The Conversion of Valentin Tomberg

I found this article very interesting, not because I was nodding in agreement the whole way ( I wasn't) but because of the various facets it touches on. Valentin Tomberg wrote the book ''Meditations on the Tarot'' which is an encyclopedic exploration of innumerable wonderful things, and well worth having around just to dip into from time to time. Valentin at Wikipedia.

 

Sourc of Following Article - http://www.gornahoor.net/?p=10034

 

Much ink (virtual and real) has been spilled regarding the conversion of Valentin Tomberg from Anthroposophy to Roman Catholicism. Yet, as we saw in the conversion of Rene Guenon, such a move cannot be understood in the conventional sense as the rejection of one thing and the adoption of another.

Nevertheless, there are those who are convinced that Tomberg rejected so-called New Age teachings to become a Catholic, and therefore attempt to follow him in that path. As a matter of fact, it seems that the Internet is replete with converts (or reverts) who are quite enthusiastic in promoting their new-found faith, usually to excess. While we think such conversions are a good thing in general, that is not at all Tomberg’s message.

In Letter XI, Tomberg explain his reasons for entering the Church.

The way of Hermeticism, solitary and intimate as it is, comprises authentic experiences from which it follows that the Roman Catholic Church is, in fact, a depository of Christian spiritual truth, and the more one advances on the way of free research for this truth, the more one approaches the Church. Sooner or later one inevitably experiences that spiritual reality corresponds—with an astonishing exactitude —to what the Church teaches.

He then lists several specific teachings:

  • There are guardian angels
  • There are saints who participate actively in our lives
  • The Blessed Virgin is real, as she is understood, worshipped, and portrayed
  • The sacraments are effective and there are seven of them
  • The three sacred vows of obedience, chastity, and poverty constitute the very essence of all authentic spirituality
  • Prayer is a powerful means of charity
  • The ecclesiastical hierarchy reflects the celestial hierarchical order
  • The Holy See and the papacy represent a mystery of divine magic
  • Hell, purgatory, and heaven are realities
  • The Master himself abides with his Church
  • The Master is always findable and meetable there

The Common Believer

Any cursory reading of the Meditations shows that it is replete with references to ideas, systems, books, and people that are certainly precursors to the New Age teachings of today. Yet Tomberg did not reject them in toto, not at all. To the contrary, he makes the remarkable claim that following Hermetic teaching to its depths led to his “conversion”. The reasons for this must be explored in what follows. But first of all, note that Tomberg does not claim any sort of superiority, but rather acknowledges a solidarity with common believers, as expressed in Letter IV.

For the Hermetic-philosophical sense has more in common with the plain and sincere faith of simple people than abstract metaphysics has.

  • For the common believer, God lives; likewise for the Hermeticist.
  • The believer addresses himself to saints and Angels; for the Hermeticist they are real.
  • The believer believes in miracles; the Hermeticist lives in the presence of miracles.
  • The believer prays for the living and the dead; the Hermeticist dedicates all his efforts in the domain of sacred magic to the good of the living and the dead.
  • The believer esteems all that which is traditional; the Hermeticist does likewise.

Rejection of Alternatives

In the Introduction to Inner Development, we are informed that Tomberg initially tried to align himself with the Christian Community and then with Russian Orthodoxy.

The Christian Community was formed by some of Rudolf Steiner’s followers; they have no dogmas, although they have priests and seven sacraments. However, dogmas are not an affront to free will as the Community claims, but rather they are living symbols of a higher spiritual reality as Tomberg came to realize. Typically, organisations that reject dogmas tend to converge to liberalism.

Tomberg attempted to work with the Christian Community by introducing a cult of Mary-Sophia. Emil Bock reportedly said to him: “We have Michael, that’s enough! We don’t need Mary-Sophia.”

As we will see in the next section, that is absolutely contrary to Tomberg’s purpose and mission.

Orthodoxy lacks a complete hierarchy, in particular, the papacy which Tomberg regards as a mystery of divine magic. Russian Orthodoxy retains a notion of being the Third Rome, with an Emperor and the Patriarch as Pope. From the esoteric perspective, this is a caricature of the true teaching, whose real source is suspect. Most of the early popes came from the East; they were more aware of the celestial hierarchy and divine magic. Someday, there will be a Russian pope ruling in the first Rome.

