Home > Book Excerpts > Christian Hermetics – An Introduction

Christian Hermetics – An Introduction

[Excerpt from an upcoming book. Title as yet undecided.]

This is, therefore, how Hermeticism differs from religious mysticism and metaphysical philosophy. Hermeticism as the aspiration to the totality of things is neither a school, nor a sect, nor a community. It is the destiny of a certain class or group of souls. For there are souls who must necessarily aspire to the “totality of things”, and who are impelled by the river current of thought, which never stops, flowing always forward and always further on, without cease… There is no stopping for these souls; they cannot, without renouncing their own lives, leave this river of thought, which pours without cease—equally during youth, mature age and old age—without halting, from one darkness needing to be illuminated to another darkness needing to be penetrated. Such was, is, and will be my destiny. And in addressing these Letters to the Unknown Friend, I address myself to he who shares this destiny with me.” (Meditations on the Tarot: A Journey into Christian Hermeticism, author anonymous, revised English translation 2002 Robert Powell, 2002 Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, pp. 264-265, emphasis in the original)

So wrote one of the great Hermetic writers of all time, an anonymous man equally devoted to Hermetics and Christianity. For him, a person could be a Christian without being a Hermetic, but Hermetics is not complete without Christ.

In the opening quotation, our Unknown Friend also goes a long way toward telling us what Christian Hermeticism is. It is not a special sect of Christianity, nothing like a school or religious order. Instead, it is the God-given destiny of a certain group of individuals who are called to a greater, more direct understanding of the “totality of things”, or the workshop of God, during this life.

The first time I read that quotation, I wept. We are hermetics; as Christian Hermeticisms, we live in the world but are not of it. It is a wonderful thing to encounter, even through a book, the signature of a soul who travels the same path, whom God has blessed the same as ourselves. Yet, at the end of the day, the Christian Hermeticist is still a hermit.

Enough of the poetry! What is Christian Hermeticism in practical terms? This question has at least a four-part answer.

The first part, the essence, is mysticism. Mysticism is not an escape from the world, but the direct experience of God’s Presence while still in the world.

Next, the natural development of mysticism, comes gnosticism. This is not the escapist philosophy of the Greek Gnostic gospels, but the personal intellectual and emotional reflections of mystical experience.

Third, the Christian Hermetic practitioner expresses their gnosis (“knowledge”) through magic. Magic is not sorcery, but instead the liberating and healing power of God expressed through an intelligent agent. Much more will be said on the matter in Part 3, but it may suffice for now to state that magic is the channeling of the blessings sent in response to the prayers of mysticism.

All of these three phases finally find themselves written in the Book of the practitioner. That is, each individual Hermetic synthesizes the experiences, gnosis and blessings into her own life and makes use of them in blessing the lives of others. That synthesis is the fourth phase of Christian Hermeticism.

But is Christian Hermeticism actually Christian? That is a vital concern indeed! I will have more to say concerning specific aspects of Hermeticism, and their respective Christian orthodoxy, in later chapters. For now, I make recourse to my own story by way of an answer.

I had been involved in Hermetics in one form or another for years prior to becoming a Christian. Although I had many excuses, the main reason why I never explored Christianity in much depth was the Christian community itself. I felt prematurely judged by Christians and, by extension, by God. In response, I retreated first into atheism, and then into a philosophical form of Satanism. I believed in God, but did not have much understanding of Him, and so childishly rebelled against Him.* During this phase, I allowed myself to wallow in selfishness. At my lowest, I was actively invoking the Dragon of Dispersion, and making pacts with Lucifer and his cohort. In my foolishness and sinfulness, I committed abominable acts.

Hermetics rescued me. Or, rather, God rescued me through Hermetics. By a circuitous path, I came into the habit of performing a very intensive series of rituals and meditations each day which served to gradually increase my awareness of God, albeit in an abstract way, and to awaken my body, soul and spirit to cleaner things. Then, as if to bring the whole sequence to a climax, I suddenly began to suffer a series of dreams and waking visions. The archangel Michael came to me time and again and showed me my errors. He assigned me a few specific prayers and rituals for penance and baptism and, over the course of a very busy two days of uncharacteristic asceticism, I felt all of the weight of all of the guilt of all of my sins life from my heart. A final dream confirmed and strengthened my footing upon the narrow way. Still, I was not a Christian. That came a couple of more years down the line.

Having worked most of my way through a very intense Hermetic training system, I found myself living in an isolated mountain town in North Carolina. While at my place of employ reading a book on theosophy, a voice boomed in my head: “Who is your god?” I was shocked to hear my own inner voice immediately reply, “Jesus Christ!” Several days of meditation and prayer later, and I gave myself over to Christ.

