Every once in a while you run across something that you sense has some value, but like a diamond in the rough, its true value is just barely recognized, which was the effect that this short booklet had on me. Jacob Boehme (1575-1624), a humble shoemaker born in Alt Seidenberg, Germany, brought forth this rough uncut gem that lay unappreciated for 100 years before being translated into English. John Wesley, in his day, required all of his preachers to study the writings of Jacob Boehme; and the learned theologian, William Law, said of him: “Jacob Boehme was not a messenger of anything new in religion, but the mystery of all that was old and true in religion and nature, was opened up to him,” — “the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and knowledge of God.”
Sixteenth century English is not that easy to read, and I laid the booklet aside a few times before finally, and slowly, reading the whole manuscript. What had I found? The second reading, more slowly still, I now regard as a priceless gem. As with a precious gift my desire was to share this treasure, but would very many take the time to wade through hard to read and understand paragraphs to discover what I had found?
The following is my transliteration of that booklet into a form of English that I pray will bless you as I have been blessed.
Jacob Boehme (1575-1624)
Understanding the Biblical Concept of Coveting, Desire, Humility, and Dying To Self
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.’” Matthew 16:24
“Peter answered him, ‘We have left everything to follow you! . . . .’” Matthew 19:27
We need only look at the examples of Lucifer and Adam, the first man, to understand what “self” will accomplish when the light and wisdom of this world come to be the center of our being, and when they determine that they can walk in and by the power of that knowledge. Do we not see the immense pride, vanity, selfishness, and corruption displayed in those who have come into possession of this world’s knowledge? And yet, the whole world desires this knowledge as if it were the last and best treasure; and indeed it is the best the world has to offer, and has in itself an element of good if understood and rightly used.
Man, outside of the Garden of Eden, must understand that he is now a captive held in a very small and secure prison and that his ability to reason is subject to, and contaminated by, the combined knowledge of both good and evil. Outside the Garden, it is very dangerous for a man to make use of this new knowledge of self and nature as if a man has within himself complete control over his ability to reason correctly.
Humility is the surrendering of self to the only true knowledge, the Word of Life, discoverable in Christ, the Word and Wisdom of God. Due to Adam’s rejection of the Fruit of Paradise and his preference for the fruit and knowledge of self, the wrath of God now rests on him and his children. Adam’s descendants take great pride, to this very day, of their ability to unravel the Gordian Knot of self-knowledge, self-improvement, and self-actualization, and to predict their own future. This ability of “self-determination” is the diabolical environment of this world and the false reality in which we all exist; it is the lust after the knowledge to differentiate between good and evil. To understand humility and to acknowledge the truth of self-sacrifice and humility is to step into real-life and out of the matrix of death and deception.
First Lucifer, then Adam, lusted after this inner knowledge derived from self and not from the true source of knowledge. This new light which gave them the ability to stand back and look at themselves, with their own entire imaginations gone wild, lusting after the flesh and after all that the eye could behold, had the natural consequences of pride and self-enjoyment. It is easy to suggest that Lucifer sought within himself the answers to the origin of life, as men have also done from their beginning, and imagining the possibility of himself being that source of life and knowledge, as we see equally displayed in psychology and the New Age movement today. It is also easy to imagine that this desire of Lucifer started off as a simple thought that he allowed to fester into outright rebellion against his Creator; a fire that will burn in him for eternity for the presumptuous idea that his burning passion could overcome the power of pure Love. And, likewise Adam, when he attempted to descend into the essence of good and evil and to understand the depths of the mind, and of reason, unaided by the Truth, was bound in iron and shackled by his daring desire; he found himself broke off from humility and captured in the small confines of self-awareness, a prisoner to self. Lucifer with all the rebellious angels and all of mankind were now stuck fast in this slough of self-will, whereby they became the enemies of the Love and Meekness of God.
Adam could now, without the Spirit of God dwelling within him, be called a true man of the world, one with Mother Nature, a child of dirt, and not a child of God any longer. Earthly properties became apparent, heat and cold, envy and anger, and every kind of lustful desire and malice and opposition toward God became apparent and ruled his life.
