Of True Resignation Or Dying to Self
by Jakob Boehme
Here reason will object and say, is it not right for a man to attain the light of God, and also the light of the outward nature and reason, that he may be able to order his life wisely, as the scripture directed? Yes, it is very right; nothing can be more profitable to a man, neither is he capable of anything better; no, it is a treasure above all earthly treasures for a man to have the light of God and of time, for it is the eye of time and of eternity.
But mark how you should to use it; when the light of God first manifests itself in the soul, it shines forth as light from a candle, and encourages the outward light of reason immediately; yet it does not yield itself wholly up to reason, so as to be under the dominion of the outward man. No, the outward man beholds himself in this shining luster, as he does his likeness in a mirror, whereby he presently learns to know himself, which is good and profitable to him.
Now, when he does so, reason, which is the creaturely self, cannot do better than to behold itself in the self of the creature, and not enter with the will of the desire into seeking the center of self. If it does, it breaks itself off from the substance of God, (which rises together with the light of God, of which the soul ought to eat, and refresh itself,) and eats of the outward substance and light, and thereby draws the venom into itself again.
The will of the creature ought to sink wholly into itself with all its reason and desire, accounting itself an unworthy child that is not worthy of this much grace; nor should it arrogate any knowledge or understanding to itself, or desire of God to have any understanding in its creaturely self; but sincerely and simply sink down into the grace and love of God in Christ Jesus, and desire to be as it were dead to itself and its own reason, in the divine life, and wholly resign itself to the Spirit of God in love, that he may do, how, and what he will, with it, as with his own instrument.
Its own reason ought not enter upon any speculation as to the ground of divine or human matters; nor to will and desire anything but the grace of God in Christ. And as an infant continually longs after the breasts of its mother, so must its hunger be continually going after the love of God, and not allow itself to be broken off from that hunger by any means. When the outward reason or self rises up and triumphed in the light, saying, I have the true child, then the will of the desire must bow itself down to the earth, and bring itself into the deepest humility and most sincere ignorance, and say, you are foolish, and have nothing but the grace of God. You must wrap yourself up in that belief with great humility, and become nothing at all in yourself, and neither know, nor love yourself. All that you have, or all that is in you, must esteem itself as nothing but a mere instrument of God; and you must bring your desire only into God's mercy, and go forth from all of your own knowing and willing; and esteem it as nothing at all, nor ever entertain any will to enter into it again.
As soon as this is done the natural will becomes weak and faint, and then the Devil is not able to sift it any more with his evil desire, for the places of his rest become very powerless, barren and dry; and then the holy spirit proceeding from God, takes possession of the forms of life, and makes his dominion to prevail. He kindles the forms of life with His flames of love, and then the high knowledge of the center of all things arises, according to the inward and outward complexion of the creature, in a very subtle drying fire, attended with great delight. Whereupon the humbled soul presently desires to sink down into that light, and esteems itself to be nothing and quite unworthy of it. And thus its own desire pierced into that nothing, i.e., into that wherein God creates and does what God wills, and the Spirit of God springs forth through the desire of the resigned humility, and so the human self immediately follows the Spirit of God in trembling and humble joy; and so it may behold what is in time and eternity, for all is present before it.
When the Spirit of God rises up as a fire and flame of love, then the sprit of the soul descends, and says, Lord, glory be to Your name, not to me; You are able to take to yourself virtue, power, strength, wisdom, and knowledge; do as you will; I can do nothing; I know nothing; I will go no where you lead me as your instrument; do in me, and with me, what you desire.
In such a humble and total resignation the spark of divine power falls into the center of the forms of life, as a spark into tinder, and kindles it, i.e., the fire of the soul, which Adam had made to be a dark coal in himself, so that it glimmered. And when the light of divine power has kindled itself, the creature must go on as an instrument of God's Spirit, and speak what the Spirit of God dictated to it; and then it is no more in its own possession, but is the instrument of God.
But the will of the soul must without ceasing, in this fiery driving, sink into nothing, i.e., into the deepest humility in the sight of God. For no sooner does the will of the soul in the least measure go on in its own speculation or searching, but Lucifer lays hold of it in the center of the forms of life, and sifts it so that it enters back into self. It must therefore continue close to resigned humility, as a well does to its spring, and must drink of God's fountain, and not depart from the ways of God at all.
For as soon as the soul eats of self, and of the light of outward reason, it goes on in its own opinion; and then its doings, which it sets forth for divine, are but from the outward constellation, or influence of the stars, which presently lays hold on the soul, and makes it dry. And then the soul goes on in errors, until it yields itself up again into resignation, and acknowledges itself anew to be a defiled child, it must again resist reason and so receive the love of God again. Which is harder to do this time than it was at first, for the Devil brings in strong doubts now, and will not easily leave his prey. This may be seen clearly in the saints of God from the beginning of the world. For many who have been driven by the Spirit of God, have yet oftentimes departed from resignation into self, i.e., into "own reason" and will, in which Satan has cast them into sins, and into the anger of God; as appears by David and Solomon, also by the patriarchs, prophets, and apostles; who have oftentimes committed great errors when they have departed from resignation into self, i.e., into their own reason and lust. Therefore, it is necessary for the children of God to know how to behave themselves, and learn the way of God. They must beat down and cast away their very thoughts; and desire nothing, nor have the least will to learn anything, unless they find themselves to be in true resignation; so that God's Spirit leads, teaches, and guides man's spirit, that the human will which is attached to itself, is wholly broken off from its own lust, and resigned to God.
