CHAPTER SIX Jacob Boehme and the Evolution of Man
Jacob Boehme and the Evolution of Man
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For all have sinned (missed the mark) and fall short of (are wanting) the Glory of God ****** For all have sinned (missed the mark) and missed the beauty of God's plan (J.B. Phillips translation) ****** Romans 3:23 (present tense)
According to the following writing, it would appears that the "mark" that mankind has missed is that of "being conformed to the image of God" or of living in and manifesting the "divine nature". We "fall short" or MISS His original intent for us, that of being a mirror or a reflection (manifestation) of His "Glory" - His essential or hidden being !!
It is well known that Boehme's doctrine of good and evil is one of the most important parts of his work. It would be presumptuous on my part to analyze it here after so many erudite studies have been made. I limit myself to the aspects linked to the formulation of a future Philosophy of Nature that would be suitable for our era.
As I have stressed time and again, Boehme's thought is based on a logic of contradictories, as one of his essential ideas is the unity of' opposites. God himself is the incarnation of this unity of opposites: "For the God of the holy world, and the God of the dark world, are not two Gods; there is but one only God: he himself is all being, essence, or substance; he is evil and good, heaven and hell, light and darkness, eternity and time, beginning and end."
The unity of all the sevenfold cycles is truly beyond good and evil. Good and evil appear when there is a dysfunction in a sevenfold cycle or in the interaction between the different sevenfold cycles. Therefore there is a quite logical, clear definition of "evil" as anything which is opposed to the development of a sevenfold cycle or the interaction between these different cycles. In other words, evil is anything which opposes the birth of God. Unquestionable signs of evil are the complete taking over of the cycle by one or several of the qualities in it, the stopping of the cycle, or, once again, the change of direction of the sequence of the cycle.
Evil has a positive side so long as it is a resistance to the development of the cycle, a resistance which conditions the movement. Without this resistance everything would be devoured by the incomparable fire at the magical source of reality; it is a protection against this consuming fire. This is why "there is nothing in nature wherein there is not good and evil; everything moves and lives in this double impulse." Good and evil appear as two qualities "which are in each other as one thing in this world, in all powers, in the stars and the elements, as also in all the creatures. . . ." Even "the kingdom of God and the kingdom of hell hang one to the other, as one body, and yet the one cannot comprehend the other." "Hell" is the first triad of the sevenfold cycle. If it respects its function, which is that of being, in Boehme's language, "the flame of anger," the movement can proceed for "the flame of anger is the manifestation of the great love." The anger is "the root of life," but "if it be without the light, then it is not God, but hell fire."
Evil transforms itself into an ontological catastrophe when it changes function: resistance turns into complete opposition in relation to the development of the sevenfold cycle and the interaction between the different cycles. The order of the world is turned upside-down. Harmony becomes chaos, and constructive interaction is replaced by an anarchic, self-destructive movement. In particular, "hell" becomes truly infernal: the first triad closes up on itself in a world of darkness, shutting itself off from any penetration by the light. Evil is therefore a quality of being which is neither positive not negative, but is equivalent to an ontological catastrophe when it changes function. At our level of reality, the freedom of man comes at the price of a difficult, trying choice, where the will of man plays crucial role.
The catastrophe is symbolized in a magnificent way by the fall of Lucifer, which occupies such a significant place in the work of Jacob Boehme. "Lucifer was born in the beginning as a being of light," Pierre Deghaye writes. "He is the output of a sevenfold emanation which begins in the darkness and completes itself in the light. His regression inverts the course of this process. . . . The violence done to nature destroys the divine manifestation. It abolishes the birth of God. It is a deicidal violence."
What was Lucifer's crime, basically? That of looking backwards, toward the magical source of reality, "but he became a fool; therefore this place or space, in its burning quality, could not subsist in God, hereupon the creation of this world ensued."
By this backward glance, Lucifer reverses the direction of the sevenfold cycle. This change of direction is not made innocently, for each reality of the sevenfold cycle is transformed into its own opposite. Lucifer is the creator of the upside-down sevenfold cycle, which engenders "the house of darkness," the house of death. Jacob Boehme gives us a striking description of this upside-down cycle in The Aurora: "Here is lamentation and woe, yelling and crying, and no deliverance; it is with them as if it did continually thunder and lighten tempestuously. For the kindled spirits of God generate themselves thus. . . . The fire burns as a fierce wrathful Sulfur. . . . Love is an enmity here. . . . The sound is a mere beating, rumbling or cracking. . . . The circuit, region, court or residence of the body of the seven is a house of mourning. Their food is abomination, and grows from the fierceness of all qualities." It is death which lives in the world of this upside-down cycle, a world where the king is Lucifer turned into Satan.
