Thomas Bromley – The Awakening & Apotheosis Of The Spiritual Senses
‘The inner eye open in the Heart’,
engraving from the German edition
of John Pordage’s ‘Theologia Mystica’,
Heinrich Wettstein, Amsterdam-1698.
Another sharing for the day from the Blue House of Via-HYGEIA, are two extraordinary excerpts from English Boehmist & Philadelphian Society member Thomas Bromley, here in the 1644 Nathaniel Bell edition, London. We have been sharing from the founding of Via-HYGEIA up to now a lot of texts from the Greco-Roman Classics with their acute mapping of the physical and metaphysical worlds, with an obvious soft spot for the Neo-Platonist school and then also from the early generations of Sufis that inherited this golden heritage (See Peter Kingsley), transmuting it in revolutionary existential paradigms. Ibn Arabi, Suhrawardi, Fakhr Eddin Al-Razi, especially come to mind, representing this Islamic open window on “Imagination not as a mere organ of fantasy or delusion, but as the soul’s means of revelation and transmutation, what he calls “Active Imagination.”, as Arthur Versluis explains perfectly below in his ground-breaking 1994 ‘Theosophia'(opening of chapter XI). We started also sharing contributions from the Jewish tradition with Martin Buber, Gershom Scholem and the Baal Shem Tov and more is to come. Then the profound and colorful protestant Theosophical experience comes also to mind and this is why we will start sharing from this other golden branch too-with contributions by Thomas Bromley, John Pordage, Jane Leade, their spiritual teacher, Jacob Boehme and other important players of that particular blessed time.
Introduction: From Arthur Versluis’ ‘Theosophia’- Opening of chapter XI
‘IN HIS MANY BOOKS on Sufism and Ismaili gnosticism, Henry Corbin unfolds for us the significance of the imagination, not as a mere organ of fantasy or delusion, but as the soul’s means of revelation and transmutation, what he calls “Active Imagination.” This unparalleled series of expositions on Islamic esoterism has had a quickening effect on many contemporary artists, poets, and writers, who through Corbin were able to recognize the spiritual power of the visionary imagination.
What is perhaps not so well known is that Corbin came to Islamic esoterism through the essentially Protestant visionary mysticism of Böhme, Oetinger, Pordage, and Baader, and that more than one European writer has called Corbin a “Protestant theologian.” While keeping in view the works of Corbin—which we urge readers to examine in conjunction with this discussion—we will focus on the visionary imagination as a spiritual discipline in European theosophy manifested in the works of Böhme, Karl Eckartshausen (1752–1803), and Pordage.’
Excerpt I:Thomas Bromley’s
‘Way to the Sabbath of Rest’-
1. The blessedness of this State further discover’d. 2. As it restores the internal Faculties of spiritual Sensation. 3. A Caution not to set up our Rest in these Enjoyments.
1.WH E N the Soul is arrived to this Baptism of Meekness and innocent Love, and hath experienced the comfortable Distillations of the heavenly Dew to it’s very great profit and growth, it comes to be much confirmed and established in this Principle, and finds the Effects of it’s present station to be very Blessed, in Comparison of what it was, when it stood in the fire of awakened Nature. And now seems as one that hath passed through a hot fiery Region into a moderate cool Air, where gentle gales of Wind breath upon it, and refreshing Dews entertain it, and cooling Waters are afforded to take away the Sense of Thirst. And now it perceives the Happiness of those who have made their Way by Death through irregular and discording Nature, into that spiritual State, where there is Joy, Peace, Rest and Harmony. This Condition then brings with it a greater Death to the World, and all Worldly Things, a total disrelishing of all things corrupt and impure, though more refined, and so as it is deadened to the World and Selfishness, it lives the more to God and all Goodness, and finds it’s Will more strongly drawn to Christ and Eternity.
