Meditations on the Tarot anonymously written by Valentin Tomberg (XIV TEMPERANC pp. 373-398)

Updated: Oct 10, 2020


Dear Unknown Friend,

The Card of the fourteenth Major Arcanum of the Tarot places us in the presence of an Angel in a robe which is half red and half blue, who is accomplishing – or presiding over the accomplishment of – a strange act, where he is pouring colourless water from one vase to another, or rather he is making it gush almost horizontally between the two vases, at an angle of about 45 degrees, the vases being held at a considerable distance from one to another.

[373-374] An intellectual shock!...and therefore an arcanum – something which one has to take hold of an apprehend beyond the usual place of experience and thought. This invites us, therefore, to profound meditation—to a spiritual exercise. Let us follow this invitation.

What is the problem that the Card – its whole context—arouses spontaneously in the mind of he who looks at it attentively? What is the message of the Angel with two wings, in the red and blue robe, holding two vases, one red and one blue, and making water gush in a mysterious way from one vase to the other? Is he not the one who bears the good news that beyond the duality of “either-or” the totality of the Card, the Angel of the Card, suggest the problem of cooperating polarity, or integrated duality? Does it not first of all suggest the presentiment or suspicion that perhaps it is thanks to the two wings, the two arms, the two colours of the robe, the two vases, that the water pours forth?...that this water is the fruit and the gift of the “both-and” of integrated duality, which jumps to one’s attention as one looks at the Card?

Thus the idea which is presented first of all to the mind, in the presence of the Card of the fourteenth Arcanum, belongs to the range of ideas relating to polarity and what this latter offers in possibilities for the spiritual knowledge and realization—mystical, gnostic and magical—of the Hermeticist [before the OTO.]

In preceding Letters there has already been the question, in diverse connections, of a twofold polarity that of “polemic” (war), which produces energy of an “electrical” kind, and that of cooperation or “peace”, which releases force of a “vital” nature. Now, the Angel of the Card of the fourteenth Arcanum invites us to return to the problem of this double polarity and twofold dynamic in promising to throw new light on this subject. Let us return to this [later].

An expert of the first order in spiritual life and authentic spiritual experience, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, has bequeathed to posterity a doctrine of fundamental importance. This is his doctrine of the divine image and likeness of man. This doctrine lends itself admirably to serve as a point of departure for a thorough-going investigation of this twofold polarity. The following are its essential points:

God made man “in his image and likeness” (Genesis I, 26). The divine image and the divine likeness coincided in the first man, before the original sin. But their coincidence did not persist after the Fall. The image has remained intact, but the initial likeness ahs been lost. Man is, following the original sin, to the “disfigurement of unlikeness”, whilst conserving the image.

Maan was made in the image and likeness of God: in image he possess freedom of will, and in likeness he possesses virtures. The likeness has been destroyed; however, man conserves the image. The image can be burn in hell, but not consumed. It is damaged but not destroyed. Through fate as such it is not effaced, but subsists. [374-375] image. It is not so with the likeness. This remains in the soul which accomplishes the good; in the soul which sins it is wretchedly transformed. The soul which has sinned ranks with beasts devoid of intelligence. (St. Bernard of Clarvaux, Sermon on the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary; French trsl. M.M. Davy, Oeuvres de St. Bernard, vol. i. p. 106)

According to St. Bernard, the image is therefore the essential structure of the human being and the likeness in him is the totality of functions or the functional structure. It is the essential structure of the human being, the image, which is indestructible and which establishes freedom in an inalienable and irremovable way.

Man is free, and remains so through all eternity—on earth, in hell, in purgatory, in heaven—always and everywhere. Freedom is there an absolute fact. As such, it entails immortality—the argument that one finds again in Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Practical Reason, for what is his “categorical imperative” if not the divine image in man?

With respect to the likeness of totality of functions of the human being, a hotbed of sin, with its attractions towards evil, has taken root there. And it is immortal only in proportion to the measure that it conforms again to its image. Its immortality is optional.

This is the essence of St. Bernard’s doctrine. It gives rise to the question: If the divine image in man has not undergone any weakening of the divine likeness in him has partly abrogated and has had to make way for inclinations and habits tending towards evil, is there something in human life which counterbalances the bad inclinations in man’s functional organism, opposing good inclinations them? There is certainly something added to man’s functional organism to play in it the role of counterweight to the leverage of vicious inclinations and habit which have become established since the primordial Fall. This is the Guardian Angel.

