In referring to various kinds of magical practices, secret brotherhoods, devil-worshipping cults and the like, when the words ‘The Dark Side’ are spoken, people often give themselves over to a little tremor or thrill – imagining that there exists some very potent force, challenging in its power the ‘Path of Light’, and what is regarded as the Judaic-Christian spiritual path. There is some feeling, or suspicion, that these dark forces may even have equal power to those of the Light. You come across statements that where there is light there has to be darkness or shadow. It’s even said that if one is interested in magical practices why should one limit oneself to one side only, or, in terms of knowledge anyway, that one should know about the whole spectrum of supernatural activities. There is some evidence that Dark Lodges do exist. So, what are we to make of this ‘Dark Side’?

Superior and Inferior Paths: In this article, the case will be made that what it really amounts to, when you look at what can be gained and what effect it has on a person, in following the Path of Light and the Path of Darkness, is that there is a Superior Path and an Inferior Path. The insights we will mainly draw on are those presented in a book which has become well-known in recent times, The Meditations on the Tarot. (*1) The author is given as anonymous, but it is known who it is. The author is Valentin Tomberg (1900 – 1973), who was born in St Petersburg, of a Russian mother and Estonian father of Baltic German origins. During his life, spent in Russia, Estonia, The Netherlands, Germany and England, he was involved with various mystical and religious groups. He was a member of Rudolf Steiner’s Anthroposophical Society for some time, but, due to his controversial views, he separated from them, and he went on to convert to Roman Catholicism. We will look at, in particular, his writings on six cards which have a bearing on the distinction between the two paths, which he often refers to as the Right-Hand Path and the Left-Hand Path. Much of what he says – perhaps not all – gives a very clear picture of what is the superior path for a mystic.

The subtitle of Tomberg’s book is A Journey into Christian Hermeticism. Overall, it can be seen as having the theme of reconciling many of the key tenants of Christianity with traditional esoteric – particularly Hermetic – ideas. It has to be said, too, that although he has studied and appreciated aspects of much of the Eastern and Western esoteric and religious traditions, he can still be rather critical of them. Sometimes, for this writer at least, he can be a little annoying in the way that he is very particular about pointing out the deficiencies of these other mystical paths which lie outside his own, Catholic, Christianity. All one can do, really, is just put up with that, and take in the truly profound insights he often has of the spiritual world, and the means of approaching it. He’s got a good deal to say about the highest spiritual path.

Also, in writing about the dark side, in particular about The Devil card, Tomberg bears in mind that to really study a subject one risks identifying with it – that to immerse oneself in some field of knowledge is to commune with it. Thus, he just restricts himself to observing it at a distance, as a phenomenon only. Following this principle, we won’t be concerned with any actual practices of the so-called dark side. We’ll let the reader, if they wish, assess, where, in the light of the study of these cards, these practices might fit in.

In introducing each card, the Hebrew letter sometimes associated with it will be given, along with the meaning as it may relate to the card – according to Paul Foster Case, the well-known teacher on the Tarot and other parts of the Western Mystical Tradition. This is not provided by Tomberg, but is given here for the sake of presenting in one symbol, from another source, some overall sense of the card.

The tarot cards used in this study are those of the Marseille Deck.

The Force Card: The first card to be looked at is Force, the 11th Arcanum. The Hebrew letter which has been associated with Force is Teth, meaning snake, serpent power, or in theosophy, Fohat.

In this card we see a woman holding open, without effort, the jaws of a lion. It illustrates the ascendency of one kind of force, or strength, over another. The woman, in Tomberg’s work, is the Virgin – also known as Virgin Nature, Virgin-Mother or Virgin-Sophia – as she was conceived of in ancient mystical schools and religions. In the Proverbs it is the Virgin who is speaking through Solomon:

Before his works of old

I was set up from the everlasting,

From the beginning,

Or ever the earth was.

when he marked out the foundations of the earth,

then I was at work beside him.

Proverbs v111,22-30.

