable for what is generally seen as largely an oriental path. It just goes to show that portions of the higher teachings have been disseminated through a worldwide brotherhood for millenia, and are not just the province of one religion or sect. The following is an article, slightly adapted, written by Michael Raysson for Sat Sandesh magazine, July, 1976, illustrating this point. Afterwards, an excerpt from the philosopher's written works demonstrating a profound knowledge of the phenomena of the dark night of the soul will be given. Although their lifespans overlapped, it seems unlikely that Boehme was familiar with the work by St. John of the Cross, who lived in Spain from 1542-1591. The latter spoke of two such 'nights', of sense and of spirit, which often come to mystical practitioners on the spiritual way, when their inner attainments are stripped from them through extended periods of trial and and they seem altogether lost. Whether this is an inevitable transformation on the path, or only inevitable on a path which sees the Spirit and the world at dualistic extremes, is an important matter to consider, and discussed elsewhere on this website. Finally, some discussion of the mystic’s teacings in the light of esotericism will be given. It will also be suggested that Boehme, in contrast to the more or less 'vertical' emanationist schemas of 'return', represents a more integrational, 'horizontal' model, even in terms of how he viewed man's relationship to the Word or divine sound. And, unlike orthodox Christianity, he also elaborated on several 'eternal stages' of transformation of the unknowable Godhead into a creative God producing light and sound and love - before creation itself. Thus for Boehme, love is not so much an attribute of the Godhead but a development of the divine transforming itself ("the impress of nothing into something") into the fiery light and love that is the cause of creation.

   Raysson's article proceeds:

   "Throughout the ages, however dark they may seem, the Godman has existed on this dark sub-lunary planet holding the key to the inner kingdoms of God and to God Himself. Outwardly he may live an ordinary life as any other man, but inwardly he is an overflowing ocean of Love and Light. The sincere seekers who come to his feet in search of Truth never go away empty handed but also have a dip into that Light and they begin to hear the Mystic Music flowing throughout creation. The East has always more or less accepted the need for such sublime teachers, although the idea has generally been frowned upon in the West. Nevertheless the great ones have appeared even so for those few thirsty souls who were after the direct approach to God in their lifetime.

   One such soul was Jacob Boehme, a simple cobbler of Germany who came to revive for his age the forgotten teachings of Christ. Embedded deep in the Christ Power, his teachings came from the universal viewpoint; and while living strictly in the Lutheran faith all his life he nevertheless always maintained that the Kingdom of God was open to all humanity in whatsoever religion they belonged, be it Christian, Muslim, or Hindu.

   Life Sketch

   "There is a small market-town in the upper Lusatia called Old Seidenburg, distant from Gorlitz about a mile and a half, in which lived a man whose name was Jacob and his wife's name Ursula. People they were of the poorest sort, yet of sober and honest behavior. In the year 1575 they had a son whom they named Jacob. This was the divinely-illuminated Jacob Boehme, the Teutonic Theosopher, whom God raised up in the most proper period as to the chiliad and century to show the ground of the Mystery of nature and Grace and open the Wonders of his Wisdom." (1a)

   Thus begins the account of Boehme's life. His youth was spent in the fields as a simple herds-boy and when he came of age he became a cobbler's apprentice. One day when his cobbling master was away a stranger of "reverend and grave countenance but mean apparel" came to the shop and wished to buy a certain pair of shoes. Jacob, being barely above sweeping around the shop, knew nothing about the prices so he gave one so high that he knew his master would not be displeased if the man bought them. Nevertheless the poor stranger did buy them and just as he was about to leave the shop called Jacob by name to follow him. Completely surprised at such a stranger calling him so familiarly Jacob followed, quite awed. Alone with Jacob, the old man apparently imparted to him a remarkable spiritual experience. Then fixing his gaze deep into Jacob's eyes he said :

   " 'Jacob, thou art little but shalt be great and become another man, such a one as at whom the world shall wonder. Therefore be pious, fear God and reverence His Word. Read diligently the holy scriptures wherein you have comfort and instruction. For thou must endure much misery and poverty and suffer persecution. But be courageous and persevere for God loves and is gracious to thee'...And therewith pressing his hand he looked with a bright and sparkling eye fixed on his face and departed." (2)

   Thus passed perhaps the most important event of Boehme's life and he cultivated the lesson to its full flower. For days he would be bathed in the Mystic Light and inner music. At length he began to write a book as a private memorial to the inner life. Quite without his sanction the book came to public notice. The local clergy, afraid of the effect such universal teachings might have on their own congregation, brought on Jacob, as foretold, the beginning of a life-long persecution and it was Providence alone that prevented Jacob from living his life in exile. Boehme, who had never wished any public display in the first place, silenced his pen for seven long years. However the secret was out and the seekers began to flock to Boehme's door.

