The Mysterium Magnum by Jacob Boehme

(1575-1624)

Jacob Boehme

Chapter 27

The Twenty-Seventh Chapter

Of Cain's and Abel's offering and of the False and Antichristian Church, and also of the True Holy Church

A LOOKING-GLASS FOR THE WORLD

1. HERE again, the veil lies before the face of Moses, in respect of the offerings of both these brothers; wherefore God willed to have them offer, whereas the reconciliation and atonement consists only in the earnest will toward God's mercy, in prayer and supplication to God, that a man depart and turn away from his evil will, and repent, and introduce his faith and hope into God's mercy.

2. They must verily needs know wherefore they offered incense; what pleasure and delight God took therein; which Moses has not once so much as mentioned, and that from God's purpose; and yet it has not been hidden to the children of the Saints, and also not to Moses; but he has a veil hanging before his eyes.

3. Israel (seeing for the most part they were evil children, and also idolatrous, as soon appeared by making them a Golden Calf) might not know it by reason of the false magic; and we also shall write only to those that are of our tribe, and yet plain and easy enough to be understood. Observe and mark it, thus:

4. The soul's free will is as thin [subtle] as a nothing; and though it be in its body indeed encompassed with the something, yet its amassed or conceived something is in a false distempered essence, by reason of the original of sin.

5. Now if the free will would approach to God with the desire, then it must depart out of its false something, and if it now does so depart, then it is bare and impotent, for it is again in the first nothing: for if it will come to God, then it must die to its false selfhood, and forsake it; and if it forsakes the same, then it is barely and merely as a nothing, and so it cannot go, work, or move. If it will show its might, then it must be in something, wherein it does imaginate and form itself.

6. An example hereof we have in faith. If faith would effectually work, then it must immass [or imaginate] itself into something wherein it may work; God's free will has conceived [or immassed] itself with the inward spiritual world, and works through the same; and the inward world's free will has conceived itself in the outward world, and works through the same. Even so the soul's free will, which also has its original out of the abyss, immasses itself in something, that it might be manifest, and thereby be able to move and act in God's sight.

7. Seeing then Adam's body was out of the limus of the earth, and also out of the limus of the holy heaven, which limus of heaven in Adam was now disappeared, wherein the free will had power to immass [or conceive] itself into a holy form, and act, work, pray and supplicate before God, therefore they made burnt-offerings of the fruits of the earth. As Cain, he brought of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstlings of his flock, and these they enkindled with fire.

8. But understand a magical fire, as that of Moses, for Moses declares so also. God looked graciously upon the offering of Abel, and not upon Cain's; that is, they brought offerings before God, and the free will of the soul should earnestly press with its prayer in to God. Therefore it would have a substance [subject or means], when it would go out of the human house of corruption into God, that it might work in something; therefore the imagination of the will did immass [or imaginate] itself through the offering, and God enkindled the offering of Abel with the holy fire in the aim of the Covenant, which in the fullness of time should again enkindle itself in the soul's fire.

9. In this the will of Abel's soul did enform [idea] itself into a holy substance, and pressed, with the desire of the enformed free soul's will, before and into God's free will, and this the will of the devil and the Serpent could not brook; and even this the will of the Serpent and devil in Cain did well understand; that the aim of the Covenant did open itself in the holy fire in Abel's desire and prayer.

10. And therefore he [the devil] would kill the body of Abel according to his [Abel's] earthly limus; lest such children should be begotten of him, and so he [the devil] might lose his kingdom in man. But God would not enkindle the offering of Cain. Now Moses makes a veil here before it, and says, God would not look graciously upon Cain's offering.

11. The enkindling of the external offering was a figure of the internal spirit. For the soul's spirit in the free will (as to the centre of the light) was enkindled with God's love-fire; and the imagination of the body (also understand, of the heavenly part) was enkindled in the offering with the fire of the holy part of the earth (which lies hidden in the curse). And therein the free will of the soul, and the free will in the ens of the heavenly part of the body, did immass itself into a substance; and therewith did press in before the holiness of God.

