VALENTIN TOMBERG - A TALK BY ROBERT POWELL, Summer 1986
We now come to the theme of Valentine Tomberg. I shall give Just first of all some
basic biographical details, and then go more into the essence of the spiritual impulse which he represents.
He was born in Russia, in the city of Saint Petersburg, which is now called Leningrad. He was born in Saint Petersburg on the 27th of February in the year 1900, so he was born right at the beginning of this century.
He is already at an early age, around the age of 16 or 17, when he came into connection with Theosophy, Theosophists in St. Petersburg and already at this very early age expressed a deep interest in the ideas of Theosophy and of course it was exactly around that time, in fact 1914, that the Bolshevik Revolution came which more or less put an end to the possibility of these kinds of studies and during the Bolshevik Revolution Valentine Tomberg's mother was shot and his father together with himself and elder brother, fled Russia. This was actually, and I don't exactly know the exact date, this was round about 20/21. We know that he was still in St. Petersburg up until 1920 because in 1920 he came in contact, with an esoteric group headed by Professor Gregory Mebes at Pages (?) College in St. Petersburg and this esoteric group led by Professor Gregory Mebes was concerned with the esoteric tradition which works with Astrology, Hermeticism, and Cabala and especially Tarot, in fact, the study of the Tarot formed the central part of his esoteric group and perhaps one could Just say a few words about the Tarot. Rudolf Steiner mentions the Tarot in his lecture on the symbolism of the Christmas tree, of the symbols is the ancient Tarot symbol and there he refers to the deeper significance of the Tarot. He says that this is an esoteric book consisting of 78 leaves or pictures which comprise the summary of ancient Egyptian wisdom. Ami it's difficult really to understand this statement, because the actual Tarot cards emerged well into the 15th century. The first recorded writing in which the game of Tarot is mentioned was in the Italian court of Ferric in the year 1442 so that we see this game emerge right at the beginning of the age of the consciousness soul, which according to Rudolf Steiner, started in the year 1413. Now this emerged as a game and there was in fact at that time no deeper significance attached to it. I twas simply a card game and the modern deck of playing cards is derived from it. In the modern deck of playing cards there are only 52 playing cards and in fact there should be 56 and the 22 so called, the modern deck comprises the then so called "minor" Arcana of the Tarot and the major Arcana consists of the 22 cards of pictures with such names as the Magician, the High Priestess, the Empress, The Emperor, The Pope, the Lover, and so on. These 22 cards together are called the Major Arcana and disappeared. We no longer use them with the ordinary pack of playing cards.
Now, the game of the tarot then flourished in Italy and spread to other parts of Europe
and in 1781 the French occultist, Claude de Gebelin, who was also an Egyptologist wrote a book in which he said
that the Tarot contains the lost Egyptian wisdom, in other words he put forward at that time this idea which Rudolf
Steiner refers to in the lecture on the symbols of the Christmas tree so that then from that time onwards, the
Tarot and especially the Major- Arcana have been used above all in France as a kind of school of Meditation to
try to enter into the ancient Egyptian mysteries. So it was in connection with this group in St. Petersburg in
the beginning of this century around 1920 the group Lead by Professor Gregory Mebes that Valentine Tomberg came
into contact with the Tarot. This group had been dispersed by the Bolshevik Revolution. It had existed up until
1917. It was then no longer possible, and Valentin Tomberg met certain members who had been initiated in the highest
order of the group, the group had in fact these orders, the Martinist, The Templar and the Rosicrucian order and
Valentin Tomberg then, and he was only 20 years old at that time, came into connection with members of the Rosicrucian
order of this group and they transmitted to him everything they knew, and it was with this knowledge then that
Valentine Tomberg left Russia after the death of his mother.
He left Russia together with his elder brother and his father and they fled to Estonia and lived in the city of Talin which was at that time called Reval. And there he did various odd jobs, as we say, just to earn a living, but he also studied at ? University in Estonia and he had a brilliant gift for languages, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, the Ancient languages and the modern languages, French, English, Dutch and German and he spoke almost as well as his native Russian tongue. Of course in Estonia right around 1925 he came into connection with the Anthroposophical group there that was a rather small group of about 25 or 30 members and this group was led by Otto Sepp. Valentine Tomberg then joined this group when he was 25 years old and this of course was the time Rudolf Steiner passed on so he never had the opportunity to meet Rudolf Steiner.
Shortly after that he visited Dornach and made connection with Marie Steiner, she used to invite members from Russia every so often those member invited to Dornach by Marie Steiner. He then met Anthroposophists in Germany and two Anthroposophists there who were publishing a publication called Anthroposophia asked him if he would like to contribute some articles and they must have heard of him from Estonia, that he was giving lectures there that were of a special quality. So from the year 1930 to 1931 Valentine Tomberg was writing articles for the German magazine Anthroposophy and these articles are very deeply interesting for a spiritual understanding of Russia. He touches there on the problems of spiritual work in Russia and what will be necessary for Anthroposophy to spread in Russia. As we know Rudolf Steiner had tremendous hopes for Anthroposophy in Russia, especially in view of the sixth cultural epoch of which is the follow our own epoch which is to have it's geographical center in Russia. So we can see the magnitude of what was at stake though at that time for people to take up Anthroposophy and what a terrible blow it was when the Bolshevist Revolution broke out, which compelled people such as Valentine Tomberg to leave Russia because there was no possibility for him to develop a spiritual impulse there under the communist regime. And so his destiny, the tragic destiny of Russia, meant that he came to Estonia and there he was holding lectures in Estonia for Anthroposophy in three different languages, in German, in Russian, and in the Estonian language and the Estonian language is an extremely difficult language. But this was part of his task there in the Anthroposophical work because some of the people could only speak Estonian, some Russian and some could speak only German.
