Have You Ever Drunk the Silence?

Concentration without effort … is your life tossed to and fro by random events, thoughts, feelings? Or do you live life consciously? It begins with Silence …

Le Bateleur

Rene Guenon claimed that at times when the authorities had lost the inner meaning of things, initiates would pose as jugglers or horse traders. That way, they could travel from village to village, under cover as it were, to meet with other initiates. One can imagine them carrying Tarot cards as a teaching tool, since they appear to be a harmless game, and are much more compact than transporting a library. That is how I see the first card, Le Bateleur (the Juggler or Magician), as an itinerant initiate. The name of the card is a French pun on “the low deceives you” (“le bas te leurre”), but the initiates are not deceived.

Valentin Tomberg relates this card to “concentration without effort”, reminiscent of Taoism, which is the necessary first step on the journey through the deck. Our Friend writes:

Concentration without effort, which means there is nothing to suppress and where contemplation becomes as natural as breathing and the beating of the heart, is the state of consciousness — of the intellect, the imagination, the feelings, and the will — a state of perfect calm, accompanied by the complete relaxation of the nerves and muscles of the body. It is the deep silence of desires, concerns, imagination, memory, and discursive thought. We would say that the entire being has become like the surface of calm waters reflecting the immense presence of the starry sky and its inexpressible harmony. And the waters are deep, oh how deep! And the silence increases, always increasing, what SILENCE! Its growth takes place in regular waves which pass, one after the other, through your being: one wave of silence followed by another wave of deeper silence, then yet another wave of even deeper silence … Have you ever drunk the silence. If so, you know what concentration without effort it.

Intellectual Center

Conscious attention is dependent upon the part of the soul on which it impinges, as shown below:

  • Mechanical part: there is no attention or else attention is wandering. Thoughts, sensations, images, feelings, etc., arise spontaneously in an instinctive, mechanical or automatic way.
  • Emotional part: attraction is attracted to an object, thought, image, etc.
  • Intellectual part: attention is controlled by the will, i.e., directed attention and individual mental effort.

The intellectual soul itself has three parts. In spiritual combat, we try to control which ideas to harbor in our mind. Since such thoughts and images arise spontaneously, or from outside influences, it takes wakefulness and diligence to prevent negative thoughts, feelings, and fantasies from taking hold of our consciousness. Clearly, it is impossible to have directed attention (the intellectual part) and wandering attention (the mechanical part) simultaneously. You may find, too, that it is impossible to hold onto negative emotions when you control your attention.

Obviously, indulging in negative thoughts will have an adverse effect on our inner life. Bad books and, especially in our times, magazines, movies, TV, and other manifestations of popular culture are sources of negative thinking. The political season can really exacerbate negative reactions in people.

You can see that some New Thought ideas about positive thinking do have a sound basis. Actually, much of such teachings have Hermetic sources; they are just incomplete and really don’t explain exactly how to eliminate negative thinking. That is why attention exercises are necessary.

Keeping track of wrongs done against us has really negative consequences. How much of our inner life is dominated and motivated by keeping a mental account book of alleged (or even real) injustices done to us by others? This is why forgiveness is so important. Our memories can often rob our attention by replaying past events for no useful purpose.

Spending too much time in imagination and daydreaming can feed the emotional part of the intellectual center. I realize that such imaginings tend to spontaneously arise, but when they do, they need to be resisted. It is usually quite difficult because paradoxically we get intense pleasure out of our negative images.

Many people, I’m afraid, live mechanically and hence have no possibility of meaningful change or development. They don’t even see the need for it. Conscious will and efforts cannot be taught unless they are desired.

Maurice Nicoll describes the parts of the intellectual center as follows.

Mechanical Part

A mechanical part works almost automatically: it does not require any attention. But because of this it cannot adapt itself to a change of events and continues to work in the way it started, when circumstances have completely changed. In the Intellectual Centre the mechanical part includes in itself all the work of registration of memories, associations, and impressions. This is all that it should do normally—i.e. when other parts do their work. It should never reply to questions addressed to the whole centre, and it should never decide anything, but unfortunately it is always ready to decide and it always replies to all sorts of questions in a narrow and very limited way, in ready-made phrases, in slang expressions, in party-maxims, etc.

