Jacob Böhme

in the year 1620

that the person of Christ, as well as his incarnation, cannot be known by the natural understanding or the letter of the holy scripture, without divine illumination. item, of the origin of the eternal divine being

1. WHEN Christ asked his disciples: Whom do men say that the Son of man is? they said: Some say that thou art Elias, some that thou art John the baptist or one of the prophets. He said to them But whom say ye that I am? Then answered Simon Peter and said: Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him: Of a truth flesh and blood hath not revealed this unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. Thereafter he announced to them his sufferings, death and resurrection (Matt. xvi. 13-21). By this he meant to indicate that individual reason in the knowledge and wisdom of this world could not in its own reason know or comprehend the person who was God and man; but that he would be known rightly only of those who would give themselves up wholly to him, and for his Name would endure the cross, tribulation and persecution, and would cleave with earnestness to him. And such in fact was the case, so that he, while yet living visibly among us in this world, was known in least measure by the wise in reason. And though he walked in Divine wonders, yet outward reason was so blind and foolish that those great wonders or miracles were attributed by the wisest in the art of reason to the devil. And as at the time when he lived visibly in this world, he remained unknown of individual reason and knowledge, so he is and remains even now unrecognized and unknown of outward reason.

2. From thence has arisen so much wrangling and dispute about his person, as outward reason always believed it fathomed what God and man is, and how God and man can be one person. This dispute has filled the earth, for individual reason always supposed it had grasped the pearl, and did not reflect that God's kingdom is not of this world and that flesh and blood cannot know or comprehend it, much less fathom it.

3. Accordingly it behoves everyone who would speak of the Divine mysteries or teach them, that he have the Spirit of God, and that he know in the Divine light what he would give out as true; and not suck it from his own reason, nor take his stand upon the mere letter without Divine knowledge and drag in Scripture by the hair, as reason does. Wherefrom a great deal of error has arisen, because men have sought for Divine knowledge in their own understanding and art, and have thus passed from the truth of God into individual reason, and regarded the incarnation of Christ as something strange and remote, whereas we must all be born again of God in this incarnation, if we will escape the wrath of the Eternal Nature.

4. Seeing then it is for the children of God an intimate and indigenous work, with which they should daily and hourly be occupied, and enter continually into the incarnation of Christ, go out from the earthly reason, and thus during this life of sorrow be born in the birth and incarnation of Christ, if they wish to be God's children in Christ: I have proposed to write this high mystery according to my knowledge and gifts, for a memorial, in order that I may thus have an occasion to recreate and to refresh myself cordially with my Immanuel,-for I am also along with other children of Christ in this birth,-that I might have a memorial and support, in case the dark and earthly flesh and blood would put upon me the poison of the devil and obscure my image. I proposed it as an exercise of faith, whereby my soul may thus, as a twig in its tree Jesus Christ, refresh itself from his sap and power. And this, not with sage and high discourses of art, or springing from the reason of this world, but according to the knowledge that I have of my tree which is Christ, that my twig also may bud and grow beside others in the tree and life of God. And though I ground highly and deeply, and shall expound it clearly, this nevertheless must be told the reader, that without the spirit of God it will be to him a mystery, and unapprehended. Therefore let everyone take heed what judgment he passes, lest he fall into the judgment of God and be seized by his own turba, and his own reason overthrow him. This I say from a good intent and affection, and give it to the reader to consider of.

5. If we will write of the incarnation and birth of Jesus Christ the Son of God, and speak of it correctly, we must reflect upon the cause, and consider what moved God to become man, seeing that He was not in need of this for the realization of his being. And it can by no means be said that God's own being was changed in the incarnation. For God is un changeable, and yet has become what He was not; but his proprium has at the same time remained immutable. It was only for the sake of the salvation of fallen man, that He might bring him again into Paradise. And here we are to consider the first man, as to how he was before his fall, on account of which the Deity has put itself in motion.

