Valentin Tomberg, Catholic Tradition and the Counter-Revolution (Part V)

In the last entry, I suggested that the Catholic corpus of Valentin Tomberg may be understood as nothing less than an extraordinary one-man crusade – a crusade by an uncanonised saint and genius towards the salvation of civilisation.

I suggested that there was an astonishing effort to help carry the cross of modernity – and that this was a key to understanding both the legal-political and hermetic Catholic works.

And here I would say is another key to comprehending this extraordinary outpouring. It is the notion that our world civilisation faces crippling degeneration.

No – not simply the notion; this is too abstract. It is the burning recognition of this degeneration and the burning compassion for the world, which this awakens in the hearts of the saints …

Degeneration – let us dwell on this word in several contexts, which are relevant to the Catholic writings of Valentin Tomberg.

Degeneration, it is of course, the first word in the title of Tomberg’s premiere legal work: Degeneration and Regeneration of Jurisprudence.

Here the author is arguing that world justice is becoming increasingly degenerate – because jurisprudence has become materialistic. It has become stripped of its origins in Divine and Natural Law. It decays by becoming merely utilitarian.

Degeneration – this word is also key to the message of the Marian Apparitions in Holland, which have recently received episcopal approval (in 2002). For it happened that after his legal writings in the 1950’s, Valentin Tomberg encountered Ida Peerdemann, the Marian visionary in question. He writes of this in Meditations on the Tarot with pain and conviction (pg 280: “Woe to me if I tell and woe to me if I do not tell!”).

And he invokes the prayer which he believed Our Lady has given:

“May the Holy Spirit live in the hearts of all nations that they may be preserved from Degeneration, Disaster and War …

Degeneration, disaster and war – this was certainly the concern of Valentin Tomberg in his legal-political writings, as well. For it is in these Catholic writings that one perhaps receives the fullest sense of the crippling degeneration to which Valentin Tomberg saw the modern world was subject. And we see there his turning not merely to the Church, but to a Catholic counter-revolutionary tradition. To these works, we will be turning in depth.

However the same idea recurs repeatedly in the Hermetic works as well. For example, we find evidence in Meditations on the Tarot that part of the reason for Tomberg’s startling conversion lay in his realisation that it was the Church which could and did protect humanity.

Thus he makes an impassioned plea to Hermeticists – which included his former Anthroposophical colleagues – on pg. 188:

“Has not the time finally arrived when we Hermeticists shall take account of the incontestable fact that it is thanks to the Church that we have air to breathe and that we have a place of shelter and refuge in this world of materialism, imperialism, nationalism, technologism, biologism and psychologism?

It is in so far that the Church lives that we live. The church bells once reduced to silence, all human voices desiring to serve the glory of God will also be reduced to silence. We live and we die with the Church. Because in order to live, we need air to breathe; we need the atmosphere of piety, sacrifice, and appreciation of the invisible as a higher reality. This air, this atmosphere in the world, exists in the world only by grace of the Church.

Without it Hermeticism —indeed, every idealistic philosophy and all metaphysical idealism —would be drowned in utilitarianism, materialism, industrialism, technologism, biologism and psychologism.”

This drowning in materialism is what Tomberg meant by degeneration in the legal-political corpus. The same recognition also powerfully recurs in his final Catholic writings in Lazarus Come Forth. There he speaks about the danger of humanity being reduced to the animalistic:

“There have been (and still are) times in Europe and elsewhere during which for whole nations the life of the soul as such has been (and still is) in grave danger, having been smothered and reduced to a minimum [My italics].

This holds not only with respect to the tidal wave of materialism that has flooded across the world in this century, but also for the outpouring of “intellectual enlightenment” during the age of rationalism in the eighteenth century, which paved the way for materialism.

At that time the danger facing the human soul was so great that, in order to avert it, a special intervention from heaven proved necessary as a preventive measure.

This took place during the second half of the seventeenth century. It was then that the revelation of the most sacred heart of Jesus occurred.