The mechanical part may be subdivided into three more parts:

  • Mechanical part: mechanical repetition of some words heard or read. These may include clichés, slogans, partisan propaganda, grammatical mistakes, speech disfluency, and the like.
  • Emotional part: curiosity, inquisitiveness and undirected imagination. This may show up as an interest in the personal lives and activities of movie stars and sports figures, for example. Sex fantasies or Walter Mitty type daydreams are other examples.
  • Intellectual part: shrewdness, craftiness, cautiousness. These are simulations of real intelligence.

Emotional Part

The emotional part of the intellectual includes:

desire to know, desire to understand, satisfaction of knowing, dissatisfaction of not knowing, pleasure of discovery. Work of the emotional part requires full attention, but in this part of the centre attention does not require any effort. It is attracted and kept by the subject itself.

Intellectual Part

The intellectual part of Intellectual Centre includes in itself a capacity for creation, construction, invention and discovery. It cannot work without attention, but the attention in this part of the centre must be controlled and kept there by will and effort

These parts are summarized in the following diagram.

Intellectual Center
Intellectual Part Capacity for creation, construction, invention, discovery.
(works by controlled attention, kept there by effort.)
Emotional Part Desire to know and understand.
Pleasure of discovery.
Moving Part
(apparatus replies to questions, etc.)
Intellectual Part Shrewdness, craftiness, cautiousness.
Emotional part Curiosity, inquisitiveness, undirected imagination.
Moving part Mechanical repetition of words and phrases

The Emotional Center

Traditional psychology is not based on the so-called “scientific method” of experimentation and hypothesis formation. Rather it is based on direct observation of one’s own self. This is the meaning of the maxim “Know Thyself”. It is the essential first step in any path of spiritual development.

In its most basic form, traditional psychology has recognized three souls in living beings:

  • Vegetable Soul or Motor Center. The mechanical, automatic, vital, sensual, and instinctive processes of life reside in this center. All plant, animal, and human life has this soul.
  • Animal Soul or Emotional Center. This is the center of feelings and passions. Animal and human life has an animal soul.
  • Intellectual Soul or Center. This is the center of thinking, judging, evaluating, deciding, and so on. This is unique to human life.

Of course, there is more to this story. Each center has a positive part and a negative part. Moreover, the centers compenetrate each other. For example, there is an intelligence that is part of plant and animal life. And, there are automatic mechanisms in the intellectual center, so that thoughts and images seem to spontaneously arise.

In normal human life, the intellectual center should be dominant and regulate the other two centers. However, in our current state of being, that is not the case. Mechanical and emotional processes will cloud our intellectual judgment.
It is obvious that the world regards the emotional center, and not the intellectual center, as the true center of the human being. Examples are easily found.

For now, we will focus on the emotional center. The positive part of the emotional part are mostly contrived. Clearly, this applies to popular attempts to incite religious emotions. Those unable to experience true religious emotions are really missing out.

Aesthetic emotions are within reach of some. They manage to keep some semblance of High Culture alive. Unfortunately, much contemporary art is geared to excite negative emotions. Note how people pride themselves in eliciting negative reactions from others. Besides art, this is prevalent in political commentary.

Nervous giggling is a mechanical expression and is disturbing in men.

Moral emotions, of the Social Justice Warrior type, may feel good, but they are mostly manifestations of mechanical personal emotions. Justice is the highest natural virtue. It not only requires an objective Conscience, but also an intellectual understanding of what is just.

With all the negativity in the news, popular culture, books, and so on, the negative parts are absorbing a lot of material. If conscious efforts are not made, these parts absorb energies that may be spontaneously discharged in unexpected ways. Instead, you can use this energy to remember yourself. This is the spiritual meaning of handling snakes and drinking poison.

Maurice Nicoll gives us this overview of the emotional center in his Psychological Commentaries:

The mechanical part [of the emotional center] consists of the cheapest kind of ready-made humor and the rough sense of the comic, love of excitement, spectacular shows, pageantry, sentimentality, love of being in a crowd, all kinds of crowd-emotions, and all kinds of lower half-animal emotions unconscious cruelty, selfishness, cowardness, envy, jealously, and so on.

The emotional part may be very different in different people. It may include in itself religious emotion, aesthetic emotion, moral emotion, and may lead to Conscience, but with identification on its negative side it may be something quite different – it may be very cruel, obstinate, and cold, and jealous, only in a less primitive way than the mechanical part.