6. We know what Moses says, that God created man in his likeness, in an image according to him (Gen. i. 27). Understand, then, that God, who is a Spirit, beheld himself in an image, as in a likeness. Not the less has he created also this world, that thus he might manifest the Eternal Nature in essence and substance as well as in living creatures and figures, that all this might be a likeness and outbirth from the Eternal Nature of the first Principle. Which likeness, before the times of the world, stood in the wisdom of God as a hidden magia, and was seen in the wisdom by the Spirit of God, who at the beginning of this world moved the Eternal Nature and brought forth and disclosed the likeness of the hidden divine world. For the fiery world was just as if swallowed up and hidden in the light of God, the light of Majesty ruling alone in itself. We are not, however, to think that the fiery world existed not. It did exist; but it separated into its own principle, and was not manifest in the light of God's Majesty. As we may conceive of this in fire and light, that fire is indeed a cause of light, and the light dwells in the fire, but without being laid hold of by it, and has another life than the fire. For fire is fierceness and consumes, and light is gentleness, and from its power arises substantiality, as the water or sulphur of a thing, which the fire draws into itself and uses for its strength and life, and thus forms an eternal bond.

7. This fire and divine light have from eternity stood still in themselves, each in its order, in its principle, and have neither ground nor beginning. For the fire has in itself its own form for its source, namely Desire, from and in which all the forms of nature are generated, one being a cause of another, as has been told in detail in the other writings. And we find in the light of nature that the fire in its own essence, in the sour desiring source in itself, was a darkness, and was as if swallowed up in the gentleness of God, without enkindling; and though it burned, yet as a special principle of its own was in itself only perceptible. For there have been from eternity only two principles: one in itself, the fiery world, and the other similarly in itself, the lightflaming world; although they were not separated, as fire and light are not separated, the light dwelling in the fire, without being laid hold of by it.

8. We are thus to understand two kinds of spirit united in one another, namely, a fiery spirit, in conformity with the essence of the sour and severe nature proceeding from the hot and cold fierce essential fire, which is regarded as God's spirit of wrath, and belongs to the Father's property, according to which he calls himself an angry, jealous God and a consuming fire, whereby is understood the first Principle. And, secondly, a gentle light-flaming spirit, which from eternity receives its transformation in the centre of the light; for in the first Principle, in the Father's property, it is a fiery spirit, and in the second Principle, in the light, a gentle light-flaming spirit, which from eternity is generated in this way, and is one, not two. But it is understood in a twofold source, viz. in fire and light according to the property of each source, as may be understood sufficiently in any outward fire, that the fire's source gives a fierce consuming spirit, and the light's source furnishes a gentle lovely spirit, and yet originally there is but one spirit.

9. In like manner we are to consider of the Being of eternity or the Holy Trinity, which in the light of Majesty we recognize to be the Deity, and in the fire to be the Eternal Nature. For the all-powerful Spirit of God with the two Principles has from eternity been itself All; there is nothing prior to it, it is itself the ground and unground. And yet the holy divine Being is regarded specially as a single existence in itself, and dwells out of the fiery nature and property in the light's property, and is called God; not from the fire's property, but from the light's property, though the two properties are unseparated. As we see in this world, that a hidden fire lies concealed in the deep of nature and in all beings, else no outward fire could be produced. And we see how the gentleness of the water keeps this hidden fire imprisoned in itself, so that it cannot be revealed; for it is as it were swallowed up in the water, and nevertheless is, not indeed substantially but essentially, and at its awakening comes to be known and qualifying; and all were a nothing and a groundlessness without fire.

10. Thus, we understand also that the third Principle, or the source and the spirit of this world, has from eternity been hidden in the Eternal Nature of the Father's property, and was seen by the lightflaming Spirit in the holy Magia, in God's wisdom and the divine tincture. Consequently the Deity has moved itself according to the nature of the genetrix, and brought forth the great mystery, wherein lay all that the Eternal Nature can do. It was, however, only a mysterium, and resembled no creature, but there was in it everything as in a chaos together. The fierce wrathful nature has generated a dark chaos, and the light-flaming nature in its proprium has generated flames in the Majesty and the gentleness, which from eternity has been the water-fountain and cause of the holy divine essentiality. It was power and spirit only, without parallel, nor was anything discerned there but the Spirit of God in a twofold source and form, viz. the hot and cold severe source of fire, and the gentle source of love, after the manner of fire and light.