12. And here the Serpent's head was first bruised, for it was a figure of the new birth out of Christ. Not that Abel had at this time put on Christ in the flesh, but indeed in the spirit of Jehova, in the aim of the Covenant. In which the name of Jesus stood hidden in God (as a regenerator), which would move and manifest itself in the fullness of time in this aim [of the Covenant], and introduce a heavenly holy ens into the disappeared ens of the heavenly part, and quicken it to life again in the opened power of Jesus.

13. If a man would rightly and fundamentally understand the offerings, he must consider that whereof the offering consisted, and what severed itself with the enkindling in the fire, out of the fire, viz. out of the enkindled offering. for in the enkindling nothing is seen or perceived, but 1.) The wood to the fire. 2.) The matter of offering. 3.) The fire and light. 4.) The smoke of the fire, which arises from the burning wood and matter of the offering. All this, without the faith and divine desire, is as an abomination, and indeed nothing in God's sight, and attains not the gate of God.

14. But if man brings his faith's-desire thereinto, then he resigns the free will thereinto, and will thereby, as by a means (in which fire the free will of the introduced sinful abomination does burn and consume away), press into God's eternal free will. And now how this is effected and comes to pass, understand as follows :

15. God's imagination or lubet meets the free inspired will of the humanity, and the human free will meets the Deity: here is now the conjunction.

16. But now man's free will is become sinful, and God's free will (from whence the human free will did first take its rise in its inspiration) is holy and pure. As yet the human free will cannot press into God's will, unless it also become pure before God.

17. But seeing God will, out of free grace, receive it into himself for the delight and harmony of his praise, there is no other way or remedy but that God move himself in the centre of the eternal nature, according to the fire of the second Principle, viz. according to the holy fire, and devour that enkindled anger and vanity of man's free will; and annihilate it in the mortification of death, viz. in the anger-fire of God, that the human will might become pure before God's will, and so might enter into God's love-will. And therefore God's love-desire did itself enkindle the offering of Abel and Moses, that so the holy- and-love-fire might devour and swallow up the turba in the human free soul's-will, in the anger-fire of the eternal nature, in the Father's property.

18. But that there must be an earthly offering thereunto is thus to be understood: The body of man as to one part is a limus of the earth, and as to the other part a limus of heaven; and into this body the free will was inspired, and body and soul is only one man.

19. But seeing in the fall the earthliness and false subtlety of the Serpent (by the insinuation of the devil's desire) was awakened in the flesh of man, and so the earthly bestial property got the upper hand in his ens, and devoured the right human will in the bestial property, that is, took it captive, thereupon the earthly will which was from the limus of the earth must also be offered up in the fire.

20. For the limus of the earth shall arise again out of earth; but for to make it an offering it must also be offered in an earthly elemental fire of its likeness; so that a heavenly fire, and an earthly elemental fire, might be in one another; and each will in the offering might respectively find a place for its own comprehension and capacity, viz. the will proceeded from the earthly limus of the earth from the kingdom of this world, and the heavenly will, out of the heavenly limus, viz. out of the ens of the Verbum Domini [of the seminal and central love of the Word of the Lord]; each property of the free will went into the offering, and from the offering into the fire, where the atonement was.

21. For the Covenant of the Promise touching the Serpent-Stroyer [destroyer] did manifest itself by the holy fire, which holy fire enkindled the elemental fire, for the holy fire shall awaken and raise up from death the elemental man out of the limus of the earth; and in the holy fire man (who has taken his original from time) shall be purged and tried in the Resurrection; who verily must first go through the fire of the anger, but the power and might of the holy fire shall bring him through the anger-fire, and cleanse and purge away his introduced abomination of sin (in the Serpent's and devil's ens [in him]) from the limus of the earth, that the limus of the earth may be no more earthly, but as a fine purified gold, which subsists in the fire.

22. Even thus the earthly man shall be purified in the Resurrection, through the fire, of which the offerings were a type, and yet they did really subsist in their power, as to the spirit. But the body must die, and the true corporality and regeneration must come forth [or begin to spring afresh] in the opened body of Christ, who, with his entrance into and manifestation in the humanity, did again open the heavenly disappeared limus in the human ens, which did disappear [or fade] in Adam and Eve.

