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Meditations on the Tarot: A Journey into Christian Hermeticism

4.53  ·  Rating details ·  340 ratings  ·  40 reviews

Now in a fully corrected edition, one of the true spiritual classics of the twentieth century.

Published for the first time with an index and Cardinal Hans Urs von Balthasar's afterword, this new English publication of Meditations on the Tarot is the landmark edition of one of the most important works of esoteric Christianity. Written anonymously and published posthumously,

Paperback, 1st edition Element Classic Editions, 658 pages
Published December 17th 1992 by Element Books (first published 1980)
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4.53  · 
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 ·  340 ratings  ·  40 reviews

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Feb 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sui generis, at least as regards my reading experience so far. A profound, beguiling, and massively erudite exposition upon Christian Hermeticism built from within the traditions of the Roman Catholic church. The anonymous author—who insisted that his French original be published posthumously—delivers his perceived insight and transcendent guidance from beyond the grave, in a manner of speaking, via epistolic essays on the twenty-two Major Arcana of the Tarot. Dense and difficult—the more so as ...more
Cordelia Becker
Mar 22, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is not a book to read cover to cover. It is a book I keep and read passages. The unknown author is actually a fellow (I've heard that his name is Valentin Tomberg) who was deeply involved in the Golden Dawn/Rosicrusion/Rudolf Steiner crowd and then converted to Catholicism - perhaps becoming a monk (not sure about that). This is no airy fairy, hippie dippie new age book it's a intensely researched tome.

He uses the Tarot Deck to reconcile the modern church with the Gnostic traditions. (I'm n
Roger Buck
Nov 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In my experience, to engage sincerely with this book is to engage with more than a book. It is to engage with a living spiritual saint, master and genius of the highest order. A very human being, with the warmest of hearts, the most lucid of minds. A profound, profound thinker whose heart, burning with compassion for the world, gave us a manual of practical Christian transformation – a transformation that has undone my neuroses, strengthened my sanity, vastly enlarged my scope of feeling, vitali ...more
Aug 31, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Anonymous is the best writer ever.
This is one of the most valuable books I possess - not in terms of how much I would get selling it second hand, but because it has such a depth of valuable scholarship in it. The writer, who chooses (chose) to remain anonymous, poured his/her learning into these 'meditations' on the major arcana of the Tarot. The reader is provided with an education into esoteric symbology that goes far beyond most so called esoteric books, because the writer has/had such a wonderful grasp of the intricacies of ...more
Mar 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Seekers, Magicians, Christians, Philosophers
I can't say enough about this book. To give you an idea how amazing I think it is, after finishing it I went back to the beginning and started reading it again. I have never done that before, certainly not for a dense 650 page book. Anyone interested in self-improvement, philosophy, sacred magic, or alchemy should check it out. If you come from a Christian background it will be familiar territory. If not take it with a grain of salt. Although the other does draw on every major religion and many ...more
Sam Sanford
Dec 05, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is not about fortune-telling; the symbols from the Tarot are used as the starting points for a series of spiritual exercises intended to immerse the reader in the living tradition of Christian Hermeticism. Absorbing the knowlege in this book is a lifelong project.

“Now, the normal relationship between thought, feeling, and the will for a civilised and educated person is such that his thought awakens feeling and directs the will. Having to act, one thinks, one imagines, one feels, and -
Aug 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have been reading this for a little over a year. It was written by Valentin Tomberg, not Robert Powell--he is the translator only. This is for me the ultimate read--highly provocative, deeply inspiring, profoundly wise.Meditations on the Tarot
Ojo Oim
May 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This isn't a tarot reference book but an extended meditation, an open-ended pondering of the symbols of the major arcana. The nameless author writes letters to us as to an Unknown Friend, considering the art of a divine kind of magic, various difficulties and temptations in esoteric studies and philosophy. The author seems to regard himself as a Christian Hermeticist, I'm not sure what that means but it seems to be something like a philosopher, a lover of Christ and wisdom, and a point the autho ...more
Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki
For serious and trained occultists, ceremonial magicians, and genuine followers of the Mysteries this is a book to have at your elbow. I have recommended to my students many times and return to it when I need to seek deeper information. It is a book that offers something new to the deep thinkers.
Jan 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So far this is mostly sitting by my bed stand while I peruse feng shui books and my book club books. Still, what I've read is amazing and gracious and worth my time.
This is NOT a book on the tarot (as in "card reading"). It is estoteric Christianity.
Alex Lee
As creatures of language, we use meaning to tell us who we are, where we are, what we are and how we are to be. This author dives deeply into the meanings of many deep traditions, as is his chosen methodoloy: Christian Hermeneutics. Hermeneutics is the interpretation of text; really trying to get meaning out of words. So very exactly, this author has tasked for himself to find the meaning of traditions (religion, philosophy, linguistics, cultural critics, historical figures, literary figures, wr ...more
Apr 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I’m reading this in French and it’s an astounding book. I noticed that Robert Powell took, to put it mildly, a lot of liberties in his English translation. On the first few pages alone, I found omissions of important parts of a sentence, and one newly added paragraph (!).

