Theosophical University Press Online Edition
Berne, 22nd May, 1792.
Do not be surprised at receiving a letter from one unknown to you; your writings and your personal worth, to which I am not altogether a stranger, have made me take up my pen.
Whilst most thinkers are busy with the interests which are now agitating the nations, I employ my leisure hours in the study of truths which influence the happiness of men more directly than political revolutions; objects which enlarge the sphere of human knowledge, show us how little we hitherto know, and how important those things are which we have yet to learn.
I will declare to you, Sir, with Swiss frankness and sincerity, that the most eminent writer, in my eyes, and most profound of his age, is the author of 'Des Erreurs et de la Verite,' and that to correspond with him would be to me one of the greatest satisfactions of my life.
In that work, Sir, you have covered some important truths with a veil, that they might not be exposed to profanation by such as are of perverse hearts, and whose eyes are fascinated by vulgar prejudices, or the sophistries of so-called philosophers; but I feel assured that the author of 'Des Erreurs et de la Verite' will not refuse to enlighten those who seek the truth in good faith, and that, like our Great Example, he wishes to spread abroad the light as much as possible. Every page of that admirable work breathes benevolence, and that benevolence is my guaranty.
I think I have guessed the meaning conveyed under your denomination of "the active and intelligent Cause" in the above-named work; I believe I have likewise understood the acceptation of the word "virtues" in your 'Tableau Naturel'; I have no doubts left on these points; I take the active cause to be the Truth, par excellence; and, if any one asks, with Pilate — Quid est veritas? — I will tell him to transpose the letters contained in his question, and he will find the answer: Est vir qui adest. But it is the physical acquaintance with this active intelligent Cause, a knowledge free from any kind of illusion, which seems to me to be the grand knot of the work 'Des Erreurs'; — a knowledge, I repeat, which must not be liable to any illusion whatever, to which the internal sense itself may be sometimes; because our senses and imaginations often speak so loudly, and our sentiments may sometimes be so multiplied, especially in the whirlpools of business, that we are not always in condition to hear the voice of truth. Yet, nothing can be more important than to know it with some certainty, for, "if this active and intelligent Cause could never be known sensibly by man, he could never be sure of having found the right way, or of being in possession of the true religion; since it is this Cause that must do all the work and declare everything, man must therefore be able to have the certainty we speak of, and it must not be from man that he gets it; this Cause itself must clearly offer to the understanding and the eyes of man the testimony of its approval; in short, if man is liable to be deceived by men, he must have the means of not deceiving himself, and he must have within his reach a resource from which he may look for certain help." On this essential point more light would be beyond price to me. How are we to arrive with certainty at this physical knowledge of the active and intelligent Cause? Are the virtues of the 'Tableau Naturel' our helpers thereto? and how are we to have physical knowledge of these virtues themselves? Whatever you may think proper to communicate to me, on these questions, I should accept with gratitude and respect, for the highest motives alone can induce you to take the trouble to answer them.
I venture to ask another favour, viz., that you would tell me what books you have published, such as express your sentiments without alloy?
You see, Sir, with what confidence I address you; and, hoping for a reply from you, which I shall greatly value,
I am, &c.,
KIRCHBERGER, BARON DE LIEBESTORF,
Member of the Sovereign Council of the
Republic of Berne.
Paris, 8th June, 1792.
I will not stay to thank you, on my own account, for all the flattering expressions of your kind letter of 22nd ultimo; I will forget myself, and think only of giving thanks to the Author of all wisdom, who has permitted your soul to feel the need of approximation towards this fountain of all our happiness.
