Moral Logic

Meeting notes for 13 February 2017.

In Letter XXI The Fool, the idea of moral logic comes up again. In particular, it is contrasted with formal logic and organic logic. Assuming that formal logic starts with the head, or intellectuality, moral logic makes sense primarily for those whose head and heart are united. In an intriguing re-reading of Immanuel Kant, Valentin Tomberg interprets the critiques as a spiritual path to move from formal to moral logic. He explains:

it was not a logical conclusion or an argument of discursive thought which gave Kant certainty of God, freedom and immortality, but rather the real and intimate experience that he had when he practised his transcendental method. This latter evidently proved itself to be an authentic spiritual exercise, which led Kant to arrive at experience of the kernel of his being—just as Descartes arrived there—and from which he drew the threefold certainty: the reality of God, the reality of moral freedom and, lastly, the reality of the soul’s immortality.

The following chart summarizes the three logics.

Logic Matter Critique
Formal Quantity Pure Reason
Organic Function Judgment
Moral Values Practical Reason

Pure Reason

In the Critique of Pure Reason, Kant starts with the premise that knowledge begins with sense experience, which is enhanced with formal logic. The conclusion reached is that this methodology cannot lead to knowledge of the “real” world, but only to knowledge of the appearances of the sensual world. That is, the “noumenal” world that is the substrate to the phenomena is opaque.

In ordinary life, our thinking is directed toward objects, people, circumstances, events, etc., around us. What Kant did was to make thought itself the object, i.e., thinking about thinking. Kant’s method, according to Tomberg, is the philosophical equivalent of the Hermetic method described in the Letter on the Moon, but this is not the place to discuss that.

What Kant discovered is that thought imposes its own a priori categories onto its understanding of the world. Normally, we don’t realize that, since the image of the world arises spontaneously in consciousness. This is how we experience the phenomenal world of nature, beings, artifacts, and all material things.

The situation is exacerbated with regard to the non-material world. When it comes to our relationships to other people, to society, to a political system, or to God, our thought again creates a representation. In analogy to our experience of the phenomenal world, these representations likewise seem to appear spontaneously in consciousness. Hence, we tend to take them as real pictures of others, society, politics, religion, etc. They are actually just points of view, part of samsara. Now there are everywhere lively debates about which worldviews are better, or a higher stage of development, and the like, but these are all relative. The Hermetic task does not give us a “better” point of view. Rather, we try to transcend such points of view. Hence, we do various attention exercises to bring some detachment from our thinking.

In the most consistent and extreme forms of formal logic, there is even the denial of consciousness itself. Mental events are considered to be mere epiphenomena of biochemical processes in the brain. Of course, this would mean the destruction of all human life, so no one really lives as though that were true.

Judgment

There are two fundamental barriers to higher thought from formal logic:

  1. It is deductive, so that everything must follow from first principles. The conclusion is hidden in the premises, so there is no space for novelty or creativity, beyond discovering new principles to explain “what is”. Deduction does not go anywhere, so the idea of purpose has no meaning.
  2. It is quantitative, not qualitative. Hence, there is the tendency toward the rejection of hierarchy in favor of egalitarianism. Human differences are denied.

Of course, the laws of thought make it difficult to hold such views consistently, but serious thinkers manage to do so. Kant noted four aesthetic judgments: the agreeable, the beautiful, the sublime, the good. The “agreeable” is also known as the infamous facebook “like”, which made Zuckerberg wealthy. It is ubiquitous since most people will make judgments based on whether they “like” something or not, whether it brings pleasure or not. The ability the judge the beautiful, the sublime, and the good accurately is much rarer.

However, for organic logic, teleology is the more appropriate concept. For Kant, there are things (e.g., living beings) “whose parts exist for the sake of the whole and the whole for the sake of the parts.” Formal logic wants to treat the parts as identical and interchangeable.

In the Letter on the Moon, we read about David’s census of the Israelis and again of the census of Caesar Augustus. These enumerations treat human beings as inanimate things. It ignores that people have different functions and roles within a society. That is the predominant view today, since differences in people are held to be merely cosmetic.

It is said that the Kali Yuga will be an era of undifferentiation in which distinctions will be harder to maintain. Organic and objective distinctions are giving way to subjective preferences.

Practical Reason

Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe, the more often and steadily we reflect upon them: the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me. I do not seek or conjecture either of them as if they were veiled obscurities or extravagances beyond the horizon of my vision; I see them before me and connect them immediately with the consciousness of my existence. ~ Immanuel Kant

If pure reason, as reflecting on thought is lunar, then moral logic is solar; formal logic is cold, moral logic introduces warmth. So when Kant turns his attention away from the external world, and focuses it on his own existence, he is beginning the process of uniting the head and the heart. There he becomes aware of the “categorical imperative”, i.e., the moral law written in his heart.

The categorical imperative is an unconditional moral obligation. Kant’s formulated it in the maxim, “act as though your action should be an universal law.” It also implies that others should never be treated merely as means, but as ends in themselves. Moreover, the categorical imperative is self-imposed, and not imposed by force from the outside.

Tomberg does not regard this as mere theory, since he claims that “moral logic is the human analogy of the Logos that enlightens every man.” Moreover, that means the categorical imperative is the “divine image” in man. This is the same as Dharma in Hinduism.

The spiritual experience of moral logic postulates the existence of God, free will, and the immortality of the soul. This is not a logical or scientific proof. Tomberg explains:

What are initially postulates of moral logic are confirmed, amplified and deepened through spiritual experience, which will not hesitate to come to the aid of thought, when head and heart are equally engaged. Because moral logic is the language of the spiritual world, and to make use of moral logic is to begin a dialogue with the spiritual world. For the latter does not remain mute and indifferent when addressed in its own language.

Ultimately, moral logic is the “logic of faith, i.e., thought which participates in revelation.”

Christianisation of Mankind

We read that the fusion of intellectuality and spirituality is the germination of the Christic seed in human nature and consciousness. This Christianisation of mankind is not merely quantitative, but means the qualitative transformation of human nature and consciousness. This will work itself out in conformity with this law:

Aspiration and general languor—the culmination of success in an individuality—a general diffusion over a number of generations. That is, the climate of general expectation leading to the particular realization, which then becomes general.

This aspiration is not necessarily explicitly Christian, since the Hindus expect the Kalki Avatar and the Buddhists expect Maitreya. In an individual, the realization will require the fusion of prayer and meditation. This Buddha-Avatar will not operate solely on the material plane. Rather, as it was pointed out last night, it must also take place on the etheric and astral planes. Ultimately, the teaching will be for the “I”, the consciousness of one’s own existence as it was for Kant. Yet, it will not be a new or novel teaching or religion. Tomberg explains it this way:

The mission of the Buddha-Avatar to come will therefore not be the foundation of a new religion, but rather that of bringing human beings to firsthand experience of the source itself of all revelation ever received from above by mankind, as also of all essential truth ever conceived of by mankind. It will not be novelty to which he will aspire, but rather the conscious certainty of eternal truth.

The Man of Heart

Being the meeting notes from 6 February 2017.

We discussed our experiences with the prayer of the heart. If it is difficult to bring attention to the heart, then the hands or another external body part can be used. The question arose about the meaning of attention “on” the heart. Patricia suggested that it actually means to bring attention “in” the heart. In other words, the heart becomes the center of awareness, not the object of awareness.