23. Thus understand us aright: Abel and Moses offered the fat of beasts, and enkindled that with the holy fire, which fire was first enkindled by God; for the bestial property became manifest in the outward earthly man of the limus of the earth. The human limus of the earth was turned to a beast, and was moreover sinful and evil, full of the Serpent's poison and cunning subtlety.

24. The free will did immass itself in the Serpent's craft and devil's desire; and formed to itself such a figure in the ens of the flesh as the desire was; whereupon the body was more vain in God's sight than a beast.

25. But seeing the heavenly ens lay hidden and shut up in the earthly property, God would not utterly forsake the whole image; which Abel and Moses did understand, in the spirit of God, by their offerings. And therefore they offered the fat, viz. the oil of the beasts, and other earthly good fruits, that so the desire of the true man, created out of the limus of the earth, who shall arise from death, might, in the enkindling of the offering in the fire, have a substance whereinto it might give itself and imaginate itself; and so in the property of the holy fire it might be able to enter with its will into the aim of the Covenant, which stood before God in the figure, until [the promise] of the woman's seed was fulfilled and accomplished.

26. In which seed the dear and precious name of Jesus did open itself out of Jehovah, and did again awaken the heavenly life in the disappeared ens in the humanity, and offered up this whole image, in the Person of Christ, to the anger-fire of the Father, and with the holy love-fire regenerated and enkindled in the human life, did bring it quite through the anger, viz. through the fire of the eternal nature of the Father's manifestation, and changed the anger-fire into a love-fire. And this was just thus pre-figured in the offering; for the love-fire enkindled the offering, and in the offering was yet the curse of the earth, as well as in the human free will; and when the offering was offered, it was a sin-offering, whereby the free will of man's soul was propitiated [reconciled with] before God.

27. Now if sin shall be reconciled and appeased, then it must be brought into the anger, viz. into the judgement of God, into the sword of the Cherub, that it may cut off the same, which [Cherub] is the sword of God's anger: and if then the human will be wholly sinful and altogether capable of the fire of anger, then God enkindles the sin-offering (in which the anger-fire lay hidden in the curse), with the holy fire, that the human will, which was apprehended in the anger-fire, might be atoned in the love-fire.

28. For the love-fire of God tinctures the soul's desire in the offering, as a tincture tinges brass and iron and changes them into gold. Even thus the human soul's free will, which was inspired wholly pure and spotless into man, was tinctured and again purified before God, that so it might enter into God's mercy. For the mercy was hidden in the love-fire, viz. in the aim of the Covenant, in the name of Jesus in God; in which Covenant and name the anger of God was reconciled and atoned in the offering, and laid down its anger-burning flames, and suffered the soul's free will to pass quite through it.

29. But as touching the offering in itself; with the wood, fire, light, and smoke, understand it thus: Abel offered of his flock, without doubt, sheep, or oxen, as Moses did the like, namely, the fat of them; now the offering (viz. the wood and smoke) on the outward part as to the matter was earthly; and so was man, as to the outward body, earthly; and in the earthliness lay the curse, both in man and in the offering.

30. But when the offering was enkindled it was spiritual, for from the wood proceeded the fire which took the offering and consumed it; and out of the consumptiveness went forth first from the fire the smoke, and afterwards the light. This was the figure whereinto man's and also God's imagination entered, as a compaction or conjunction.

31. In the enkindled consuming fire was the desire of the angry Father, viz. a conjunction of the eternal nature's fire with the temporal fire; the eternal is magical, and the temporal is the substance and matter of the magical, viz. its reception [Or amassment]. And in the enkindled light was the holy love-fire, which is also magical, as subtle as a will, which did also immass itself in the enkindled light; and in the forth-proceeding smoke, which is an elemental sulphur and mercury, viz. a life of the quality, the smell or taste went forth also, which signifies the human power of the body, and the outward spirit of nature.

32. In this power which proceeded forth from the offering, out of the fire and light, the spirit of God which proceeds forth from the Father and Son did amass itself in the amassment of the human faith's desire, and so took the human faith's desire into itself; and did amass itself into a substance of the fire, light and power proceeding forth from the offering; and brought it through the gates of God's anger, upon the holy altar, in the aim of the Covenant, upon which the Lamb of God should be offered for the sins of the whole world.