The intellectual part (with the help of the intellectual parts of the Moving/Instinctive center) includes in itself the power of artistic creation. In cases where the intellectual parts of the Moving/Instinctive Center, which are necessary for the natural manifestation of the creative faculties, are not educated enough or do not correspond to it in their development, it manifests itself in dreams. This explains the beautiful and artistic dreams of otherwise quite inartistic people.

There is plenty of material here to work on for the next few weeks. Work on resisting negative impressions that spontaneously arise. See how you react to what the world considers normal. Be sure you want to change. There is a certain sweetness to the mechanical parts of the emotional center that you may not want to forego.

Emotional Center
Intellectual Part Positive Chief seat of Magnetic Center and Artistic Creation
Emotional Part Positive Religious emotions, aesthetic emotions, moral emotions, may lead to Conscience
  Negative Cruelty, obstinacy, coldness, jealousy
Moving Part Intellectual Part Resultant of small desires, little daily “wills”
  Emotional part Positive
All emotions relating to one’s likes and dislikes. Personal emotions
Jealousy, envy
  Moving part Mechanical expressions of emotions, laughing and crying. Cheap humor.

The Magician and Individuation

There is a reason why Valentin Tomberg worked on his Meditations in private for so long. If he had been publishing them piece by piece over time, he would have encountered opposition, arguments, disputes, etc., so that seems to be a common response to new ideas. That would have dissipated his energy needlessly. We see that, for example, in social media that give rise to arguments that do not lead to a greater synthesis, but harden attitudes instead.

The point is that the Meditations do not constitute a new teaching, doctrine, or dogma, but rather they give us the tools to understand sacred teachings in greater depth. Only by changing our level of being can we get the most out of the Meditations. Although clarifications are worthwhile, disputations are not.

Last year or so, a woman contacted me about the Tarot Meditations. She was a wealthy Palm Beach socialite who attended Mass daily and wanted to deepen her spirituality. After several email exchanges, we met for lunch. She went on and on about her Jungian psychoanalysis. She had an analyst in Palm Beach who did house calls because the socialite did not like to drive. There was another one in California that she consulted from time to time.

She emphasized that the analysts were quite expensive, especially the one in California. I was getting the feeling that she did not respect my work because I was not charging for it. Of course, as you probably know, there are many sources who charge a substantial fee to teach the Tarot. Good luck with that if that is what you respect.

Finally, I butted in and asked the obvious question: “How do you know when you are done with the analysis?” That left her visibly flummoxed! She had never even considered that question.

I went on to explain about “Individuation”, which is the aim of Jungian analysis. I offered to work with her on that. However, after lunch she sent me an email breaking off our relationship.

So to the point. Tomberg describes the state of consciousness of the Magician as “the synthesis of the conscious and the unconscious — of creative spontaneity and deliberately executed activity.” Tomberg explicitly identifies that state with what Carl Jung described as “individuation”. Moreover, it is required for “fruitfulness in both practical and intellectual realms.”

In Taoism, this state is described as the True Man.

To cut to the chase, we all need to work through that process of individuation, the formation of an integrated Self. That is not the RESULT of the Hermetic teaching, but rather the PREREQUISITE to even get started. After all, it begins with the Magician.

There are many resources available on individuation, and it may even be a good topic for discussion for those inclined. If you need a kick start, then perhaps this short video may help:
Individuation, the Persona, the Shadow, and the Self

Topical Message

The book Meditations on the Tarot (MoTT) has affected people on many levels.

Some will take it as an end in itself and either never go beyond the text itself or perhaps focus on the author, who deliberately sought to remain unknown, rather than the meditations.

Others will focus on the Tarot, become interested in the history of the Tarot, various cards, and so on, although MoTT is not at all interested in such topics.

Rather, MoTT’s purpose is to entice the reader into being a part of the living stream of the Hermetic tradition, and even to contribute to it.

The many authors cited in MoTT should entice us to seek out the original works. For, as MoTT points out, to become immersed in the thoughts of a dead writer is to re-think those same thoughts, thus bringing them back to life.

The sheer variety, however, presents us with difficulties. Someone who reads Thomas Aquinas, for example, is unlikely to have read Rudolf Steiner, and vice versa. An expert in Biblical scholarship will not have read occult literature. The historian of the human race will reject the esoteric history revealed in MoTT. The scientist is not interested in angels. And so on.

