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Morat, 25 Prairial (14th June), 1794.
I SEE with much pleasure, Sir, by your letter of 3rd instant, which I have received with the seal unbroken, that my small parcel of books has reached you safely. I am very glad you like Marsay's work. . . . To tranquillise your scruples, I can tell you that I have fortunately got another copy of that treatise. . . .
If it is God's will, He can easily bring us together, that I may enjoy your friendship and instructions; meanwhile I submit to that will with confidence and resignation. Please tell me if you ever received a letter which I wrote to you from Bale, in which I gave you an extract from Browne on the subject of eating the flesh and drinking the blood, &c. I told you also of my having given another direction to the studies of a school in Bale, instituted by Cagliostro. You have never told me whether I do well to undertake this sort of rectification of lodges; certain it is that the most interesting persons of that house, as also our young Zurichoise, are at present altogether of my mind, although I have never seen this last. It is not long since I saw this young person's uncle; he is a man of great acquirements; he is the first mason of Switzerland. He was at the congress of Wilhelmsbad, and is acquainted with all the ramifications of masonry. He lately saw a M. de Gleichen, who is travelling in Switzerland. As this De Gleichen may possibly come to see me at Morat, en passant, be good enough to tell me what you think of him, if you know anything of him, and the sooner you let me know, the better I shall be pleased.
Speaking of masonry, I have another question to ask you. Do you not know a lodge called the Lodge of the Holy Ghost? It has a sun instead of the phosphoric fire of the Northern lodge, and this sun performs the same functions as the phosphoric light of Copenhagen. If you know that lodge, please to tell me what country it is in.
I am delighted that you have undertaken the translation of 'The Threefold Life.' This treatise, and 'The Way to Christ,' which is already translated into French, may hereafter be very useful. Will you do me the favour to tell me what you think of the contents and the origin of two works of Emmanuel Swedenborg, one called 'Heaven and Hell,' 2 vols., 8vo., the other 'Angelic Wisdom and Divine Love,' &c., also 2 vols.? Your opinion in full, on these two works, I shall greatly value.
If I can find the passage on attraction in our friend B., I will point it out to you. It is in one of his treatises which speaks of physical things in their literal sense.
Je vous embrasse de coeur. Let me always be favoured with your love and your prayers, &c.
Amboise, 5 Messidor, 23rd June.
I WAS taking up my pen to write to you, Sir, when your letter of 14 June came into my room. It shall be my guide.
I received in due time your letter from Bale, with the extract from Browne on the 'Body and Blood of our Saviour.' I was pleased with it, but not surprised, as I was acquainted with most of the effects he relates, either through the experience of others, or my own, under similar circumstances.
I knew you had given another direction to Bale, but I did not know in what your work consisted, nor what the school was on which it operated. But you tell me they are now of your views, and satisfied, and I am glad of it.
The young lady's uncle must, indeed, have many acquaintances here, according to what you say. Perhaps that was the right way for him. But with such a heart as his, I am sorry he has not taken a higher position; he would have opened a road more profitable to the work, to others, and to himself. I know a good deal of the person who has seen him, and of whom you speak: he is a man of great spirit, especially spirit of the heart and of the world; he has knocked at every door, has heard of everything, read everything. With all that, I cannot yet tell you what he has gone into. I believe he is still too much in the historical of the thing to be of much use to you, and I know not whether he will ever go farther in this lower world. I will not take upon myself to judge of your strength, but I fear you will draw back from each other. In short, if it must be said, he is a man who is so much accustomed to what is erroneous and false, that he seeks that only in the best of things; which made me once say he was a man who would give thirty truths for one lie. Perhaps he may have changed since then. I shall be glad.
As for the masonry of which you speak, I know nothing of it, and can give you no account of it. You know how simple my taste is, and how this taste for simple things is strengthened every day by my favourite reading. Thus, whatever has still to do with what I must call la chapelle recedes daily more and more from my thoughts, and will end without leaving a trace behind. I have never ceased to urge you to walk in the same direction. Our friend Boehme holds the same language throughout. So, while you are inquiring after these accessories, I still persuade myself that the foundation is for you, as it is for me, your exclusive object — I was going to say your first. That would not have been sufficient, for here, we must say, is the one thing needful.
You say that 'The Way to Christ' is translated into French; can you tell me where to find it? My translation of the 'Threefold Life' advances very slowly on account of my many other engagements; moreover, I have not undertaken it for publication, only for myself. As for Swedenborg's works, my opinion is in print in 'L'Homme de Desir,' No. 184. Your notions of the astral life ought to supply you with all I could add, for you and I, by this time, ought not to say the same things over again, and I should think it quite superfluous to further enlarge on the subject, the more so that, conscientiously, I should not have time for it.