33. For this Lamb of God, viz. Christ, should complete, perfect, and make this introduced offering fully acceptable upon the great altar of the angelical world; that it might be to God an eternal sweet savour of his deepest love, which he represented in mankind in his introduced offering in the Lamb of God, Christ, and mankind in this representative offering.

34. The human offering was the sojourner of the true Lamb and offering of God in Christ. And now where the offering is, there also is the spirit of man; for man's spirit is gone forth and departed from God into time, and in the time it has defiled itself; therefore it must forsake the pollution, and enter in again through this offering to God.

35. But if it will enter, then it must do it in manner and form as it went out; for it brought itself into false desire and lust. Even so likewise it must introduce itself again by a returning into a sorrow and conversion, and in the sorrow or repentance again [introduce itself] into a divine desire, which is called faith.

36. But that it might apprehend or lay hold on the divine desire, it did bring the faith or the believing desire into an offering; and so amassed or formed the believing desire in the offering into a substance or essence, that the faith also might become essential; and this essentiality of faith received the holy fire of God, which would in the fullness of time open itself in the essentiality of faith, and bring the human substance thereinto; and also bring it forth in itself through God's anger, and change it in itself into a love-fire; for all the words of prayer in the offering were also received into the substance of faith.

37. For as all things were formed, amassed and introduced by the word of God into a substance, so likewise the words of the prayer of Abel and Israel in the offering were formed and amassed to substance, viz. unto an incorruptible essence. In which essence, Christ, God's Son, in the fullness of time brake forth out of the Covenant, and took upon him this same essence, together with the human essence, and as a potent Champion and mighty Conqueror destroyed the kingdom of death and the devil.

38. And to this faith's essence, in the spirit of Christ in all his children and members, was given the judgement over the world, yea, over the kingdom of the devil and of death; thereby to destroy and bring to naught their works, and possess the royal throne.

39. This was the real offering of Abel, for the spirit of the holy love-fire in the aim of the Covenant had opened itself in him, so that he understood it. And therefore he offered, that so his believing desire might be accepted before God, and be brought into a substance to the new regeneration; for he looked upon the promise of the Serpent-Strayer, and introduced the desire of his faith into him; and desired that his faith, spirit and life might be confirmed in the Serpent-Stroyer who was promised. He would fain be therein accepted before God; as it was granted him, so that the fire of God did enkindle his offering, and received his prayer in the love-fire; and in the sweet savour of the offering it was brought by the spirit of God in the power of the light into a holy substance, and it is rightly said, His offering was acceptable before God.

40. The offering alone could not have been able to have done it, only the faith which did idea or lay hold on the promised Messiah in the offering, which apprehended the Covenant, and the true, very precious and dear offering, the same did effect it. The offering was only a figure of that which was therein accomplished and performed, as the outward world is only a figure of the inward spiritual world, whereby the spiritual world does introduce itself into a figure and essence, and beholds itself therein, as in a looking-glass.

OF CAIN'S OFFERING

41. By Cain's offering we rightly understand the verbal Christendom, the titular Christians, in the spiritual Babylonical harlotry, the type and image of whom is Cain. And as Cain in his offering sought only the outward world, might and pleasure, and would be an outwardly adopted and received child, God should permit his evil beast to be accepted and offered up; he desired to be God's acceptable child with the selfhood in the Serpent's ens and falsehood; he was an impenitent proud man, who thought to be a lord of the world, and to domineer over Abel and his posterity. And just thus is the anti-christian Church upon the earth; it also builds churches and altars, preaches, sings and tinkles, and does likewise offer in the bequeathed Covenant and Testament of Christ, and so covers itself with the offering of Christ, and will be an outwardly accepted and adopted son, notwithstanding that its offering is not accepted in the Covenant and Testament of Christ, nor brought to substance.

