Valentin Tomberg: The Impoverishment of Protestantism

by William-Adolphe Bouguereau

Call me indulgent, Lector, if you like. But occasionally I permit myself posts here that are unfinished and fragmentary, even cryptic at times. The following is such.

Recently, some unpublished notes by Valentin Tomberg were released.

And they contained a single sentence which HIT me very, very deeply.

The impoverishment of humanity caused by Protestantism: without the Mother the Word is not ensouled, and consequently humanity is deprived of the effect of the Universal Remedy.

Valentin Tomberg, The Wandering Fool, p. 90.

I have no wish to use this venue to bash Protestants. Then why do I print this?

If you know this site, dear Lector, you will see – I hope – a struggle. It is a struggle for answers in a world I see going down, going down under secularist, materialist and capitalist excess, a cruel world becoming crueler – and hotter.

My heart cries out why, WHY? What can be done? And one of the surest guides I have personally found in these burning questions is Valentin Tomberg.

And here in these succinct, private notes, he speaks with unusual starkness.

He would seem to locate the contemporary problems of Western culture in the disensoulment of the Reformation and I have found it fit to ponder the very words here: impoverishment . . . deprived—of a Remedy capital R . . . which is Universal capital U … (Italics and capitals in original).

Now, recently in post on the malign fruit of the Enlightenment, I used the words: “Stripped and naked, we die”.

I was referring to the stripping of our culture that happened in the Enlightenment.

But certain thinkers go back beyond the Enlightenment to the Reformation, seeing that the latter paved the ground for former. The Reformation began the process of stripping away; the Enlightenment simply carried it further.

Strange thing . . . I actually wrote those words earlier this week—and only after discovered this potent sentence from Tomberg.

It is a sentence which not only encapsulates much of Tomberg´s thought, I find it encapsulates many fruits of my journey for several years now, a search which has taken me through three European Catholic countries and allowed my eyes to see things I never could see with my Anglo-American heritage …

Videos from Our YouTube Channel

Two Hours on Valentin Tomberg.

Also in two parts my EWTN (Catholic Radio) interview. Topics include my conversion—unthinkable without Tomberg—to the Catholic Faith from the New Age Movement as well as Catholic Ireland, the Sacred Heart of Jesus and more.





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12 responses to “Valentin Tomberg: The Impoverishment of Protestantism”

  1. Edwin Shendelman Avatar
    Edwin Shendelman

    I read this and wonder: What does it mean to be a conscientious Christian? Was not Jacob Boehme a conscientious Christian? John Bunyan? George Fox? Jane Leade? John Wesley? Phoebe Palmer? William Seymour? C.S. Lewis? Knowing I could not tie the shoelaces of any of these people…as Christians. Yet they would be called Protestants.

    Notwithstanding this, yes, Protestantism as an institution stripped much of what was valuable, even essential to Christianity as you say. The Devotion to the Blessed Mother, the Seven Sacraments, the continuity of Tradition, the authourity of the Bishop of Rome…these are perhaps essential for a full Christianity. But yet…there are those who lived devout Christian lives without this…

    What you are proposing is that Protestantism represented a degeneration of the Christianity. Undoubtedly much valuable was lost…but the question is what allowed them to grow in Christ if it was not Christ Himself? We have to be willing to think deeply here and broadly enough to allow the truth to shine through. Let us stop at the right answer and not the neccessarily the simple and easy to reach for one.

  2. roger Avatar

    Thank you for this Edwin. My original post invoked the word STRUGGLE quite consciously I think. I think I have struggled long years with the kinds of issues you raise here. Certainly several years ago I could NEVER have posted an entry like the above.

    Yes indeed I am unfit to tie the shoelaces of great Christians who are not Catholic. Nonetheless I stand by the entry above; I do not think it represents an answer that is “the necessarily the simple and easy to reach for one”.