The Law of the Heart

In the Meditation on the Hermit, we come to see that the heart is where “contemplation and will are united, where knowledge becomes will and where will becomes knowledge.” It is important to keep in mind that the “heart”, in this context, does not at all signify the centre of emotions and passions as it does in the popular imagination. Rather, it is the middle centre, or chakra, of man’s psychic and vital constitution. It does signify “love” however, making it the most human of the centers. “Knowledge” is what man knows, “will” is what a man can do, but “heart” is what he is.

The great work of the man of heart is the transmutation of the substance of other chakras into the substance of the heart. It was mentioned in the meeting that Seyyed Nasr wrote that the heart is the only organ that connects the human state to a transcendent state. This notion is confirmed by Valentin Tomberg when he explains that the heart, alone of all the centres, is not attached to the organism. Hence, it can go out of the organism and live.

The Planets and the Chakras

The heart, as the central chakra, is therefore the “sun” of the microcosm. Oscar Hinze, in his book Tantra Vidya, shows that in the ancient esoteric astronomy, the traditional planets correspond to the chakras of Tantra Yoga, in short, the macrocosm corresponds to the microcosm. Moreover, he shows how similar ideas were part of the progress of initiation in Mithraism. But, even more interestingly, Hinze notes that the mystic Johann Gichtel, a student of Jacob Boehme, was aware of the same correspondence as revealed in his book Theosophia Practica. The following table shows the correspondences. The table also includes the “I am” saying associated with the chakra, and the transformation that occurs with its awakening, as described in the Letter on the Hermit.

Chakra and Planetary Correspondences
Chakra Planet Transformation I am
Sahasrara
8/1000 petals
Saturn Abstract and transcendent wisdom → Full of warmth like the fire of Pentecost The resurrection and the life
Ajna
2 petals
Jupiter Intellectual initiative → compassion-filled insight into the world The light of the world
Visuddha
16 petals
Mars Creative word → magical: illumining, consoling, healing The good shepherd
Anahata
12 Petals
Sun Love → Exteriorisation of love. The bread of life
Manipura
10 petals
Venus Science → conscience The door
Svadhisthana
6 petals
Mercury Center of health → holiness, i.e., harmony of spirit, soul, body The way, the truth, and the life
Muladhara
4 petals
Moon Creative force → source of energy and élan The true vine

7 centers of energy
Remarkably, Gichtel claimed to have discovered the subtle centers in the body and their correspondence to the planets through his own contemplations and experience. In the Tantric system, each chakra is represented by a lotus with a unique set of petals. Hinze demonstrates that the number of petals corresponds to the “gestalt number” of each planet. These numbers are derived from the way the ancient astrologers experienced the sky. For example, the gestalt number of the Moon is 4, which represents its phases. Hence, the Muladhara chakra has four petals.

In the chart, the column labeled “Transformation” shows the changes that occur when the chakra is transformed by the heart. The column labeled “I am” shows Jesus’ “I am” saying that is associated with each chakra.

Waking Up

When the chakras are asleep a man becomes dominated by instinctual life, motivated by fear (muladhara), sex (svadhisthana), and hunger (manipura), interspersed with random eruptions from higher chakras. Another way of saying this, following Gichtel’s diagram, is that the human being is under the influence of the planets, hence subjected to sponaneous forces beyond his knowledge and control.

So the obvious question is how to “awaken” the higher chakras. That puts us in a bind, since Hermetism rejects any mechanical process or technique to do so. By analogy, we can look at how you wake up from a night’s sleep. Who is doing the awakening? Commonly, it may be the result of an outside stimulation, or enough it comes about after a “crisis point” in a dream.

So, analogously, we could say that “waking up” into a higher state of consciousness are reaching certain “crises”, as described in the Letter on the Tower of Destruction. Such a crisis may result from either an internal or external event. Example, perhaps, are the boundary situations described by Karl Jaspers, which often arise from chance, traumatic events. Of course, the Hermetist may choose boundary situations deliberately, by meditating on a particular topic. Perhaps, in this case, a meditation on one of the “I am” sayings would be helpful. I think it is a bit of a mystery for the “sleeping” person to try to wake up. All the forces that lead to that, need to be encouraged. Ultimately, it is a matter of grace from above.

The Christianisation of the Chakras

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation (II Corinthians v, 17)

Valentin Tomberg mentions the traditional Tantric method of awakening the chakras through their corresponding mantras: Om, Ham, Yam, and so on. That will awaken the chakras as they are. The Hermetist, however, has a different aim: the Christianisation of the centres, i.e., their transformation in conformity with their divine-human prototype. In other words, the aim is to make of oneself a new creation. The corresponding “I am” saying can be used as a mantra in the process of the Christianisation of the chakras.

The Christianisation of the inner organization is the transformation of the human being into a man of heart. The heart is the third, or neutralizing, force mediating “knowledge” and “will”. This leads to three transformational moments.

Intellectual intuition Feeling for truth Subordinate spontaneous movements of thought as well as the directing intellectual initiative to the heart of thought
Moral intuition Feeling for beauty Subordinate both spontaneous imagination and actively directed imagination to the direction of the heart
Practical intutition Feeling for good Subordinate spontaneous impulses and designs directed from the will to the feeling of practical intution

Note that there are two stages of subordination to the heart:

  • Spontaneous arisings
  • Directed mental activities

We have dealt with spontaneous arisings extensively in the past. We have noticed that, in our normal waking state—which is usually far from fully conscious—thoughts, images, and impulses spontaneous arise, most often in a very negative way. We have used them as “crises” to lead to a moment of awareness, since they need to be brought under conscious control. In the past, we have used the exterior parts of the body, e.g., hands, feet, etc., as our objects of concentration and attention. Perhaps, now, we can begin to bring attention to the heart rather than a body part.

Next, there can be deliberate and consciously directed thoughts, images, and plans. Those are recognizably human activities since they are self-directed and self-willed. However, for them to be Christianised, then they, too, must be subordinated to the heart.

The goal of the Christianisation of the centres is to transform the human being into a man or woman of heart.


Scientific Postscript

Although secular science is not the last word for us, it should not be surprising to learn that the heart has neurons. The HeartMath Solution, by Doc Childre and Howard Martin develops the idea of the heart as the central intelligence of the body. We do not consider this a “proof” for the man of heart, but an effect. Nevertheless, some of you, perhaps in the healing professions, may be interested in such topics. The downside is that, like all new age teachings, it sees the “knowledge of the heart” strictly in instrumental terms, as the means to an end, be it inner calm, physical health, treatment for psychological problems. We, on the other hand, consider becoming a man or woman of the heart is an end it itself.

Prayer of the Heart

Meeting notes for 30 January 2017.

Br. Erik initiated a discussion on the Prayer of the Heart based on the essay Essence of the Prayer of the Heart. It is recommended that this be part of your daily prayers and meditations. Christians can recite the Jesus prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner.” The author, Olga Louchakova, points out that the prayer of the heart is also part of other traditions; so non-Christians can find their own mantra.

To do the exercise, place your attention on the prayer while reciting it interiorly. Simultaneously, keep attention on the body. Ultimately, attention will be placed on the heart, specifically the upper right ventricle. In the interim, keep attention on another body part, e.g., the hands. It may be of interest to refer to the insights of Oscar Hinze regarding the Heart Chakra.

There are several points in Letter XXI that can be discussed for next time, beginning on page 613. The most important, of course, is the role of Christ. He is neither an Avatar bringing a Divine message down to mankind, nor a Buddha, who rises up from the human condition. According to Tomberg, Christ brought not just a divine birth but also a divine death, an expiatory sacrifice. This leads to the idea of an alchemical transformation of the world, not merely liberation from it.

Jesus Christ is the complete unity of intellectuality and spirituality, which is the “germination of the Christic seed in human nature and consciousness.” Tomberg calls this the Christianisation of mankind, by which is meant “a qualitative transformation of human nature and consciousness”. It is possible that Tomberg here is a bit too sanguine, even if a Bodhisattva comes to save us.

The reference to St. Ignatius of Loyola is intriguing, since he maintained “a perfect equilibrium between the world of mystical revelations and the world of human tasks and actions”. That is a useful model to follow.

Tomberg makes a fruitful distinction of three levels of logic.

  • Formal logic deals with logical and mathematical relationships based on quantity while ignoring the qualitative aspects. This is what is meant by logic today in academic circles.
  • Organic logic takes functional differences into account. For example, people cannot be treated as though they were identical hydrogen atoms or mathematical points. Rather each one has a functional relationship to a larger whole.
  • Moral logic goes beyond the preceding two to the realm of values and qualitative differences. A postulate of formal logic is that “you cannot derive an ‘is’ from an ‘ought’”. Moral logic approaches it a different way: Given the existence of moral values and duties (‘ought’), what must the world be like (‘is’)? Kant, for example, inferred the existence of God, free will, and the immortality of the soul from his experience of the Categorical Imperative. Tomberg asserts that is simply the divine image in man.

    For those of a philosophical bent, the idea of a moral logic can be found in some recent works, even if not so explicitly stated. John Leslie, in Infinite Minds, basing himself on the Platonic notion of God as the Good, postulates that the cosmos exists because there is an ethical need for it. Thomas Nagel, in Mind and Cosmos, speculates about the nature of a cosmos in which exists a “moral realism”, i.e., an objective moral code.

Finally, Tomberg ends the letter with an extended discussion of prayer and meditation, whose union is the “alchemical marriage”. We began with the prayer of the heart; I hope soon we can consider the Three Conversions in the spiritual life as described primarily by St. John of the Cross. He has a prominent role in the Letters. That will lead to the topic of meditation, particularly what Tomberg writes about the contemplation of the seven stages of the passion.

The Avatar and the Bodhisattva

Whensoever there is the fading of the Dharma and the uprising of unrighteousness, then I loose myself forth into birth. For the deliverance of the good, for the destruction of the evil-doers, for the enthroning of the Right I am born from age to age. He who knoweth thus in its right principles my divine birth and my divine work, when he abandons his body, comes not to rebirth, he comes to Me, Arjuna. Delivered from liking and fear and wrath, full of me, taking refuge in me, many purified by austerity of knowledge have arrived at my nature of being. As men approach me, so I accept them to my love; men follow in every way my path …  ~ Bhagavad Gita

The Incarnations of Vishnu
Historically—according to Valentin Tomberg—the long expected Bodhisattva and Avatar will manifest as one Being. Analogously, that applies to the individual’s inner life. We previously discussed Tomberg’s idea of the Bodhisattva, starting from below; that is, from the full awareness of the human condition. The second part is the idea of the Avatar, that is, a revelation from above. So this week we focused on the Avatar, as described by Aurobindo Ghose. Matthew Smallwood led our discussion.

We started with Chapter XV: The Possibility and Purpose of Avatarhood, from Essays on the Gita. The supreme Divinity becomes manifest within us as Lord of our being and action. This is the “highest secret” so that the Yoga of the Gita is the “highest synthetic and integral Yoga directing Godward all the powers of our being. However, it is not a one way street. Aurobindo explains the two aspects:

For there are two aspects of the divine birth; one is a descent, the birth of God in humanity, the Godhead manifesting itself in the human form and nature, the eternal Avatar; the other is an ascent, the birth of man into the Godhead, man rising into the divine nature and consciousness; it is the being born anew in a second birth of the soul. It is that new birth which Avatarhood and the upholding of the Dharma are intended to serve.

Without this ascent, or second birth, Aurobindo says the true meaning of the Gita is lost:

Otherwise the Avatar idea would be only a dogma, a popular superstition, or an imaginative or mystic deification of historical or legendary supermen, not what the Gita makes all its teaching, a deep philosophical and religious truth and an essential part of or step to the supreme mystery of all, the highest secret.

Moreover, without this ascent, the world process would not be dependent on Transcendence, but would be a mere natural process:

If there were not this rising of man into the Godhead to be helped by the descent of God into humanity, Avatarhood for the sake of the Dharma would be an otiose phenomenon, since mere Right, mere justice or standards of virtue can always be upheld by the divine omnipotence through its ordinary means, by great men or great movements, by the life and work of sages and kings and religious teachers, without any actual incarnation.

While Aurobindo considers Krishna, Buddha, and Christ to be three avatars, Tomberg rejects that idea. Rather, of those three, only Krishna is to be understood as the Avatar par excellence, representing the descent of the Divine. Buddha, then, shows the path of ascent from the human condition until he reached the final stage of liberation, having nothing to do with the “revelation from above by prophets and Avatars”. Jesus Christ represents something higher, the transformation of the world and not just liberation from the world.

Maya

Aurobindo accepts a form of panpsychism, i.e., the position that consciousness exists throughout the manifested world:

nor is Matter anywhere really void of consciousness, for even in the atom, the cell there is, as is now made abundantly clear in spite of itself by modern Science, a power of will, an intelligence at work; but that power is the power of will and intelligence of the Self, Spirit or Godhead within it, it is not the separate, self-derived will or idea of the mechanical cell or atom.

Although the universal will and intelligence draws nearest to the Divine in man, he is only obscurely conscious of that Divinity. That is because:

there is that imperfection of the manifestation which prevents the lower forms from having the self-knowledge of their identity with the Divine. For in each limited being the limitation of the phenomenal action is accompanied by a limitation also of the phenomenal consciousness which defines the nature of the being and makes the inner difference between creature and creature.

The imperfect action of the creature is due to its subjection to the mechanism of Prakriti and its limitation by the self-representation of Maya. Maya is not exactly illusion, since it is “the divine consciousness in its power of various self-representation of its being.” Those unaware of the of the “Divine lodged in the human body” are so because they are subject to the mechanism of Prakriti (“nature”) that deludes the will with desire and bewilders the intellect with egoism.

Avatars and Evolution

Many commentators have pointed out that the ten Hindu Avatars can be read as a parable of the Evolution of the World Process. Rather, it illustrates the process of Involution, that is, the incarnations of the Divine into the world process that manifests as the phenomenal world (the “self-representation of the divine consciousness.” In Letters on Yoga Aurobindo describes this process;

Avatarhood would have little meaning if it were not connected with the evolution. The Hindu procession of the ten Avatars is itself, as it were, a parable of evolution. First the Fish Avatar, then the amphibious animal between land and water, then the land animal, then the Man-Lion Avatar, bridging man and animal, then man as dwarf, small and undeveloped and physical but containing in himself the godhead and taking possession of existence, then the rajasic, sattwic, nirguna Avatars, leading the human development from the vital rajasic to the sattwic mental man and again the overmental superman. Krishna, Buddha and Kalki depict the last three stages, the stages of the spiritual development–Krishna opens the possibility of overmind, Buddha tries to shoot beyond to the supreme liberation but that liberation is still negative, not returning upon earth to complete positively the evolution; Kalki is to correct this by bringing the Kingdom of the Divine upon earth, destroying the opposing Asura forces. The progression is striking and unmistakable.

