Sunday, 15 July 2012

3. Boehme's myth of the Trinity

Boehme described his great vision of 1600 in the work known as The Aurora (not published until 1656). While not, as I have said, a theological work, it contains the following fine description of the Christian Trinity:
“Now when we speak or write of the three Persons in the deity, you must not conceive that therefore there are three Gods, each reigning and ruling by himself, like temporal kings on earth.
No: such a substance and being is not in God; for the divine being consisteth in power, and not in body or flesh.
The Father is the whole divine power, whence all creatures have proceeded, and hath been always, from eternity: He hath neither beginning nor end.
The Son is in the Father, being the Father’s Heart or light, and the Father generateth the Son continually, from eternity to eternity; and the Son’s power and splendour shine back again in the whole Father, as the sun doth in the whole world.
The Son is also another Person than the Father, but not externally, without or severed from the Father, nor is he any other God than the Father is; his power, splendour, and omnipotence, are no less than the whole Father.
The Holy Ghost proceedeth from the Father and the Son, and is the third self-subsisting Person in the Deity.... he is nothing less or greater than the Father and the Son; his moving power is in the whole Father.”
John Sparrow’s seventeenth-century translation of The Aurora is reproduced in B. Nicolescu, Science, Meaning and Evolution (New York, Parabola Books, 1991).

God’s own nature, according to Boehme, is not the seemingly static perfection implied by medieval scholastic philosophy under the influence of the Greeks. It is a dynamic process, eternally fulfilled and complete in itself without the need of a creation. To create the world, according to Boehme, was therefore an act of divine freedom motivated by love alone. The world is “Magic”: an outbirth of God’s eternal nature formed by the divine Will through the Imagination. The Mirror of Wisdom contains all angels and souls as eternal “possibilities”. God imbues these with actuality through his Word (the Fiat lux: 'Let there be Light").

Boehme is neither a pantheist nor an emanationist: the world is not made out of “nothing”, but yet it is other than God. It is made out of the seven archetypal forces, the “seven spirits of God” that form the Heavenly Sophia; it is made out of Fire and Light woven together by divine Eros (“all things stand in the wisdom in a spiritual form in the attraction of the Fire and Light, in a wrestling sport of Love”).

The first strictly created reality is the Heaven of the Angels. Angelic life is a partial or derived eternity, free of space and time; it is not divided up into a succession of moments or locations but is simultaneous and everywhere present. (Martenson struggles with this idea, but it is simply a rediscovery of the medieval Catholic notion of the Aevum, an intermediary state between God’s eternity and our time.) The freedom of the Angels consists in the ability to choose between nature and grace – or, in Boehme’s terminology, to sacrifice the Wheel of Nature (self-centred existence) in the fourth natural energy for the sake of the Wheel of Light (the life of Love).

The Angel Lucifer “fell” by choosing to dwell in his own nature, and so the Fire was transformed not into Light but into Anguish. The Hell in which he suffers, and into which he drags the rest of creation, is caused not by God but by his own choice. (However, the possibility of Hell lies in the natural imperfection of a created reality, which must be distinct from eternity and therefore cannot be perfect in itself.)

Boehme believes that the Fall of Lucifer affected his entire subordinate kingdom, which happens to be the world of our own Earth, reducing this to a fiercely burning Chaos. It was the Fall that initiated the war of Light against Darkness that we call time and space. God’s merciful reaction to this first Fall was to submerge the Earth in water and begin a new creation. The process (recapitulated later in the story of the Flood) is described in the early chapters of the Book of Genesis – the account not of the first or Angelic creation but the re-creation from Chaos, and specifically the attempt to establish a new harmony based on Man.

Adam is made in God’s image, tripartite. He is body, soul and spirit; his body drawn from that created world that is a copy of Uncreated Heaven, his soul and spirit reflecting respectively the Father (Fire) and Son (Light). Even the human soul is tripartite, in that it can turn towards one or other of the three primordial worlds of the Ternary. Indeed, Man was created with a view to his becoming (in Christ) the Consummator of the creation and Mediator between heaven and earth. But to be made imperishable in blessedness and to bring the Light out of the Fire in himself he must first overcome temptation. This, as we know, he did not do. Time as we understand it – let us call it “entropic time”, meaning time that is measured by decay and death – began with the Fall of Man, as a secondary cycle of reparation and restoration centred on the Cross.

1. Jacob Boehme.
2. Boehme and the birth of God.

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