2. And this dispensation into which the Soul now enters, is a state of much Life and Quickning, and of much pleasing Enjoyment from the Objects of the internal Senses, renewed and restored by the Spirit of God; for here the internal Faculties of spiritual Sensation are more opened, and give a greater Enjoyment of the first Angelical Life which was in Paradise: And we attain the Use and Restoration of these Faculties, through our growth in Regeneration, and as a Priviledge purchased for us by Christ: So that all Saints shall partake of them, either here or in Heaven, according as their Attainments are. In this State our internal Eye is more unlocked to behold the Paradisiacal World, with those luminous Objects and Inhabitants that are in it: Here we see such bright Clouds as the Disciples (Matt. 17. 5.) saw on the Mount, and at Christ’s Ascension when he was taken up into Heaven, (Acts. 1. 9.) In which he will likewise descend again, (Matt. 24. 30.) Here also we see the Angels of God ascending and descending, as Jacob at Bethel, (Gen. 28. 12.). In this state also our inward Ear is sweetly entertained with Angelical Harmony, hearing the sweet (y) Harpers upon Mount Sion, and the Voices of those that sing the Song of Moses and the Lamb, and of those that cry Hallelujah! (Rev. 19. 1. 3. 4. 6.) with many other Voices out of the eternal World, (Rev. 4. 1.) Moreover our internal feeling is almost continually entertained with the strong Contactions of the Word of Life, which sometimes discover themselves by thrilling Motions throughout the whole Man; but most commonly by strong Infusions of the pure burning Tincture of Jesus (Luke 24. 32.) into the Heart. In this state likewise we oft Smell the hot Perfumes of Paradise, and are pierced through with most delightful Odours, which infuse themselves into the Tincture of the Heart, and create Delight, and give a plain feeling and sense of the presence of Paradise, and that invisible light World, where there is no Curse nor Corruption. And in a Word, here we feed upon the heavenly Manna, Angels Food, which is living Bread, that Quickens, Enlivens, and Corroborates the Soul; and we oft taste very sweet Dews diffusing themselves with much Pleasure into that internal Sense of Taste, which lies within the Organ of the Tongue. Thus all the spiritual Faculties of Sensation are in this dispensation more opened, and more freely entertained with their peculiar Objects.
3. But yet we are not to rest in these Enjoyments, nor to go to build Tabernacles with them; but to look forward and to press after perfect Union with the divine Nature in the eternal World : Where is our true Sabbath of Rest, in the Vision of God, and perfect fruition of his Love for ever, (1Thes. 4. 17. Heb. 4. 9.) .
Second Excerpt:Thomas Bromley’s
‘A Treatise of Extraordinary Divine Dispensations’-
My last Observation, … is this; That as immediately before and just at Christ’s coming in the Flesh, extraordinary Dispensations of Visions and Prophesy, began to be renewed, and to break forth amongst some choice Ones of the Jewish Church: So now just before Christ’s second coming in Spirit (2Thes. 2.8) to deliver and reform the Church, which had been long in Babylon, extraordinary Dispensations of Visions and Prophecy, &c. begin amongst Christians to be renewed after their so long withdrawment and Cessation; whose Enjoyments evidently discover themselves to be of God, and the very fulfilling of that promise, Joel 2.28. 1st, From the way of attaining them. 2d, For their substantial Agreement with those of Patriarchs, Prophets and Apostles. 3d, From the Effects they produce in those that enjoy them.
1st, Then, as to the way of their attainment, it hath been that of the Cross, i.e. by the habitual Practice of Self Denial, both internal and external :
Internal, as first, by dying to all Imaginations, and speculative Pollutions, keeping up our Thoughts to God, and heavenly Objects. Second, by continual Watchfulness over our Affections and Passions, in exercising the Cross, upon the first Motions of them. Third, by dying to the desire of Repute and Honour amongst Men in the World, looking after that Honour which comes from God only.
External, first, by Fasting, and keeping under our Bodies, by constant Observations of the Rules of Christian Sobriety. Second, by abstaining from all Objects of sensual Lust and Pleasure, in observing the Rules of Chastity. Third, by withdrawing ourselves, except for necessity, both from all Persons and Employments that might interrupt our inward Communion, or awaken any earthly Passion, as knowing that evil Communications corrupt good Manners; especially where the Habit of Mortification is not yet very strong, and deeply rooted.
A second Means hath been frequent and earnest Prayer in private. Third, in spending our Time when together, by redeeming Time in Prayer and heavenly Discourse, in relating our Experiences, in exhorting and encouraging one another: And all this from a Principle of Love to God and Faith in Christ, by whose Goodness and spiritual Blessing, these Means have been effectual to the fitting of us for our present Enjoyments.
2dly, Their substantial agreement with those of the Patriarchs, Prophets and Apostles, will appear by paralleling their and our enjoyments.
