Solar and Lunar Initiation

Christian initiation is the conscious experience of the heart of the world and the solar nature of man. ~ Valentin Tomberg

If Hermetism has provided a safeguard for nearly twenty centuries, it must be said that circumstances have now changed. At the current point in history, as at the time of the Coming of Christ, the veil has been partially raised. Therefore, for those who want to advance beyond book knowledge, which never goes beyond the domain of information; for those who intensely seek the true sense of life, who want to understand the significance of the mission of the Christian in the New Era, the possibility will exist of initiation into this divine Wisdom, mysterious and hidden. ~ Boris Mouravieff, Gnosis I

Classic initiation formula: try to grasp that which, once learned, you will know all. ~ Boris Mouravieff, Gnosis II

In his Meditation on the Lovers, Tomberg describes the experience of Initiation. Along the way, he teaches us how to understand symbolic texts. Commenting on the story of creation in Genesis, he points out that the true of that story lies not in its allegedly historical details—viz., the Garden, Tree, Serpence, etc.—but in our inner experience. By penetrating into the depths of the soul, one can recover a sense of the Primordial state and how it was lost. To make clear, this is not the same as some pseudo-intellectual description of symbols, but rather of conscious efforts to recreate that story in consciousness.

This, he says is knowledge of the “beginning”, initium, which knowledge is called initiation. As Mouravieff also points out, initiation now takes place on a spiritual plane, not on the material. Tomberg concurs, when he writes, “God-man is the Initiator and there is no other.”

This descent into the depths of the human being is called Hermetic Initiation by Tomberg. Its method is enstasy, which is the aim of the jnani in the Vedantic systems. Following this path, the Initiate descends into the depths of his soul, until he awakens to the primordial layer of his soul as the “image and likeness of God”. This is the alchemical creation of the true I or Will, the experience of the Microcosm.

The second type of initiation involves ecstasy, or the going outside oneself, leaving the Self behind to be absorbed in God or Heaven. This is what is commonly known as mystical experience. The Initiate reaches the beginning in terms of the Macrocosm. There is no need to discuss this at this point, since the literature is so vast.

However, it is the first type of initiation that is less known or even rejected when it is made known. However, in our time, when man has no experience of the Macrocosm nor even understands who he is, it is the necessary path. In the past, the development of the Self has been referred to as the Left Hand Path, in contrast to those paths that seek to annihilate the Self. Mouravieff goes so far as to point out the dangers of seeking ecstasy for its own sake. He points out that this often involves the use of drugs, or entheogens. Quite clearly, if the aim is consciousness of the Self and development of the Will, any drug induced stupor leads in the totally opposite direction.

For Mouravieff, then, the path of the Initiate in the Era of the Holy Spirit is the development of the I. Nevertheless, this does not preclude the experience of the Macrocosm as found in his elaborate cosmology, but rather that it must be done so consciously.

Tomberg insists the Christian esotericism unites the two paths. So, like the left hand paths, he proclaims the knowledge of the Self. Yet unlike those unbalanced deviations that see no more than material reality, Tomberg makes clear that the true Initiate must also be initiated in the right hand path. The following chart summarizes Tomberg’s description of the two methods.

Solar Initiation Lunar Initiation
Left Hand Path Right Hand Path
Disciples of day Disciples of night
Hermetic initiation Pythagorean initiation
Conscious experience of the Initial microcosmic state Conscious experience of the initial macrocosmic state
Conscious descent into the depth of the human being Conscious ascent into the Empyrean
Enstasy Ecstasy
Experience at the depths at the foundation within oneself Rapture, or going out of oneself
one becomes more and more profound until one awakens within oneself to the rimordial layer (the image and likeness of God( The macrocosmic layers (spheres or heavens or Empyrean) reveal themselves to consciousness
The sense of spiritual touch The sense of spiritual hearing
Like a chemical experiment undergone on the psychic and spiritual plane (alchemical and substantial) Musical (music of the spheres) & mathematical
Beginning is the microcosmic layer of Eden Beginning is the macrocosmic sphere of Heaven
Sacred Heart (the intellectual center of man) Cosmic Word (the Logos)

The Vow of Poverty

Valentin Tomberg describes the purpose of the practice of poverty:

The practice of poverty pins down the tendencies of the thief in the human being whose male side tends to seize and female side to keep indefinitely instead of waiting for the free gift or merited fruits of one’s labour.

