Prolegomena to the Minor Arcana

The second part of Letter XXII on The World deals with the Minor Arcana. It describes a program to follow, both in terms of knowledge and inner work, in order to approach the Minor Arcana. This is an outline that highlights the main points of that program.

The Four Worlds

The Minor Arcana deals with the complete Cabbala of four complete trees, corresponding to four distinct, but interpenetrating, worlds.

Thus, the 10 Sephiroth of each world are represented by the pip cards of its corresponding suit.

Moreover, the four elements have a role in each world. The elements are represented by the four face cards of each suit.

The following diagram shows how the elements are represented in the Sephiroth, and the chart summarizes all these relationships.
4 worlds

Cabala World Philosophy Element Suit Figure
Azilut Emanation Pantheism Fire Wands King
Beriah Creation Theism Air Cups Queen
Yetzirah Formation Demiurgism Water Swords Knight
Assiyyah Action Naturalism Earth Pentacles Knave
World Sacred Name Method Cause Ascent Stage
Azilut Yod Mysticism Efficient Creative Activity Perfection or Mystical Union
Beriah He Gnosis Formal Spiritual Activity Illumination
Yetzirah Vau Magic Material Destruction of the imagery Purification
Assiyyah He Hermetic philosophy Final Intellectual and sensual imagery Preparation

The Tetragrammaton

The four suits are also related to the letters of the Sacred Name.

Each plane, or world, has its own methodology of knowledge, which needs to be appropriate to its object.

These methods are: Mysticism, Gnosis, Magic, and Hermetic philosophy.

Causation is understood in a specific way for each world. These are Efficient Cause, Formal Cause, Material Cause, Final Cause.

The Efficient Cause is the Will of God that starts the World Process. From that perspective, the world is an emanation of God.

The Formal Cause is the Essence of Beings, through which all things are made. This involves a separation from God, so Theism is its philosophy.

The Material Cause is the Substance of Beings, from which they are made. This is like the Demiurge that constructs the world from matter in conformity to the Ideas.

The Final Cause refers to the purpose of beings.

(Note: There is an apparent inconsistency in the text about these causes, since Levi’s system is a little different. However, this system seems to me to be more complete.)

Psychurgical Practice

The Major Arcana constitute a teaching program. Their purpose is to awaken consciousness to the laws and forces which are at work beneath the moral, intellectual, and phenomenological surface.

The Minor Arcana require psychurgical practice, i.e., the transformation of consciousness rising from plane to plane. Hence, they are much more than an intellectual puzzle. They require a change of consciousness, which is why we start at the lowest world.

The Minor Arcana require the analysis, synthesis, and elaboration of the Major Arcana as applied to the planes of consciousness. There are 22 paths between the Sephiroth, which correspond to the Major Arcana. Some systems try to work along those paths.

The Ascent of Consciousness

The World of Action is dominated by intellectual and sensual imagery. Although they are not fully illusory, they are also not fully images of reality.

Consciousness is surrounded by memories of experiences, intellectual schemes, and moral ideals.

Psychurgical practice is the ascent from this world to higher worlds. So the first step is to free the mind from is attachments to these mental constructions, which obscure any higher knowledge.

Further Considerations

There are three main points.

  • Practice the emptying of imagery, also called unknowing.
  • Learn to recognize the occult forces behind moral and intellectual movements in the world, and how they manifest.
  • Meditate of the manifestation of the Sephiroth in the world. E.g., what is the Kingdom in the world of Action, what is the Crown? What is considered Wisdom and Beauty in this world? And  so on.

The Minor Arcana

Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him. ~ Isaiah 43:7

These are the meeting notes for 15 January 2018.

We reviewed the topics and themes that we discussed over the past year:

  • Solovyov, Berdyaev, Bergson, Jung
  • Dante
  • Boehme
  • Concentration without effort
  • Second birth, initiation
  • Centering prayer, meditation, Aurobindo
  • Spiritual vision. Based on Thomas Aquinas and the Law of correspondence. How our sensory experience corresponds to a spiritual reality
  • Hinze, Gichtel, Chakras and the planets

We then discussed possible themes:

After discussion and thoughtful meditation, we decided to make the study of the Minor Arcana as the group project. This will incorporate all the themes discussed to this point; moreover, it will also bring into play the other possible themes listed above.

Of course, as we learned in our Bodhisattva studies, this is best accomplished as the union of Intellectuality and Spirituality. Hence, our meditations must be on something concrete. Specifically, everything must be tested to separate what is of God from what is from “sins, whims, and personal ideas”. Initially, it will not be systematic; each one of us should follow his own interests first. There is no particular hurry.

Since each suit corresponds to a Cabbalistic world, it is necessary to be clear about the characteristics of each of those worlds. In order to provide some background, I will provide this introduction to the worlds, along with some suggestions for further study.

Then, within that world, the pip cards will correspond to the Sephiroth. The picture cards have a different purpose. Furthermore, the worlds interpenetrate, so that the Sephiroth at one level may have a different connotation from the world above or below it.

Keep in mind that the passage from Isaiah from the epigraph reveals the nature of the four worlds.

Azilut (Emanation). This is the unchanging divine world. One is called to that world, as Beatrice called to Dante. This should begin with the Trinity. Eckhart’s and Boehme’s understanding of the Trinity are helpful, as is Solovyov’s as described in Lectures on Divine Humanity.

Sophia, too, as Wisdom appears here. There is a collection of Solovyov’s writings and descriptions of his encounters with Sophia. Bulgakov wrote a short book as an introduction to Sophia.

Mouravieff may have something to add on these ideas.

Beriah (Creation). This is the world beyond space-time, pure consciousness, or Heaven. The world of the higher angels. Pure spirit or thought. Some philosophers have attained to an understanding of this level.

Relating to the named angels may be helpful, starting with Metatron. Dionysius on the Celestial Hierarchy, also St. Bonaventura. The Meditations mention two works by Rudolf Steiner.

Yetzirah (Formation). This the Corporeal world. Also Eden. I’ve found that Wolfgang Smith’s distinction between the Corporeal and Physical worlds is very helpful. He shows that the corporeal world of our ordinary experience, is on a higher plane than the material world studied by physicists.

The features of the body at this level are: Impassibility, Subtlety, Agility, Clarity. (Look them up if you don’t know them.)

Boehme’s description of the Fall of Adam and Eve may be helpful, in showing the transition from corporeality to physicality.

