The Hermetist

The Hermetist is a person who embodies all these roles:

  • Mystic
  • Gnostic
  • Magician
  • Philosopher

The last quality requires some clarification. Tomberg says the Hermetist must be both an idealist and a realist, i.e., he relies on facts and experience (realist) and on ideas and speculative thought (idealist). In the academic world, idealism and realism are normally opposed to each other.

Tomberg makes another remarkable claim:

 Hermetic philosophy is not a philosophy among other philosophies.

In other words, it does not fit into the typical histories of philosophy. This means, also, that is has no interest in debating its doctrines with adherents of other philosophical systems. Obviously, this is because Hermetic philosophy is revealed, and its truth derives from that revelation, not from logical hair splitting.

This is a tough claim for most people of modern sensibilities. Readers of these letters are all too ready to add to, subtract from, modify, and even reject, the Hermetic doctrines revealed in these letters. The regard this claim as too dogmatic. But what is the point? Are you so attached to your personal opinions that you prefer them to what is revealed to you from Heaven?

Hermetic philosophy differs from academic philosophy because it deals with arcana and their symbolic expression, rather than with precisely defined (univocal) concepts and their logical consequences. Recall what was said about arcana in the first letter; that will help. An Arcanum is multivocal, and it loses something when crystalized into a determinate statement.

Occult Science

Nevertheless, the multivocal richness of the arcana can be reduced to univocal concepts in the case of the so-called occult or esoteric sciences. Tomberg lists the Kaballah, alchemy, magic, and astrology as three such sciences. These sciences then will have “secrets”. It is all important to recognize the precise relationship between the two: the sciences derive from Hermetic philosophy and not the other way around.

The Aim of Hermetic Philosophy

The teachings then of Hermetic philosophy are not like those found in a catechism; rather it consists of spiritual exercises. Readers should be alert to all these exercises mentioned in the Letters. The Arcana themselves are such exercises. The aims of these exercises is this, and this should not be glossed over, but rather treated with the utmost seriousness:

The aim of spiritual exercises is to awaken from sleep ever deeper layers of consciousness.

In other words, we spend our days in a state of “sleep”. Spiritual exercises properly understood will awaken us. Besides the Tarot, Tomberg recommends several other sources of spiritual exercises, that is, texts and images to meditate on. Among these are:

  • The Apocalypse
  • The Gospels
  • Old Testament books such as Genesis and Ezekiel

To properly do these spiritual exercises, it is necessary to reach the state of consciousness capable of receiving revelations. The elements of this state are worth repeating, since nothing significant can be achieved without making the efforts to reach this state:

  • Concentration without effort
  • Inner silence
  • The inspired activity of imagination and thought
  • Passive contemplation of that creative activity

There are no shortcuts. Having achieved concentration without effort and inner silence, one then immerses himself vividly in the imagery of the spiritual exercises. This type of meditative reading of biblical texts is different from an exoteric reading.

For those who are not Christian, perhaps the Bhagavad Gita can be read in the same way. After all, Tomberg says that the pagan teachings will be resuscitated, but that will wait until Letter VII.

The Void and the Pleroma

Tomberg emphasizes that freedom is the key to understanding the role of God in history. Without this key, the alternatives are

  1. God controls every detail of history through compulsion
  2. God is powerless in history

These alternatives fail to take the fact of freedom into account.

The Void

Tomberg adapts the concept of tsimtsum, the withdrawal of God, from the Cabbala to explain creation. God, as Infinite, contains all possibilities as divine ideas and cannot be determined by anything external to him. The Void as an Idea can only exist potentially and not in actuality. As such, the Void is a “mystical space without his presence”. This space is where the objectivization of God takes place, that is, it is a self-limitation since no other being can limit him. Thus there are two moments in creation. The meonic element (the void) gives rise to the pleromic elements (the plenitude), and they are indissolubly bound to one another.

Note that these two moments follow closely what Vladimir Solovyov wrote in Divine Humanity. Solovyov identifies a third moment when Unity is restored, yet without destroying the pleroma.

This is the realm of freedom. The mineral, vegetable, and animal kingdom are ruled by nature’s laws. However, the human and angelic kingdoms are free. While plants and animals follow the cosmic law out of necessity, human beings are free to follow the cosmic law or not.

The Post of the Emperor

So the divine order (i.e., the Logos), may or may not be manifest, since humans are free to follow that order or not. The divine order includes the hierarchical principle. Therefore, the government of the city should likewise follow the hierarchical divine order. The absence of the Emperor in Christendom is contrary to the divine order. The post of the Emperor in our time is now hidden and can only be revealed by God.

Without the Emperor, the alternative to hierarchy is egalitarianism. That is why a liberation theologian like Leonardo Boff can reject the whole idea of the celestial hierarchy as described by St Dionysius the Areopagite. That can only be because of the lack of authority which is the “completely manifested divine name.”


It is interesting that Tomberg identifies the post of the emperor with a state of consciousness. This state is the complete synthesis of mysticism, gnosis, and sacred magic. This state he calls initiation. He goes further and identifies this state of consciousness as that in which “eternity and the present moment are one.” Specifically, it is the simultaneous vision of the temporal and the eternal, of that which is below and that which is above.

So the Emperor is not simply a political figure (temporal), but represents the authority of the initiate. Hence, we can regard these meditations as the preparation for initiation, for which we need to achieve that synthesis in consciousness. In seeking the Truth, we are given these criteria for something to be absolutely true:

  • It is of divine origin
  • It bears fruit in conformity with its origin
  • It is in accordance with the categorical needs of thought and experience