Prophets of Electrum

Consciousness in man is pre-eminently intellect. It might have been, it ought, so it seems, to have been also intuition. Intuition and intellect represent two opposite directions of the work of consciousness: intuition goes in the very direction of life, intellect goes in the inverse direction, and thus finds itself naturally in accordance with the movement of matter. A complete and perfect humanity would be that in which these two forms of conscious activity should attain their full development. ~ Henri Bergson, Creative Evolution

Here is the difference between the nature of intelligence and that of intuition of faith, between the principle of autumn and that of spring. The former is understanding of that which is; the latter is participation in the becoming of that which is to be. ~ Meditations on the Tarot, Letter XVIII The Moon

[There is] a centre from which worlds shoot out like rockets in a fireworks display—provided, however, that I do not present this centre as a thing, but as a continuity of shooting out. God thus defined, has nothing of the already made; He is unceasing life, action, freedom. Creation, so conceived, is not a mystery; we experience it in ourselves when we act freely. ~ Henri Bergson, Creative Evolution

According to Valentin Tomberg, one of the tasks of Hermetism is to accomplish the alliance of intelligence and the intuition of faith—the alchemical marriage of the moon and the sun. Another way to put it is to obtain the alloy of silver and gold, which is called Electrum. Although some have come close to this ideal, it is a task still incomplete. Tomberg mentions several thinkers who have come close; these we will call the Prophets of Electrum.

At the top of those prophets is St. Thomas Aquinas whose thought is silvered gold. More common is gilded silver as expressed by Origen, Dionysius the Areopagite, Jacob Boehme, Louis Claude de Saint-Martin, Vladimir Solovyov, Nicolas Berdyaev, Henri Bergson and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.

The importance of Thomas Aquinas cannot be overestimated, even for Hermetists. The raison d’être of scholasticism is the union of faith and intelligence. Following his conversion to Catholicism, Tomberg wrote his graduate thesis on International Law from a Thomist perspective, so he is quite familiar with his work. Tomberg offers this insight, describing Thomism as the combustible that, when enflamed, gives rise to contemplation (given the influence of John of the Cross, we can assume this is the fruition of personal experience):

St. Thomas Aquinas was not the only one. Just as he arrived at contemplation through scholastic reasoning, so did the peak of the scholastic wave reach gnosis [mystique], that is to say, intuition or the state of union of faith and intelligence, which is the aim of scholasticism. A Meister Eckhart, a Ruysbroeck, the Admirable Doctor, a St. John of the Cross are in fact spirits amongst whom you will search in vain for a spirit of opposition to scholasticism. For them also it was true that scholasticism was “like straw”, but they knew at the same time from their own experience that this straw is an excellent combustible. They certainly surpassed scholasticism, but after having attained its aim. For the aim of scholastic effort is contemplation, and it is gnosis [mystique] which is the fruit of the scholastic tree. ~ Valentin TombergLetter XIX The Sun

I have written about Nicolas Berdyaev here. For a brief summary of Louis Claude de Saint-Martin, see The Hidden Tradition. For Jacob Boehme, see Christian Gnosis: Jacob Boehme. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin is the scientist who approaches the ideal. He restored the subjective element to scientific objectivity, in his claim that there is an “inside” as well as an “outside” to everything. Any complete understanding of the world process needs to take that into account. I was astounded by the novelty and originality of The Phenomenon of Man when I read it several decades ago; I wish I could recapture that experience.

Although Tomberg writes extensively about Henri Bergson, I’d like to add a little more background. Finally, I’ll conclude with the influence of Vladimir Solovyov which, I believe, provides a view into Tomberg’s motivation.

Henri Bergson

Henri Bergson’s philosophy was born in the atmosphere of French spiritualism, a form of idealism prominent in Italy and France at the time. One influence, for example, was Emile Boutroux who in the Contingency of Physical Laws, claimed that life, feeling, and freewill need to be part of any understanding of Physical Laws. He rejected determinism, and instead claimed that natural laws as a sort of “habit” of things: what originally was also able to be a free act, in repeating itself, automatizes, and mechanizes itself and ends up appearing to be a necessity. A fortiori, this applies to human beings, who cannot be determined by environment, race, etc.