The completion of this reversed cycle is the first triad, that of the wrath of God, that which Boehme calls "the outermost birth in this world," that of the wheel of anguish, that of the "natural fire, which is a torment and consuming source."
The idea of the danger of the backward glance runs through texts of all times. The wife of Lot, Abraham's nephew, is turned into a pillar of salt for having looked back during the destruction of Sodom. Orpheus descends to hell to bring back Eurydice, but, not keeping his promise, turns to look at her and she disappears into the darkness.
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The Israelites, when they were led out of the bondage of Egypt by YAHWEH, ended up perishing in the wilderness (except for three) because basically, they were continually grieving God by their lusting and longing to "return to Egypt".
Jesus sets down a principle that every farmer would understand: You can't plow a straight row looking backward. If you want to plow a straight furrow, you must keep the plow lined up by fixing on some object ahead, and aiming toward it. Anyone who tries to plow while looking backward is in trouble. It would be similar to attempting to drive while looking only at the rear view mirror
Jesus said to him, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God." **** Luke 9:62
The apostle Paul exhorts us VERY strongly to be "single-minded" -- to keep or eyes FORWARD on the goal and NOT to be distracted by peripheral events or (especially) the PAST !!
These assets I have come to regard as liabilities because of Christ. More than that, I now regard all things as liabilities compared to the far greater value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things – indeed, I regard them as dung! – that I may gain Christ. My aim is to know him, to experience the power of his resurrection, to share in his sufferings, and to be like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already attained this – that is, I have not already been perfected – but I strive to lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus also laid hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself to have attained this. Instead I am single-minded: Forgetting the things that are behind and reaching out for the things that are ahead, with this goal in mind, I strive toward the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. **** Philippians 3:7-14
Do you not know that all the runners in a stadium compete, but only one receives the prize? So run to win. Each competitor must exercise self-control in everything. They do it to receive a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one. So I do not run uncertainly or box like one who hits only air. Instead I subdue my body and make it my slave, so that after preaching to others I myself will not be disqualified. **** 1 Corinthians 9:24,27
Do not be conformed to this present world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may test and approve what is the will of God – what is good and well-pleasing and perfect. **** Romans 12:2
Let us look around ourselves, in our own world today, and dare to ask to ourselves this question: "Are we on the verge of repeating this action by Lucifer, this backward glance? Are we on the verge of forever locking ourselves inside the wheel of anguish?" A philosopher of the stature of Michel Henry is not afraid to write: "It is life itself which is wounded; all its values are wavering, not only aesthetics, but also ethics, the sacred – and with them the possibility to live each day."
Our contemporary world, seen in the context of Boehme's thinking, is located clearly in the first triad of the sevenfold cycle. It is not by chance that science is the dominant language of the age – as I have said, it explores precisely this first triad.
It is not by chance that for the first time in history man has acquired the means for the total, complete destruction of his own species. "You see also," Boehme writes prophetically, "how the wrath of God lies hid and rests in the outermost birth of nature, and cannot be awakened, unless men themselves rouse or awaken it, who with their fleshly birth or geniture qualify, operate or unite with the wrath of the outermost birth of nature." Indeed, man has succeeded precisely in awakening an incredible energy hidden in the deepest part of Nature, an energy capable of burning up the whole earth.
It is not by chance that for the first time in his history man is being given the means to modify the human being by changing his genetic makeup. There also we are quite close to the frontier of the magical source of reality, with all that that implies about the danger of self-destruction.
It is not by chance that this century has seen more and more monstrous wars take place, in this collective madness which represents the process of the mutual destruction of mankind. It is not by chance that we are witnessing more and more indifferently the establishment of violence in our everyday life.
It is not by chance that we have seen in this century, in the name of good principles, the birth of all sorts of totalitarianism which destroy the very existence of entire peoples. To the age-old question "Why are the children of darkness more cunning than those of the light?", Jacob Boehme gives us this answer which is at once surprising and logically simple: "Why? Because they have the magical root of the original of all essences manifest in them."
Our world is effectively inside the wheel of anguish, in the first triad of the sevenfold cycle. But this first triad is not yet closed up on itself. We are at a point of choosing the road between self-destruction and evolution. The first triad, the wheel of anguish, is only a stage of our own evolution.