In the introduction, in translation, we read:
“These Letters were written in French because in France—since the eighteenth century until the present time—there exists a literature on the Tarot, a phenomenon which is found nowher
Francis Siefken
Aug 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Of interest for anyone wondering about a possible dialogue between the esoteric and christianity. In this regard the endorsement and the forword and afterword by cardinal Hans Urs von Balthasar is noteworthy. He notes that the "The author wished to remain anonymous in order to allow the work to speak for itself, to avoid the interposition of any kind of personal element between the work and the reader - reasons that we respect."
The book is not about divination. The author uses the symbols of the
Jul 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Christians seeking depth, Philosophers, Alchemists, Students
Recommended to Christine by: Robert Godwin
This is not about Fortune Telling or Divination, but is rather a free-fall plunge into the profound depths of Christian Philosophy. It is dense with meaning, every phrase and paragraph a tiny explosion of greater understanding. This is the sort of book you read and read, and then your brain is full and needs some time to digest what it's read. Some time meaning anything from days to years.

No, I'm not done reading it yet. I suspect that once I am, my copy will be so battered that I will need to
Abe Fabella
This book, along with Manly P. Hall's masterpiece, "The Secret Teachings of All Ages," is one of the few authoritative books on spirituality and occult wisdom that I have ever encountered.

The author, who published the book anonymously and posthumously, exudes an unmistakable connection to God as well as rational and moral rightness. Warning: this is very dense reading and I would recommend spending a lot of time, as much as one needs, to digest the wisdom. This is a book not to scan but to savor
Jul 26, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An extremely challenging but rewarding set of Catholic Christian meditations centered around the Marseilles Tarot. Bizarre, wonderful, at times incredibly deep.
Kent Langseth
May 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is amazing, and of no interest to most modern readers. I dare say most would drop it like a hot potato. For those with the inclination to study it, the book is remarkably rewarding.

What's it about? W..e..l..l.. There are ancient mystical traditions, partly commingled with Catholicism (the author was a devout Catholic), which we have little clear sight of today. The author had clear sight, and he shared his understanding in a series of essays on the symbolism used in the Marseilles Tar
Every couple of years I came upon a book that gives me a where-have-you-been-all-my-life shiver of delight. Odd, too, since I have no truck with "divination" and such like spookery and only picked it up because Hans Urs von Balthasar, one of the greatest minds of the last century, wrote the afterword.

I suspect I'll be steadily re-reading this masterwork of esoteric Christian spirituality the rest of my life, and that it's contemplative symbolism will work its way into my writing, as it has alre
Sandra Dennis
Sep 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an amazing book with so many mind-blowing insights and observations of subtle realms by a Christian contemplative and mystic, Valentin Tomberg, who delves into the "archetypes" of human experience using the major arcana of the Tarot.
Jul 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A contradictory book. Traditional yet avant-garde. Catholic yet hermetic. Weird but I liked it.
Evan Herberth
May 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting. The author (Valentin Tomberg) was a convert to Catholicism from Anthroposophy, after which conversion this book, and Lazarus, Come Forth (or Covenant of the Heart) were written. He uses the images on the Marseilles Tarot trump cards as a point of departure to very eclectic observations. A lot of them do, frankly, deal with occultic concepts such as those from the Kaballah. In my opinion, this is the most boring aspect of the book. Where it really shines is in its dialogue with ...more
Andrew Grace
Apr 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pompous and overstated.

