Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Boehme 1

In 1800 Blake wrote to John Flaxman, an early friend; the letter contained this passage:
"Now my lot in the Heavens is this; Milton lovd me in childhood & shewd me his face Ezra
came with Isaiah the Prophet, but Shakespeare in riper years gave me his hand Paracelsus &
Behmen appeard to me." (Behmen was the English name for Boehme).

The Bible of course was Blake's first and greatest love, but he had less commitment to the thoughts
of Shakespeare or Milton than he had to those of Boehme. When he read Boehme,  probably in the
English translation of William Law, he found a friend and a brother.  Boehme shared most or all of
the values that Blake held dear. When you read the two men you see immediately how similar they
were, in language as well as values.

Boehme loved the Bible and treated it very freely, much in the way Blake did in 'creating his
system'. Both men saw things in a biblical word or sentence which differed vastly  from the way it
was seen by conventional Bible interpreters. I believe it was through reading Boehme that Blake
learned how much the Bible says that is completely foreign to the ordinary reader.

"Jakob Böhme (probably April 24, 1575[ – November 17, 1624) was a German Christian mystic
and theologian. He is considered an original thinker within the Lutheran tradition, and his first book,
commonly known as Aurora, caused a great scandal. In contemporary English, his name may be
spelled Jacob Boehme; in seventeenth-century England it was also spelled Behmen, approximating
the contemporary English pronunciation of the German Böhme."
(A paragraph from Jakob Boehme): 
this link provides an easy way to begin to get acquainted with Boehme, Bohme, Beymen.

You can find volumes of material about and on Boehme. Here is one small extract that gives
something of the flavor of what Blake loved:

Extracts from "PREFACE TO THE READER" of 'Signature'
(Bohme wrote this preface in straight prose pointing out the use of the "language of Zion", which he
used much more often that William Blake did. He was able to maintain the common devout
language to express the divergences that he (and Blake as well) held regarding orthodoxy.)

"HIS book is a true mystical mirror of the highest wisdom. The best treasure that a man can attain
unto in this world is true knowledge; even the knowledge of himself: For man is the great mystery of
God, the microcosm, or the complete abridgment of the whole universe: He is the mirandum Dei
opus, God's masterpiece, a living emblem and hieroglyphic of eternity and time; and therefore to
know whence he is, and what his temporal and eternal being and well-being are, must needs be that
ONE necessary thing, to which all our chief study should aim, and in comparison of which all the
wealth of this world is but dross, and a loss to us.

This is that wisdom which dwells in nothing, and yet possesses all things, and the humble resigned
soul is its playfellow; this is the divine alloquy, the inspiration of the Almighty, the breath of God,
the holy unction, which sanctifies the soul to be the temple of the Holy Ghost, which instructs it
aright in all things,

This is the precious pearl, whose beauty is more glorious, and whose virtue more sovereign than the
sun: It is a never-failing comfort in all afflictions, a balsam for all sores, a panacea for all diseases, a
sure antidote against all poison, and death itself; it is that joyful and assured companion and guide,
which never forsakes a man, but convoys him through this valley of misery and death into the
blessed paradise of perfect bliss.

If you ask, What is the way to attain to this wisdom? Behold! Christ, who is the way, the truth, and
the life, tells you plainly in these words; "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and
take up his cross daily and follow me;" [*2] or as he
says elsewhere, "Unless you be born again, you cannot see the kingdom of heaven:" or as St. Paul
says, "If any man seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool that he may be wise." [*1]

Herein lies that simple childlike way to the highest wisdom, which no sharp reason or worldly
learning can reach unto; nay, it is foolishness to reason, and therefore so few go the way to find it:
The proud sophisters and wiselings of this world have always trampled it under foot with scorn and
contempt, and have called it enthusiasm, madness, melancholy, whimsy, fancy, etc., but wisdom is
justified of her children.