Assiyyah (Action or making). This is the world of man’s making, a factitious world. After the fall he became dense and acquired a material body (“coats of skin”). The upper part of this world is the natural psyche relating to the lower intellectual and emotional centers. Then the descent is to sensations, instincts and the body itself.

Dreaming in the Dog Days

But when the artichoke flowers, and the chirping grasshopper sits in a tree and pours down his shrill song continually from under his wings in the season of wearisome heat, then goats are plumpest and wine sweetest; women are most wanton, but men are feeblest, because Sirius parches head and knees and the skin is dry through heat. ~ Hesiod

In the midst of a restless sleep during a stultifying dog day night, following a massive hurricane, I was entertained by a dream. As I pulled into my driveway, I noticed by two closest college friends with a young boy waiting for me. Although they were my friends, they were not friends with each other. On the contrary, each represented a different, mutually incompatible, trajectory of my life. B. had been my friend since grammar school. As such, he represented the conserving element of my past, the drag of inertia. R., on the other hand, was a new friend; together we explored the lifestyle choices of the social upheavals of that era.

Being a trickster, I resolved to deceive them. Pretending not to know them, I casually asked if they had been sent to clear my windshield. To my surprise, they did not recognize me. R. was suspicious and went into my car to look for clues regarding my real identity.

Following him, I found a text and opened it. A secret was revealed to me about the Tarot. I learned I was not in the land where the centre is everywhere. I read the next paragraph, but had trouble understanding it. Multi-coloured balls were dancing around the final word. It was somewhat confusing and I wondered how they could possibly know that to be true. Unfortunately I cannot now recall the word. I suddenly awoke, and the ideas for this essay rushed into my head; I’m afraid I will leave out something essential.

The Crown of Creation

Ace of Pentacles
According to Valentin Tomberg, the Minor Arcana represent an extension to the final Major Arcanum, The World. As such, they represent an ascent, known as Jacob’s Ladder.

The Minor Arcana of the Tarot represent the way of ascent from consciousness belonging to the world of action (the phenomenal world) through the world of formation and the world of creation to the world of emanation.

The suit of Pentacles corresponds to Assiah, or the World of Action. This is the mixed, or dualistic world. Not fully God’s creation, it is the result of Adam’s fall. It is ruled by Satan, the Prince of the World. Tomberg explains:

The world of our experience is the phenomenal manifestation of both the world created by the Word and the evolutionary world of the serpent.

This world is the world of images, intellectual constructions, and imagined ideals. However, these are not liberating, but rather keep humanity enthralled. Boris Mouravieff describes it this way:

Dreamlike imagination, which is somnolent, comes from the Absolute III, and is also found to a certain degree in animals: it is a passive force. The latter form of imagination, the ‘dream of the sleeping serpent’, produces a hypnotic effect on man, keeping him in the state in which the vast majority of humans pass their lives.

Tomberg agrees:

It is the Serpent who is the prince of this world, and who is the author and director of the purely biological evolution following the Fall.

Mouravieff is even clearer on this point.

[Satan] is the Regent of organic life on Earth within the limits of the mental and physical life of the three kingdoms of nature: flora, fauna and man. He dominates them by the action of sexual energy in the four phases of life: conception, birth, growth and finally reproduction. This sexual energy is the dynamic expression of his Love, which is carnal Love, while the spiritual life, which is accessible to man through the mediation of his higher centres, remains outside the sphere of the [World of Action].

His task is thus limited and he carries it out, as we said, by the sexual Love which emanates from him, by the force of attraction between the sexes, and by Illusion, the dreams of the sleeping young Serpent. The current of his Love acts like a drug on both man and woman and, in its different forms, keeps them in a hypnotic state from puberty to the end of their days.

The Sephiroth

For preparation, the first step is to identify the qualities of the Sephiroth as they appear in the World of Action. The loss of “vertical consciousness”, i.e., direct consciousness of the Divine, colours our experiences. By forgetting the vertical, the World of Action seems to be self-sufficient and independent of any transcendent foundation. Thus, the philosophy of naturalism – along with its children materialism, positivism, and atheism – seems a reasonable way to understand this world. Hence, some of the sephiroth might be described this way.

  • 6 Beauty. Beauty is sensual and the images of beauty keep us in a dreamlike state. The beauty of nature ties us to the desire for experience. The beauty of people excites the desire for biological evolution, even past the time when that makes any sense.
  • 5 Justice. Justice is the restoration of equilibrium. So in a dispute, Justice would resolve the two points of view with reference to the Will of God. In the World of Action, humanity replaces God, so that man determines what is good or evil. Since there is no belief in transcendence, Justice devolves into a power struggle between the parties.
  • 4 Mercy. In vertical consciousness, Mercy is oriented toward the supernatural end of man. When that awareness is lost, Mercy is oriented toward man’s natural goals.
  • 3 Intellect. The Intellect is dominated by Science. The aim of the Intellect is not to know higher things, but rather to provide the understanding to manipulate nature.
  • 2 Wisdom. There is no true Wisdom. Rather, cunning, slyness, and artfulness are considered to be the hallmarks of Wisdom.

Of course, a meditation of on the Minor Arcana would have to develop similar ideas more deeply. The pip cards correspond to the ten sephiroth.

What about the Crown of the World of Action, the Ace of Pentacles? For most of humanity, life in the Assiah is a difficult struggle. It is bounded by toil, disease, pain, and death. Even during the good times, their presence casts a shadow over life, and they seem to impinge at the most inopportune times.

Nevertheless, at any time there are those who seem to have mastered life. They have physical beauty, sex appeal, intelligence, ability, health, fame, and, of course, sufficient fortune so that the cost of anything never needs to be considered. They become the objects of envy. I’m sure you can name many such people, but I’ll mention two quite different men, if you consider them objectively: George Clooney and Donald Trump. And there are those who suddenly appear, almost out of nowhere, like Jennifer Lawrence.

Everyone desires that life of leisure, and their images are everywhere. They keep us in a hypnotic state, since very few will ever meet such success. In the Mebes Tarot system, the Ace of Pentacles represents Wealth, both Inner and Outer. Outer wealth is visible and comprehensible to the masses.

Inner wealth signifies what must be given up in order to climb the ladder. Idle wealth is useless, rather it must be what is paid. Now, the Crown of the World of Action is related to the Tiphereth of the World of Formation. That latter is represented by the 6 of Swords, which symbolises the Science of Success.

The Seven Sleepers

This morning, I was dreaming about the Seven Sleepers. In the dream, I was communicating via thought about how we would know when to wake up together. Then we all woke up.

