Since concentration without effort puts unity into practice, the theoretical teaching therefore is the unity of the world, without which no knowledge would be possible. The method for extending knowledge then, is the Method of Analogy; phenomena that manifest at different levels are analogous to each other. This is usually known by the formula: “As above, so below.” Note that this is different from logical knowledge which uses the method of deduction and also from the scientific method which derives universal laws from specific facts.
Analogy is the distinctive method of Hermetism, although we will see that it the hidden assumption even behind empirical science.
Space and time are two of the preconditions of all manifestation. They divide manifestation into two different levels: “above and below” for space, “past and future” for time. Two fundamental notions of analogy arise from that.
SPACE: the typological symbol is the prototype. These are ideas, forms, or essences of which the phenomenon is its manifestation.
TIME: the mythological symbol is the archetype. These are patterns that repeat in history under different guises.
Tomberg next brings up the crucial point that hierarchy is at the root of all manifestation. All wars, murder, and revolutions are the result of the “denial of hierarchy”, or, in other words, the “pretense to equality”. Note that my translation here is clearer than the text. I’ve found that many modern people have difficulty accepting that.
Tomberg’s distinction between prototype and archetype does have practical ramifications. For example, the story of the fall of Adam and Eve my lead some to assume a corresponding fall in Heaven on the basis of “as above, so below”. But a mythological symbol is horizontal, not vertical.
The method of analogy is expressly used by two medieval doctors of the Church: Thomas Aquinas and Bonaventure; you may draw conclusions from this if you like. Jesus, himself, resorted to analogies in some of his parables.
Dangers of the method
Although the method of analogy is a powerful tool to penetrate into reality, there is certainly a danger. As it comes from experience, it is subjective and hence erroneous applications may creep in. A good analogy is an intuition rather than discursive thought. In other words, “getting” an analogy is more like “seeing” than thinking, except that the seeing is into the subtle realms rather than the phenomenal world of the physical senses.
Hence, this intuition comes only after the practice of “concentration without effort” and there is no shortcut. Hence, one must be careful of the danger involved in this “game”. In particular Tomberg mentions two dangers in particular and the failure to recognize these distinctions leads to charlatanism:
- The confusion between concentration without effort and the lack of concentration
- The confusion between simple mental associations and the vision without effort of the correspondences of analogy
I need to point out here that “geniality” is a misleading translation of “génialité” since in English it means being a “nice guy”. Rather it means “geniousness” or the quality of genius (English does not have a good word). Without this understanding the passage in the text makes no sense. Thus there are two opposed paths:
- The path that leads to genius
- The path that leads to charlatanism
Does this now make it clear why moral purification is first necessary to follow this path? A physicist, for example, can make groundbreaking discoveries in his field regardless of his personal moral qualities. A great artist may be a cad. Not so for the Hermetist. It takes humility and careful discernment to ensure he is following the correct path.
Ultimately, the temptation to charlatanism often arises from the denial of hierarchy and the pretense to equality.