The Hermetist

The Hermetist is a person who embodies all these roles:

  • Mystic
  • Gnostic
  • Magician
  • Philosopher

The last quality requires some clarification. Tomberg says the Hermetist must be both an idealist and a realist, i.e., he relies on facts and experience (realist) and on ideas and speculative thought (idealist). In the academic world, idealism and realism are normally opposed to each other.

Tomberg makes another remarkable claim:

 Hermetic philosophy is not a philosophy among other philosophies.

In other words, it does not fit into the typical histories of philosophy. This means, also, that is has no interest in debating its doctrines with adherents of other philosophical systems. Obviously, this is because Hermetic philosophy is revealed, and its truth derives from that revelation, not from logical hair splitting.

This is a tough claim for most people of modern sensibilities. Readers of these letters are all too ready to add to, subtract from, modify, and even reject, the Hermetic doctrines revealed in these letters. The regard this claim as too dogmatic. But what is the point? Are you so attached to your personal opinions that you prefer them to what is revealed to you from Heaven?

Hermetic philosophy differs from academic philosophy because it deals with arcana and their symbolic expression, rather than with precisely defined (univocal) concepts and their logical consequences. Recall what was said about arcana in the first letter; that will help. An Arcanum is multivocal, and it loses something when crystalized into a determinate statement.

Occult Science

Nevertheless, the multivocal richness of the arcana can be reduced to univocal concepts in the case of the so-called occult or esoteric sciences. Tomberg lists the Kaballah, alchemy, magic, and astrology as three such sciences. These sciences then will have “secrets”. It is all important to recognize the precise relationship between the two: the sciences derive from Hermetic philosophy and not the other way around.

The Aim of Hermetic Philosophy

The teachings then of Hermetic philosophy are not like those found in a catechism; rather it consists of spiritual exercises. Readers should be alert to all these exercises mentioned in the Letters. The Arcana themselves are such exercises. The aims of these exercises is this, and this should not be glossed over, but rather treated with the utmost seriousness:

The aim of spiritual exercises is to awaken from sleep ever deeper layers of consciousness.

In other words, we spend our days in a state of “sleep”. Spiritual exercises properly understood will awaken us. Besides the Tarot, Tomberg recommends several other sources of spiritual exercises, that is, texts and images to meditate on. Among these are:

  • The Apocalypse
  • The Gospels
  • Old Testament books such as Genesis and Ezekiel

To properly do these spiritual exercises, it is necessary to reach the state of consciousness capable of receiving revelations. The elements of this state are worth repeating, since nothing significant can be achieved without making the efforts to reach this state:

  • Concentration without effort
  • Inner silence
  • The inspired activity of imagination and thought
  • Passive contemplation of that creative activity

There are no shortcuts. Having achieved concentration without effort and inner silence, one then immerses himself vividly in the imagery of the spiritual exercises. This type of meditative reading of biblical texts is different from an exoteric reading.

For those who are not Christian, perhaps the Bhagavad Gita can be read in the same way. After all, Tomberg says that the pagan teachings will be resuscitated, but that will wait until Letter VII.