Category Archives: Sword and Stone

The Transmutation of Jacob Boehme

Alchemist 001

“I did not climb up into the Godhead, neither can so mean a man as I am do it; but the Godhead climbed up in me, and revealed such to me out of His love, which otherwise I would have had to leave it quite alone in my half-dead fleshly birth.”

(Jacob Boehme, Aurora, VIII, 7)


Four years prior to the birth of John Bunyan, a shoemaker named Jacob Boehme died in the village of Goerlitz, Germany.  Throughout his adult life Boehme had supported his wife and children by laboring at a rough and dingy workbench.  But he was more than a cobbler; for as Alexander Whyte observes, “While working with his hands, Jacob Boehme’s whole life was spent in the deepest and the most original thought; in piercing visions of God and of nature; in prayer, in praise, and in love to God and man.”

Under the spell of Paracelsus, Boehme had in his youth taken a keen interest in alchemy.  But in his maturer years, disillusioned with what he came to regard as the groundless claims of the science of transformation, he began increasingly to attach a spiritual and eternal significance to its conceptual framework.  In the process his outlook altered radically; yet when speaking of this profound inward change, he naturally reverted to the language he knew best – the argot of the old spagyric art.

There was a difference, however.  For now when he referred to the Philosopher’s Stone, Boehme no longer envisioned a magical catalyst possessing the power to turn one substance into another.  Instead, he understood the Stone as an image of the New Birth.  And so it happened that Jacob Boehme, shoemaker and alchemist, abandoned his efforts to transform lead into gold and exchanged them for a quest to be transformed in the inner man.

In the story of The Sword of Paracelsus, Morgan’s father, John Izaak, finds himself compelled to follow a similar quest.  This part of the tale is, admittedly, wrapped in shadow.  Yet as it unfolds, one thing becomes sufficiently clear:  it is largely under the influence of Jacob Boehme that Izaak has set out upon his journey – inspired, we may imagine, by passages like the following:

“The eternal fire is magical, and a spirit, and dies not.  It is the same fire as a dying, yet there is no dying, but an entrance into another source, that is, out of a painful desire into a love-desire …”

(The Signature of All Things)

“For man’s happiness consists in this, that he has in him a true desire after God; for out of the desire springs the love.  And the love tinctures the death and darkness, that it is again capable of the divine sunshine.”


“He that will not seek thereby a new man born in God, and apply himself diligently thereto, let him not meddle with my writings.  I have not written anything for such a seeker, and also he shall not be able to apprehend our meaning fundamentally though he strives never so much about it, unless he enters into the resignation in Christ.  For the way is childlike, plain and easy.”


“Awaken in me the fire of Your great love.  Ignite it, O Lord, so that my soul and mind may see these evil beasts and kill them by means of proper, true repentance and Your power.”

(The Way to Christ)

“If love dwelt not in trouble, it could have nothing to love.”

(The Supersensual Life)


This is the true alchemy as Jacob Boehme — and John Izaak — understood it.

 Sword & Stone 2 001

The Song of the Stone, Part Two

Sword & Stone 2 001

The Song of the Stone, Part Two


But Ernmas’ daughter, Morrigu,

Crafty Anand, cruel, untrue,

Took up the quarrel with princely Lugh

And rose in stormy mutiny

When Ith, with all the sons of Mil,

Came oversea to raze and kill,

And Ollamh made of Lia Fail

The exiled Stone of Destiny.


“It must depart,” he said.  “Its fate

Lies not with us.  I’ll not debate

The point with you.  Or soon or late,

To Inisfail it’s going:

Out past the twilight’s shimmering shore,

Out through the sunset’s glimmering door,

Where boiling oceans simmering pour

Down cliffs beyond all knowing.


“A thousand years of sorrowing,

A thousand troubles borrowing,

A thousand curses harrowing

We brought on all we cherish

When Gathelus, inflamed with greed,

Usurped the Stone to serve his need,

His wants to fill, his lusts to feed –

We right his wrong or perish.”


He turned away; she stormed and flew,

She raved and ranted, croaked and crew;

To Tory’s fastness she withdrew

Where giants keep the portals.

But Lia Fail passed out of Meath,

And Faerie slipped away beneath

The softness of the hills and heath,

Invisible to mortals.


And now she keeps her vigil keen

And rules the Sidhe as tyrant-queen,

Watching town and hill and green,

To all the world an Enemy;

Thus to and fro she sends her spies

And scans the earth with hungry eyes

Seeking desperately the prize –

The fabled the Stone of Destiny.


But if the ancient tales tell true,

The Fomor and the Morrigu

Must one day gnash their teeth and rue

The schemes of their devising;

For though at length they seize and bind it,

The Stone will crush them when they find it,

Leaving their shattered bones behind it,

Glorious in its rising.


As air beneath the water’s flow

Must bubble upward, even so

The heaven-born to heaven must go

To find a place of rest.

The Stone that fell from sky to earth

Cannot remain within the girth

Of narrow nature:  true to its birth,

It seeks the utmost West.


And there beyond the sea and sky,

Where hopes and fears and sorrows die

And cast-off dreams slip gently by

To join the day’s descending,

Shall Lia Fail pass into light

Of golden sun and silvery night,

Where children of the Second Sight

Discern the joy unending.


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The Song of the Stone, Part One

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The Song of the Stone

 (From The Stone of Destiny)


Beyond the wall of sea and sky,

Where hopes and fears and sorrows die

And cast-off dreams slip gently by

To join the day’s descending,

An island green laughs in the light

Of golden sun and silvery night,

Unveiling to the Second Sight

A joy that’s never ending.


There, where the sun goes down to sleep

Below the cellars of the deep

And fairy folk and angels keep

A vigil o’er its fires;

Out past the waves, beyond the pale

Of Circling Stream, where white ships sail,

Under the shade of Inisfail

End all the heart’s desires.


A piece of heaven touched the ground

At Heaven’s Gate, where Jacob found

A Pillow Stone, and to the sound

Of Seraphs on the stair

He laid him down and watched his dreams

Fly up to where the starlight gleams;

But when he woke, those golden beams

Had vanished into air.


Bold Gathelus, King Cecrops’ son,

In Egypt’s land where rivers run

Stretched out his hand to seize the Stone

From Israel in Goshen.

With Scota, his betrothed bride,

He dragged it over deserts wide

To Spain, far over the heaving tide

Of the dividing ocean.


There on Brigantium’s sea-swept coast

He built a kingdom on the boast

That he must reign to uttermost

Who claimed as his possession

This ancient talisman of power;

But in a late and evil hour

An enemy flung down his tower:

He fled with his obsession.


Then over the deeps in ships they flew,

Gathelus’ Danaan crew,

Breaching boundaries old and new,

Seeking the final shore;

From Falias and Gorias

To Finias and Murias,

And last to Eire’s sea of grass

Beyond the great Muir Mor.


They landed on the mountain’s head

In clouds and smokes of fiery red

And filled the Fomor with a dread

Of all that’s bright and fair.

On Tara’s plain they set the Stone,

And over it they raised a throne,

That it might roar and shriek and moan

Beneath the king’s true heir …


(To be continued)