This led to the cult of devotion to the most sacred heart of Jesus which spread rapidly in Catholic countries and took root there. Devotion to the sacred heart of Jesus was to save the soul of humanity.

For, with the intellectual enlightenment, the danger threatening to break in upon human beings was that of the centaur.

Human beings would have been turned into a kind of centaur — a being consisting of head and limbs (intellect and will), but without heart — that is, a “clever beast”.

Devotion to the sacred heart of Jesus had the task of rekindling the heart. Thereby the light, warmth, and life, streaming from the heart of Jesus, was to counteract the will-to-power and the intellect serving this will.”

Now all of this as we shall explore is very key to this webproject. We will also be exploring how we have here a hidden continuity with the thinking of Rudolf Steiner.

For although as we have seen, there is a radical discontinuity with Steiner’s Anthroposophy, certain continuities do persist.

For Steiner also gravely warned about humanity becoming ever more drowned in materialism. He warned that immense powers of evil were indeed fully-engaged in the project of reducing humanity to what Tomberg is calling here the “centaur — a being consisting of head and limbs (intellect and will), but without heart — that is, a “clever beast”.

Those familiar with Steiner’s thought, will readily recognise that this image of humanity being reduced to clever bestiality is very redolent of Anthroposophy.

However according to Steiner, the kind of Tridentine Catholicism associated with the Sacred Heart represented a false road for humanity. Clearly Tomberg is affirming the very opposite …

To be Continued …

From Amazon US:

(For the UK consult our UK Valentin Tomberg page here.)

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14 Comments

  1. reXteryalizer
    Posted 25 February 2011 at 22:03 | Permalink

    Just 70 yrears ago ROME & Catholic Italy had just attacked & launched a massive, hellish WAR on its neighbors.

    Butchering & murdering Millions & MILLIONS of innocent peacefull people…JUST for not JOINING up with HITLER ~

    for NO REASON…… MURDERING Thousands of Africans, Egyptians , Greece & others …
    ROME & Catholic Italy had JUST Joined up with Hitler,

    IT took 22,000 { twenty two thousand}…..]
    US American tooops DYING, IN ITALY, for
    the USA to defeat Catholic Italy….

    ~~~~~~~~~Millions of Catholics IN Germany & Italy….. murdered Millions of OTHER CATHOLICS & Non Catholics round the planet..

    Simply for not joining up with The Catholic Hitler..

    This was just 70 yrs ago…..

    What is the Lure & thrill and unified UNBROKEN chain of unity and love and respect that the catholic church has bestowed upon the earth..

    Are we missing something… ?

    • Edwin Shendelman
      Posted 26 February 2011 at 15:55 | Permalink

      I may be mistaken but it seems you have an axe to grind against the Catholic Church. At least you could get your facts straight. “Rome” and “Catholic” Italy did start or fight WW2. “Fascist” Italy fought in the war. Fascism like Communism, Liberal Secular Democracy and Capitalism are Modernist movements (heresies). There is nothing “Catholic” about them. Italy like other countries then and now are diverse in political and religious allegiances. It was not a “Catholic” Italy that fought the war but a fascist one.

      Many Catholics fought on both sides. The issues in those times were extremely complex that there is no room to justice to here.

      Neither the German or Italian brands of fascism were Catholic. Individual Catholics may have killed others in the war but rarely as “Catholics” in a religious sense. Racially motivated theories were specifically condemned by the Pope of the time, Pius 12.

      Just to let you know I am not Catholic but a Jew.

      As a Canadian I also take issue with the idea that Americans liberated Italy. The Allied forces combined of British, Canadians, Americans were all heavily involved in the fighting. Large numbers of Canadians fought and died in Italy and were part of many major military actions not just Americans.

    • Posted 26 February 2011 at 16:34 | Permalink

      reXteryalizer – Thank you for your comment. Like Edwin, I disagree with certain particulars here.