42. The cause and ground of it is this: Men depend and rely only barely and nakedly upon the offering, and teach that the offerings take away sin, [and teach that] Christ's Testaments do absolve sin. But as little as the offering of Cain was acceptable before God and took away his sin, and as little as Cain's desire was introduced into the divine substance, so as to have the divine fire to enkindle in his offering and receive his faith's desire into it, even so little also does the verbal [lip-labouring] Christendom enjoy the offering of Christ in his humanity. It must be an Abel alone that does enjoy it; the titular mouth-Christian attains only the smoke of the true offering. It must be only a right, hungry, thirsty, converted soul, which desires wholly and fully to depart from the Serpent's ens and all vanity of this world, and strives to mortify the Serpent and all vain will, in the death of Christ, and desires to arise in a new will, totally resigned in all submission in God.

43. This true hungry will offers rightly with Abel, and its offering is received into the holy fire of Christ, and formed [or amassed] in Christ's humanity into a substance. There must be earnestness and power, which earnestness stirs the love-fire of Christ in his Testament, so that it does enkindle itself in the desire; and then the desire becomes a true right faith, for there is no right faith without divine taking [Comprehension, amassment or formation].

44. When man's desire introduces its hunger with earnest sighing and prayer of introversion, resignation, and departing from vanity into the offering of Christ, even then the soul's desire does, in the heavenly essentiality, in the humanity of Christ, upon the high altar of God, form itself into a substance. The hungry desire becomes in the Word of God, in Christ's Testaments, flesh, a heavenly supernatural flesh; and this flesh is the true offering of God, which God takes to his habitation, and not the bestial mortal man.

45. In this holy substance alone is the true faith of Abel, without this there is only an historical painted and feigned faith, a Cain's offering, which does not take away sin: for sin must always be brought into the judgement of God wherein it was born, and the holy love-fire of God must drown and wash it away, else there is no forgiveness. Neither offering nor Covenant does avail anything without it; also no going to church, neither singing nor devout showing does attain it. Nothing else at all does it but only the hungry, desiring faith through the alone offering in the blood and death of Christ, where the desire does wholly die to its selfhood in the death of Christ, and arise in Christ's resurrection with a true faith and Christianity, not in a specious show of holiness, but in essence, in words and works.

46. For he is yet far from a Christian, who merely calls himself a Christian [or is only so termed], but he is one who is born in the offering of his humanity in him. Neither Covenant nor laws avail anything before God, but a new creature. No cathedral, stone church, meeting-house or hypocrisy, or whatsoever it be called, can inherit God's kingdom, but only and alone the true living offering of the new regeneration, arising from the Covenant of Promise in Paradise, through the quickening Word in the offering of Christ.

47. It only and alone is the temple of the holy Spirit, where God's word is taught and taken; without that, is Cain, with his glistering stone church, full of pride and stinking ambition, the great building of Babylon, where the language of God's word, viz. of the written word, is confounded and divided into manifold contentions and languages, where there is nothing but wrangling, jangling and snarling about the letters, and no true, real, living, effectual and powerful knowledge.

48. Now where the living knowledge of Christ is, there is the altar of God in all places, where the hungry soul may offer the true acceptable holy offering, in prayer; there it may introduce the prayer in the Word, in its hunger, into a substantial faith.

49. Not that we would hereby wholly abolish and raze down the stone churches; but we teach the Temple of Christ, which ought to be brought along [in the heart] into the stone church, or else the whole business of the stone church is only a hypocritical antichristian whoredom, a Cain's offering, both of the preacher and the hearer: so that one is not a whit better than another, unless he enter through the true door, Christ, in spirit and power in the Temple of Christ, into the stone church, or at least resolve to fix, betake and fasten himself there into such an earnest desire [that he will take and hold fast only that which is good for the amendment of his life]. Else Cain goes to church to offer, and comes out again a killer of his brother.

50. As it often appears, that when men in the stone churches have taken and amassed [to their minds a deal of] revilings, reproaches and censures [that have fallen from the false smoky Cain-like fury and pretended zeal of the preachers], then they forthwith come withal and murder Abel, and Christ's members: as this spirit has many hundred times found by experience; and that, only for the sake of the Temple of Christ.

