Freedom and Power

Tomberg sums up the Emperor’s four renunciations as shown in this chart.

Renunciation Replaced with Letter
Personal intellectual initiative Divine initiative Yod
Action Revealing action He
Movement Magical movement from above Vau
Personal Mission Anonymity He

In a sense, we have given up our personal mission by plunging into the currents of the Hermetic tradition, we have abandoned a personal mission. When caught up in a current, it is not so easy to extricate oneself. Of course, that depends on the individual. For some, following a spiritual path may be more like a hobby or a distraction; for others, it is all-consuming and becomes the center of their lives. By adhering to a spiritual tradition, we also sacrifice our personal opinions.

This self-emptying is not always so comfortable. God’s power is active in the world to the extent that his authority is freely recognized and accepted. On the face of it, that seems to put the responsibility on us. And the challenge in a godless age can make us feel isolated. In the West, our political systems are officially godless, science proceeds as though there is no God, and logic itself proves nothing. Hence, the main sources of terrestrial authority are either indifferent to, or actively opposed to, God’s authority, unless by serendipity or through custom.

The bottom line is that there can be no compulsion to faith. Torture, scientific discoveries, and logical arguments are inconclusive. Even miracles, which give strong faith to some, are easily dismissed as wishful thinking by others. If believers always lived on the house on the hill, had perfect families, never got sick, and were perpetually happy, then there would be no need for faith; anyone could see the fruits. But in this world, things are mixed, and God’s will is not always done on earth. So we pray, or we ignore; those are our choices.

Two Theories of Power

This radical uncertainty is difficult for most people. Instead, they believe that truth and power coincide. This is the philosophy of pragmatism: whatever works is true. Haven’t you heard that a thousand times? “Whatever works for you…”

But Tomberg is more concerned with two possible distortions of spirituality based on the idea that truth is power. One concerns magicians who strive for personal power; their hubris eventually does them in. The second includes those who would attribute everything to God: reprobation and the calamities that beset the world.

This leads Tomberg to a radical view of freedom. He claims the mankind is solely responsible for its history. But this is just the lesson of the prodigal son. The father allows his son to make his mistakes, but accepts him back nevertheless. Pace some systems like theosophy: we are not in evolution, life is not a “school” in which we need to learn and “evolve”. Rather the truth has already been fully revealed to us, Christ has died on the Christ. We are free to choose it or not.


Because of this, Tomberg points out that the real existence of man, as well as the angelic hierarchy, is freedom. He makes the metaphysical distinction between noumenal and phenomenal freedom. That latter is what most people mean by freedom.

The phenomenal world is the world of experience; not just sensory experience, but also our feelings, emotions, dreams, thoughts, etc. – what the Vedantists call jagat. So phenomenal freedom means that there is nothing in the world to interfere with me. I can do what I want, think what I want, etc., with few external constraints. In this realm, a man can choose, but he is not necessarily free.

Noumenal freedom transcends the world, including our emotions and thoughts. It cannot be detected in the world. That is, a scientist cannot prove or disprove free will in a person. That is why many serious thinkers can deny free will. The only way to “know” it is through gnosis; i.e., a direct intuition that I am free. This is not just that I can choose pistachio ice cream over chocolate, but rather that I can choose my thoughts and my emotions. But this usually requires training to reach that point.

The gift of freedom is the gift of existence. It means I am the center of my being, I am independent, whereas the existence of other things in the world depends on something else. That makes man immortal, since he has his own independent existence.

Freedom is the third force in the world, between God’s Providential Will and the deterministic destiny of the world. Without freedom, the world would run its course mechanically, blindly, ignorant of God’s Will. It is only through man’s free will that God’s Will and be known and be done in the world.

To identify God with the mechanical world process would make of him a tyrant. To deny God’s Will would be blasphemy. Today, we hear many theologians talk of a weak God, an impotent God, who is powerless in the world. The opposite includes those theologians who believe that God predestines some to Hell, sends wars and earthquakes, and even kills children.

Tomberg reveals the esoteric meaning of the inscription over the cross of Calvary: “Jesus of Nazarith, King of the Jews”. To those with the eyes of faith, Jesus is King; to the unbelievers of the world, he is crucified and irrelevant.

Achieving Gnosis in Practice

Everyone reading Gornahoor is aware of Guenon’s belief that the West lost its Tradition with the dispersion of the Templars. On the other hand, we need to counterbalance that with Tomberg’s claim:

All through the Middle Ages right on down to the present, an unbroken stream of occult tradition has flowed in the West. This occult tradition has branched out and taken many directions yet all show a certain relation to each other. One branch of this tradition, the one pre-eminently characteristic of Western occult tradition, is the occult stream which usually calls itself Templar.