She represents a force which has a purity and a serenity which comes from inner concordance, or unity, and is a source of vital life energy. The lion, as a beast of nature, but also of ‘Holy Animality’, has a natural feeling for the source of life energy. The lion represents what Tomberg calls electrical energy, which is created by tension and struggle between opposites. The Virgin is the force of divine energy which comes from harmony and co-operation of its parts. He gives the example of the rabbis studying the Zohar. When they find agreement on any point on a deeper and loftier comprehension of the Torah, the rabbis weep and embrace one another. Also, in the first manifesto of the Rosicrucians, the Fama Fraternitatis, it says: ‘… the truth is peaceable, brief, and always like herself in all things…’

Electrical energy is made use of in technical fields, and also in the areas of the mind at work – in hypnosis, demagogic propaganda, political polemics. Arguments create a kind of energy, however only a fusion of opinions can bring about Truth.

The Emerald Tablet of the Hermeticists speaks of this force represented by the Virgin. ‘It overcometh every subtle thing.’ Spiritual bliss, or beatitude, actually has a higher intensity, or vibration than mental, psychic or electrical force. It overcomes opposition by changing those opposing forces into friendly and allied parties. Although it may appear powerless, it has an inner power. The sword of the Archangel Michael exerts a particular force, which repulses or puts to flight anyone who is opposed to life, or who cannot support its intensity – and it attracts and vivifies anyone who aspires to life and can accommodate its power. We can think here, also, of Mother Kali of India, who holds a sword and severed head in two hands, and gives a welcome and blessing with the other two.

The Emerald Tablet also says that ‘the Force’: ‘doth penetrate every solid substance.’ It does so as an emollient – that is, as a softening and conciliating action. In the human body this subtle force brings the breath of life, and releases the body from its solidity. We can think of this penetrating force also as the action of the soul leaving the body at death, or even aspects of the soul rising above the body in Samadhi. This example, of Samadhi, perhaps brings us closest to the Hebrew letter Teth – the snake – when we think of the Kundalini energy rising. We can think, also, of the way the Greeks, with their figure of the snake-haired Medusa, carried this over into very negative territory and left it there – ie, the Kundalini aroused in the wrong way.

The Hanged Man Card: The next card is The Hanged Man. It has the Hebrew letter Mem, with the meaning of seas, or water, associated with it. This Arcanum deals with the situation of being subject to two kinds of gravity: earthly gravity and spiritual gravitation towards Heaven. or the Higher Self.

The Hanged Man is in the condition of having replaced the force of attraction from below with that from above. This was recognised by the early Christian hermits, and anchorites in other lands, who needed the right spiritual pressure, that’s gained in solitude, to feel ‘Heaven’ at work in their lives.

Fear is due to the menace of being engulfed by the elemental forces of a lower order, by being carried away by the blind forces of the ‘sea’ of the electrical field of death. On the other hand, the ‘I am’ statements of Christ – ‘I am the true vine’, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life,’ and others like this – express the gravitation to the Divine World, or the Ocean of the Cosmic Mind, as Paul Foster Case puts it. They allow a soul to rise above terrestrial gravitation.

In this point, Tomberg deals with different kinds of physical levitation which have been observed as a real phenomenon. One kind is the psycho-somatic rapture of saints, due to celestial gravitation. Another kind is levitation due to a current of electricity exerting a force downwards, as it is emanated from the Muladhara (base) Chakra, where the serpent power resides. This is a different aspect of the serpent power to that used as an example in The Force card above. An example of this is the case of witches on broom-sticks, or of sorcerers on ‘a beam of fire’ as reported in the rural regions of Estonia.

The essential nature of celestial gravitation is radiation: the extension of mental, psychic and physical energy rising up to an absolute centre. The essential nature of terrestrial gravitation is enfoldment. This is the coagulation of mental, psychic and physical energy around centres of gravitation on earth – in nature and the individual. In Alice Bailey’s book Esoteric Healing (*2), in explaining the energy that can be directed into a sick person there is a similar distinction in the types of energy – that of magnetic, which works with prana or vital planetary fluid, and radiation, which works with soul energy drawn down from higher regions. There will be more on this later.

The man in the card being hung upside down expresses the predicament of a soul, at least some of the time in its spiritual quest, of being suspended, in solitude, and receiving no help from heaven or earth. As King David says, (in Psalm 107): ‘I Iie awake. I am like a lonely sparrow on the housetop.’ This is the abode of the soul at those times. It may rise up to the celestial, or descend to the terrestrial. It is at the zero point.

