True religion is the intuition of the living God by the living soul, hence mysticism must be the root of any true religion; theology, rituals, rites, and practices then follow from that. The stages of revelation descend from the mystical experience. The following diagram shows the stages and relates them to the letters of the sacred name of God.
|Y||Mysticism||Religious Life||To experience the unique essence of Being|
|H||Gnosis||Esoteric theology||To understand the mystical experience|
|V||Magic||Esoteric art||To put mystical experience into practice|
|H||Hermetism||Esoteric philosophy||To communicate mystical experience|
This all starts with mystical experience; one cannot hope to make progress by skipping over the beginning. Without the complete process a tradition will decay and die. A stage in isolation, unconnected to the other stages, will result in misunderstanding. Hence, secular philosophy that does not derive from mystical experience, magic, and Hermetism enslaves the human mind. A person stuck in an ideology cannot see the world as it is, but only through the distorting prism of the philosophical system. This is a web of thought that maintains the mind in a trap.
Magic in isolation becomes sorcery, or as Tomberg put it, “a pathological, romantic aestheticism”. I suspect several members of this discussion have been involved with, or know someone who has, with such magical orders. These orders are dark, they try to promote personal power as an end in itself, or engage in activities such as “sex magick” in order to provoke unusual states of consciousness.
Gnosis in isolation is sterile. People stuck in this level often seem to know a lot about religious ideas and symbols, and “talk a good game”, but really have no depth, and “live on the scraps” (as Tomberg put it) of various religious traditions, resulting in some incoherent, syncretism.
Even the mystic is not immune to spiritual pathology. If there is not intellectual effort made to understand the experience, he becomes addicted to the experience itself, a “spiritual drunkard”. We see this in some people who seem to be quite spiritual, but the most common symptom is an extreme “quietism”. That is, the experience alone counts, and there is nothing to do. Or else, the attitude is that “nothing matters”, so mystical experience is allied with libertinism in one’s personal life.
Once again, Tomberg points out the dangers encountered along the path. At every stage along the way, he clearly points out the narrow path, but simultaneously issues a warning of possible deformations. These must be taken seriously, because once one has veered off the path, it is difficult to get back on. This is because such a person is usually in a state of denial, believing his level of understanding is perfectly sound.
The complete human being is a mystic, a gnostic, a magician, and a philosopher, i.e., “he is religious, contemplative, artistic, and intelligent”. At least, this is true virtually in every person, i.e., in potential. Obviously, anyone involved in this work of participating in the Hermetic tradition, wants to actualize all these latent possibilities.
That will be our goal.