As for the lives in between the Avatar lives, it must be remembered that Krishna speaks of many lives in the past, not only a few supreme ones, and secondly that while he speaks of himself as the Divine, in one passage he describes himself as a Vibhuti (a descendent of Vishnu). We may therefore fairly assume that in many lives he manifested as the Vibhuti veiling the fuller Divine Consciousness. If we admit that the object of Avatarhood is to lead the evolution, this is quite reasonable, the Divine appearing as Avatar in the great transitional stages and as Vibhutis to aid the lesser transitions.

Vibhuti and Greatness

Why should the Divine not care for the outer greatness? He cares for everything in the universe. All greatness is the Vibhuti of the Divine. ~ Bhagavad Gita

Besides the Avatars, the Divine may also be made manifest as Vibhutis which includes spiritual teachers, prophets, intellectuals, scientists, artists, poets, etc. They are not unlike the Representative Men of Ralph Waldo Emerson, or the Heroes of Thomas Carlyle. Moreover, Vibhutis may not necessarily be of strong moral character, yet are great nevertheless.

A fuller exposition of this idea will be forthcoming.

Spirituality and Intellectuality

The two Aurobindo books have intellectual depth and are worth close study. However, such book knowledge must go hand in hand with spiritual depth. Be sure to continue with daily prayer and meditation, develop consciousness without effort throughout the day, and engage in spiritual combat to guard and purify the intellect and will.

Most on the Hermetic path are following the path of knowledge. Beyond that, there is the possibility of greatness if you develop all your human possibilities.

The Human Bodhisattva

The interior life is for all, the one thing necessary. It ought to be constantly developing in our souls; more so than what we call our intellectual life, more so than our scientific, artistic, or literary life. The interior life is lived in the depths of the soul; it is the life of the whole man, not merely of one or other of his faculties. And our intellectual life would gain immeasurably by appreciating this; it would receive an inestimable advantage if, instead of attempting to supplant the spiritual life, it recognized its necessity and importance, and welcomed its beneficial influence—the influence of the theological virtues and the gifts of the Holy Ghost. How deeply important our subject is may be seen in the very words we have used: Intellectuality and Spirituality. ~ Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, The Three Conversions in the Spiritual Life

The process of induction (which “ascends from earth to heaven”) and that of deduction (which “descends to earth”), the process of prayer (which “ascends from earth to heaven”) and that of revelation (which “descends to earth”) — i.e. human endeavour and the action of grace from above — unite and become a complete circle which contracts and concentrates to become a point where the ascent and descent are simultaneous and coincide. And this point is the “philosopher’s stone”— the principle of the identity of the human and divine, of humanism and prophetism, of intelligence and revelation, of intellectuality and spirituality. ~ from Letter XXI, The Fool

Meeting notes for 16 January 2017

Introduction

Ekzy’l led a discussion on Frithjof Schuon’s essay Mystery of the Bodhisattva. Since we focused on pages 76 through 79, I’ll start with some points from the first pages of the essay in order to provide some context. Schuon agrees with Valentin Tomberg that Buddhism starts from the human point of view and rises up. Moreover, Schuon points out that this starting point makes it akin to Christianity.

This starting point for Buddha is the insight that all life is suffering. This is not merely verbal, but existential, so much so that the Buddha would not be satisfied until he found a solution. Similarly, the Christian sees that life is toil, suffering, and death. Although Buddha does not provide an explanation for suffering, the Christian traces its origin back to the effects of original sin.

The solution must likewise be existential. Hence, neither Advaita Vedanta nor Neo-Platonism—the highest metaphysical teaching of the East and West respectively—are sufficient, no matter how useful they are to the jnana path. The corollary is that there is no definable process or technique that will lead to an awakening. Rather, “skillful means” are necessary, which may be adapted to different personalities and situations.

Discussion

These are the main points discussed; for clarity, the order of the topics is different.

  • Schuon distinguishes between the personal, or human, Bodhisattva and the celestial. The latter is more like an avatar, so we focused on the human Bodhisattva to be consistent with Tomberg’s description.
  • Apocatastasis means the restoration to the primordial state. In Buddhist terms, that involves the reintegration into Nirvana while, in Christian terms, it is the return to the state of Adam before the Fall.
  • Starting from “below”, i.e., the human state, means to begin in samsara. Normally, our attention is caught in the web of samsara, a state of ignorance. Unaware that samsara is a dimension of Nirvana. The beginning of awakening comes with the recognition of the impermanence of things, which is just their relativity in respect to Nirvana.
  • The obvious question then is what motivates this awakening. First of all, in experience, although not ontologically, a degree of perfection, i.e., a purification, is necessary.
  • The jnana must contemplate the Absolute both in the Heart and in the World. Tomberg calls this the “identity of the human and the divine.”
  • With that preparation, “the Logos descends upon him and dwells in him, just as light automatically dwells on a clear and smooth surface.”
  • Hence, the “original initiative comes from Heaven and that the support has been brought forth in the realm of the cosmic play solely in view of the manifestation of the Logos and by the Logos itself.”
  • A Buddha has three sheaths, or bodies, corresponding to Heaven, an Archangel, and humans. Christian Hermetism accepts that, but includes some finer states. The Angelic sheath has nine levels, corresponding to the celestial hierarchies. Ultimately, the highest states relate to the Trinity, not simply the Absolute. Buddhism admits this to a degree by recognizing Being and Beyond-Being as transcendent states.

We concluded with an interesting point about the meaning of the Buddhist teaching about the extinction of the self and the elimination of desire. It was suggested that this means the elimination of the “grasping self”. Of course, that brings to mind the “five wounds”:

the desire for personal greatness, to take, to keep, to advance and to hold on to at the expense of others

This thought opens up the idea of the three vows, purification of the will, and celestial hierarchy, all relevant to the Bodhisattva discussion. But that will be for another meeting.

Blavatsky and Steiner

H.P. Blavatsky’s “Secret Doctrine” and Rudolf Steiner’s “Occult Science”

by Valentin Tomberg

Two comprehensive works which deal with the whole occult world conception have appeared in modern times within occidental culture: the Secret Doctrine by H.P. Blavatsky and An Outline of Occult Science by Dr. Rudolf Steiner. These are the only two works containing communications of a cosmological nature which are of value for their true revelations. These two works—in the midst of a large number of writings with symbolic content containing half-obscure half-truths (either theoretical cabbalistic expositions or mystic-lyrical effusions) —contain more or less complete pictures of a world conception entirely unknown to the public. The truth of the matter, one would have to admit, is that not one of the well-known theosophical or cabbalistic writings can be compared in objective value with them; for not one of the works of occult literature offer the reader so much as they do.

If fundamental significance has to be conceded to these two writings, the question then arises: How do the two relate to each other? Is there a difference—or even contradiction—between them in principle; or can Occult Science be regarded merely as a supplement to or completion of the earlier Secret Doctrine?

Let us consider first the Secret Doctrine. This is a two volume work (the third volume appeared after the author’s death) which describes the coming into existence of the world and mankind, and discusses the prevailing philosophical, religious, and scientific theories on the subject. It contains a wealth of insights into the secrets of creation and the primal history of mankind. And although these insights are described in an erratic and chaotic style, still their content has value. The coming into being of the cosmos is pictured there as a breathing process of the primal Being. Inbreathing and outbreathing of Beings—these are the two fundamental tendencies present in all cosmic events. In the outbreathing arises matter; in the inbreathing the spirit reveals itself.