For the true aspirant, though, the ‘solid ground’ is found above. Heaven guides his movements – his feet, as the card displays. That the legs are crossed is interpreted by others as a conflict, or cross, at even a high level of the soul, of the horizontal polarity of selfhood, and the vertical polarity of the spirit. The ground below is only the concern of his head. He is responsible to spiritual designs for the future, not memories of the past. An example would be that of Abraham making his journey into Canaan, his will guided by what would take place in the future. It is submission of the personal consciousness to the direction of the Universal Mind, as Paul Foster Case puts it.

The twelve cut branches represent the idea that the Hanged Man has embraced and taken into his nature all of the twelve archetypes of the zodiac, and is able to act from complete unity under the sign of celestial gravitation.

The Hanged Man is the link between Darkness and Light. He lives by Faith, ‘The gift of black perfection’. This is not the darkness of ignorance but that of knowledge beyond human powers, that of the ultra-luminous. At times the soul itself perceives nothing – revelation takes place above it. Saint Theresa, for example, at times could clearly feel that Jesus Christ was there beside her; she could not see him with the eyes of the soul or body but she felt his presence. And at other times she could see with the eyes of the soul. Tomberg says that the ‘eyes of the soul’ are the ‘lotus flowers’, or chakras. The heart chakra actually participates in both kinds of vision – those with and those without images. It perceives presences and spiritual warmth. An example of an experience related to this is that of the two disciples going to Emmaus after the Crucifixion (Luke xxiv,32) ‘Someone’ joined them and their hearts burnt within them while he talked to them and taught them. Then, after a while, he appeared to them as Himself. The heart gives certainty of authentic faith, and this bears witness to the spiritual reality of visions.

The Hanged Man, then, is like Job, having been tried and tested as to his spiritual loyalties.

And after my skin has been thus destroyed,

then from my flesh I shall see God,

whom I shall see on my side,

and my eyes shall behold, and not another.

My heart faints within me in expectation!

Job xix 26-27 b

The Death Card: We move on to the delicate subject of Death. The card of Death has associated with it the Hebrew letter Nun, which means fish, and also carries a meaning of generative power, to sprout or grow. The Arcanum of Death expresses the process of the subtraction of the Self from the astral and etheric bodies – so that it may rise to the higher spiritual levels, before returning to the earth plane with an enhanced understanding of life. This is like waking up from a good sleep. There are sayings from olden times, such as ‘Dawn is the friend of the Muses’, or ‘the morning hour has gold in its mouth.’

To begin with, Memory is examined. There is mechanical memory, which is just a host of images, appearing according to the laws of association. Also, there is intellectual memory, in which you think things through to recover what you once knew. As well, there is moral memory, in which events and people you have strong feelings about remain with you. And finally, there is ‘vertical memory’, which links ordinary consciousness to the Higher Self.

Senile lapse of memory is due to the person having failed, in time, to replace the functions of intellectual, let alone mechanical, memory with those of moral memory. People who see everything to have a moral worth will not forget anything, to a very advanced age. Many saints and mystics were known to have had very good memories.

We must seek to understand memory where it most reveals itself in the light of consciousness – in the domain of moral and vertical memory. The magical or miraculous force at work, which brings back to life some experience, is, Tomberg tells us, is strong feelings, that of love. He analyses the story of Jesus approaching the tomb and bringing Lazarus back to life, in the light of the love Jesus had for him. You can think of it as Jesus, with his ardent feelings, recalling him: “Lazarus, come out!”

Next, we look at the process of Forgetting.

In meditation, prayer or real contemplation, to experience union with God there must be a conscious forgetting of all extraneous material, that is, the phenomenal world, in order to spend time in a higher state. It is the same in normal life when we go to sleep – we forget the daytime world. But this allows us to awaken with a rejuvenated feeling for worldly life.

St John of the Cross expresses what happens in this state of higher consciousness. He says that the ‘draught of God’s most deep wisdom makes the soul forget all the things of the world.’ But that memory comes back, and ‘(the soul) performs in much greater perfection all necessary and befitting actions… through knowledge…supplied in a special manner by God.’ (*3) So one comes back with an enhanced understanding of the nature of life.