1st, Then we have Visions of Representations, exhibiting spiritual Mysteries and truths; so had they, as Zachariah’s golden Candlestick, and Peter’s Vessel, &c. 2d, We have Visions of Angels appearing in Brightness and Splendour, and particularly of the blessed Angel Gabriel, the Seraphims, &c. so had they. 3dly, Some of us have seen the Vision of Christ in Glory, so did some of the antient Pillars of the Church. 4thly, We have been wrapt up into the third Heaven’s, or Paradise, where the Majesty and Glory of God and the blessed Spirits have been beheld; so were some of them. 5thly, We are much taught by angelical Dreams and Visions in Dreams, in which spiritual Mysteries are discovered, and future Things oft predicted; so were they, as appears by those of Joseph, Daniel, &c. 6thly, We see the personal Angels one of another at a distance, so did some of them:
Now, as to the Objects of internal Faculties of Hearing. 1st, We have internal Words, or inspeakings from the Spirit; so had they, Acts 188.8.131.52. And these inspeakings are oft in the very Language and Words of Scripture; by which sometimes particular Scriptures are applied to our particular Condition, heavenly Mysteries sometimes opened, and Directions given in doubtful Things. 2d, We hear Things spoken by the Angels, so did they. 3rd, We sometimes hear the Harpers upon Mount Sion, and the spiritual Songs of the Blessed above; so did divine John, and the poor Shepherds. 4th, As to other spiritual Gifts. 1st. We have first immediate Prophecies, the Accomplishment of which, to my knowledge, hath proved the Truth of them, so had they. Then, 2d, [We have] Immediate Revelation and Interpretations of deep mystical Scriptures, so had they. 3d, [We have] Immediate spiritual Hymns and Songs, which are accompanied with so much Power and reviving Virtues, that they clearly speak their Author to be the Spirit; such also had the Saints of old; other eminent and extraordinary Enjoyment I could here annex, but they shall be discovered in their Time, few being yet able to bear them.
3rdly, As to the Tendency and Effects of these Enjoyments, they have been and are suitable to the Means thro’ which they were attained, leading to those Things which are the chief Scope of the Scripture;
as 1st, To the giving of us a deep Sense of our natural Corruption, and sad Condition in this elemental Body.
2dly, Of the very great Grace of God, in affording us such happy Means of Redemption by the Blood, Life and Death of his Son.
3dly, Of our Necessity of Conformity to the Death and Sufferings of Christ, in regard that the way to Life is thro’ Death, and the Opposition of Devils very great and constant.
4thly, They lead us to a continual Watchfulness over our inward and outward Man.
5thly, To the Denying our selves of all Enjoyments pleasing to the Flesh, which are any way hindrances to the spiritual Temper and Progress of the Soul to God.
6thly, To the freeing of us (by Abstinence) from many fleshly Entanglements, in which many Christians are sadly ingulfed.
7thly, To a constant Sense and Sight of the Presence of God and his holy Angels.
8thly, To the enjoying of exceeding much spiritual Comfort and Refreshment.
9thly, To the loving of God and our fellow Saints, with a pure, strong and constant Love.
10thly, To the renouncing of the Desires of Honour and Riches in this World.
11thly, To the denying of spiritual Pride, and the selfish Desire of Greatness and Honour in the Kingdom of God.
12thly, To the continual taking up our Cross, and constant pressing forward to the Mark, for the Prize of the high calling in Jesus Christ; hence we shew the Danger of spiritual Sloth, and the Principles that lead to it, affirming it our Duty to labour to be perfect, as our heavenly Father is perfect and that our Business and Work in this World, is to return to God and Paradise.
13thly, To the spiritual opening of Scriptures, more to the Advantage of God’s Kingdom, and our spiritual growth, less to the indulging of the Flesh, and corrupt Principles of old ADAM.