Accordingly, there also exists a twofold cosmic “ideology”: that of the Creators who affirm cosmic evolution, and that of the beings who reject the material creation. The battle of these “ideologies” takes place as much on earth, as in heaven. In heaven it is the battle between the affirming and denying gods; on earth, the battle between souls following “the path of the Moon”, (Chandravansha) and souls following “the path of the Sun” (Suryavansha). The Moon is the cosmic “headquarters” of the materializing world stream; the Sun that of the spiritualizing stream. Now, it became necessary for these two streams to unite at a particular point of cosmic evolution. This event, its causes and effects, form a profound mystery. And the whole work of H.P. Blavatsky is orientated toward this mystery. Everything which is communicated in detail in the Secret Doctrine has, in the last analysis, the purpose of shedding light on the Mystery of the Fall into Sin. The Secret Doctrine, in spite of having an unclear style and erratic train of thought, is a strongly centered work. It is oriented toward one point: the event of human incarnation and division of the sexes, which took place in the middle of the Lemurian period. Through this event, the opposition of Sun and Moon was incorporated into mankind. On the one hand, therewith arose man’s intellectuality, the Sun nature in him; on the other hand, man thereby became subject to the curse of sex, the Moon nature in him. Recognition of this fact leads to the practical conclusion: the purpose of human existence is to achieve victory of the Sun over the Moon nature. The physical procreation of man must cease. Mankind must return again to a spiritualized state, such as was his condition before the Fall—preserving, however, the intellect which was achieved through the Fall.

Thus the attitude of soul which follows from the world picture presented in the Secret Doctrine is single poled. A man recognizes a duality in the cosmos and in himself, and places himself decisively on one side of the recognized polarity. The whole inner attitude of the author herself is also of this nature. For her, not only is sex something which has to be fought by the spirit, but also the West is the lower pole of human culture which has to be fought by the East. For when there are only two tendencies—upward to the spirit and downward to matter—then the West is where the darkening stream prevails, and the East where the light filled stream predominates. And the significance of cultural evolution is that Western darkness is to be overcome by the Eastern light—preserving in the process, however, the Western intellectuality.

From this one-sidedness there follows a quite definite moral attitude. Because the Secret Doctrine discerns only the opposition between above and below, the concepts of good (what is worthy of pursuit) and evil (what is to be fought against) become synonymous with the concepts of spiritual striving and earthly striving respectively. That which frees man from earth is to be striven after, that which binds him to earth is to be combated. But the moral questions: Can there be an element of evil in spiritual striving, or can there be some good in earthly striving? is an attitude foreign to the Secret Doctrine. And so it is, indeed, understandable that the Secret Doctrine regards Lucifer as a leader of mankind and Jehovah, the Moon God, as the dark power of the drive to procreate. The Secret Doctrine sees only the antithesis of Lucifer and Ahriman.

The author definitely adopts the standpoint of the Luciferic principle, while combating with all her passionate energy the Ahrimanic. Yet the traditional ideas of Jehovah, on the one side, and Christ, on the other, hardly fit into this polarity. Jehovah would have to be viewed as an Ahrimanic being and Christ as Luciferic. But thereby the Mystery of the Blood, the central mystery of the Old Testament, remains uncomprehended. Also the Mystery of Golgotha, the central Mystery of the New Testament, has remained beyond the comprehension of Madame Blavatsky. For the love principle, working out of human sub-consciousness and combating individual egoism through the love for one’s parents, children, and brothers, cannot be explained by the idea of an Ahrimanic Jehovah. Nor can the depths of the Mystery of Golgotha as earthly mystery be fathomed when the Christ Being is envisioned as Luciferic. If one comprehends Christ Jesus merely as a witness and proclaimer of a higher world, one cannot from that standpoint understand the mystery of the bringing down of spiritual life into earth existence. The magic significance—the most vitally important aspect—of the Mystery of Golgotha remains hidden to this manner of comprehension. Madame Blavatsky sees the Christ only as an upward bearer; that he is as well the greatest of downward bearers remains hidden to her. She has no understanding for what is essential in Christianity. She does indeed speak of Christian esotericism, but only about the old esotericism which exists in it. About that in it which is new, which came into the world through Christianity “as mystical fact”, the Secret Doctrine has nothing to relate. And that which is new as a cosmic event stands as the central point in Rudolf Steiner’s Occult Science. For just as the Secret Doctrine is oriented toward one central point, namely, the “Fall into Sin”, so does Occult Science have the Mystery of Golgotha as its central point toward which all is oriented. The Secret Doctrine aims to be an instrument through which people can learn about the event of the separation of the sexes (in the middle of the Lemurian Epoch) and what followed after it, and then draw certain conclusions from that knowledge. Occult Science has the task of being a similar instrument in relation to the Mystery of Golgotha, which took place in the middle of the fifth Epoch.

From this fact follows something quite significant: The effect of Occult Science, first on the thinking and then on the will of the reader (for all thinking becomes sooner or later willing), is very different from the effect of the Secret Doctrine. The latter places the reader before the choice: either spirit or matter. 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. Madam Blavatsky knows this. She warns on various occasions against practical occultism. For the European the theory must suffice, because he is little disposed to what she views as true practical occultism, that is, to an occultism consistent with the theory of the Secret Doctrine. Only in Asia would it be possible to put into practice the above-mentioned “either/or” to a satisfactory extent.

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.

Because the Secret Doctrine contains beside a theoretical Monism, a practical Dualism, it cannot offer a path to Europeans. Occult Science, however, contains not only a theoretical, but also a practical Monism. Therefore its practical consequences can be realized by European people. The book contains a detailed description of the conditions, means, and trials of Initiation. This path can be followed by anyone of good will, for it is suited to the nature of European people.

“Practical Monism”—the practice of the monistic “not only/but also” instead of the dualistic “either/or”—is actually the Christ impulse, the central significance of Occult Science. To bring the cosmic working of the Christ impulse before and after the Mystery of Golgotha to the comprehension of the present time—that is the chief task of this book. In Occult Science the reader is not confronted with a duality, but with a threefoldness. He gradually learns to understand that, apart from the Mystery of Light and the Mystery of Death, there exists a third and greater Mystery—the Mystery of the Life of that Light who passed through Death. And he learns, too, to understand that just as striving for the spirit can be egoistic, so also can a descent into the earthly realm be selfless. He learns to see not only evil below and good above, but also evil above and good below. He learns to distinguish within the light the fullness of the Elohim from the brilliance of Lucifer, in the darkness to distinguish the cold, deadly breath of Ahriman from the silvery glow of Jehovah. And, like a rainbow, the seven-colored, radiant Christ impulse bridges over the abyss between light and darkness.

This “seven-colored rainbow” is the impulse and the possibility for that standpoint which we have designated as “practical Monism”. It joins the two opposites of light and darkness together into a third element. Knowledge and action are joined together by the cosmic love principle—making possible the transformation of knowledge into action. Through this, the publication of the description of the path of Initiation in Occult Science becomes understandable. If in Occult Science the central place had not been conceded to the Christ impulse, then the book could not offer people of modern culture a practicable path. It would have to, like the Secret Doctrine, contain only aspects of a world conception. For it would be senseless to offer the public a path that could only be taken by individuals with particular tendencies: people as one-sidedly gifted for the spiritual life as, say, a wholesale tradesman is gifted for material life. However, the path described in Occult Science can be trodden by anyone; for it appeals to that in a man which strives after the transformation of the ‘lower’, the darkness, into the ‘high’, 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.

