Table of Contents
Extracts from the Teutonic Theosopher
by Jakob Boehme
The Gate to Babel.
On the History and Rise of the Counterfeit Church.
13. When we consider with ourselves the many Sects and Controversies in Religion, and from whence they come and take their Original, it is as clear as the Sun, and it manifests itself indeed, and in Truth; for there are great Wars and Insurrections stirred up for the Cause of [Religion or] Faith; and there arise great Hatred and Envy about it, and they persecute one another for Opinions Sake; because another is not of his Opinion, he sticks not to say, he is of the Devil; and this is yet the greatest Misery of all, that this is done by the Learned in the high Schools [or Universities] of this World.
14. And I will show (thee, simple Man) their Venom and Poison; for behold every one among the Laity looks upon them, and thinks, Sure it must needs be right if our Priest [Minister, Pastor, Preacher, or Teacher] says it; he is a Minister of God; he sits in God's Stead; it is the Holy Ghost that speaks out of him. But Saint John says, By their Works thou shalt know them; for a good Tree brings forth good Fruit, and an evil Tree brings forth evil Fruit; also he teaches us plainly, that we should not gainsay the Prophecy that is of God, but we should learn to try them by their Fruits.
15. We speak not of perfect Works done by the Body, which is captivated in the Spirit of this World, but [we speak] of their Doctrines, that we [must] try them, whether they be generated of God. For if that Spirit teaches Blasphemies, Slanders, and Persecutions, then it is not from God, but it proceeds from the Covetousness and Haughtiness of the Devil. For Christ teaches us Meekness, and to walk in brotherly Love, wherewith we may overcome the Enemy, and take away the Might of the Devil, and destroy his Kingdom.
16. But when any fall to Firing, killing with the Sword, to undo People, ruin Towns and Countries, there is no Christ, but the Anger of the Father, and it is the Devil that blows the Fire [or the Coal]. For the Kingdom of Christ is not found in such a Way, but in Power; as the Examples of the Apostles of Christ declare, who taught no Revenge, but they suffered Persecution, and prayed to God, who gave them Signs and great Wonders, so that the People flocked to them; and so the Church of Christ grew mightily, so that it overshadowed the Earth. Now who is the Destroyer of this Church? Open thy Eyes and behold; it is Day-light, and it must come to the Light, for God would have it so, for the Sake of the Lily. It is the Pride of the Learned.
17. When the Holy Ghost spoke in the Saints with Power and Miracles, and converted People powerfully, then they flocked to them, they honoured them greatly, they respected them and submitted to them as if they had been Gods. Now this was well done to the Saints, for the Honour was given to God, and so Humility and Love grew among them, and there was a loving Reverence, as becomes the Children of God, as it ought to be.
18. But when the Saints comprised their Doctrine in Writings, that thereby in their Absence it might be understood what they taught, then the World fell upon it, and every one desired to be such a Teacher, and thought the Art, Skill, and Knowledge stuck in the Letter; thither they came running, old and new, who for the most Part only stuck in the old Man, and had no Knowledge of God; and so taught according to their own Conceits, from the written Words, and explained them according to their own Meaning.
19. And when they saw that great Respect and Honour was given to the Teachers, they fell to Ambition, Pride, and Greediness of Money; for the simple People brought them Presents or Gifts, and they thought that the Holy Ghost dwelt in the Teachers, whereas the Devil of Pride lodged in them; and it came to that pass that every one called himself after his Master's Name, [whose Doctrine he prized most;] one would be of Paul; another of Apollos; another of Peter; and so on. And because the Saints used not the same Kind of Words and Expressions in their Teachings and Writings, though they spoke from one and the same Spirit, therefore the natural Man (which being without the Spirit of God knows nothing of God) began all manner of Strife and Disputations, and to make Sects and Schisms; and they set themselves up for Teachers among all Sorts of People, not for God's Sake, but for temporal Honour, Riches, and Pleasure's Sake, that they might live [in Pride or Voluptuousness] brave Lives. For it was no very hard Labour and Work to hang to the bare Letter; and such Strife and Contention rose amongst them, that they became the most bitter Enemies and Haters one of another. And none of them were born of God, but their Parents held them close to the Scripture, that they might come to be Teachers, that so they might be honoured in and for their Children, and that their Children might live bravely [might have good Maintenance, or great Livings for their bestial Man].
20. And so it fell out, that every one would get the greatest Conflux of People he could, that he might be esteemed by most People; and these Lip-Christians did so multiply, that the sincere hearty Desire to God was lost, and they only looked upon the Lip-priest, who did nothing but cause Strife and Contentions; and they all vapoured and boasted of their own Art and Skill which they had learned in the Schools and Universities, and cried, Look here is Christ; come running hither, thus and thus has Paul written; and another say, Come hither, here is Christ, thus and thus has Peter written; he was the Disciple of Christ, and had the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven; this cannot be amiss; they do but deceive you; follow after me.