The Star of the Magi

Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are. ~ St. Augustine of Hippo

As was mentioned in Salvation and Evolution last month, it is worthwhile to repeat this:

Our time makes an appeal to the collective endeavour of Hermetists of today to make a third summary, which will be for our time what the Tarot was for the Middle Ages and what the Emerald Tablet was for antiquity. Thus, just as the Emerald Tablet saved the essence of ancient wisdom, and just as the Tarot saved the essence of medieval wisdom, across the deluges which occurred in the time that separates us from them, may the essence of modern wisdom be saved in a spiritual “Noah’s ark” from the deluge which is going to come, and may it thereby be transmitted to the future, just as the essence of ancient wisdom and that of medieval wisdom has been transmitted to us by means of the Emerald Tablet and the Major Arcana of the Tarot. The tradition of Hermetism blossomed in the past and must live in the future. This is why a new, modern summary is required, which will be as viable as the Emerald Tablet and as the Major Arcana of the Tarot.

It is all too easy to forget that the intention of the Tarot is to preserve Hermetic wisdom. It is an example of objective art, since its symbolism will open itself up to those with the developed intuition to grasp its deeper meaning. Without that, the cards become subjective and arbitrary. So in “our time”, we see a multitude of variously themed decks of cards that have no connection at all to Hermetic teachings, but merely reflect the personal judgments of the artist.

In the Letter on the Fool, Valentin Tomberg reveals his experiences in 1920 with the group who had studied the Tarot with the Russian esoterist Gregory Ottonovitch Mebes. Although his claim to have surpassed their understanding of the Tarot is certainly true, the echoes of that original impulse can still be heard in the meditations.

The Spiritual Battle

Mouni Sadhu had also encountered some members of Mebes’ groups and even hinted at an initiation into the Martinist Order. His book on the Tarot is strongly based on the notes he had from that group. As such, that book is interesting as a framework for the Meditations. Sadhu’s book is analogous to the chord progression and the Meditations are like jazz riffs over those chords.
Star of the Magi
Each Arcanum in the Mebes Tarot deck has three levels of interpretation: archetype, human, nature. It also has a scientific name as well as a common name. For example, the full name of Arcanum 17 is the Star of the Magi. The Magi come up in passing in the Meditations through their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

The three levels of this Arcanum are:

  • Hope
  • Intuition
  • Natural Divination

Each of these levels corresponds to the knowledge of the three cosmic forces explained by Fabre d’Olivet:

  • Providence. Supernatural Hope is the knowledge of God’s promises.
  • Will. Intuition is knowledge without thinking.
  • Destiny. Also Fate or Karma. Natural Divination is our knowledge of the physical world.

This is how Sadhu describes this Arcanum:

It is not sufficient to be logically convinced under all circumstances, often Hope is necessary. It is not enough to enforce our will astrally, we should also have tact and intuition. It is not enough to know that Fate is pitiless on the physical plane, but it may be useful to know how to foresee its forms by the use of divinatory methods.

Alfred North Whitehead in Process and Reality describes how those forces interact to create new experiences. At each moment, the accumulation of the past exercises a strong influence to prevent change. God’s influence is also present as a creative, but not coercive, lure. Finally, the human Will acts on those possibilities of manifestation at each occasion.

Our knowledge of the physical world is through science and discursive thinking. However, intuition is our knowledge of higher things. That is why the Arcanum of the Star is about intuition, as it reveals aspects of Reality unknown to science. Sadhu explains:

Providence illuminates the present with its Light. … Hope acts and radiates its rays throughout the darkest corners of our consciousness.

Tomberg identifies this light with Hope:

The light-force which emanates from the star … is hope. … Hope is not something subjective. It is a light-force that radiates objectively and directs creative evolution towards the world’s future.

However, it does not act alone but requires humanity’s cooperation. Sadhu, too, recognizes human evolution, but only:

If humanity’s will is allied with the enlightening influence of Destiny, then it is stronger than Fate. In such cases, the history of humanity has an evolutionary character.

That is the only valid path. Unfortunately, there are false paths that lead to destruction: viz., denying the influence of Destiny, denying the voice of Providence, or even succumbing to Fate.

The latter keeps the will asleep, leading to resignation, routine, quietism, or fatalism. Dualism, on the other hand, awakens the will. Specifically, there must be a Yes and a No, the Will is forced to choose. Without the awareness of a spiritual battle, the Will remains asleep. Johann Fichte’s recognized this very clearly. Bryan Magee summarizes Fichte’s insight:

For morality to be possible there must be a choice, and for choice to be a possibility for me it is necessary that something should exist other than my self. Similarly, for moral action to be a possibility for me, there needs to be some challenge, something that exists in opposition to my self, or at least something that is a potential obstruction to my activity. So if I am to be a moral being at all it is necessary that there should be a world which is not me, a world of objects which can obstruct me. On the basis of this central argument Fichte evolved a philosophy according to which what is primal and original is the noumenal moral will, and this will begins into existence the phenomenal world as the requisite field for the self-objectification of moral activity.

This is represented by the two vases, which are poured into the same stream. Tomberg laments:

Here is the tragedy of human life and mankind’s history and cosmic evolution. The flow of continuity in heredity, tradition and lastly evolution bears not only all that which is healthy, noble, holy and divine of the past, but also all that which was infectious, vile, blasphemous and diabolical. All is borne pell-mell, never ending, towards the future.

There must be righteous Anger against the latter qualities, as well as the Courage to choose the former. Together, those are the daughters of Hope, which “transforms the future into promise.” That promise ultimately is the City of God, the state of Reintegration prior to the duality exposed by the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

The Light of Hope

To live in the light of Hope is to reject the sleep of Fate. Fate is the Eternal Return, in which nothing is new, but is merely the Past repeating itself indefinitely. On the contrary, Tomberg reminds us:

Each day is a unique event and revelation which will never be repeated.

This is compatible with Rene Guenon’s claim that the same state of existence cannot be repeated, as that would be tantamount to the denial of God’s Infinitude.

Fortune Telling

The Patzer’s of Hermetism remain mired in the residues such as the various forms of Divination or the material tasks of the Alchemists. Mouni Sadhu acknowledges that “Everything in the Universe is mutually connected and bound together or interwoven.” Hope, Intuition, and Destiny – as we pointed out – occur at every moment. Regarding Fate or Karma, Sadhu acknowledges:

Karma reveals its mysteries and secrets to us every hour, every minute, and every second. For every one of us these mysteries are written in the starry sky (astrology), on our skulls (phrenology), on our faces (physiognomy) and on our hands (chiromancy). Karma unveils itself in every one of our movements, in the smallest of realisations (graphology, cartomancy) and so on.