I turn to your preceding letters. I have not yet read Browne's work, received from Bale, except a few of his letters here and there, wherein I have seen how much this man was favoured. I have been charmed with Marsay's work; I have read with the same pleasure Pordage's 'Mystical Theology,' as far as p. 106. . . . This is, so far, all I have been able to take advantage of in your handsome present. What treasures you here have in your hands, Sir! How I should pity you if, with such a mine all open before you, you still amused yourself losing your time in researches of a lower order, in idle or pernicious conversation with the wanderers in this world, who will pass their time only in the scrub! Does not this first part of Pordage place you in simple unity, even beyond eternal nature? Let us, then, walk, in this eternal nature, which is our element, and let us go into other regions only to rectify them, and with other men only to tell them of the treasures they have within themselves. I confess to you, Sir, that, with such splendours open to you, which you can enjoy at your ease, on account of your language and all the advantages of peace, it distresses me to see you sometimes consult me about lodges and other such trifles. I, who, in the difficult situation in which I am placed, need rather to be carried myself continually towards that native country towards which all my longings and my wants call me, but which, with all my collected faculties, I can hardly reach. Sometimes, seeing the absolute solitude in which I live on these subjects, I consider myself a spiritual Robinson Crusoe; and when I see you ask me questions under these circumstances, I fancy I see one of our old fermiers generaux going to consult the other Robinson about supplies! I must tell you what answer he would get: "Sir, you live in abundance, I in destitution; give me some of your riches."
There is another consideration also, why, at present, it is advisable not to say more than necessary on such matters. You may have seen by the public papers the spiritual extravagances which some insane imbeciles have lately made exposure of before our revolutionary justice. These imprudent doings of ignorance spoil the trade, and the most sedate of men must, in this matter, be prepared for anything: I feel this because everything will, no doubt, appear to be of the same colour to the eyes of those who are put up as judges in these things, and have not the knowledge necessary to distinguish.
But, at the same time that I am prepared for everything, I am far from complaining of anything; my circle of life has been so filled, and that so deliciously, that if it pleased Providence to close it this moment, in any way whatever, I should still have only to thank Him. Nevertheless, as we are accountable for our imprudences, let us commit as few as we can, and speak of these things briefly.
I congratulate you, Sir, with all my heart, on your living in the country, surrounded with your family, in peace. I also shall go to live in my fields, outside the town, when the engagement with which the government has charged me ceases. But I shall be without family, with a single maid-servant, and with an eye always on the lookout for whatever may happen at any moment. Well! I shall still be happy, for I ought to be so everywhere, since my kingdom is not of this world. . . . Adieu, &c.
Morat, 12th July, 1794.
YOUR interesting letter, 23rd June, has reached me, Sir, in perfect order. No doubt you would be surprised at the frivolity which reigned in my two last; but I beg you to consider that it happens occasionally that some persons of your acquaintance desire information from me, and I thought it right to satisfy them.
This is an allusion to my last letter. As for the Lodges, I care little to know what they are called, or what they are doing; but one of my acquaintances, who did not know that I was in correspondence with you, greatly wished for a solution to the question which I asked you. As to M. de Gleichen, I shall see him, at most, en passant, as he lives on the route of a journey I have to make. If he speaks to me of Science, I will read to him the 15th verse of No. 8, 'Homme de Desir'; if he should not relish this passage, I shall cease speaking to him, and try to keep the spirit which is contained in that motto for myself.
The same letter which conveyed to you the extract from Browne's 'Body and Blood' contained also the detail of the studies which they pursue in the house at Bale, alluded to. It is a school of exactly the same kind as that which existed eight or ten years ago at Lyons, which we once spoke of in our letters; I greatly fear they have gone back to the like opinions, in my absence, and that, through the influence of the father of our young Zurichoise (Lavater), who is leavened with all the doctrines of the North, and systematically, of set purpose, avoids everything that would lead him to the centre of the light. I believe him to be honest in his errors; but, unfortunately, he is an ecclesiastic, a class of men who find it hard to retrace their steps. On the other hand, his daughter's recent letters, which have been shown to me, increase more than ever my respect for this interesting person, whom I never saw, and probably never shall see.
I am very glad Marsay's book pleases you. It is true I am fortunate enough to possess treasures of science in the works you know of, and, in this sense, I am rich; but as to the appropriation of their contents, you may believe me, I am very poor. . . . In No. 184, 'L'Homme de Desir,' are the words: "Prove the principle by logic," &c. . . . I work, in leisure hours, these twenty years, at something in relation to this; it is not a work of logic only, but a new means to discover truth and detect error; . . . combating the sophists with their own weapons. . . . My object is to do for others what I should have wished had been done for me. . . . I shall not expect any thanks from the multitude, who will be more likely to stone me.
But, to return to 'L'Homme de Desir,' I candidly confess to you that I look upon this work as the most refreshing, and the richest in luminous thoughts, that has appeared in this age. A treasure is met with at every step in it. I am more able to relish it and feel its beauties now, than when it first fell into my hands, three or four years ago. Please tell me if the term eaux bienfaisantes, in No. 36, does not mean the virtues? . . .
13 Thermidor, An II.
WHEN I wrote you last, Sir, I was very weary with all the privations I have to endure, and, in my ill-humour, I no doubt described too vividly what I might have told you more moderately. I now beg your pardon, and assure you that I have already reproached myself for the petulance I displayed, and my act of contrition is sincere. In fact, nothing can be more natural than the rencounters which circumstances bring about. You know the foundation on which all the building stands, so I ought to be tranquil on your account; and if I allow myself to speak to you sometimes on this head, I ought to do it warning you as a brother, not scolding you. . . . As for the Lodge you inquired about, I do not know it; I have no more faith in it than in the rest. The mode only is different; and that astral feature announces to what region it belongs. I see that your ecclesiastic will not be easy to manage. But why should you not see his daughter, who, you say, is so interesting? You are free as air; you are on your own ground, and your country in peace. If I were within reach of a person such as you describe this one to be, it would be hard for me not to form her acquaintance.