      Yet I feel you have an anguish and compassion for human suffering that demands response.

      Such anguish shows one’s heart is ALIVE and not numbed and desensitised by the very world trajectory Tomberg was so gravely concerned about – us becoming heartless “centaurs”.

      So I thank you for this expression. It demands response.

      In fact I am shortly putting up a long and maybe long-winded response in the blog itself.

      This response was in fact written almost entirely, before I noticed you had commented Edwin …

      • Posted 26 February 2011 at 16:41 | Permalink

        And Edwin, thank you very much indeed for this. It contains a lot of value …

        And I am most grateful for your thoughtful living voice here again …

        As I just wrote, I have a much longer response about to go up in the main Weblog, which was written without knowledge you had posted this.

  2. Posted 26 February 2011 at 15:36 | Permalink

    Nothing here is redolent of Steiner who, at his best, passes on aspects of Tradition whose existence he admits and that he claims to represent. Why stop at Steiner when we can go all the way back to St Anthony the Great who wrote:

    Since man is the “rational animal”, someone who does not possess practical reason is really “inhuman”, being more like the irrational animals.
    The rational faculty unites man with divine power, power over oneself, one’s thoughts, one’s acts. As such, it is a faculty that must be developed. For Anthony, the irrational man is in a state of darkness and devoid of divine light. That is, the rational faculty is only virtual and not actual. Since man by definition is rational, such men are not, strictly speaking, even men.

    which is discussed St Anthony and Practical Reason and
    Rational Man and Moral Law.

    • Posted 4 March 2011 at 11:39 | Permalink

      Cologero, thank you for this. Valentin Tomberg would be the first to agree with your sentiment here: “Why stop at Steiner” when one has the whole of tradition! This is precisely what many Anthroposophists do and Tomberg repeatedly makes pleas for tradition as a corrective to individual errors and indeed heresies.

      However as to you saying:

      “Nothing here is redolent of Steiner who, at his best, passes on aspects of Tradition whose existence he admits and that he claims to represent. ”

      All I can say is you appear to be convinced of this.

      And I do not think I should try to convince you otherwise.

      All I will do is utter my own conviction that the truth is rather more complex than this. Parts of the text above have echoes of Steiner in ways that may not be easily appreciated by one unfamiliar with his thinking (eg the reference to head and limbs).

      We will also note that the Catholic Valentin Tomberg certainly did not see Steiner who “at his best” simply “passes on … tradition.”

      Rather even the Catholic Tomberg who radically broke with Steiner’s Anthroposophy still gives a more elevated role to Steiner than this.

      Most notably there is his recognition in Lazarus Come Forth of “the great Austrian seer and thinker” Steiner’s “remarkable accomplishment. For his achievement in the domain of the teaching concerning the angelic hierarchies — as far as the wealth of stimulation, the depth and multiplicity of viewpoints, the inner lack of contradictions, the consistency and organic cohesiveness is concerned — cannot be compared with the accomplishment of any seer or thinker of the present, or from the Middle Ages or antiquity. It towers way above them.”

      Thus as far as Tomberg was concerned, Steiner was a “seer” whose accomplishment in at least one realm “towers way above” that of anyone from antiquity or the Middle Ages.

      Yes for Tomberg, Steiner is one who saw something very important. What he then did with that vision is another matter altogether. Arguably this included trying to set up “altar against altar” – a Christianity without and indeed against Rome.

      Yet however problematic Tomberg’s evaluation of Steiner may be for Catholics and defenders of Faith and Tradition such as I believe yourself Cologero and I hope myself – the matter is very, very, very complex.

      Far more complex than I can put in a comments box. I have indeed given much of my adult life to this complexity.

      That being said, once again your point is very well taken indeed: Why stop at Steiner?

      And once again Tomberg most definitely parted company with Anthroposophy and its vision of esoteric Christianity without the Church, parted company with his own youthful Anthroposophy etc etc.

