At the very beginning of this book, the anonymous author, who left this book behind with instructions that it not be published till after his death, addresses the reader: ‘Your friend greets you, dear Unknown Friend, from beyond the grave.’ He means it literally, absolutely literally.
That is to say, in my experience, to engage sincerely with this book is to engage with more than a book.
It is to engage with a living spiritual saint, master and genius of the highest order. A very human being, with the warmest of hearts, the most lucid of minds. A profound, profound thinker whose heart, burning with compassion for the world, gave us a manual of practical Christian transformation—a transformation that has undone my neuroses, strengthened my sanity, vastly enlarged my scope of feeling, vitalised my mind, melted my anger, fired my compassion, deepened my calmness. And more, so, so much, much more besides.
But not only this, he has given us a compendium of psychology, sociology, politics, theology, philosophy and hermeticism that could offer the new millennium—in all its potential horror—the wisest of guides.
Some people might find this book hard to read. My advice to such folk would be to try it in the mornings, or whenever one feels freshest and most alert.
Any difficulty will not be because it is dry or abstract. No, this is the most human book I have ever read. Human, human, human (profoundly kind and warm) yet calling us to God. And with God and with Christ and His Church, calling us to heal our lives, heal our culture, calling us with the most rigorous clarity of thought and the most tender of feelings.
For those suspicious of the author’s orthodoxy, I would like to make clear that these Meditations on the Tarot have nothing at all to do with the telling of fortunes. I would also urge them to visit the afterword by no less than Hans Urs von Balthasar – whom St. John Paul II nominated as Cardinal. I would also like to personally record that this is the book that liberated me from the New Age mindset and led me to Jesus Christ and His Church …
And for those suspicious of the author’s traditional Catholicism, I would say the author is arguably more “holistic” than anyone. He recognises the evil in the Church – but refuses a path of polemic. He sees the sin of the members of the Church throughout time, but refuses to cast stones. The book manifests a towering commitment to non-violence, verbal or otherwise …
In this sense, this is a book of profound holistic peace. Like St. John Paul II did, the author honours the world’s great religious traditions, and those called to participate in them. And yes, in the West he affirms the traditional church (Catholic and Eastern Orthodox), whose sacramental life, he considers as having the greatest healing value for our troubled culture. The sacraments can heal our ever more stressed, nervous, fractured psyches in a profound way.
And he also regrets the destruction to the traditional Church by any who have taken up violence – verbal or otherwise. Yes there is a deep affirmation of sacramental and traditional Catholicism here—but not, if you read it carefully, of a Catholicism that destroys, condemns, imposes, or frightens. The author’s heart weeps for a Catholicism of non-freedom.
Such vast realms of insight are here. Single paragraphs can furnish years of meditation. Or a sentence might be read ten, twenty times, before one realises it contains a universe of meaning, not glimpsed before one is ready.
The thought of such thinkers as diverse as Aquinas and Kant, Rudolf Steiner and St Francis of Assisi, Plato and Aristotle, Eliphas Lévi and Carl Gustav Jung and many more is probed, extended, amplified, often purged and regenerated.
And still so much more. More upon more. World upon world upon world … There is supernatural and superhuman inspiration and genius at work in these pages.
No doubt some could find my words excessive. What can I say? They have not experienced the detonation of heart and mind this singular book can produce … after which nothing will ever be the same again.
Oh, what more can I say to you, dear Unknown Friend who left us this book? You have immeasurably enriched my life beyond compare – far, far beyond compare. You have healed and strengthened and succoured me. You have opened my heart and mind to the Christian and Catholic Mystery.
You have taught me about sincerity, about rigour, about non-violence, about tragedy, about courage, about tears, about philosophy and poetry, and about profound, profound human-ness. I can never thank you enough. I believe your masterpiece may be the most important of the twentieth century and is my greatest source of hope for the twenty-first.
Just to Note . . .
This review of Meditations on the Tarot was originally written for Amazon twenty years ago. If I wrote it today, it would undoubtedly be different, reflecting my continued growth into the Catholic Tradition. While any rewrite would not alter one iota the astonishing living miracle of the book, I would like to warn Catholic readers that the book does contain unorthodox elements (which are hardly of main importance to the author’s message). Paradoxically, I believe the book can serve to defend Catholic Tradition in a truly astonishing way . . .
For those who remain (understandably) concerned about certain minor elements in this book, I have a further piece here about the Vatican’s response to Meditations on the Tarot with some fascinating links to St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI. I also now have a number of videos on Tomberg at YouTube that may be of help. Two long ones are above. Here are two short trailers for those who would simply like a quick taste.
Foreword for Monarchy by Roger Buck
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