The Blessed Virgin

Tomberg insists that the Blessed Virgin is real, as she is understood, worshipped, and portrayed in the Church. This means that he accepts the four Marian dogmas, not as beliefs but as a personal experience. These are:

  • Mary as the Mother of God
  • Perpetual Virginity
  • The Immaculate Conception
  • The Assumption

Although it is not so common today, when I was a schoolboy, we would attend yearly novena to the Blessed Virgin. We would be given scapulars or medals. Although I might not have fully understood their significance at the time, I have always lived in the security of Mary’s promises of protection. Tomberg describes the esoteric meaning of these promises:

Every Hermeticist who truly seeks authentic spiritual reality will sooner or later meet the Blessed Virgin. This meeting signifies, apart from the illumination and consolation that it comprises, protection against a very serious spiritual danger. For he who advances in the sense of depth and height in the “domain of the invisible” one day arrives at the sphere known by esotericists as the “sphere of mirages” or the “zone of illusion”. This zone surrounds the earth as a belt of illusory mirages. It is this zone which the prophets and the Apocalypse designate “Babylon”. The soul and the queen of this zone is in fact Babylon, the great prostitute, who is the adversary of the Virgin. … One cannot traverse it without the protection of the “mantle of the Blessed Virgin”.

Mary is celebrated as the Queen of Heaven. Tomberg has a deeper insight that takes that teaching much further. In Letter XI, he asserts:

The day when it is achieved will be the day of a new festival — the festival of the coronation of the Virgin on earth. For then the principle of opposition will be replaced on earth by that of collaboration. This will be the triumph of life over electricity. And cerebral intellectuality will then bow before Wisdom (SOPHIA) and will unite with her.

The Virgin will be not only Queen of Heaven, but also Queen of the Earth. Of course, this is confirmed in the Dogmatic Constitution, which calls Mary the Queen of the Universe.

The triumph of life over electricity refers to the Hermetic teaching of electricity, or electro-magnetism, arising from lower forces. Just as a reminder, Tomberg explains:

The fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil — the fruit of the polarity of opposites — is therefore electricity; and electricity entails fatigue, exhaustion. death. Death is the price that is paid for the knowledge of good and evil, i.e. the price of life amidst opposites. For it is electricity — physical, psychic and mental — which was introduced into the being of Adam-Eve. and thereby into the whole of life-endowed Nature, from the moment that Adam-Eve entered into communion with the tree of opposites, that is to say with the principle of electricity. And it is thus that death entered into the domain of life-endowed Nature.

Therefore, the next dogma will be Mary as Co-Redemptrix.

Way, Truth, and Life

Tomberg rejected Anthroposophy (although not Steiner himself), describing it as

a movement for cultural reform (art, education, medicine, agriculture) deprived of living esotericism, i.e. without mysticism, without gnosis and without magic, which have been replaced by lectures, study and intellectual work aiming at establishing a concordance between the writings and stenographed lectures of the master.

In other words, it has Truth but not the Life. It is locked in concepts, meaning that one learns the concepts first, then tries to have the experience, whereas it should be vice versa. Tomberg explained this in a letter to Bernhard Martin:

First they [i.e., Anthroposophists] have a world of formulated concepts and then try to arrive at experience. But the concepts hold them shut within their world: the spiritual world remains silent, because they are the ones talking about the spiritual world; they don’t let it speak. It’s otherwise with people [like Jung]; in silence they let the spiritual world speak. And the spiritual world speaks in symbols—i.e. in mystery speech—today just like before.

In other words, it is necessary to treat the concepts as symbols, as the symbol is understood in the Meditations. It is an invitation to a personal meditation, not a univocal concept to be learned. In Covenant of the Heart, Tomberg is more explicit:

Alas it happened, however, for reasons which we need not go into here, that Rudolf Steiner gave his work the form of a science, so-called “spiritual science”. Thereby the third aspect of the indivisible threefoldness of the Way, the Truth, and the Life—namely Life—was not given enough attention. For the scientific form into which the logic of the Logos had to be cast, and by which it was limited, left little room for pure mysticism and spiritual magic, that is, for Life. So there is in Anthroposophy a magnificent achievement of thought and will—which is, however, unmystical and unmagical, i.e. in want of Life. Rudolf Steiner himself was conscious of this essential lack. Therefore, it was with a certain amount of hope that he indicated the necessary appearance of a successor (the Bodhisattva), who would remedy this lack and would bring the trinity of the Way, the Truth, and the Life to full fruition.

Knowledge as Intuition

Tomberg is trying to get us out of our heads in order to experience a higher type of knowledge. In Covenant of the Heart, he explains:

truth is based on “intuition [which] is not attained through practical knowledge or intellectual consideration (reflection), but through direct experience of reality … ‘an evolving revelation from the inner being of man’ … and ‘a direct grasping of the being of things ….’”