   Shunning the publicity, Jacob brought his practices to bloom, rising to yet higher planes and clearer vision. His pen began to flow again and he sang long and tirelessly the praises of the Mystic Word (the Divine Sound) and the glories of the inner life.

   The Prince of Saxony, hearing of Boehme's strange teachings, had him brought before a tribunal of the most learned men of the day in the studies of philosophy, divinity and mathematics, in order to put him to the test. After conferring with them for a time they all refused to pass any judgment, agreeing that what he showed them far surpassed any earthly reason they could judge him with. The Prince himself had Boehme spend many an hour with him. The many disciples that now congregated around Boehme came from all classes. Among them there were apparently a large group of noble family and scholarly background who sat at the shoemaker's humble feet to learn of the Mysteries of the beyond. One is vividly reminded of the great cobbler-saint of the East, Ravidas, around whom congregated many an earthly king and queen.

   One of Boehme's most intimate disciples was Dr. Walter, a Silesian who had traveled extensively in the East in search of a Master and returned unsuccessful only to find his search crowned at his own front door. In his later years Boehme came to have devotees at many a far clime. In order to better instruct these dear ones he laid down his cobbling tools and became a trader of cloth so he could travel to them in person. He invariably would instruct his disciples that while cultivating the inner life of the spirit they should outwardly keep up a normal life and earn an honest living.

   It was the custom then in Germany to keep autograph books in which all callers would leave some remembrance. In such books Boehme always would insert such verses as:

   "To whom Time and Eternity Harmoniously as One agree; His soul is safe, his life's amended, His battle's o'er, his strife is ended. Whose time and ever all are One, His soul's at rest, His warfare's done."

   At length the time came for this simple Godman to take his final leave of this frail human body. The family was congregated around the bed, and to his son Tobias who had failed to cultivate the inner lie he turned his head. Speaking of the inner Sound Current Boehme asked him if he heard "that sweet harmonious music." As all was outwardly quiet, young Tobias said he heard nothing. "Then open up the door," said Boehme, "that you may better hear."

   Boehme's simple existence was a perfect example of a godly life, living in the world but out of it. He always earned his living, however poor it may have been, by the sweat of his own brow; while keeping a normal family life he always reflected chastity and the highest virtues; despite great persecution he was always loving even to his enemies, although never timid in upholding the grand truth he had found by long inner practice. Lastly and most important of all his life and teachings were steeped in the effulgent Word, "the Divine Sound," ringing in the depths of the human body, without contacting which, he claimed, all outer churches and rituals and all good deeds were of no avail.

   His Teachings

   Mystical experience is a subject of infinite communion and any writings on the subject can only feebly reflect on the immeasurable vastness of the original experience. This and the alchemical metaphors in which Boehme often couched his writings has tended to make almost all the translators and commentators, themselves unversed in practical mystical experience, ignore the whole inner basis of his writings. Drawing away the dross of time and clearing the misinterpretations that have come down, the message sings forth in crystal clear tones (as have all Masters' past and present) of the Divine Sound and Light ringing and shining in the man body. Boehme describes this Divine principle in terms that leave no doubt of its true nature:

   "In the Light of God which is called the Kingdom of Heaven the Sound is wholly soft, pleasant, lovely, pure and thin, yea as a stillness in reference to our outward gross shrillness in our pronouncing, speaking, sounding, singing and chanting as if the mind did play and melodize in a Kingdom of Joy within itself, and did hear in a most entire inward manner such a sweet pleasing melody and tune and yet outwardly did neither hear or understand it. For in the Essence of Light all is subtle."

   "If you should in this world bring many thousand sorts of musical instruments together, and all should be tuned in the best manner most artificially, and the most skillful masters of music should play on them in concert together, all would be no more than the howlings and barkings of dogs in comparison of the Divine Music, which rises through the Divine Sound and tunes from Eternity to Eternity." (5)

   It is by this Divine Sound, Boehme tells us, that the soul is manifested, that all powers are moved and by which all of "man's science of knowledge of the invisible and visible essence" is made known and from that contemplation he himself learned everything. Man, says Boehme, has nothing more necessary or profitable in this lifetime than to know himself and then to know God of whom he is the same essence. And to do so one must come in contact with the Divine Light and Sound Principle in the human body. And Christ teaches the same (saying) "That His Light shineth in us."

