Valentin Tomberg‘s Meditations on the Tarot: A Journey into Christian Hermeticism, discussed earlier in connection with the Afterword by Hans Urs von Balthasar, is, as Theodore Parker once said of another work, “a curious farrago of sense and nonsense.”
And it is most certainly nonsense of a heretical nature, denying fundamental Christian teachings of the nature of the human person and his relationship with God.
This becomes most evident in Letter XIII, on Death, which includes arguments on the reality of ghosts and the mechanisms of reincarnation.
Here are some extracts:
… Ghosts exist. This is not a question of belief; it is a matter of fact. There is an immense literature, without speaking of facts that one can find in the sphere of personal experience, which bears witness to the existence of ghosts. Now it is no longer a matter of believing or denying; now it is a matter only of understanding and explaining. Ghosts exist therefore. Thus it happens from time to time after someone’s death that this person or “something” of him or similar to him manifests in an outward and physical way (noises, movements, etc.) in the guise of an active energy. It is as if a certain quantity of energy, freed through death, but remaining condensed and not dispersed, manifests as an entity or as an individual “body”. … (p. 358)
What, then, is a ghost? It is exactly what Gurdjieff teaches concerning the product of psychic crystallisation effected from within the physical body, and which can resist the death of the latter. …
A ghost is always constituted as a consequence of crystallisation, i.e., crystallisation of a desire, a passion, or a purpose of great intensity, which produces a complex of energy in the human being. … (p. 359-360)
And the same thing that happens with human beings who are possessed by strong desires, passions and intentions can be achieved methodically by making use of the scientific method of the “construction of the tower of Babel”. Then one could not only animate the double crystallised from a desire, a passion or a dominant intention, but also equip it with an intellectual apparatus of very developed functioning and a mechanical memory in which all the facts of experience on the physical plane are accumulated. The “self” of such an occultist would then be allied to this double, who is the bearer of his memory and intellect, and could incarnate himself anew–avoiding purgatory and the whole path of purification, illumination and union which is the lot of the human soul after death. … (p. 360)
[The serpent of Genesis] did not lie. … He advanced the bold programme–but real and realisable–aiming at a mankind which would be composed of the living and of ghosts, with the latter reincarnating almost without delay and avoiding the way which leads through purgatory to heaven.
You see now, dear Unknown Friend, why the Church was hostile to the doctrine of reincarnation, although the fact of repeated incarnations was known–and could not remain unknown–to a large number of people faithful to the Church with authentic spiritual experience. The deeper reason is the danger of reincarnation by way of the ghost, where one avoids the path of purification (in purgatory), illumination and celestial union. (p. 361)
Similar statements are scattered through the work.
As we have already mentioned, reincarnation–successive lives of the same human individuality–is a fact of experience, as are the successive periods of wakefulness belonging to the day, which are interrupted by sleep at night. (p. 104)
Elsewhere, he becomes enraptured of the glories of paganism (well, of the good paganism of some pagans vs. the bad paganism of other pagans).
With this distinction made, one can say that the “pagan” initiates and philosophers knew of the unique God–the creator and supreme Good of the world. The Bhagavad-Gita, the books of Hermes Trismegistus, Plato, Plutarch, Plotinus and many other ancient sources prove this beyond any shadow of a doubt. The difference between the religion of the so-called “pagan” initiates and philsophers and that of Moses is simply the fact that the latter made monotheism a popular religion, whilst the former reserved it for the elite, for the spiritual aristocracy …. (p. 426)
The “paganism” of the poets–symbolic and mythological paganism–was, in so far as it was not a symbolic version of the wisdom and magic (theurgy) of the mysteries, a universal humanism. Its “gods” were, truth to tell, human personages–heroes and heroines, divinised or poetised, who were prototypes of the development of the human personality, i.e. planetary and zodiacal types. Thus Jupiter, Juno, Mars, Venus, Mercury, Diana, Apollo, etc., were not at all demons, but leading prototypes of the development of the human personality who, in their turn, corresponded to cosmic–planetary and zodiacal–principles. (p. 427)
His discussion of The Judgment (Letter XX) toys with the possibility of a final apokotastasis (p. 584). The judgment will be
… the experience by mankind of awakened conscience and completely restored memory. It will be mankind itself who will judge itself. … God will not accuse anyone. He will only acquit, justify and forgive. … The last judgement will be the sacrament of penance on a cosmic scale, comprising universal confession and universal absolution. (p. 584)
Tomberg has produced an eclectic work drawing upon a wide variety of pagan and occult speculation, throwing in a dash of Christian thought from time to time. But is this a Christian reflection? I say, “No.” This is confused spiritualism, with belief in ghosts, zombies, and reincarnation.
Again, I ask, How could a Christian theologian survey such a book and not draw attention to these things? Von Balthasar’s Afterword, like Tomberg’s Last Judgment, delivers a general absolution. Had he done the job of a Christian theologian, he would have countered Tomberg’s stories of ghosts and reincarnation with a simple “Thus saith the Lord”: “It is appointed for men to die once, and after that comes judgment.”