The knowledge of good and evil was like a mirror that reflected back upon the person, whether man or angel, a confused knowledge, and understanding, that was alive in their hearts and minds, creating a desire to know who and what they are, and why they exist, along with a consideration of inner power, a power of creation and destruction. From this reflection came every imagination and lust that ever was or will be.
As we witness every day we can now see how this confused thought process, faulty logic, and ability to reason properly, can be a source of great danger to the truly enlightened children of God, in whom the light of the presence of God shines. This danger presents itself as a mirror, always reflecting up from our “self” and we search out those inner feelings of self-worth, that mutate into self-glory. We begin to feel that it was our own energy and strength, our own ability, our own power of self-control that has accomplished the victory, and from this springs up the abomination of pride and self-love. It is like an always running projector that continuously overlays an image of our own self and will-power reducing the image of God to a mere support role.
By this, the Devil subtly insinuates himself into this person and infiltrates and corrupts his logic and reasoning abilities. With false conclusions, ambiguities, innuendos, suggestions, allusions, and straight out lies he overwhelms the man so as to make him drunk on his own self-thinking and methodology, yet still believing and persuaded that he is exercising faith and being moved by the Spirit. And, by so doing, that good beginning, where divine light pierced the darkness, is spoiled, and the light that is in him is darkness.
Now this Christian man, having the light of the world and nature, stands deceived. By his own efforts, he throws himself under the crushing wheels of the lie but supposes that he stands firm in the first light of God. And in the basking glow of self-exaltation, the Devil again approaches – in that first light of God he had been forced to depart – returning with a seven-fold barrage of lustful, prideful desires.
“When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none. Then he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that man is worse than the first.” Matthew 12:43-45
This house, which was “swept, and put in order”, is the heart, which is the core of a man, his mind, it is the light of reason, and it is the “self.” When men have been given that good deposit of the Holy Spirit and bring their lives into harmony and resonate with the will of God and reject the wickedness of worldliness, and their only desire is to please their Lord, then that new life will be manifested in a most cheerful and peaceful presence, by which the false light of the world will become discernable and recognized. Where God’s light exists all will be lit; the Devil cannot stay there, he and his lies must leave. It is then that Satan searches for other habitation because to exist outside of man is a dry and barren wilderness, not suitable for deceptive practices. The Devil continually searches through these places till he finds an open door suitable to his depraved desires.
If this Christian man allows his spirit to once again be centered in the light of his own reason, i.e. temptations to selfishness and self-realization, then he will once again depart from God’s will and step into the darkness and opens the door to Satan and his demons. When the Devil enters he finds the place “swept and clean”, i.e. the man’s heart and reason enlightened by truth; then he takes with him seven more to attack the man’s understanding and to promote desires of self-actualization, to promote uncensored lust, to bring about death. The minds ability to imagine greatness and satisfaction is enhanced, then the man sinks into himself and there he becomes drunk on his own lust and pride. Even psychology, ancient wisdom, the cosmos, and the power of the stars are used to influence and guide him to god and the deep mysteries of the soul.
At this point, an objection will undoubtedly arise and ask, “Is it not all right for a man to gain both the Light of God along with the light of nature and reason? Doesn’t the Bible direct us to order our lives wisely?
The answer to this is, Yes!, it is right and good to have this. Is there anything wiser in this life than to understand the truth of God and the truth of nature and of this world? With this knowledge we have the light of both time and eternity, a great treasure; but be awfully careful how you use this knowledge for many have wandered into darkness never to return.
When we are saved we gain a light, although of a single candle, and the light shines forth into our heart igniting our reason and thought processes, yet the light of God does not submit to, nor come under the power of man, and is not wholly grasped all at once. The new-born Child of God beholds himself as in a looking glass, darkly, and he sees but the luster and polish of glory breaking through like the first light of day. By this first-light, he begins to really see himself, and that light is good and profitable.
The Christian can do no better than to acknowledge what he sees because what he sees is his-self, i.e. the self of the world, the creature in its vileness. But, in so doing he must be cautioned to not contemplate too deeply and slip into his own deep desires and self-will, risking the malnourishment of the newly formed sprout by eating the rotten fruit of his own wisdom instead of the resting in the light of God. By self-indulgence, the venom of the serpent is once again drawn into the new life, and he withers and dies.