The practice of these techniques requires an intuition to experience images. Although many may have such experiences, Sadhu points out that the main difficulty is not the obtaining of such visions, but rather the art of interpreting them. This is only possible through the full domination of the mind which requires the power of concentration. This is a rare quality.

Recently, I read a comment that claimed that someone with such divinatory powers would become wealthy. That shows an ignorance of the methods of the esoteric sciences, as she can conceive them only in the manner of the secular sciences, which are open to anyone. On the other hand, the mastery of the esoteric sciences requires the moral purification of the will. If such powers are used for egotistical motives or monetary gains, they are likely to be lost. Hence, the charging of money for Tarot card readings should be suspect.

Ultimately, Sadhu rejects such divinatory practices, because they are restricted to the level of Fate or Destiny. They leave out both the person’s free will and God’s Providence from the vision of the future.

The Synthesis of Science and Religion

Tomberg asserts that the synthesis of science and religion if the task and mission of Hermetism. Those who like to play at Hermetism remain obsessed with the early material tasks of the Alchemists: the philosopher’s stone, the elixir of life, the panacea, the transmutation of metals, all in their private laboratory. Tomberg offers an alternative.

It is the world which has become the alchemical laboratory, just as it has become the mystical oratory.

This is not the failure of alchemy, but rather its triumph. This new alchemy is the synthesis of salvation and evolution, which is expressed in three ways:

The work of all those who taught a way —

  • the mystical and spiritual way of purification, illumination and union, or
  • the historical and social way of the progress of civilisation through social and moral justice, or
  • the biological way of evolution from the sphere of chemical elements to the sphere of living organisms and from the sphere of living organisms to that of beings endowed with thought and word

— the work of all these, I say, which teaches us a way of individual and collective perfection, is now resplendent in the rainbow of the synthesis of salvation and evolution, the rainbow of mankind’s hope.

Safeguarding the Mysteries

Klein Bottle
Spiritual questions, or debates over the superiority this of that tradition, can be resolved neither by personal predilections nor by empirical and historical considerations. These issues can only be addressed from the understanding of metaphysical principles. It is curious, though symptomatic of the contemporary human situation, that everyone feels competent to opine on spiritual and political matters, although they would not dare to say anything at all about quantum physics or algebraic topology, topics much simpler to understand.

One such principle is that knowledge is being, “to know is to be”. In order to know something of spiritual depth, one must become deep oneself. Frithjof Schuon wrote a book titled The Transcendent Unity of Religions, the point of which is that although on the human plane, different religions may diverge widely, at the level of principle, they must needs converge. Thus, for example, the Catholic monk Thomas Merton can rightly claim that he has more in common with a Zen monk than he does with the average Catholic in the pew.

Hence, the importance of spiritual practice is more important than just knowing doctrines or philosophies. This is what separates the Metaphysician and the Hermetist from the ordinary philosopher. The great Hermetist of the 20th century, Valentin Tomberg, in the Meditations on the 22 Major Arcana of the Tarot makes this clear in the following passage: (p 122, my translation)

The goal of spiritual exercises is depth. It is necessary to become deep in order to be able to achieve the experience and knowledge of deep things. And it is symbolism which is the language of depth — so that these are the arcana expressed by the symbols that are the means and the goal of spiritual exercises, from which the living Tradition of Hermetic Philosophy is composed.

Common spiritual exercises create the common link which unites Hermetists. It is not common knowledge which unites them but rather spiritual exercises and the experiences they entail. If three people from different countries who had used Moses’ Genesis, John’s Gospel, and Ezekiel’s Vision as the subjects of spiritual exercises for several years were to meet, they would do so as brothers even though one knew the history of humanity, the other had the science of healing, and the third was a deep cabbalist.

What they know is the result of personal experience and direction, whereas the depth, the level that they have reached — without regard to the aspect and extent of the knowledge that has been gained — is what they have in common. Hermetism, the Hermetic Tradition, is first and foremost, a certain degree of depth, a certain level of consciousness. And it is spiritual exercises that safeguard it.

Salvation and Evolution

At the conclusion to the Meditation on the Arcanum of the Star, Valentin Tomberg makes the following appeal:

In our time, therefore, it is a matter of the task of effecting the third step of the evolutionary spiral of the Hermetic tradition — the third “recovery” of the subject of the Emerald Tablet. Our time makes an appeal to the collective efforts of Hermetists of today to make a third summary, which will be for our time what the Tarot was for the Middle Ages and what the Emerald Tablet was for antiquity… This is why a new, modern summary is required, which will be as viable as the Emerald Tablet and as the Major Arcana of the Tarot.

With this, Tomberg exhorts us to move past the Tarot and to reformulate Hermetic wisdom in a contemporary way. Nay, it is not he but our Mother who exhorts us to our duty to the future. That is the message of the woman in the Star:

It is she who is the Mother of the Future, and this is why her message confronts us with duty towards the future—the duty of the river of the unbroken Tradition. It is necessary for us to make efforts to comply with this!

In this Letter Tomberg relates Salvation to Evolution. Salvation is from the Father and tells us “what”: the Mystery of Salvation through the Son. The Mysteries of the Mother tells us “how”: through biological and spiritual evolution. That is, salvation comes from above, the eternal, the timeless, while evolution is the projection of salvation onto the dimension of time. In the following passage, Tomberg gives us a number of predecessors whose collected efforts teach us the synthesis of Salvation and Evolution.

But let us not forget that this synthesis of today has had its history, and that this is due also to “labor pains”. It was born after a long series of continuous efforts from century to century:

  • the effort of Heraclitus, the philosopher of the perpetual change of matter;
  • that of the Gnostics, who made the drama of the fall and return of Sophia Achamoth resound in human history;
  • that of St. Augustine, the father of the philosophy of history, who brought to light the twofold current in mankind’s history—the “City of Man” and the “City of God”;
  • that of the alchemising Hermetic thinkers who affirmed and re-affirmed untiringly the principle of the transformability of the base into the noble;
  • that of Martinez de Pasqually, who wrote his Traité de la reintegration des êtres (“Treatise on the Reintegration of Beings”);
  • that of Fabre d’Olivet, the author of L’histoire philosophique du genre humain (“Philosophical History of the Human Race”), showing the dynamic operation of the triangle destiny-freedom-providence in mankind’s history;
  • that of H. P. Blavatsky, who added and opposed to Charles Darwin’s materialistic evolution a breath-taking vision of the spiritual evolution of the universe;
  • that of Rudolf Steiner, who emphasized that the center of gravity of spiritual-cosmic evolution – to know Jesus Christ – is also not far from Teilhard de Chardin‘s “Omega point”);

All these efforts have contributed —in a visible or invisible manner —to the synthesis of today. They live, all together, in the contemporary synthesis of evolution and salvation, which is the fruit of this collective effort from century to century. ~ Valentin Tomberg, Letter XVII: The Star [corrected translation]

The Philosophical History of the Human Race

The temptation is to get “stuck” on the Tarot, collecting different versions, and so on, whereas our real task is to understand, develop, explain, and expound on the contents of the Letters. To that end, this post will focus on Fabre d’Olivet’s contribution to the synthesis in his Philosophical History of the Human Race. Need I repeat here that Tomberg regarded this history as the most lucid he had encountered?