      Nothing I am saying is trying to advocate Anthroposophy which I consider a tragic phenomenon.

      I am only uttering my very different conviction to yours that the truth is more complex here. Not to convince you if you are convinced otherwise – but to certainly to aspire to clarify things for anyone reading this who may be seeking clarification and finds my enquiries and struggles with these matters of any use with their own struggles and enquiries …

  3. Billy Bishop
    Posted 26 February 2011 at 17:45 | Permalink

    Thank you for reminding me of the prayer the Lady of All Nations asked us to pray.

  4. Billy Bishop
    Posted 26 February 2011 at 20:50 | Permalink

    “Therefore make use of the balance of Justice and judge impartially. When you have done so, you will no doubt say: Never will I throw stones – in thought, or through word or deed – against the Church, since it is she who makes possible, and stimulates and protects, human endeavor for the glory of God. And as Hermeticism is such an endeavor, it could not exist without the Church. We Hermeticists have only one choice: either to live as parasites (for it is thanks to the Church that we are able to live), if we are strangers to, or are hostile to, the Church; or to live as her faithful friends and servants, if we understand what we owe to her and so begin to love her.”

    Meditations on the Tarot, 189

  5. Peter Kelly
    Posted 27 February 2011 at 16:45 | Permalink

    Regarding Billy’s quote from tomberg. Christ was of course dealing with a woman who had transgressed the laws of the Jewish people. I would hope to see the same compassion that Christ showed to the woman taken in adultery, shown to all those who cannot accept the church’s teachings. Unfortunately this was not the case in the past, but hopefully people within the church will nevr make the same mistakes again.
    Regarding your longing to return to an older form of catholicism, Roger – I find this only admirable in so far as it is one person’s way of finding the sacred. What would be wrong about it would be if you ceased to try and show the love and compassion of Christ to all those whose thinking leads them in a different direction, no matter how misguided you think that direction is.
    Just to be clear, I do not feel your writings to be lacking in compassion, just the opposite. I particularly appreciate the way you have attempted to deal with reXteryaliser’s incoherent but apparently hostile posting

  6. Gary
    Posted 27 February 2011 at 16:47 | Permalink

    reX, although you do toutch on the evils of the Catholic church..

    You do not go deep enough,,,,

    We know that Millions of Catholics IN Germany & Italy.. … murdered Millions of OTHER CATHOLICS

    and Non Catholics round the planet..

    Simply for not joining up with The Catholic Hitler..

    This was just 70 yrs ago…..TRUE

    BUT did you know that , THEY HAD to LOCK up catholics here in the USA…in WW ll to keep them from trying to defend HITLER..

    They locked them up in Internment Camps.

    They had a Priest on the AIR defending HITLER………with a HUGE catholic audience listening..

    GIVING SUPPORT ….. aligning with Catholic Hitler………. a threat to the USA…

    Catholics are subdued…..UNDER CONTROL……just like islam.

    You have to continue to keep these catholics and muslims under constant watch..

    The muslims & catholics religions have not brought about peace…with MILLIONS of UNITED catholics …..defending peace, love & freedom & good & GOD..

    This is a myth.and a lie

  7. Peter Kelly
    Posted 27 February 2011 at 21:33 | Permalink

    Looking at what I posted earlier, in which I mention Billy’s post, I made a very loose connection between the ‘throwing of stones’, that Tomberg mentions and the story of the woman taken in adultery. It appears I was another blogger being tncoherent!! My apologies.
    I stand by what I said about the importance of compassion(and not condemnation) for people outside the church with different thoughts and ways of seeking the divine.

  8. Posted 10 March 2011 at 12:15 | Permalink

    Billy, Peter … (And Edwin, if you are patient, you actually come into this as well …)

    Thank you so much for your comments here again. Your comments really help this (lonely) blogger …

    I am grateful to you Billy for posting Tomberg’s beautiful injunction: “Never will I throw stones – in thought, or through word or deed – against the Church.”