    What I am with has cost blood, sweat and tears. And although I only “know” you through this meeting through site, dear Edwin, my sense is that you have your own blood, sweat and tears with this one too. And join me in this struggle …

    And that both of us somehow join the writer quoted in the post above who I feel struggled far, far, far more conscientiously with these burning issues than I can begin to manage …

    Just a blip for now. But in time, I am sure there will be more to say …

  3. Edwin Shendelman Avatar
    Edwin Shendelman

    I guess what I am trying to get at here is the need to hold two different ideas that are true in their own but seemingly contradictory way and let them speak to each other in a hermetic spirit.

  4. roger Avatar

    Yes Edwin. There is a favourite quote of mine that makes old friends of mine yawn by now. Kim and I have even joked that it may go on my tombstone! Neils Bohr staring into quantum oddities: “The opposite of a fact is obviously a falsehood. Yet the opposite of one great Truth may well be another great Truth.”

    Moving from Quantum Physics to Theology, we could observe the Great Truth that God is One and the Great Truth that God is Three …

    I can believe in the Christian inspiration of great Protestants and I can assert what I have in the post above, but in the latter case only after a great deal of struggle. But yes years of struggle and inner experience point me ever more deeply that the loss of Our Lady, the loss of the Communion of Saints, the loss of the Seven Sacraments and more is costing us far, far, far more than we realise or is ecumenically or politically correct to say.

    And on a related note, as I look at a post-Vatican II trajectory which de-emphasised all the above, if not outright eliminating them, I have realised that I must stand for this and not for a Protestantised Catholicism.

    And I well know that souls far less charitable than your own good soul Edwin, will throw stones at me, because of the above. But it is necessary to stand while at the same time still knowing that great Mysteries cannot be addressed in univocal, exclusive terms.

    That last sentence can be a profound contradiction itself. I have friends who are so attached to the latter truth, that it seems necessary to renounce taking a stand. But I need to at least attempt both: standing and holding the opposites.

    For I really have come to believe that a de-sacramentalised, de-Marianised, de-traditionalised Christianity is costing us far, far more than we know how to realise …

  5. Edwin Shendelman Avatar
    Edwin Shendelman

    “For I really have come to believe that a de-sacramentalised, de-Marianised, de-traditionalised Christianity is costing us far, far more than we know how to realise ”

    I can only agree with this while like you trying to look at two truths simultaneously. I am neither a Protestant or a Catholic but for reasons to long to get into here I sympathize with Catholicism more perhaps. My sense of how spiritual reality works is that it is not a “stripped-down” affair. While there have been glimmerings of multi-dimensional richness in the Christian theosophy of such Protestants as Boehme, Gichtel, Pordage, Leade and others it is not institutional as these Greats tended to stand outside of institutional Protestant Churches. I like the fact that the truth can grow. The Catholic Church can “add” devotions, teachings, revelations and so on, growing out of the Deposit of Faith.

  6. roger Avatar

    Yes Edwin. Catholicism is a living, growing tradition. I cannot help but feel that part of the problem of the Reformers was a certain cynicism. By going back to sola scriptura, that is investing faith in the Bible alone, they threw out 1,400 years of tradition after the Bible, as though none of it could be trusted as inspired by God. This is a form of cynicism, it seems to me.

    A last note: during our most welcome exchanges here, it seems that often we have been talking of two different (though both important) things. You have emphasised more perhaps Protestantism as an individual path trodden by great individuals, whereas my concern has been humanity, as evidenced in the quote that started this: “The impoverishment of humanity caused by Protestantism”.

    To repeat, both individual and societal orientations are very important. I am simply indicating that this quote spoke to my reflections over years on the whole of Western society.

