Not of This World: A Treasure of Christian Mysticism


Anthology of nearly two thousand years of Christian mystical writings from Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant perspectives.

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Not Of This World: A Treasury Of Christi: A Treasury of Christian Mysticism

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Anthology of nearly two thousand years of Christian mystical writings from Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant perspectives.

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The following excerpt is taken from the selection in Not of this World by Jakob Boehme.
Breaking the Chains

The disciple said to his master, “Sir, how may I come to the supersensual life, so that I may see God and may hear God speak?”

The master answered and said, “Son, when you can throw yourself into That in which no creature dwells, though it be but for a moment, then you shall hear what God says.”

“Is That in which no creature dwells near at hand, or is it far off?”

“It is in you, my son. If you can for awhile but cease from all your own thinking and willing, you shall hear the unspeakable words of God.”

“How can I hear Him speak when I stand still from thinking and willing?”

The master said, “When you stand still from the thinking of self and the willing of self, when both your intellect and will are quiet and passive to the impressions of the Eternal Word and Spirit, and when your soul is winged up and above that which is temporal, the outward senses and the imagination being locked up by holy abstraction, then the eternal hearing, seeing, and speaking will be revealed in you. Thus God hears and sees through you, being now the organ of His Spirit, and so God speaks in you, and whispers to your spirit, and your spirit hears His voice. Blessed are you therefore if you can stand still from self-thinking and self-willing, and can stop the wheel of your imagination and senses; for thus you may arrive at length to see the great salvation of God, being made capable of all manner of Divine sensations and heavenly communications. For it is nothing indeed but your own hearing and willing that hinder you, so that you cannot see and hear God.”

“But with what shall I hear and see God since He is above nature and creature?”

“Son, when you are quiet and silent, then are you as God was before nature and creature; you are what God was then; you are that with which He made your nature and creature. Then you hear and see even with that with which God Himself saw and heard in you before ever your own willing or your own seeing began.”

“What now hinders or keeps me back so that I cannot come to that with which God is to be seen and heard?”

The master replied, “Nothing truly but your own willing, hearing, and seeing do keep you back from it, and hinder you from coming to this supersensual state. And it is because you strive so against That out of which you yourself are descended and derived that you thus break yourself off, with your own willing, from God's willing, and with your own seeing from God's seeing. For in your own seeing you see in your own willing only, and with your own understanding you understand but in and according to your own willing, which thus stands divided from the Divine will. Your willing moreover stops your hearing and makes you deaf towards God through your own thinking upon terrestrial things and your attending to that which is outside of you; and so it brings you into a ground where you are laid hold of and captivated in nature. And having brought you hither, it overshadows you with what you have willed; it binds you with your own chains, and it keeps you in your own dark prison which you have made for yourself, so that you cannot go thence or come to that state which is supernatural and supersensual.”

The disciple asked, “But being that I am in nature, and thus bound as with my own chains and by my own natural will: pray be so kind, sir, as to tell me how I may come through nature into the supersensual and supernatural ground without destroying nature.”

The master answered and said, “Be not discouraged. If you forsake the world, then you will come into That out of which the world is made; and if you lose your life, then your life is in That for whose sake you forsake it. Your life is in God, from whence it came into the body; and as your own power comes to be faint and weak and dying, the power of God will then work in you and through you.

“Nevertheless, as God has created man in and for the natural life, to rule over all creatures on earth and to be a lord over all things in this world, it seems not unreasonable that man should therefore possess this world and the things therein for his own.

“If you rule over all creatures but outwardly, there cannot be much in that. But if you have a mind to possess all things and to be a lord indeed over all things in this world, there is quite another method to be used.”

The disciple asked, “Pray, how is that? And what method must I use whereby to arrive at this sovereignty?”

The master replied, “You must learn to distinguish well between the thing and that which is only an image thereof, between the sovereignty which is substantial and in the inward ground or nature and that which is imaginary and in an outward form or semblance, between that which is properly angelical and that which is no more than bestial. If you rule now over the creatures externally only and not from the right internal ground of your renewed nature, then your will and ruling is verily in a bestial kind or manner, and yours at best is but a sort of imaginary and transitory government, being void of what is substantial and permanent, which alone you are to desire and press after. Thus by your outwardly lording it over the creatures, it is most easy for you to lose the substance and the reality, while you have nothing remaining but the image or shadow only of your first and original lordship, in which you are made capable to be again invested if you are wise and take your investiture from the supreme Lord in the right course and manner. Whereas by your willing and ruling thus after a bestial manner, you bring also your desire into a bestial essence, by which means you become infected and captivated, acquiring thereby a bestial nature and condition of life. But if you put off the bestial and ferine nature, and if you leave the imaginary life and quit the low imaged condition of it, then are you come into the super-imaginariness and into the intellectual life, which is a state of living above images, figures, and shadows: and so you shall rule over all creatures, being re-united with your original nature in that very Ground or Source out of which they were and are created; and henceforth nothing on earth can hurt you. For you are like all things; and nothing is unlike you.”