This is the true theosophic school wherein this author learned the first rudiments and principles of
wisdom, and to which we must go if we would understand his deep writings: For we must know that
the sons of Hermes, who have commenced in the high school of true magic and theosophy, have
always spoken their hidden wisdom in a mystery; and have so couched it under shadows and figures,
parables and similies, that none can understand their obscure, yet clear writings, but those who have
had admittance into the same school, and have tasted of the Feast of Pentecost.

And this does not seem at all strange to the children of divine Mercury; for the mysteries of
philosophy, divinity, and theosophy must not be profaned, and laid open to the view of the outward
astral reason, which turns all to its selfish pride, covetousness, envy, wrath, and cunning hypocrisy;
and therefore a parabolical or magical phrase or dialect is the best and plainest habit and dress that
mysteries can have to travel in up and down this wicked world: And thus parable have a double and
different respect and use; for as they conceal and hide secrets from the rude and vulgar sort,
patient to bear anything but what suits with their common conceits and opinions, so likewise they
sweetly lead the mind of the true searcher into the depths of wisdom's council. They are as the
cloudy pillar of Moses; they have a dark part, and they have a light part; they are dark to the
Egyptians, the pharisaical sons of sophistry, but light to the true Israel, the children of the mystery.

We see here a mixture of New Testament wisdom and esoteric wisdom, such as "the sons of
Hermes" and "children of divine Mercury"; this indicates that (like Blake) Bohme did not consider
the Bible to be the sole Word of God.

This also shows the unorthodox way with which Bohme used Scripture; it also gives evidence that
both men were widely read.) 
And therefore whoever will be nurtured and trained up by Sophia, and learn to understand and speak
the language of wisdom, must be born again of and in the Word of Wisdom, Christ Jesus, the
Immortal Seed: The divine essence which God breathed into his paradisical soul must be revived,
and he must become one again with that which he was in God before he was a creature, and then his
Eternal Spirit may enter into that which is within the veil, and see not only the literal, but the moral,
allegorical, and anagogical meaning of the wise and their dark sayings: He then will be fit to enter,
not only into Solomon's porch, the outer court of natural philosophy, sense and reason, but likewise
into the inward court of holy and spiritual exercises, in divine understanding and knowledge; and so
he may step into the most inward and holiest place of theosophical mysteries, into which none are
admitted to come, but those who have received the high and holy unction.
(Blake said:
"Ive a wife I love and that loves me.
Ive all but Riches Bodily"

Paul, the apostle wrote in Philippians 3:
"What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus
my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ"
I will now endeavour briefly to hint to the reader what this book contains, though in it the spirit of
wisdom cannot be delineated with pen and ink, no more than a sound can be painted, or the wind
grasped in the hollow of the hand: But know, that in it he deciphers and represents in a lively
manner the Signature of all Things, and gives you the contents of eternity and time, and glances at
all mysteries.
In a word, his intent is to let you know the inward power and property by the outward sign;

But the proud scorner that will take no warning is of Lucifer's regiment, who saw the mystery of
God's kingdom to stand in meekness, simplicity, and deep humility, and therefore out of his pride
would aspire to be above the divine love, and harmony of obedience to God's will, and so fell into
the abyss of the dark world, into the outmost darkness of the first principle, which we call Hell,
where he and his legions are captives; from which the Almighty God of Love deliver us.

I will end with the words of the author at the conclusion of the book, where he says thus; "I have
faithfully, with all true admonition, represented to the reader what the Lord of all beings has given
me; he may behold himself in this looking-glass [*1] within and without, and so he shall find what
and who he is: Every reader, be he good or bad, will find his profit and benefit therein: It is a very
clear gate of the great mystery of all beings: By glosses, commentaries, curiosity and self-wit, none
shall be able to reach or apprehend it in his own ground; but it may very well meet and embrace the
true seeker, and create him much profit and joy; yea be helpful to him in all natural things, provided
he applies himself to it aright, and seeks in the fear of God, seeing it is now a time of seeking; for a
lily blossoms upon the mountains and valleys in all the ends of the earth: 'He that seeketh findeth.'"

And so I commend the reader to the grace and love of Jesus Christ, in whom are hidden all the
treasures of wisdom and knowledge."

No comments: