We have been speaking – just a little – about what Valentin Tomberg meant by Hermeticism. And it was suggested that Valentin Tomberg believed it was necessary that Hermeticism become Christian, baptised as it were.
It was also suggested that perhaps he thought that nothing less was necessary for the salvation of world civilisation.
For the nonce, I want to unpack a little what I mean by “saving world civilisation”. For it can serve as a major key to understanding the whole of Valentin Tomberg’s Catholic corpus.
Indeed, I would go so far as to say that not only is the salvation of civilisation a powerful connecting link between both Tomberg’s legal and hermetic works, but I will advance the following notion:
The Catholic corpus of Valentin Tomberg is nothing less than the sustained effort – over decades – by an uncanonised saint and genius to make the fullest effort possible (in terms of what is possible for any lone individual) towards the saving the world.
For Valentin Tomberg was very gravely concerned that civilisation was in severe jeopardy, certainly that Western Christian civilisation was in danger of being extinguished.
And to my mind, Tomberg’s Catholic corpus represents an astonishing, heroic effort to share in the burden of Jesus Christ, to help carry the Cross, bearing in mind that the essence of Christianity is expressed in the Pauline precept:
“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians vi, 2)”
Jesus Christ carries the burden of the whole world. But Christian saints aspire to do all that they can to help Him.
Thus none of this is an attempt to proclaim Tomberg infallible. Yes: I believe Valentin Tomberg to be both an authentic genius and saint – but all the saints are very fallen and very fallible …
Still in Tomberg’s Catholic corpus, I believe we have an astounding carrying of the cross of the modern world.
And as I look out on this world – like many of us today – I concur with the verdict found throughout this corpus: The West finds itself in a process of crippling degeneration. (We shall return to this term degeneration, which Tomberg invokes powerfully in his first legal work and continues to invoke throughout his writings.)
And as my heart feels ever more pierced by the degeneration of the West, I confess that – beyond the Holy See – there is nowhere, that I see more hope than in Tomberg’s extraordinary attempt to carry the cross of the modernity.
For there are many traditionalists who seek to ignore modernity.
Tomberg was not one of these and we find in him a Catholic integration (involving baptism) of many currents of thinking: philosophical, theological, psychological, legal, political, sociological, scientific …
I concur then, with these words from Father Basil Pennington, a trappist Abbot:
“It is such a rich collection of wisdom drawn from such a staggering number of diverse sources that it leaves the mind almost reeling … Besides the Bible we find the Upanishads, the Cabbala, the Hermeticists, and men as diverse as Origen and Chardin, Plato and Bergson, Jung and John of the Cross, Kierkegaard and Nietzsche …
It is without doubt the most extraordinary work I have ever read. It has tremendous spiritual depth and insight.”
However, Father Pennington is only referring here to the single volume Meditations on the Tarot. The breathtaking work of the Catholic Valentin Tomberg only becomes more evident, as we try to consider this book alongside the other Catholic legal and hermetic works.
In a faltering way, it is this kind of consideration to which I will aspire in this series, contrasting and comparing themes of Meditations on the Tarot with the other works – particularly in regards to the matter of literally saving the world.
For as we will see, Tomberg’s extraordinary one man crusade involves more than simply baptising non-Christian thought (whether for example, the ancient Hermetic, but also that of modern currents eg. the neo-paganism of C.G. Jung.)
It also involves the extraordinary turn taken by a former Anthroposophist that we have already mentioned – a turn towards a deeply Counter-Revolutionary hierarchical and traditional Catholicism.
We will even observe that it is not unlike an Ultramontane form of Catholicism. Ultramontanism – the word is little recalled these days. But in Nineteenth Century France, Ultramontane meant literally “beyond the mountains” – in this case, beyond the (French) Alps. That is to say: towards Rome.
The Ultramontanists were often ultra-traditional Catholics, who seeing the world submerged in a growing secular materialism, turned towards Rome, as the only hope …
The greatest Ultramontane victory came in 1870 – with the decree of Papal Infallibilty at the first Vatican Council.
Tomberg not only repeatedly endorses the fruit of this victory, but in his legal works particularly, indicates profound sympathies for many other aspects of the Nineteenth Century Ultramontane project. (Though this sympathy is very much present in his later Christian Hermetic works too - as I have indicated with some relevant quotations here).
Indeed, we will be suggesting that Valentin Tomberg may have had far more sympathy with Vatican I in (1869-1870) than Vatican II (1962-1965) …
To be Continued …
Note: Some readers may wish to know that I have recently reviewed a book by Charles A. Coulombe that is all to do with the Ultramontane Counter-Revolutionary Catholicism which expressed itself at Vatican I. The book is called The Pope’s Legion and the review is here.
From Amazon US:
(For the UK consult our UK Valentin Tomberg page here.)