Note that his is a “philosophical” history, not an exact sequential reproduction as profane historians try to write. Instead, he relies on his powers of Creative Imagination, which Tomberg describes as reading the Akashic record. There are many theories of history, e.g., the Marxist, the Freudian, racial, materialistic, and so on, but Fabre relies instead of his precise understanding of the three Forces that actually motivate the world process, which we previously described in Providence, Will, Destiny.

  • Destiny
  • Will
  • Providence

Corresponding to those macrocosmic forces, there are these three spheres of life:

  • Instinctive (necessities): sensation, instinct, common sense
  • Animistic (passions): sentiment, understanding, reason
  • Intellectual (inspirations): assent, intelligence, sagacity

These spheres are not fully developed in all human beings. Fabre describes the evolution of man as the progress from the instinctive life based on sensation and motivated by attraction or fear, through the animistic life, and finally to the fully human life of the Intellect or Intuition. Of course, that is not the same as discursive thought which is still in the animistic sphere.

However, the development of the intellect cannot happen automatically, mechanistically, or deterministically. Fabre d’Olivet explains:

Nothing was made in advance with him, although everything was determined there in principle. Providence, whose work he was, willed that he should develop himself freely and that nothing should be forced in him.

The Coming Deluge

With this esoteric key, Fabre explains the development of Marriage, social and political structures, commerce, justice, and so on. In an upcoming post, we will summarize his main points. The Deluge is coming. This is the loss of Tradition and the forgetfulness of esoteric or Hermetic knowledge, which is leading us backwards toward our animal and instinctive natures. The collective ignorance of the human race regards that as “progress”, the liberation from social and religious structures that have sustained the human race, bringing Salvation to many.

Signs of the Deluge: Instead of justice, right is established by force. In place of impartial knowledge, there is a battle of opinions, each held with passionate intensity. The Emerald Tablet saved the essence of ancient Wisdom, and the Tarot saved the essence of Medieval Wisdom. The task of preserving modern wisdom requires a new “Noah’s Ark”, whose form is yet to be determined.

Psychurgical Practice

Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him. ~ Isaiah 43:7

While pondering the Minor Arcana, I took some time to investigate some more popular treatments of the Tarot. What they have in common is the emphasis on various “layouts” followed by the interpretation of the cards dealt out at random. The suits are arbitrarily assigned to various life areas. For example, one suit may refer to one’s “love life”, another to financial situations, and so on. Thus they are fundamentally limited to the psychological realm, to “improving” one’s life, or to gaining self-knowledge, not via one’s own powers, but rather through an intermediary.

The latter is the most important. There is passivity, in that the “cards” will “reveal” something to me. We will see that, instead, the ultimate goal is “pure creative activity”. That is, we must become the active force in our life, and revelation will come from above, not through chit chat around the cards.

The Kabbalistic Worlds

We are given a much different directive in the Meditations on the Tarot. There we learn that the Minor Arcana serve as an extension to the World Arcanum, and the world is best understood via the symbolism of the Kabbalah.

Hence, the pip cards correspond to the various sephiroth, with the Ace relating to the Kether up to the 10 at Malkuth. The four worlds and their relationship to the Minor Arcana can be summarized in this table:

Cabala World Philosophy Element Suit Figure
Azilut Emanation Pantheism Fire Wands King
Beriah Creation Theism Air Cups Queen
Yetzirah Formation Demiurgism Water Swords Knight
Assiyyah Action Naturalism Earth Pentacles Knave

The four worlds can be represented in the basic Tree of Life in the following diagram.
4 worlds
However, that does not explain the suits, since in that diagram a single suit would suffice. Therefore, there must be a Tree of Life for each of the worlds. In that case, each suit corresponds to the Tree for a world. Now, analogously to the diagram above, the four worlds are hierarchically arranged. They are not merely stacked, but they overlay and interpenetrate each other. Specifically, the Tiphareth of one world is the Kether of the world beneath it.

The single tree diagram explains the figure cards. Each world is reflected in the other worlds, through the system of triads in each world (except the Malkuth).


In the Letter on the World, we read that the purpose of the Minor Arcana is “psychurgical practice”. Here are two definitions of psychurgy, one from the Oxford English Dictionary and the other from the text itself.

OED definition: The ability to understand and enhance the structure, operation, and capabilities of the mind through thinking and self-analysis; the study of this considered as a science.

MoTT definition: The transformation of consciousness rising from plane to plane, i.e., from the plane of action to the plane of emanation.

Jacob’s Ladder

The Minor Arcana represent the way of ascent of consciousness from the phenomenal, physical world up to the world of emanation. These degrees can be summarized like this:

  • Action: The world of sensual and intellectual imagery.
  • Formation: The destruction of this imagery, i.e., the emptying of the mind
  • Creation: The Silence necessary to receive Revelation from above
  • Emanation: Pure creative activity

This is also known as Jacob’s Ladder.

Hence, a complete meditation on the Minor Arcana will start with the Malkuth of Action (the Ten of Pentacles) and end with the Kether of Emanation (the Ace of Wands). That does not include the figure cards.

I’ve made an attempt at a meditation in The Middle Pillar. Of course, it needs to be greatly expanded.

Esoteric Meaning of Action

In order to start with the world of action, we should be clear about its meaning. The world of formation (God formed Adam from clay) is the Garden of Eden. The Fall, then, is into the world of action. The exoteric teaching is that Adam disobeyed God, who then expelled Adam from the Garden. The esoteric teaching, as explained in the Zohar, is the contrary: it was Adam who expelled God from the Garden. Wishing to be like a god, he put himself in God’s place. This resulted in the world of action, godless, and in which the philosophy of naturalism makes sense.

