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What is Hermetism?

Hermeticism is only cognizable for people who are open for the arcane. It eludes the „convenient” approach as long as one is not willing to engage with one’s own inmost being.

The roots of Hermeticism lie in ancient Egypt. From the official historical records very little is known of these roots. Known hermetic treatises, as for instance the “Corpus Hermeticum”, deal with theological and philosophical questions such as the repeated earth lives and the apotheosis of the human being at hand of cognizance of a transcendental god. The philosophical orientation of these treatises is Greek rather than Egyptian. The Greeks recognized a close relationship between Hermes and the Egyptian god, Thoth.

… HERMES taught: To the extent that the human being uses his skills and capacities while on earth in accordance with the intentions of the spiritual powers, he prepares in himself the ability to unite himself with these powers after his death (Rudolf Steiner, „Occult Science“, GA 13, 1972, p. 210).

… The impulse of the ancient Egyptian Hermeticism therefore lies „above“, whereas the souls “below” should learn to form themselves in analogy with the “above” so as to be able to eventually reunite with the “above”.

… HERMES could teach this analogy of “above” and “below” because he was able to apprehend the world “above”, the world “below”, as well as the interrelation between the two.


… The pupils of the great HERMES had to purify and shape their soul forces of thinking, feeling and willing in such a way that they would be able to unite themselves after their death with the Being of the Sun. This Being of the Sun, however, has through the events enacted at the turning point of time descended from the realm of the sun and has united himself with the earth.

… Now that the „greatest of all living analogies of above and below” is living in our midst, the soul has the possibility already between birth and death to prepare itself for the union with this exalted Sun-Being here on the earth. The aim of modern Christian Hermeticism is therefore to create a living relationship here on the earth to that Community of Inspiration which is centered around this exalted I AM being.  


… The living stream of Hermeticism will touch and guide the pupil through his life by guiding him to the insights and experiences necessary for his individual life.

… Valentin Tomberg also calls this hermetic openness and receptivity of will FAITH. Through faith in this sense the pupil becomes capable of being touched by intuitions:

… „Hermeticism lives by intuition alone. Without it Hermeticism would be dead. It was this dead affair that was recognized by the exponents of faith and science who truly marveled to find that there were people who took it seriously. They only saw a kind of scientific and religious fools-gold in it – or at most a weak faith that had need of crutches lent to it from science, or else a childlike science that has not yet learnt to tell the difference between what one believes and what one knows. And they were not mistaken: Without the cement of intuition Hermeticism would be nothing other than an improvised composition of the heterogeneous elements of science and religion.” (19th letter, „The Sun“; „Meditations on the Tarot“)  


… Because the actual deed and the preceding intuition carry such importance in Hermeticism its forms of representation tend to be symbolic.

… „In a way they (the 22 Major Arcana of the Tarot) depict 22 spiritual exercises through which you, dear unknown friend, will be able to dive into the stream of the living tradition and hence enter the Community of Beings who have served and continue to serve it.” (Meditaions on the Tarot”; Foreword).

… The images and expositions of the Tarot therefore constitute no body of knowledge which has to be accumulated, attested and quoted. Rather does the organism of the entirety of the 22 Arcana provide guidance directly to the Rosicrucian sources of wisdom themselves. Tomberg writes:

„The symbols are therefore not instruments of thought, but rather the guides and active masters of thought, in exactly the same way as the “symbol of faith”, the Christian Credo, is no instrument of thought, but a Star-constellation far above the head. (16th letter; “The House of God”; Meditations on the Tarot”.)


… Where is the pupil led by the „Star-constellation of the Arcana“?
„It suffices to point to the following analogy: It was not the straw of the crib, nor was it the animals present there, that led the Magi from the Orient and brought them to the Child, but it was the Star of the Heavens. In like manner one will only find straw and animals in Hermeticism if one is not led by ones Star, which solely consists of Intuition.” (19th letter; “The Sun”; “Meditations on the Tarot”).

… The correlation between the soul penetrated by consciousness and the experiences of life that impress themselves on the physical body takes place in the intermediary etheric body. After the solar shaping of the astral body, the inner guidance at hand of the participation in the living stream of Hermeticism and the lessons of outer life, the finding of an extensive relation to the solar, radiant etheric life constitutes the aim of hermetic endeavors. However, Hermeticism does not teach in a predetermined and defined way as regards this life in clarity of consciousness. Rather it teaches the complex, immediate and living experience.

From: Was ist Hermetismus? Eine Untersuchung der christlichen Hermetik Valentin Tombergs im Licht der Geisteswissenschaft Rudolf Steiners, (What is Hermeticism? An Investigation of the Christian Hermeticism of Valentin Tomberg in the Light of the Spiritual Science of Rudolf Steiner); Dr. Sebastian Niklaus, Achamoth Verlag 2008. Available as book in German.

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