The guardian Angel accompanies as a faithful ally the divine image in man, just as vicious inclinations have made their way into the human functional organism which was, before the Fall, the divine likeness. The guardian Angel undertakes the functions, destroyed by original sin, in the likeness, and fills the breach wrought by them. He substitutes himself for functions destroyed through the Fall.

As the prayer of the service of aspersion (that I have put at the head of this Letter) states it, in praying to God “to deign to send from heaven his holy Angel to guard, protect, visit and defend all those who are gathered together in this place”, the Angel acquits his charge in five ways; he guards, cherishes, protects, visits and defends. He is therefore a “flaming star”, a luminous pentagram, above man.

He guards memory, i.e. the continuity of the great past in the present, which is the preparation fo the great future. [375-376] It is the guardian Angel who takes care that there is a connection between the great “yesterday, today and tomorrow” of the human soul. He is a perpetual “memento” with regard to the primordial likeness, with regard to the eternal mission assigned to the soul in the cosmic symphony, and with regard to the special room for the soul “in my Father’s house, where there are many rooms” (John xiv, 2). It is necessary, the guardian Angel awakens recollections of the soul’s previous earthly lives, in order to establish continuity of endeavors – of the quest and aspiration of the soul from life to life – so that particular lives are not merely isolated episodes but constitute the stages of a single path towards one sole end.

The guardian Angel cherishes the endeavor quest and aspiration of the soul engaged on this way. This means to say that he fills in the breaks in the psychic functional organism due to the disfigurement of the likeness, and makes up for its failings—given the soul’s good will towards it. For support never signiffes substitution of the Angel’s will for that of man. The will remains free, always and everywhere. The guardian Angel never touches on man’s free will and resigns himself to await the decision or choice made in the inviolable sanctuary of free will—in order to lend his assistance immediately if it is just, or to remain a pssive observer reduced alone to prayer if it is not.

Just as the guardian Angel is sometimes constrained not to participate in the soul’s activity—this activity not being in accord with the divine image of the soul—so also he can sometimes take a greater part in human activity than usual—this activity being of a nature not simply permitted but also called for. Then the guardian Angel descends from the point of his ordinary post into the domain of human activity. He then visits the human being.

Such “visits” of the guardian Angel do sometimes take place—when their possibility and necessity coincide. But what the guardian Angel does unceasingly is to protect the human being. Here he makes up for the failings of the human sense., which are deprived of their clairvoyance from before the original sin. He is the clairvoyant helping the non-clairvoyant with respect to psychic and physical temptations and dangers. He warns, informs and helps to appreciate. Nevertheless, St. Anthony the Great said, “without temptation there is not spiritual progress”. Temptation belongs as an integral part to the exercise of human free will, which is inviolable—both for an Angel and for a demon.

With respect to the last of the five functions of the guardian Angel concerning man, namely his defense it differs from the others in that it is turned above, towards heaven, and is not longer directed below or horizontally. To dealing with the question of the defense that the guardian Angel accords to his protégé, we approach the holy mystery of the very heart of the guardian Angel. For the nature of Angelic love is revealed here, of which the following are some indications.

Guardian Angels remain above their proteges. This means to say, amongst other things, that they screen him from heaven, from the look directed below from above. [376-377] The fact that human beings on earth are screened by their guardian Angels from Divine Justice signifies—other than guarding, supporting, protecting and contacting—that guardian Angels are the defenders, the advocates, of man before Divine Justice. Just as Moses said to the LORD, when the children of Israel had committed the mortal sin of having preferred a god made of gold to the Living God.”…but now, if thou wilt forgive their sin—and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written (Exodus xxxii, 32), so do guardian Angels “cover” their protégé before the face of Divine Justice. This amounts to the declaration—whether explicit or implicit is not important—“Forgive them their sins. If not, efface us from the Book of Life that you have written.” This is the defense of guardian Angels for their protégé.

The guardian Angel covers his protégé with his wings, in conferring on him his own merits before the eyes of Divine Justice and also in tking on himself the faults of his protégé before the eyes of Divine Justice. It is as if he says, “if the lightning of divine wrath must strike my protégé, my child, may it strike me instead of him—of if he must be struck, may it strike both of us together!”

The guardian Angel defends his protégé like a mother defends her child, without regard to whether he may be good or bad. It is the mystery of maternal love which lives in the heart of the guardian Angel. Not all Angels are guardian Angels; there are others who have diverse missions. But guardian Angels, in so far as they are guardian Angels, are “mothers” of their proteges. This is why traditional art presents them as winged females. And this is why the Card of the fourteenth Arcanum of the Trot also openly presents the Angel as a winged female, dressed in a woman’s robe, half-blue and half red.

Guardian Angels—or should I use the feminine form, “Angelines”?—are the manifestation of high and pure maternal love. For this reason the Holy Virgin and Mother of God bears the liturgical title Regina Angelorum – ”queen of the Angels”. It is the maternal love in her that she has in common with the guardian Angels and which, in surpassing theirs, makes her their queen.

There are, as I said above, other Angels who are not guardian Angels. I am not speaking of the eight celestial hierarchies above that of the Angels; I am speaking solely of the hierarchy of the Angels, I.e. of the ninth celestial hierarchy. There are Angels who are “messengers”, i.e. “Angels” (angelois – “messengers” in Greek) in the proper sense of the word; there are Angels with special missions and tasks – Angels of the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit, the Virgin, Death, Life, Karma, Relationship between spheres [Gatekeepers], Revelations of Wisdom, Knowledge, Ascetic Discipline – and many others. Many of them represent paternal loves, or rather fraternal love.

Here I do not want to say anything either for or against what Swedenborg says concerning the sex of Angels, but what I would like to portray here is the maternal love of guardian Angels, and that there are other Angels who represent paternal love and also fraternal love. [377-378] And it is in this sense and only in this sense – that I would like you, dear Unknown Friend, to think of the Angels as entities in whom prevails either the tenderness of maternal love or the justice of paternal love. For what it is a matter of is not to project earthly sexuality upon heaven, but rather, on the contrary, to see in the former a reflection—although often disfigured—of the polarity from above. I may add that the Jewish Kabbala [The Zohar is not synonymous with the Kabbalah so let’s just refer to the Zohar] —above all the Zohar – teaches admirably the lesson of thinking of things here below as the reflection of things from above, and not inversely. The Zohar is truly one of the better schools of purity and chastity concerning all that relates to husband and wife, father and mother, son and daughter, fiance and fiancee, at one and the same time in the spiritual, soul and physical worlds. For true chastity is not to refuse to look at and to see, or even to deny, but rather to see the celestial prototypes through and beyond things here below. And it is this chastity that one finds and apprehends in the Zohar, the Book of Splendor of the Jewish Kabbalah.

But let us return to Guardian Angels. The Angels, including guardian Angels, live and move exclusively in the vertical Ascent and descent constitute the law of their life, their respiration. They ascent towards God, they descend towards mankind.

It is said that the Angels are in perpetual contemplation of God. They are, if one understands by contemplation the state of being in permanent contact with the Holy Trinity and of being blinded by its light. It is the “dark contemplation” of which St. John of the Cross spoke which is that of the Angels. They do not see God; they are united to him substantially. With respect to guardian Angels, neither do they see one another, nor do they see entities of the other hierarchies – Archangels, Principalities, Powers, Virtues, Dominions, Thrones, Cherubim and Seraphim. For the presence of transcendental divine light in them envelops in darkness their perception of the intermediary spheres between God and mankind.

It is the latter sphere that they see, or rather the “spheres” of their proteges. It is here that they make use of this clairvoyance, which the human being – who has lost it -- has need of for the protection it affords. It is here also that the Angels display the geniality of synthetic and profound understanding – without parallel – which has merited them, on the part of human beings, with the attribute of “omniscience”. They are not omniscient but the facility with which they orientate themselves in human things and grasp them – at contact with which their “dark” divine wisdom become resplendent – has so impressed human beings who have had the experience of consciously meeting with them that they have been led to consider them as omniscient. It is to this impression that has been gained of Angels that the word genius” owes its original meaning, namely that of superhuman intelligence.

