The Tableau of God

Translated from Letter to a Friend, or Political, philosophical, and religious considerations on the French Revolution by Louis Claude de Saint-Martin. (French title: Lettre à un ami ou Considérations politiques, philosophiques et religieuses sur la Révolution française

In a wide ranging discussion of the French Revolution written in the form of a letter to a friend, Louis Claude de Saint-Martin turns, in these passages to the question of demonstrating the existence of God. Moving beyond the philosophical arguments, Saint-Martin is intent on demonstrating the God who is active in the soul and in the world.

The atheist is unable to see that God is reflected in the human soul. In denying that, the atheist is veiling the very thing that brings attention to his existence, replacing it with the darkness of nothingness. Unlike the Gnostics or the Platonists, Saint-Martin does not see the material world as a prison, since it, too, passively reveals the creative power of God.

An important point he makes is that there must be some common essence between God and man as the basis any possible communication. Ultimately, this can only be recognized and cannot be demonstrated to everyone’s satisfaction. The translation follows.

[12] The true atheist, if there is one, and consequently the truly impious man, is the one who, turning his gaze on the human soul, is unaware of its grandeur and disputes its spiritual immortality, since it is only in the character and the immensity of the gifts and virtues, of which the soul of man is susceptible, that we can see reflected, as in a mirror, all the pure and sacred rays, of which the tableau of God must be composed: thus, to extinguish the human soul is to cover the Divinity with a lugubrious veil that this soul alone has the power to bring to attention in all worlds; it is to extinguish that eternal sun whence everything originates, and to immerse it, with the universality of things, in the mourning and the obscurity of nothingness.

[13] The only means that we would therefore have of proving the true God, the God ruling over free beings, finally the loving God and source of a joy that can be communicated to other beings, would be without doubt to demonstrate in his creature the existence of some base or some essence similar to his, and even to obtain and to feel this joy of which He is the principle; finally, it would be to demonstrate the spiritual and immortal existence of the human soul which, in its radical and integral nature, is fully desire and fully love, finding itself to be then the active witness of the holy and loving God, as physical nature is the passive witness of the powerful and creator God, we would have placed thereby all the foundations of the building, and it would only be a question of working on its construction: for it is very much without doubt that the immortal existence of the human soul has been recognized, as several good spirits have done on earth; but to recognize a thing, is not always to demonstrate it.

Enriching the Tradition

What follows is my translation of the preface from the French edition of Meditations on the Tarot, which differs in subtle ways from the authorized English translation. Since the letters were written in French for a definite reason, it is not unimportant to refer to that text. Understanding this preface will make clear the aim and method of the meditations and we should take what Tomberg says here with great seriousness.

First of all, the reader will come to know what Christian Hermetism really is, but only after meditating, not just reading, the letters. The meditations also reveal much about the author; hence, one should be way about relying on rumours, speculations, or third party reports that would contradict or add to anything in the letters themselves.

So the letters constitute a work about Christian Hermetism and the intent is to draw others into that stream, thereby enriching the Tradition. Note that, although the author lived in England, he chose the French current of Hermetism over the British. The British version of Hermetism, transmitted particularly through the Golden Dawn order and its many offshoots, is pagan, whereas the French version is Christian.

Finally, Christian Hermetism is not a set of static dogmas, but a living current of Tradition that depends on like-minded spirits for its continuation. The manner in which Tomberg proposes to “enrich” that Tradition is explained in the letters, but it has to do with reuniting the Church of Peter with the Church of John.


These meditations on the major arcana of the Tarot take the form of letters addressed to the unknown friend. This unknown friend is everyone who will read them, and after meditated on them, he will know with certainty what Christian Hermetism is. He will see that through these letters the author says more about himself than he could have in any other way, and he will know him better, thanks to them, than from any other source.

These letters were written in French—which is not the mother tongue of the author—because it is in France, and in France alone, that a living literature on the tarot has continued since the 18th century. Moreover, there exists there as well a continuous tradition of Hermetism, which joins the spirit of free research with respect for the Tradition. These letters, throughout their contents, will thus be able to become an integral part of the Tradition, as well as enriching it.