I see you have caught the exact meaning of the "active and intelligent Cause," and that of the word "virtues," and I believe that therein lies the radical germ of all knowledge; as to the fruits which ought to follow, they can be born only in accordance with the precise laws of vegetation, in which we are compelled to participate since the fall; and these fruits can be known only as they thus come into existence. You appear too enlightened not to know that the soul of man is the soil in which this germ is sown, and in which, consequently, all the fruits must show themselves. Follow up St. Paul's comparison (1 Cor. c. xv.) between spiritual and corporeal vegetation, and you will see clearly the truth of those words of our Saviour: "Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." (John iii. 3.) Add only, that this new birth, of which our Saviour speaks, may be effected during our life, whilst St. Paul speaks only of the last resurrection. This is the work we ought all to work at; and if it be laborious, it also is full of the consolations of help given when we courageously and resolutely undertake it. Independently of the chief gardener who sows in us, there are many others who water and prune the tree to help its growth, always under the eye of Divine Wisdom, with the view to ornament His gardens, like all other husbandmen, but who can adorn them only with us, because we are His finest flowers.
I understand clearly that it is as to the nature of these gardeners that your question falls, and your uncertainty as to knowing how to discern them; but, let us not forget the gentle order of progression. Let us begin by making a profitable use of our smallest inclinations towards virtue, faith, prayer, and work, which have been given to us; these will attract others, which will, moreover, bring their light with them, and so on to the fulness of the measure of each, — and we shall see that the only reason for men's uneasiness and disquiet is, that they always overleap the periods of their vegetation; whilst, if they devoted themselves, prudently and resolutely, to the epoch and degree in which they are at the time, the march would seem natural and easy to them, and they would see answers come up of themselves alongside of their questions.
Be not therefore surprised, dear Sir, that I cannot send you any more positive light on an object which consists solely in exercise and experience. I should deceive you if I offered you more; I should deceive myself and offend Him, whom I glory in proclaiming as the only Master we should have, the only one we should follow.
You desire, Sir, to know what other works have come from the pen that wrote 'Des Erreurs et de la Verite; they are, hitherto, 'Le Tableau Naturel,' printed in 1782, and L'Homme de Desirs,' printed two years ago. The edition was few in number, and there are none left; but I learn that a publisher of the name of Grabit, of Lyons, has just issued a reprint on his own account. Besides these there are now in the press two works from the same pen; one called 'Ecce Homo,' the object of which is to forewarn people against the wonders and the prophecies of the time; it is a small volume in 12mo.: the title of the other is 'Le Nouvel Homme,' a much larger work, the aim of which is to describe what we should expect in regeneration; it is one volume 8vo. This last has large and direct relation to the object in which you are interested, and on which I have briefly given you my ideas above. Both works are being printed in Paris ('Cercle Social,' rue Theatre Francais). I have nothing whatever to do with the costs of this undertaking; I will have no part in any profit, should there be any; I leave all to the publisher, who by his advances has made himself the legitimate owner. Thus, if it is your intention to procure them, you know where to address yourself. 'L'Ecce Homo' will be printed in a month, 'Le Nouvel Homme' not before two or three. This 'Nouvel Homme' was written nearly two years ago. I should not have written it, or I should have written it differently, if I had then had the acquaintance I have since formed of the works of Jacob Boehme, [Sometimes spelled Behmen, but the above is the correct name. — Tr.] a German author of whom you cannot be ignorant. I am no longer young, being near my fiftieth year; and at this advanced age I have begun to learn the little German I know, solely to read this incomparable author. Within the last few months I have procured an English translation of most of his works, that language being rather more familiar to me. I frankly acknowledge, Sir, that I am not worthy to untie the shoe-strings of that wonderful man, whom I look upon as the greatest light that has appeared on the earth since Him who is the Light himself. As his language can hardly be foreign to you, although it is far from clear, I exhort you, if you have time, to dive into this abyss of knowledge and profound truths, and you will thereby see how true and sincere is the interest I take in your progress. There are two points of his doctrine on which I do not yet clearly feel my position; but I do not pass sentence till I am initiated in the depth of his principles.
If you do me the honour to write me, Sir, you may address your letters care of the Duchess of Bourbon, Paris; but I beg you will always suppress the title of author.
I remain, &c.,
Morat, Canton de Berne,
30th June, 1792.