He then goes on:

For those who experience it, this form of knowledge counts as the highest because it is experienced … as the result of the most profound contemplation and the greatest concentration, in comparison with which that of intellectual consideration and the practical knowledge gained by way of observation appears superficial. However, it does not count in the slightest way as knowledge (let alone as the highest form of knowledge) for the scientific disciplines—which, as such, lay claim to being of general validity. For the scientific approach is not to strive simply for the truth, but rather to strive for that brand of truth which is of general validity, i.e. that which can be comprehended fundamentally by everyone bestowed with healthy understanding and faculties of perception, and which should thus be concurred with. A scientific discipline—whether a spiritual-scientific or a natural-scientific discipline—does not want to, and is not able to, address itself only to those people who are capable of the concentration and inner deepening necessary for intuition. Were it to do so, it would then not be scientific, i.e. generally comprehensible and provable. Rather, it would be “esoteric”, i.e. a matter for an elite group of special people. In this sense theology is also “science” since, assuming the authority of Scripture and the Church are acknowledged, it can be comprehended and tested by all believers.

Direct spiritual knowledge achieved through intuition is personal—never general or universal, i.e. scientific in the conventional sense. That is why Hermetism is not one philosophical system among many systems, nor one scientific theory among other competing views, nor the foundation of a new religion. In other words, it is not expansive in the horizontal sense, but rather a matter of depth, i.e., a deepening of understanding.

Postscript

So, to simplify, we can define:

  • The Truth as the understanding of concepts
  • The Way as the deepening of that understanding
  • The Life as direct intuition

An example might be this:

  • Hegel’s system of Absolute Idealism, or perhaps other similar systems
  • Steiner created not just a thought system, but also proposed a path of spirit and soul development
  • Tomberg opens up the meaning of symbols and intuition

 

 

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  • In spite of the declaration that "... one learns the concepts first, then tries to have the experience, whereas it should be vice versa ..." it still appears that Tomberg may have been the result of self-induced 'mysticism' from which he thereafter rested upon catholocism as experiential proof of his 'belief'.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valentin_Tomberg

    Valentin Tomberg
    'Valentin Arnoldevitch Tomberg (February 27, 1900 – February 24, 1973) was an Estonian-Russian Christian mystic, polyglot scholar and hermetic magici…
    • Don't know if I am grasping what you say here correctly, but  wouldn't the mysticism (experience) followed by the Catholicism (theology ie concept) be in the order he declared for?

       

      I found the correlations suggested between Hermeticism and the Catholic tradition to be interesting, Very cosmic expressions regarding Mary and the zone of illusions around the planet. Not saying at all I have knowledge or experience or belief of such - just an unusual idea

      • "For he who advances in the sense of depth & height in the 'domain of the invisible' one day arrives at the sphere known by esotericists as the 'sphere of mirages' or the 'zone of illusion'.  Although the signature of true light is love (as an outcome, I presume), the darkness can imitate & present its self as light. Thus self-doubt can easily become the beholder of a confusion unable to judge/decide the difference.  In short, neither Hegel or the Hermit can tell; to fill in that quandary Tomberg suggests intuition as a direct experience to decipher true light from any feigned light projected from darkness.  Although Tomberg states belief in the concepts [of Catholicism] he can't prove or promise a direct experience of divine being - be it intuition or a high level of contemplation.  His then desperate difference to protect against a wrong choice [darkness vs. light] appears to be his conceptual theory of BVM [Blessed Virgin Mary] who will somehow protect one from such a wrong choice.  It just appears Tomberg is trying to convince himself so that he can convince himself.  He's sounds to be caught in his own continuing eternal loop.  Or am I totally missing the thrust here?  It's like one must conceed to complete Catholicism to even participate in this induced line of logic or non-logic.  Guess that's the leap of faith, eh?     

        • Good points, it does appear that it may be  the leap of faith. The surrender to the ineffable, inexpressible, unknowable perhaps. I am thinking the zone of mirages is heavily symbolic - it is almost gnostic in appearance. And the Virgin is also therefore. The refuge. The protectress. Mary-Sophia. I am not sufficiently versed in the deeper concepts of Catholicism to know what beliefs Tomberg and people like him may be finding so convincing. (That is perhaps why I found this piece unusual in the first place - the link to Hermeticism surprised me) To be honest I don't understand the article all that well - I think it instinctively appealed to me.

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