Tentacles, Paws, Arms, Wings

In this passage from Meditations on the Tarot, we see how “evolution” can be understood in a deeper sense. Profane science can only “see” random forces, operating without direction or purpose, in some inexplicable way still manage to create unexpectedly complex structures. Hermetic science sees more deeply, since it takes into account, not only material forces, but also vital and etheric forces.

In Letter XIV on Temperance in Meditations on the Tarot, Tomberg writes:

Tentacles, paws, arms, wings — are they not simply diverse forms manifesting a common prototype or principle?

In other words, Tomberg will show that they are homologous forms of a central and unitary meaning, which is precisely the Principle of Correspondence. He explains:

They are insofar as they express the desire to bear the sense of touch further, to be able to touch things more removed than those in the immediate neighbourhood of the surface of the body. They are active extensions of the passive and receptive sense of touch which is spread out over the surface of the organism. In making use of them, the sense of touch makes “excursions” from its usual orbit circumscribed by the skin which covers the body.

Clearly this is absurd and incomprehensible to one-dimensional thinkers who live and move on a line. So how do we justify this epistemologically? As we have repeatedly mentioned, the sufficient reason of the world of appearance is the Will. Since we have direct experience of our own Will, we should understand how the Will strives to bring our ideas into manifestation. So it is actually the rationalist who is absurd, since he denies the existence and efficacy of his own will, attributing it to some external force, fashioned by electro-chemical activity in the brain. Thus he denies his own existence while pretending to exist. Let’s allow Tomberg to explain:

The organs of action are simply crystallised will. I walk not because I have legs but rather on the contrary. I have legs because I have the will to move about. I touch, I take, and I give not because I have arms, but I have arms because I have the will to touch, to take, and to give.

The Will is creative. It takes the idea and brings it into the appropriate form. Tomberg makes this clear:

The “what” [the idea] of the Will engenders the “how” of the action (the organ) and not inversely. The arms are therefore the expression of the will to bear touch further than the surface of one’s own body. They are the manifestation of extended touch due to the will to touch things at a distance.

The Magician’s Meditation

The sephirah Binah is the rational part of the intellectual centre, corresponding to the Latin ratio. Its concerns are debate, argument, and definitions. It is limited to formal logic, and tends to be impressed with “streams of simple mental associations” as Valentin Tomberg puts it. It is more intent with discovering a secret than in dealing with mystery and arcana. There is precious little of this form of thinking in Meditations on the Tarot, i.e., it does not try to convince by means of logical or rational argument.

Chokmah is intuition in the sense that it is a direct experience unmediated by words or rational arguments. Of course, there are different levels of experience: sensory experience, psychical experience, mystical experience, for example. Binah, or ratio, has no starting point, it cannot lift itself up by its own bootstraps. Hence, it requires basic axioms or postulates to even begin. Or else, in our scientific age, it starts with sensory experience (positivism is the school of thought that limits reality to what can be experienced through the senses), then formulate more general laws and principles from the data furnished by the senses.

However, if its starting point is Binah, the results are quite different: it is a matter of descent rather than assent. In the second meditation on the High Priestess, we read the stages of this descent, from the highest intuition to a formulation comprehensible to the rational part of the mind:

this transformation of mystical experience into knowledge takes place in stages.

  1. The first is the pure reflection or a kind of imaginative repetition of the experience.
  2. The second stage is its entrance into memory.
  3. The third stage is its assimilation in thought and feeling, in a manner where it becomes a “message” or inner
  4. The fourth stage, lastly, is reached when it becomes a communicable symbol or “writing”, or “book”—i.e. when it is formulated.

Sensory experience is clear enough, but how about psychical and mystical experience? The latter require training. Careful self-observation will reveal a detailed understanding of one’s psyche. Prayer and meditation may lead to genuine mystical experience. And I certainly don’t mean meditation in the modern sense, which is pursued solely for its instrumental value in relaxing, lowering blood pressure, and the like. Moreover, some things will never be understood without efforts made in the moral purification of the will. Rational thought strives to be “objective” independent of the subjective element or the character of the knower. For intuition, the subjective element is the point, so gnosis can fall only on a purified soul.

Without those practices inspiration will be lacking. And it is inspiration that constitutes the Hermetic community. (Letter XIV Temperance) There needs to be shared inspiration to create our on-line community of Hermetists, or else there is only idle chatter. The thought process of intuition is quite different from the rational, discursive mind. Depth is one characteristic of the language of inspiration. Here are some others – and they are all baffling to discursive thought:

  • dimension of depth
  • analogy of being
  • anamnesis
  • synthesis
  • typology
  • the marriage of opposites
  • moral logic

Dimension of Depth

A worthy goal of the rational intellect is “clarity and breadth of knowledge”, but without the “dimension of depth” it can become a mere display of erudition, quite far from Hermetic inspiration. Tomberg explains this dimension:

Discursive thought is satisfied when it arrives at a well-founded conclusion. Now, this conclusion is the point of departure for contemplation. It fathoms the profundity of this conclusion at which discursive thought arrives. Contemplation discovers a world within that which discursive thought simply verifies as “true”. The gnostic sense begins to operate when it is a matter of a new dimension in the act of knowledge, namely that of depth. It becomes active when it is a question of something deeper than the question: Is it true or false? It perceives more the significance of the truth discovered by discursive thought and also “why this truth is true in itself, i.e. it reaches to the mystical or essential source of this truth. How does it arrive at this? By listening in silence.

That is the point: the focusing of concentration is contemplation. It begins when the rational mind takes leave. The latter seeks to fill up the mind with ideas, the former seeks to clear the mind to experience the silence. Tomberg confirms this:

Contemplation—which follows on from concentration and meditation—commences the very moment that discursive and logical thought is suspended.

In short, we can say that the intellectus is awakened, not by knowing its definition, but rather by experiencing it directly in the depths of one’s being.

Marriage of Opposites

The marriage of opposites, as mentioned in Letter X The Wheel of Fortune is “the essence of the practice of the law of the Cross.” Hence, it is not something optional, but rather necessary, although senseless to one of the axioms of formal logic: A v ~A (either A or not-A). Letter XXI The Fool mentions the necessity of sacrificing the intellect to spirituality. But ultimately, the goal is the marriage of “discursive intellectuality and illuminative spirituality.”

The marriage of opposites was also discussed in The Middle Pillar in relation to the rational mind and intuitive mind. Their alchemical marriage results in the “intellect illuminated by grace” (intellectus gratia illuminatus).


