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.

Meeting Notes for Advent Meditation 2

The task for this week is to work on the purity of thought.

Whenever we catch ourselves harboring negative or hateful thoughts about others, envious thoughts, inappropriate erotic thoughts, inter alia, even negative thoughts, perhaps especially, about ourselves, we are to do the concentration exercise.

Bring attention to your selected body area and while you maintain that awareness, observe those thoughts while striving – without effort – and see what happens.

We need to be gatekeeper’s of our thoughts, like an esoteric version of Maxwell’s Demon.

Most of you did not choose to speak last night, so I have to assume that you found it difficult to remember to do the concentration exercise. Nevertheless, the effort is worthwhile and it is important to notice the difference from our “normal” waking state.

There is a small tension in the birth of Christ in the soul. On the one hand, we are to judge our thoughts objectively and impartially, like Christ the Judge. We shouldn’t want to be burdened by negativity.

On the other hand, Christ the Redeemer, will forgive (under the appropriate circumstances) these negative thoughts. There is the tendency in the modern world, under the influence of Freud and the “masters of suspicion” to consider negativity as representing “what we really are” or “our true feelings”. Quite the contrary … they are usually temptations from lower forces, not what we are meant to be.

Fortuitously, I just found out about this talk that may be of interest, at least the first half of it: The Psychological & Spiritual Effects of Being Negative

Advent Meditation: Purity of Thought

The distinguishing mark of the Hermetic path is that it seeks to make dogmas and teachings “real” in consciousness. As Tomberg insists, this does not make it “better” than the exoteric teaching, but that it is a path that some are called to follow.

In this spirit, we can meditate on what Christmas means.

  • The birth in the past of Christ the Redeemer.
  • The expectation of Christ the Judge at the end of time.
  • The birth of Christ in the soul eternally, now.

Redemption is the reversal of the effects of the Fall. The Hermetic Tradition calls this process “regeneration” as we seek to make that real in consciousness. The undoing of the Fall requires the second birth of Christ/Logos in the soul. That is, the soul, as the passive element, reflects the activity of the Spirit. Disturbances in the soul — passions, images, desires, thoughts — will distort the spirit, just as disturbances on a pond distort its reflection of the surrounding forest.

It is this personal, subjective element that is at the root of such disturbances. Thus, the solution is to become more objective about oneself. That is to take the standpoint of Christ the Judge. Justice is possible only when the Judge is totally objective, not influenced by ignorance, opinion, personal preferences, or subjective passions. Valentin Tomberg writes in this regard:

The vow of obedience is the practice of silencing personal desires, emotions and imagination in the face of reason and conscience; it is the primacy of the ideal as opposed to the apparent, the nation as opposed to the personal, humanity as opposed to the nation, and God as opposed to humanity. It is the life of cosmic and human hierarchical ordering; it is the meaning and justification of the fact that there are Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones; Dominions, Virtues, Powers; Principalities, Archangels, Angels; Priests, Knights and Commoners. Obedience is order: it is international law; it is the state; it is the Church; it is universal peace. True obedience is the very opposite of tyranny and slavery, since its root is the love which issues from faith and confidence. That which is above serves that which is below and that which is below obeys that which is above. Obedience is the practical conclusion to that which one recognises as the existence of something higher than oneself. Whosoever recognises God, obeys.

Yet that does not address the question of “how” to obey. We cannot obey as long as the subjective element has its grip on us; these are impure elements that disturb the soul. Tomberg discusses the idea of purity in the context of the five wounds and three vows. We can summarize these in two stages—purity of thought and purity of will. These correspond to the head and the heart respectively.

Purity of thought is the “crown of thorns”. The following passages explain that symbol:

Thus every crown is essentially a crown of thorns. Not only is it heavy, but also it calls for a painful restraint with regard to the thought and free or arbitrary imagination of the personality.

Here true thought receives confirmation and subsequent illumination; false or irrelevant thought is riveted and reduced to impotence. The crown of the Emperor signifies the renunciation of freedom of intellectual movement, just as his arms and legs signify his renunciation of freedom of action and movement. He is deprived of the three so-called “natural” liberties of the human being — those of opinion, word, and movement.

The “crown of thorns” is borne, in principle, by every person capable of objective thought — the “crown of thorns” being given to the human being since the beginning of human history.

The lack of concentration allows arbitrary, free, or irrelevant thoughts and images to flourish in our consciousness. We need to renounce them so they can be replaced by true thoughts; the art of concentration will help in that regard.

Nicholas Cabasilas writes this in his commentary on the beatitude of “purity of heart”.

To cleanse one’s heart and to exercise one’s soul for sanctification—what striving or effort or exertion would effect this more than these thoughts and meditations? Yet, if one examines this carefully, one would not call it the effect of meditation on Christ, but rather of the meditation itself.

To be occupied with the noblest of thoughts means to abandon evil thoughts; but this is to be pure in heart. Our life and our birth are twofold, both spiritual and fleshly. By its desires, the spirit fights against the body and the body resists the spirit. Since it is impossible for contraries to be at peace and to join together, it is quite evident that one or other of the desires will by means of memory, gain control over the thoughts and cast the other out. The memory of the life and birth which are according to the flesh and concentration on such matters produce the most depraved desires and the uncleanness to which it leads. So likewise, when the soul by constant remembrance holds fast the birth of the baptismal washing, the divine Food which is appropriate to this birth, and the other things which belong to the new life, it is likely to lead desires from the earth to heaven itself.

We can extract these main points:

  • There is our fleshly birth in the body and a second spiritual birth.
  • There is an inner spiritual battle between lower (personal, subjective) thoughts and higher (spiritual, objective) thoughts
  • “Constant remembrance” is necessary. In our terms, this is constant awareness, “concentration without effort”

Hermetically, this movement from fleshly to spiritual thoughts is a mystical evolution. This is the regeneration of the inner life from the Instincts to fully human life of the Intellect and Intuition.

For more on this, you could start with Salvation and Evolution.

As for the idea of regeneration, it is necessary to understand what the Fall entailed. Given Tomberg’s high opinion of Jacob Boehme, this summary of Boehme’s teaching may be helpful, especially the sections on the Fall of Lucifer and Adam’s Fall: Christian Gnosis: Jacob Boehme