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Thursday, March 29, 2007

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Mark Brumley

Please, please, please. Let's not bother with all of this. Balthasar is a controversial theologian in some circles, so notwithstanding having been named a cardinal by John Paul II and praised by Joseph Ratzinger before becoming pope and after as Benedict XVI, etc., etc., let's just attack him as a Gnostic and an occultist and be done with it all. Now you see why he wasn't a participant at Vatican II, which as we all know was a Masonic plot. Balthasar didn't participate as a way of making everyone think he wasn't part of the Masonic plot, in the event it was discovered that Vatican 2 was a Masonic plot. Misdirection. Diabolically clever, eh?

Tom

Why are you directing attention away from yourself, Mark? Mason.

Carl Olson

Mark the Mason. It has a certain ring to it..

Rick

The Second Spring site had an informative series of posts on Meditations on the Tarot back in February. On that site it is noted that the English translation contained a "scandalous omission" from Balthasar's Foreword. Having read Second Spring in the past, it strikes me as rather orthodox. The discussion regarding Meditations on the Tarot is cordial, enlightening and certainly not as reactionary toward vB as I have seen on some other sites.
Personally, I am sick of armchair theobloggers bashing vB whenever the chance occurs. But, in the "open" and "free" blogosphere every theoblogger with a keyboard thinks he is entitled to be the Grand Web Inquisitor. If vB's works are so problematic should we not trust the wisdom of the Church to find and state the problems?
As for me, God willing (or should I say Dare I Hope?-if that isn't too controversial) I will continue to enjoy the works of vB in the years to come as much as I have in the past. The Second Spring link is below.

http://p203.ezboard.com/fsecondspringfrm13.showMessageRange?topicID=40.topic&start=21&stop
=26

Gordon

C. S. Lewis saw the Incarnation as the fulfillment of what the world’s mythologies groped for in varied and sometimes ugly ways. Tomberg has a similar view of “ancient wisdom” in general. All that is good, true and beautiful converges on the Incarnation.

I have no tolerance for the occult. None. Yet I found in Tomberg a profound analysis of philosophy, world religion, literature, and ancient mythologies, disciplined by a call to chastity, poverty, and obedience, converging in Christ. I bought the book 20 years ago because I couldn’t understand why that Swiss guy that wrote the great Barth book would recommend some New Age nonsense. Thanks be to God. That was the first step on the journey to Rome.

Carl Olson

Great comment, Gordon. I appreciate it.

Deacon Harold

Lots of good info! Thanks, Carl.

Mark Brumley

Mark the Mason. Notice how both "Mark" and "Mason" begin with "M". Obviously, I am not a Mason. If I were I would go by another name than Mark.

Carl Olson

There is another possibility. You might not actually be Mark. In which case you would have to be a Mason. Otherwise you would not pretend to be what you really are, thus making your pretence a farce and your lie a truth. Why, it's almost as though you are actually a Jesuit, pretending to be Catholic pretending to be a Mason. Ingenious!

Chris Kepler

spiritual Readings, spiritual articles, enlightened readings, free readings, spiritual teachings, meditation, online religion, religions, religious, ...

Tito

Carol,

I am no philosopher nor theology expert, but after doing a bit more research, I corrected myself on Balthasar here: http://custosfidei.blogspot.com/2007/03/hans-urs-von-balthasar.html

I don't want to smear a good name.

God bless,

Tito

Rick

"Where is the line between studying beliefs that may be incompatible with Catholicism (in some or many ways) and outright syncretism? Did von Balthasar cross that line? If so, how?"

I believe a possible answer can be found in Balthasar's My Work in Retrospect (pp. 111-118). In describing the question of humanity concerning its relationship to God, two paths are possible toward the Absolute. In first case one either states that all reality is infinite and immmutable or that all is change. The former reduces the finite to an illusion (Buddhism/Plotinus) and the latter reduces reality to pure change and a life of contraries (Heraclitus-life/death, wisdom/folly). Balthasar states a solution to these is offered by Plato, "an inescapable dualism..where the finite is not the infinite." Two responses to these views are 1) The way of the non-biblical mystics, the fallen sensible world must return to intelligible infinite, or 2) The infinite God creates a finite world to perfect himself. He rejects both 1 and 2 because they conclude in pantheism and render God finite and are also unable to answer the question "Why does the world exist?", which is a question no philosophy can answer.