Man, Humanity, and The Sevenfold Cycle
In Boehme's perspective, evolution cannot be dissociated from the completion of the sevenfold cycle, in the orientation with which it is usually associated – a movement from its first quality towards its last quality. In particular, this evolution cannot take place without the discontinuous leap between the first triad and the other four qualities of the sevenfold cycle (see Chapter Three). However, there is a fundamental difference between these two parts of the cycle, separated by the frontier of discontinuity: the qualities of the wheel of anguish are outside the will of man (they bring into play the forces which condition the passage to manifestation), while the other four require the participation of man, his will, and his consciousness. In Boehme's perspective, man's evolution is the evolution of his consciousness.
For Boehme, "natural man… moves between two Principles" ; he is a "two-fold man." On the one hand, the wheel of anguish is at work in him, it takes part in his constitution as a natural system. If man locks himself inside this wheel of anguish, it is like a living death, "so altogether dead in death, and so bolted up in the outermost birth or geniture in the dead palpability." But he can evolve toward the world of light "for if the light be in him, he is born in the three Principles; but yet he is only a spark risen from thence, and not the great source, or fountain, which is God himself."
Thus it can be affirmed that the first triad of the sevenfold cycle corresponds to the body of man in all his physical and chemical aspects, and that the first discontinuity introduces him into the world of life, where the evolution of his own being can begin.
This view of a possible evolution of man is not necessarily in contradiction with the theories of evolution of modern science. After science recognizes that the physical evolution of living species leading up to man is probably accomplished, finished. We can conclude that if evolution continues, it will be able to occur only on another plane – that of culture, of consciousness, or of humanity as a collective body of all mankind.
For Boehme, conscious human evolution is a difficult process, based on self-observation, on attention, on great effort, "and man cannot better prove or try himself than by giving serious attention to what his desire and longing impel him. But there must be real earnestness; for he must subdue the astral spirit which rules in him. For, to subdue this astral spirit, no wisdom nor art will avail, but sobriety of life, with continual withdrawal from the influxes. The elements continually introduce the astral craving into his will, Therefore it is not so easy a thing to become a child of God; it requires great labor, with much travail and suffering."
This spirit of the stars pushes man endlessly toward the wheel of anguish. It has led to the creation of the visible world, of the earth the stars, the galaxies. It is near the magical source of creation, to the devouring fire. To disengage from this astral influence signifies the reestablishment of the direction of the sevenfold cycle leading to the body of light. That is why the wonder and the fascination of the visible world, when they are taken as absolutes, are paradoxically perverse guides, for they turn back the course of the sevenfold cycle and transform evolution into involution.
The spirit of the stars leads man to believe in the complete power of the "outer body," but "the outer body has no power to move the light world; it has only introduced itself into the world of light, whereby the light-world is become extinguished in man. He has, however, remained to be the dark world in himself; and the light-world stands in him immovable, it is in him as it were hidden."
As God dies in order to be born, man must die in this life in order to be born. His life thus comprises two births: biological birth and a self-birth or self-engendering. This new birth is a birth from above, for it presupposes the completion of the sevenfold cycle. The new birth implies death to oneself, a singular, mysterious process which takes place in the secrecy of the interior life. The second triad of the sevenfold cycle is a preparation for this new birth, which is brought forth only at the moment of the second discontinuity of the cycle, when "in the fountain or well-spring of the heart there rises up the flash in the sensibility or thoughts of the brain, and therein the spirit does contemplate or meditate." Finally, the third triad of the sevenfold cycle, during the course of which "the soul eats of God," and leads to the creation of the new body.
The responsibility of man is immense, for, in Boehme's perspective, the non-completion of his sevenfold cycle leads to a cosmic catastrophe. The entire universe of the creation would disappear in the chaos. That is why Boehme tells us, "Therefore seek for the noble Pearl; it is much more precious than this world." Our smallest actions or thoughts have a cosmic dimension: "whatsoever you build and sow here in the spirit, be it with words, works or thoughts, that will be your eternal house."
It is necessary to distinguish clearly the evolution of the individual human being from the evolution of humanity. Humanity, as a collective body of all mankind, obviously submits to other laws than a man by himself. Its sevenfold cycle is different from that of one Person.
The two sevenfold cycles are indeed in perpetual interaction: the one cannot develop without the other. Let us try to imagine for an instant the earth peopled in a definitive way by a single human being. The absurdity of this situation is obvious. The individual defines himself by interaction with others.