Bergson married a cousin of Marcel Proust and his brother-in-law was Samuel Liddell MacGregor Mathers, a founder of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Although born Jewish, Bergson felt closer to Catholicism, which he regarded as the fulfillment of Judaism. He never officially converted, however, because of the rise of National Socialism.

Although from a strictly logical point of view, his philosophical system can be refuted. The Church even banned his books. Rene Guenon, too, was critical of Bergson. However, that is not the Hermetic reading of Bergson, which is more concerned with Bergson’s insights than its logical presentation. Any useful critique of his thought would have to advance the alliance of intelligence and intuition. The standard critiques remain on one or the other side of that alliance, and therefore fall short of what is necessary.

In Bergson’s view, the intellect treats matter as inert, and is unable to discern the life that animates it. It chops Being up into pieces, so that “whatever is fluid in the real will escape it”. We see this starkly in the abortion debate: science cannot determine when “life begins in the womb”. The intelligent course of action in this case would be to admit that shortcoming of “science” and rely on one’s intuition. That seldom happens, so the modern world loves death and sterility.

Solovyov and Egyptian Theosophy

In a footnote to Lecture Six of Divine Humanity, Vladimir Solovyov informs us:

Although the close inner connection between Alexandrian theosophy and the Christian doctrine is one of the firmly established theses of Western scholarship, for one reason or another, this perfectly correct thesis does not enjoy common acknowledgement in our theological literature. Therefore, I consider it necessary to devote to this question a special appendix at the end of these lectures, where I will touch upon the significance of the native Egyptian theosophy (the revelations of Thoth or Hermes Trismegistus) in its relation to both the doctrines mentioned.

Unfortunately, this pregnant quotation is the theological equivalent of Fermat’s Last Theorem, since the promised appendix was never published. This section will try to begin the proof. First of all, the two doctrines in question are the dogmas of the Logos and the Trinity. These doctrines were developed metaphysically by Egyptian Neoplatonists from Philo to Plotinus independent of Christian revelation. What Christianity brought was the revelation that this divine life appeared as a fact, as an historical reality. Only later was this fact connected to Neoplatonic metaphysics. Now we see how Solovyov became a prophet of Electrum, uniting the intuition of faith with the intelligence of metaphysics.

So, how does this relate to Valentin Tomberg? In a lecture Inner Impulses of Evolution, Rudolf Steiner mentions Solvyov in relation to Ernest Renan and David Strauss. Renan wrote a Life of Christ that presumes that Jesus was simply a man living in Palestine at a certain historical time. Hence, he strips out all supernatural and miraculous elements from the Gospels.

Strauss’ Life of Christ, on the other hand, wrote from the perspective of Jesus’ followers. The miracles, for example, were mythical, i.e., creations of the early Christians to express their developing conception of Jesus. Since Strauss was a Hegelian, he did not deny spiritual reality in itself. Steiner interprets Strauss like this:

As Strauss sees it, in the course of mankind’s earthly development, from the times of the first beginnings of the earth to its final end, mankind has and always will have a higher power in it than the merely external power that develops on the physical plane. A power runs right through mankind that will forever address itself to the super-earthly; this super-earthly finds expression in myths. We know that man bears something super-sensible within him that seeks to find expression in myth since it cannot be expressed in external physical science. Thus, Strauss does not see Jesus in the single individual, but rather the Christ in all men.

Solovyov, on the other hand, focuses on Christ rather than Jesus, but on Christ as a living being, not as a Straussian abstract idea. Steiner describes it this way, perhaps with some exaggeration:

When we come to Soloviev, behold, Jesus is no more, but only the Christ. Nevertheless, it is the Christ conceived as living. Not working in men as an idea, with the consequence that its power is transformed in him into a myth, but rather working as a living Being who has no body, is always and ever present among men, and is, in effect, positively responsible for the external organization of human life, the founder of the social order.

