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.)