In the capacity of support of and contribution to the Hermetic tradition, whose origin is lost in the night of time that has become mythical, the epoch of Hermes Trismegistus, these letters are the concrete expression of an ancient current of thought, effort, and revelation. Their goal is to make the Tradition come alive again in the 20th century, but also, and especially, to enable the reader, the unknown friend, to immerse himself in this current, perhaps in a definitive way. That is why the numerous citations of ancient and modern authors that you will find in these texts are due neither to literary considerations, nor to a concern for erudition. They intend only to evoke the masters of the Tradition, so that they may be present, with their aspirations and the light of their thought, in the current of meditation that these letters illustrate, these twenty two spiritual exercises that will enable you, dear unknown friend, to immerse yourself in the current of the living Tradition and to penetrate to the heart of the community of spirits who have served it and are serving it. The citations are there only to point out this community. For the links of the chain of the Tradition are not made of thoughts and efforts alone, but, above all, of living beings who are at the origin of these thoughts or efforts. The essence of the Tradition is not a doctrine, but a community of spirits that endures from age to age.

From beyond the grave, your friend greets you, dear unknown friend.

The Future of Prophecy

Ezekiels Vision
Among the biblical books containing magical formulas, Valentin Tomberg lists the Book of Ezekiel. Moreover, a Hermetist who made Ezekiel’s vision the object of spiritual exercises, would likely become a “profound Cabbalist”. If that is true, then we can regard Pope St Gregory the Great as perhaps the first Cabbalist in the Church. Gregory’s meditations on Ezekiel run to nearly 500 pages in the English translation, yet he only manages to cover about 5 chapters or so.

Under the inspiration of Almighty God, Gregory begins by first explaining the three tenses of prophecy: future, present, past, although we typically consider prophecy applying to the future only. He gives some examples of each:

  • Future: “Behold, a Virgin shall conceive and bear a Son.” (Matthew 1:23)
  • Present: “The secrets of his heart are made manifest.” (1 Corinthians 14:25)
  • Past: “In the beginning, God created Heaven and earth.” (Genesis 1:1)

Gregory explains that prophecy is not a matter of prediction, but rather of revelation. That is why there can be a prophecy of the past and the present; prophecy uncovers hidden truths, truths concealed by time or by present circumstances. He writes: “Prophecy is present when something is concealed, not by the spirit, but by the absent Word, which however is laid bare by the Spirit.”

So there is no prophecy when the Word is absent, until laid bare by the Spirit. Fundamental to Tomberg’s work, is the prophecy in Matthew, since the Word becomes present through the action of the Spirit on the Virgin. As this played out historically, it likewise plays out in consciousness.

Schopenhauer, in the introduction to the World as Will and Idea, criticized the scientist for leaving himself out of his theory. Where is the scientist during the “Big Bang”, the formation of the stars, the beginning of life, the birth of thought? The scientist claims to be taking God’s view, sub specie aeternitatis, the prophet of the past, yet his theory does not even account for himself.

We can ask the analogous question not only about the external world of the scientist, but also of the internal world of the Hermetist. Where is the Hermetist himself in his theories? In Hermetism, the goal of the alchemical marriage is the proposed an exercise to try to remember this true Self, or the “I”, at the first moment one has become aware of it. Some have discovered it at an early age, others later, and many simply don’t understand the question. Yet even if you are able to remember, where was the Self before that first moment? For that, a prophecy of the past is necessary.

We were known by God before our births as ideas in the Divine Mind. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart” (Jer 1:4,5) We were predestined and foreordained and that is what we must remember through the prophecy of the Spirit. We find ourselves thrown into a world, into a family, among a given people, with certain tasks that are presented to us, seemingly against our will. But the rememberer, the thinker, the feeler, the willer turn out to be the same self. Until we can remember, we will always be as strangers and foreigners in the world.

We can be passive and wait, or we can active in the process of remembering the Self. Jung explains the difference in this way:

The difference between the natural individuation process, which runs its course unconsciously, and the one which is consciously realized, is tremendous. In the first case consciousness nowhere intervenes; the end remains as dark as the beginning. In the second case so much darkness comes to light that the personality is permeated with light, and consciousness necessarily gains in scope and insight. The encounter between conscious and unconscious has to ensure that the light which shines in the darkness is not only comprehended by the darkness, but comprehends it.

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