The receipt of your kind letter of 8th inst. has given me the liveliest pleasure. The advice it contains, and the hope you give me of a continued correspondence, call for my sincerest acknowledgments. I believe that there are middle and subaltern situations in which hints and advice may be of the greatest use, just like the writings of the elect, as secondary instruments chosen by Providence for men's advancement. For all that, you may be persuaded that I shall always respect your motives, if you should have any, for not yet giving me the solution of questions I may put to you. There are, for instance, many important points in the 17th and 19th sections of the 'Tableau Naturel,' on which, with your permission, I shall some day take the liberty to ask you sundry questions; but I beg you will not allow them to interrupt our correspondence: your simple silence on these points will be a sufficient answer, and will not prevent the rest of your letter being of great price to me.
The note of the works of your pen has interested me. I shall be impatient to receive the 'Ecce Homo' and the 'Nouvel Homme,' for which I have written to the publishers. I shall go to Berne soon, to try to find the works of Jacob Boehme. Your speaking so well of him will make me read them carefully. His language is my mother tongue; and I hope I shall find the needful leisure to read him with attention during my sojourn of some months here in the country. I only once saw his works, accidentally, in my youth, without understanding them, but also without prejudging them.
Before I took part in the business of public life, I employed some of my time in the study of nature; and from this natural picture I learned that the physical phenomena may sometimes serve as types to intellectual truths. I will relate two such observations; they will serve, at least, to show you the ideas I formed of man's regeneration, on which I beg you will favour me with your judgment.
When we would unite two substances which are naturally too far apart to unite, we must add a third which has affinity, or analogy, with both. Thus, if we would unite oil and water, we must add a fixed alkali, when the water and oil will combine intimately. This fact appears to be the type of the intermediate agents: these agents must participate in and assimilate to the nature of the beings they have to unite. The chief, the most sublime, and in one sense unique, intermediate agent, is the active and intelligent Cause. (I. Tim. ii. 5.)
I believe, further (and my belief is founded, not only on the analogy of nature, but on the Holy Scripture itself), that Divine Wisdom employs also agents or virtues to make His Verb, or Word, sensible within us. One of the most striking passages on this point is the 20th verse of the 103rd Psalm.
This doctrine of intermediate agents is, in my judgment, remarkably well treated in the 'Tableau Naturel,' and also, but not so much in detail, in the works of a French lady, who, during her life, was cruelly persecuted, ridiculed, and calumniated, for having been the friend of M. de Fenelon, the Archbishop of Cambray, whose uprightness and talents wounded the ambition of Madame de Maintenon and the amour-propre of M. de Maux. This extraordinary woman said some wonderful things on the virtues, in the 8th volume of her 'Explanation of the New Testament,' p. 114, a work but little known.
How necessary the action of Agents or Virtues is, to prepare our souls for a total union with the Verb, is, I think, very well proved by a passage in Malachi iii. 1; also by Hebrews i. 14, and by the 12th verse of Psalm xc., our version. But I believe it is principally on our bodies that they exercise their powers; for, if they act on our minds, it is owing to the union of the soul and body that they can also produce, in those souls which are united with them, effects favourable to the efficient work of grace; some by furnishing us with thoughts, others by making their presence felt in our hearts, physically, by an agreeable sensation, a gentle warmth, which brings calm and tranquillity to our souls. Some people call this sensation the sentiment of God's presence; I think they would do better to call it the sentiment of the presence of intermediate agents doing the will of God. I believe we always perceive this reaction of the Virtues whenever we seek the Verb, not outside of us, but within, looking with intelligence at the temple in which He dwells. (John xiv. 20, 1 Cor. vi. 19.) I believe that, with time, and maintaining this adhesion to the Verb, we may, with the aid of these same Virtues, pass beyond the sensation of this perceptible presence, and be united to the Verb itself. (1 Cor. vi. 17.) I believe also that, during the moments of perceptible presence, we should be unable to do anything displeasing to the active and intelligent Cause, and that this exercise procures for us the nourishment of our souls, which comes to us through the channel of the Virtues. To facilitate as much as possible our union with the intermediate Agents who are our friends, helps, and guides, I believe we require a great degree of purity of body and imagination, a separation from everything that might tend to degrade our organism, a great sobriety, physically and morally, such as every man of sense would make habitual with him; whilst, on the other hand, a prudent use of the things of nature probably enlarges our faculties rather than otherwise. For instance, breathing the pure, vital, dephlogisticated air which exhales from the leaves of a tree at sunrise, animates us; besides, I have always thought that the natural elementary light might perhaps become the envelope of beneficent Agents, in some of their manifestations; but on this I speak with hesitation. You will, if you think proper, give me your opinion on the matter. Besides these physical considerations, there are habitual qualities of the soul which make up the disposition most essential for entering into relationship with the beneficent beings who, since man's fall, have become so necessary for his restoration. First of all, a profound self-annihilation before the Being of beings, seems to me necessary; retaining no will but His, surrendering ourselves to Him with a resignation without limit, a confidence without bounds; having but one only, unique, inextinguishable desire, that of surmounting every obstacle between ourselves and the light.