There is, however, an asymmetry between the two sevenfold cycles, related to the rhythm of their development. If Boehme's cosmology is true, the founders of the great religions, the great mystics, the great poets – and also an anonymous crowd whose names will never be remembered – have probably completed their sevenfold cycle in the course of their lifetime, a very short period of time compared to the age of our universe or the period corresponding to the appearance of human beings on earth. The rhythm of development of the sevenfold cycle of humanity is a great deal slower, in accord with the cosmic rhythms ruling the formation of planets, galaxies, and our universe.
Is it absurd to hypothesize a sevenfold cycle of humanity, with the underlying idea of a unity of humanity? Is it the product of simple speculation, with no foundation? The most rigorous approach to this question seems to me to be that furnished by contemporary research in history of beliefs and religious ideas, of which the uncontested master is Mircea Eliade. What strikes me in the first place in the work of Eliade is his discovery, based on scientific method, of a hidden driving force in the spiritual growth of humanity, through surprising convergences between different civilizations, in spite of their separation in space and time. "What seems to me totally impossible, at all events," Eliade states, "is to imagine how the human mind could function without the conviction that there is something irreducibly real in the world. Consciousness of a real and meaningful world is intimately linked with the discovery of the sacred. The sacred is not a stage in the history of consciousness, it is a structural element of that consciousness."
If we take seriously the hypothesis of a sevenfold cycle governing the evolution of humanity, this thinking layer of the earth, a first sign that the hypothesis is correct will be the appearance of a planetary civilization, where all violence of man against man, of one nation against another, will be completely abolished. Obviously we are a very long way from such a situation, even if a few facts seem to be pointing in this direction. Science is already a planetary language. The dizzying development of the computer system database establishes a communication between all points on the earth, by the creation of a sort of planetary brain. The interaction among all nations of the earth on the level of economics becomes more and more obvious. Even the menace of total destruction of our own species seems paradoxically to carry a positive message: humanity must evolve or disappear.
But where is our humanity in the development of its sevenfold cycle? All the ideas that we have outlined in this chapter lead us to the conclusion that we find ourselves in the first triad of the sevenfold cycle, inside the wheel of anguish, more precisely at the frontier of the second triad. A first discontinuity must necessarily occur to assure the passage of humanity towards life, if we are not going to founder in the self-destructive cycle of the wheel.
Our conclusion may indeed shock the many minds who, even if they accept the idea of an evolution of humanity (in any case a rare occurrence), are convinced that we are at a stage a good deal more evolved than that of the wheel of anguish. But, after all, humanity is very young. Its existence covers an infinitesimal period in the history of the universe. Let us imagine a book where each line covers the history of a thousand years, each page having forty lines. Thus the history of the universe would fill a library of a thousand books, each having 375 pages. The history of humanity would cover only the last 50 pages of the thousandth volume of the history of the universe. It is comprehensible that humanity finds itself at the very beginning of its evolution, just before its first step towards a self-engendering which leads to the creation of its own body.
The main event which seems to me to dominate this century is fundamental science's discovery, by its own methods, of the frontiers where it can begin a dialogue with the wisdom of the ages and with other forms of knowledge. These other forms of knowledge – art, Tradition, or the human sciences – are concerned with one or another of the four last qualities of the sevenfold cycle. But, paradoxically, it is modern science, immersed in the study of so-called "external" nature - the wheel of anguish - which today demands passage beyond the wheel in our own evolution. But this passage cannot occur on its own. A trans-disciplinary dialogue between all forms of knowledge can help us bring this about- a dialogue which, without leading to a new scientism, must nonetheless take as its point of departure the contemporary discoveries of fundamental science. In this way it will find what there is between the different forms of knowledge, which in fact belongs to neither one form nor the other, but which ultimately circulates between the different disciplines, while respecting their autonomy. It will thus contribute to the establishment of a true, long-term, planetary dialogue, as a condition for our evolution of being.
An excellent, contemporary book for serious readers of Boehme may be purchased [ Here ]. Download a FREE .pdf [ Here ]. --- It is entitled; "Science, Meaning, Evolution: The Cosmology of Jacob Boehme" by Basarab Nicolescu (Author) and Rob Baker (Translator). --- This is an incisive study by a contemporary scientist and scholar of the startling correspondences between the ideas of modern quantum physics and the cosmology of Jacob Boehme, an early 17th-century Christian mystic. Basarab Nicolescu presents both these mysterious realms - the open-ended universe of the new particle physics and the theological speculations of Boehme's own writings in a way that is at once sophisticated and accessible.