Hence, we rely on the method of depth. Two people of the same depth will understand each other, even when their surface interests are quite divergent. So instead of commentaries on the meditations, it would be better to focus on developing depth. The first four meditations provide the foundations; they need to first be understood thoroughly.

To that end, it would be better to focus on certain topics. Some specific topics for your consideration are:

  • Angels. The works of Dionysius, Steiner, and Swedenborg are suitable starting points.
  • Esoteric History. MoTT recommends Fabre d’Olivet, d’Alveydre, Blavatsky and Rudolf Steiner
  • Cosmogony. Genesis, the yugas of ancient India, the Secret Doctrine, Occult Science, Plato, Zohar, etc.
  • Of course, there are specific Biblical texts that are good spiritual exercises: Genesis, St. John’s Gospel, Ezekiel, Revelation
  • Then there is the as yet unfulfilled meditation on the minor arcana, which has been left to the readers of MoTT

Obviously, none of these things can happens quickly, but to happen at all, a that task must be begun. I assume many of you think efforts in these directions will be quite worthwhile, both for your personal spiritual development, as well as to contribute to the Hermetic tradition. There are two ways to participate:

  • Mailing lists discussions of one or more of these topics
  • Online collaboration. We have web conferencing software, so we are planning an online discussion for some time in July

Practical Monism

It is risky to attribute the views of the Anthroposophic Tomberg to the Catholic Tomberg since the Meditations are the best way to know the author. He himself wrote:

“No matter what other source he might have, he will know the author better through the Letters themselves.”

Nevertheless, his conversion was never a complete rejection of his past, since his earlier thinking permeates the meditations. So concepts and ideas from the early writings that are recapitulated in the Meditations are well worth exploring. In the article titled H.P. Blavatsky’s “Secret Doctrine” and Rudolf Steiner’s “Outline of Esoteric Science”, Tomberg explains the concept of Practical Monism.

First he points out the principle that the Will follows the Intellect. That is why sound doctrine and knowledge are so important. Eventually, he writes, “all thinking sooner or later becomes willing”. Doctrines that force a one-sided choice, particularly if it is contradictory to one’s disposition, offer no viable path. As an example, he points to the Secret Doctrine as forcing the choice between spirit or matter.  Tomberg explains:

The practical consequences of this choice are contradictory to the disposition of European people, for they do not actually have a tendency toward one-sidedness… For this reason the Secret Doctrine contains no description of a path of initiation intended to be put into practice. And Madame Blavatsky, in other places on this subject, tries to show the European reader how it is actually hopeless for him to take up the path of Eastern occultism. For that, he would, as a first step, have to give up his whole European nature, because it is, as such, a hindrance.

He then defines Practical Monism: the practice of the monistic “not only — but also” instead of the dualistic “either — or“. Practical monism is actually a threefoldness rather than a duality. Thus it joins two opposites into a third element. He writes:

Knowledge and action are joined together by the cosmic love principle — making possible the transformation of knowledge into action.

In the Letter on Justice, Tomberg reiterates this point:

And the love of God? It is this third, essentially Christian, principle which has held the balance through the course of centuries … Insofar as there is peace at the heart of Christianity, it is due only to the principle of the supremacy of love.

There are many applications of the Principle of Practical Monism in the Meditations. For example, there is the reconciliation of realism and nominalism. In the Letter on the Hermit, he adds the duality of idealism and realism, as well as faith and empirical science. Hermetism, then, is the “threefold synthesis” of these antinomies. Of course, there is the reconciliation of pagan intellectuality and Jewish prophetic spirituality through the crucified Christ.

In his essay, Tomberg explains that a spiritual path intended only for those of particular tendencies would be senseless. The path of Practical Monism:

can be trodden by anyone. It appeals to that in a man which strives after the transformation of the ‘lower’, the darkness, into the ‘higher’, the light filled. On this path both poles of human nature are taken into account: what is still to be transformed is here just as valuable as what is already transformed.

In the original essay, Tomberg contrasts Rudolf Steiner’s book Esoteric Science to the Secret Doctrine. The former book, he says, it suitable for European man because it recognizes the Christ impulse that synthesizes the matter-spirit duality in the latter book.

Tomberg concludes the essay with an important principle. In any doctrine, he explains,

we must ask not only about the truth told therein, but also about the completeness of that truth. For incomplete truths can lead the whole practical striving of a person down a blind alley. Therefore, when considering occult writings we must ask: What follows from this for life?