Steiner’s lecture made quite an impression on the young Tomberg, who was inspired to study Solovyov in depth. Tomberg describes that encounter:

A result was the conviction that this author had never encountered a work written before the time of Rudolf Steiner that contained such a profound concept of the nature and mission of Jesus Christ, a view presented against the background of cosmic history.

The obvious question is how did Solovyov arrive at such a deep understanding. This perplexed Tomberg, since Solovyov certainly did not argue himself into his understanding, despite presenting his understanding in a logical way to others. Solovyov does mention three divine experiences of Sophia, including one in the Egyptian desert. We don’t know exactly what he was doing in Egypt, but we do know that Solovyov had become quite familiar with both the Kabbalah and Hermetism. He regarded Paracelsus, Boehme, and Emmanuel Swedenborg as “substantial individuals”. He was also familiar with Johann Gichtel, so he would have known of Gichtel’s correspondence of the chakras with the planets.

So we can read the Letters on the Tarot as the promised appendix to Divine Humanity. Tomberg explains in the foreward:

these Letters are intended only to serve, to sustain, and to support the Hermetic tradition — from its first appearance in the epoch of Hermes Trismegistus, lost in the remoteness of antiquity and become legendary


Blavatsky and Steiner

H.P. Blavatsky’s “Secret Doctrine” and Rudolf Steiner’s “Occult Science”

by Valentin Tomberg

Two comprehensive works which deal with the whole occult world conception have appeared in modern times within occidental culture: the Secret Doctrine by H.P. Blavatsky and An Outline of Occult Science by Dr. Rudolf Steiner. These are the only two works containing communications of a cosmological nature which are of value for their true revelations. These two works—in the midst of a large number of writings with symbolic content containing half-obscure half-truths (either theoretical cabbalistic expositions or mystic-lyrical effusions) —contain more or less complete pictures of a world conception entirely unknown to the public. The truth of the matter, one would have to admit, is that not one of the well-known theosophical or cabbalistic writings can be compared in objective value with them; for not one of the works of occult literature offer the reader so much as they do.

If fundamental significance has to be conceded to these two writings, the question then arises: How do the two relate to each other? Is there a difference—or even contradiction—between them in principle; or can Occult Science be regarded merely as a supplement to or completion of the earlier Secret Doctrine?

Let us consider first the Secret Doctrine. This is a two volume work (the third volume appeared after the author’s death) which describes the coming into existence of the world and mankind, and discusses the prevailing philosophical, religious, and scientific theories on the subject. It contains a wealth of insights into the secrets of creation and the primal history of mankind. And although these insights are described in an erratic and chaotic style, still their content has value. The coming into being of the cosmos is pictured there as a breathing process of the primal Being. Inbreathing and outbreathing of Beings—these are the two fundamental tendencies present in all cosmic events. In the outbreathing arises matter; in the inbreathing the spirit reveals itself.

Accordingly, there also exists a twofold cosmic “ideology”: that of the Creators who affirm cosmic evolution, and that of the beings who reject the material creation. The battle of these “ideologies” takes place as much on earth, as in heaven. In heaven it is the battle between the affirming and denying gods; on earth, the battle between souls following “the path of the Moon”, (Chandravansha) and souls following “the path of the Sun” (Suryavansha). The Moon is the cosmic “headquarters” of the materializing world stream; the Sun that of the spiritualizing stream. Now, it became necessary for these two streams to unite at a particular point of cosmic evolution. This event, its causes and effects, form a profound mystery. And the whole work of H.P. Blavatsky is orientated toward this mystery. Everything which is communicated in detail in the Secret Doctrine has, in the last analysis, the purpose of shedding light on the Mystery of the Fall into Sin. The Secret Doctrine, in spite of having an unclear style and erratic train of thought, is a strongly centered work. It is oriented toward one point: the event of human incarnation and division of the sexes, which took place in the middle of the Lemurian period. Through this event, the opposition of Sun and Moon was incorporated into mankind. On the one hand, therewith arose man’s intellectuality, the Sun nature in him; on the other hand, man thereby became subject to the curse of sex, the Moon nature in him. Recognition of this fact leads to the practical conclusion: the purpose of human existence is to achieve victory of the Sun over the Moon nature. The physical procreation of man must cease. Mankind must return again to a spiritualized state, such as was his condition before the Fall—preserving, however, the intellect which was achieved through the Fall.

