Valentin Tomberg's Studies on the Old Testament--Remarks by the Publisher

In Die Kommende, Translated by James Morgante and Richard Wentzler

By Martin Kriele

This month, Valentin Tomberg's twelve Anthroposophical Studies on the Old Testament will appear for the first time in book form, as Volume 1 of the collected anthroposophical writings by Valentin Tomberg (1900-1973). On this occasion, we give his literary executor, Dr. Martin Kriele, an opportunity to explain his reasons for such a publication after more than fifty years.

The first edition of the studies on the three divisions of the Bible began in November of 1933 (when Tomberg was the General Secretary of the Estonian national section of the Anthroposophical Society. They took the form of hectographed circulars issued at irregular intervals until 1939. The gelatin offprints grew ever fainter and less legible. An edition with a shot at outlasting our era and enriching future generations is warranted. Also, however, enquiries into the strife aroused within the Anthroposophical Society by publication of the studies are being renewed, particularly among the young, who are innocent of that strife and are finding their own path.

Valentin Tomberg never addressed that strife. He never participated in disputes; instead, he continued his studies on the Bible and his work on anthroposophical topics. The Anthroposophical Studies on the New Testament, next to appear, deepen esoteric understanding of the gospels. Studies on the Foundation Stone and Inner Development were still written wholly in the spirit of living anthroposophy. And yet from them also spoke an earnest warning not to forsake living anthroposophy for lectures, study, and practical application, valuable though those are. Tomberg finally gave up. The originally twelve more Anthroposophical Studies on the Apocalypse that would have unlocked the future of human evolution were discontinued after three and he departed from the Dutch national section, having already left the General Anthroposophical Society in 1937.

At first, he gathered a small circle of esoteric students around him. In 1945, he allied himself with the Catholic Church and undertook a mission to immerse the exoteric stream of tradition founded by Christ's apostles into esoteric Christianity, a mission that came from the spiritual world. After years of silent preparation, he composed his later works, which are now spreading through all of the world's languages and from which still today proceed astounding, renewing, and soul-deepening effects.

Even after his departure from the Anthroposophical Society, Tomberg saw himself as an indebted student of Rudolf Steiner, with whom he remained in constant, mutual, and intimate association across the barrier of death. That doesn't, however, mean that he always looked favorably on the development of the society and the Christian Community while recognizing their salutary effects, even on some of Steiner's own views, as can't fail to occur between two free and self-reliant spirits. It was always, however, in the spirit of profound and affectionate friendship, if one can apply that concept to a relationship between the living and the dead.

There were, then, two periods of activity in Valentin Tomberg's life. The earlier works were intended for the members of the Anthroposophical Society, the later ones directed toward a global community of friends without anthroposophical training but receptive to esoteric Christianity, into which they are gradually and circumspectly introduced. Tomberg's language is accordingly different in the two periods. Nevertheless, his fundamental thoughts are the same, even though many new viewpoints are expressed in his later works and there is much in his earlier ones that only has relevance for anthroposophists.

One finds also such structural similarities as deliberate alliance with preexisting traditions--first with young anthroposophy and later with all of the depth, the truth, and the good that 2,000 years of Christian history have wrought. Initially as later, Tomberg advances the power of analogy--as above, so below. Above all, he stresses ever again that "the spiritual world" (first) or "heaven" (later) must be seen as concretely as possible--experienced by individual spirits good and bad who speak and work into life and history and with whom we can enter into direct communication.

Valentin Tomberg regarded his two periods of life like two separate incarnations; one distinguished by study and research, the other by prayer and contemplation, the two paper clipped together by little more than an official identity. "Really," he wrote in a letter, "I should have taken another name." Not only did he speak no more of his anthroposophical work, he expressly refused me permission for a new edition.(1) This one is entirely of my own doing and I alone, as the executor of his literary estate, bear the responsibility and the consequences. I am guided by the following considerations. It's true that the later work can give readers in one way whatever is appropriate to stimulate inner development and empower meditative empathy. Nonetheless, other readers are suited by their karma to the anthroposophical path and live and breathe Rudolf Steiner's thoughts and observations so intensively that they will be more receptive to Tomberg's effects and intentions through the earlier works.