Great insights if you can handle the grandstanding. He looks down on other religions and is a Catholic apologist. He also wants you to know he has an education.
Feb 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
May God bless our Unknown Friend!!!
Mar 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: tarot
Where to begin? Firstly this book is not the usual Tarot help book. It is profoundly spiritual, reflective, philosophical. It takes the reader into the mindset of someone you is vastly knowledgeable, who uses the Major Arcana cards as reflective mirrors on himself, society, humanity, through a core foundation of christian thought. You will find quotes here covering everything from the Buddha to Darwin. Certainly this is not a book to read superficially, nor is it a book that will help you do the ...more
This is one of those books. Those books you are told to read “only when you are ready”. To begin this is a book of, as its title implies, Christian Mysticism. If you are a modern Pagan/Occultist to whom Christian imagery is alien or even disquieting this book will be hard going. At 665 pages for the english translation it is a lengthy tome written in the epistolary form as a series of letters written to the “Unknown Friend”. Each chapter is a lengthy discussion of a particular tarot card’s symbo ...more
Jul 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Had picked up this book as a guilty pleasure of sorts, wanting to learn a little about Tarot cards. Instead I ended up with a text about esoteric theology and philosophy. Well, alright, not what I thought I was getting into, but I figured I ought to follow where I was being led and see what came of it. By the end of the first chapter, "The Magician," I was fairly satisfied with that decision and curious to read more.

Now, each card is presented as a teaching tool of sorts for a particular set of
Tim Torres
Apr 20, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Roughly 1300 pages on my iPad -- a book badly in need of a disciplined editor. Frequent use of "orientated" and "disorientated" were distracting. Rambles on when the particular subject is quite dead. However ...
The insights, historical information, metaphysical and esoteric content I have not seen or even heard of anywhere else. The Major Arcana of the tarot deck described and exhaustively explored as symbolic representations of traditional spiritual practices. Even where my own personal belief
Jan 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
These meditations involve the reader in a true conversation - how to take an archetype and incarnate it with deep meaning through the resonant participation of one's spiritual organs of perception.

I can feel my spiritual eyes and ears forming and growing into the Cosmos and Pleroma through Tomberg's writings. He's truly a great initiate of our age.

A book to keep on the nightstand to return to for inspiration and renewal.
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Books can be attributed to "Anonymous" for several reasons:

* They are officially published under that name
* They are traditional stories not attributed to a specific author
* They are religious texts not generally attributed to a specific author

Books whose authorship is merely uncertain should be attributed to Unknown.
“A person who has had the misfortune to fall victim to the spell of a philosophical system (and the spells of sorcerers are mere trifles in comparison to the disastrous effect of the spell of a philosophical system!) can no longer see the world, or people, or historic events, as they are; he sees everything only through the distorting prism of the system by which he is possessed. Thus, a Marxist of today is incapable of seeing anything else in the history of mankind other than the “class struggle”.

What I am saying concerning mysticism, gnosis, magic and philosophy would be considered by him only as a ruse on the part of the bourgeois class, with the aim of “screening with a mystical and idealistic haze” the reality of the exploitation of the proletariat by the bourgeoisie…although I have not inherited anything from my parents and I have not experienced a single day without having to earn my living by means of work recognised as “legitimate” by Marxists!

Another contemporary example of possession by a system is Freudianism. A man possessed by this system will see in everything that I have written only the expression of “suppressed libido”, which seeks and finds release in this manner. It would therefore be the lack of sexual fulfillment which has driven me to occupy myself with the Tarot and to write about it!
Is there any need for further examples? Is it still necessary to cite the Hegelians with their distortion of the history of humanity, the Scholastic “realists” of the Middle Ages with the Inquisition, the rationalists of the eighteenth century who were blinded by the light of their own autonomous reasoning?

Yes, autonomous philosophical systems separated from the living body of tradition are parasitic structures, which seize the thought, feeling and finally the will of human beings. In fact, they play a role comparable to the psycho-pathological complexes of neurosis or other psychic maladies of obsession. Their physical analogy is cancer.”
“We declare that the world is not a mosaic, where a plurality of worlds which are essentially strangers to one another are fitted together, but that it is an organism—all of whose parts are governed by the same principle, revealing it and allowing reduction to it.” 2 likes
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