Thus the attitude of soul which follows from the world picture presented in the Secret Doctrine is single poled. A man recognizes a duality in the cosmos and in himself, and places himself decisively on one side of the recognized polarity. The whole inner attitude of the author herself is also of this nature. For her, not only is sex something which has to be fought by the spirit, but also the West is the lower pole of human culture which has to be fought by the East. For when there are only two tendencies—upward to the spirit and downward to matter—then the West is where the darkening stream prevails, and the East where the light filled stream predominates. And the significance of cultural evolution is that Western darkness is to be overcome by the Eastern light—preserving in the process, however, the Western intellectuality.

From this one-sidedness there follows a quite definite moral attitude. Because the Secret Doctrine discerns only the opposition between above and below, the concepts of good (what is worthy of pursuit) and evil (what is to be fought against) become synonymous with the concepts of spiritual striving and earthly striving respectively. That which frees man from earth is to be striven after, that which binds him to earth is to be combated. But the moral questions: Can there be an element of evil in spiritual striving, or can there be some good in earthly striving? is an attitude foreign to the Secret Doctrine. And so it is, indeed, understandable that the Secret Doctrine regards Lucifer as a leader of mankind and Jehovah, the Moon God, as the dark power of the drive to procreate. The Secret Doctrine sees only the antithesis of Lucifer and Ahriman.

The author definitely adopts the standpoint of the Luciferic principle, while combating with all her passionate energy the Ahrimanic. Yet the traditional ideas of Jehovah, on the one side, and Christ, on the other, hardly fit into this polarity. Jehovah would have to be viewed as an Ahrimanic being and Christ as Luciferic. But thereby the Mystery of the Blood, the central mystery of the Old Testament, remains uncomprehended. Also the Mystery of Golgotha, the central Mystery of the New Testament, has remained beyond the comprehension of Madame Blavatsky. For the love principle, working out of human sub-consciousness and combating individual egoism through the love for one’s parents, children, and brothers, cannot be explained by the idea of an Ahrimanic Jehovah. Nor can the depths of the Mystery of Golgotha as earthly mystery be fathomed when the Christ Being is envisioned as Luciferic. If one comprehends Christ Jesus merely as a witness and proclaimer of a higher world, one cannot from that standpoint understand the mystery of the bringing down of spiritual life into earth existence. The magic significance—the most vitally important aspect—of the Mystery of Golgotha remains hidden to this manner of comprehension. Madame Blavatsky sees the Christ only as an upward bearer; that he is as well the greatest of downward bearers remains hidden to her. She has no understanding for what is essential in Christianity. She does indeed speak of Christian esotericism, but only about the old esotericism which exists in it. About that in it which is new, which came into the world through Christianity “as mystical fact”, the Secret Doctrine has nothing to relate. And that which is new as a cosmic event stands as the central point in Rudolf Steiner’s Occult Science. For just as the Secret Doctrine is oriented toward one central point, namely, the “Fall into Sin”, so does Occult Science have the Mystery of Golgotha as its central point toward which all is oriented. The Secret Doctrine aims to be an instrument through which people can learn about the event of the separation of the sexes (in the middle of the Lemurian Epoch) and what followed after it, and then draw certain conclusions from that knowledge. Occult Science has the task of being a similar instrument in relation to the Mystery of Golgotha, which took place in the middle of the fifth Epoch.