But—and this is the tragic side of Angelic existence—this geniality shows up only when the human being has need of it, when he makes room for the flashing forth of its illumination. The Angel depends on man in his creative activity. If the human being does not ask for it, if he turns away from him, the Angel has no motive for creative activity. He can then fall into a state of consciousness where all his creative geniality remains in potential and does not manifest. It is a state of vegetation or “twilight existence”, comparable to sleep from the human point of view. An Angel who has nothing to exist for is a tragedy in the spiritual world. [This is true. You could be bleeding in the middle of online traffic and your Guardian Angel can’t do a thing without asking them for help.]

[179] Therefore, dear Unknown Friend, think of your guardian Angel, think of him when you have problems, questions to resolve, tasks to accomplish, plans to formulate, cares and fears to appease! Think of him as a luminous cloud of maternal love above you, moved by the sole desire to serve you and to be useful to you. Do not allow the scruple to arise in you, however noble it may be, that when you appeal to your guardian Angel you are allowing an entity to come between you and God who is not God, and that therefore you abandon the aspiration to immediate contact between your soul and God—to the authentic touch of God, without intermediary! For the guardian Angel will never interpose himself between your soul in any way, even to an infinitesimal degree, to impede the occurrence of the “song of songs” of your soul and God! He has no other concern than to make these immediate and authentic contacts possible, to render your soul disposed to them—and he withdraws as soon as his Lord and yours draws near to your soul. The guardian Angel is the friend of the bride at the spiritual marriage of the soul and God. Just as the friend of the husband who “prepared the way of the Lord and made his paths straight” was obedient to the law of the fiend of the husband—“He must increase, but I must decrease” (John iii, 30)—so does the friend of the bride, who prepares the way of the Lord and makes his paths straight, obey the same law. The guardian Angel withdraws before the approach of One who is greater than he. [I remember when Nerieda’s contact was fairly new and she stepped back when the Guardian became more important. This is so cool!]

There is what is called in Christian Hermeticism the “freeing of the guardian Angel”. The guardian Angel is freed—often in order to be able to acquit new missions—when the soul has acquired the disposition of its part of “likeness” in order to experience the Divine more intimately and more immediately, which corresponds to another hierarchical degree. Then it is an Archangel who replaces the freed guardian Angel. [This happened when “Lilith” was freed as my Maternal force and Jerusha replaced her?] Human beings whose guardian is an Archangel have not only new experiences of the Divine in their inner life, but also, through this very fact, receive a new and objective vocation. They become representatives of a human group—a nation or a human karmic community—which means to say that froandm t his time onwards their actions will no longer be purely personal but will at the same time have significance and value for those of the human community that they represent.

It was so for Daniel, who in praying the following, was acting not only in his name but also—and above all—in the name of the people of Israel:

…we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from thy commandments and ordinances…Now, therefore, O our God, hearken to the prayer of they servant and to his supplications, and for the love of the Lord, cause they face to shine upon thy sanctuary, which is desolate. O my God, incline they ear and hear! Open they eyes and behold our desolations, and the city which is called by thy name…(Daniel ix. 3, 17-18)

[380] And it was the Archangel Gabriel who “came to him in swift flight at the time of the evening sacrifice…he came to give him wisdom and understanding” (Daniel ix, 21-22). Here we have an example of the freeing of the guardian Angel and of the assumption o his responsibility by an Archangel—in this case the Archangel Gabriel.

It also happens sometimes that the Archangel is freed as well. Then it is an entity from the hierarchy of Powers of Elohim which replaces the Archangel. The human being then becomes a representative of the future of humanity. He lives in the present what mankind someday is due to experience in future centuries.

It is thus that Moses, Elijah and David, for example, were under the protection of the wings of an Elohim – and not only their words but also their lives themselves were prophets.

But one could make the objection that it is God himself who was revealed and spoke to Moses, Elijah and David, and not an entity of the hierarchy of Powers or Elohim. There is reason to reply to this objection that just as there were human prophets through whose mouths the Holy Spirit spoke, so also there were hierarchical entities through whom the Holy Spirit, the Son and the Father spoke and acted. Thus the three Angels who appeared to Abraham in the heat of the day (Genesis xviii) spoke and acted as the Holy Trinity—Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It was the holy Trinity who spoke—through them—to Abraham.