And yet, I did not give up Hermetics. Why? Is there no conflict? Frankly, no. What does Jesus teach us? ” ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Mt 22:37-40 NRSV)

Hermetics replies: “I have come, divinely inspired by the truth. Wherefore, I give praise to God the Father with my whole soul and strength,” (Corpus Hermeticum 1:30) and “There is one way to worship God: be not evil.” (CH 12:23) Further, I was once told by a living Hermetic teacher, “The key to Hermetics is love. Trying to train in Hermetics without love is like trying to drive a hundred miles an hour on an empty gas tank.” (Imagine this quotation in a heavy German accent for full effect.)

So you see, the two are more than compatible: their message is identical.

*God is neither male nor female. For the sake of linguistic convention, I have chosen to use masculine pronouns when referring to God throughout this book. When referring to an anonymous human being, I will use feminine pronouns for balance and, once again, convenience.

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  1. Edwin Shendelman
    September 14, 2009 at 8:28 pm

    Hi,

    would like to make your acquaintance. Been involved in the study of VT’s MotT for years. I am curious, was the Hermetic system you practiced Franz Bardon’s?

    • September 15, 2009 at 3:09 pm

      Hello Edwin. Yes, I do train out of all three of Franz Bardon’s manuals, but not exclusively. I have also trained a lot with material from Rawn Clark, Draja Mickaharic, the anonymous author of “Meditations on the Tarot”, and a few others. I have also had the honor of practicing with some great magicians of different traditions, some well known and others not, such as Frater Barrabbas (author of “Disciple’s Guide to Ritual Magick” and others) and Lupa (author of “Fang and Fur, Blood and Bone” and others). While I am an orthodox Christian and a traditional Hermetic and magician, part of tradition for me is learning from multiple sources and finding ways of applying what I learn as a Christian Hermetic.

      Who or what is VT, and what is MotT? I am not familiar with those acronyms.

  2. February 14, 2012 at 10:20 pm

    In answer to your questions: “VT” is Valentin Tomberg, the actual author of Meditations on the Tarot. Aka “MoT,” the acronym used by some discussion groups. The reason that MoT was published without the author’s name (while he was still alive) is that he wanted the material to be examined in itself. So as not to be judged by the character of the writer.

    VT was of Baltic German descent. Thus familiar with Luthern German culture as well as the predominant culture of the area– that of Orthodox Russians. Orthodoxy, especially Russian, has a very different mind set than that of western Europe and the US. Without going into all of the details, let me say that, while this is not strictly speaking true, it may be thought of as something like Tibetan Buddhism. It’s been my experience that most people know more about Buddhism than about the ancient lineage of Eastern Orthodoxy. Which is the form of Christianity followed by more than 250 million modern adherents. And no, it was never the same as Roman Catholicism. The Latin churches and the Greek churches were once in communion, but the Orthodox were always independent.

    VT was a student of Rudolph Steiner. Steiner is himself a fascinating character, who broke with the Theosophists because he thought their emphasis on Buddist/Hindu concepts was inappropriate for the west. In addition, he disagreed with their dismissal of Christianity. Both Helena Blavatsky (founder of Theosophy) and Steiner were first class mediums as well as terrific scholars of esoteric traditions. The problem with the received material is that the rest of us have to take their word for it. If we do, we’re back to the same problem that people have with some Christian doctrines. That because an authority says so, you’re required to believe it. In contrast to experiencing something directly and thus understanding it.

    Because Tomberg converted to Roman Catholicism, he has a certain cachet among intellectual Catholics. He wanted to convert to Orthodoxy. But the priest with whom VT spoke was very uncomfortable with the tarot material. An irony, I think, since I find it possible to connect both Tarot and Kabbalah with Orthodox icons and especially with the idea of theosis– the deification, not only of humanity, but of all creation. IMHO, Tomberg wanted to convert so as to channel some of the potential of esotericsm back into Christianity. BTW, he wrote several other books and pamphlets. The Theosophical Society bookstores are good places to find them or to order them.

    I found your site during a search for Hermeticism ( I was looking to verify something.) I totally agree that Hermeticism is indeed compatable with Hermetic doctrine. Which early Christians, such as Clement of Alexandria, who were well-educated in Greek philosophy, would have taken for granted. In fact, they explained Christianity to learned non-believers by means of philosophic concepts. Which IMO is why there is a kind of “Bible code” in theNT. If you’ve never heard of that, look up the name John Michell. Also Frederick Bligh Bond. For some contemporary work on Christian gematria, find the books of Kieren Barry and especially that of David Fideler. Not to mention the many Christian alchemists over the centuries. Who in effect or in fact were Hermeticists.

    BTW, the Hermetic material that helped kick start the Renaissance was from the Orthodox territory of Constantinople. Where the western Dark Ages never happened. When that eastern “Roman” empire finally fell in 1453, the escaping monastics and/or academics brought the Hermetic material to Florence, Italy.

    • February 23, 2012 at 10:40 pm

      There was never any question about Valentin Tomberg’s authorship; I just prefer to abide by his wishes and retain the “anonymity” of “Meditations on the Tarot”.

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