The Confessions of Jacob Boehme, by Jacob Boehme, ed. W. Scott Palmer , at sacred-texts.com
ALL sorrow, anguish, and fear concerning spiritual things, whereby a man is dejected and terrified in himself, proceedeth from the soul. The outward spirit, which is from the stars and elements, is not thus disturbed and perplexed; because it liveth in its own matrix from which it had its birth. But the poor soul is entered into a strange lodging, into the spirit of this world, which is not its proper home. Whereby that fair creature is obscured and defaced, and is also held captive therein, as in a dark dungeon.
The soul is in its first being a magical fire-source from God's nature. It is an intense and incessant desire after the divine Light.
So then, the soul, being of itself a hungry magical fire-spirit, desireth spiritual virtue in order to sustain and preserve thereby its fire-life and allay the hunger of its source.
But seeing that the hungry soul, from the mother's womb, is involved in the spirit of the great world and its own temperament; therefore it feedeth, immediately from its birth, yea, even in the mother's womb, of the spirit of this world. The soul eateth spiritual food according to its temperament; it is the kindling of its fire. The fuel of its fire must be either its temperament or a divine sustenance from God.
Hence we may understand the cause of that infinite variety which there is in the wills and actions of men. Of whatever the soul eateth, wherewith its fire-life is fed, according: to that the soul's life is led and o governed.
If it goes out from its own temperament
into God's love-fire, into the heavenly substantiality which is Christ's, then it eateth of Christ and of the meekness of the light of his majesty, wherein is the fountain of eternal life.
From thence the soul getteth a divine will, and bringeth the body to do that which, according to its natural inclination and the spirit of this world, it would not do. In such a soul the temperament ruleth not; it bears sway only over the outward body. Such a man hath a continual longing after God.
Oftentimes when his soul eateth of the divine love-essence, it bringeth to him an exulting triumph, and a divine taste into the temperament itself. So that the whole body is thereby affected and even trembleth for joy, being lifted up to such a degree of divine sensation, as if it was on the very borders of paradise.
But this rapturous state rarely continueth long. The soul is soon clouded with somewhat
of another nature from the spirit of this world, of which it maketh a lookingglass wherein it begins to speculate with its outward imagination. Thus it goeth out from the Spirit of God and is often bemired in the dirt of the world, if the Virgin of Divine Wisdom doth not call it back again to repent and return to its first love. Then, if the soul washeth itself anew in the water of eternal life, through earnest repentance, it becometh renewed again in the love-fire of God's meekness and in the Holy Spirit, as a new child; and beginneth again to drink of that water and recovereth at length its life in God.
There is no temperament in which the Devil's will and suggestions may be more clearly discovered, if the soul be once enlightened, than in the melancholy, as the tempted, who have resolutely and successfully stormed his stronghold, very well know.
O how subtilly and maliciously doth the
[paragraph continues] Devil spread his nets for such a soul, as a fowler for the birds! Oftentimes he terrifieth it in its prayers, especially in the night, when it is dark, injecting his suggestions into it and filling it with fearful apprehensions that the wrath of God is ready to seize and destroy it. Thus he maketh a show as if he had power over the soul of the man, and it was his property, whereas he hath not power to touch a hair of his head. Unless the soul itself despaireth, and by that means giveth itself up to him, he dareth not spiritually and really to seize or even touch it.
He hath more than one temptation for the melancholy soul. For, if he cannot persuade it absolutely to despair and so to give itself up to him that way, he bringeth it, when over-burthened with fears and sad apprehensions about its present state and future doom, and impatient under the weight thereof, to thoughts and designs of self-murder. He dareth not destroy a
man; the man himself must do that. For the soul hath freedom. If it resisteth the Devil and will not do as he counselleth, then, however he may tempt, yet hath he not power to touch even the outward and sinful body.
The trouble of mind here spoken of is rather a subject of God's pity than of wrath. He will not break the bruised reed, nor extinguish the smoking flax. Our Lord Jesus Christ, in his blessed call and promise, saith, Come unto me, all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, so shall ye find rest unto your souls.
This yoke of Christ is no other than the Cross of nature and providence. This is the yoke which a man is required to take up and carry after Christ with patience, and with full submission thereto. Then the affliction, whatever it be, is so far from
hurting the soul that it doeth it much good. For while it standeth in the house of sorrow it is not in the house of sin, or in the pride, pomp, and pleasure of the world. God holdeth it with tribulation, as with a father's restraint, from the sinful pleasure of this world.
The troubled soul is apt to perplex and torment itself because it cannot open by its desire the spring of divine joy in the heart. It sigheth, lamenteth, and feareth that God will have nothing to do with it, because it cannot feel the comfort of his visible presence.
Before the time of my illumination and high knowledge it was just so with me. I went through a long and sore conflict before I obtained my noble garland. Then did I first learn to know how God dwelleth not in the outward fleshly heart, but in the centre of the soul in himself, in his own principle.
Then also I first perceived in my inward
spirit that it was God himself who had drawn me to him in and by desire. Which I understood not before, but thought the good desire had been my proper own and that God was far distant from us men. But afterwards I clearly found, and rejoiced to find, how it is that God is so gracious to us. Therefore I write this for an example and a caution to others, not in the least to give way to despair when the Comforter delayeth his coming, but rather to think of the consolatory encouragement given in David's psalm, Heaviness may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.
It hath fared no otherwise with the greatest saints of God. They were forced to wrestle long and earnestly for the noble garland. With which indeed no man will be crowned unless he strive for it and overcome.
It is indeed laid up in the soul, but if a man will put on that crown in the time of
this mortal life he must wrestle for it. Then, if he doth not obtain it in this world, yet he will certainly receive it after he has put off this earthly tabernacle. For Christ saith, In the world ye shall have anxiety and trouble, but in me peace. And, Be of good comfort, I have overcome the world.
I have neither pen that can write nor words that can express what the exceeding sweet grace of God in Christ is. I myself have found it by experience in this my way and course, and therefore certainly know that I have a sure ground from which I write. And I would from the bottom of my heart most willingly impart the same to my brethren in the love of Christ, who, if they will follow my faithful child-like counsels, will find by experience in themselves from whence it is that my simple mind knows and understands great mysteries.