From this fact follows something quite significant: The effect of Occult Science, first on the thinking and then on the will of the reader (for all thinking becomes sooner or later willing), is very different from the effect of the Secret Doctrine. The latter places the reader before the choice: either spirit or matter. The practical consequences of this choice are contradictory to the disposition of European people, for they do not actually have a tendency toward one-sidedness. Madam Blavatsky knows this. She warns on various occasions against practical occultism. For the European the theory must suffice, because he is little disposed to what she views as true practical occultism, that is, to an occultism consistent with the theory of the Secret Doctrine. Only in Asia would it be possible to put into practice the above-mentioned “either/or” to a satisfactory extent.

For this reason the Secret Doctrine contains no description of a path of initiation intended to be put into practice. And Madame Blavatsky, in other places on this subject, tries to show the European reader how it is actually hopeless for him to take up the path of Eastern occultism. For that, he would, as a first step, have to give up his whole European nature, because it is, as such, a hindrance.

Because the Secret Doctrine contains beside a theoretical Monism, a practical Dualism, it cannot offer a path to Europeans. Occult Science, however, contains not only a theoretical, but also a practical Monism. Therefore its practical consequences can be realized by European people. The book contains a detailed description of the conditions, means, and trials of Initiation. This path can be followed by anyone of good will, for it is suited to the nature of European people.

“Practical Monism”—the practice of the monistic “not only/but also” instead of the dualistic “either/or”—is actually the Christ impulse, the central significance of Occult Science. To bring the cosmic working of the Christ impulse before and after the Mystery of Golgotha to the comprehension of the present time—that is the chief task of this book. In Occult Science the reader is not confronted with a duality, but with a threefoldness. He gradually learns to understand that, apart from the Mystery of Light and the Mystery of Death, there exists a third and greater Mystery—the Mystery of the Life of that Light who passed through Death. And he learns, too, to understand that just as striving for the spirit can be egoistic, so also can a descent into the earthly realm be selfless. He learns to see not only evil below and good above, but also evil above and good below. He learns to distinguish within the light the fullness of the Elohim from the brilliance of Lucifer, in the darkness to distinguish the cold, deadly breath of Ahriman from the silvery glow of Jehovah. And, like a rainbow, the seven-colored, radiant Christ impulse bridges over the abyss between light and darkness.

This “seven-colored rainbow” is the impulse and the possibility for that standpoint which we have designated as “practical Monism”. It joins the two opposites of light and darkness together into a third element. Knowledge and action are joined together by the cosmic love principle—making possible the transformation of knowledge into action. Through this, the publication of the description of the path of Initiation in Occult Science becomes understandable. If in Occult Science the central place had not been conceded to the Christ impulse, then the book could not offer people of modern culture a practicable path. It would have to, like the Secret Doctrine, contain only aspects of a world conception. For it would be senseless to offer the public a path that could only be taken by individuals with particular tendencies: people as one-sidedly gifted for the spiritual life as, say, a wholesale tradesman is gifted for material life. However, the path described in Occult Science can be trodden by anyone; for it appeals to that in a man which strives after the transformation of the ‘lower’, the darkness, into the ‘high’, the light filled. On this path both poles of human nature are taken into account: what is still to be transformed is here just as valuable as what is already transformed.

So we see that this path, the Rosicrucian Path of Transformation, is a direct result of knowledge about the cosmic working of the Christ impulse, whereas the absence of knowledge of the Christ impulse in an occult scream—however holy and ancient—makes it impossible for European people to take a practical path, a path which could lead to real progress.

In occult writings, such as the two which we have here compared, we must ask not only about the truth told therein, but also about the completeness of that truth. For incomplete truths can lead the whole practical striving of a man down a blind alley. Therefore, when considering occult writings we must ask: What follows from this for life? Asking this question, one reaches certain answers with regard to the books just considered: namely, that a European can only to a small degree bring the Secret Doctrine into his life, while through Occult Science, life goals open up for him.

The Bodhisattva in Consciousness

In Letter XXI, the Fool, Valentin Tomberg describes the characteristics of the Bodhisattva to come:

He will not simply explain the profound meaning of revelation, but he will bring human beings themselves to attain to the illuminating experience of revelation, of a kind that it will not be he who will win authority, but rather He who is “the true light that enlightens every man coming into the world” (John 1:9)—Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, who is the way, the truth and the life.

Not very long ago, a Jain was explaining that his people were expecting the coming of the next avatar. I asked him how he would recognize the avatar when he appeared. He was flummoxed by the question and told me he would get back to me after consulting with his guru in India. Needless to say, he never got back to me.

So how would we, in the West in our time, recognize the Bodhisattva when he comes? Does he arrive with a certificate of authenticity, a diploma, a letter of introduction? Perhaps he will appear on TV or even perform an occasional miracle? Rudolf Steiner made the same point this way:

It is certainly true that in our time there is a rooted disinclination to recognise genius in human beings. But on the other hand, mental laziness is very prevalent, with the result that people are only too ready to acknowledge some individual as a great soul, merely on authority.

The disinclination is the lack of the ability to recognize a higher teaching, or even the denial that such a teaching is possible. Although Tomberg warned about this, the personal and subjective elements are much more attractive than pure intellectuality. Mental laziness is tied to the “bandwagon effect”, so that a “great soul” is confounded with a “greatly popular soul”. Tomberg then gives us a clue:

The mission of the Buddha-Avatar to come will therefore not be the foundation of a new religion, but rather that of bringing human beings to firsthand experience of the source itself of all revelation ever received from above by mankind, as also of all essential truth ever conceived of by mankind. It will not be novelty to which he will aspire, but rather the conscious certainty of eternal truth.

We see that we will not recognize the Bodhisattva not through anything external, but rather by re-experiencing firsthand what the Bodhisattva experienced. Before considering Tomberg’s description of that experience, a short detour is necessary.

The Right Track

The teaching of moral development is not the same as the impulse for such development. ~ Rudolf Steiner

For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power. 1 Corinthians 4:20

Tomberg claimed that Rudolf Steiner was “on the right track” in his understanding of the coming Bodhisattva. Now there are several areas of incompatibility between Steiner and Tomberg, so we will focus solely on what may have been on the right track. In 1911, Steiner delivered a lecture in Milan titled Buddha and Christ: The Sphere of the Bodhisattvas. There he expanded on a legend from the Middle Ages about the Bodhisattva:

Consciousness of this truth was demonstrated in a beautiful legend written down by John of Damascus in the eighth century and well known throughout Europe in the Middle Ages. It is the legend of Barlaam and Joshaphat, which relates how he who had become the successor of Buddha (Joshaphat is a phonetic variation of ‘Bodhisattva’) received teaching from Barlaam about the Christ Impulse. The legend, which was subsequently forgotten, tells us that the Bodhisattva who succeeded Gautama Buddha was instructed by Barlaam and his soul was fired by the Christian Impulse. This was the second impulse which, in addition to that of Buddha, continues to work in the evolution of humanity. It is the Christ Impulse and is connected with the future ascent of humanity to Morality. Although Buddha’s teaching is in a particular sense moral teaching, the Christ Impulse is not teaching but actual power which works as such and to an increasing degree imbues mankind with moral strength.

That passage makes the important distinction between a moral teaching (as an intellectual exercise) and the power to act on that teaching.

The Two Streams

In our period of evolution, two streams of spiritual life are at work; one of them is the stream of Wisdom, or the Buddha-stream, containing the most sublime teaching of wisdom, goodness of heart and peace on Earth. To enable this teaching of Buddha to permeate the hearts of all men, the Christ Impulse is indispensable. The second stream is the Christ-stream itself which will lead humanity from intellectuality, by way of aesthetic feeling and insight, to morality. ~ Rudolf Steiner

Tomberg sees the two streams in a slightly different way. He recognizes the Buddha-stream like Steiner, but he attributes the second stream to the coming of the Kalki Avatar as taught in Hinduism. The first stream represents spiritual humanism, i.e., the realization of all human possibilities on the natural plane. The second stream represents spiritual religion, or the realization of supernatural possibilities.

The two activities that will activate these possibilities are respectively meditation and prayer.

Spirituality and Intellectuality

Even if the Bodhisattva arrives on the historical plane, we will recognize him by his inner teaching. Specifically, we need to re-enact the spiritual alchemy in our own consciousness; only then we will recognize the Bodhisattva. There are three stages:

  • the experience of the separation and opposition of the spiritual and intellectual elements within one’s soul
  • advancement to parallelism, i.e. a kind of “peaceful coexistence” of these two elements
  • cooperation between spirituality and intellectuality which, proving to be fruitful, eventually becomes the complete fusion of these two elements in a third element —the “philosopher’s stone” of the spiritual alchemy of Hermetism.

The third stage is reached when the intellectual life if no longer dominated by formal logic, but passes through organic logic and finally to moral logic. The urge to dispute, argue, analyze, and judge is the fruit of formal logic. This stage is dominated by the reign of quantity.

Organic logic deals with qualities rather than quantities. It sees the whole, while formal logic focuses on the parts. The former synthesizes, the latter analyzies.

Finally, moral logic deals with values. This manner of thinking is invisible to those on the first stage of formal logic. Using Tomberg’s example, the world, in terms of formal logic, operates by logical and natural necessity. However, according to moral logic, the world is created in an act of love. “Hate and indifference are not creative,” only love is. Vatican I made the dogmatic declaration that Christian faith could not be compelled by natural or formal logic. Otherwise, androids would all become Christians.

So Tomberg can assert that the essential articles of faith are established by moral logic. Hence, God is Love or else there would have been no creation. A big bang has no desire to create a universe. The soul is immortal, or else morality would make no sense. Man is free, otherwise he could not even be moral. Moral logic is the language of the spiritual world, so we should be sure to make it part of our prayer life.

Prayer and Meditation

Moral logic is, as Tomberg asserts, the logic of the head and heart united. It unites meditation and prayer. He describes prayer in these words:

Prayer—which asks, thanks, worships and blesses —is the radiation, the breath and the warmth of the awakened heart: expressed in formulae of the articulated word, in the wordless inner sighing of the soul and, lastly, in the silence, both outward and inward, of the breathing of the soul immersed in the element of divine respiration and breathing in unison with it.

Prayer has three aspects:

  • Magical aspect: formulaic and liturgical prayer
  • Gnostic aspect: an inexpressible inner sighing
  • Mystical aspect: the silence of union with the Divine

Meditation, which is the gradual deepening of thought, also has three stages:

  • Pure and simple concentration on a subject
  • Understanding the subject within the totality of relationships that is has with reality
  • Intuitive penetration into the very essence of the subject

Tomberg repeats Rene Guenon’s writings on this topic, and it is worth repeating here:

Metaphysics is not human knowledge. Thus, it is not in so far as he is man that man can attain it; it is the grasping in effective consciousness of supra-individual states. The very principle of metaphysical realisation is identification through knowledge—according to Aristotle’s axiom: a being is all that he knows.

The most important means is concentration. Realisation consists initially in the unlimited development of all possibilities contained virtually in the individual, then in finally going beyond the world of forms to a degree of universality which is that of pure being.

The final aim of metaphysical realisation is the absolutely unconditioned state, free from all limitation. The liberated being is then truly in possession of the fullness of his possibilities. This is union with the supreme Principle.