21. Thus the poor ignorant People looked upon the Mouth-Apes [such as apishly teach the Words of Holy Men, without the Understanding they had], those greedy covetous Men, which were no other than Visard Priests [Mock Priests], and so lost their dear Immanuel; for Christ in them (from whence the Holy Ghost goes forth, which drives and leads Men, and who at first had begotten them with Power and Miracles) must now be nothing but a History, and they became but historical Christians; yet so long as the Apostles and their true Disciples lived, they stopped and reproved such Things, and showed them the right Way; but where they [The Apostles and their Disciples] were not, there the History-Priests misled them, as may be clearly seen in the Galatians.
22. And so the Kingdom of Christ grew not in Power only, but for the most Part in the History; the Saints born in Christ, they confirm that many Times with great Wonders [or Miracles], and the History-Priest of Baal, they always built upon those [Miracles of the Saints] that which was good for the promoting Virtue and good Manners; many brought forth Thistles and Thorns, that they might make Strife and Wars; many sought only great Honour, Dignity, and Glory, that it should be conferred upon the Church of Christ and her Ministers, as it may be seen in Popery, out of what Root it is grown. And it came so far, that they mingled the Jewish Ceremonies in their Doings, as if the Justification of a poor Sinner laid in them, because they were of divine Appointment; for which Cause, the Apostles held the first Council at Jerusalem, where the Holy Ghost concluded, that they should only cleave to Christ in true Love one to another, and that was the only Justification before God.
23. But it availed not; Pride would erect its Throne, and set it above Christ; the Devil would be God; and they made Glosses [Subtil Pretences and Expositions of Scriptures], that they might bring it to pass in such a Way, that the simple People might not take Notice of it; there the Keys of Peter must govern the City, and they drew together with the Keys divine Authority to them, and so could use the divine Power in Deeds and Wonders no more; for they desired to be rich and wealthy upon Earth, and not to be poor with Christ who in this World (as himself witnesses) had not whereon to lay his Head; they would not be such Christians in Power and Wonders; as Adam, who would not live in the Power, but in a great Heap [of Earth] that he might have something to take hold of. And here may be rightly seen our Misery which Adam brought us into, that our Essences always reach after the Spirit of this World, and desire only to fill themselves with a great Heap, from whence Adam and we all have got such a swelled, gross, untoward Body, full of Sickness, Contrariety, and contentious Desires.
24. Now when the historical Christendom and the true Christians grew together, the Scepter was always among the Learned, who exalted themselves, and made themselves potent, and great; and the simple [Church] yielded to it as right; and yet there was a Desire after the Kingdom of God found in Men, viz. the noble Word of God (which had imprinted [imaged or figured itself in the Mind] itself in the Promise [in Paradise,] in the Light of Life, and which was made stirring by Christ) that drove them indeed to the Fear of God. And then they built great Houses [Temples or Churches] of Stone, and called everyone thither; and they said that the Holy Ghost was powerful there, and they must come thither; besides they durst be so impudent as to say [saying Do as we say, not as we do] (when they were found to be so wicked and malicious) that the Holy Ghost was powerfully in the Mouth of the Wicked.
25. But, thou Hypocrite, thou lyest; if thou art ungodly, thou canst not raise the Dead [the Dead in Trespasses and Sin], thou canst convert none that in this World lie drowned in Sins; thou mayest stir the Heart of the Believer indeed (through thy Voice) which is Work of the Spirit, but thou bringest forth none out of Death [into Life;] it is an impossible Thing. For if thou wilt convert a poor Sinner, which is drowned in Sin, and lies captive in the Anger, then the Holy Ghost must be in thy Mouth, and thy Essences must take hold of his, and then thy Light will shine in him, and thou shalt raise him out of the Death of Sins, and with thy Love, in thy Tincture, catch him; and then he will come to thee with a hearty Desire, longing after the Kingdom of Heaven; and then thou art his Confessor, and hast the Keys of Peter; and if thou art void of that [the Holy Ghost], thou hast no Keys.
26. As the Confession is, so is the Absolution. Is the Patient an historical Christian? so is the Physician too. And in them both there is a Mouth-Hypocrisy. But has the Patient any Virtue [or Power?] then the Voice blows that Virtue [or Power] up, not from the Power of the Physician, but in the Virtue [or Power] of God, who with his Power even in a Thorn-Bush makes it to grow, which is the Power in all Things; and so also in a Voice, which in itself has no Ability.
27. Thus it became a Custom [or Fashion], that every one was bound [to come] to the Temple made of Stones, and the Temple of God in Christ stood and stands very empty; but when they saw the Desolation in the Contention [Disputations, and Controversies], they called Councils and made Laws and Canons, that every one must observe upon Pain of Death. Thus the Temple of Christ was turned into Temples made of Stones, and out of the Testimony of the Holy Ghost, a worldly Law was made. Then the Holy Ghost spoke no more freely, but he must speak according to their Laws. If he reproved their Errors, then they persecuted him; and so the Temple of Christ in man's Knowledge became very obscure; if any came that was born of God, and taught by the Holy Ghost, and was not conformable to their Laws, he must be a Heretic.