So we see that this path, the Rosicrucian Path of Transformation, is a direct result of knowledge about the cosmic working of the Christ impulse, whereas the absence of knowledge of the Christ impulse in an occult scream—however holy and ancient—makes it impossible for European people to take a practical path, a path which could lead to real progress.

In occult writings, such as the two which we have here compared, 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 man down a blind alley. Therefore, when considering occult writings we must ask: What follows from this for life? Asking this question, one reaches certain answers with regard to the books just considered: namely, that a European can only to a small degree bring the Secret Doctrine into his life, while through Occult Science, life goals open up for him.

Bodhisattva Notes 1

Meeting Notes from 9 January 2017
We read from the bottom of page 607 to page 611.

The mission of Hermetism – both in the past and to come – is the union of spirituality and intellectuality.

However, not everyone who has contributed to that work is explicitly a Hermetist. Tomberg provides a short list of such thinkers. It is obviously helpful to study one or more of them, although their spiritual paths differed and the intellectual interests were quite disparate.

  • Vladimir Solovyov: In “Lectures on Divine Humanity”, Solovyov offered an intellectual understanding of the dogmas of Chrisitianity, e.g., the Trinity or the Incarnation. He incorporated ideas from the Kabbalah, Neoplatonism, Boehme, Swedenborg, and the German philosopher Friedrich Schelling. In his lectures, he mentioned the connection between Alexandrian theosophy and Christian doctrine. Spiritually, he was highly influenced by the Divine Sophia, having had several experiences of her presence. Those writings are collected in a book in English titled “Divine Sophia”. Solovyov was highly influential on Tomberg.
  • Nicolas Berdyaev: Berdyaev was another Russian who reconciled his intellectual interests in philosophy with a deep spirituality based on the creativity and freedom of the human spirit.
  • Pierre Teilhard de Chardin: Teilhard was a French Jesuit and paleontologist. In “The Phenomenon of Man”, he created a sweeping vision of evolution of higher and higher layers; from life to thought to the centrality of Christ. He looked for the eventual culmination in God.
  • Carl Jung: Jung was a Swiss psychiatrist, who combined the scientific method of his profession with a gnostic spirituality. His discovery of the archetypes was expanded on by Tomberg.

The guardians of the Hermetic tradition have two tasks:

  • The study and practical application of the heritage of the past
  • Continuous creative effort aiming at the advancement of the work

This spiritual work, on the historical plane, reconciles two opposing notions, described in several ways

  • One source is from above, the other from below
  • The action of continuous revelation and the effort of human consciousness
  • Revelation and humanism
  • Avatars and Buddhas
  • Saints and the righteous

Job, Socrates, and Immanuel Kant are examples of righteous men. Kant, with the discovery and description of the categorical imperative (which Tomberg equates with the notion of Dharma), leads to faith in the nobility of human nature. Tomberg gives us a deeper understanding of the God-Man Jesus Christ. Since He is completely both natures, faith in Jesus Christ should unite both faith in God and faith in man, and love for Jesus Christ unites love of God and love of neighbor.

Jesus Christ, then, unites the Avatar and the Buddha. The corollary of this is that the simplistic notion — popular in some circles — that all “spiritual teachers” including Krishna, Buddha, and Jesus Christ somehow “taught the same thing”. Tomberg, on the other hand, brings out their distinctiveness, while also uniting them.

We discussed the idea of the Avatar and Buddha, particularly why Tomberg chose them as exemplars. The conclusion was that they are not mere ciphers, or placeholders, for his argument. Rather, they bring real revelations to the Hermetist. Hence, we will be making efforts to understand precisely what Krishna (in the Bhagavad Gita) and Buddha taught. And not simply in an intellectual way, but in terms of states of consciousness.

Our task is to be sure to make meditation and prayer part of our daily schedule. Avoid meditations that are based solely sounds of untranslatable mantras, or those that concentrate on nothing or perhaps just the awareness of breath. Prayer should include both vocal and mental prayer. Also during the day, be sure to awaken yourself several times and observe what you were considering.  In mental prayer we are considering God. Dom Lehodey describes it this way:

The considerations are not a mere speculative study; they are not made in order to learn or to know, but to inflame the heart, and set the will in motion. The mind’s eye is fixed

  • upon some truth in order to believe it
  • upon some virtue in order to love and seek it
  • upon some duty to fulfill it
  • up moral evil to detest and fly from it
  • upon some danger to avoid it

The fruits of mental prayer are these:

Little by little, mental prayer well made

  • will render our faith more lively
  • will strengthen our conviction
  • will penetrate us deeply with the things of God
  • will keep the supernatural always present to our mind.

Then there will be no more forgetfulness, no more sleep

Upcoming schedule: In addition to the text on Bodhisattva, we will bring in supplementary material:

After that, we will do for Lent a series of seven meditation on the Passion of Jesus Christ as described by Tomberg.

The Bodhisattva in Consciousness

In Letter XXI, the Fool, Valentin Tomberg describes the characteristics of the Bodhisattva to come:

He will not simply explain the profound meaning of revelation, but he will bring human beings themselves to attain to the illuminating experience of revelation, of a kind that it will not be he who will win authority, but rather He who is “the true light that enlightens every man coming into the world” (John 1:9)—Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, who is the way, the truth and the life.

Not very long ago, a Jain was explaining that his people were expecting the coming of the next avatar. I asked him how he would recognize the avatar when he appeared. He was flummoxed by the question and told me he would get back to me after consulting with his guru in India. Needless to say, he never got back to me.

So how would we, in the West in our time, recognize the Bodhisattva when he comes? Does he arrive with a certificate of authenticity, a diploma, a letter of introduction? Perhaps he will appear on TV or even perform an occasional miracle? Rudolf Steiner made the same point this way:

It is certainly true that in our time there is a rooted disinclination to recognise genius in human beings. But on the other hand, mental laziness is very prevalent, with the result that people are only too ready to acknowledge some individual as a great soul, merely on authority.

The disinclination is the lack of the ability to recognize a higher teaching, or even the denial that such a teaching is possible. Although Tomberg warned about this, the personal and subjective elements are much more attractive than pure intellectuality. Mental laziness is tied to the “bandwagon effect”, so that a “great soul” is confounded with a “greatly popular soul”. Tomberg then gives us a clue:

The mission of the Buddha-Avatar to come will therefore not be the foundation of a new religion, but rather that of bringing human beings to firsthand experience of the source itself of all revelation ever received from above by mankind, as also of all essential truth ever conceived of by mankind. It will not be novelty to which he will aspire, but rather the conscious certainty of eternal truth.

We see that we will not recognize the Bodhisattva not through anything external, but rather by re-experiencing firsthand what the Bodhisattva experienced. Before considering Tomberg’s description of that experience, a short detour is necessary.