Christian Meditation

Guenon’s teaching is correct as far as it goes. Nevertheless, Christian meditation seeks to go beyond even that. God is revealed both through Scriptures and Creation. Christian meditation therefore seeks a more complete consciousness and appreciation of Christ’s work of redemption. Hence, the subject of mediation will be the seven stages of the Passion, for example. There are further subjects for mediation which will be covered at a different time. But the goal is to return to the state of primordial purity before the Fall.

By the alchemical marriage of prayer and meditation, we may recognize the Bodhisattva.

Practical Monism

It is risky to attribute the views of the Anthroposophic Tomberg to the Catholic Tomberg since the Meditations are the best way to know the author. He himself wrote:

“No matter what other source he might have, he will know the author better through the Letters themselves.”

Nevertheless, his conversion was never a complete rejection of his past, since his earlier thinking permeates the meditations. So concepts and ideas from the early writings that are recapitulated in the Meditations are well worth exploring. In the article titled H.P. Blavatsky’s “Secret Doctrine” and Rudolf Steiner’s “Outline of Esoteric Science”, Tomberg explains the concept of Practical Monism.

First he points out the principle that the Will follows the Intellect. That is why sound doctrine and knowledge are so important. Eventually, he writes, “all thinking sooner or later becomes willing”. Doctrines that force a one-sided choice, particularly if it is contradictory to one’s disposition, offer no viable path. As an example, he points to the Secret Doctrine as forcing the choice between spirit or matter.  Tomberg explains:

The practical consequences of this choice are contradictory to the disposition of European people, for they do not actually have a tendency toward one-sidedness… For this reason the Secret Doctrine contains no description of a path of initiation intended to be put into practice. And Madame Blavatsky, in other places on this subject, tries to show the European reader how it is actually hopeless for him to take up the path of Eastern occultism. For that, he would, as a first step, have to give up his whole European nature, because it is, as such, a hindrance.

He then defines Practical Monism: the practice of the monistic “not only — but also” instead of the dualistic “either — or“. Practical monism is actually a threefoldness rather than a duality. Thus it joins two opposites into a third element. He writes:

Knowledge and action are joined together by the cosmic love principle — making possible the transformation of knowledge into action.

In the Letter on Justice, Tomberg reiterates this point:

And the love of God? It is this third, essentially Christian, principle which has held the balance through the course of centuries … Insofar as there is peace at the heart of Christianity, it is due only to the principle of the supremacy of love.

There are many applications of the Principle of Practical Monism in the Meditations. For example, there is the reconciliation of realism and nominalism. In the Letter on the Hermit, he adds the duality of idealism and realism, as well as faith and empirical science. Hermetism, then, is the “threefold synthesis” of these antinomies. Of course, there is the reconciliation of pagan intellectuality and Jewish prophetic spirituality through the crucified Christ.

In his essay, Tomberg explains that a spiritual path intended only for those of particular tendencies would be senseless. The path of Practical Monism:

can be trodden by anyone. It appeals to that in a man which strives after the transformation of the ‘lower’, the darkness, into the ‘higher’, the light filled. On this path both poles of human nature are taken into account: what is still to be transformed is here just as valuable as what is already transformed.

In the original essay, Tomberg contrasts Rudolf Steiner’s book Esoteric Science to the Secret Doctrine. The former book, he says, it suitable for European man because it recognizes the Christ impulse that synthesizes the matter-spirit duality in the latter book.

Tomberg concludes the essay with an important principle. In any doctrine, he explains,

we must ask not only about the truth told therein, but also about the completeness of that truth. For incomplete truths can lead the whole practical striving of a person down a blind alley. Therefore, when considering occult writings we must ask: What follows from this for life?

All too often, in perpetual debates that never get resolved, that question is overlooked: what difference does it make for life? Tomberg concluded that Esoteric Science was superior to the Secret Doctrine. We can surmise that at some point, Tomberg came to the realization that Anthroposophy was still an incomplete answer to the question for life. Hence, he must have seen that the Roman religion was a better answer. In other words, with his conversion, life goals opened up for him.