   "All Christian Religion consisteth in this: to learn to know ourselves . . . Where will you seek God? In the deep above the stars? You will not find Him there. Seek Him in your Heart in the center of your birth." (6)

   "O! Thou blind mind full of darkness, the Heaven where God dwells is also in thee." (7)

   "Now go whither thou wilt, thou hast the center of the Deity in thee in the Sound." (8)

   So far so good...But alas, steeped in duality and identified with the outward things as we are, we find it well-nigh impossible to contact this Divine Principle which holds the "Open Sesame" to the inner kingdoms. For this contact we need a true teacher or Master of this science, one who (like Boehme himself) is already centered in the Godhead and through whom the Godpower works:

   "And man wants nothing but the wise Master that can strike his Instrument which is the true spirit of the high might of eternity. If that be quickened in man, that it stirs and acts in the center of the mind, then it plays on the instrument of the human form and even then the form is uttered with the Sound in the Word."

   "Now the Father is manifested to us in the Son; and when they now do call upon the Father, He hears them only in His Son, viz. in His Voice manifest in the human property. And yet they serve the Son in the Father...For the Father has manifested Himself toward us with His Voice in the Son." (10)

   And the Son works through and for all (no matter what religion).

   "Now when the Turks worship the Father, He hears them in the Son, and receives them to adoption in the Son, in whom God has manifested Himself in the human property and in no other property besides." (11)

   "So God has sent His officer, viz., His Holy Word by His servant in the world to the true man... and He causes His servants to sit down by the Fountain of His Holy Word with command that they should in their ofice and charge committed to them call upon God and pray and teach His Word till God draws the virgin's Heart and brings her to the Fountain of His Word to draw water out of the well-spring of God's Word." (12)

   Such a teacher, says Boehme, will not merely teach out of the outward letter, but from the Love and Light of Divine knowledge which flows out of His every pore; the Spirit of God speaks through him and his tongue is filled with the essence of the five divine Names. He speaks without regard for a man's personality, for he sees the inner man and is free from the hold of mind. He is God-in-him and he enlivens the God-in- us.

   "And therefore God became man that He might again repair His Glorious Instrument which He had made for His praise, which perished as to Him and would not sound according to the desire of His Joy and Love and introduce again the true Love-Sound into the strings. He has introduced the Voice which sounds in His Presence again into us, viz., into His Instrument. He is become that which I am and made me that which he is." (I3)

   In a very rare statement Boehme tells us of his attainment of at-one-ment with God and even goes on further to unequivocally state that what Jesus had done in his ministry, he in his lifetime was also doing and so also was that work being continued by his "fellowmembers" :

   "Whatever Jesus has done through the Christ, viz., through his and my humanity, the same he does yet today in me and in all my Fellow-Members...Thus now I live in God and my selfhood does not know it."

   Having found such a Master the secrets of the "Mysterium Magnum" or great mystery are revealed both in theory and practice and one begins to journey to inner regions. The Masters speak of the inner realms as containing a vast network of planes of differing degrees of spirituality leading up to the pure spiritual region from whence the Masters themselves have come. The traversing of these inner realms is a most subtle and tricky undertaking and thus there is all the more need of'a Guide who knows the Way from beginning to end. Boehme through long devotion and discipline had mastered this inner science and become an adept. He was a knower of the inner regions and the True Home and in his own words gives revelations of his experiences. Sometimes he conceals himself in alchemical language and at other times he speaks of the inner regions in the Christian idiom, speaking of the different Angelical kingdoms and principalities and describing the inner music as it changed from region to region in terms of changing angelical choirs. As the Saints always speak from an exalted viewpoint Boehme never failed to emphasize that all the inner planes were but different degrees of the One Divine Word or Sound, the Voice of God:

   "For all whatsoever has life, liveth in the Speaking Word, the Angels in the Eternal Speaking and the temporal spirits in the re-expression or echoing forth of the formings of time, out of the sound or breath of Time and the angels out of the Sound of Eternity, viz., out of the Voice of the Manifested Word of God. And therefore they bear the Names of the several Degrees in the Manifested Voice of God. And one Degree is more holy in the Power than another. Therefore the angels also in their Choirs are diflerenced in the Power of the Divine Might. And one has a more holy function to discharge than another."