    And you have responded Peter regarding the source of the allusion to throwing stones in the Johannine Gospel:

    “I would hope to see the same compassion that Christ showed to the woman taken in adultery, shown to all those who cannot accept the church’s teachings. Unfortunately this was not the case in the past, but hopefully people within the church will nevr make the same mistakes again.

    Regarding your longing to return to an older form of catholicism, Roger – I find this only admirable in so far as it is one person’s way of finding the sacred. What would be wrong about it would be if you ceased to try and show the love and compassion of Christ to all those whose thinking leads them in a different direction, no matter how misguided you think that direction is. Just to be clear, I do not feel your writings to be lacking in compassion, just the opposite”

    I thank you for this Peter. I do aspire for an ever softer heart. “Make my heart like unto Thine” is at the very core of the spirituality of the Sacred Heart.

    Yes as you say, members of the Church have done terrible things to unbelievers. And for anyone who may be interested, I recently tried to address this here.

    However when you write:”Regarding your longing to return to an older form of catholicism, Roger – I find this only admirable in so far as it is one person’s way of finding the sacred, I must take issue.

    I hope and pray in a soft and gentle way. : )

    This website in my view is not about “longing to return” (do you mean as in nostalgia, Peter?) “to an older form of Catholicism” nor in my view is it about one person’s individual pursuit.

    Peter in your previous and most appreciated comments at this site, you have not only indicated your suffering in youth as a Catholic – a suffering which again I cannot imagine but must HEAR and you have given indications about your connections to Steiner’s approach (eg here)

    All of this is listened to. I share something of the background you indicate with Steiner.

    I have both departed from that background and know enough about it to reaiise that what Steiner was saying was that humanity was in the gravest danger, unless it could find Christ again.

    As I am saying in the new series, Steiner saw terrifying dystopias, unless collectively we find Christ.

    Now in his lectures on the Gospel of Mark. he also warns very gravely about letting the West be flooded by Eastern religion.

    In Meditations on the Tarot, there is both a compassionate understanding for those pursuing Eastern religions AND it seems to me the same kind of concern Steiner had. Thus MotTpg 40: “An advanced pupil of yoga or Vedanta will for ever have dry eyes” pg 36.

    Tomberg is compassionate. He is not throwing stones at advanced Vedantists. He is SOFT. Very soft in heart.

    But neither is he saying a blanket yes either. He is warning

    Edwin if you are with us, this is where you come in. I promised Billy and you a further response, which I have not managed yet. This will have to do for now.

    Tomberg speaks of a left and right wing of tradition. The Western wing honours the Jews. Your point about Cabbala from the right wing of tradition being deeply honoured by Tomberg is most certainly true …

    And Tomberg certainly honours all righteous people of East and West and more …

    Nonetheless without throwing stones, I believe another hidden continuity between Steiner and Tomberg is the concern that the West will be flooded by a pre-Christian, depersonalised Easternism – with eyes which are dry. This he contrasts with the Zohar

    Very complex stuff for a comments box!

    I am certainly aware Edwin of many statements in MotT that could contradict the thesis above – namely that Valentin Tomberg was concerned with the West being flooded by Easternism.

    Maybe (?) no need for anyone to point them out to me. I struggled with them for years.

    However back to you, Peter. Tomberg says somewhere words to the effect the hermeticist has his yes and he has his no.

    In some way Tomberg was saying no to certain currents eg. Calvinism

    Throwing stones will never help. Thank you Billy and Peter …

    Yet I repeat in my view, this website is NOT about an individual nostalgically returning to an older form of Catholicism

    It IS about joining with those – including Valentin Tomberg – who believe that Christianity is in grave danger, the world is in grave danger (as Steiner indicated) and Steiner’s dream of Christianity without Rome is a tragic dream doing real damage …

    Much more about is going up in the series about Tomberg and the Counter Revolution.