  7. epsilon Avatar

    Hi – for some reason I haven’t been able to get myself to read this entry until now (01:46hrs 19th March 2010) and my internet access has cut out – but interestingly your page is still up!! so I’m almost “forced” to read it 🙂

    A practical, personal example of how I can relate to this post right now is that yesterday I was covering a History lesson for Year 7s on “What was Life Like in a Monastery?” Now they were given a piece of text on mediaeval monasteries and the first thing that struck me (especially having recently watched “Into the Great Silence”) and I told the children, was that it shouldn’t be a “was” but an “is” – what *is* life like in a monastery – still, after over a thousand years! And I got to thinking about the misinformation generations of schoolchildren are fed in secular (and indeed) christian, including catholic, schools in Britain. Not only are they being impoverished by the lack of discipline both at home and in school– hence tiresome, petty time-wasting behaviour which inhibits the possibility of them being able to read and spell properly and do their sums – but they’re impoverished by being given distorted pictures of their great Christian civilisation. Mary, the Mother, is definitely badly missed.

    And when you talk of the Easternisation of the West – another practical example – even younger children when responding to the idea of “prayer” will spontaneously sit cross-legged and hold their index fingers and thumbs in a circle over their knees – they have absolutely no notion of kneeling down, joining their hands pointing upwards, crossing their thumbs, and bowing their heads! I also notice that in recent reports about child abuse in Ireland they often show children kneeling by their bedside with their hands over their faces – this image of they praying night prayers is being misrepresented as them being in distress.

    There’s an RTE-player programme available on at the moment on a place called “The Sanctuary” in Dublin. It is a “convent that used to have a laundry” hmmm… with beautiful stained-glass windows of Our Lady, run by a “nun” from near Dingle in Co Kerry – if you really want to see a Western version of Easternisation of Catholic Ireland go there! California here I come…

  8. roger Avatar

    Epsilon – YES! I am going to respond to you first, before a comment to Edwin, but my comments to you both will be intertwined …

    I am very, very moved by your comment indeed. Your concern for our children at your own very moving blog here and here is very meaningful.

    I regret due to my own computer problems I am not easily able to access your video recommendation – though it sounds important and maybe I need to make special effort! – but I really, really welcome your poignant observations here regarding the “misinformation generations of schoolchildren are fed” and the way they and we are being not only secularised but Easternised.

    You are acutely observing important phenomena, which I believe belongs to a vast sea, a vast sea change, which is exactly why books like The Easternization of the West appear very important to me.

    We who can glimpse – only barely glimpse! – all that Our Lady holds need to be very alert I think to exactly the kinds of things you are alert to here.

    Your alertness has really hit me quite deeply …

    But again, Epsilon, please note that this is not the end of my response to you!

    For I am posting a response to Edwin which indirectly follows on from your comment about the impoverishment of children …

  9. […] The impoverishment of humanity caused by Protestantism: without the Mother the Word is not ensouled, and consequently humanity is deprived of the effect of the Universal Remedy [Tomberg's italics – see my post here]. […]

  10. Mike in NC Avatar
    Mike in NC

    I converted to the True Faith at age 49 after being Protestant my whole life (except for a few “enlightened” years in college where I became agnostic ;-). It is truly a miracle of Grace that I found the faith amid all the confusion in the Church today. I have also struggled with these questions of Protestant “christians”. I have many very devout Protestant family members and friends, and my wife and children remain in the Protestant church. I have pretty much always attended the Traditional Latin Mass at an SSPX chapel near me. I visited the most conservative Novus Ordo church in my area, and it felt very Protestant to me. I also briefly visited a Greek Orthodox church which in a sense helped me convert to the Catholic faith.

    While I would not pretend to presume God’s view of “devout Protestants” who claim to love Christ, I do know that Holy Mother Church has given as dogma “Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus” (Outside the Church there is no salvation), and Our Lord said in John 6:54: “Amen, amen I say unto you: Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you.” Neither of these seem to bode well for Protestants. Many Catholic writers have also made the point that Protestants worship a christ of their own making which is not the true Christ. I believe there is a lot of truth to that.

  11. […] quoted Valentin Tomberg here recently to this […]