You see, Sir, I make to you my profession of faith, giving you my ideas about the way we have to travel to reach our grand aim; your experience, which must have shown you all the dangers of the way, your sentiments, and your desire to extend the kingdom of our Chief, assure me that you will not withhold the knowledge of them from me; and I shall value every letter from you as a favour.
I reserve for another letter (this being already too long) a second observation on elementary nature, which forms a still more striking type, for an opposite effect, namely, for dividing what is united, and may apply to the separation of man from the zero in which he is shut up.
Hoping for a line from you, permit me to say that my soul feels drawn towards yours, and that I shall ever be full of the highest feeling of esteem for you.
Paris, 12th July, 1792.
No doubt, Sir, there are intermediate degrees in which books and advice are useful; but they are so only to discover the country we knew not of: our course afterwards is left to our own efforts and experience. I will do all in my power to answer your inquiries, and, if I use any reserve, it will only be for your good. I have no copy here of the 'Tableau Naturel'; have therefore the goodness to quote, in full, the passages on which you ask for explanations.
I am very glad you have studied the natural sciences: it is an excellent introduction to the great truths; it is through them they transpire; besides, these natural sciences accustom the mind to a justness and precision of the greatest importance in the higher pursuits, which, owing to our wide separation from them here below, leave us liable to injurious mistakes. Your law of chemical affinity is an universal law which you have too well comprehended to require further development from me: Nature, Spirit, the Repairer, these are the fixed alkalis given to us for our re-union with God; for, our first crime turned us into a substance very heterogeneous to the supreme principle. I believe, with you, Sir, that Divine Wisdom makes use of agents and virtues to make His Verb audible within us. It is said that Madame Guyon, of whom you speak, has written very well on this point; I have not read her myself. You think they act chiefly on our bodies; some of them are appointed to this, but their work stops there, and ought to be restricted to the preservation and support of our form, to which we may greatly contribute by a wise physical and moral regimen; but we must not repose too much in them; there are neighbours of theirs who also act on this region, who seek nothing better than that we should give them our confidence, which we are too ready to do on account of the external assistance they procure for us, or rather, more commonly, only promise to us. I thus look upon all that regards these external ways as only preludes to our work, for, as our being is central, it ought to find every needful succour in the centre in which it was born.
I will not conceal from you that I formerly walked in this fruitful external way, and by it the door of the career was opened to me. My leader therein was a man of very active virtues, and most of those who followed him, with myself, received confirmations thereby which may have been useful to our instruction and development. Nevertheless, I, at all times, felt so strong an inclination to the intimate secret way, that this external one never further seduced me, even in my youth; for, at the age of twenty-three, I had been initiated into all those things; so that, in the midst of what was so attractive to others, in the midst of means and formulas and preparatives of all sorts, in which we were trained, I, more than once, exclaimed to our master, "Can all this be needed to find God?" and the proof that it was all a mere substitution was that the master answered, "We must even be content with what we have."
Without, therefore, wishing to depreciate the help we may gather from all that surrounds us, everything after its kind, I only exhort you to classify the powers and virtues. They have each their department; the central virtue alone extends over the whole empire. Pure air, and all good elementary properties, are useful to the body, and keep it in a condition favourable for the operations of our spirit; but when, by grace from on high, our spirit has attained its full stature, then the elements become its subjects, and even its slaves, instead of simply servants, which they were before. See what the Apostles were.