Obviously, he does not mean material poverty in itself, since a material cause cannot effect a spiritual change. It is interesting to note how this corresponds to the Bhagavad Gita, where we read Krishna’s advice to Arjuna:

Be free from the pairs of opposites. Be always established in sattva. Do not try to acquire what you lack or preserve what you have. Be established in the Self. (2:15)

Here he is referring to the three gunas, or fundamental forces. Rajas is the active (male) principle that seeks to acquire, while the tamas is the inertial (female) principle that seeks to horde. Sattva, serenity and harmony, is the equilibrium between rajas and tamas. Tomberg describes the practice of spiritual poverty in these words:

The vow of poverty is the practice of inner emptiness that is established as a consequence of the silence of personal desires, emotions and imagination so that the soul may be capable of receiving the revelation of the Word, the life and the light from above. Poverty is the active perpetual vigil and waiting in the face of eternal sources of creativity; it is the soul ready for what is new and unexpected, it is the aptitude to learn always and
everywhere, it is the condition sine qua non of all illumination, all revelation and all initiation.

In the light of this, our understanding of the inclinations to seize and horde is deepened. Poverty of spirit must first follow obedience. Obedience is the silencing of personal desires, emotions, and imagination, by making them subject to the dictates of reason, conscience, and legitimate authority. We may also want to add here the silencing of personal opinion.

Without this silencing, illumination and revelation are impossible; we cannot hear the new and unexpected, since all we hear are our old and persistent expectations. The desire to seize leads us to claim an understanding that is not ours. When our mind is emptied, we may receive the free gift of the Spirit which is the revelation of the Word. Otherwise, we are hearing what we want to hear, that which satisfies a secret desire, makes us “feel” good or important, enflames our imagination with fantasies of power or success. There is a simple touchstone we can use to discern the spirits.

  1. Is what we hear reasonable?
  2. Is what we hear good and consistent with the moral law, or does it perturb our conscience?
  3. Is it consistent with spiritual and other legitimate authority?

The second obstacle is the desire to horde. The female desire to horde means that we hang on to our personal opinions and theories. This takes many forms and it is quite common in milieus of this type. In this case, we cannot hear anything new, since everything is filtered through our prior expectations. We may belong to some political, religious, or intellectual movement that colours all our perceptions. This is subjectivity, or “arbitrary, personal activity”, as Tomberg puts it. This subjectivity is an obstacle to the realization of the Holy Spirit. Its opposite is objectivity, as explained below:

The prerogative of the human state is objectivity; the essential content of which is the Absolute. There is no knowledge without objectivity of the intelligence; there is no freedom without objectivity of the will; and there is no nobility without objectivity of the soul . . . Esoterism seeks to realize pure and direct objectvity; this is its raison d’etre. ~ Frithjof Schuon, Esoterism As Principle and As Way

Spiritual Friendship

Aristotle tells us there are three reasons for friendship: good character, utility, or pleasure, though only the first is not defective, so is the only ground for true friends. So to be one of the Unknown friends, we aspire for the same character and knowledge of the author of Meditations on the Tarot. To understand him, we also engage in the Moral Purification of the Will. A true friend is like another “self”, since they have the same character, share in common activities, and work toward the same goals. In the Introduction to the meditations, the author states his goal: to enrich the Hermetic tradition. Thus his true friends have the same goal and work towards that end.

A different kind of friendship is based on utility or pleasure. Thus two friends may cooperate as long as they are useful to each other or bring each other pleasure. However, such a friendship is shallow and usually ends abruptly when one party becomes useless to the other. There are many more such friend of the Meditations than there are true friends. They have their own agendas and their own goals. The Meditations may be useful to them to attract adherents, students, or paying customers. Sincere seekers of true friendship may the author of the Meditations will often be misled on the path, only to suffer disillusionment later on.

Aristotle tells us that one’s true friends will be few. There are not too many who will read a book such as the meditations. Fewer still will embrace it and its goals wholeheartedly. Few among them will actually do the meditations and develop a disinterested moral character. Among these few, it will be difficult for them to find and get to know each other. Nevertheless, these few friends will somehow recognize each other. True friends of the Meditations will help each other understand the text in depth.