So, I think it is fair to say he is not a syncretist because the only affirmative response to that question can be found in the God of the Bible and fulfilled in the person of Christ. He respects what is true in other religions, "all pre-Christian philosophy is theological at its summit", but the only true religious philosophy and theology are found in the Christian Faith.

Personally, I don't believe he has crossed the line. He views are consistent with the Church's teaching in Nostra Aetate (1965-"The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions") and Dominus Iesus and rejects what is false and contrary to the Gospel in those religions.

Sandra Miesel

It's important to remember that Tarot cards were invented as an innocent game in early 15th C Italy and only acquired their occult meaning in 18th C France. The symbols of the Major Arcana are so rich, almost anything can be read into them--and plenty of people have tried! Ordinary playing cards can also be used for divination. That forbidden practice isn't unique to the Tarot deck.

Stratford Caldecott reviewed Tomberg's book--positivel--for the NC REGISTER when it was new. It might be helpful to seek his opinion in this controversy.

Rick

Why would Balthasar write a foreword to a book that deal with the occult?

I realizing I am paraphrasing one of Karl's questions here, but this has been bugging me. "Occult", as we have been using it, is referring not strictly to the demonic but in a broader sense as things that are hidden/esoteric. I tried to reflect on the vast corpus of vB's writings, and not all are strictly theological works such as the God Question and Modern Man. I think that there are two trends in within modern human thought that may influence have an influence on books such as the Tarot. One, dabbling with the occult has been a fringe part of religion and Christianity (alchemy, the search the Philosopher's stone. Even the devout Christian/chemist Robert Boyle tried to disprove atheism by finding authentic supernatural occurrences in witchcraft and the Dark Arts. The point is that the occult and its practices have always been around and Christians have had a fascination with it.
The second point deals with a trend in the study of religion as a whole, the growth of the study of comparative religions. From works likes Frazier's The Golden Bough that tend toward syncretism to those of Eliade that are criticized for favoring monotheism, comparative religion was a growing discipline that did study the sacred and the profane, which would include the occult and comparing trends within religions. In addition, religion was also undergoing a secularization due to the rise of modern science and Modernism, Nietzsche's work is evident of this.
Within the context of the second point, one finds Catholic writers wanting to show that Catholicism and the Church are the fulfillment of all myth, symbol, religion and philosophy. I think evidence of this is depicted in the writings of deLubac, Danielou, Balthasar and others. Given some of these factors, and if the goal of Tomberg's book is to somehow christen the Tarot within the context of Christian spirituality (returning it to its roots?), could it be Tomberg is trying to show the falseness of the occult and its fulfillment in Christianity? At least that appears to be the point from the website on the Tarot. If so, is such a project incongruent with projects like Balthasar's and DeLubac? Maybe not, Balthasar, described as one of the most cultured and learned men in Europe, I would think know what he is doing in writing such a foreword and sees it as something close to his own project. Then again, I could be dead wrong!
Just some thoughts.....

joe

Carl, terrific information and very helpful. Thank you. Gave focus to something that seemed spooky given my Evangelical background.

Bill Cork

Let's start with the claim that Tomberg's "book is written from an orthodox Christian (Roman Catholic) perspective."

That's false. Clearest examples are in the chapter on death, where, assuming the reality of ghosts as a "crystallisation" of emotions and energy, he argues that reincarnation not only happens, but can be planned by people with certain occult knowledge, as a way to avoid purgation and judgment.

Tomberg's belief in reincarnation is mentioned other places in the book.

Von Balthasar had an obligation as a Catholic theologian to teach clearly; at the very least he committed a major sin of omission by failing to call attention to Tomberg's false views on death and judgment and by failing to use the opportunity to articulate the Christian understanding of the human person.

Tomberg's book is long (over 600 pages) and dense. Von Balthasar's Afterward is six and a half dense pages in the English edition. What comes through is his praise of the methodology and his support of the project of seeking truth from occult sources. His defenders say a sentence or two was omitted by the English editor. Only a sentence or two? This essay begs for a more thorough discussion of both the history of "Christian Hermeticism" (that is, the history of Christian reflection upon the neoplatonic Egyptian writings attributed to Hermes Trismegistus, which was sporadic in the early Church and which was renewed in the renaissance) and the theological errors.

Tomberg isn't just reflecting on the symbols of the Tarot cards, as if they were no different than playing cards; he is delving into a wide span of occultic traditions and seeking to baptize them. He believed he could bath in the confluence of these waters without harm; his views on reincarnation show that they did have an impact on his views of the human person, and his relationship with God--and not favorably.

Gordon

Bill,

“Tomberg... is delving into a wide span of occultic traditions and seeking to baptize them.”

But if he is truly baptizing them, they are changed.

Like baptizing Aristotle and Plato, the results can be mixed. You must shed a great deal as nonsense, or simply mistaken. It was easier to be a Protestant and put aside vast fields of the past as wicked and worthless. But what of the good? In some respects, the whole of Tomberg is a riff on “honor your father and mother”: all those people who lived in anticipation of a fulfillment they did not live to see ought to be respected. The gardens they left must be pruned and cultivated and grafted to the True Vine. Nothing good should be lost.

Tomberg wants to show that the whole of pre-Christian esoteric traditions (as well as the whole of exoteric culture and tradition) only have meaning if they end in Christ. And that the only true magic is the Mass. Yes, he follows the “magicians” into more recent history, but as with the frequent example of Eliphas Levi, becoming a “true adept” leads one nowhere but the Church. This is why the Theosophists dismiss him as a “Jesuit.” This is also why, if you watch online discussions of the Meditations, you'll see folks who began with a New Age bent being dragged kicking and screaming in the Church.

Now, as to reincarnation: rather than suggesting it was a way around “purgatory and judgment,” he saw it as the way in which purgatory unfolds. I agree that doesn’t work. Lord have mercy on us all for our mistakes.

Jeannine

I'm not as knowledgeable about von Balthasar or about Tomberg as all of you are, but I remember a very interesting Christian treatment of Tarot in Charles Williams' novel The Greater Trumps. It's a very strange book but ultimately inspiring. It features two contrasting characters, an occultist of Gypsy origin and a Christian mystic (named Sybil). It's well worth reading.

Carl Olson

Nice reference, Jeannine; I forgot about The Greater Trumps, which I read some twenty years ago. Williams is a great example of a Christian author who sought to reclaim (baptize?) certain truths or ideas found in non-Christian philosophies.

Fred

Yes, Balthasar mentions The Greater Trumps in his afterword.

What's important to realize about MoT, is that the author presents his book as a personal synthesis, a record of his own journey. He was an occultist who encountered Christ on his path, which transformed everything that went before. If there is one theme which the book returns to over and over it is that the Incarnation is the center of history, the greatest event in the history of humanity.

For one who reads this work with an open yet critical heart, the book is a clarion trumpeting Christ's resurrection over a number of paltry substitutes (reincarnation, making oneself into a ghost, etc), exposing and rejecting every form of materialism and dualism, etc. For those who are self-satisfied, Tomberg is one who consorts with tax-collectors and prostitutes.

Fred

Stratford

Hi, I am Stratford Caldecott, editor of 'Second Spring' as mentioned above. Carl asked me to jump in. I have to say the intention of our journal is to be as open-minded as we can be from within a total commitment to Catholic truth and the authority of the Church. As background, I am a convert from a New Age sort of background (by which I don't mean the flakier kinds of occultism but simply an interest in mysticism and other religions, that kind of thing). My heroes are Newman, Chesterton, Tolkien, JPII, Ratzinger/Benedict, not to mention various saints - and I count Balthasar as a big influence, though do not regard him as infallible.

