Doubt and Certainty

Certainty is vanquished doubt, it is faith regained.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Heat and Fire: Notes for 25 Aug 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meeting Notes for 19 Aug 2014

The task this week is to deliberately place yourself in a situation that you know will be uncomfortable (but NOT dangerous) for you in some way. You can then use that deliberately created internal friction as a trigger for self-awareness. (In lieu of that, you can continue with any previous task.

The point that is being emphasized is that initiation is at this stage concerned with the development of a strong and healthy emotional center, rather than the accumulations of doctrines. For examples, you can refer to this description of initiations as the conquering of the four elements … not that I am suggesting these particular exercises at this time.

Qualifications for Initiation

The reading was from Section (5) of Chapter VI of Book One of Gnosis by Boris Mouravieff. Here we are introduced to two new centers: the higher intellectual center and the higher emotional center. As transcendent, they work perfectly and, unlike the lower centers, are unaffected by the turmoil of everyday life. However, we remain oblivious to their influences for the most part. By regulating and balancing the lower centers, a permanent tie with the higher centers can be established.

Hence, that is the ultimate goal of the various exercises. The exterior man is stuck in the lower centers and believes that reason is the only tool and hence falls into the errors of positivism, materialism, scientism, etc. He fails to see that a change in the level of being is also required. As we have seen, this is a major theme also in Valentin Tomberg, Hermann Keyserling, and Julius Evola.

The higher emotional center issues from the spark of the Son and the higher intellectual center from the spark of the Holy Spirit. The complements Valentin Tomberg’s Meditations on the Tarot. As the soul life becomes balanced and quiet, then it becomes possible for the Holy Spirit to appear and the second birth of initiation.

Mouravieff introduces a new level of pure consciousness above the consciousness of the real I. This is the level of the universal I. Readers can relate this to other Traditions.

Gabriel Derjavine was a Russian poet renowned for his pithy sayings.

I ordered a collection of Mouravieff’s essays in French. If I find anything of interest, I will make it available.

For more information, please see Achieving Gnosis in Practice.