I do not agree with you, Sir, that the elementary light becomes the envelope of the beneficent Agents in their manifestations; they have their own light, which is hidden in the elements. Our friend Jacob Boehme gives us such grand ideas on this head, that I refer you to him with confidence, feeling sure that he will satisfy you. This is one of the points in his works which have pleased me the most, and which perfectly agrees with the teaching I formerly received in my school.
But I agree with you entirely as to the dispositions which are essential to our advancement in this race, and which, as you very well say, consist in a profound self-annihilation before the Being of beings, retaining no will but His, and giving ourselves up to Him with a resignation without limits, a confidence without bounds; I will add, in suppressing every human motive within us, and reducing ourselves (excuse the comparison) to the condition of a cannon waiting for the match to be applied.
On the subject of Boehme, I presume, Sir, you will have some difficulty in following him in what he calls the first principle; for, as he himself says, he speaks creaturely of a thing which is not creaturely, and he elsewhere expounds this first principle in a way which to me seems revolting. But to assist you, I recommend you, when you are embarrassed, to read over again his work 'On the Three Principles,' chap. i., sec.4, 5, 6. These three numbers are often useful to me, and I imagine they will be so to you.
I shall be glad to receive the letter you promise me, with your second observation on elementary nature. I will give you my opinion on it, as on the first, and submit all to your good and wise judgment. I am happy to see that my soul finds a pleasant friend in yours; I reciprocate it most sincerely. Farewell, dear Sir; I leave you without ceremony, and avail myself of my little remaining space to point out to you two works on the inward secret life. They are both in your language, in Arnold's 'History of the Church and Heretics,' 3 vols. folio. The first is called, 'Relation of the Spiritual Direction of a great Witness of the Truth, who lived in the Low Countries about 1550, and who in his writings is known by the Hebrew name of Hiel,' vol. ii. of Arnold, part iii., chap. 3, sec. 10, 27, p. 343. The second is Jane Lead's 'Discourse on the Difference between True and False Revelations,' p. 519.
Morat, 25th July, 1792.
ACCEPT my thanks, Sir, for your kind and interesting letter of 12th inst. I am extremely sensible of your promptitude in answering mine. To point out a new country, through which a traveller may pass, to arrive at his journey's end, is in itself a great benefit. It rests with him, no doubt, to overcome the obstacles he meets in the way, and he will be too happy to have these obstacles foretold, as well as what encouragements he may expect. I also believe that the active way is not without use at the beginning. I can fancy a voyager, guided by the indications or signs communicated by some experienced and profound observer, attempting the passage from Hudson's Bay to Nootka Sound, having at first to cut his way through ice with saws or hatchets; yet on reaching the open sea having only to spread his sails to traverse it. His dangers will then be only a few shoals, or some baffling winds, which might turn him from his course; but, thanks to the indications be obtained, a good sailing-master, and his compass, he would escape them all.
I spoke to you of the works of Madame Guyon, without which, I think, I should hardly have been able to comprehend several passages of 'Des Erreurs et de la Verite,' and the 'Tableau Naturel.' This is the more remarkable since it appears you have never read them; more even than this, I find a perfect conformity between the explanation of the figure of Elijah, p. 7, 8, vol. ii. of the 'Tableau,' and several passages of Madame Guyon. The 'Tableau Naturel' explains it thus: "Elijah, being on the mountain, found that the Lord was neither in the strong wind, nor in the earthquake, nor in the gross and burning fire, but in a light and gentle wind, bringing calm and peace with which Wisdom fills every place she approaches"; and that this, in fact, is one of the safest of signs by which to "distinguish the true from the false." Now this is the epitome of the best of all that Madame Guyon says on the same subject. The same conformity exists, in other essential points, between Guyon and Jacob Boehme, one of whose vols. in 4to. I have succeeded in finding. I have been the more struck with this likeness that I am morally sure that Madame Guyon did not know a word of German, and that our friend Boehme could never possibly have read Guyon, who was not born till twenty years after his death.
