Mysterium Magnum 

~Jacob Boehme

THIS book of the Mysterium Magnum, being an exposition of Genesis, if it be read through and weighed with good attention, will remove those mists from their eyes that have not diligently perused the other writings of the author, Jacob Behm, which hath occasioned their being offended by the stumbling blocks that have lain in their way, from the misreports and relations of others who have but superficially looked upon them, and taken up surmisings at the second or third hand, and so come to be bereaved of the greatest benefit to their understandings which they would infallibly gain, if they would follow the advice in the last paragraph of the last chapter of this book, where the author says: We admonish the reader that when he finds somewhat in any place of our deep sense to be obscure, that he do not condemn it according to the manner of the evil world; but diligently read and pray to God, who will surely open the door of his heart, so that he will apprehend it and be able to make use of it, to the profit and salvation of his soul.

And that I also may be helpful to the furtherance of the reader, I shall descant a little upon that which may draw him with the cords of love, and clear his thoughts from some objections that perhaps hinder his setting upon the perusal of these precious writings. Let us a little examine, though cursorily, what is done towards the satisfaction of the desire to understand: and we may observe that whosoever will bring anything to pass, must be furnished with skill beforehand, or else have a teacher stand by to direct: wherefore are all writings, but that others at a distance either for time or place may be informed of that which else they could not so easily know; what serve the registry of arts, philosophy, and histories for, but to tell succeed­ ing generations what was in the times of their forefathers, yet that which hath been transmitted from age to age is but a relation of things done outwardly or words spoken, and few or no footsteps mentioned of the most ancient skill, which possessed the thoughts and minds of the wise men, at least, none have expressed the original ground, ways, and proceedings of their understandings, by which they arrived to such attainments: tho' Holy Scripture is the most ancient and exact, yet it everywhere, though about most hidden depths, only makes a bare relation.

For instance, at first it says thus: In the beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth: and that God said, Let there be Light, and there was Light. But it nowhere expounds what the Beginning, God, the Creation, the Heavens, the Earth, and the Light, are, nor how God did then create, or how spoke and it was done; nor how done with speaking or without; Moses knew it all; and likely some of the people in that age for whom he wrote it, did understand them, or else he would have written more particularly, for he could not intend to express that which they could not fully apprehend; I cannot but think, the same God that taught him so eminently by his spirit, had so fitted the people that they were capable to receive instruction by his words; and why not we also, by the same spirit of God, since they were written for our instruction as well as theirs: how great a gift then must it needs be, that is given to this author, to expound these things fundamentally as he has done.

The best part of man's skill consists in the knowledge of those materials that are the subject of man's working and producing of effects; it is no direct method to go about to teach youths arts and not first sufficiently furnish them with the knowledge of matter enough, to make use of, in the exercise of those arts: in mechanic works we are able to discover that many materials happen to be spoiled in the using, so that afterwards the best use of them cannot be made, as timber, bricks, stone.

The beginnings of things are therefore to be looked into, that amendment may be made of that which is amiss, for one error there will hazard the loss of labour in all that is built upon it, and ignorance in such things does apparently stop the bringing forth any exact work for the use and benefit of the body of man, but the minds, spirits, and souls of men, which are the materials of arts and sciences, called liberal, we scarce offer to look to the husbandry, planting and meliorating of such things; though in divine skill as well as natural, we have a pattern for doing it, in that Paul did plant, and Apollos did water, though God gave the increase.

But we spend our time and thoughts so much about wordly profit and pleasures, that we care for no more knowledge than will serve the turn of the outward man, and though we hear of deeper skill that the wise men had who first invented those most useful things enjoyed and practised by us, for the necessary support of our life; we hardly believe that was ever done which we cannot do, when it is clear, that if we had their skill we might do as they did: and if the Holy Scriptures did not mention that so great works were done by Moses, the Prophets, Christ, and the Disciples, we would not believe such things had ever been done. For we are commonly so far from thinking the great works of the skilful in Egypt to have been real, that contrary to the express words of the text, theirs are accounted not real serpents, as when Moses did bid Aaron lay down his rod and it became a serpent, and the Egyptians laid down their rods and they became serpents, but Aaron's rod devoured all the rods of the Egyptians: for all this, men will suppose that the Egyptians' rods were not turned into true serpents as Aaron's was, but that they were mere delusions of the devil; and what makes us backward to believe the truth in this, but because we know not, what the rods were, nor the serpents, nor how they were so changed: which being in Exodus, the author would have explained if he had lived to perform his purpose upon the whole five Books of Moses, as he did begin and perfect this of Genesis. Neither is the transformation of Nebuchadnezzar believed, that his hairs were turned feathers and his nails into claws, as in Dan. iv. 33.