   The Masters of the highest order generally speak of five principal manifestations of the Sound Current, forming five main planes of creation, speaking of the five-sounded Word or the five Holy Names, etc. Boehme, likewise, tells of the five holy Speeches, five head Speeches, five Names, etc., in a most revealing way:

   "These FIVE Names figure out and set forth as in a type the FIVE HEAD SPEECHES of the spiritual Tongue through the formed Word, proceeding from the high NAME of God out of which Tongues the prophetical and apostolical spirit speaks...For the spirit does also under the Names point at the Kingdoms and Dominions, and they are God's, who with His Name does order, govern, guide and lead every kingdom according to the property of His Name...Not that there is more than ONE God, only we understand therein the Divine Manifestation, how God gives Himself forth in His manifestation in the formed Word."

   "Through the five holy Speeches proceeding from the Eye of Eternity the spirit in the formed Word of nature speaks holy divine words in the children of the Saints." (17)

   "The five Speeches belong to the Spirit of God who speaks by His Children when and how He pleases." (18)

   Of course it is to the highest region, the region of pure spirit or Love, that the Masters wish to take us. It is the origin and essence of all creation. Boehme calls it the "Principle of all principles" being far above the Heavens and angelical kingdoms :

   "Its Power supports the Heavens; by this thou wilt come to understand that as the Heavens, visible and invisible, are originated from this great Principle, so are they likewise necessarily sustained by it. And therefore if this should be but never so little withdrawn all the Lights, glories, beauties and forms of the heavenly worlds would presently sink into darkness and chaos."

   "Its height is higher than the highest heavens. This thou mayest also understand within thyself. For shouldest thou ascend in spirit through all the Orders of the Angels and Heavenly Powers, yet the Power of Love still is undeniably superior to them all." (20)

   "It is higher than the highest and greater than the greatest. Thou mayest hereby perceive as in a glimpse the supreme height and greatness of OMNIPOTENT LOVE which infinitely transcends all that human sense and reason can reach to." (21)

   "Whoever finds it, finds nothing and All things...He that findeth it findeth a supernatural supersensual Abyss which hath no ground or byss to stand on and where there is no place to dwell in, and he findeth also nothing is like unto it." (22)

   There is a secret gate, the seat of the soul in the human body, where one begins the inner journey to these higher realms. It is the Master alone who can bring us in contact and open up this grand gateway which lies behind and between the two outward eyes. Here the inner music begins to resound and one sees the light:

   "Behold here you find the beginning of the Life and the tincture wherein the Life exist...the breaking open of the dark gate stands in the Sounding and has its gate open next the fire-flash near the eyes and receives the noise of whatsoever sounds."

   This gateway Boehme calls "the single eye." Other Masters have called it the third eye, latent eye, etc. And all of them have enjoined meditation upon this point to begin the Way back to God. Here "through a pillar of fire and Thunder-clouds" the inner way opens up and one awakens into the "Supersensual Life." Boehme clearly reveals his method of inner concentration where by single-pointed attention the inner goal is reached:

   "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 in Christ 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 center 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 achieve the single-pointed inner vision to proceed on the inner Way is indeed a great and arduous task for our vision has long been bound and darkened by duality. Man's heart is broken in a million pieces and he finds no real peace or rest in all the world. True rest and peace and all bliss lies in the Light of God which we must make our true lord.

   There are now two wills in the soul of man...Boehme spoke of them as the Will of Time and the Will of Eternity, the "Inferior and Superior Will." To put these in proper order and transform them into Unity is the first great work of man in reaching back to God:

   "A thing that is one that has one only will contends not against itself but where there are many wills in a thing they become contending for each would go its own conceived way...and thus we give you to understand life's contrariety, for life consists of many wills...the life of man is at enmity with itself. Each form is hostile to the other, and not only in man but in all creatures. Unless the forms of life obtain a gentle, gracious lord under whose control they must be, then who can break their might and will. That is found in the Light of Life, which is the Lord of all forms, and can subdue them all. They must all give their will to the Light. And they do it gladly for the Light gives them gentleness and power so that their harsh, stern, bitter, anguishful forms are transformed into loveliness. They all give their will to the Light of Life and the Light gives them gentleness. Plurality is thus transformed into Unity, into One Will. God's Kingdom is found only in the bright clear light, in freedom, in love, in gentleness; for that is the property of the white clear light."

   "Know then, my beloved son, that if thou wilt keep the light of nature within its own proper bounds and make use thereof in just subordination to the Light of God thou must consider that there are in thy soul two Wills, inferior Will which is for drawing thee to things without and below and a Superior Will which is for drawing to things within and above. These two Wills are now set together, as it were back to back, and in a direct contrariety to each other. But in the beginning it was not so, for this contraposition of the soul in these two is no more than the effect of the fallen state. Before that they were placed one under the other - the Superior Will above, as the Lord, and the Inferior below, as the subject." (26)

   "Mark now what I say: the right eye looketh forward in thee into Eternity. The left eye looketh backward in thee into time. If now thou sufferest thyself to be always looking into nature and the things of time and to be leading the Will and to be seeking somewhat for itself in the Desire, it will be impossible for thee ever to arrive at the Unity which thou wishest for. Remember this and be upon thy watch." (27)

   "Both these eyes therefore must be made to unite by a concentration of rays, there being nothing more dangeyous than for the mind to abide thus in the duplicity." (28)

   Thus, Boehme spoke from the most Universal standpoint. Seeing the Godhood in all he loved all mankind:

   "As a tree in many boughs and branches where the boughs and twigs do not perfectly and wholly seem alike or the same in form, but all have one only sap and virtue; so likewise is the creature of mankind among Jews, Christians, Turks and heathen."

   **End of Raysson article**

   Jacob Boehme was no doubt a competent and advanced mystic. Yet, one may conclude that, either because of constraints and intellectual limitations of his orthodox Christian conditioning, or from not having undergone a liberating process of philosophic discipline (much like that which was the case for St. John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, and other European mystics), his mind (outwardly at least) would not speak of any other God-sent vehicle of salvation than that of Jesus. But of course, there was always the possibility that he, like St. John and Meister Eckhart, made a show of fealty to Christ to save himself from the inquisitors of the Church. For this reason their inner teachings were likely outwardly limited by the nature of the times they lived in. On the other hand, Boehme never tired of explaining that Christ was not just a historical person, but an inward principle - the Logos or Word - that one could commune with, and for this, and other, more unjustified reasons, he suffered persecution and was even labelled the' Antichrist' !

   A recent post from Sikh sources claims to have discovered evidence that Guru Nanak ('Nanac'), sometimes considered the most modern source for the path of Sant Mat, in addition to his famous historical journeys throughout Asia may have also traveled to Europe and met the Pope. If true, some have then speculated that Nanak may have been that "mysterious oriental stranger dressed in a robe" who initiated Boehme as a boy. The latter's subsequent teachings about 'five regions' and 'five sounds', etc., is certainly similar if not identical to what Nanak taught.

   Boehme, after extolling the glory of communing with the Eternal Word or Music and Spirit of God through inner meditation, practicing "holy abstraction and ceasing from self-thinking and self-willing", nevertheless, in The Way to Christ, Treatise Eight, in a way guaranteed to raise the hair on the back of ones neck, wrote of pain, fear and desolation on this path. We do not know if this excerpt reflects a revelation Boehme had before or after his final attainment. It is included here, however, to show that he did recognize the depth of the vissicitudes on the path of mysticism, and was not averse to expressing them so explicitly as he does here:

   "The soul's will groaned for God but the outgoing senses that were to press into God were scattered and were not able to reach the power of God. This frightened the poor soul still more in that it could not bring its desire to God, so it began to pray more strongly. But the devil in his desire...awakened the evil characteristics so that false inclinations rose up and went in where they had earlier found happiness."
   "The poor soul wished to go to God with its will, and was in much anguish, but its thoughts all fled from God to earthly things, and did not want to go to God. The soul groaned and cried to God, but it appeared to it that it had been completely cast out from before God's face, as if it could not gain one glance of grace, and stood in vain anguish as well as great fear and dread."
   "The soul, yearned only for the first fatherland from which it originally came, yet it found itself far away from it, in great rejection and misery, and it did not know what to do. It thought it would enter into itself to pray more fervently, but the devil came into it and held it so that it might not enter greater inclination and repentance."
   "The devil awoke earthly lust in its heart so that these inclinations upheld their false natural rights and defended themselves against the soul's will and desires because they did not wish to die to their own will and lust but to keep their temporal pleasure and they held the poor soul captive in their false desire so that it could not awaken itself no matter how much it groaned and sighed for God's grace."
   "Your ability is completely gone, even as a dry twig cannot gain sap and sprout by its own ability so that it might enjoy itself again among the trees, likewise you cannot reach God by your own abilities; you cannot change yourself into your first angelic form, for you are dry and dead to God as a twig without life or sap. You are only an anxious and dry hunger."
   "And as it stood in such groans and tears it was drawn to the abyss of horror as if it stood before hell's gate and was to perish immediately...in such concern it began to sigh inwardly and to cry to the mercy of God. And then it began to sink itself into the purest mercy of God..."
   " [But] the divine light..grew faint and only glimmered in the internal ground as a mould-fire so that reason saw itself as foolish and abandoned. It did not know how this happened, or if it was really true that it had tasted of the divine light of grace; yet it could not stop from thinking this...
   "The reason of its will was broken and the evil inherited inclinations were more and more killed and this caused much pain to the nature of the body making it weak and sick, yet this was not a natural illness but a melancholy of the earthly nature of the body. Thus the false lusts were broken."