I thank you beforehand for whatever works of Boehme and others, like him, you can procure for me in French; although I can say, like you, that I am rich in landed property of this kind, I am poor in crops. My native tongue yields me three times more than foreign languages do. I have just had a little proof of this. In the bibliographic labours with which I have been charged in my district, 'The Life of Soeur Marguerite du Saint-Sacrement' has fallen into my hands. She was born in France last century, and died a nun in a Carmelite convent. I could not help stopping at this work, in which, thanks to the light derived from our much-loved readings, I have found some things most delicious, to my heart, rather than to my spirit. This astonishing person passed through all sorts of most extraordinary states, the key to which we may all now obtain after what is known to us. She had magnificent openings in principles which are found scattered throughout the works we have in our hands. It is true she does not rise to the elevated regions in which Browne, Lead, and, above all, Pordage, seem to have had their dwellings habitually; but in the order of regeneration and virtues of love she transports me; and I am sensible that this ought to be the chief work of mankind. As for the other regions which our great authors open to us, it seems to me sometimes that we ought to leave those journeys for the time when we shall be divested of this mass of earth, which takes all our activity from us. Shall I quote a trait of her heroic devotion and holy patience? In the different states through which she passed it frequently happened that her physical organization was affected; her head especially was subject to frightful pains. She knew very well that all this was only a result of the adverse spiritual action, doing its utmost in a contrary direction to that of the divine hand which had chosen her for his bride; but the doctors judged after their own manner; and, after having exhausted all the remedies of the pharmacopoeia, they decided upon applying a hot iron to the crown of her head. The lady superior of the convent consented, though reluctantly, and this was sufficient for the good Saint Marguerite. She suffered the application of the hot iron three times without a complaint. This was not all. As this remedy failed of success, the doctors determined to trepan her; she submitted to this with the same resignation, and gave not even a sigh under the operations; she even told her companions that the pain was nothing in comparison with what she suffered for sinners in her union with Jesus Christ. As for the doctors, they found the inside of her head so perfectly healthy that, unable to attribute her sufferings to any known cause, they gave it up. I confess, Sir, that after Jesus Christ, who allowed Himself to be crucified, I know few sacrifices so courageous, and so greatly to be admired, as that of this sainted girl. I do not here scrutinise the scientific order. If this girl had enjoyed all her rights, she might have overthrown her doctors, as Jesus Christ overthrew the soldiers who went to seize him in the garden; but she exhibits the very complement of gentleness and virtue, which, to my mind, is as much as if she had manifested power. If I had read all this, and several other passages, in a tongue not my own, I should not have been so much struck with it.
The 14th v. of No. 28 in 'L'Homme de Desir' is, no doubt, a beginning; but with all you have read on the origin of things, you may very well perceive that there is one still anterior, and that is the one I alluded to as unknown to Swedenborg. The 4th verse, No. 36, means the virtues, no doubt; but something more also, since it is from these eaux bienfaisantes only that our virtues can be watered and receive their increase. My dear brother, only look at what our sublime authors tell us of the living water and the oil, and dance with joy that such grandeurs are in the world. Thank you for your compliment on 'L'Homme de Desir'; I know that your Zuricher (Lavater) passed the same judgment on it in one of his last numbers, in the year 1790 or 1791. I acknowledge also that there are germs scattered in this work the properties of which I knew not when I sowed them, and which open to me daily, thanks to the aid of Providence and our authors. Glory to God in all, and to Him only, everywhere. If I have had the happiness to take part in anything for the advancement of His kingdom, I ought to thank Him, and prostrate myself in the dust.
Your project of a work on practical logic seems to me very praiseworthy. I hope Providence will keep you to complete it, and that your good intentions may have their reward, not in the thanks of men, but in pay of a higher order. I might tell you also of an undertaking of my own, which will end probably only with my life; and which I work at, like yourself, very slowly, because my work of regeneration, I believe, ought to come before all things; but it must be for another letter.
. . . . Adieu, Sir; remember me always in your prayers. I believe with you that the band which has watched over me so manifestly will continue to do so. But His will be done. . . . Let us only be ready to leave at any time. Amen.
I AM quite abashed, Sir, at your fancying that I had any cause of complaint against you, as you express yourself in your letter of 13th Thermidor; you may be quite sure that none of your letters have diminished my attachment to you.
Circumstances do not permit my going to Zurich; I must be content, to address my humble prayers to the Divine Providence that the good grain may germinate and spring up in the heart of the person in whom we are interested; and, notwithstanding the obstacles which this seed has met with, alluded to in your last letter, I have heard enough to prove, thanks be to the Lord, that my feeble desires have not been altogether unfruitful. I see, in a small way, and imperfectly, no doubt, the possibility of acting more perfectly on the mind and heart of others, without any external signs, and without distance being an obstacle; this experimental knowledge, weak though it be, does not fail to encourage my hope, and we cannot sufficiently thank our sublime Master who accommodates himself to our weakness. I can understand the pleasure which the life of the sister of the Holy Sacrament must have given you. You therein saw the true riches; for the ideas we get from Pordage and Jane Lead, do not, by any means, all concern the one thing needful; they are a spiritual luxury which I have quite renounced. Life is so short, and the things which are indispensable require so much time and contest, that we must not lose our strength and leisure on less essential objects. I always come back to our friend B. He is, beyond dispute, amongst Lead, Pordage, and Browne, the prince par excellence.