In treatises of magic are histories of strange actions, where the particular way and manner whereby they were effected is omitted: and spiritual magic operations in nature are not at all looked into, being esteemed satisfactory to the question, What are the hidden virtues of minerals, stones, plants, beasts, men? to answer, that they are occult qualities, as the powers and virtues of the loadstone, attractive of iron, and tending to the poles of the earth, are called: and the knowledge of these is so far remote from our reach, that we must first inquire the place where, and the manner how they may be discerned.

To which end we make many outward experiments, and thereby happen to cause nature to produce her wonderful effects: but few examine how the spirit of Nature works therein, she works under a veil or shell, within which, the Spirit produces all its wonders, and so spiritual things are hid from our outward eyes, though visible things are a glass wherein the resemblance and similitude of all spiritual things are represented; yet of all glasses the mind itself is the more clear and undeceiving, to behold the motions of that working Spirit; all things are there, to be seen, intimately; if we will search how things come there to be produced, and what makes so many various thoughts and representations; we shall there perceive a workmaster, the Spirit which created everything in the world, and in the mind, and he who yields to that Spirit, it will make known to him its own workings within and without; that, it is, which opens our under­ standings when we apprehend anything; and this is the Mighty God, the creator of all things, who knows when, and where, and how, itself made everything, and wrought in all wisdom, both of angels and men, and to this Spirit we must always have recourse as this author advises us, or we can have no true knowledge at all.

Which way would any go that they may be able to perform an excellent thing, would they not first inquire of friends or others whether they knew of any that had attained the thing, if it were concerning a piece of fine workmanship, suppose a clock or watch, sure we would ask where such a thing may be had, and we should as readily be directed to go to those that sell, but perhaps none of them were to be seen in our native habitation; if so, we would desire some to write to a rare artist abroad beyond sea, in the Indies if it were not elsewhere to be had, entreating him to describe the making of it, in a letter to a friend of his with us, and if he should return an answer concerning the parts of it, the standing, or other defects, when it is foul, or a tooth broken, or string slipt, or any other fault; this would be prized highly from so skilful a man, and we would presently look out for his friend in our own country that understandeth the language to expound this letter, that we may have the right meaning thereof: yet when that is done, we could not thereby be instructed about the materials, how to begin, what tools to have, and many other particulars, requisite to the understanding of the thing; without still further and further directions, from him: and therefore we are desirous to speak with the party himself who was able to give such directions; but then if we should hear, that person were dead who made them best and had written that letter: what advice should we next take: we should seek out whether any books or other letters have been written by that artist, and for men most conversant in reading the writings of that nature, by which means competent knowledge what the thing is may be obtained; and the same course must be taken concerning any subject whether natural or divine; this is done with much toil and expense of time and cost; but if we could have notice where one for a pattern were to be gotten we might begin to look into it, and so imitate though but weakly at first, and by a long tract of experience come to a more exact knowledge than can be attained by all the books in the world, much more than if all the learned men were set together accurately to expound those books that could be most diligently composed concerning such a thing. This contrivance is in case the party that invented or made the thing be dead, and not to be spoken with himself, for if he were alive, he could soon teach one capable of learning, how to do it as well as himself: and then by exercise that party comes to amend the invention in every particular, and makes it exact at last: and thus are divine attainments also both sought, found and gotten: these are the tedious searches that most men wander in about mechanic things. It is frequent with men, to be apprentices seven years to learn a trade, or as they properly call it a mystery, and because it is their employment by which men get their livelihoods, they are loath to divulge it, lest thereby they come short of what else they might comfortably enjoy for the maintenance of themselves and families; yet so much pains is taken for a poor transitory benefit.

Outward things are not worth the knowing, but in reference to the sustaining our life in which we are to labour in this world to the glory of our Creator; neither is this life worthy to be compared to that which is future and endureth for ever; yet the whole learning of physic is to procure health, and prevent sickness which causeth death to the present life, but hurts not the soul nor spirit as to eternity: but let health be wanting and all other things bestowed upon men on earth are of no vale, no trading, getting of estates and gain of riches, to the settling and assuring whereof that it may be enjoyed, in which the lawyer's advice is wholly employed, has no delight in it. Some care is requisite to provide for wife, children, kindred and friends, in leaving that they have, free from entanglements, to posterity after them: yet though the exactest course be taken that the learnedst counsel can devise, the casualty of every case is such that desperate expenses happen to the ruin of vast estates; so vain is all that part of learning without health.

And then, the riches and fullest plenty of all earthly things which set the whole world on work; honour and power of dominion, stately palaces, pleasant gardens, groves, walks, meadows, fields, prospects of land, rivers, seas; full tables, dainty fare, delicate attire, great attendance, all usefulness of convenient houses, coaches, horses, beds of down, gorgeous apparel, increase ofall cattle for food and clothing, fruits of the earth, all variety of commodities fetched from all parts of the world; as Solomon's navy brought gold, silver, ivory, apes and peacocks (1 Kings x. 22), so we have the same things, and precious stones, pearls, spices ofall sorts, fragrant perfumes, silks, parrots, and fine singing birds, brought in by shipping in abundance.

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