I don't have time now to dig out my original review of Tomberg, but will try to do that later if it might be helpful. It is a very rich and stimulating book, but as Balthasar said (in comments largely edited out of the 'Afterword' to the English paperback edition because they sounded too critical) there are certain flaws that need to be borne in mind. It does not appear to be totally orthodox, despite the author's intention. However, the book is not at all to do with 'Tarot' in the sense of divination, but uses the SYMBOLS on the cards as a way into a series of meditations on the Christian and the 'Hermetic' traditions that he is trying to weave together.

The book does raise some big questions. But they are questions worth asking. In my book 'The Seven Sacraments' I found some of Tomberg's insights helpful in relating the sacraments to the Signs and I am sayings in the Gospel of John, etc. - but this is an old medieval custom in any case.

Good luck with this discussion. I know the very word 'Tarot' raises hackles, and that is understandable. But for some people (not everyone) the book can be very helpful, I think.

Rick

Dr. Caldecott, thank you for your insightful comments. If you have the chance, I would enjoy reading your review of the book.

Stratford

I managed to find my review and have sent it to Carl.

James D. Wickson

Rick is correct on Tarot's origins. It should also be noted that Tarot cards are still used for card games in such places as France and Austria although the players there are using more modern looking Tarot decks with suits of hearts, spades, clubs, and diamonds with trump scenes depicating people at work and play.

Jakob

My question is not immediately connected to the discussion of Tomberg, although tangentially so. Following up the issue of the relationship between Tomberg's Catholicism and his esotericism I came across a number of purportedly Catholic websites, although seemingly schismatic Catholics of a very extreme kind, which, in the context of a rant about the heresies of Pope John Paul II accused him of having been influenced by the Anthroposophy of Rudolf Steiner as a young man. Similar accusations are made against John XXIII, namely that before becoming Pope he was at one point fired from a teaching position for "teaching the theories of Rudolf Steiner". There are no references given to substantiate these claims, and given that these websites read like a Catholic version of wacky conspiracy theory I assumed these claims to be nothing more than slander. Still the specific nature of the accusations intrigued me. Does anyone know if there is any truth to these accusations.

Pedro Ribeiro

I'm probably have no business writing a comment on this blog. Oh, well.
Imagine a man who became estranged from a branch of his family, let's say, on the other side of the street He grew among them, but they found each other difficult, wrong-headed and ultimately obnoxious. So he goes away, living close to his relatives, but ignoring them.
Then he meets someone who becomes a good friend, with whom he has many enlightening conversations. His friend is very generous, kind-hearted and devout. The man becomes a better person, even if just a bit; and he is thankful to his friend for this change.
The one thing the man finds hard to accept about this friend is that he loves the man's relatives. He is absolutely inconditional in his devotion to them; traits that the man consider insufferable are explained by his friend as signals of a much better nature.
The man thinks a lot about his friend's words, and tentatively begins to make amends with his relatives.
After some time without hearing any news about his friend, the man discovers that he died on a trip abroad.
Sad for his loss, the man look for his relatives, to talk about his much missed friend. After all, he loved them.
To his surprise, his relatives quickly dismiss the memory of the friend, whom they considered a "wrong-headed fool", a "silly man", "not really worthy of our company".
Well, the point of this sorry tale is this: I am that man. The stranged relatives are Church. The friend who loved them was Valentin Tomberg.
In my youth, it got harder and harder for me to take part in the Church. I became an atheist, then I was attracted to, shall we say, "New Age ideas" (even if some are quite old).
Then, in 1992, I found the book "Meditations on the Tarot". The devotion, sincerity, and beaty of the text deeply touched me. I found it absolutely fascinating, even if exasperating on some parts - the parts where Tomberg (I didn't knew his name then - for me he was the Unknown Author) staunchly defended the Church, Papacy, the Holy Vows... These things grew slowly in my heart, and today I've come to accept many of these things. I guess I'm still "kicking and screaming" during some moments.
I'm still reading Meditations on the Tarot. Among hundred others books, it has a very special place in my heart, and I'm very grateful to its author.
And yet... I don't know. Looking for more information about Tomberg, I found this blog. And some of the posts seem so dismissive, as if he was unworthy of calling himself a Christian, much less a Catholic, due to his "doctrinal errors". He was (in my opinion) very careful on the question mentioned - reincarnation - through I'm sure his ideas will not convince everyone; nor was it his intention. I don't have the theological knowledge to defend him. But I would like to witness here that he deeply loved Christ; he deeply loved the Church - and didn't want more than the smallest place inside it. At the end of the tenth chapter of his book, musing about how the Church probably wouldn't accept his ideas, he again declared this devotion, ending with the words: "I won't let you go until you bless me".
As I said before, I probably have no business writing this post. I'm not really a Catholic any more. I disagree with a lot of things presently taught by the Church, and I sincerely believe in many things that the Church would surely find objectionable. So I keep on my side of the street, mostly. (I can only count with the Lord's mercy if I am wrong); and no argument of mine will make Tomberg more Catholic to the Church if it decides that he is a Gnostic, a heretic, a Origenist, or whatever. He was human, hence fallible. He surely was mistaken about many things. But again, his love for the Church was sincere, heartfelt, and full of joy. I think this should count for something, if only a more careful reading of his books.
Thanks for your attention.