The Right Track

The teaching of moral development is not the same as the impulse for such development. ~ Rudolf Steiner

For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power. 1 Corinthians 4:20

Tomberg claimed that Rudolf Steiner was “on the right track” in his understanding of the coming Bodhisattva. Now there are several areas of incompatibility between Steiner and Tomberg, so we will focus solely on what may have been on the right track. In 1911, Steiner delivered a lecture in Milan titled Buddha and Christ: The Sphere of the Bodhisattvas. There he expanded on a legend from the Middle Ages about the Bodhisattva:

Consciousness of this truth was demonstrated in a beautiful legend written down by John of Damascus in the eighth century and well known throughout Europe in the Middle Ages. It is the legend of Barlaam and Joshaphat, which relates how he who had become the successor of Buddha (Joshaphat is a phonetic variation of ‘Bodhisattva’) received teaching from Barlaam about the Christ Impulse. The legend, which was subsequently forgotten, tells us that the Bodhisattva who succeeded Gautama Buddha was instructed by Barlaam and his soul was fired by the Christian Impulse. This was the second impulse which, in addition to that of Buddha, continues to work in the evolution of humanity. It is the Christ Impulse and is connected with the future ascent of humanity to Morality. Although Buddha’s teaching is in a particular sense moral teaching, the Christ Impulse is not teaching but actual power which works as such and to an increasing degree imbues mankind with moral strength.

That passage makes the important distinction between a moral teaching (as an intellectual exercise) and the power to act on that teaching.

The Two Streams

In our period of evolution, two streams of spiritual life are at work; one of them is the stream of Wisdom, or the Buddha-stream, containing the most sublime teaching of wisdom, goodness of heart and peace on Earth. To enable this teaching of Buddha to permeate the hearts of all men, the Christ Impulse is indispensable. The second stream is the Christ-stream itself which will lead humanity from intellectuality, by way of aesthetic feeling and insight, to morality. ~ Rudolf Steiner

Tomberg sees the two streams in a slightly different way. He recognizes the Buddha-stream like Steiner, but he attributes the second stream to the coming of the Kalki Avatar as taught in Hinduism. The first stream represents spiritual humanism, i.e., the realization of all human possibilities on the natural plane. The second stream represents spiritual religion, or the realization of supernatural possibilities.

The two activities that will activate these possibilities are respectively meditation and prayer.

Spirituality and Intellectuality

Even if the Bodhisattva arrives on the historical plane, we will recognize him by his inner teaching. Specifically, we need to re-enact the spiritual alchemy in our own consciousness; only then we will recognize the Bodhisattva. There are three stages:

  • the experience of the separation and opposition of the spiritual and intellectual elements within one’s soul
  • advancement to parallelism, i.e. a kind of “peaceful coexistence” of these two elements
  • cooperation between spirituality and intellectuality which, proving to be fruitful, eventually becomes the complete fusion of these two elements in a third element —the “philosopher’s stone” of the spiritual alchemy of Hermetism.

The third stage is reached when the intellectual life if no longer dominated by formal logic, but passes through organic logic and finally to moral logic. The urge to dispute, argue, analyze, and judge is the fruit of formal logic. This stage is dominated by the reign of quantity.

Organic logic deals with qualities rather than quantities. It sees the whole, while formal logic focuses on the parts. The former synthesizes, the latter analyzies.

Finally, moral logic deals with values. This manner of thinking is invisible to those on the first stage of formal logic. Using Tomberg’s example, the world, in terms of formal logic, operates by logical and natural necessity. However, according to moral logic, the world is created in an act of love. “Hate and indifference are not creative,” only love is. Vatican I made the dogmatic declaration that Christian faith could not be compelled by natural or formal logic. Otherwise, androids would all become Christians.

So Tomberg can assert that the essential articles of faith are established by moral logic. Hence, God is Love or else there would have been no creation. A big bang has no desire to create a universe. The soul is immortal, or else morality would make no sense. Man is free, otherwise he could not even be moral. Moral logic is the language of the spiritual world, so we should be sure to make it part of our prayer life.

Prayer and Meditation

Moral logic is, as Tomberg asserts, the logic of the head and heart united. It unites meditation and prayer. He describes prayer in these words:

Prayer—which asks, thanks, worships and blesses —is the radiation, the breath and the warmth of the awakened heart: expressed in formulae of the articulated word, in the wordless inner sighing of the soul and, lastly, in the silence, both outward and inward, of the breathing of the soul immersed in the element of divine respiration and breathing in unison with it.

Prayer has three aspects:

  • Magical aspect: formulaic and liturgical prayer
  • Gnostic aspect: an inexpressible inner sighing
  • Mystical aspect: the silence of union with the Divine

Meditation, which is the gradual deepening of thought, also has three stages:

  • Pure and simple concentration on a subject
  • Understanding the subject within the totality of relationships that is has with reality
  • Intuitive penetration into the very essence of the subject

Tomberg repeats Rene Guenon’s writings on this topic, and it is worth repeating here:

Metaphysics is not human knowledge. Thus, it is not in so far as he is man that man can attain it; it is the grasping in effective consciousness of supra-individual states. The very principle of metaphysical realisation is identification through knowledge—according to Aristotle’s axiom: a being is all that he knows.

The most important means is concentration. Realisation consists initially in the unlimited development of all possibilities contained virtually in the individual, then in finally going beyond the world of forms to a degree of universality which is that of pure being.

The final aim of metaphysical realisation is the absolutely unconditioned state, free from all limitation. The liberated being is then truly in possession of the fullness of his possibilities. This is union with the supreme Principle.

Christian Meditation

Guenon’s teaching is correct as far as it goes. Nevertheless, Christian meditation seeks to go beyond even that. God is revealed both through Scriptures and Creation. Christian meditation therefore seeks a more complete consciousness and appreciation of Christ’s work of redemption. Hence, the subject of mediation will be the seven stages of the Passion, for example. There are further subjects for mediation which will be covered at a different time. But the goal is to return to the state of primordial purity before the Fall.

By the alchemical marriage of prayer and meditation, we may recognize the Bodhisattva.

Incarnation of the Logos

The tendency is certainly accentuated, if not prevalent, amongst contemporary Hermeticists to occupy themselves more with the “Cosmic Christ” or the “Logos” than with the human person of the “Son of Man”, Jesus of Nazareth. More importance is attributed to the divine and abstract aspect of the God-Man than to his human and concrete aspect.

It was contact with the person of Jesus Christ which opened up the current of miracles and conversions. And it is the same even today. ~ Valentin Tomberg, Letter VIII: Justice

With these words, Tomberg is warning us not to forget about the first coming of Jesus in the flesh, regarded as somehow inferior to an esoteric interpretation. A fortiori, the Hermetist’s goal is not to create an alternative or “better” religion. Nevertheless, there is always a stream of “New Age” gurus who claim something similar. For example, one such popular guru claims to have discovered the real meaning of all the religions, viz., what the Buddha “really” taught or what Christ “really” taught. He then claims that the religions have distorted those teachings and offer no authentic path. Although he came to that realization spontaneously, he will teach you certain “modalities” for a hefty price to reach the same realization. This is the sin of simony, the notion that spiritual enlightenment is a commodity that can be bought and sold.

The idea of the Logos was not unknown to pagan philosophers and Hermetists prior to the first Christmas. However, it is the fact of the Incarnation that matters most, as St John pointed out in the remarkable claim that the Logos became flesh. So Jesus is not only the fulfillment of the Mosaic law, He is also the fulfillment of the natural law. This is made clear by the visit of the Magi.

Tomberg makes us wrestle with a philosophical conundrum. The thinking mind, restricted to dianoia, knows essences, and the Logos is “the fundamental universal [or essence] of the world”. And Jesus Christ is then the “particular of particulars”. Some minds, like that of the new age guru, see that a representing a limitation on their thought; hence they resort to a sort of Docetism which denies the need for the physical, including a birth, visible church, sacraments and so on. It is a small step, then, to reach the conclusion that there is no need for the purification of the head and the heart in order to reach higher states.