Since my last, I have met with some particulars about Jane Lead, in a contemporaneous author, who is worthy of credit, full of the true light, and a great admirer of our friend B., since he superintended the edition of 1682. She was, according to his account, a pious woman, but limited within a narrow sphere. He considers that her manifestations were only an astral production; that they were not born in the fires of anxiousness; that this kind communicates no strength to the inner man; that no solid foundation can be drawn from her writings; that there are even some errors in them, as, for instance, the restoration of the rebellious spirits, which is an opinion of ancient origin. This author rejects, in general, all manifestations which precede our regeneration and entire putting on of Jesus Christ; he pretends that the evil principle, perceiving that his reign is short, tries to retain souls in the outward astral world, to prevent their penetrating more deeply, and that he can still keep up his game in the Tinctura Solis. My author, like your Carmelite sister, has some sublime ideas of the sufferings to which he has himself been subject for sinners; he also experienced physical pains, produced by an adverse spiritual action, working him to the utmost, in opposition to the divine leading; he generally overcame his illness, headaches, toothaches, &c., by the magiam fidei, which, in this sense, was quite a new idea to me. It was employing, locally, what he called the tincture of soul-fire; be applied this remedy to others as well as to himself. I suppose, to succeed, he used moments when he was in sensible communication with the pure element and that which animates it, and that, by his imagination, he poured this substance on the part.
Your Carmelite sister is of a sublimity rare amongst mortals. As the French language has more effect with you than others, I will try to get you a volume of our friend Boehme in French. Since my last, I have received a work which you probably know, that of Marie d'Agreda. I have not yet commenced it. I shall be very happy if M. d'Agreda gives me the same satisfaction that you had from your Carmelite nun. I thank you for your explanations of those passages in 'L'Homme de Desir.' I, like you, am resolved to suspend my philosophical work till I have made more way in what is still more needful.
Dear brother, I hope you will contribute thereto with your prayers. Matt. xviii. 19.
I THINK with you, as to the supremacy of friend Boehme over all his brethren. I find, in all, grandeurs of the highest order; but he only, seems to me, to be really born in the thing. The others look, sometimes, as if they were greater than their affair; with him, the affair always looks greater than he. He is an Israelite indeed. I have not yet finished Pordage. As for Jane Lead, I had a translation of the article wherein she speaks of the future universal regeneration. Although the idea was pleasant to my heart, I was cautious, because it seems to me that, as long as the world lasts, the seals will not be taken off these depths. I like your author, the editor of B. of 1682; he seems to be guided by good and wise principles. Marie d'Agreda is also known with us; she has her merit, without detracting from that of the one I mentioned. . . . Please to help me in the following passages of my translation, &c. . . . Forgive me, Sir, if I importune you with these bagatelles; but you are my only resource in this desert. I get on slowly with my translation, as you see. The truth is, that for me, it is a mechanical labour, from which I derive absolutely nothing, while I am engaged in it, and the profit I expect from it will only come when I read it. It is almost like copying. If I had not thus to prepare the materials of my spiritual sustenance, I could proceed more rapidly with other undertakings, which I would willingly push forward as well. But it is in the present state of things, that all must suffer; and, without entertaining ideas darker than other people, I presume this state of constraint will go on increasing, I should be sorry to be obliged to say, to what degree. I think I see the Gospel now preached with the power and authority of the Spirit, since men would not listen to it when it was preached to them in gentleness, and the priests did it only in hypocrisy.
Now, if the Spirit preaches, he does it in truth, and will, doubtless, bring man to that evangelical term in which we are absolutely nothing, and God is all. But the passage of our ignorance, defilement, and impurity, to this term, cannot be easy. I try to be prepared for everything. This is what we should do, even when men leave us in peace; how much more then when they add their own movements to those which agitate the universe, naturally, ever since man's crime! Our kingdom is not of this world; this is what we ought to say to ourselves, continually, exclusively of everything else, without exception; and yet, we never say it, except with our lips.
Now, the truth, which proclaimed this word, cannot allow it to remain a dead letter, and, accordingly, breaks for us the fetters which chain us to this delusive appearance, that we may be restored to liberty, and the sentiment of our true life. Our present revolution, which I look upon in this aspect, appears to me one of the most expressive sermons ever preached to the world. Let us pray that men may profit by it. I do not pray, not to be of the number of those who therein have to serve as beacons of justice; I pray never to forget the Gospel, as the Spirit would have us conceive it, in our hearts; and wherever I may be, I shall be happy, as I shall be then with the Spirit of Truth.
. . . Adieu, Sir: let us seek God with all our heart, soul, and spirit. That is our kingdom.
30th Sept. 1794.
I AM very glad, Sir, you are engaged in the translation of the 'Threefold Life.' Perhaps, hereafter, others may profit by it. I have sent you a volume containing the translation of Boehme's 'Way to Christ,' with six little tracts of Jane Lead, in German, which you have not got. . . . I think I can, with confidence, recommend to you Adelung's German Dictionary; it is of the same kind as the French 'Academie,' but far superior. . . .