There are some people for whom the reading of theosophic works would be too strong a diet, to whom, as opportunity offered, we might present the works of Madame Guyon, to awaken a love for the spirit of Christianity; but her works are getting scarce in France. . . .
You are good enough to say, Sir, in your last letter, amongst other things of much interest on the subject of the powers, that it is necessary to classify them; but, to do this, they must be enumerated. Now this is quite a new thing for me, and beyond my competence, beyond my knowledge; I shall therefore most thankfully receive all the information you may think it right to communicate to me on these matters. Your remark on visions particularly struck me. No doubt, in the school you mention, the master imparted sufficient ideas for discerning and distinguishing between good powers and those which are not so. I picture to myself that there are both external and internal manifestations, in both of which visions may have place; so that it is a matter of importance to be able to discern them. I believe the best prescription to ensure safety from every unfavourable influence is to have an entire confidence in the love and power of the great Principle, a trust, before which, visions will vanish like shades before the rising sun.
The school you passed through in your youth reminds me of a conversation I had two years ago with a person who came from England, and who knew a Frenchman living there, Mons. de Hauterive. He told me that this de Hauterive enjoyed, physically, the acquaintance of the active and intelligent Cause, which he arrived at after sundry preparatory operations during the equinoxes, by means of a species of disorganization in which he saw his own body motionless, as it were, separated from his soul; but that this disorganization was dangerous, on account of the visions which then have more power over the soul thus separated from the covering which served it as a shield against their action. You can tell me whether, according to your former master's teaching, these proceedings of M. de Hauterive were error or truth. Another case is that of the Marchioness de Lacroix, who must have had manifestations. I am told she had them even when in company, and that she suspended the conversation to hear what her friends in another circle said to her. You, doubtless, have heard of Madame de Lacroix; was she under illusion or in the truth?
I agree with you entirely, "That, since our being is central, it must find all the help needful for its existence in the centre where it had its birth." To come to this centre, even in this life, is the aim of our desires; between this centre and ourselves, there are intermediates; there are obstacles to be overcome, and succours to receive. The grand thing, beyond doubt, is the inward secret way. What will also help, is, I think, to consider the secondary virtues as agents, not as distributors of favours, and to receive what they give us, with thankfulness to the great Giver, but to address our souls and our worship to the fountain-head, the Principle Himself.
One of the grand means of approach which He teaches is, I believe, to do His will. Now, to do His will is to assimilate ourselves to His agents, and thereby facilitate their work upon us. As for the manifestations, whether interior or exterior, I look upon them as means for increasing our faith, our hope, our charity, which is an inestimable advantage; but even in this, let us submit all to the Supreme will. If He thinks fit to open our eyes, He will do it; if not, the way of faith, without light, cannot be displeasing to the Great Principle. Blessed are those, who, without seeing, have believed. How truly you say: "When, by grace from on high, our spirit has attained its full stature, then the elements become its subjects and even its slaves, instead of simply servants, which they were before." Our spirit attains its proper stature, it seems to me, when we no longer live our own life, when the Verb lives in us in all His fulness, and absorbs all our faculties, and our spirit loses itself, so to speak, in His. This, the highest degree attainable by man, is what may be called the perfecting in unity. Then it is no more we who act, but the Creator acting for us, and who commands the elements. That this apostolic state is still possible in our time, I do not doubt for an instant; not reason only, but experience proves it. I will mention one instance. When Father Lacombe was crossing the Lake of Geneva, such a storm arose that the boatmen had lost all hope; then Father Lacombe commanded the waves to be still, and there was an immediate calm. This fact is related by an eye-witness, whose probity is above all suspicion. See 'Life of Madame Guyon.'
You communicate to me a very interesting idea, viz., that the good agents, when they make themselves visible, make use of a light of their own, which is hidden in the elements. The little physical knowledge I possess makes this interpreting more than probable. Please to point out to me the particular treatise of J. Boehme where this is affirmed. Accept also my sincere thanks for the list of his works. I have before told you that I had found a volume of his works in 4to., edit. 1675. I have now, while writing, received three volumes more, in 8vo., edit. 1682. I give you, at foot, the titles of all the treatises I now possess, that you may refer to them in any explanations you may please to give me, or that I may help you to their rendering in French, if you should find yourself at fault, although to translate them properly will be difficult, and perhaps beyond my power.