All too often, in perpetual debates that never get resolved, that question is overlooked: what difference does it make for life? Tomberg concluded that Esoteric Science was superior to the Secret Doctrine. We can surmise that at some point, Tomberg came to the realization that Anthroposophy was still an incomplete answer to the question for life. Hence, he must have seen that the Roman religion was a better answer. In other words, with his conversion, life goals opened up for him.

Mystical Evolution

In his two volume work, The Mystical Evolution, Fr John G Arintero provides basically a summa of mystical evolution, or theosis. Moving beyond the simplistic notion that the Christian has to be good to be saved and go to heaven, he makes clear what the true task is:

One can understand the supreme importance of this mystical evolution which carries us, virtue by virtue, to mystical union with God and the deifying transformation. Christ said that He came to cast fire on the earth and He desired that the earth be set on fire. This fire is the Holy Ghost, who must animate, inflame, purify, and perfect us, transforming us to the point of deification.

This deification, so well known to the Fathers but unfortunately forgotten today, is the primary purpose of the Christian life.

The Role of the Holy Spirit

Not unlike Valentin Tomberg, Fr Arintero tells us that the Holy Spirit reflects the divine image in the soul. He explains:

It is the Holy Ghost who imprints on us the divine image. He himself is the stamp which impresses on us that divine image and thus He refashions us, making us participants in the divine nature itself. This divine stamp or character which is impressed upon us is a living thing; it molds us within and without, penetrating into the very depth of the heart and soul, and in this way it refashions us and makes us living images of God.

Of course, that image is reflected best in the purest souls, hence mystical evolution must begin with the purgative way:

Our purification consists in cleansing our hearts from all stain of sin, in making satisfaction for out faults, and in rooting out all evil inclinations, banishing with them anything that my hinder us in the right practice of the virtues or impede in us the operations of grace and the communications of the Holy Ghost.

Contemplation of the Divine Truth

In theosis, one takes on God’s nature as adopted children, which is a real change in one’s state of being. That is not the same as thinking. For example, one can find interminable debates about whether or not the mystic can grasp the essence of God. Fr Aritenro rejects the emphasis on “abstractive notions and speculative concepts”. Therefore, the ultimate authority is the one who speaks from experience. In the Mystical City of God, Mary of Agreda describes her experience this way:

Man’s mind is rapt by God to the contemplation of the Divine Truth in three ways:

  1. First, so that he contemplates it through certain imaginary pictures.
  2. Secondly, so that he contemplates the divine truth through its intelligible effects.
  3. Thirdly, so that he contemplates it in is essence

Now when man’s intellect is uplifted to the sublime vision of God’s essence, it is necessary that his mind’s whole attention should be summoned to that purpose in such a way that he understand naught else by phantasms, and be absorbed entirely in God.

Some may recognize in this a different school of thought for which item (2) represents the divine energies and item (3) is considered impossible.

Of course, man qua man cannot “know” the divine essence as one being knowing another. However, Mary of Agreda is not describing that. Rather she is talking about a direct intuitive knowing of the divine essence. So, yes, one cannot “know” God without “being” God, which, however, is exactly what she is asserting. Through theosis, she is being raised up to that level.

Meditation on the Immaculate Conception

Immaculate Conception

One can also say that the incarnated human being is the product of two heredities—horizontal heredity and vertical heredity, the latter being the imprint of the individuality form above and the former being the imprint of the ancestors here below. This seeks to express that he is the product of two imitations—horizontal and vertical, i.e., that in order to become what he is he owes it to imitation of his ancestors from the past and to that of himself above. In the last analysis, therefore, it is a matter on the one hand of horizontal heredity going back to the archetype or terrestrial heredity, i.e. Adam, and on the other hand of vertical heredity rising up to the Father who is heaven, i.e. God. This is why it is so important to allow light from the dogma of the immaculate conception to convince us of its truth, for what is at stake is the line of vertical heredity—“God-man heredity”. ~ Valentin Tomberg

The Father gave her his Son, the Son came down into her virginal womb to become her child; in her the Holy Spirit miraculously fashioned the body of Jesus and made her soul his own dwelling place, penetrating her whole being such an ineffable manner that the expression “Spouse of the Holy Spirit” is far from adequate to express the life of the Spirit in her and through her. In Jesus there are two natures, divine and human, but one single Person who is God; here on the contrary we have two natures and two persons, the Holy Spirit and the Immaculata, but united in a union that defies all human expression. ~ St Maximilian Kolbe