I have translated the following passage from Arcana XX: Judgment, where the author explains this. He clearly expects his true Friends to carry on the work that he himself was carrying on from his own friends. In that spirit, this blog wishes carry on that work. Note especially his plea that NO organisation be established to carry on this work. So beware of any group that has goals that differ from the clearly stated goals of the Author. Be leary of anyone who wants to charge you for classes. Question anyone who claims to have inside or special knowledge apart from the text itself. The sure way to an understanding the Meditations is to do the meditations oneself.

Dear Unknown Friend, you who are reading these lines written in 1965 after some 50 years of effort and experience in the field of Hermetism, please do not regard them as a simple wish in support of the progress of Hermetic historicism, but as a legacy making you who read these lines the agent of such a task, provided you consent to it. Therefore, do what you judge to be good, but I implore you not to do just one thing: to found an organisation, an association, a society, or an order which would be encharged with it. For the Tradition lives, not thanks to organisations, but in spite of them. In order to preserve the life of a tradition, friendship pure and simple is necessary; what is not needed is to entrust it to the care of embalmers and mummifiers par excellence which organisations are, except for the one founded by Jesus Christ.

Antisocial Behaviour

Josephin Peladan

One of Tomberg’s guiding spirits in the French Hermetic Tradition was Josephin Peladan. The vision of the mass man, the unitiated man, is restricted to two dimensions. He absorbs his ideas and opinions from those around him and is subject to the vagaries of popular opinion. It can be said that he not so much lives his life but rather life lives through him. The Mage, or initiate, on the other hand, sees the third dimension of life, which is depth. Peladan ties Baptism and the grace of faith to this depth. Baptism that frees us from the hypnosis of Society. He writes, in How to Become a Mage:

Baptism [as an initiation rite] makes us children of God, but Society dooms us to evil through is laws and education. Faith enlightens us, but it is in perpetual conflict with Society. The initiate, in order to make the grace of baptism full and effective, must renounce anew Society, its boundaries, its crimes, so that the fear of God makes him prefer the intimate greatness to the degrading favours of the country.

The uninitiated man takes the world as it appears to him as the norm; this is not the real world, but is a second reality, or a shadow world hiding its true source; such a man lives in that second reality. The initiate begins to wake up and must see through that second reality in order to become fully conscious. Of course, in our day and age, everyone thinks he is a rebel and boasts about flaunting societal mores. Unable to conceive of any higher goal, this faux rebel can only act out against the taboos against sex, drugs, and other anti-social behaviour. This is just another trap, another way of being moulded. This type is similar to the Aghori of India. Peladan explains:

Before you think and choose, society takes over your being and moulds it, as is its right. Once you think and choose, remove those received imprints, that is to say, liberate yourself from contemporary habits, as is your right.

How many readers of Meditations on the Tarot are truly willing to remove their received imprints from society? Has anyone really changed his opinions on religion, politics, society, morality following a reading of Meditations on the Tarot? If so, it is quite rare, and usually not in the direction that Valentin Tomberg is pointing.

Peladan has a message, in particular, to Roman Catholics, in his discussion of the esoteric meaning of marriage. In particular, an initiate needs to integrate his tradition with Catholicism. In Peladan’s own words:

The correspondence between marriage and magic, is the union of the initiate with the tradition contained in the chefs-d’oeuvre of Roman Catholicism, and the care of combining all the scattered morsels of truth and those belonging to religions that have disappeared.

The virtue of the initiate is formed from equanimity; the beatitude given to the peacemakers applies to him.

The highest work of mercy consists in making, in one’s thought, a sepulchre to sublime thoughts; gathering the beautiful ideas lost in ancient books and, I say it especially to the Roman congregations, lifting up into their understanding a cenotaphe to Plato, rethinking the sublime thoughts of Confucius or of Zarathustra, will always be the highest of pieties as well as the rarest.

So, now that the reader is ready to think and choose, what are the choices that Peladan offers us? They are:

In order to choose, know that you have three destinies: you can be an animal like that decadent superficial men call savage; a soulish man, like everyone else; a spiritual person like St Thomas or Dante. Animal: be beautiful; soulish man: be good; spiritual person: seek the Grail.

This is the path from a life centered on the body to one centered on the soul to one centered in Spirit. Peladan gives us the magical formula to progress:

  • In order to improve, soulify your instincts
  • in order to make yourself meek, spiritualise your feelings
  • in order to reach the absolute, develop within yourself abstraction.

For more on Peladan, please see Josephin Peladan.