The correct view of this initial introspection of reason and desire should be to account himself as an unworthy child who has no value or worth that he should receive so great a grace and salvation. Nor should he appropriate this new knowledge unto himself as if he himself has revealed this conclusion. All knowledge and understanding which is gained by this new revelation has but one source, God, and any reaction but sincerely and simply sinking down, as dead to self, into the Love and Grace of God in Christ Jesus, and to wholly resign himself to the Spirit of God in Love, that he may be used, how and where God wills, as God’s sole instrument in this world, is incomplete, inaccurate, and rooted in self.
What I am trying to say is that a Christian’s reasoning should not enter into any speculation, conjecture, or guesswork as to the nature of Divine or human matters, or strive after, or desire anything but the Grace of God in Christ. This desire after God should be the means of preventing any separation from the true hunger for God. When “self” rises up and triumphantly declares a victory, saying “I have acquired the true light of wisdom,” then the man must throw “self” to the earth in deepest humility and acknowledge his ignorance declaring, “I am a fool and have nothing that wasn’t given to me, and what I do have is only by the Grace of God” That humility must be worn as a garment and you must become nothing at all in your own self, and make it your promise to neither know nor love your “self.” The only safe place is to bring all desire into God’s mercy; and to leave all of your own knowledge and willing aside, valuing it as nothing, not even to entertain the thought ever again.
Once this is done, man’s self-determination and desire for the world will begin to weaken, and thereby weaken the advances of the Devil and the sifting process, and then the Holy Spirit comes forward and takes possession of the patterns and influences of the individual and promotes His own power and authority. He ignites the inclinations and influences of the person with His flames of Love, and then deeper knowledge of God is excited, harmonizing with his inward and outward pattern and nature, and this warm subtle life altering fire the Spirit attends with great delight. As a result of which the humbled soul desires to sink down into that Light, and regards itself to be nothing and quite unworthy of this grace.
And thus its own selfish desires sinks down into the abyss and his will is made alive to God, giving the Holy Spirit free reign to a resigned humility, so that the self follows hard after God with trembling and joy and the concepts of time and eternity spring up into the mind.
When the love of God is made manifest, the spirit of man, in its humbled state, praises God and gives Him all glory, and comprehends God’s taking to Himself virtue, power, strength, wisdom, and knowledge; and doing all that The man sees fit in apprehending nothing to himself; he neither knows, nor does, nor goes, except where God leads as an instrument in His hands.
Being thus humbled and resigned the divine spark falls into his heart, as a fire in dry tinder it kindles a flame; and where once darkness ruled now there is light. With this, the man is compelled to speak what the Holy Spirit dictates and be no more the instrument of self, but now the instrument of God.
A word of warning; the will of the soul must without ceasing, in this fiery driving to spread the truth, sink into nothingness, i.e. into the deepest humility in the sight of God. For no sooner than the least measure of man’s own will set out on its own in meaningless speculation and searching than Satan reaps pride in the creature. There must be conscientious determination to continue close in resigned humility, as a well draws from a spring, drawing the living water of God’s fountain, never departing from the way of God forever.
As soon as the soul indulges in the forbidden fruit of self, and natural reason arises as a blind guide, it proceeds on mere opinion and estimation. This work which it approves of and declares to be divine is but the product of the prince and power of the air that multiplies and magnifies every error until the man once again yields his-self up to resignation and acknowledges anew he is a defiled and corrupt child and returns to the love of God.
The history of man on the planet earth testifies to this. Man has departed many times from the humility of resignation into the “self,” i.e. into their own reasoning and will wherein they yield to sin and earn the wrath of God, as witnessed by David, Solomon, the Patriarchs, Prophets, and Apostles.
All of these are for our example, to show the necessity of God’s children to know how to behave themselves while they are advancing in their life as Christians. Every thought must be beaten down and taken captive; and desire nothing or have the least will to learn anything unless they are in true and full resignation, so that the Holy Spirit can lead, teach, and guide the spirit of man, and that the will of the human, which is attached to the self be wholly broken off from its own desires, and resigned to God.