   This is an extreme example of what St. John would refer to as the passive night of the Spirit, in which a higher power takes an active hand in the final purificatory work on the soul. It is distinctive because St. John had said that what he wrote of the 'night of sense' (in Ascent of Mt. Carmel, and the first half of The Dark Night of the Soul) was quite commonly available in other writings, but that very little had been written or even experienced of this second 'night of the Spirit'. That Boehme would have written in such a drastic and heart-wrenching manner is, then, likely to have been from his own direct experience. [See the article,"The Deeper Meaning of the Dark Night of the Soul" on this website for an in-depth study of this phenomenon].

   One final point. Paul Brunton wrote:

   "In a dozen different places Jacob Boehme declares that his wonderful illumination was a gift of Grace and that he had done nothing to deserve it. Although in a few other places he balanced this declaration with the idea that he was being used as a serving vessel from which others could draw the teaching given him, the fact remains that he did not aspire to be the recipient of a revelation and was astounded when it came." (30)

   We mention this because many will point to such remarks taken in isolation as evidence that anybody can attain to such a revelation without effort, or that it is just a random act of grace. We think neither of these are true, and that such an experience, when it is a full realization and not just a mystic glimpse, is a sign of attainment through effort in previous lifetimes that only appeared to be effortless in this one. It is common for one to recapitulate the degree of attainment one had already reached by the time one reaches maturity. Thus one is experiencing not a first 'awakening' but a 're-awakening'. Re-awakenings are seemingly easy, but not a first awakening, which requires work on oneself. The quality of this 'awakening' often has the characteristic of the feeling 'that one was always already realized'. You were already thus far realized - in your last life. (31)

   Brunton was perhaps somewhat misleading, then, in suggesting the total spontaneity and surprising nature of Boehme's awakenings. Boehme in fact is said to have had a natural mystical ability as a child, and then a series of illuminations over a period of years, to wit: the first, as a teenager, after meeting the aforementioned mysterious man; the second at age twenty-five, where he became able to penetrate to the soul of nature at all times; and a final and surpassing one at age thirty-seen where a fullness of deeper mysteries was revealed. He went on to write thirty books, among them "Aurora," "The Three Principles of Divine Being," "The Threefold Life of Man," "The Incarnation of Jesus Christ," "The Six Theosophical Points," "The Book of Terrestrial and Celestial Mysteries," "Biblical Calculation Regarding the Duration of the World," "The Four Complexions," his "Defence;" the book about "The Generation and Signature of all Beings," of "True Repentance," "True Regeneration," "The Supersensual Life," "Regeneration and Divine Contemplation," "The Selection of Grace," "Holy Baptism," "Holy Communion," "Discourse between an Enlightened and an Unilluminated Soul," an essay on "Prayer," "Tables of the Three Principles of Divine Manifestation," "Key to the most Prominent Points," "One Hundred and Seventy-Seven Theosophical Questions," "Theosophical Letters," and had an influence on many German philosophers and theologians. He did not see Christ as only a historical person, but as a principle - The Word - that one could commune with and realize. While his teaching might be characterized as an ascended one, with the Spirit and the world at opposite poles, he seems to have had an uncommon ability to ground the realization of Spirit in life in the world.