I think, with you, Sir, on the great subjects you mention in your letter. It is, no doubt, the ignorance and hypocrisy of the priests, which is one of the principal causes of the evils which have afflicted Europe for several centuries, down to the present day. But, let us commit ourselves to Providence, with a boundless trust, and all will turn out well.
I am delighted, Sir, that you are pleased with the little I wrote you about the editor of the 1682 edition of Boehme. I consider myself most fortunate in making his acquaintance. This man is the more interesting, in that he put the whole theory of Boehme into practice; his life is a demonstration a posteriori of all our friend's principles. He attained thereto by a reiterated reading of the works of our theosopher, and by a perseverance and practice of forty-five years. The manifestations which were real, as well as those which were not, were known to him, and that by his own experience. Towards the end of his life, he lived on a footing of perfect intimacy with Sophia: I have nowhere else seen such an example of the loving-kindness and caresses with which she honours those who seek her with total union, the consummation in unity which is granted only after many trials, and for which nothing but an enduring trust, self-renunciation, and the cross, can make straight the way. He lived retired, and in celibacy, which he thought was necessary for the exercise of the sublime functions to which he had dedicated himself. The persecutions of the priests deprived him of his property and his country. He passed his life in the greatest poverty, without wanting a single thing; he had no property whatever, yet, notwithstanding, always had wherewith to help his brethren. We have six volumes of his epistles, and a friend of his has given us his life. Though a layman and a Lutheran, this rare man exercised the priesthood in its largest and highest sense; he made himself anathema for his brethren, to deliver them. He died in 1710, at Amsterdam, where he passed his life in doing good, especially by his prayers, and the use of the magnificent gifts he received, which were not of this world. His kingdom was so far from being of this world that he refused several alliances with millionaires; more still, he refused to solve the great physical problem, which a trustworthy person came to offer him, with the proof attached, and that, out of esteem for his virtues, and in consideration of the good use he might make of it. As the second principle was his habitual dwelling, he saw what passed in all regions. By the experience of the beings it concerned, he had a confirmation of the truths contained in the end of the 22nd and throughout the 23rd and 24th of the 'XL. Questions' of our friend B. After a sustained labour of seven years, he succeeded in drawing one of his benefactors out of the deplorable and suffering condition into which he had plunged himself by suicide. In short, he was a man, of such as are few, who bring down a blessing on all the land.
Adieu, Sir. I subscribe with all my heart to the conclusion of your letter, and that in all its fulness. Let us pray that God may bring us to that term.
Amboise, 21 Vendemiaire.
. . . I AM impatient to thank you for what you tell me of the editor of 1682. I acknowledge that your account of him touches me to the quick; and if you can add a supplement, be assured beforehand of all my gratitude. Let me at least know his name, if you can. No doubt he was a German, and able to draw at his ease from that well of life which you and I have in our hands; for my admiration (of Boehme) increases daily, and I feel that a prodigy like this, carefully weighed and meditated, is all that is wanted to put oneself into the mould naturally. This his editor proves it, who, at the same time, had the merit of adding to his reading his personal labour and virtues. I am enraptured that such men have been found on earth. These are generals of the highest order, towards whom armies rally in defeat. I confess, Sir, that one of my liveliest joys is, that I should have been, even remotely, an organ for giving you the knowledge of these treasures, which you can ransack with so much profit and delight. You will never have as much satisfaction of this kind as I wish for you, and the more you have the greater will be mine also. Let us unite then in this spirit of divine love. The more our riches increase, the closer our partnership will be.
I think entirely with you, Sir, that all will end well in the great affairs which now engage the nations; I thought it from the commencement of our revolution, and I am ready, individually, for any sacrifice. I feel, even, that I could sacrifice my own self, with real pleasure, for the public good; but I have been so overwhelmed with kindness, that I cannot help thinking that I shall still be so, and that some day I shall be allowed to join my partner, that we may work to make our fortunes together. You have so taken to the good road, that I can easily calculate the profits to be made with you. Moreover, I am not so far advanced as our editor on the matter of solitude. I believe, as he does, that worldly society is hurtful; but I believe that spiritual society is useful, and I often feel the want of it, especially now that I am absolutely alone in the country. But let us give thanks for all things to the Wisest and Surest.
I have read with much pleasure what J. J. Rousseau said of you in the supplement of his 'Confessions,' which has been lent to me. You were very young, then, Sir, when you attracted the notice of a man like him; you are now gathering the fruits of which he saw the germs in you then. Adieu, &c.
Morat, 25th Oct. 1794.
I AM delighted that you are pleased with the little I have told you of the editor of our friend B. His name was John George Gichtel, born at Ratisbon in 1638, of pious, rich, and respectable parents. You have rightly compared him to a general, for he lived and died with his arms in his hand; he not only fought himself, and fought for his friends, but he often mounted the breach for whole nations. His eagerness for instruction was sustained by many favourable opportunities, so that he became, in his time, a distinguished savant. He drew upon himself the hatred of the priests by a writing on the bad state of the clergy in his country; and, as he would not recall this writing, they found means to banish him ignominiously from Ratisbon, after first stripping him of everything. He took refuge in Holland, in the greatest poverty. The priests followed him even in his exile. He was imprisoned, and prosecuted criminally; but his faith and patience overcame everything. He withdrew to Amsterdam, where he made acquaintance with several families in which worth and piety were respected.