Tomberg then goes on to give, in the light of the understanding of death, a critical view of some philosophical and mystical paths. He says that they are not of the ‘Dark Path’, rather they are simply a wrong path. He regards some, for example that of Gurdjeiff* and Ouspensky [*George Ivanovich Gurdjieffwas one of the most influential spiritual teachers of the twentieth century. In his early years, he participated in expeditions that went in search of ancient teachings, partly documented in his book Meetings with Remarkable Men. P.D. Ouspensky was one of his students], as aimed at the human resisting death, becoming ‘death-proof’, refusing to surrender consciousness. These systems involve a crystallisation of the lower bodies – the astral and the etheric bodies. This crystallisation if effected through friction, that is by electrical energy produced by ‘the struggle between yes and no in man.’ These are the terms in which Gurdjieff expresses the process taking place in his path. Gurdjieff’s house of four rooms, four levels of consciousness, is seen to be constructed from the physical body upwards, and Tomberg considers that this is like building the Tower of Babel. Tomberg claims that many in the early Christian Church knew about the fact of repeated incarnations, but they were opposed to those schools which taught this path of ‘Crystallisation’, which involved avoiding the path of purification, illumination and celestial union – that is, a preparation to confront Eternity. So, they were hostile to the doctrines of reincarnation taking root in human consciousness.

He compares this path of ‘Crystallisation’ to the schools of ‘Radiation’, which includes Christian Hermeticism. They work at the de-crystallisation of the human being, and his transformation into a ‘sun’ of radiation. Systems like Gurdjieff’s, he says, work from the body up to the spiritual world, and are essentially materialistic. They are not of the dark side, but just basically wrong.

What Tomberg has seemed not to have allowed for, however, is that Gurdjieff was a very practical man, and a teacher, using a practical system of attaining higher consciousness. Being so, he always put his concepts into basic concrete forms, the better to communicate them to his students. At the heart of his teaching was a higher consciousness being nurtured and brought into being, and in the process the lower selves would be brought under control. Ouspensky, in his own work around Gurdjieff’s ideas, presented stupendous efforts at recovering memories and knowledge from a higher consciousness. It was somewhat disappointing that Tomberg didn’t appreciate Gurdjieff’s and Ouspensky’s work at its true value. One would have thought that it’s one of the principles of being on the mystic path to always give out a fair and generous assessment of fellow seekers in the field. That being so – and no-one is perfect – Tomberg does, in other parts of this work, give some very valuable insights into the quest for spiritual understanding.

In his elucidation of this card, the point he makes about there being two kinds of death – death of the physical body and death of the spiritual consciousness, which is a crystallisation of consciousness around worldly matters, even just those in the intellectual or psychic field – this point still stands. Death, with his scythe, properly understood, cuts off every member of the body below a certain level, like a surgeon, allowing he soul to move onto higher worlds.

The Temperance Card: In the card of Temperance we see a woman pouring fluid between jugs at an angle of 45 degrees. The Hebrew letter Samekh, meaning tent-peg or prop, may be associated with this card. It deals with the communication between the divine world, of eternal images and energy, and the human world, of compromised images and energy.

In assessing man’s predicament, Tomberg asks if there is anything in man which counterbalances his tendency to fall away from divine images and influence. There is, he says – it is the Guardian Angel. And the angel in this card can be thought of as the Guardian Angel. He/She guards a human being, and cherishes, protects, visits and defends him. We’ll use the male gender, although this angel is thought of with aspects of both sexes. He guards his memory of the past, and his future, and his divine mission. He gives a human a special awareness – clairvoyance – when danger is near, and is his advocate before Divine Justice. In some respects, the Guardian Angel is like the spirit guides of other traditions and fields of knowledge – even similar, in some ways, to the guides of the soul in the work begun by Michael Newton in hypnotic regression, though these guides are not thought of as angels. As well they could be thought of as just one’s Higher Self.

