The Four-Fold Teachers Pt 3: Valentin Tomberg

“May the will of the predecessor become the thought of the successor; may the thought of the predecessor become the will of the successor.”

This magical formula given by Valentin Tomberg in his Lord’s Prayer Course is the key to understanding the transition (and resulting confusion) from the era of Rudolf Steiner to that of Valentin Tomberg in the 1930’s. That which was manifest became hidden, and that which was hidden became manifest; this was an unexpected and difficult flipe, too difficult for the Anthroposophical Society to embrace (as the years 1933-1938 in its history make clear) .

On the first level of manifestation of Valentin Tomberg’s work, that is, in the realm of the inner life of Valentin Tomberg, we have the second Arcanum of the Tarot, following on from the first Arcanum in Rudolf Steiner’s work. This means we have The High Priestess, who is related to Saturn, as the representative of his inner life. How can we better understand this?

high priestess

There are several different ways in which the life of Valentin Tomberg bears witness to The High Priestess as the archetype of his inner life. The first is the quality of Valentin Tomberg’s inner activity. Rather than a representative of Intuition (The Magician), as was Rudolf Steiner, he was a representative of the activity of Inspiration first and foremost. If we read closely his Meditations on the Tarot, especially his meditations on the 14th Arcanum, Temperance, we find it revealed that Inspiration is a “thinking together” with one’s Angel (or Archangel, Elohim, or Seraphim as the case may be). This “thinking together” is like a conversation of one’s higher self with the spiritual world, rather than a uniting of one’s being completely with the spiritual world, as is the case in Intuition. Valentin Tomberg calls Inspiration the uniting feature of Hermeticists, the key to speaking their language and performing their activity. Since presenting Christian Hermeticism to the world was more than anything else the mission of Valentin Tomberg, we can assume that Inspiration was, more than anything else, the method and spiritual activity employed by him during his life. And The High Priestess is the representative of this listening, conversational quality of Inspiration—the second letter of the Divine Name YHVH, Gnosis. (The Magician=Yod, Intuition, Spiritual Touch. The High Priestess=He, Inspiration, Spiritual Hearing. The Empress=Vau, Imagination, Spiritual Seeing. The Emperor=He, Hermeticism, Synthesis.)

On the other hand, The High Priestess is an image of the Virgin Mary (Tomberg relates Saturn specifically to the Virgin Mary). From childhood, Tomberg was drawn to the Divine Feminine, first in Russian Sophiology and ultimately in the cult of the Virgin in the Catholic Church. Rather than The Magician as the Representative of Humanity (the key inner experience of Steiner), we have The High Priestess as the Holy Virgin (the key inner experience of Tomberg).

Last but not least, we can see that what was outer for Rudolf Steiner (his mode and content of teaching) has become inner for Valentin Tomberg. We might say that on an inner level, Valentin Tomberg united himself completely with the content of the teachings brought forth by Rudolf Steiner over the course of his life. His comprehensive grasp at such a young age of the content of Anthroposophy is evident upon reading, for example, Christ and Sophia.

The next level of manifestation of Valentin Tomberg’s work is in his own mode and content of teaching. Following on from the “Saturn Evolution” that was Rudolf Steiner’s teaching, his is a “Sun Evolution”; we move from The High Priestess to The Magician. How can this be understood?


Once again, we have a flipe: the inner life of Rudolf Steiner becomes the outer expression, the teaching, of Valentin Tomberg. Fundamentally, Valentin Tomberg’s teaching was to proclaim the advent of Jesus Christ in the Earth’s etheric aura, and to elucidate activities through which the human being could begin to come into a relationship with Him. This is essentially an outer expression and explication of the life-changing event that occurred to Rudolf Steiner in 1899, his inner experience of the Mystery of Golgotha.