For the Word generated by the Father is understood by the one in whom it is received perfectly – by that person who is the Immaculate Conception. ~ St Maximilian Kolbe

By the power of the Holy Spirit the Word became incarnate from the Virgin Mary. ~ Nicene Creed

Just as Eve was the genetic equivalent to Adam, apart from the X chromosome, so likewise is the New Adam the genetic equivalent to the New Eve. In our time, given our knowledge of biology and genetics, the possibility of a virginal conception is no longer inconceivable.

So Jesus, the New Adam, is the genetic image of his Mother, Mary, the New Eve. Moreover, while the body of Jesus was in Mary’s womb, her soul was, in Kolbe’s words, the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. As we saw in Letter II on the High Priestess, the Holy Spirit can be reflected only in the completely unperturbed soul, a soul protected from sin. That is Mary, who understood the Spirit perfectly.

As Tomberg points out, we are under the law of horizontal heredity, in imitation of his ancestors, going back to Adam. This prepares the biological and social environment in which the individuality can incarnate. Hence, Jesus appears at a specific time and place, to the mother prepared to receive him.

While Mary was “full of grace” from the beginning, we are likewise called to be full of grace; this is theosis. The is confirmed in Mary as the Queen of Heaven. For us, it is something to be achieved. For that she is our model.

Jesus has two natures, divine and human, in one Person. We, through theosis, can have a divine as well as a human nature. However, we retain our own Person, so this union of the human with the divine requires two persons. By purifying our own soul, the Holy Spirit can become better and better reflected in our own consciousness. Then the Logos is born in us, too, and we put on our true Self:

And I live, now not I; but Christ liveth in me. And that I live now in the flesh: I live in the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered
himself for me. ~ Galations 2:20

Doubt and Certainty

Certainty is vanquished doubt, it is faith regained.

Adam and Eve by Cranach
In the meditation on Eden and the Fall in the Arcanum of the Lovers in Meditations on the Tarot, Valentin Tomberg tells us a little more about Hermetic meditation and how to obtain greater depth. He credits Carl Jung for discovering the method of successive explorations of the psychic layers in psychology. These depths extend even beyond one’s birth, and, since nothing dies, the entire past lives right now in the deep consciousness of the soul, i.e., the unconscious or subconscious. Keep in mind that this refers to the psychic memory, not necessarily the memory of physical events.

The example he uses is the story of Adam and Even in the book of Genesis. Unlike the fundamentalists who try to prove the historical and scientific veracity of the story as an objective event, Tomberg instead turns inward. He is not concerned with the external facts of the garden, trees, serpent, etc., but rather with the living psychical and spiritual realities that are revealed through the symbolism used in the story.

First of all, the story reveals the “beginning”, i.e., it is an initiation, not just of man as an objective being, but also of his interior states. That beginning is the primordial state of being in the image and likeness of God. The reawakening of that state is regeneration or theosis. But Paradise is also the beginning of the Fall, or the principle of temptation, which has three elements:

  1. Eve listened to the voice of the Serpent
  2. She saw that the tree is good to eat and pleasant to behold
  3. She took some fruit, ate it, and then gave some to Adam

In general, temptation follows the following progression: listening, seeing, and experiencing.

The Tree of Life is the spirit, or higher centers, or true Self. The higher centers are oriented “vertically”, i.e., transcendentally. They hear the voice of God, which is one and unchanging. Adam-Eve are in unity and there is no doubt. Together, they are a pneumatic being.

Eve is the feminine principle of Adam, that is, the soul (or “anima”), i.e., the psychic (or “animal”) level. The serpent is the most cunning of the “animals” which is why “Eve” is the first target. (In English the connection between animal and anima is lost.) She listens to the serpent, which represents horizontal consciousness, i.e., the world as though it exists apart from God. The promise he makes is opposed to God’s command, so all of a sudden Even is faced with doubt as she entertains two contrary thoughts.

Just listening to the serpent is the root cause of the Fall, because the two opposing thoughts are considered to be on the same level. Yet the serpent’s claim seems plausible since the Tree of Knowledge is tasty and a delight to look at. This just increases the doubt to the point of an unbearable tension. There are two ways to deal with doubt.