The wings of the Guardian Angel are used to elevate it through the currents of etheric and astral worlds into the higher spiritual world, drawn by celestial gravitation. Demons, as illustrated in the card to follow, ‘The Devil’, can only develop the wings of a bat, by which they can plunge into the darkness. Humans, too, can acquire wings in their subtle bodies. However, this is usually beyond their conscious self. They can do it by ‘unceasing prayer’, as urged by St Paul, in which the currents of energy from above can meet that from below. An example of this is in the book which has become well-known around the world, The Way of a Pilgrim. In this book we travel with a humble, though literate, man of peasant origins, wandering around the outlying regions of Russia in the nineteenth Century. As a pilgrim he walks along the roads and through the forests, and the villages, sometimes alone, sometimes staying with people who take him in for a while. He listens to their stories, and discusses with them the practice of unceasing prayer. A seeker after mystical grace he continually recites to himself what is known as the Jesus Prayer; ‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me.’ Sometimes ‘a sinner’ is added. After a while the prayer develops a constancy of its own – when he awakens, the prayer is going through his mind, or he can hear it in the beat of his heart. Tomberg observes that this shows that, while on a conscious level it is difficult to pray constantly, prayer can be carried over into the subconscious where it can operate unceasingly.

The Guardian Angel, then, watches over the system of spiritual/psychic/physical circulation. This includes the highest centre – the Monad – united with the spiritual world. And the flow of energy must be in the right measure in this fluidic relationship. Temperance maintains the equilibrium between eternity and the moment, between the image in the divine world, and its likeness in the human. The contact between these two, Tomberg says, can be considered as inner weeping – the Gift of Tears. The tears can flow outwardly or inwardly.

In Tomberg’s view, in the spirituality practised in the ancient world, one wept only ritually, with verbal lamentations, but with Israel real weeping began. This led to the nature of Christ, who wept, for example when approaching Lazarus. In the Jewish sacred book, the Zohar, every revelation is proceeded, or accompanied, by the weeping of the one who had it, and who comes to share it with the others. As well there is the Weeping Wall in Jerusalem.

Tears, inwardly or outwardly, are the element proper to inspiration – of the flow between the higher and lower self. Inspiration, also, is a combination of the active and passive states of a person, represented by the two vases in the card. While necessary, it is not enough to be purely humble, purely passive – that is, the thought that I am not worthy to receive knowledge of the divine world. One must also have a hunger and thirst for the higher truths: to know how to ask, and dare to ask.

Great religions are due to experiences of real inspiration in mankind. Tomberg suggests, however, that unfortunate results have occurred in the spiritual biography of mankind, due to a lack of understanding of inspiration. When faced with setbacks in their endeavours to experience inspiration, some individuals and religious movements (which he names) have fallen back on either a purely active, or purely passive, way of approaching it – such as faith alone, without human initiative in seeking for truth. He then gives the example of Saint John of the Cross, whose writings on ‘the dark night of the soul’ are well known. This mystic ‘showed that one can pass by darkness and aridity of the senses and mind without drawing back and without despair.’ That is, he was able to understand that, even in his ‘dark nights’, beneath his conscious mind some current from the spiritual world was still flowing into him because of the efforts he was making.

Others – and he mentions Saint Ignatius of Loyola, or Luis Claude de Saint-Martin, or Papus – had this two-fold faith, ‘in God and man’, and they found an inspiration which guided them and impelled onwards in their quest for Truth.

The Devil Card: Next is The Devil card. This card has associated with it the Hebrew letter Ayin, with a meaning of eye, or appearances. This letter is, incidentally, also associated with mirth. Paul Foster Case tells us that in a hymn to the Sun-God Ra, from Ancient Egypt, we read: ‘Thy priests go forth at dawn, they wash their hearts with laughter.’

Whilst the Arcanum of Temperance is about inspiration, the Arcanum of the Devil is about Counter-Inspiration – that of electrical fire and intoxication.

Again, it can be said that meditation of the card must not lead to an identification with the subject of it – identification is communion. And the world of evil is like a jungle in which one can easily get lost. It is to be noted that there are no luminous descriptions of the hierarchies of evil as there are of the celestial realm.

Here, in this card, is not the angel (a cherubim) who fell from heaven, or the ancient dragon who wages war against Michael and his celestial army – that is, a metaphysical evil entity. The being here is one whose origin is the errant behaviour of human beings, who create something to which they surrender their freedom. They become slaves to this monstrous being, and degenerate by rendering themselves similar to it.

So, there are fallen angels, the ‘Hierarchies of the Left’, which originate in the spirit world, and have their part in the cosmic drama, and there are entities artificially created by people. This entity in the card represents, at various times and places, a special passion, and whose body is the totality of electro-magnetic vibrations produced by that passion, such as, Tomberg suggests, Moloch of the Canaanites, or Quetzelcoatl of the Mexicans. Rudolf Steiner had his own insights into the real nature of the Mexican gods Quetzalcoatl, Huitzilopochtli and Tezcatlipoca – how the black magicians had inverted the true nature of these gods into their opposites, to serve their purposes in their cult of heart sacrifice. It is too involved to go into here. (See Christ and the Maya Calendar by Robert Powell and Kevin Dann. (*4))

In Tibet there are schools which teach the aspirant to create demons and then to destroy them in order to come to the realization that they are merely created. Swiss psychiatrist, Dr Carl Jung spoke of entities consisting of bundles of conscious energy within the psychic life of an individual which have not arrived at any objective existence but behave as if they had a mental life of their own.

How are demons engendered? The demon in this card is created by the co-operation of the male and female principles – of will and imagination – as illustrated by the man and woman chained to him.

Tomberg then goes on to speak of collective demons, and he uses the term ‘Egregore’ to describe them. He puts, for example, Marxism in this category, when it became, in time, a belief that not only the bourgeoise, the banks, and capitalism, but the Gospels, mendicant orders and much of the past generally, were the riff-raff of human history, and with a fever aimed at changing everything at a single stroke. Nazism can be seen as a monstrous demon taking hold of the population. He also extends the concept of an Egregore as a demon or negative entity to what exists in some philosophical groups and religious orders, his reasoning being that these Egregores do not have spiritual beings as their directors. Here it could be said that Tomberg may be a little too aligned with his own particular religious view in this part of the work. Some mystical schools and societies are just as connected as the church of his allegiance with high spiritual worlds, and have Egregores which, in the view of this writer, can be of benefit to individuals and humanity as a whole. The point, though, where sincere altruistic and compassionate feelings end and intoxication begins is admitted. Thus, there is a need at times to be silent, to respect the Holy, as is the teaching of Temperance, so that inspiration does not become the intoxication of The Devil.

Tomberg then draws on Christian writings to point out that for spiritual seekers, the beginners have to struggle against demons caused by excesses of the physical desires, while those more advanced have to deal with demons and ‘Hierarchies of the Left’ (Principalities and Powers), whose temptations are more subtle. He observes, too, that Christian writers have explained that, once fully on the path, we cannot always rely on angels, in particular our Guardian Angel, to help us, except at the beginning. As Saint John of the Cross says: as they progress, those who seek God have to renounce every created being, terrestrial and celestial. They must ‘grow accustomed to walking by themselves.’

How does one distinguish inspiration from counter-inspiration? Various writers have given us some answers to this. Visions of holy ones are not turbulent, and joy and gladness arise in the soul, whereas the visits of the devil bring disturbance, loud, rough voices, and leave the soul confused and disturbed. As well, the words originating from the higher spiritual worlds are re-assuring, and do not pass from memory.

The tradition which Tomberg holds dearly, that of mystical (Hermetic) Christianity, has as its essence ‘to see heaven open, and to see the angels of God ascending and descending.’ Pure goodness and love is radiant energy. It cannot coagulate into individualized astral or psychic entities. It exists, and has its being, in the service of celestial hierarchies, saints and God.

He goes on to discuss holy places and explains that they are not magnetised by the will and imagination of believers. The energy they radiate, which allows believers to receive healing energy, comes from being in a place where heavens open, and angels ascend and descend. Relics were ‘magnetised’ long ago by someone who has made the door open to the heavens. They are not magnetised by being accumulators of psychic fluid emanated by believers. In healing, someone who uses magnetic energy knows that it can be exhausted. The saint on the other hand does not use magnetic energy, but rather heals by taking the other person’s sickness upon himself, and by raising it within himself as an offering (‘host’) to heaven.

In Alice Bailey’s Esoteric Healing (pages 642-644) there is that similar distinction between the use of magnetic energy, in which the hands are used, and radiant energy – which can only really be used by the adept. The nature of the use of this radiant energy, in Esoteric Healing, is explained in somewhat different terms: the healer draws down energy from higher levels and sends – radiates – it into the needed centre. At the base level of commitment to the purpose of healing it probably amounts to the same thing, though – Tomberg’s conceptions emphasizing a religious understanding, and that of the Tibetan master in Esoteric Healing being more pragmatic.