51. Now if we would rightly consider of the offering of Cain, then we must look into the very essence of his will and desire, for he also would offer and be acceptable to God. But he loved only his ownhood and self-full self; his aim and endeavour was not to be or become a new creature, that God should so take away his sins in the offering from him, but he would still remain the old Cain; and so offer to God, that he might be so accepted with him: the devil came before God in the form of an angel.

52. Cain knew not [Or did not acknowledge] his evil serpentine property, the poor soul was captivated therewith, and had set itself up in the Serpent's wit and pride, it would needs be an outwardly adopted child and heir of God, the offering must make reconciliation for him; as Babel does, which takes also the mantle of Christ upon her, and says, Christ has undertaken and suffered for all my sins upon the cross, I cannot purchase or do anything for myself, my works avail nothing before God, I need only believe that Christ has done it, and comfort myself therewith, and then I am already justified and acquitted from all my transgressions.

53. Thus she comes before God, and thanks God that he has paid the reckoning and score, in his Son, and offers with Cain and the Pharisee in the Temple, and remains in herself a brother-slayer with Cain: and this is the Babylonical fruit. Like as Cain would take the offering upon him for a cloak and covering, so also his succeeding Church takes on it the offering of Christ for a cloak and covert of its sins and false murder; and covers its murderous spirit, so that men must call it a holy devout Christian.

54. Saint Paul must serve their turn thereto, when he says, I do that I would not, now if I do it, it is not I, but sin that dwells in my flesh; but that he says, Now then, with my mind I serve God, but with the flesh the law of sin. The same, Cain will not understand, how the mind must, without intermission, rule and reign over the sinful will and desire of the flesh, and mortify the lust.

55. Saint Paul speaks of the heavenly Abel-like desire, how sin must be mortified in the flesh, and not rule over the mind, as it did in Cain, when he saw his brother was accepted before God, and that he himself was not. Then the murdering spirit arose in his mind, which should have been mortified in the offering by true repentance and conversion.

56. Thus also goes Babel under the mantle of Christ, which offers also to God, and thanks him for the offering of Christ; but itself remains in the mind of the Cainical brother-slayer, in pride, covetousness, envy and anger, in persecution, in war and contention. It fights about the offering, and about the outward covering, lest it should be stripped thereof; and does [in the meantime] fatten itself under it, with the bestial offerings of the fatness of the earth, and still remains the Cainical beast, and does also continually murder Abel in Christ's members, and comforts itselfwith the death of Christ: the same must be a covert for the false murdering spirit.

57. The heart and mind is far from the new creature. It is only the old Cainical brother-slayer, which bemantles itself with Christ's offering, and offers with Cain; such, and nothing better, remains now of Christianity among all sects, except the children of Christ, who are here and there hidden with Abel.

58. Cain's Church was never more potent and predominant upon the earth than it is even at this time, whereas, notwithstanding, men cry out with full mouth-cry and great ostentation, Come all hither: we have found the offering of Abel in Christ. Yes, forsooth, dear Babel, you have indeed found the mantle of Christ; but behold your Cain-like heart, and you will see whether you offer with Abel from the new creature, or from the false brother-slaying spirit. Where are your fruits? where is love and righteousness? where is truth? where is patience and meekness? Where is the mind that with Paul serves God? Where are you, you fair Christian Church upon the earth? are you not become a murdering den of the devil? Now show your Christian virtues; are you not full of contention and murder, both in the Church and without the Church? Your mouth is only a prater of God's kingdom, like as Cain's mouth prated of the offering, but his heart was a murderer.

59. Thus likewise men do prate in the stone houses of the mantle and offering of Christ, and yet in the meanwhile, in this prate and babble, do murder the children of Christ, condemn and judge them, and make a whole heap and crew of reviling devouring wolves, that do all cry out, snarl and snap; and none knows where the hind is which they hunt, save only that the devil does thus act and drive on his sport by them; so that the true, real offering of Christ may remain covered and hidden, and be only as a mystery in this world.

60. For we poor children of Eve do sojourn here in this cottage in a strange lodging, wherein the devil in God's anger is host. We dwell upon the cursed earth, where the devil rides over our soul and body, and at all times tempts us: we had need be wary and watchful, and at no time secure: it costs body and soul.

top of page