Freedom and Power

Tomberg sums up the Emperor’s four renunciations as shown in this chart.

Renunciation Replaced with Letter
Personal intellectual initiative Divine initiative Yod
Action Revealing action He
Movement Magical movement from above Vau
Personal Mission Anonymity He

In a sense, we have given up our personal mission by plunging into the currents of the Hermetic tradition, we have abandoned a personal mission. When caught up in a current, it is not so easy to extricate oneself. Of course, that depends on the individual. For some, following a spiritual path may be more like a hobby or a distraction; for others, it is all-consuming and becomes the center of their lives. By adhering to a spiritual tradition, we also sacrifice our personal opinions.

This self-emptying is not always so comfortable. God’s power is active in the world to the extent that his authority is freely recognized and accepted. On the face of it, that seems to put the responsibility on us. And the challenge in a godless age can make us feel isolated. In the West, our political systems are officially godless, science proceeds as though there is no God, and logic itself proves nothing. Hence, the main sources of terrestrial authority are either indifferent to, or actively opposed to, God’s authority, unless by serendipity or through custom.

The bottom line is that there can be no compulsion to faith. Torture, scientific discoveries, and logical arguments are inconclusive. Even miracles, which give strong faith to some, are easily dismissed as wishful thinking by others. If believers always lived on the house on the hill, had perfect families, never got sick, and were perpetually happy, then there would be no need for faith; anyone could see the fruits. But in this world, things are mixed, and God’s will is not always done on earth. So we pray, or we ignore; those are our choices.

Two Theories of Power

This radical uncertainty is difficult for most people. Instead, they believe that truth and power coincide. This is the philosophy of pragmatism: whatever works is true. Haven’t you heard that a thousand times? “Whatever works for you…”

But Tomberg is more concerned with two possible distortions of spirituality based on the idea that truth is power. One concerns magicians who strive for personal power; their hubris eventually does them in. The second includes those who would attribute everything to God: reprobation and the calamities that beset the world.

This leads Tomberg to a radical view of freedom. He claims the mankind is solely responsible for its history. But this is just the lesson of the prodigal son. The father allows his son to make his mistakes, but accepts him back nevertheless. Pace some systems like theosophy: we are not in evolution, life is not a “school” in which we need to learn and “evolve”. Rather the truth has already been fully revealed to us, Christ has died on the Christ. We are free to choose it or not.


Because of this, Tomberg points out that the real existence of man, as well as the angelic hierarchy, is freedom. He makes the metaphysical distinction between noumenal and phenomenal freedom. That latter is what most people mean by freedom.

The phenomenal world is the world of experience; not just sensory experience, but also our feelings, emotions, dreams, thoughts, etc. – what the Vedantists call jagat. So phenomenal freedom means that there is nothing in the world to interfere with me. I can do what I want, think what I want, etc., with few external constraints. In this realm, a man can choose, but he is not necessarily free.

Noumenal freedom transcends the world, including our emotions and thoughts. It cannot be detected in the world. That is, a scientist cannot prove or disprove free will in a person. That is why many serious thinkers can deny free will. The only way to “know” it is through gnosis; i.e., a direct intuition that I am free. This is not just that I can choose pistachio ice cream over chocolate, but rather that I can choose my thoughts and my emotions. But this usually requires training to reach that point.

The gift of freedom is the gift of existence. It means I am the center of my being, I am independent, whereas the existence of other things in the world depends on something else. That makes man immortal, since he has his own independent existence.

Freedom is the third force in the world, between God’s Providential Will and the deterministic destiny of the world. Without freedom, the world would run its course mechanically, blindly, ignorant of God’s Will. It is only through man’s free will that God’s Will and be known and be done in the world.

To identify God with the mechanical world process would make of him a tyrant. To deny God’s Will would be blasphemy. Today, we hear many theologians talk of a weak God, an impotent God, who is powerless in the world. The opposite includes those theologians who believe that God predestines some to Hell, sends wars and earthquakes, and even kills children.

Tomberg reveals the esoteric meaning of the inscription over the cross of Calvary: “Jesus of Nazarith, King of the Jews”. To those with the eyes of faith, Jesus is King; to the unbelievers of the world, he is crucified and irrelevant.