Similarly, Jahve-Elohim was the “bearer” or “representative” of God – of His word and His power – in the accomplishment of the mission with which he was charged by the Holy Trinity, namely that of preparation for the Incarnation of Christ. In so far as he was an “authorized agent” representing god, Jahve-Elohim brought the providential design of the Incarnation to realization; in so far as he was an Elohim or Power, he acted as guardian entity of Moses, Elijah and David.

Lastly, a guardian Elohim—and there are many of them—can also be freed. Ghen is an entity of the first hierarchy, a Seraphim, who replaces him. It was so for St. Francis of Assis. The Seraphim who gave him the teaching of the Crucifixion whereby he gained the stigmata—the Seraphim in the vision of St. Franceis—was his guardian. [Philamon gave Jung his teaching of Archetypes]. This is why St. Francis represents more than mankind, what he represents is “divinised humanity”—thisis the God-Man, Jesus Christ himself. However, stigmata are not always visible. There are stigmata, so to say, “turned outside”, and there are stigmata “turned within”—but all those who are under the guardianship of a Seraphim bear the stimata, visible or invisible,. For they represent the Christ.

With respect to stigmata, this subject has been treated from a practical point of view in the fifth Letter on the Arcanum, “The Pope”. It is not fitting to treat it theoretically. Respect forbids me.

The following is what St. John of the Cross said concerning the stigmata of St. Francis.

It will happen that while the soul is inflamed with the love of God… [380-381] it will feel that a Seraphim is assailing it by means an arrow or dart which is all afire with love. And the Seraphim pieces and cauterizes this soul which, like a red-hot coal, or better a flame, is already enkindled. And then in this cauterisetion, when the soul is transpierced with that dart, the flame gushes forth, vehemently and with a sudden ascent…And being wounded by this fiery dart, the soul feels the wound with unsurpassable delight…God sometimes permits an effect to extend to the bodily senses to the fashion in which it existed interiorly, the wound and sore (then) appears outwardly, as happened when the Seraphim wounded St. Francis. When the soul is wounded with love by the five wounds, the effect extends to the body and these wounds are impressed on the body and it is wounded, just as the soul is wounded with love. God does not usually bestow a favour upon the body without bestowing it first and principally upon the soul. (St. John of the Cross, The Living Flame of Love ii, 9 11; trsl. K. Kavenaugh and O. Rodriguez, The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, London, 1966, pp. 598-599)

You see therefore, dear Unknown Friend, how it is with regard to the guardian Angel and the union of the soul with God. There is no reason to fear that the least hindrance to this union can ever arise on the part of the entities who are spiritual guardians of the human soul. On the contrary, rather, it is they who make it at all possible—and even beyond the possible – for the soul to be united with God in complete intimacy and with perfect authenticity and freedom. The friend of the wife only leads the wife to the husband—then she withdraws. Her joy is that of herself diminishing and of seeing that of the wife increase.

The Card of the fourteenth Arcanum represents a winged female. What do the wings that she has—and the wings of hierarchical entities in general – signify?

Tenacles, paws, arms, wings—are they not simply diverse forms manifesting a common prototype or principle? They are in so far as they express the desire to bear the sense of touch further, to be able to touch things more removed than those in the immediate neighborhood of the surface of the body. They are active extensions of the passive and receptive sense of touch which is spred out over the surface of the organism. In make use of them, the sense of touch makes “excursion” from its usual orbit circumscribed by the skin which covers the body.

The organs of action are simply crystallised will. I walk not because I have legs but rather on the contrary, I have legs because I have the will to move above. I touch, I take and I give not because I have arms, but I have arms because I have the will to touch, to take and to give.

The “what” of the will engenders the “how” of the action (the organ), and not inversely. The arms are therefore the expression of the will to bear touch further than the surface of one’s own body. They are the manifestation of extended touch, due to the will to touch things at a distance.

[381-382] It is similar with wings. They are also anexteriorized will—a will become organ. This is the will to go out from the usual orbit not only in the horizontal but also in the vertical, not only to bear touch forward, but also to bear it above. Wings express the will for movement according to a cross, i.e. not only that of expansion on a plane but also that of elevation to another plane.

All this is related to the whole corporeal organism, i.e. the etheric and astral bordies are well as the physical body.

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