Valentin Tomberg's goal in both periods was to get Christ to the center of our thought, feeling, and will; to bring us near to him; and to deepen our understanding and love so that we could freely ally ourselves to him and place ourselves in his service. We know from Rudolf Steiner's lectures on the karma of the Anthroposophical Society that various karmic currents meet in it, including some whose past especially draws them to Christ or who bear a special determination to contact him in this incarnation. This work was intended for such persons and the new edition will give them fresh access to it.

With Rudolf Steiner as his stimulus, Tomberg outlined the cosmic grandeur of Christ's activity in The Four Sacrifices of Christ and the Reappearance of Christ in the Etheric. His Anthroposophical Studies on the Old Testament deal with the events immediately preceding Christ's appearance within the human form. Tomberg lays bare the stages by which it intensified through selected key events and prophets of the Old Testament or, in other words, he makes the Old Testament transparent and the history of Christ's descent within it visible. He describes for us the meaning of the "chosen people" and its history--e.g., the parts played by Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob--shows us how to understanding the significance of Moses; brings to life for us such historical figures as Saul, David, and Solomon; illuminates the spiritual background of the great prophets, especially Ezekiel and Daniel; and directs our attention to the special mission of Elijah and Sophia. He leads us as far as John the Baptist, who is indeed portrayed in the New Testament but who actually brings the preparatory events of the Old Testament to a close. In all of it, Tomberg imparts knowledge that we to some extent find there and nowhere else.

In thus disclosing to us the Old Testament's importance to Christ's humanization, he implicitly refutes all theologians who sever that connection and either make it self contained and self authorizing or spurn it wholly or in essential parts in their misunderstanding. Both thus detach Christianity from the tradition without which it cannot be comprehended, as the resurrected one himself explained--the Gospels quote from his conversation with the disciples in Emmaus, "And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself" [Luke, 24:27].

Virtually all misapprehension of Christianity originates, as the history of heresy demonstrates, in failure to understand the Old Testament, especially the Mosaic story of creation, whose imaginative images are truer to reality than all of the alternative myths that attribute creation of the cosmos and humanity to evil powers. It teaches us the profound truth that nature is divine in origin and that humanity's fall and expulsion from Paradise have indeed damaged but not destroyed it--natura vulnerata, non deleta. Tomberg's later work explains in detail which (subordinate) share of evolution the Demiurge--the serpent--is therefore in a position to acquire.

Valentin Tomberg composed the 2000-year tradition of Christianity only from what is truly Christian, excluding any trace of the perversions of power, dogmatism, Jesuitism, arrogance, and cruelty as the work of the evil twin of the church. Likewise, however, he explains how right the Church Fathers' opposition to heresy was. Yet, we ought not to persecute the misguided, not even "combat error" but rather seek and declare the truth and attain credibility through a Christian way of life.

For those acquainted with it, the profundity of the knowledge that Tomberg transmits has the power to mediate, reconcile, and harmonize exoteric and esoteric Christianity, orthodoxy and heresy, and as well the diverse theological and philosophical currents within all kinds of Christianity. A seeker can find there--often unexpectedly, answers to the questions that have become most pressing. That depth nonetheless reveals itself only in the calm and the solitude of earnest and empathetic meditation--for none of his lectures is easy. Whoever undertakes the effort, however, will be richly rewarded.

ED. note 1. Kriele offers more on the subject in his open letter to Dr. Luba Husemann, published in Erde und Kosmos (Volume 14, Number 1, 1988, page 60)--"I've also told you, however, that Tomberg really didn't want republication because it could only rekindle the old animosities, on which Tomberg's opponents would seize for action despite themselves. That would be so unfortunate that the harm could outweigh the benefits."