28. And so their [false] Power grew, and every one had great Respect to it; and they strengthened their Laws still more and more with the Power of Saint Peter, till they raised themselves so high, that they impudently set themselves as Lords over the Doctrine of the Apostles before God, and gave forth, that the Word of God and the Doctrine of the Saints must receive their Value, Worth, and Authority from their Councils; and what they ordained and instituted, that was from God; they were God's Dispensers of the Word; Men must believe their Ordinances, for that was the Way and Means [of Salvation] for the poor Sinner to be justified before God.
29. But where then is the new Regeneration in Christ through the Holy Ghost? Art thou not Babel, a Habitation of all Devils in Pride? How hast thou adorned thyself: Not for Christ, but for thy own Pride, for thy Idol [God Maozim,the Belly-God] the Belly's Sake, and thou art a Devourer. But thy Belly [Idol] has become a Stink, and has gotten a horrible Source; there is a great Fire of Anguish [Terrible Devouring, in that which thou hast made thy God] in thy Source, for thou art naked and manifest before God; thou standest as an impudent whorish Woman. Why do you, Laity, hang [and depend] on such a Strumpet? Her own usurped Authority is her Beast whereon she rides; behold, and consider her in the Revelation of John, how the Holy Ghost sets her forth in her Colours.
30. Wilt thou be an Apostle of Christ, and wilt be but a Minister for the Belly, and teach only according to thy Art? From whom dost thou teach? From thy Belly, that thou mayest fatten thyself thereby. It is true, thou shouldst be fed, and thou shouldst have Subsistence from Men, if thou art Christ's Disciple; but thy Spirit should not stick in Covetousness, but in Christ; thou shouldst not rely only upon thy Art, but shouldst give up thyself to God, that God may speak from thee, and then thou art in the Temple of God, and not in the Temple of the Institution of Man's Inventions.
31. Look upon Saint Peter, on the Day of Pentecost, who converted three Thousand Souls at one Sermon; he spoke not from the Appointment of the Pharisees, but out of the Spirit of Moses and the Prophets, out of the Temple of the Holy Ghost, that pierced through and enlightened the poor Sinners. But thou teachest Persecution only, consider thereby whence thou didst grow, viz. out of that first Stock, where they fell from the Temple of Christ to human Conceits and Inventions; where they sent forth Teachers according to Man's itching Ears, for a fair Show, that thereby thou mightest grow great in thy Pride; and because thou hast sought nothing else, therefore God has suffered thee to fall into a perverse [reprobate confounded state] Sense, so that out of thee there come those that blaspheme the true Doctrine of Christ.
32. Behold, out of what are the Turks grown? Out of thy perverse Sense; when they saw that thou regardest nothing but thy Pride, and didst only contend and dispute about the Temple of Christ, that it must stand only upon Man's Foundation and Inventions, then Mahomet came forth, and found an Invention that was agreeable to Nature. Because those other followed after Covetousness [for Greediness of Money and Gain, or filthy Lucre] and fell off from the Temple of Christ, as also from the Light of Nature, into a Confusion of Pride, and all their Aim was, how the Antichristian Throne might be adorned; therefore he also made Laws and Doctrines [raised] from Reason.
33. Or dost thou suppose it [the Rising-up and Doctrine of Mahomet] was for nothing? It is most certain, that the Spirit of the great World has thus set him up in great Wonders, because the other were no better; and therefore it must stand in the Light of Nature in the Wonders, as a God of this World, and God was near the one as the other. Thy Symbols or Signs in the Testament of Christ which thou usest (which Christ left for a Covenant) stood in Controversy, and were in Disputation, and thou didst pervert them according to thy Pride, and thou didst bend them to thy Institution, Ordinances and Appointment; thou didst no more regard the Covenant of Christ, but the Custom of Celebration or Performance of it, the Custom must serve the Turn; whereas Wood that burns not is not Fire, though when it is kindled it comes to be Fire; so also the Custom without Faith is like Wood that burns not, which they will call a Fire.
34. Or shall not the Spirit set it down before thy Eyes, thou lascivious filthy Strumpet? Behold, how has thou broken the State of Wedlock, and opened a Door to Whoredom, so that no Sin is regarded; hast thou not ridden upon thy Beast, when every one gazed on thee, and rode after thee. Or art thou not that fine painted adorned Whore? Dost thou suppose we set thee forth in vain? The Judgment stands over thee; the Sword is begotten, and it will devour. Go out from Babel, and thou shalt live; though we saw a Fire in Babel, and that Babel was burning, yet it shall not burn those that go out from it.
Extract from Jacob Boehme's "Three Principles of the Divine Essence",
From: " The Works of Jacob Behmen, The Teutonic Theosopher."
Reverend William Law's Edition: Volume One; London, 1764,
Printed for M. Richardson, in Pater-noster Row.
Chapter 26: Paragraphs 13-34.