“O loving master, pray teach me how I may come the shortest way to be like unto all things.”

“With all my heart. Do but think on the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, when He said, ‘Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven' (Matt. 18:3). There is no shorter way than this; neither can a better way be found. Jesus says to you that unless you turn and become as a child, hanging upon Him for all things, you shall not see the kingdom of God. Do this, and nothing shall hurt you, for you will be at friendship with all the things that are, as you depend upon the Author and Fountain of them and become like Him by such dependence and by the union of your will with His will. But mark what I have further to say and be not startled at it, though it may seem hard for you at first to conceive. If you wish to be like all things, you must forsake all things; you must turn your desire away from them all and not desire or hanker after any of them; you must not extend your will to possess them for your own or as your own. For as soon as ever you take something into your desire and receive it into yourself for your own, then this very something—of whatsoever nature it is—is the same with yourself; and this works with you in your will, and you are thence bound to protect it and to take care of it, even as of your own being. But if you receive nothing into your desire, then you are free from all things and rule over all things at once as a prince of God. For you have received nothing for your own and are nothing to all things, and all things are as nothing to you. You are as a child, who understands not what a thing is, and though perhaps you do understand it, yet you understand it without mixing with it and without its sensibly affecting or touching your perception, even in that manner wherein God rules and sees all things, He comprehending all and yet nothing comprehending Him.”

The disciple was exceedingly ravished with what his master had so wonderfully and surprisingly declared, and returned his most humble and hearty thanks for that light which he had been an instrument of conveying to him. But being desirous to hear further concerning these high matters and to know somewhat more particularly, he requested him that he would give him leave to wait on him the next day again, and that he would then be pleased to show him how and where he might find what was so much beyond all price and value, and where the seat and abode of it might be in human nature, with the entire process of the discovery and bringing it forth to light. The master said to him, “This then we shall discourse about at our next conference, as God shall reveal the same to us by His Spirit, which is a searcher of all things. And if you remember well what I answered you today, you shall soon come thereby to understand that hidden mystical wisdom of God which none of the wise men of the world know, and where the mine thereof is to be found in you shall be given you from above to discern. Be silent therefore in your spirit and watch unto prayer that when we meet again tomorrow in the love of Christ, your mind may be disposed for finding that noble pearl which to the world appears nothing, but which to the children of wisdom is all things.”

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Table of Contents

I Severity
1 Breaking the Chains 5
2 The Ladder of Graces 10
3 Transposition 12
4 Death 16
5 Pure Fire 19
6 What More Must I Do? 21
7 The Ceremony of Substitution 23
8 My Desire Has Been Crucified 26
II Simplicity
9 Drawn by the Flames 31
10 Descending with the Breath 33
11 So Many Names 35
12 What Dreams May Come 38
13 I Sleep but My Heart Waketh 41
14 Nakedness and Sacrifice 44
15 The Tao 47
16 Go Not but Stay 51
III Purity
17 The Center of the Soul 57
18 True Prayer 60
19 The Tabernacle of the Covenant 63
20 Rank upon Rank 67
21 Ignorance Is Bliss 70
22 Opening the Tomb 72
23 The Virginal Paradise 77
24 Clothed in Christ 79
IV Clarity
25 Two Ways 87
26 Dispelling Darkness 89
27 Leading Strings 92
28 More than Ourselves 95
29 No Fixed Abode 98
30 Today 101
31 The Teacher 104
32 True Imagination 106
V Luminosity
33 Nothing Amiss 113
34 Sweet Delight in God's Beauty 115
35 Thinking the Unthinkable 119
36 Prayer of the Heart 122
37 The Religion of Light 126
38 In the Eyes of a Child 128
39 Saving Loveliness 132
40 Uncreated Light 134
VI Transparency
41 Filling Every Place 141
42 Virtues and Powers 144
43 A Single Unified Science 146
44 Practicing Presence 149
45 Hidden and Glorified 152
46 As through a Mirror 154
47 Recognition 158
48 Two Facades 162
VII Unity
49 A Higher School 171
50 Flight to Greater Things 173
51 No Other Way 177
52 God's Own Breath 181
53 The Very Marrow of the Bones 185
54 Christmas in the Soul 189
55 High Fantasy Lost Power 194
56 Motionless Circling 197
VIII Unicity
57 A Reply to Active Persons 203
58 Closing to a Bud Again 206
59 The Joyful Instant 210
60 One and the Same Mind 213
61 Awareness and Return 216
62 Waylessness 219
63 Hidden Beauty 223
64 Essence Is Simple 226
IX Identity
65 The Flight of the Eagle 233
66 More God than a Soul 237
67 Unencumbered 240
68 Other Suns 243
69 No Self to Forgive 247
70 To Be Quit of God 249
71 Ascent to Tabor 255
72 Be Thyself the Book 259
Sources of Readings and Recommendations for Further Study 265
Index 275
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