Although we know who the author was, the book Meditations on the Tarot was published anonymously and posthumously. Valentin Tomberg explains why he wrote his meditations on the major arcana of the Tarot in French:
These letters were written in French, which is not the mother tongue of the author, because it is in France, and in France only, that a living literature on the Tarot has been perpetuated since the 18th century. Furthermore, there exists as well a continuous tradition of Hermetism, which unites a spirit of free research with respect for the Tradition. These letters, by virtue of their contents, will therefore be able to become an integral part of the Tradition while enriching it. [my translation]
This attests to the continuous existence of the Hermetic tradition. Having been driven underground following the destruction of the Templars, it re-emerged in France. From there it was preserved in Russia, as we can infer from the life of Joseph de Maistre.
For our Meditations on the Tarot, we adhere to the following hermeneutic principles:
- It is self-contained. Everything essential to understanding the text is in the book, so there is no necessity to appeal to authorities, ideas, or hearsay not explicitly mentioned in the book.
- We take the author to be an honest and sober man. That means we accept that his intent is to enrich and be an integral part of the Hermetic Tradition. We don’t assume some other ulterior or hidden motive.
- The text is its own authority. The book is useful insofar as the Meditations are fruitful to the reader. We don’t accept the book based on some assumed authority of the author. In particular, we don’t assume that the author was a bodhisattva, savior, or the incarnation of some other high being.
- We don’t claim any authority to ourselves. Our intention with this blog is to elucidate and expand upon ideas and concepts in the Meditations. We haven’t been visited by Tomberg; he hasn’t dropped books in our lap. in short, a “Tomberg sighting” does not make anyone a Hermetist, no more so than an “Elvis sighting” makes anyone a pop singer.
- As Rene Guenon (who also was quite familiar with the French Hermetic tradition) points out, Hermetism is a cosmological system, not a complete tradition. It presumes a metaphysical doctrine, even if not always made explicit, without which certain ideas in it cannot be understood. Therefore, we will supply the metaphysical foundation whenever necessary.