Tomberg then looks at how demons, those created by humans, may be combated and destroyed. In Depth Psychology, the therapy involves bringing complexes into the light of day. Similarly, in the spiritual planes, there is a process of bringing evil to the light of day. Light drives out darkness – a demon perceived is a demon rendered impotent. The early Christian fathers and saints, such as Saint Anthony, acted to heal the world by bringing to light the demons which haunted the subconscious of mankind.

Of the demons of the ‘Hierarchies of the Left’ it is a different situation. Demons there cannot be destroyed, but they can be held off while one gains clarity and composure, or they can be sent away to another place. These beings are not actually enemies of God, and do not need to be dissipated. They have a role in the administration of Justice. They are actually agents of the prosecution – they accuse man and try to prove that his is at base a weak and unworthy creature. They test man. God himself cannot do it, as he is totally a force of kindness to his children. Job had no means of driving Satan away – he had to endure the trial, and convince Satan of the futility of his design to get him to curse God. Man can combat these accusations of Satan by drawing on his moral conscience. What is good is then established, since one is righteous and holy only if good and evil fall into agreement that it is so.

The Tower Card: Finally, we will look at The Tower. This card has the Hebrew letter Pe associated with it. Pe has the meaning of the mouth, as an organ of speech, so it can mean the power of utterance.

This Arcanum obviously looks at the problem of destructive forces. It needs to be said at first that it isn’t the physical body that is causing the problem. Positive asceticism, which seeks to combat destructive tendencies, does not struggle against the body but the bad tendencies of the soul.

In examining wrong-doing, or evil, Tomberg makes a distinction between the approach of the East and the West. In the East evil is seen to be brought about by the identification of the ego-driven self with the Self – due to ignorance, or Maya (Illusion). In the West, that is in the Judaic-Christian tradition, there is the concept of Original Sin – which is the seeking of knowledge at one’s own instigation, instead of that of God. This separation of human will from that of God’s will took place in heaven, before the fall, on earth. It was caused by the desire for another type of knowledge than revelation, and for another subject of knowledge than God, and His revelation through the world. This is one view of a deep subject. Another view could be that if you move around concepts of God, the Monad, the Self, the ego, illusion, ignorance, the difference between the East and West might be a matter of temperament – at their basis their beliefs amount to the same thing.

Interestingly, in Isis Unveiled (*5) and The Secret Doctrine (*6), Madame Blavatsky speaks of a tradition in which in the Asian lands, back in the ancient world, there were two groups of hierophants, or schools, for those following a path of knowledge and magic. There were the Sons of God, in which instruction and initiation was given into the divine doctrine of pure revelation; and there were others, of Atlantean origin, who were born with a sight which embraced all things, that is, psychic and clairvoyant powers, and who had, under the influence of a demon sorcerer named Thevatat, became wicked sorcerers.

Tomberg goes through the creation stories in the Hermetic Kore Kosmu, and finds it, if not identical, then very much like the Biblical account of Genesis. There is an account of souls who existed before the earth was created and was inhabited by those souls who became humans. And it has a similar idea of some souls becoming audacious, and who began seeking knowledge on their own initiative – and being penalised for it. So, Tomberg observes, in Genesis, man’s lot was to cultivate the garden of Eden. He identifies the trees of the garden as the mysteries of union – mystical, gnostic, magical, Hermetic – of that which is below with that above, the spiritual world. And in this occupation, it is necessary to work, and to allow growth, to think, and wait. It may be noted Gurdjieff had a somewhat similar outlook. He didn’t have much time for professional psychics in his groups. He felt that often they had been born with some ability, and, as far as continual development goes, they did not have the urge to keep working. Jesus, too, as noted by Rudolf Steiner, did not chose born psychics for his disciples. There’s nothing wrong with being born with psychic powers, of course, it’s just that the need to keep on working on one’s basic nature, that is the key. Tomberg takes this to the point of defining all evil as knowledge due to revelation being replaced by knowledge due to experimentation. One should not become too specialized, and build a tower; it is a matter of growth, and human evolution. This doesn’t cater all that much, perhaps, to a sense of human freedom.