11. This has like a mystery entered one into the other, and yet one has not comprehended the other, but has at the same time remained in two principles. Here then the sourness or the father of nature has always seized the essence in the mystery, where this then has been formed as it were into an image, and yet there was no image, but as a shadow of an image. All this in the mystery has indeed thus always had an eternal beginning, as it cannot be said that something has arisen which has not had its figure as a shadow in the great eternal Magia; but there was no being, but only a spiritual play one in another, and it is the Magia of the great wonders of God, where always there has been origination where

there was nothing but an ungrounded existence. This nothing has in the nature of the fire and the light advanced into a ground, and yet issues from nothing but the spirit of the source, which is not a being either, but a source which gives birth to itself in itself in two properties, and likewise separates into two principles. It has no separator or maker, nor any cause of its own creativeness, but is itself the cause.

12. Thus, we are now able to recognize the creation of this world, including both the creation of angels, and also of man and all creatures. It has all been created out of the great mystery. For the third Principle stood before God as a magia, and was not made wholly manifest. Hence God has not had any likeness, in which he might have beheld his own being, but the wisdom only. That has been his longing, and was there in his will with his spirit as a great wonder in the light-flaming divine magia of the Spirit of God. For it was the dwelling of the Spirit of God, and was not a genetrix, but the revelation of God, a virgin, and a cause of the divine essentiality, for in it lay the light-flaming divine tincture for the heart of God, as for the Word of life of the Deity, and it was the revelation of the Holy Trinity. Not that it has manifested God by its own power and productivity, but the divine centre, viz. God's heart or being, manifests itself in it. It is like a mirror of the Deity; for every mirror keeps still and produces no image, but it receives the image. Accordingly this virgin of wisdom is a mirror of the Deity, in which the Spirit of God beholds itself, as well as all the wonders of the magia, which have come into being with the creation of the third Principle. All has been created from the great mystery, and this virgin of the wisdom of God stood in the mystery, and in it has the Spirit of God seen the forms of the creatures. For it is that which is uttered, what the Father utters by the Holy Spirit out of his centre of the light-flaming divine property, out of the centre of his heart, out of the Word of the Deity. It stands before the Deity as a reflection or mirror of the Deity, wherein the Deity beholds itself, and in it lies the divine kingdom of joy of the divine will, i.e. the great wonders of eternity, which have neither beginning nor end, nor number, but all is an eternal beginning and an eternal end, and together resembles an eye which sees, where however there is nothing in the seeing, and yet the seeing does spring from the essence of the fire and light.

13. Thus, understand in the fire's essence the Father's proprium and the first Principle, and in the light's source and property the Son's nature or the second Principle, and the ruling Spirit which proceeds from these two properties understand as the Spirit of God, which in the first Principle is wrathful, severe, sour, bitter, cold and fiery, and is the impelling spirit in the wrath. And therefore it rests not in the wrath and fierceness, but goes forth and blows up the essential fire, uniting itself again to the essence of the fire, for the fiery essences draw it again into themselves, as it is their source and life; and again in the enkindled fire in the light it proceeds from the Father and Son, and reveals the fiery essences in the source of the light, whereby the fiery essences burn in a great desire of love, and the rigorous austere source is not known in the source of the light, so that the severity of the fire is only a cause of the light-flaming majesty and the desiring love.

14. And thus we are to understand the Being of the Deity and also of the Eternal Nature. And we understand always the divine Being in the light of majesty, for the gentle light makes the Father's severe nature gentle, lovely and merciful, by which God is called a Father of mercy in accordance with his heart or Son. For the Father's proprium stands in fire and in light. He is himself the Being of all beings. He is the unground and the ground, and in the eternal birth divides into three properties, or into three persons, or into three principles, although in eternity there are but two in being, and the third is as a mirror of the first two, from which this world has been created as a palpable existence in a beginning and end.