I have now performed my Work in raising my Observations upon the collected Scriptures, and in vindicating those Saints, whom the Lord hath blessed with a renewal of extraordinary Dispensations: And I would have the Reader know that my Scope was not to discourse particularly of every extraordinary Dispensation, but in general to treat of them so far as to show the Happiness of them that enjoyed them, and the great Advantages and Priviledges that the Church in general, and many of it’s Members in particular received by them, and the great Disadvantages and Inconveniences our Churches lie under for want of them, together with the springing Hopes we have of their Resurrection, in regard to those blessed Christians, who now enjoy them: and God’s Promises both to increase and spread them over the Church again, and I believe it hath been a great design of the Devil to raise up many Pretenders to Visions and Revelations, whose Lives and Ends have been unsuitable to those blessed Saints, who in the purest Times were eminent for them, that so he might raise Prejudices against all that shall enjoy or possess them tho’ immediately given from that holy Spirit, which must again be poured out upon the Saints, for the pure reformation of the Church, the vindication of the Scriptures from the false glosses, the destruction of Antichrist, and for the Preaching of that everlasting Gospel, which must yet go forth with mighty Power and Authority thro’ the World; and this Plot of the Devil’s is the same he invented and set on Foot, before the first pouring out of the Spirit upon the Apostles, after Christ’s Ascension, as you may see, Acts 5. by Gamaliel, that learned and sober Pharisee’s Speech, in which he shews how before that time one Theudas, had started up, boasting of great Things, who drawing 400 after him, was slain, and all his Disciples scattered, and after him, Judas of Galilee, in the Days of the taxing, who likewise drew away many People, yet afterward perished with the dispersion of all his Adherents; these Instances he applied to the Apostles, who at that time were called before the Jewish Council, for their Miracles, and Preaching the Gospel, yet he did not so apply them, as positively to conclude that the Apostles were such Deceivers, and that their Works and Miracles were from the Devil; for then he had rashly Blasphemed the Holy Ghost, even as they do now, who conclude from the many Miscarriages of Persons, who pretend to extraordinary Things, that all our enjoyments, being the very effects of the Holy Ghost, are either Pretentions only, or Delusions of the Devil: But all such should learn Charity of Wise Gamaliel, who after these Instances, thus concluded his Speech to the imbittered Jews: Refrain from these Men and let them alone; for if this Counsel, or this Work be of Men, it will come to naught; but if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it, lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.
And I know the Day will come, when it shall be powerfully demonstrated; that they who now oppose and Judge that Spirit which lives in us, and affords extraordinary Gifts to us, oppose and fight against the Spirit of the living God; tho’ ignorantly, as Poor Paul once did. And as to the Interpretation of those Scriptures, in which we differ from the common Road, we may take notice, that our Interpretation is more to the Advantage of God’s spiritual Kingdom; more to the killing of the Flesh; to the calling of us out of the World; to the fitting us for Heaven and Eternity, and the State of Perfection, than the Expositions of others: Yea, exactly agreeable to Christ’s own Practice, who came to set us a Copy without Blur, which we ought to imitate. And is it any wonder, if this last Dispensation of Christ’s second coming in the Spirit be more Spiritual, Pure and Glorious, than any that have yet been generally embraced? Especially, considering that it hath been God’s usual way, to make latter Dispensations, exceed former in Glory; as the Temple did the Tabernacle; evangelical Prophets; that of the Law; Christ’s Dispensation in the Flesh that of the Prophets, and the pouring out of the Holy Ghost, that of his Corporeal Presence. And is it not agreeable to Divine Wisdom, that this Dispensation which is now coming forth, to disperse all the Clouds of Anti-Christ, should be more bright and glorious, than that upon which Anti-Christ prevailed? Which carrying so great Evidence of Truth with it, may teach us to beware of setting Limits to God’s Spirit, or of confining the Holy One of Israel, in reference, either to his abolishing of any Shadows, or to revealing the Substance of Truth more clearly, and vindicating it when sadly Misapprehended, by a more spiritual and powerful effusion of Glory.
A possible interpretation of the stages of the ‘opening of the heart’, as seen in these hermetic engravings from the seventeen century Germany and England.
Bottom left: From Jacob Boehme; ‘Becoming conscious of our parts’ ‘gathering for transhumance’ and ‘grazing stillness’.
Up left: From Thomas Bromley; ‘Light and shadow work’ and ‘Virtue blending into the heart.’
Up right: From Jacob Boehme. ‘Graces and blessings showering the rejuvenated heart.’
Bottom right: From John Pordage; ‘Radiating love, life and light in service to the community’.
We find interesting also that these hermetic stages have a lot in common with the ‘Ox herding’ series, originating from the Zen tradition.