The Elements of Sacred Magic

Once again, Tomberg points out a potential pitfall along the path: vainglory or pride may be involved in the desire to exercise power over one’s neighbor. Hence, the question of the legitimacy about magic must be raised. First, he gives the example of Peter’s curing of the paralytic in Jesus’ name. This is a moral act of sacred magic because it meets three conditions:

  1. The goal is a healing
  2. The means was based on the essence of Jesus Christ
  3. The source was Jesus, not Peter personally

There is yet a fourth factor that distinguishes the cure from a miracle pure and simple, to wit, Peter was necessary as the intermediary. So this thought leads to a deeper meditation on the meaning of the Incarnation. Tomberg refers to Redemption as the supreme act of Divine Magic, but that does not explain why the Incarnation was necessary for that to occur. That is, why did the Logos have to become the Man-God in order to accomplish the Redemption?

After dismissing some other opinions, which is clear enough, Tomberg explains that the Incarnation, as an act of love (recall “magic is the act of love”), requires the perfect union in Love between two distinct and free wills: the divine and the human. This, then, is the key to Sacred Magic. He then makes the remarkable claim that the work of Redemption is comparable only to the creation of the world.

Hence, miracles require two united wills. Miracles are then due to a new power which arises each time the two wills become united. This union then is precisely what Tomberg means by Sacred Magic.

Tomberg offers yet another, simpler definition of magic: the power of the invisible and the spiritual over the visible and the material. Peter’s cure was sacred magic because it did not depend on his will alone but on the union of his will with the divine.

The consequence is to be doubly happy, since sacred magic serves both what is above and what is below. This confers on Sacred Magic its legitimacy.

The Role of Dogma

Tomberg insists that he has no intention to overturn revealed dogmas, but in Hermetic fashion he deepens our understanding of it. For example, in the first two arcana, there are the dogmas of the Holy Spirit, the Virgin, and the New Birth. Here, there are the dogmas of the Incarnation and the Redemption.

Traditionally, Scripture has been understood on four levels: from the literal historical understanding to the mystical understanding. The mystical level does not supersede the literal level, so it is a “both-and”, not an “either-or”. As history, the Incarnation refers to the historical manifestation of the Logos as the God-Man Jesus at a particular time and place. That is known through faith since we can have no personal experience of it.

However, on the mystical level, it refers to the union of the divine and human wills within us, analogous to the Incarnation of the Logos. That is not known through faith, nor from reasoning about it as we would, for example, know Pythagoras’ Theorem. Rather, it is a direct intuitive knowledge, what he calls “gnosis”. The fact that I am writing about this does not mean I possess this knowledge as personal gnosis. As a matter of fact, apart perhaps from some saints, this union is not permanent so we probably do not have a constant sense of gnosis about it. As for the path to achieve that union, Tomberg refers to St. John of the Cross with the three stages: purgative, illuminative, and ultimately unitive.

Considering the high opinion Tomberg had of Vladimir Solovyov (or Soloviev), it is useful to consider what the latter wrote in the Lectures on Divine Humanity. The influence on Tomberg is clear, although Tomberg takes things even deeper. For example, Solovyov mentions the night conversation with Nicodemus in a similar way to Tomberg. His view of the Incarnation is also helpful. The goal of the Incarnation is theosis, or the spiritualization of the material world.

Although he does not use the word “magic”, the intent is the same. The effect of the Redemption is the real regeneration of man, not the satisfaction of some legal tort. The idea of Regeneration is the integral element of Martinism.

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3 Replies to “The Elements of Sacred Magic”

  1. This post and the previous one are the best posts you have written recently, Mr.Salvo, and I sensed your righteousness again.

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