Mystical Experience

Although Tomberg offers many diversions and side trips, we see that there is a single thread, the vertebrae, off of which everything hangs. The Bateleur represents the inspiration of the Spirit and the High Priestess, gnosis. Tomberg now expands on its meaning.

Gnosis, as represented, is unlike science. Gnosis is the part of the process of the descent of revelation to individual facts, while science starts with the facts and tries to determine laws and principles from them.

Gnosis is mysticism that has become conscious of itself. That is, it expresses the essence of the mystical experience. As for the latter, Tomberg explains that the essence of pure mysticism is creative activity. The mystic transcends created things level by level until it reaches the essence of Being, the divine, creative fire. Of course, God, in Tradition, is understood as the essence or principle of Being.

There have been many saints of great sanctity who have been unable to express that experience in a meaningful way. Those are rare who can turn mysticism into higher knowledge, or gnosis. This occurs in four stages.

  1. The first stage is the reflection in consciousness of the mystical experience.
  2. The second stage is its entrance into memory
  3. The third state is its assimilation into thoughts and feelings
  4. In the fourth stage, it is formulated in words or a book

Tomberg here is not giving us a theory, but rather he is describing his own experience of how he came to write this collection of letters. Perhaps some of you have had an experience of the supreme Reality, but just can’t get it into words. Just allow it to happen and maybe it will come out in a contribution to this list. Probably at first, it won’t sound as good in words as it did in your mind; keep in mind that Tomberg spent 40 years writing his book. But first, that experience needs to penetrate into your being so that it is inextricably enmeshed in your memory, thoughts, and feelings. Now you can understand why the mind must be made clear of distracting elements.

Nevertheless, it is better to strive for the creative activity of mysticism even if you can’t fully express it. The worse situation is the man who has a certain knowledge, but lacks the mystical experience that gives it life. Typically, he will get stuck with a fixed idea and will be unable to move beyond it.

Tomberg describes the pure reflection of mystical experience (stage 1) as without image and without word (i.e., thoughts). This is important to keep in mind or else the danger will be that all sorts or images or unsound ideas may be mistaken for the experience itself. He describes it as more like a “touch” than the other senses, since touch does not experience form, color, or sound. Nevertheless, this spiritual experience is as real as any sensory experience. He uses the word “intuition” to describe it, since it is a direct experience not mediated by images or thoughts.

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