Anamnesis or remembering is another means of direct knowledge. Henri Bergson writes, in regard to horizontal memory:

pure memory is a spiritual manifestation. With memory we are in very truth in the domain of the spirit

Plato goes further:

research and learning are wholly recollection.

Analogy of Being

“As above, so below” is the fundamental principle of Hermetism. Its basis follows from the idea of the One and the multitude. Unity is found at the root of the diversity of phenomena, which are simultaneously different, yet one. Therefore, they are analogous, but not identical nor heterogeneous. (Letter I Magician) Tomberg mentions that one either “sees” or else fails to see analogous correspondences. It is not a matter for debate or argument.


Intuition envisions the whole in a synthesis while the rational mind analyses things into their constituent parts. An example in Letter II concerns the doctrine of creation ex nihilo, a magical act. The rational mind rejects magical acts, and prefers theories instead. Hermetism shows us that there are multiple planes of existence, in particular the four worlds of the Cabala. Here are four theories of creation and the world they correspond to:

  • Pantheism: World of Emanation
  • Emanationism: World of Creation
  • Demiurgism: World of Formation
  • Naturalism: World of Action

The rational mind can only conceive that only one of those theories can be true. The intuitive mind, on the other hand, through synthesis sees how they all can seem true in the proper context.

Another example is Pico della Mirandola’s synthesis of the doctrines of Plato and Aristotle. Although Pico is never mentioned in the Meditations, he was a forerunner in bringing to light the Christian Hermetic Tradition.


Typology follows from the analogy of being. There are prototypes above and their manifestations below. Archetypes are patterns that repeat themselves in history or in life. Typology used to be commonly employed in understanding the Bible, but less so mind. In an era dominated by the rational mind, both fundamentalists and liberals focus primarily on the literal meaning of texts.

Moral Logic

Moral logic has previously been discussed, so there is no need to repeat it.

The Guardian of the Threshold

The point is that talking about Hermetism is not the same as being a Hermetist, and knowing the definition of something is not the same as knowing the thing defined. Gnosis cannot be demonstrated on a multiple choice test. When asked, the rational mind can recite the three counsels of the first Arcanum:

  • Learn concentration without effort
  • Transform work into play
  • Make every yoke easy and every burden light

There are also warnings associated with these counsels:

  • Do not confuse lack of concentration with concentration without effort
  • Do not confuse mental associations with correspondences by analogy

At the end of Letter I we are left with a brief meditation that every would-be Magician should recite every day. There is a lot to it, and each sentence could merit a long meditation. The Magician recites it every day, so try it for 7 days or 30 days and let’s see what happens.

To perceive and to know, to try and to be able to, are all different things. There are mirages above, as there are mirages below; you only know that which is verified by the agreement of all forms of experience in its totality—experience of the senses, moral experience, psychic experience, the collective experience of other seekers for the truth, and finally the experience of those whose knowing merits the title of wisdom and whose striving has been crowned by the title of saint. Academia and the Church stipulate methodical and moral conditions for one who desires to progress. Carry them out strictly, before and after each flight into the region beyond the domain of work and effort. If you do this, you will be a sage and a mage. If you do not do this — you will be only a charlatan!

Intellectuality and Spirituality Redux

The “true” and the “desired” must find their synthesis in the “beautiful”, for it is only in the beautiful that the urge to play renders the burden of the “true” or the “just” light and raises at the same time the darkness of instinctive forces to the level of light and consciousness. In other words, he who sees the beauty of that which he recognizes as true cannot fail to love it — and in loving it the element of constraint in the duty prescribed by the true will disappear: duty becomes a delight. ~ Valentin Tomberg

I have delighted in the way of thy testimonies, as much as in all riches. ~ Psalm 118:14

Since we began this sequence of gnosis meetings with the ideal of the alchemical marriage of intellectuality and spirituality several months ago, and now that we are finished for this year, it is worthwhile to circle back around on the topic.


Years ago, I learned centering prayer from Fr. Thomas Keating, not personally, but from some cassette tapes. In this brief video, he asserts the necessity for daily meditation. For our purposes, note particularly his explanation that engaging with spiritual friends is an adequate substitute for a spiritual director. That – if you haven’t figured it out that by now – is why we choose to work in groups. Hence, regular attendance is important, not just for yourself, but also for the commitments you’ve made to others.

Meditation, just like riding a bike or swimming, cannot be explained intellectually. One must simply begin. However, once the practice is established, you can get feedback from your spiritual companions. Just as your biking or swimming can improve, so can your meditating. After all, it is the first step to becoming a Bodhisattva.

The Hermetist and the Hermetic Path

The Hermetic path is a gift, if you are called to it. It requires intelligence, resources, and time, so it is certainly not an option for everyone. However – and this is important — it is not “superior” to, or an alternative to, the exoteric path, it is simply our path. It would be a mistake to force these views on exoteric practitioners, or to use them as debating points. The exoteric path is perfectly adequate for salvation and a life of sanctity. There is a reason Hermetic groups used to be secret and closed to outsiders.

The Hermetist often used to masquerade as a trader or street performer; the latter is the primary meaning of the first Tarot card, Le Bateleur. Under such cover, they could travel from town to town, allowing them to meet with local groups without attracting attention. Since books were heavy and expensive, the teachings were conveyed in diagrams (as in Gnosis), or even a deck of Tarot cards. On the one hand, they were compact and portable, but on the other, they required an accompanying oral teaching in order to be fully understood.

Years ago, I used to follow the books of Carlos Castaneda. I’m sure the teachings of the shaman Don Juan are still embedded in my soul somewhere, for better or for worse. The first thing to note is that it is difficult to find Don Juan. In one scene that I recall, Don Juan appeared at some government office on official business in a suit, just blending in with everyone else. This struck Castaneda, who had never seen him in that context, as something remarkable. Nowadays, shamans seem to be everywhere, peddling their books, courses, and so on. Those converts to some sort of spiritual life often feel they have to alter their outer appearance to be convincing. This is quite unlike Don Juan or even a Hermetist.

The real shaman Don Juan was indistinguishable from his surroundings. Therefore, you could not pick out the Hermetist in a room. He would look like everyone else and talk about the weather or sports to you. Only if you expressed some sort of interest in something deeper, might he open up to you.

St. Augustine tells us that God gives us everything we need for salvation. So if you are still searching, you may be missing the obvious. This might be as good as it gets for you.