    My comments in these boxes are off-the-cuff and fast. In the weblog itself there will be hopefully more coherence …

    Thank you all unknown friends for your contributions here …

    • Edwin Shendelman
      Posted 16 March 2011 at 22:42 | Permalink

      I think the important word here is discernment. VT was nothing if not discerning. He listened deeply to the various religious, spiritual and esoteric streams, what they had to say and what of truth could be felt and known there. Discernment has the aspect of also of weighing the truth. For VT this meant ultimately weighing what he discovered in the Light of the Church and the thrust of Christian teaching. Even though he would have likely have common cause with Catholic Traditionalists on many points he would have received a less than enthusiastic reception from them. The project of Christian Hermeticism differs deeply from Catholic Traditionalists. The things discussed in the Meditations or even in Lazarus, Come Forth is a different planet from Catholic Traditionalists. I am not attacking Catholic Traditionalism but the more Traditional minded Catholics I’ve met have often reacted as if I passed them a burning coal when I’ve attempted to discuss themes that Tomberg was very friendly with such as Kabbalah, Chakras and their relation to Christianity and so on.

      In regards to the theme of degeneration…I think of the Renaissance…it may VT sought a renewal that would build a forest of symbols that included non-Christian elements or references. These would protect the kernel which would be the Christian Mystery. At this point it is difficult to say what will save Europe and North America from speedy degeneration it is in. But we are not allowed to despair.

      • Posted 23 March 2011 at 11:13 | Permalink

        Edwin, you and I would seem to form a tension in these entries.

        There are certainly or have been in the past “different planets” here, as you say.

        Valentin Tomberg would say I believe that the planets need to be joined – in love.

        For various reasons – which are understandable! – Catholic Traditionalists will be concerned by some of the elements you bring forth here.

        I do not want to deny these elements – but I do want to point out yet again (and not for your sake, Edwin, but for any who may be reading this and troubled or upset) that in bringing these “different planets” as you put it, together in love, Valentin Tomberg sought fit to emphasise:

        – The towering importance of dogma, as expressed particularly in Lazarus Come Forth

        – Papal Infallibility

        – Marian Devotion, the Rosary etc

        – words like this which are so ignored by many hermeticists: “the Catholic Church, being catholic or universal, cannot consider itself as a particular church among other particular churches, nor consider its dogmas as religious opinions among other religious opinions or confessions pg 89 Mott

        – A thoroughgoing sustained critique of the Reformation.

        – A critique of Vatican II that has nothing good to say about Vatican II.

        – The importance of hierarchy, tradition and more, much more that Traditionalists often understand more easily than hermeticists.

        As I have said before, all this Valentin Tomberg said very consciously of the abyss we are heading to… asking with a burning heart; What can and must be done?

        In regards to you saying:

        “At this point it is difficult to say what will save Europe and North America from speedy degeneration it is in. But we are not allowed to despair.”

        I appreciate this. Thank you for cautioning me/us against despair. It is indeed difficult. But along with not despairing, let us turn ourselves to this with hearts that burn with compassion, fire and courage …

        And I would say, let us work towards that which further addresses the work of union in love …

        Let us pray we do nothing to create hindrances to this union in love.

        Hindrances which of course, we are all too prone to, being as fallen and sinful as we are …

        Tough stuff to get right. I may well be failing in the tough task I attempt here.

        Pray for me …

        And thank you once again for all your probing, meaningful comments here …

One Trackback

  1. By Divine Cult Of Sacred on 25 February 2011 at 20:53

    […] Valentin Tomberg, Catholic Tradition and the Counter-Revolution … It has become stripped of its origins in Divine and Natural Law. It decays by becoming merely utilitarian. Degeneration – this word is also key to the message of the Marian Apparitions in Holland, which have recently received episcopal . It was then that the revelation of the most sacred heart of Jesus occurred. This led to the cult of devotion to the most sacred heart of Jesus which spread rapidly in Catholic countries and took root there. Devotion to the sacred heart . […]

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