   [To be continued: section on his unorthodox Christian metaphysics, with three principles and seven properties; how for Boehme the light and sound came into existence only after the Godhead transforms itself into a triune God that is Love, which is itself then cause of all creation that follows]

   Not an acetic or monk, Boehme was married for thirty years and had four sons, each of whom became a cobbler by trade. For a broader, more detailed biography, and extensive overview of his teachings, see Franz Hartzman, The Life and Doctrines of Jacob Boehme.

   Boehme often wrote with an alchemical/theosophical perspective:

   "The spirit of man is rooted in God; the soul of man in the angelic world. The spirit is divine, the soul angelic. The body of man is rooted in the material plane; it is of an earthly nature. The pure body is a Salt; the soul a Fire; the spirit is Light. Spirit and soul have been eternally in God and breathed by God into a pure body. This pure body is a precious treasure hidden within the rock. It is contained in matter doomed to perish; but it is neither material nor mortal itself. It is the immortal body spoken of by St. Paul. These things are mysterious, sealed with the seal of the Spirit, and he who desires to know them must be in possession of the Spirit of God. It is this Spirit that illuminates those minds who are His own, and wherever it is to be found, there will the eagles - the souls and the spirits -collect. No animal man, living according to his sensual attractions and animal reasoning, will understand it; because it is above the reach of the senses, and above the reach of the semi-animal intellect; it belongs to the holy mountain of God, and the animal touching that mountain must die. Even the sanctified soul rising up to that mountain must bare her feet and leave behind that which is attached to her as a creature. She must forget her personality, and not know whether she is in or out of the body. God knows it. These things are sacred.” (32)


   "I am not collecting my knowledge from letters and books, but I have it within my own self; because heaven and earth with all their inhabitants, and moreover, God Himself, is in man." (33)

   "The spirit of man has not merely come from the stars and the elements, but there is hidden within him a spark of the light and the power of God. It is not empty talk if Moses (Genesis i.) says God created man in His own image. To be His own image created He him." (34)

   "The soul searches into the Godhead, and also into the depths of nature; for she has her fountain and origin in the whole of the divine Being." (35)

   "As the eye of man reaches the stars wherefrom it has its primitive origin, likewise the soul penetrates and sees even within the divine state of being wherein she lives." (36)


1. Jacob Boehme, Apology, Tilken, ii. 72
1a. William Law, trans: THE WORKS OF JACOB BOEHME, in four volumes, London, 1764-1781, Vol. I, The Life of Jacob Boehme, p. xii
2. Ibid, p. xiii
3. Ibid, p. xxii
4. Ibid, Vol. III, Mysterium Magnum (a commentary on Genesis in three parts) Part I, p. 22
5. Ibid, Vol. I, The Aurora (The "Dawning of the Red Rising Sun"), p. 43
6. Ibid, Vol. IV, The Way to Christ: Of Regeneration, p. 67
7. Ibid, Vol. I, The Three Principles of the Divine Essence, p. 158
8. Ibid, Vol. 11, Treatise of the Incarnation, Part II, p. 130
9. Ibid, Vol. IV, Signatura Rerum ("The Signature of All Things"), p. 10
10. Ibid, Vol. III, Mysterium Magnum, Part II, p. 235
11. Ibid
12. Ibid, p. 299
13. Ibid, Vol. IV , Signatura Rerurn, p. 99
14. Ibid
15. Ibid., Vol. III, Mysterium Magnum, Part I, pp. 34-35
16. Ibid., p. 193-4
17. Ibid., p. 189
18. Ibid
19. Ibid., Vol. IV, Of the Supersensual Life (dialogues between a Master and his disciple) Dialogue I, p. 84
20. Ibid, pp. 84-5
21. Ibid, p. 85
22. Ibid
23. Ibid, Vol. I, The Three Principles of the Divine Essence, p. 134
24. Ibid, Vol. IV, Of the Supersensual Life, Dialogue II, p. 89
25. Six Theosophical Points
26. Law, op. cit., Vol. IV, Of the Supersensual Life, Dialogue II, pp. 89-9
27. Ibid, p. 90
28. Ibid
29. Ibid, Vol. III, Mysterium Magnum, Part I , p. 203
30. Notebooks Category 18: The Reverential Life > Chapter 5: Grace > # 264

31. Another aspect of true awakenings is the intuitive feeling that there is 'no-self'. This basically means that one has realized something beyond the mind or egoic identity. However, this may have a number of levels and not, in fact, be the ultimate, although that is commonly asserted. A theosophical interpretation for this might be as follows. We recognize that this discussion goes a bit off topic.

