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Meditations on the Tarot: A Journey into Christian Hermeticism

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4.51  ·  Rating details ·  391 ratings  ·  51 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,

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Paperback, 1st edition Element Classic Editions, 658 pages
Published December 17th 1992 by Element Books (first published 1980)
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Szplug
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
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Jessecooperlevy
Aug 31, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Anonymous is the best writer ever.
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
Murray
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
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 -
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Greg
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
Marymark2
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 ...more
Heather
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.
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.
Jann
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
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
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Christine
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
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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
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Mark
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.
Iohannes
well, this was certainy ..interesting, I mean I know of know other book that talks about the spiritual mechanics of levitation and teaches you that one can 'suck in' ghosts; nevertheless apart from these curiosities I think the overall project of this book, i.e. that of a 'great synthesis' of basically everything from Hermeticism/Christianity to Goethe/Schiller and Teilhard/Jung/Bergson to name only a few of the references, 'the alchemical marriage of opposites' etc. (as the author is not tired ...more
Evan Z
Jan 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The work of a true friend.
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
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Debra
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
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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.
Stereo
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
Christian
This is a remarkable, if not unique book. Giving it only 4/5 stars is almost insolent, but what can I do when I disagree with some of the core premises? Now, I'm not a christian and this probably shows more than anything else, that the author remains true to his religion, although freely incorporating and contemplating ideas from theosophy to buddhism. I'm glad I'm through, but this is truly recommended reading for anyone who can just barely identify with all or some of the keywords in the title ...more
Kenzie
Oct 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book synthesizes a large amount of Christian and Hermetic thought, and yet the focus of the book is not just on theoretical synthesis but on practice. This book has helped me see the Major Arcana in new ways, and it has encouraged me to deepen my practice.

My one complaint was that the author sometimes uses other traditions and thinkers as strawmen for a Catholic interpretation. I found this distracting and disappointing, but the author does such a fantastic job of presenting his own argume
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Michael Jay
Jan 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Reading as substantial journey

In going through this text I came across a spectrum of ideas, and in their assembly, I was asked to revisit how I assemble things in my mind, how I have built my own "memory palace" in the spirit of Matteo Ricci and Frances Yates, and how I connect old and new moments. I appreciate the results of this journey, and the research through history that the anonymous author took, and the heartfelt desire he\she had for all of the Unknown Friends for which the book was wri
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Grant Crow
Aug 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the most profound books I have ever read, that demands close, repeated readings, and careful study - in short, a book to be absorbed and put into practice.
It was first recommended to me many years ago by a good, a holy friend, who is a Trappist mo
nk at a nearby monastery. At first, I was put off and puzzled by the title, but, rest assured, this is no bizzare work of occultism. It is one of the most life-changing explications and explorations of the Christian Mystery and Revelation
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Judy Boozer
Aug 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Often, in the Christian community, we see the word "Tarot" and start having seizures. This book examines the imagery of the major arcana (the face cards) of the tarot deck and the deeper spiritual meaning we can learn from applying those lessons to our lives and our relationship with God. Suddenly, the tarot cards become a mnemonic device for a deeper understanding of spirituality and our own walk with God.
Andrew Barnett
Sep 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I could scour the Earth the rest of my life and likely fail to find a book with the breadth, depth, and wisdom of this one. And yet it is written in a way that one can't escape the feeling that it is written for one personally. I don't know if others will feel similarly after reading, and I would not want to promise anyone would, but I have never been transformed by a book as foundationally as this one. This book is a treasure.
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Valentin Arnoldevitch Tomberg was an Estonian-Russian Christian mystic, scholar, and hermetic magician.

News & Interviews

There's something great about a paperback book: They're perfect book club choices, you can throw them in your bag and go, and they've been out in...
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“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.”
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“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.” 3 likes
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