He continues on with the aim of getting the high ground for the Western traditions vis-à-vis the Eastern traditions. He argues that in the Eastern thinking there is a divorce between the True Self and the empirical self, whereas, in the Western traditions – the marriage is indissoluble, that in the end the Higher and Lower selves work together. In this writer’s opinion this is not a completely fair assessment. Most of the great Eastern masters he’s acquainted with address themselves to the whole man and woman, with the Higher Self in charge.

The Tower, Tomberg says, is a summary of the relationship between will and destiny. He mentions the Tower of Babel, in which the descent of the Lord confused those who built it, and scattered them abroad. All autonomous activity from the lower self must meet divine reality from above. ‘He who unites himself with an entity of the fallen hierarchies, instead of with his ‘Higher Self’, to the point of being possessed, will be drowned, i.e. he will fall prey to madness. This happened to Nietzsche, the inspired author of works lauding the ‘superman’ and the antichrist.’ (*7) It may, of course, not be an outright collapse. It might be due to a reliance on an ‘intellectual instrument’ to seek answers to questions. Hermeticism regards all questions as crises, and the answers that it seeks are states of consciousness resulting from these crises.

He gives an example. There was a man he came to know, and initially look up to. He was an esotericist, and considered a master. After studying H P Blavatsky’s Secret Doctrine over a number of years, this man devised a system – an intellectual instrument – of circles within circles within circles, to organise this work, and which allowed him to answer any question in any field, be it in science, history or religion. Some years later, however, all this must have worn a bit thin. His students had had enough and left him, and he finished by publishing a book about a ‘white lady’ who haunted an old house in his town.

Purgatory, as understood in Christianity, can be seen in the light of these different levels of Consciousness. It is a meeting of subjectivity with Divine Reality. The soul is plunged into the absolute light of Consciousness. Divine Wisdom dazzles and blinds the soul beyond the capacity of the soul to absorb it – though the soul does react by being humbled by it.

Tomberg also gives the example of the eighteenth-century occultist Cornelius Agrippa, who, during most of his life, was occupied in building up a world of magical knowledge. Then, in his later years, he became a disenchanted sceptic. The Higher Reality, the Lightning Bolt, made all the sciences of the supernatural appear vain. The Lightning Bolt liberates the magician, who, after some disenchantment at the end, returns to a more basic quest for a peaceful, loving Presence, and a commitment to human fellowship. ‘nothing should be lost… all should have eternal life.’ (John vi, 39-40)

The case of P D Ouspensky is interesting. It could be tempting to see that something like this happened to him at the end. As his life was drawing to a close, he informed his students that he had abandoned the system. “You must start again,” he told them. “You must reconstruct everything for yourselves – from the very beginning.” Some were dismayed, others saw it in a more positive light. Something perhaps outwardly close to what Tomberg was talking about, in relation to The Tower, happened, but it wasn’t quite the same. Ouspensky was communicating the idea that what he was trying to teach, with the aid of a system, was beyond ordinary rational thinking – and that they would develop more by creating some new pathway themselves rather than falling back on the system as he taught it. His work was, and continued to be, aimed at developing an extremely refined awareness, which could allow a person to see and understand more of the nature of Reality. Again and again the lightning strikes, but one does not resile from the path to a higher consciousness.

So, I hope that in this article, drawing mainly on what is really valuable in Valentin Tomberg’s great work, we have covered something of what it is necessary to say, and what it is good to say, about the Dark side and Black magic, and the idealistic Path of Light and White Magic. The actual practices of the Dark Path don’t get much of a look in. It is a fundamentally inferior use of our powers, and is nowhere near as interesting – and challenging – as the path to Higher Mystical Consciousness.


  1. Meditations on the Tarot, A Journey into Christian Hermeticism.

Anonymous. Translated by Robert Powell.

  • Esoteric Healing. Alice Bailey. Pages 642-644
  • The Ascent of Mount Carmel. St John of the Cross. Book 3, chapter 2.
  • Christ and the Mayan Calendar. Robert Powell and Kevin Dann.      Chapter 3: Mexican Mysteries
  •  Isis Unveiled. Helena P Blavatsky. A New Abridgement for Today by Michael Gomes. Pages 126-128.
  • The Secret Doctrine. Helena P Blavatsky.  Volume 11, pages 220-222.
  • Meditations on the Tarot. Page 443.