Freedom is a Fact


Human thought results in the diremption of the Cosmos, into Macrocosm and Microcosm. The Macrocosm is what we experience through our senses, the Microcosm what we experience through thought. Through our senses – colour, shape, sound, and so on – we ascertain that something is. But it is through thought that we understand what it is.

In the diagram by Robert Fludd we see the arrangement of the Microcosm. The three Hermetic sciences — Alchemy, Astrology, and Theurgy — address different sections of the diagram as shown in the following chart.

Microcosm Macrocosm  
Thought Senses Method of experience
Alchemy Chemistry Study of the elements.
Astrology Astronomy Study of starts and planets.
Theurgy Science Study of angelic hierarchies.

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Axioms of the Will (I)

  1. Nothing resists the will of man when he knows the truth and wills the good.
    COMMENTARY. The Truth is the Idea identical with Being. Will means altering Being in conformance with the Idea. The True Idea is. To will the good is to will the Idea.
  2. To will evil is to will death. A perverse will is the beginning of suicide.
    COMMENTARY. Evil is disorder, chaos, formlessness, multiplicity. To will evil, then, is to will dissolution.
  3. To will good with violence is to will evil, for violence produces disorder and disorder produces evil.
    COMMENTARY. The Will of God is actionless action. Violence is its opposite and is destructive of order.
  4. One can, and one should, accept evil as the means of good; but one must never will it or do it, otherwise one would destroy with one hand what one builds with the other. Good faith never justifies bad means; it corrects them when one undergoes them, and condemns them when one takes them.
    COMMENTARY. Evil increases the virtue of the wise but corrupts the weak.
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Moral Purification of the Will

Man’s mind is rapt by God to the contemplation of the divine truth in three ways:

  1. He contemplates it through certain imaginary pictures.
  2. He contemplates the divine truth through its intelligible effects.
  3. He contemplates it in its essence.

Now when man’s intellect is uplifted to the sublime vision of God’s essence, it is necessary that his mind’s whole attention should be summoned to that purpose in such a way that he understands nothing else by phantasms, and is absorbed entirely in God.

~ Mary of Agreda, Mystical City of God

Mary of Agreda has given us the three stages of Hermetic contemplation, which are related to their Yoga counterparts in the following table:

Hermetism Yoga Theophan Description
Concentration dharana Spoken prayer Visualization
Meditation dhyana Mental prayer Mental Prayer
Contemplation samadhi Unceasing prayer Prayer of the Heart

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The Void and the Fullness are Indissolubly Bound

We never start from the “many”, but from the “One” in a state of privation which is correlative to the appearance of others around and against it, in order to move to the “One” in a state of fullness and sufficiency, in which such an appearance is consummated.
~ Julius Evola

To understand the creation of the world, we need to begin with the concept of privation. “Privation” is the absence of a given form in something capable of possessing it. As it is a lack, it has no being in itself, yet it is part of experience. Whatever appears to limit me, whatever seems to oppose my Will, reveals an insufficiency in me, that is, a “privation”. Rather than simply representing a lack or insufficiency, a being may embrace privation and deliberately choose to limit itself. Boris Mouravieff writes (Gnosis, Vol 1):

Orthodox Tradition teaches that the Universe was created by a sacrifice of God. We shall understand this postulate better if we consider that it differentiates between the state of manifested Divinity and that of unmanifested Divinity — which is therefore limitless and free from all conditions. God’s sacrifice is Self-limitation by manifestation.

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The Cosmic Hierarchy

Angelic Hierachies

The Hermetic Tradition envisions a hierarchical organization of the cosmos. The presence of man portends a split in the continuum: for man, there is an outer world of sense experience and an inner world of thought. However, in consciousness, there is no difference. Thought, in Hermetism, is understood as another sense, along with sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch. We recognize objects in the world by experience of the juxtaposition of colour, shape, texture, sound, smell and so on, that signify the object. Similarly, we recognize beings on the inner plane by the repetition of certain thought patterns. As Tomberg describes how this realization came to Plato:

Plato, the father of metaphysical philosophy, had the experience of trans-cerebral thought, of thought not conceived but seen. That is why he could teach the method of the gradual elevation above cerebral intellectuality, the elevation from possible opinion (doxa), to a probable conclusion (dianoia) due to dialectical argument, and finally to the certitude of immediate perception (episteme).