   The quality of 'no I', or perhaps, 'no separate I', may reflect, not the Buddhist anatta, or atman, but the level of causal consciousness, which in modern esotericism is sometimes referred to as 'enlightenment', and is briefly summarized as the transcendance of identification with the lower three bodies (physical, astral, mental) - i.e., the 'lower triad' in theosophy, or the total personality - hence the feeling that there is no 'I' that one can presently identify with. This is also technically marked by the union of the lesser causal body (or the portion of the causal body - the 'field' of consciousness - that incarnates) with the greater causal body (sometimes referred to as the 'soul', and in which the incarnating monad rests between lifetimes). In esotericism this is known as the 3rd 'initiation' (initiation signifying a transformation of consciousness). It is a formless, intuitive realization which grants a continuity of consciousness between incarnations, and is a marked advance, the 'beginning of the end of duality', one could say. In fact, many esotericists would maintain that the level of attainment expressed by many mystics pertains to this very level, and not to the absolute as they often feel or assert. It is followed by a 4th initiation where one rises to the buddhic unity plane, more complete identification with the upper triad (higher mental/causal-buddhi-atma) and 'graduates' from the human (4th) to the 5th kingdom, which, very briefly stated, has many more advanced spiritual stages (i.e., relating to the 'Spirit', or transcendental ray of Consciousness, prior to its passage through the archtypal Idea of Man becoming an individualized human soul). But even the 3rd stage is a profound realization and can seem indistinguishable from ultimate enlightenment to the uninformed or inexperienced. This is a quite common misconception today. [For more on these archtypal stages see "The Depths of This Thing" on this website].

   Thus, esoteric researcher Lee Bladon summarizes, in his book, The Science of Spirituality:

   “Causal consciousness is radically different from anything a normal person has ever experienced, and is characterized by a feeling of unity and identification with everyone and everything in the entire world. A number of books by enlightened authors describe this [as a nondualistic] state of being where the “I” disappears. The authors usually prortray their own enlightenment as a sudden awakening or realisation that they were already enlightened. This tells me that they initially attained enlightenment in a previous incarnation and merely re-attained it in this life. Some mistakenly asume that anyone can instantly awaken just like they did. which misleads people into believing that enlightenment is merely an act of letting go, and does not involve “working on yourself”. This is exactly how it works with re-enlightenment, but not with initial enlightenment. You cannot become enlightened unless your monad is in the 3.7 atom (or above), and getting there requires many lifetimes of persistent effort. Most of these books only describe embryonic development of objective causal consciousness.” (Lee Bladon, The Science of Spirituality: Integrating Science, Psychology, Philosophy, Spirituality, and Religion, 2007, p. 124)

   Without getting even more technical (for which we apogize for already teasing the reader), Bladon is here building on the work of theosophist de Laurency, in referring to the highest subplane ‘atom’ of the mental or causal body as becoming the focus, in the upper or ‘soul’ triad of atma-buddhi-manas, of the monad as it develops out of mental consciousness. There is an actual molecular shift, as it were, in the conscious focus in one’s subtle bodies. The first six subplanes of each plane, in theosophical teachings, are composed of ‘molecules’ of varying densities of primal atoms of energy-consciousness-matter (not to be equated with the concept of’physical matter’ in traditional science, but rather 'atoms' in the sense of the smallest particles of 'existence'), while the seventh or transitional subplane is composed of atoms only. As our subtle bodies are composed of molecules and not atoms there is said to therefore be a period of unconscious swoon between transition from one plane to another, such as in sleep or after death. When the two parts of the causal body finally consciously unite, it is akin to a concept in the teachings of Paul Brunton, where he said (although perhaps not intentionally with the same meaning), “when one’s mental eyes are open to truth, they can never be closed again.” The next stage is when the center for the monad moves up to the 4.7 atom, which for Bladon is the unity plane - another name for buddhic consciousness. And then there are higher levels - spiritual, divine, and monadic - ‘beyond’ the human kingdom, essentially representing deeper realizations of sahaj samadhi. [This discussion has come far afield from that of Jacob Boehme! Therefore we will leave the reader to peruse Bladon’s book for more information on this particular way of looking at things. We are not saying it is the only way to do so.]

32. Franz Hartman, , 1891
33. Boehme, op. cit., Tilken. ii. 297
34. Boehme, Aurora, Preface, 96
35. Ibid, 98
36. Ibid, 99