The Quest for Novelty

Some birds allegedly become fascinated by shiny objects on the ground, thereby forgetting the bugs that constitute their true nourishment. Similarly, we often become distracted by convoluted intellectual schemes or elaborate tableaux. Stay rooted in the core principles, and be clear about the difference between an allegory or secret, and a genuine mystery. Tomberg warns us about this temptation:

Let us therefore not commit the error of wanting to “explain” a symbol by reducing it to a few general abstract ideas. Let us also avoid the error of wanting to “concretise” an abstract idea by clothing it in the form of an allegory.

The Arcana are not allegories in which a card is said to “represent” some qualities along the lines, say, of a work like John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. In Tomberg’s words:

The Major Arcana of the Tarot are neither allegories nor secrets, because allegories are, in fact, only figurative representations of abstract notions, and secrets are only facts, procedures, practices, or whatever doctrines that one keeps to oneself for a personal motive, since they are able to be understood and put into practice by others to whom one does not want to reveal them. The Major Arcana of the Tarot are authentic symbols. They conceal and reveal their sense at one and the same time according to the depth of meditation.

In other words, if the meaning seems to “jump out” at you immediately, it may not be an “authentic symbol” in this sense. Ultimately, we will come to understand the mystery, but only plunging into its depths. An allegory, on the other hand, tries to “solve” the mystery:

Just as the arcanum is superior to the secret, so is the mystery superior to the Arcanum. The mystery is more than a stimulating “ferment”. It is a spiritual event comparable to physical birth or death. It is a change of the entire spiritual and psychic motivation, or a complete change of the plane of consciousness.

This cannot be overemphasized. A mystery cannot be resolved intellectually. Unless an arcane teaching leads to, or elicits, or acts as the midwife to, a spiritual transformation, it has not been understood. And worse, it may even become a distraction, with no more transformative power than a parlour game.

Cartesian Meditation

Cartesian meditation, which is the search for clear and distinct ideas, is an intellectual task. Rene Descartes was a maths prodigy. As a boy, I was quite proficient in maths, although not at that level, so I enjoyed reading about the lives of the great mathematicians. Now, because of his intellect, the young Rene Descartes was pampered. Instead of being shooed out of bed in the morning, he was allowed to lounge, giving him the leisure to think.

There is no doubt that there can be great joy in the experience of intellectual insight or learning. Just watch the expression on baby when he takes his first step and young children when they learn a new skill. I’ve seen people show great excitement in solving a puzzle or answering a question while watching some game show on TV. Adults still do crosswords or Sudoku just for the pleasure of it.

That feeling is magnified with more complex intellectual attainments, particularly in physics, maths, and metaphysics. For example, Newton’s discovery of the equivalence of inertia and gravity is mind bending when it dawns on you, as is Descartes’ discovery of the transformability of algebra and geometry. I personally can attest to the pleasures in physics and maths. One can struggle with an obscure maths problem, but, in a sudden insight, its solution simply appears, perhaps analogous to the experience of Yesod. Of course, the study of metaphysics can lead to a sort of bliss, especially with the realization that certain ideas bring you oh so close to the very nature of God. At this point, the search for Truth becomes the delight in Beauty.

So, back to the young Rene: following his example. I will often lie in bed pondering some issue. Of course, Cartesian meditation is not the source. Rather, the real meditation reaches in the depths, often murky depths, not for the clarity of the atmosphere. Nevertheless, clear ideas are floating in the darkness of those depths, and they need to be coaxed out. Obviously, the discursive mind is required in order to turn those vague intuitions into text. That is the purpose of Cartesian meditation. Ultimately, however, there is not a shortage of ideas, but rather its opposite. There is actually an abundance of ideas, so cutting and pruning is necessary. Much more is discarded than is ever published.

If you allow your intellectual life to be nourished by the real nutriments hiding in the darkness, you will no longer be satisfied with dazzling baubles, word puzzles, or intellectual trivia. The goal of the intellectual life is to be a Sage, so seek the higher things like virtue, the life of reason, aesthetic beauty, the path of salvation, and the attributes of God.

Living in the Light of Tabor

Hermetism is an athanor (“alchemical furnace”) erected in the individual human consciousness, where the mercury of intellectuality undergoes transmutation into the gold of spirituality. St. Augustine acted as a Hermetist in transmuting Platonism into Christian thought. Similarly, St. Thomas Aquinas acted as a Hermetist in doing the same thing with Aristotelianism. Both of them accomplished the sacrament of baptism with respect to Greece’s intellectual heritage. ~ Valentin Tomberg, Letter on Justice

If the goal of the intellectual life is to become a Sage, the goal of the spiritual life is to become a Saint. Of course, the latter quest is foolishness to the Intellect. Hence, only the Fool can show us the way. Tomberg explains:

The Arcanum “The Fool” teaches the “know-how” of passing from intellectuality, moved by the desire for knowledge, to the higher knowledge due to love.

The Fool is also a Trickster, since there are two ways of sacrificing the intellect:

  • It can submit itself to the service of Transcendental consciousness
  • It can simply be abandoned

Now, the temptation to simply abandon the intellect is quite strong. Deep meditation may be accompanied with intense sensations of pleasure, or even siddhis. The spiritual quest may then devolve to a quest for the repetition of such feelings as ends in themselves. Common practices such as postures, breath control, dancing, chanting, and so on may help focus the mind. When they fail, some schools resort to stronger practices such as drugs, alcohol, or extreme sexuality. However, the Spirit cannot be coerced by any sort of technique or mechanical practices.

Tomberg points to the Whirling Dervishes and Zen monks as those who have abandoned the intellect entirely. Some of this lies behind the Hesychast controversy. What concerned Barlaam was the ignorance and credulity of some of the monks, so, in compensation, he overemphasised the side of the Intellect. The monks, on the other hand, pointed out that the first disciples were simple men, not advanced scholars. Now that may be true in the Synoptic Gospels, but John’s Gospel explicitly identifies Christ with the Logos behind the creation of the world. We take the middle path between Barlaam and Palamas.

The Work

In our time apart, we could focus on all the themes of the past few years. We can be Holy Fools, yet still be intellectually competent. Our meditations should be on the life of Christ or something analogous; that is, something that requires an Active Imagination, not the passive imagination of a dream-like state. We concentrate without effort and have mastery over what thoughts and emotions are allowed to take hold in our consciousness.

To achieve the fusion of intellectuality and spirituality, we need to return up the Middle Pillar. That begins with the recognition of one’s True Will and ends with the awareness of one’s Real I. That is the gift of Integrity that was lost in the Fall.