All speculation in the wonders of God is very dangerous, for the spirit of the will may soon be captivated therewith, unless the spirit of the will walks after the Spirit of God, and then it has power in the resigned humility to behold the wonders of God.
I do not say that a man should search and learn nothing in natural arts and sciences. No; such knowledge is useful to him; but a man must not begin with his own reason. Man ought not only to govern his life by the light of outward reason, which is good in itself; but should sink down with that light into the deepest humility before God, and set the Spirit and will of God foremost in all his searching, so that the light of reason may see and know things through the light of God. And though reason may be very wise in its own sphere, and help a man to much knowledge, yet it must not arrogate such wisdom and knowledge to itself, as if it were in his own possession, but give the glory thereof to God, to whom alone all wisdom and knowledge belonged.
For the Spirit of God works only in resigned humility, in that which neither seeks nor desires itself.
For the more deeply reason sinks itself down into simple humility in the sight of God, and the more unworthy it accounts itself in His sight; the more truly it dies from self-desire, and the more thoroughly the Spirit of God penetrates it, and brings it into the highest knowledge, so that at length it may come to behold the great mysteries and wonders of God. For the Spirit of God works only in resigned humility, in that which neither seeks nor desires itself. The Spirit of God takes hold of all desires to be simple and lowly before Him, and brings it into His wonders. He has pleasure only in those that fear and bow themselves before Him. For God has not created us for ourselves only, but to be instruments of His wonders, by which He desires to manifest His wonders. The resigned will trusted God, and expected all good from Him alone; but self-will rules itself, for it is broken off from God. All that self-will does is sin, and is against God; for it is gone out of that order wherein he created it, into disobedience, and desires to be its own Lord and master.
When a man's own will dies from itself, then it is free from sin, for it desires nothing but that which God desires of His creature; it desires only to do that for which God has created it and that which God will do by it; and though it is and must be involved in the doing, yet it is but the instrument of the doing, by which God does what He wills.
For this is the true faith in man, i.e., To die from himself; that is, from his own desire; and in all his undertakings and designs to bring his desire into the will of God, and arrogate the doing of nothing by his self, but sees himself in all his doings, as a servant or minister of God, and to think that all he does, and undertakes, is for God. For in such a disposition the Spirit of God leads him into true uprightness and faithfulness towards his neighbor. For he thinks within himself, I do my work not for myself, but for God, who has called and appointed me to do it; I am but a servant in his vineyard. He listened continually after the voice of his master, who within him commands him in all that he should do. The Lord speaks in him, and bids him to do, all that he wants to have done by him. But self does from outward reason from the stars (his imagination) commands him to do, into which reason the Devil flies with his desire. All that self does is without the will of God, and is done altogether in the fantasy, that the anger of God may accomplish its pastime therewith.
No work done without the will of God can reach the kingdom of God; it is all but an unprofitable imagery, or self-wrought work, in this great agitation of mankind. For nothing is pleasing to God, but what he himself does by the resigned will of his instruments. For there is but one God in the essence of all essences, and all that which works with Him in that essence, is one Spirit with Him; but that which works in itself only, in its own will, is in itself only, and not in God's dominion. It is indeed under that universal dominion of nature, whereby He holds subject to him every life, evil and good, but not under that special divine government in Himself, which comprehends the good only. Nothing is divine which walks and works outside of the will of God.
Christ says, every plant which my heavenly father has not planted, shall be rooted out and burned in the fire. All the works of man, which he has wrought without the will of God, shall be burnt up in the last fire and given to the wrath of God, i.e., To the pit of darkness to recreate itself. For Christ says, he that is not with me is against me; and he that gathered not with me scattered. Whosoever works, and does it not in a resigned will with confidence in God, does but make desolate and scatter; it is not acceptable to God. For nothing is pleasing to Him but that which he wills with His spirit, and does by His own instrument.
Therefore, whatever is done by the conclusions of human self in matters of religion is a mere fiction. It is Babel, and but a work of the stars, and of the outward world, and not acknowledged by God to be His work. It is only the play of the wrestling wheel of nature, wherein good and evil wrestle one with the other; what the one builds, the other destroys. And this is the great misery of the vain turmoil of men, the issue that must be left to the judgment of God.
Whoever therefore stirs or labors much in such turmoil, works only for the judgment of God; for none of it is perfect and permanent. It must all be separated in the putrefaction. For that which is wrought in the anger of God will be received, and kept in the mystery of its desire to the day of God's judgment, when evil and good shall be severed. But if a man turns and goes forth from himself, and enters into the will of God, then also that good which has been wrought in and by him, shall be freed from the evil, which he had wrought. As Isaiah says, though your sins be as red as scarlet, yet if you turn and repent, they shall become as wool, yes, as white as snow. For the evil shall be swallowed up in the wrath of God into death, and the good shall spring forth as a sprout out of the wild earth.
Continue to Chapter 3