Pedro Ribeiro

I'm probably have no business writing a comment on this blog. Oh, well.
Imagine a man who became estranged from a branch of his family, let's say, on the other side of the street He grew among them, but they found each other difficult, wrong-headed and ultimately obnoxious. So he goes away, living close to his relatives, but ignoring them.
Then he meets someone who becomes a good friend, with whom he has many enlightening conversations. His friend is very generous, kind-hearted and devout. The man becomes a better person, even if just a bit; and he is thankful to his friend for this change.
The one thing the man finds hard to accept about this friend is that he loves the man's relatives. He is absolutely inconditional in his devotion to them; traits that the man consider insufferable are explained by his friend as signals of a much better nature.
The man thinks a lot about his friend's words, and tentatively begins to make amends with his relatives.
After some time without hearing any news about his friend, the man discovers that he died on a trip abroad.
Sad for his loss, the man look for his relatives, to talk about his much missed friend. After all, he loved them.
To his surprise, his relatives quickly dismiss the memory of the friend, whom they considered a "wrong-headed fool", a "silly man", "not really worthy of our company".
Well, the point of this sorry tale is this: I am that man. The stranged relatives are Church. The friend who loved them was Valentin Tomberg.
In my youth, it got harder and harder for me to take part in the Church. I became an atheist, then I was attracted to, shall we say, "New Age ideas" (even if some are quite old).
Then, in 1992, I found the book "Meditations on the Tarot". The devotion, sincerity, and beaty of the text deeply touched me. I found it absolutely fascinating, even if exasperating on some parts - the parts where Tomberg (I didn't knew his name then - for me he was the Unknown Author) staunchly defended the Church, Papacy, the Holy Vows... These things grew slowly in my heart, and today I've come to accept many of these things. I guess I'm still "kicking and screaming" during some moments.
I'm still reading Meditations on the Tarot. Among hundred others books, it has a very special place in my heart, and I'm very grateful to its author.
And yet... I don't know. Looking for more information about Tomberg, I found this blog. And some of the posts seem so dismissive, as if he was unworthy of calling himself a Christian, much less a Catholic, due to his "doctrinal errors". He was (in my opinion) very careful on the question mentioned - reincarnation - through I'm sure his ideas will not convince everyone; nor was it his intention. I don't have the theological knowledge to defend him. But I would like to witness here that he deeply loved Christ; he deeply loved the Church - and didn't want more than the smallest place inside it. At the end of the tenth chapter of his book, musing about how the Church probably wouldn't accept his ideas, he again declared this devotion, ending with the words: "I won't let you go until you bless me".
As I said before, I probably have no business writing this post. I'm not really a Catholic any more. I disagree with a lot of things presently taught by the Church, and I sincerely believe in many things that the Church would surely find objectionable. So I keep on my side of the street, mostly. (I can only count with the Lord's mercy if I am wrong); and no argument of mine will make Tomberg more Catholic to the Church if it decides that he is a Gnostic, a heretic, a Origenist, or whatever. He was human, hence fallible. He surely was mistaken about many things. But again, his love for the Church was sincere, heartfelt, and full of joy. I think this should count for something, if only a more careful reading of his books.
Thanks for your attention.

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