  • One is to overcome it by rising up to a higher plane, that is, to return to God. This is the way to faith and certainty.
  • The other way is to try to resolve the doubt through experience. After all, Eve assumed that by actually eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, she could see for herself whether the serpent’s claim was true. This choice just leads to more confusion.

By interiorizing the story in this way, Tomberg elucidates the nature of temptation and how it is a constant presence in our spiritual lives, not just a unique event that happened to some other people in the indefinite past. God is One, but the devil is legion. Hence, in the “world”, we are bombarded with a barrage of opinions, all claiming to be the truth, and all contradictory with each other. This sows confusion. Now it should be a straight-forward decision to reject the ways of the world in favor of the ways of God.

Unfortunately, the glamour of the world is too delightful and we are nearly irresistibly attracted to it. What we hear sounds plausible, it makes us feel good, it enhances our self-esteem, and so on. Considering an idea in the mind then leads us to act on it, so we seek out various experiences by which we hope to assuage our doubt and find happiness. The temptation multiplies because, as Tomberg points out, those who fall into temptation try to draw others into the same experience as a way of confirming their own decision.

We don’t have to go into all the details and anyone can come up with countless examples from the news and in his own life. This meditation on Genesis is not meant to be a one-time meditation, so over time meditators can see more and more how the world entices us with its various promises. The reigning worldview is that if it feels good, it must be right. But that is tantamount to living at the level of an animal, when we really need to be living in the image and likeness of God.

It takes a lot of courage to resist all the temptations we face; just as the world lies to us, we lie to ourselves, hence the need to be extra vigilant. Ultimately it is a matter of Grace. There is no technique or process that will lead us to the primordial state. By clearing the soul of the perturbations resulting from temptations, we will open ourselves up to the experience of Grace. This cannot be forced. That is why Tomberg concludes:

One has experience but does not seek out experiences, because it would be contrary to the holy vow of Chastity to extend a hand and take from the tree of knowledge. The spiritual world does not tolerate experimenters. One seeks, one asks, one knocks on the door, but one does not open it by force. One waits for it to open.

Heat and Fire: Notes for 25 Aug 2014

The task for the week was to deliberately create an internal friction. Entering the esoteric path requires the non-identification with the personality “from which we should be able to detach ourselves at the price of particularly painful efforts.”  [Vol 1, IV (6)]

In an essay titled “Fragments of an Unknown Teaching” (“Les Fragments d’un Enseignement inconnu”, Mouravieff writes

The immediate goal is to place the disciple between two groups of forces: attraction and repulsion; to thus provoke in him an anxiety and thereby the most intense possible interior battle of affirmations and negations. This friction of specialized language called to produce heat in order to end up lighting a fire. As expressed in Christian doctrine, “the way towards the truth passes through doubts.” Multiplying doubts in the spirit and the heart of the student offers him the chance to break through the preliminary steps more rapidly.

A similar idea is expressed in a discourse addressed to the monks in India that can be found in Volume 1 of the Philokalia. Although it is meant for monks, we who are in the world (but not of it) can still derive benefit. This was intended as an encouragement to move beyond the initial stages. It begins:

The anguish of soul and hardship that you endure are more precious in God’s sight than surpassingly great virtue on the part of someone living in the world. Your deep dejection and despondency, your tears and sighs of distress, the torments of your conscience and your doubts, your feelings of self-condemnation, the sorrow and lamentations of your intellect and heart, your contrition and wretchedness, your gloom and self-abasement — such experiences as these, which frequently overwhelm those cast into the iron furnace of trials and temptations, are far more precious and acceptable to God than any good actions of those living in the world.

The word for today is “Synecdoche”, a figure of speech in which the part represents the whole, e.g., “Hired hand” for the services of the whole man. Become aware of synecdoche in your own life. It may be that a smaller issues is disguising a larger and deeper issue.
Figure 20
The reading is sections 6 and 7 from Chapter VI of Volume One. The task for the week is to meditate on Figure 20, as suggested in the text. In the meantime, you can use the gnosis mailing list or comments to post insights from the meditations during the week if you like.

Exterior man. Exterior man has not even entered on the exoteric path and is living spiritually in the scrubland or outback. I don’t like the translation of “brousse” as wilderness, since wilderness has a different, and more positive, meaning in the Bible. I will reserve any commentary on these sections until after the next meeting.