Since for God, essence and existence are One, to know God is to know both his essence and existence. Tomberg explains that

Christian Hermeticism itself can only be knowledge of the universal which is revealed in the particular.

Hence, the Christian Hermetist “aspires to mystical experience of the communion of beings through love”. Thus he seeks spiritual friendships in the particular.

Yet, not unlike the pagan Hermetists—his precursors—or even the new ager perhaps, he also seeks the mystical experience of communion with the Logos, i.e., the knowledge of the universal.

Spiritual Beings

Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange tells us that the angels know intuitively, not rationally. Each higher level of angel understands more through the knowledge of ever more encompassing principles. Tomberg asserts:

For Hermeticism there are no “principles”, “laws” and “ideas” which exist outside of individual beings, not as structural traits of their nature, but as entities separated and independent from it.

This makes perfect sense, since knowing and being are one. If an angel, then, “knows” a certain principle, it is ipso fact the embodiment of that principle. Ideas have no power on their own, they are purely passive. An idea has effects only when it is immanent in a being. We can choose to understand our environment as an abstraction, the mere interplay of impersonal forces. Or else, we can choose to understand it as a great drama of personal forces.

A recent episode of the Vikings series on the History Channel had an interesting scene. Rollo was a Viking warrior who converted to Catholicism and was rewarded with the Duchy of Normandy. Unable to totally forget his pagan past, he explained to his wife, “When you hear thunder, it is only thunder. But when I hear thunder, I hear the sound of Thor.”

Tomberg tells us we must “love our pagan past”, so perhaps we can learn something from Rollo. Now this is not a new teaching, but actually something we forgot. So perhaps we can try to remember. The mystic visionary, Catherine Emmerich, saw that the world was populated with angels: each country, city, diocese, and parish has its own guardian angel. Fr. Ripperger, in a youtube video, reminds us furthermore that each generation has “generational spirits”, not all benign, as a sort of Zeitgeist.

If we can overcome the Zeitgeist of scientism, we can meditate on our role in the cosmic hierarchy. See yourself in relation to your family, parish or other community, nation, Church, then ascending through the angelic hierarchy. And when you get to the Logos, see also the Baby in the manger.

Advent Meditation: Purity of Will

It is futile to attempt to be concentrated if the Will is passionate about other things. The oscillations of the mind will never be able to achieve silence unless the the Will itself infuses it with silence. Only the still Will can render the imagination and the intellect silent in concentration.

St. John of the Cross and St. Theresa d’Avila never tire of repeating that the concentration necessary for spiritual prayer is the fruit of the moral purification of the Will. ~ Valentin Tomberg, Meditations on the Tarot

Concentration can be applied on three planes:

  • Mental
  • Astral
  • Physical

We began with learning concentration on the physical plane. Then we transferred that knowledge to our thoughts or mental plane. Finally, we will do the same to our emotional life for the purification of the soul.

Note that there are many more levels beyond these. In the Letter on the Star, Tomberg explains:

There are twelve degrees higher than that of the consciousness of the human transcendental Self. It is necessary, therefore, in order to attain to the ONE God, to elevate oneself successively to degrees of consciousness of the nine spiritual hierarchies and the Holy Trinity.

The Mental, Astral, and Physical correspond to the spirit, soul, and body. In the Letter on Judgment, Tomberg relates them to the Trinity. The undivided self, then, corresponds to the Unity of God.

Image and Likeness

The idea of man being the “image and likeness” of God is a recurrent theme throughout Meditations on the Tarot. Although people today often like to repeat that we are all born in the “image and likeness” of God, that is not at all the Traditional teaching: rather, because of the Fall, we have lost the full likeness and it is the task of the Hermetist to restore it. Tomberg explains:

The ideal of alchemical transformation of Hermetism offers to human beings the way to the realisation of true human nature, which is the image and likeness of God. Hermetism is the re-humanisation of all elements of human nature; it is their return to their true essence. Just as all base metal can be transformed into silver and into gold, so are all the forces of human nature susceptible to transformation into “silver” or “gold”, i.e. into what they are when they share in the image and likeness of God.

If we are already in the “image and likeness of God”, then our level of being as such right now is perfect: i.e., there is no need for transformation, redemption, or regeneration.

The image of God, according to St. Bernard, is our “essential” being. In that case it must be our intellectual soul, which distinguishes humans from animals. It is unsullied, it has no negative part, it is free, it is the source of the “spark of God”, and so is perfect. However, we rarely live at that level of awareness. It is as though we own a penthouse suite, yet choose to live in the basement.

The likeness, on the other hand, is our soul life which reflects the image. This is—because of the various perturbations—what must be purified.

Emotions

As was mentioned last time, personal emotions need to be silenced to make the soul capable of “receiving from above the revelation of the word, the life and the light.”

Now, the emotional center of our being, or the “astral” plane, has its own way of knowing. This is called the “cognitive power of the emotions”. This manner of knowing is quite different from that of the thinking center or mental plane. This knowing is episteme, the knowledge of the heart, beyond the dianoia of mental knowing. There is a higher emotional component concomitant with its knowing.

Our age is dominated by thinking, arguing, and so on. This dualistic thinking distorts the emotional center. Tomberg writes this about the relationship between the will and thinking:

Thus, it is not thought as such which allows the desire for personal greatness or the tendency towards megalomania, but rather the will which makes use of the head and which can take hold of thought and reduce it to the role of its instrument.

organic humility, replacing the current of the will-to-greatness is not found in the head, but rather in the heart, i.e. it reaches the heart, penetrating from the right-hand side. Because it is there that the will-to-greatness has its origin and it is there from whence it takes hold of the head and makes it its instrument. This is why many thinkers and scientists want to think “without the heart” in order to be objective, which is an illusion, because one can in no way think without the heart, the heart being the activating principle of thought; what one can do is to think with a humble and warm heart instead of with a pretentious and cold heart.

When functioning well, the heart and the head cooperate. In the example of megalomania, on the other hand, we see that the will can take hold of the head, making it the servant of a disordered emotion. Common knowledge warns us about making decisions when in a negative emotional state, but that is often ignored. Moreover, it is even celebrated, since an opinion stated with strong negative emotions is falsely given a higher value.

The other distortion is when the head tries to think without the heart under the guise of objectivity. This leaves our emotional range limited and underdeveloped.

Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing

The inner life of the soul, in our present condition, does not present a unity. Rather, our desires, aspirations, passions, and so on, are in conflict with each other. First one dominates, then another, as though there were multiple separate “I’s” inhabiting, and even fighting for control over, the soul. Tomberg calls these “lost sheep” alluding to the Gospel story. He explains:

The soul’s faults and vices are not, fundamentally, monsters but rather, lost sheep. … As it is the same with all the soul’s faults and vices, we all have the mission of finding and bringing back to the flock (i.e. to the soul’s choral harmony) the lost sheep in ourselves. We are missionaries in the subjective domain of our own soul, charged with the task of the conversion of our desires, ambitions, etc. We have to persuade them that they are seeking the realisation of their dreams in a false way by showing them the true way. It is not a matter of commandment, but rather of the alchemy of the cross, i.e. making present an alternative way for our desires, ambitions, passions, etc. It is a matter, moreover, of the alchemical “marriage of opposites”.

Our alchemical task, then, is the transmutation of these multiple selves into a single I.