WARNING: Beware of speculation in the wonders of God through the flesh, through science, philosophy, or psychology; this can be very dangerous. The spirit of man’s will can be taken captive unless man’s spirit is totally resigned in humility to the Holy Spirit; then he will have power in the resigned humility to properly discern the true wonders of God.
I am not saying that man should learn nothing in natural arts and science; such knowledge can be useful, but a man should not begin from his own natural reason as philosophy and psychology do. What I am saying is that man should govern his life by the light of his outward reason, which is good and God-given, but along with that light sink down into the deepest humility before God and set the Spirit of God and His will foremost in all of his searching, so that the light of reason may see and know things through the pure light of God’s truth. Even though man’s reason may be wise in its own right and help man to advance in his own sphere of knowledge, yet it must not appropriate such wisdom and knowledge to itself, as if he has gained this knowledge apart from the Almighty, and cheat God of the glory He rightly deserves, to Whom all wisdom and knowledge belong.
Because the more deeply the human reason sinks down into simple humility in the sight of God, and the more unworthy it accounts its self in His sight the more truly it dies to self and self’s base desires, then the more thoroughly will God’s Spirit penetrate and drive out selfish desires. At length, he may come to behold the great mysteries and wonders of God, because the Spirit of God works only in resigned humility, and allows no opposition. God takes hold of the broken and contrite spirit, who sinks low before Him and brings that spirit into His wonders. He has pleasure only in those who fear and bow themselves before Him.
God has not created us for ourselves only, but to be instruments of His will, by which He desires to manifest His wonders. The submissive will trust in God alone and expects all good from Him only. Man’s will rules himself because it is separated from God and all that he does apart from God is sin and opposes God, for it has gone out from the order for which it was created, and is a rebel and desires its own self to be lord and master.
When a man’s own will dies, then it is free from sin because it desires only what God desires of His creation, and although it is and must be involved in what God desires, yet considers itself but the instrument of all that is done.
This is the true faith of man: to die to self and live to God. Death to self and desire, to all of his own undertakings and designs, and to be resigned to God’s will and demand nothing to self, but esteem himself as the servant and minister of God is his calling. In this disposition, the Spirit of God will lead him into true light, uprightness, and faithfulness to his neighbor, and he listens continually for the voice of his Master who alone commands him what to do.
But, here is the problem; self does what outward, natural, reason commands and what it hears from within the world wherein it moves. Into this “reason” the Devil flies with his own desires. From this point all whatsoever self does is outside the will of God, and is vain fantasy and earns only the wrath of God.
No work done without the will of God will reach the Kingdom of God; it is all only an unprofitable work of the flesh, a self-wrought image in the great tension and anxiety of mankind. There is only one God who exists in the essence of all essences, and all who work with Him in that essence is one with Him. But, that which works within self only, in its own will is in itself only, is separated from God. This person is under the dominion of nature where, in his fantasy, he makes to himself subjects, both good and evil; and he is no longer under Divine Government, which comprehends good only, as did Adam before his fall.
Christ said, “Every plant which my heavenly Father hath not planted shall be rooted out and burned in the fire.” All the works of man done outside the will of God shall be destroyed by the final fire and wrath of God and thrown into the pit of darkness. Therefore, whatsoever is done by the decisions of human self-will and reasoning in matters of religion are pure fiction and the building of Babel; it is the interplay of the turning wheels of human nature, where good and evil struggle for dominion; what the one builds the other destroys. This struggle is the great misery in the vain imaginations of men, where the issue is settled by the judgment of God.
Whosoever, therefore, labors much in such confusion labors for the wrath and judgment of God, because none of it approaches perfection or permanence. Whatever is wrought in wrath will be received in wrath, and stored-up for the Day of Judgment when evil and good will be forever severed.
But, if a man will repent and go forth from him-self, and enter the will of God, then will the good that he has done be freed from the evil he has done. As Isaiah says, “Though your sins be as scarlet, yet if you turn and repent, they shall become as wool, yea, as white as snow.” For in repentance evil is swallowed up in the wrath of God unto death, and the good springs forth as a sprout out of the dry earth.