But this Arcanum of The Magician is also expressive of Valentin Tomberg’s mode of expression. Rudolf Steiner’s impeccable reports of experiences of the spiritual world none-the-less strike some people as cold and dry. They are certainly written from an academic/scientific perspective—very Saturnine. Compared to this, Valentin Tomberg’s writings are free-wheeling, full of light, warmth, and life. They lack the scientific precision of Steiner’s writings, but one gets the impression that one is being brought to life by what one is reading. Tomberg’s ability to imbue his writings with this quality only increased with his age, as it comes to full expression in his Meditations on the Tarot. It is completely holistic and harmonious, but is written almost in a stream-of-consciousness style. It is like The Juggler (another name for The Magician) – effortlessly keeping in motion several spheres simultaneously. Unfortunately, it was this tone which came as such a shock to the Anthroposophical Society, and struck some then (and even now) as a sign of overconfidence and a tendency to allow the lower personality to bleed into what ought to be detached. In reality it was nothing more or less than the contrast between the Gnostic content of Anthroposophy and the Mystical content of Christian Hermeticism, the Head and the Heart.

We find the next level of manifestation of Valentin Tomberg’s work in his life of will, in the nature of his deeds. This is the Venus Miracle, the Healing of the Nobleman’s Son, following upon the Moon Miracle of Rudolf Steiner, the Changing of Water into Wine. In other words, we move from The Empress (Moon) to The Lover (Venus). How can we understand this better?


The quality of the sixth Arcanum, The Lover, is “Love of Neighbor.” When we look at the life of Valentin Tomberg, we see that from the very beginning, he was drawn to working with groups of people, whether it was the Hermetic school around Mebes, the Theosophical Society, the Anthroposophical Society, the Catholic Church, or ultimately the broader scene of Christian Hermeticists to which his magnum opus, Mediations on the Tarot, is addressed. One might imagine that in doing so he was addressing all of the groups mentioned here; but another group, of great importance to his work, is also addressed. His friend Martin Kriele has stated that Valentin Tomberg performed most of his “sacred magical” work behind the scenes, working with and interceding on behalf of the Dead. Many of these “Known Friends” who have crossed the Threshold are specifically named in Meditations on the Tarot. In fact, based on my own experience, I would posit that this work was written with the direct aid of Hermeticists across the Threshold; hence it is a work that is written Anonymously, in which the Anonymous author greets one from beyond the Threshold. The author must remain Anonymous for, in truth, he has not acted alone in writing these Letter/Meditations. Their authorship originates from beyond the Threshold.

In terms of the seven arts represented by each of the chakras, the Venus Chakra represents to us poetry, speech, the word. We can see that Valentin Tomberg’s great Magical Deed, the second Miracle accomplished through him, was linked to the authorship of Meditations on the Tarot. There is, in my opinion, no better written work, no better use of human language, no better fusion of poetry, prose, academia, and mysticism than this collection of 22 Letter/Meditations. Rudolf Steiner’s deeds were collectively a Spiritual Drama (Drama in the sense of the totality of the Arts); Tomberg’s were collectively a Spiritual Poem, a great Word.

Finally, we come to the final level of manifestation of Valentin Tomberg’s work, his effect and legacy. Here we arrive at the activation of the Larynx Chakra, a Crowning of Thorns. This is related to the seventh Arcanum, The Chariot. How can this be understood?


We can understand The Chariot (whose quality is that of Self-Mastery), as well as the Mars Chakra, to be related particularly to the cultivation of morality in the human being. Specifically, it lays out a path of “Crowning with Thorns,” of being crowned with the uprightness required to carry out deeds on behalf of the spiritual world. This uprightness is what Jung would call the Individuated Personality, the Ego that has become Salt, balancing the explosiveness of Sulphur (megalomania) and the fluidity of Mercury (inferiority complex). It is this purifying, will-strengthening path that one sets out on when one begins to read Meditations on the Tarot, becoming ultimately a Knight in the order of Michael (the modern representative of Mars), a member of the so-called Church of John:  one who infuses the blessed purity of the Buddhistic St. Francis with the experiential knowledge of Christian Rosenkreuz.

The effect of Rudolf Steiner was primarily to lay out the path by which the human being could take up their own schooling in an esoteric path, developing their latent spiritual sensory capabilities (Emperor/Hermeticism/Brow Chakra). This required the counterbalancing effect brought by Valentin Tomberg, encouraging the human being to take up their own schooling in moral development (Chariot/Self-Mastery/Larynx Chakra). “The golden rule is this:  for every one step that you take in pursuit of hidden knowledge, take three steps in the perfecting of your own character.”

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The Four-Fold Teachers Pt 2: Rudolf Steiner

To reiterate briefly:  the four aspects of the Hermetic Tradition (Mysticism, Gnosis, Sacred Magic, and Hermeticism) express themselves through the activities and biographies of the so-called Great Teachers of the 20th century. They do this, respectively, through the inner life of the teacher (Mysticism), through his or her mode and content of teaching (Gnosis), through deeds (Sacred Magic), and finally through the effect the teacher has on his or her students, through the legacy left behind (Hermeticism).

In order to make this clearer, let’s look at each Teacher in turn, making the attempt to grasp as vividly as possible these four aspects for each of them. And so first we turn our gaze to Rudolf Steiner.

Let’s recall that the progressive unfolding of the inner lives of the Great Teachers has a certain relationship to the sequence of the Major Arcana:  The Magician (Sun), The High Priestess (Saturn), The Empress (Moon), The Emperor (Jupiter), etc. Therefore, we should be able to find in the inner life of Rudolf Steiner something representative of the spiritual activity that is The Magician. What is this spiritual activity? The Magician is Mysticism. He reveals to us the nature of Intuition; of Union with the Divine. This Intuition and Union is so immediate, and so pure, that it is unmediated by the reflection of thought or discursive thinking. It is pure, living, spiritual experience that only subsequently can be gathered into conscious thought (through the spiritual activity of The High Priestess, Gnosis).


We could say that The Magician is a representative of Christ; indeed, he bears a striking resemblance in gesture to Steiner’s Representative of Humanity. He is, among the Tarot, the representative of the Sun, and by association, with the Resurrected Christ. He is, in fact, quite a perfect picture of the inner life of Rudolf Steiner:  pure freedom; the effortless union with the spiritual world, above all with the spiritual reality of the Mystery of Golgotha.

The progressive teachings given by the Great Teachers do not follow the sequence of development laid out by the Major Arcana. Rather, this second level of activity on the part of the Teachers is expressed through the sequence of Cosmic Evolution, from Ancient Saturn to future Venus. Translated into the language of the Tarot, this sequence is The High Priestess (Saturn), The Magician (Sun), The Empress (Moon), The Chariot (Mars), The Pope (Mercury), and The Lover (Venus). Can we find in the teaching of Rudolf Steiner a quality related to that of The High Priestess, of Saturn?

The quality of the High Priestess is that of completely accurate reflection, like a still lake reflecting the sky. It is the utter stillness of the lower personality which enables it to clearly bring to consciousness, as well as communicate, the reality of the intuitive experience portrayed for us by the Arcanum of the Magician. Rudolf Steiner, more than any other human being, possessed the ability to impartially translate into human language the realities of the higher worlds. To the same degree as his impartiality (the silencing of the lower personality), Rudolf Steiner possessed a thoroughness and accuracy in reporting spiritual realities, one thus far unmatched by any other.

high priestess

In fact, the very word Anthroposophy contains these two figures. Anthroposophy is Anthropos-Sophia; Anthropos refers to Man, as in the archetypal Human, Christ. This is The Magician (Mysticism). Sophia refers to Wisdom, the Goddess Wisdom specifically, rather than any kind of dry philosophy. This is The High Priestess (Gnosis). Anthroposophy, then, is Mysticism-Gnosis, or Mystery Wisdom:  the Magician and the High Priestess.

Now we come to the third level of activity of Rudolf Steiner:  his deeds. This particular realm of Steiner’s activity has been discussed from one angle in my prior articles on the 7 Miracles; now we will investigate it from another. Let’s remember that the path of Sacred Magic accomplished by the Great Teachers follows the path of the Healing Miracles of Christ through the chakras:  Moon, Venus, Mercury, Sun, etc. Translated into the imagery of the Tarot, this gives us:  The Empress (Moon), The Lover (Venus), The Pope (Mercury), The Magician (Sun), The Chariot (Mars), The Emperor (Jupiter), The High Priestess (Saturn). How were Rudolf Steiner’s deeds related to the Empress?


The Empress is the primary representative of Sacred Magic among the Major Arcana of the Tarot. Just as Rudolf Steiner was the archetypal mystic in his inner life and the archetypal gnostic in his teaching, he was also the archetypal mage in his life of will, his deeds. It seems that over the course of the last 20 years of his life (beginning particularly in 1907), every area of human endeavor was touched by this man and infused with the life of the Spirit. Architecture, painting, eurythmy, sculpture, speech, medicine, agriculture, pedagogy—each and every one of these areas became the platform upon which Sacred Magic could be performed via the agency of Rudolf Steiner.

In the Lord’s Prayer Course, Valentin Tomberg makes the following correspondences between the 7 Arts and the chakras:

Crown = Architecture

Brow = Painting

Larynx = Sculpture

Heart = Music

Solar Plexus = Dance

Sacral = Poetry

Root = Drama

The last of these, Drama, is meant in the Wagnerian sense, in which Drama is the synthesis of all of the preceding Arts. We can see that in the life of Rudolf Steiner, the attempt was made and the seed was planted for the archetypal form of Mystery Drama, in which the union of all of the Arts with the Spirit is realized.

If we now look at the last realm of activity of Rudolf Steiner, we come to his legacy and his effect on his students. The development of this last realm across the activity of the Great Teachers follows the path of the chakras from above to below, beginning with the Brow Chakra, the Jupiter Chakra. When translated into the language of the Tarot, this gives us the Hermetic correspondence of:  The Emperor (Jupiter), The Chariot (Mars), The Magician (Sun), The Pope (Mercury), The Lover (Venus), The Empress (Moon), The High Priestess (Saturn).

This sequence presents to us a different way of working with the Stages of the Passion taken by Christ. Rather than beginning with Crown=The Washing of the Feet and ending with The Moon=Resurrection, we have a sequence which integrates the reality of the descent to the Mother in Shambhala, which is only becoming clear to humanity in the present age:

Brow = Scourging

Larynx = Crowning with Thorns

Heart = Bearing of the Cross

Solar Plexus = Crucifixion

Sacral = Entombment

Root = Descent to Shambhala (reunion with the Mother)

Crown = Resurrection/Ascension (reunion with the Father)

What is significant in this sequence is that it begins in the Brow Chakra, where the human being is alone with their own effort (“My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?”). And this was the effect intended by Rudolf Steiner:  to encourage the student of spiritual science to strive upwards into the spiritual world by dint of an unceasing effort of the transformation of thinking, suffused with equanimity and patience.


Within the Major Arcana, Jupiter is revealed to us through the Arcanum of the Emperor. He is the representative amongst the Arcana of Hermeticism. What is Hermeticism? It is the synthesis, within a perennial philosophy, of all knowledge and experience. A perennial philosophy, i.e. a living Tradition; while it ever strives to be all encompassing, it is also an organism in development. Rather than a fixed philosophical system, it offers a way of approaching the world to discover Truth. It forms a spiral, not a closed circle. Above all, it follows the Hermetic axiom, “As above, so below,” seeking the correspondence between the spiritual above and the material below. This was the enormous legacy left by Rudolf Steiner. More than any other teacher, he has left us with a synthetic, all encompassing world-view, one that (ideally) is a living activity in meeting the spiritual and material worlds rather than a new set of extremely abstract dogma (although this is its shadow side). It is in the wrestling with the content of Anthroposophy, in our active engagement both with the inner path laid out by Rudolf Steiner as well as the outer endeavors initiated by him that we find ourselves guided to the redemption of the Brow Chakra. In light of the Scourging, this is fundamentally the inner exercise of resolving polarities of left and right, of above and below, via the ultimate Center which is Christ.

And now we can understand more clearly why and how Rudolf Steiner accomplished such a miraculous amount in one lifetime. The four levels of his activity are summed up in the first four Major Arcana of the Tarot:  The Magician, The High Priestess, The Empress, The Emperor; or Mysticism, Gnosis, Sacred Magic, Hermeticism. These four Arcana comprise and express to us the ineffable name of God:  YHVH, Yod He Vau He. Rudolf Steiner’s life and destiny, then, were a perfect expression of the ineffable name of God, of Yahweh. Considering Rudolf Steiner’s karmic background as the individuality Moses, this is a humbling and awe-inspiring reality to ponder. It is no wonder, then, that in him we have seen the most comprehensive and inspiring spiritual teacher of the modern age:  he bears the very Name of God as his garment.

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The Four-Fold Teachers

One of the great stumbling blocks to spiritual progress is that we tend to expect the Tradition to be carried forward in a rather linear way, with each successive teacher more or less a carbon copy of whomever came before (whether we consciously wish for this or not does not matter; love of ease, as Steiner often stated, is the main thoroughfare for Ahriman to do his work in our time, and we are all susceptible). The natural response to this for those who feel disenfranchised by one or the other spiritual movement is to react in completely the opposite fashion, rejecting the old for the sake of the new. The purpose of the articles on the 7 Miracles, as well as the current series of articles, is to show that a Living Tradition is maintained and grows by means of a non-linear, organic process of unfolding. We must be ready for what is coming to be as different from what has been to the same degree that blossom differs from leaf. And so we will, through the course of these articles, hopefully get to know better each of the Great Teachers of the 20th Century, and also prepare ourselves inwardly to meet what may be coming to meet us now, in the 21st century.

The series of articles on the 7 Miracles of the Etheric Christ was intended to give a broad description of the activity of the Etheric Christ, via different teachers and representatives, over the course of the 20th-22nd centuries. Primarily, this was a description of Sacred Magic:  the uniting of the human will of the teacher with the divine will of Christ in the accomplishment of a creative (i.e. miraculous) deed. The question might arise, what of the other levels of incarnation in the Hermetic School? What of Mysticism and Gnosis, which should precede Sacred Magic? What of Hermeticism, which should be its result?

If we read thoroughly and carefully through the writings of Robert Powell, we find that these questions have, at least in part, been answered. In The Most Holy Trinosophia, Robert Powell speaks at length about the three Great Teachers of the 20th century. The first, Rudolf Steiner, he describes as one who would awaken the human being to the realm of Truth via the 2 petalled lotus flower, the Brow Chakra. His successor, Valentin Tomberg, came to awaken the human being to Goodness, to Morality, via the 16 petalled lotus flower, the Larynx Chakra. Robert then goes on to describe the activity of the Novalis individuality, working completely hidden from the public, in order to inspire Love and Beauty in her pupils via the 12 petalled lotus flower, the Heart Chakra. I would be so bold (and possibly others would as well) to say that Robert is the public representative of the Novalis individuality; his entire lifework has been a deed of Sacred Magic, bowing his will to meet the will of another.

On the other hand, Robert has characterized this progression of the three Teachers as a movement from Gnosis (Steiner) to Mysticism (Tomberg) and then to Sacred Magic (Novalis). Why in this order? Isn’t the Tetragrammaton YHVH, Mysticism then Gnosis, Sacred Magic, and Hermeticism (where Yod=Mysticism, He=Gnosis, Vau=Magic, and He=Hermeticism; see Meditations on the Tarot)? The answer to this question will become clear as we move further into these articles.

Based on the above, the following becomes clear:  first of all, the movement from one Teacher to the next should awaken in their students the chakras, beginning with the Brow Chakra and moving downward. In this, we are dealing primarily with the effect of the Teacher and his or her legacy; this is the realm of Hermeticism, the School that is established in the wake of the establishment of a living tradition.

Second of all, the movement through the 7 Miracles of the Etheric Christ is a movement, we could say, in the opposite direction. Whereas the stream of Hermeticism follows the stream of the Stages of the Passion (moving downward through the chakras), the miracles follow the path of the original healing miracles of Christ:  upward through the chakras, beginning with the Root Chakra. This is the realm of Sacred Magic, the creative deeds performed by these successive teachers in union with the divine will.

And what of the designation of Steiner as a Gnostic Teacher, Tomberg as a Mystic Teacher, and Novalis (inspiring the work of Robert Powell) as a Sacred Magical Teacher? While there are other explanations for Gnosis to precede Mysticism in this case (see Tomberg’s Lord’s Prayer Course, as well as Robert Powell’s Cultivating Inner Radiance), for our purposes we will have to look to the Tarot to find the explanation. The second Arcanum, The High Priestess, is the representative of Gnosis. The first, The Magician, is that of Mysticism. And the third, The Empress, is that of Sacred Magic. According to Robert Powell, each card in the Major Arcana has its astrological correspondence. For the High Priestess, it is Saturn; for The Magician, the Sun, and for the Empress, the Moon.

This sequence is familiar, isn’t it? Saturn, Sun, Moon:  these are the first 3 stages of Cosmic Evolution, the first 3 Pillars of the Temple of Sophia. This then is the progression taken in the realm of Gnosis by the successive Teachers, the path of Cosmic Evolution. This is also the path through the chakras of the Resurrected Christ, as described in Cultivating Inner Radiance by Robert Powell.

Therefore we can see that the expression of Hermeticism for each of the Great Teachers is found in their effect on their pupils, their legacies. The expression of Sacred Magic for each of the Great Teachers is found in their deeds, in their life of will and creativity. And the expression of Gnosis (Knowledge) for each of the Great Teachers is found in the quality of the particular teaching, the type of knowledge they have been inspired to share.

What then of the first step on the Hermetic path, Mysticism? The Yod of the Divine Name YHVH? This remains a mystery to us. After having lived with this question for some time, the answer that appears correct to me is that, first of all, Mysticism is expressed particularly by the inner character of each of the Great Teachers. So we have a progression moving from within to without: Mysticism=Inner Character; Gnosis=Teaching; Sacred Magic=Deeds; Hermeticism=Effect and Legacy. Again, after having lived with this picture for some time, it seems clear to me that the progressive nature of the inner life of each of the Great Teachers follows the path of the Major Arcana themselves. Here are the first 7 Arcana, their astrological correspondences, and a quality expressive of their being:

The Magician = The Sun = Mysticism

The High Priestess = Saturn = Gnosis

The Empress = The Moon = Sacred Magic

The Emperor = Jupiter = Hermeticism

The Pope = Mercury = Love of God

The Lover = Venus = Love of Neighbor

The Chariot = Mars = Self-Mastery

So we could say the Hermetic Path through the chakras (Sun, Saturn, Moon, Jupiter, Mercury, Venus, Mars) shows us the progressive development of the Mystical quality in the successive Great Teachers.

At this point, this is all rather abstract. In the next few sections, we will look more closely at each of the Great Teachers in order to see more clearly how each of these 4 realms has come to expression in their lives. More or less one could say that all of this will be an elaboration of the maxim given by Valentin Tomberg in the Lord’s Prayer Course as to the nature of succession in a Living Tradition:  “May the will of the predecessor become the thought of the successor, and may the thought of the predecessor become the will of the successor.”

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