The little I have yet seen of these works strikes me much. On some points, I see a remarkable solidity and clearness; on others, an obscurity which would have stopped me short, if you had not encouraged me. Jacob Boehme is truly the most astonishing man of his age. Hiel and J. Lead are new acquaintances, for which I have to thank you.
Arnold has many other very remarkable things in his 'History of the Church and Heretics': he was a very interesting and well-informed man himself. I have another work of his, 'The Mystery of the Divine Sophia,' 1700, in 8vo., which seems to me to come from a good fountain. In his 'History of the Church,' IV. vol. iii. 9, is a notice of several works of Hiel, whose true name was Henry Janson, a native of the Low Countries. He lived about 1550. All this branch of human knowledge is so interesting, that I purpose devoting as much time to it as possible; and if you do not tire of giving me your directions, I hope, with God's help, not to be unsuccessful.
You approve of the rule which I consider most essential for progress in the light; it is the very strait gate through which everybody must pass. Madame Guyon calls what is opposed to this suppression of self propriete, our friend Boehme selb-heit (self-hood). I beg you to observe the resemblance of these terms, without the one having known anything of the other. I shall be glad to receive whatever you may be pleased to impart to me on these objects, and the way leading to them.
My present letter is so long that I shall reserve my quotations from the 'Tableau Naturel,' and my second observation on elementary nature, for another post. To-day, I have been indulging in the pleasure of conversing with you; I know none greater, except that of receiving letters from you. Seeing how kindly you enter into every detail I make free to propose to you, I may hope our correspondence will not too soon come to an end. I even flatter myself with the sweet hope 'that the same centre will bring us continually nearer together," feeling persuaded that the only true and enduring liaisons, here below, are those which are based upon the love of the great Principle whom we both adore.
Paris, 11th Aug. 1792.
I CAN write you only one word, Sir, under the present circumstances, which will not fail to reach your ears. I am shut up in Paris, where I came to attend to a sister of mine, and I know not when I shall, or whether I shall, get out again. I need all my faculties to face the storm; thus, I cannot now answer your letter 25th ult.; it must be for another time. I will merely say that I knew M. de Hauterive; we were at school together. I have also known Madame Lacroix; they are both estimable persons. As for the light hidden in the elements, read 47th 'Letter' of Boehme, 13-16; also the 'Three Principles,' ch. xv. 48, 52; and ch. x. 41.
Farewell, Sir. You may write if you have anything to say; but speak only of our object.
Saturday, 25th Aug. 1792.
YOUR last kind letter has relieved me from great anxiety. You may be sure, Sir, that I felt all the value of the moments in which you wrote it. I had so pleasantly accustomed myself to look for your news at about the same intervals, that every mail without a letter would have filled me with the greatest anxiety. I need not tell you, Sir, how sincerely I pray for you and yours.
I will begin this letter with my second observation on elementary nature. My first remark was on the law for uniting two separate things; the second seems to me the type for the separation of two things which are united. When we would decompose a substance whose integral parts are intimately united and in a perfect proportion, this union resists all known means of analysis, and seems to form an exception to the laws of affinity. In such a case, the only thing left is to alter the proportions, by first giving a preponderance to one of the constituent parts. This being effected, the affinities may be applied, and the decomposition ensues. For example: glass, as everybody knows, is composed of a fixed alkali and a vitrifiable earth; and although the alkali has a much greater affinity to acids than to the vitrifiable earth, it would be in vain to attempt to decompose the glass by exposing it to the action of acids, because these two integral constituents have, through the action of fire, acquired so exact a proportion, and so intimate an union, that they resist all the ordinary means. To succeed, the proportions must be changed, by pulverizing the glass, then roasting it, and macerating it with cream of tartar. This alkali gradually becomes matted with the glass, the acids are then applied, and decomposition takes place, because the original proportions are altered. The acid takes up, not only the additional alkali, but even that which was before contained in the glass, and so all the saline matters are disengaged from the earth which held them prisoners. . . . I leave it to you to apply this to the intellectual verities, and your explanation will afford me great pleasure.