It is remarkable that he had knowledge of Sophia, and enjoyed several manifestations of a sublime order, before the writings of our friend B. were known to him. It was the cross which he had carried for his divine Master, and the inviolable attachment which he had vowed to Him from his childhood, which availed him for these favours. Some time after his arrival at Amsterdam, Boehme's writings fell into his hands; they were then exceedingly scarce. The 'Three Principles,' and the 'Seven Forms of Nature,' arrested him a long time, and it was only after being greatly exercised, and many combats, that he fathomed them. Gichtel, although very learned, lost all taste for reading, except the Holy Scriptures, and the works of our friend B. It was by constant practice of his precepts, and after many repetitions, that he came to understand them in their depth. He valued them as much as the Old and New Testament, and thanked Providence, from the bottom of his soul, for having placed these writings in his hands; he never tired of reading, above all, the 47th of our friend's Letters.
Gichtel called prayer the spiritual meat, and reading the drink of the soul.
The nights seemed too long for him, so that he gave very few hours to sleep. He lived nearly always retired, but rarely in solitude; he was acquainted with an estimable family, who, poor as he was, proposed to him a very rich match; but our champion refused; the parents, nevertheless, continued to esteem him and load him with favours.
His residence at Amsterdam was replete with a crowd of events in the sublime theosophic order, which I had rather tell you by word of mouth than by letter.
He formed acquaintance with a widow, a worthy woman, though enormously rich. After she had come to know him well, she frankly expressed to him her desire to be united to him indissolubly. He esteemed her, and felt even a sort of inclination towards her; but be gave no answer; he withdrew, and remained at home without going out for four weeks, laying the matter before God.
One day, as he was walking in his room, he saw at noon, a hand come down from heaven which joined his hand with that of the widow. He heard, at the same time, a strong clear voice, which said, 'You must have her." Any one else, in his place, would have taken this manifestation as a divine direction, but he soon saw it was only the widow's spirit, which, in the fervency of her prayers, had penetrated the outward heaven and reached the astral spirit. From that moment he gave himself altogether to Sophia, who would have no divided heart; he saw that he was called to the priesthood of the highest order. Without any seeking of his own, he received letters from several lords of Germany, even sovereigns consulting him; women of all classes sought his acquaintance and his hand: it is remarkable that the prayers he offered for them only added oil to their fires, till Sophia advised him to leave off praying for them.
When Louis XIV. came to the gates of Amsterdam, in 1672, our general made use of his own arms, and drove the foreign troops away. He found, afterwards, in the public papers, by name, the very regiments and squadrons which he had seen, face to face, when he pursued them out of the territory of the Republic. Sophia, his dear divine Sophia, whom he loved so well, and had never seen, came on Christmas-day, 1673, and made him her first visit: he, in the third principle, saw this shining heavenly virgin. On this occasion she accepted him for her husband, and the marriage was consummated in ineffable delight. She, in distinct words, promised him conjugal fidelity; that she would never leave him, neither in his crosses nor in his poverty, nor in sickness, nor in death, but that she would always dwell with him in the luminous ground within. She assured him she would abundantly recompense him the sacrifices he had made in having given up for her an alliance with any of the rich women who had wanted to have him. She gave him to hope for a spiritual progeniture; and, for dower, she brought essential, substantial faith, hope, and charity into his heart. The wedding festivities lasted to the beginning of 1674. He then took a more commodious lodging, a good-sized house, at Amsterdam, though he had not a farthing capital of his own, nor undertook anything to make money, nor ever asked a groat from anybody, either for himself or others; yet, as several of his friends went to visit him, he had to entertain them. Sophia had also a central language, without words, without vibration of air, which was like no human language; nevertheless, he understood it as well as his mother tongue; this is what assured him that he was seduced by no external astral, and he trusted it with all his heart.
Thus his vocation was derived from the sublimest source, and he would not have exchanged the poverty of Jesus Christ, which formed part of the dower of Sophia, for all the treasures of the world. All the most hidden mysteries were disclosed to him; his spouse revealed one wonder to him after another, as well in the inward light world, as in outward nature; and he lived more in heaven than on earth. He followed the directions of Sophia in everything, and had no will of his own; from that time he gave himself a sacrifice to be accursed for his brethren, even without knowing them; and all that he asked in his prayers, often even only in thought, was granted. Sophia gave him to understand that, if he desired to enjoy her favours without interruption, he must abstain from every earthly enjoyment and desire; and he did so scrupulously. At the beginning of his union with Sophia, he thought he might rest there, and wanted only to enjoy; she showed him that that could not be, and that he must fight for his brethren and sisters; that he ought, as long as he remained under the earthly covering, to employ the time for the deliverance of those who have not yet obtained their inheritance and inward repose. Then his desire to have companions in this spiritual warfare increased. He did not, however, seek new acquaintances; all his means concentrated in one — that was prayer. Several people came afterwards to ask for his advice and assistance; amongst them was a learned doctor, named Raadt, who was, both temporally and spiritually, in a most deplorable condition. Our champion directed him to prayer, and promised to add his own. From that time Raadt's heart was opened to heavenly grace; and as he complained bitterly of an urgent debt of 2400 francs, which took away his rest, Gichtel, although he had nothing himself, procured him, miraculously, this amount. As Raadt perceived that his married state was an obstacle to his advancement, he took upon himself, with his wife's consent, spiritual circumcision. Sophia received Raadt, and all those who came to see her spouse with good intentions, very well; that is, as I understand it, she allowed some rays of her image to fall on the earthy qualities of their souls, which our friend Boehme calls Tinctura Solis. ('Three Principles,' 13, 9.) This reception made a noise amongst Raadt's acquaintances; they all praised the sweet condescension of Sophia, and all would adopt spiritual circumcision; so that, in a short time, our Gichtel had about thirty adherents who all promised wonders. On this occasion Gichtel observed, in a remarkable degree, how the astral spirit is desirous of the nuptial couch of Sophia; these simple folk, notwithstanding all that our champion could say to them, believed that they had only to kiss and take!