We alluded to this continuing tradition in The Russian Idea. What is occult is by definition hidden, and least it is hidden to those who do not know how to see it. There are two reasons:

  1. It is couched in sometimes obscure symbolism
  2. It requires a corresponding practice to properly understand the symbols

Tomberg explains:

The content of this Templar tradition passed down through time contains both a theory and a practice; but before one comes to the stage of practice, it is necessary to have acquired at least part of the theory. Now access to the theory is not an easy matter, for it is not brought forth openly as a system of thought, but is hidden in a comprehensive symbolic system.

Now the two exemplars that we intend to deal with have indeed made use of “comprehensive symbolic systems”. In the case of Tomberg, there is the Tarot, and Mouravieff has developed, or better, brought to light, a different class of symbols. We have been commenting on Tomberg’s Meditations in a mailing list. Mouravieff’s system, on the other hand, requires knowledge of the exercises corresponding to the text and symbols.

We have decided to inaugurate an online seminar on Boris Mouravieff’s Gnosis. There is no set termination for this, and it may possibly go on for years. This will not be a series of lectures, but rather an organized plan of practical exercises without which the written material is not fully comprehensible. Due to the personal nature of these seminars, membership will have to be limited and restricted.

The goal is for the participants to realize in themselves what has been discussed here in theory. Transcendence will become a real experience. The clearing or emptiness that lies above the turmoil of thoughts, emotions, and sense experiences will be recognized. The maxim that the “subtle rules the dense” will become a reality, not a wish or a hope. A strong and secure I will evolve so that the vagaries of the material conditions of life will have less and less impact on the personal sense of well-being.

Participants may leave at any time. Anyone interested should email me at expressing that interest. I can also make myself available for any questions you may have about this.

There will be no degrees or grades associated with this seminar. Nor will there be an initiation, because in our era, there is now only one initiator.

The Source of Authority

With the fourth Arcanum of the Emperor, we have reached a critical stage. Since the hermetic path is also known as the Royal Way, understanding the quality of royalty is the key to understanding Hermetism. What we see here will challenge all our normal and accepted standards of authority. We all bristle under authority and that theodrama began in Eden. The urge for rebellion and revolution lies within each one of us.

First of all, a person has authority only if:

  • He has depth
  • He has being
  • He knows something
  • He can do something

Thus he gains authority as soon as he reunites in himself the depth of mysticism, the direct wisdom of gnosis, and the productive power of magic.

Note that his authority arises out of his own being. Modern ideas of democratic elections, legal appointments, hereditary monarchy, etc. cannot reach legitimate authority.

The Exercise of Authority

The Arcanum of the Emperor teaches us that the Emperor renounces compulsion and violence. This is counter-intuitive since the common belief is that the compulsion and violence are privileges of the government. Theologically, it means that God does not act through compulsion and violence (although there are several exceptions in Scripture). This frustrates us since a common plaint following some disaster or tragedy is, “Why did God allow this to happen?”

The only answer can be “freedom”. In the mineral kingdom, there is no freedom and, barring some miracle, physical events happen through inexorable law. The plant, and then the animal, kingdoms offer increasing levels of freedom. With man, freedom is absolute, at least at the level of the rational or intellectual soul which is the distinctive feature of man. Plants and animals still follow certain laws. But man has the choice of following God’s law, or not.

It is no easy task to follow God’s law, as the human spirit chafes at any such restrictions. That is why we need to follow the Royal way of the Emperor. His crown is a crown of thorns, as its restrains thoughts and arbitrary imaginations. In other words, the personality is directed toward the cosmic law and thoughts irrelevant to that are eliminated.


While Nature abhors a vacuum, Spirit abhors fullness. This gives us a clue to our own spiritual progress. If our mind is filled with random opinions, unguarded images, and a constant flow of idle chatter, then we are still at the level of Nature. At that level, we are constantly seeking distractions to fill up the void in our consciousness. We crave novelty, the next great movie, new restaurant, or insidious ideology. This is what we, at that level, consider to be freedom and it is difficult, or even impossible, for any deeper idea to penetrate that type of consciousness.

On the other hand, the Spirit is truly free only when it has discarded all personal opinions, projects and initiatives. This provides the space for divine revelation to manifest; such a Spirit is then open to the kingdom of heaven. Such a Spirit does not “choose” in the conventional sense; rather he lives by intuition, trusting in divine guidance to be always active in his life.