As for my intended questions on the 'Tableau Naturel,' I begin to see that I am still too ignorant to ask them, and I must reserve your kindness for a future time.
As I have not yet got the 'Three Principles' of our friend B., I have been unable to compare the passages you refer me to, on the light hidden in the elements. But I have found in B.'s xlvi. Letter, 37, 38, an article which strikes me as important: it is like an intellectual eucharist, of which I have found traces elsewhere. It is the hunger and thirst of the soul entering into the grace of the Repairer, and accepted by him, becoming substantial. B. calls this substance Sophia, essential wisdom, the body of the Repairer. Pordage, an English doctor and a disciple of Boehme, whose works I have lately found, when looking for those of B., thinks this Wisdom is the precursor of Jesus Christ in the soul, a virtue separated from the sacred Ternary; which, nevertheless, acts only by the will of this sacred ternary; which, on the other hand, acts only by this Wisdom. He says this Wisdom is not an angel, but an angelic virtue, surpassing all virtues of men or angels. It is she who does away with our impurities, our vanity, our propriete; she who regenerates us; she has her origin immediately from the eternal principle; it is the redeeming spirit spoken of by St. Paul, Rom. viii. 9. Favour me with your thoughts on this passage in Boehme, Letter xlvi. 37, 38, ed. 1682.
What you kindly tell me of Mons. de Hauterive and of Madame de Lacroix has given me great pleasure: I had, from other sources, conceived the highest esteem for Madame de Lacroix.
Since my last I have been extremely gratified by the acquisition of 'Ecce Homo'; on reading it, I thanked a gracious Providence for having put it into your mind to write it, and I would thank you on behalf of all men, my brethren, for having so well depicted to them their degradation and shame. I take my share to account of all the ill you say of our species in general, and confess that you have spoken the truth and the whole truth. Allow me to ask for explanation on some passages: your facility in saying much in few words, added to our method of referring, whether to your own works, or those of our friend B., will, I hope, make my questions the less indiscreet.
1. In what sense, exactly, do you take the term "Esprit" (spirit, mind, &c.) where you employ it in pp. 54, 68, 78, 79?
2. Who are the "zealous and vehement writers," — p. 65?
3. Who are the judges, and how can you have knowledge of their judgments, — p. 129?
4. And, — the most important of my questions; — in what does our work, to unite with God, principally consist? Which is the way that leads to the joys we may draw from our own resources, and what is the principal cause, in ourselves, which makes this way so fatiguing? What precautions are required to open in us the direct inward way? How can we read in our sublime original, and give development and activity to the different germs which constitute us? In short, how can we contribute to it, that the day may break, and the morning star arise in the heart of man? pp. 20, 61, 109, 110, 154.
5. As an intimate and perfect knowledge of "spiritual denudation" is of the greatest importance, I beg to ask you, in what sense exactly you use this term. To this, the following question may be added; can we denude ourselves? p. 56.
6. Will a wholesome perception of our lamentable condition suffice for this stripping? May not man have the sense of his defects, without being able to deliver himself from them? May he not perceive himself to be vain and full of his own, and still remain the same? p. 110.
7. Supposing what I heard of M. de Hauterive's proceeding was correct, may not that process which divests him of his corporeal envelope, that he may enjoy, physically, the presence of the active and intelligent Cause, be a work figurative of the necessity of an inward uncovering, that we may attain to the enjoyment of the innate word in our centre?
These, doubtless, are very important questions, with which you will, I am sure, forgive me for troubling you. It is probable some of them are treated of in the 'Nouvel Homme.' Be good enough to let me know what additions or alterations, in reference to these questions, you would have made in that work, after reading Boehme.
I do hope you will never allow the interest you take in my advancement to be extinguished, and that, as long as you live, you will be convinced of my feelings of thankfulness and respect.