It was during this time that Gichtel conceived the idea of publishing a new edition of the works of our friend B., more correct than the previous ones. He made use of some of his new friends as collaborators. The rather large amount of funds which this undertaking required, was first procured, from without the Society of Thirty, from a rich magistrate, who generously contributed it to the good work.
As long as the Thirty, who lived in different towns, remained united in spirit, they obtained in their prayers, all they wanted. If one did not succeed alone, he wrote to the others; and nothing on earth resisted their combined efforts. You may imagine what effect this society had upon the prince of darkness: at the pace things were going, his kingdom would be in danger. What particularly made him foam with rage, was the undertaking of the new edition of Boehme. He walked round about the Thirty like a roaring lion, to see whom he could devour. He succeeded too well. But the details of this event, and the means the enemy employed to circumvent these people, would be beyond the limits of a letter. Raadt, amongst others, the most advanced of them, after passing happily through his work of preparation, failed in the fire of purification: his vacillating mind wanted gravity, meekness, love, and perseverance, to stand through the trial. And then he became Gichtels enemy. The others, who wanted only the sweets, left him; some even went so far as to say he was a magician. The end of all these people was tragical and frightful. But notwithstanding all these obstacles, and in spite of every effort of the throne of darkness, the edition of 1682 was finished and corrected by Gichtel, on the author's own manuscripts; and the gates of hell could not repress a syllable of it. Our Gichtel desired that Boehme should, some day, be translated into French. This was a sort of testament of his, and I should not be at a loss to name the executor.
The defection of the Society of the Thirty occasioned many crosses and persecutions to Gichtel. But Sophia had prepared far off for him a solid and faithful friend and collaborator, who stood by him till his death; this was a young merchant of Frankfort, who had received a depot of two hundred copies of the new edition for distribution. This young man's name was Ueberfeld; he was already acquainted with Boehme's writings, and when the two hundred copies came into his house, it was like the ark of the covenant coming into the house of Abinadab. God opened His temple in the heart of Ueberfeld, and, in due time, he received the Bride Sophia, for he was raised to the sublimest degrees. It is to him we owe the six volumes of Gichtel's letters, which I possess in German, and look upon as a treasure. He came to see Gichtel in 1683, and found a St. Paul. He determined to remain with him. On his arrival, Sophia manifested herself to the two friends together, in the third principle, in the most glorious manner, and renewed her alliance with them, which lasted till 1685.
Ueberfeld, from whom I have these particulars, says, in his preface to G.'s letters, that the mouth cannot express the endearing and permanent delights which this manifestation afforded them. In 1690, they had a manifestation of the Repairer, with every indicative sign. They were confirmed in the advanced state in which they then were. They afterwards passed through many crosses, but overcame them all by their faith and patience.
They combated also for those who should follow after them in the footsteps of truth. . . . They had a presentiment of the revolution of empires in the time to come. They prayed instantly that God would be pleased to raise up many spiritual combatants, able to bear the burden of the poor and feeble in their faith in Jesus Christ. The translator of Jane Lead's works was one of the Thirty. He began by translating the words literally to his brethren. Ueberfeld, being once present at these translations, felt, at once, that J. Lead went beyond all experience; he comprehended, from that time, that it was all astral only; he was the more convinced of this because Sophia would never accept the sayings of Lead, and when Gichtel begged her to give some explanation, she entirely changed her system, although she said she received her first opinions through a manifestation. The two brothers saw then that her views were only pious opinions, and let them drop. The translator, seeing that they would not join in the opinion he entertained of J. Lead, told them that, if they would make common cause with her, they would get a pension from Baron K., as he himself did, to the amount of 800fr. You will imagine this was not the way to succeed with Gichtel; so the two brothers answered him with the words of St. Peter, Acts viii. 20. From that time, the translator of Jane Lead became their sworn enemy. He even carried away the innocent Lead with him, in his aversion to our two champions, and the historian of Gichtel says she was obliged to undergo the fiery trial before her death, because her spirit had attained only to Tinctura Solis.
A little before Gichtel's death, in 1710, Sophia showed herself to the two brothers as she had done when they first met in 1683, and summoned her faithful friend to join her. In 1716 Ueberfeld again had the same manifestation, which was afterwards repeated every year.