Plato seems to have made the error of giving reality to the ideas as independent beings. Tomberg goes on:

The entire world is populated only by individual beings, and Ideas live and exist only in them, by them, and in the relationships they establish between them. The ideas are certainly real, but as immanent reality, not as a reality on their own. Ideas live only in consciousness, whether that of God, of the angelic hierarchies, or of man.

Yet, just as a colour or sound exists only in consciousness, they reveal an objective reality. Similarly, for thoughts (or ideas), which also are experiences of an objective reality. Tomberg explains:

But they can also be projected outside, incarnated in symbols and formulas, thus conserved in the objective spiritual world.

So the man with clairvoyance or spiritual vision will experience a thought but “see” a gnome or an archangel, that is, the object the thought corresponds to, expressed in the language of a symbol or myth.

Click for explanation of the diagram

Possession by Evil Spirits

In discussing the arcanum of the Empress, Tomberg brings up the idea of possession by evil spirits. Unlike what you see in Hollywood movies, this is not the result of an invasion by evil spirits; to the contrary, these spirits must be invited in. Once entrenched in consciousness, the can come to dominate the mind to their own ends. He writes:

The objective of scared Magic is more than healing, pure and simple. It is the restoration of freedom, including freedom from the stranglehold of doubt, fear, hate, apathy and despair. The “evil spirits” that deprive man of his freedom are not at all those of the so-called hierarchies of evil or fallen hierarchies. Neither Satan, nor Belial, nor Lucifer, nor Mephistopheles has ever deprived anyone of his freedom. Temptation is their only weapon and it presupposes the free will of the one tempted. But possession by an “evil spirit” has nothing to do with temptation. It is the same thing as with Frankenstein’s monster. A man engenders an elemental and becomes thereby the slave of his own creation. The demons or evil spirits of the New Testament are today called in psychotherapy obsessive compulsive disorders, phobias, fixed ideas, and so on. They were discovered by contemporary psychiatrists and recognized as real, that is to say, parasitic psychic organisms independent of conscious human will and tending to control it.

But the Devil is not involved with that, at least as far as direct participation goes. He observes and never violates the law which safeguards human freedom and is the convention of both the hierarchies of the left and right. May you not fear the devil, but rather the perverse inclinations in yourself! For these perverse human inclinations can deprive us of our freedom and control us. Even worse, they can make use of our imagination and inventive capabilities and lead us to creations that can become the scourge of mankind.

Hence, possession is the consequence of engendering elemental beings and then being enslaved by one’s own creations. In our day, we would explain possession in psychological terms: obsessive/compulsive disorders, phobias, fixed ideas, for example. In a sense these neuroses become real and have an independent existence from the person who engendered them.

The elemental beings correspond to air, water, earth, fire, so each one would have a different effect on the mind. The elementals do not have independent conscious existence. They are more like a virus and only get “life” by taking over the soul or mind, actually by being “engendered”. Being possessed by elementals is not a sign of spirituality; on the contrary, it is a serious impediment.

The way to overcome the elementals is to never yield to their characteristic defects. Instead, adopt their corresponding strengths. E.g., be prompt and active like the Sylphs, energetic and strong like the Salamanders, and so on.

The elementals are spirits in bondage to the elements. As such, they are not free and cannot have the use of reason; the can only manifest in subhuman forms as animals. Nevertheless, as Tomberg points out, they can become invited into a human consciousness, thus effectively dominating it, creating “vicious and imperfect men” (Eliphas Levi). Levi writes:

Elementary spirits are like children: they torment chiefly whose who trouble about them … [they] frequently occasion our bizarre or disturbing dreams and produce [psychic phenomena]. They can manifest no thought other than our own and when we are not thinking they speak to us with the incoherence of dreams. They reproduce good and evil indifferently, for they are without free will and are hence irresponsible… Such creatures are neither damned nor guilty; they are curious and innocent.

That is what makes them so tempting: they are innocent and can appear to be beautiful as do the sylphs and undines. Their child-like and animal-like qualities make them endearing. The myths and legends of these spirits typically use trickery or enticement to invade one’s consciousness.

The following chart, adapted from Transcendental Magic, lists the qualities of the four elemental spirits.

Element Elemental Temperament Defect Strength
Fire Salamander Sanguine Passionate Energetic and strong
Air Sylph Bilious Shallow and capricious Prompt and active
Water Undine Phlegmatic Irresolute, cold and fickle Pliant and attentive to images
Earth Gnome Melancholy Avaricious and greedy Laborious and patient