The Life of Gichtel was written by one of their faithful disciples; and it was by a remarkable circumstance that these writings have come into my hands, which proves how magnificently Providence repays the smallest services of years before. But without a knowledge of Boehme, I should never have paid attention to the letters of G., and it is to you, Sir, I owe the knowledge of B. I pray our Divine Master may reward you in this world and the next.
6 Brumaire, An III.
THE parcel is safely arrived, Sir, and it is at such times I say from my heart, quid retribuam Domino pro omnibus quae retribuit mihi, and fresh favours still arrive. . . . Adieu, Sir; accept my sincere thanks, &c. Consider this as only an aviso.
29 Brumaire, An III.
MANY thanks, Sir, for your kind letter of 25th October. Your grammatical solutions are most useful to me. . . . am at the end of the 2nd chapter of my translation, and I find here that our good man sleeps a little, with his interminable repetitions and declamations against the clergy. I observe here, however, one thing which does him no harm: that is, that when the thing has hold of him, he is always grand, always wonderful, and when it leaves him to himself he babbles a little, but he makes no mistakes, for all that, and exposes only the truth; which cannot be said of others, who, when left to themselves, give us error as well as truth, and sometimes human passions also.
I have, as yet, only skimmed your volume of Jane Lead. My occupations prevent my doing all I would wish; for, independently of my translation, which takes much of my time, I have done a little writing on the present epoch, at the request of some friends. It will shortly be printed; it is between 70 and 80 pages. I intend to send you a copy. . . . It will be anonymous, and I request you to be silent on the subject. I open myself little in it, as you may readily suppose; but you will, better than any one else, see in it what I withhold; and you will see clearly what my way of thinking is, on the grand scene which is now passing in the world, and at my own door.
Please write soon, if you wish me to receive your answer here; as it is very likely I shall soon leave for Paris, to spend the winter there. . . . . All the districts of the Republic are ordered to send citizens of confidence to the Normal School, at Paris, to learn the system of teaching which is to be made general, and then return to their district to make teachers. I have been honoured by their choice for this mission. This may counteract me in some respects: it will bow down my spirit to the rudimentary teaching of children; it will also throw me somewhat into the outward word — I, who would willingly never hear another word but the inward. But it also offers a less unpleasant aspect, i.e. the reflection that everything is connected in our great revolution, and it is enough for me to see the hand of Providence therein. There is nothing little, then, for me; and were I only a grain of sand in the vast building which God is preparing for the nations, I should not resist when I am called, for I am only passive in it; and I have had the sweet happiness to see the president of our district shed tears of joy when I told him I accepted; for they feared I should not, when they elected me. That alone makes the burden lighter. But my chief motive for accepting, is the thought that, with God's help, I may hope, by my presence and my prayers, to arrest some of the obstacles which the enemy of all good will not fail to sow in this grand career which is going to be opened, on which the happiness of generations may depend. I confess this idea consoles me, and, though I should divert but a single drop of the poison which the enemy will try to pour upon the very root of this tree that is to cover all my country with its shadow, I should think it guilty in me to draw back; and I hold myself even honoured by the employment. Such an employment is a new thing in the history of peoples, seeing the character, interior and anterior, which constitutes my whole being, and in which I shall probably not find many comrades in the school I am going to. Strengthen me on your side, my dear brother, with your prayers. I believe you will thereby be doing a good work.
I have been enraptured with the further details you have sent me of General Gichtel. Everything bears the stamp of truth. If I were near you, I could give you a story of a marriage in which the same way was followed with me, though under different forms, ending in the same result. I have also numerous proofs of the divine protection over me, especially during our revolution, of which I was not without indications beforehand. But, in all this, everything has been done for me, as they do for children; whereas friend Gichtel could attack the enemy in front, in which I should not acquit myself as he did. In short, for me, it is peace, and I always find it everywhere where I am. On the famous 10th August, when I was shut up in Paris, and crossing the streets all the day, during the greatest tumults, I had such signal proofs of what I tell you, that I was humbled to the dust; the more that I took absolutely no part in what was doing, and I am not so constituted as to have what may be called physical courage.
I have great doubts about the person you refer to, as executor of Gichtel's will. If I were twenty years younger, and within reach of all the assistance I should need, I would assuredly do all in the world to respond to your wish; but as things are, I can, at most, allow myself to do it but in part. And, if I do not finish my translation of the 'Threefold Life' before I leave, even this may be delayed by the new engagements I am entering upon. The will of Providence before all things. You, my brother, enjoy your leisure; why should not you put your hand to the work from time to time? You know French much better than I do German; and if your translation should require some correction, mine would surely require more. We might help each other, and work together for the profit of all. Think of what I propose. We shall soon have three of our friend's works in French — 'The Way to Christ,' 'The Signature of all Things,' and 'The Threefold Life.' . . . . If, on your part, you will undertake to translate some of these works, I will do the same, when I have finished 'The Threefold Life'; and, gradually, we might find ourselves in a position to present to my nation this well of life, all complete — a thing which it would probably be impossible for me to undertake and perform by myself, especially with the weakness of my eyes, which is increasing every day.
Adieu, Sir; you will let me know what you think, and I shall be delighted if my proposal should not prove disagreeable to you, but decide you to undertake the work.