In 1931 Otto Sepp passed on and Valentino Tomberg became the General Secretary of this
small Anthroposophical society in Estonia which meant that he was responsible for running the Anthroposophic society,
for reading the first class lessons and all that was needed for running the Anthroposophic society in a particular
land and of course here in the United States there is a much larger affair, but one could compare it with running
the Anthroposophic Society in Hawaii or something like that. A small separate society and was round about this
time, 1930, 1931, that these articles I've mentioned earlier describing what will be necessary for Anthroposophy
in Russia and in these articles Valentine Tomberg describes how the great Russian authors, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky,
Soloviev, brought very special impulses in Russia which really were to prepare the way for Anthroposophy there
especially Soloviev with his deeply Christian philosophical, teaching was a central figure for the preparation
for Anthroposophy. Soloviev died in his 86 th. year, in 1900, and Valentin Tomberg describes how for Anthroposophy
to spread in Russia it would be necessary to connect onto the impulse of Valdimir Soloviev just as in Germany Rudolf
Steiner connected onto Goethe. Of course there are very many ideas presented in these essays. These have now been published in English translation by Candeur Manuscripts
in Spring Valley, New York under the title of EARLY ARTICLES.
So in 1931 then Valentine Tomberg had the responsibility for the Anthroposophic Society in Estonia and he began holding there very special lectures in 1932. He held a series of 16 lectures on the Apocalypse of St. John and such was the impact of what he was speaking in these lectures. I met somebody in Dornach, a woman who grew up in Estonia and she described how her parents who were living in Estonia came to Anthroposophy through Valentine Tomberg and she described what her parents said to her, that for them, when they experienced Valentine Tomberg lecture they experienced him the source for Anthroposophy. He was for them the herald for Anthroposophy and that he spoke in such a way his words had a tremendously powerful effect upon those who were listening to him. That. people were literally shaken in their inner being and received new inner moral impulses Just from these lectures, from the spoken word of Valentine Tomberg and this of course led to certain problems for him because certain members there in Estonia, who were in touch with Marie Steiner in Dornach then began to say Rudolf Steiner is the source for Anthroposophy and giving the wrong impression here that someone is giving their own spiritual teaching even though it was thoroughly through and through Anthroposophy, but because it was his own teaching concerning his own spiritual researches especially concerning the Bible, I've just mentioned the 16 lectures on the Apocalypse of St. John, but that was only one example of course this led to certain problems for him. But nevertheless, there were those who asked him if he would begin to write down these results of his spiritual researches. And so in 1933 he at the age of 33 he began publishing his major work concerning the Bible. First 12Anthroposophical Studies of the Old Testament and he wrote in the forward, this is in the German forward to these studies and this German forward has not been translated into English, well I mean to say has not been published in English because when these Anthroposophic studies of the old Testament were published in English translation there was a forward by Dr. Elizabeth Vreede of the Vorstand, she was appointed by Rudolf Steiner as the leader of the Mathematical/Astronomical Section and so it is this forward which appears in the English translation.
But if one reads the German forward written by Valentin Tomberg, there he points out that these studies really denote the beginning of his spiritual work or rather the way in which he describes it he says, with these studies are appearing in response to a call from the spiritual world for new spiritual scientific research findings to flow into the Anthroposophical Movement and this then gives the background to the publication of these studies which means we have to see something here quite significant and in these studies he elaborates these ideas a little further, so he writes a spiritual scientific movement for it's very life existence depends on the continual inflow of new spiritual scientific research findings just as the human being to live has to breath in air, so a spiritual scientific movement is dependent to live on an inflow of spiritual research and of course this is fully in harmony in accord with what Rudolf Steiner himself envisioned. Rudolf Steiner founded in 1924 the School for Spiritual Science with the aim that this would be a school in which spiritual science would be cultivated and further the impulse which he himself the bearer of and we can see if we look at the whole history, the whole development of the Anthroposophical Society from 1900 when Rudolf Steiner began his lecturing activity through to his death in 1925 it was a tremendously powerful living impulse because every day Rudolf Steiner was holding lectures and revealing new spiritual scientific research findings.
We can see then that there was this continual inflow which meant that the Anthroposophical Society was a living breathing being, one could say, and how this was cut off when Rudolf Steiner passed on. And with these publications in 1933 with these Old Testament studies containing Valentine Tomberg's own spiritual scientific research findings, of course, as he writes also in the forward, he, of course had taken up everything Rudolf Steiner had said through his own research and that he writes there that he is indebted to Rudolf Steiner for all that Rudolf Steiner brought. He wants to acknowledge once and for all his allegiance to Rudolf Steiner. I think that is a very important point. But what he said was (?) thus it was not always possible for him to quote from which lecture he got this or that, but he wanted to state from the outset, his gratitude to Rudolf Steiner and he said it would take him several volumes if he were to distinguish what Rudolf Steiner was saying and what he was saying, which is new in addition to what Rudolf Steiner has given and it was this very fact which upset Marie Steiner. She took the stance that he should have always quoted exactly when he was bringing something from Rudolf Steiner now here again there are obviously two different perspectives, two different view points.
In modern scientific research it is customary to quote one's sources, but if we look
at the example of Rudolf Steiner himself, if one reads his lectures, in fact very seldom refers to any source what
so ever, but we know he was continuously reading the whole range of literature that was available to him at that
time and taking ideas from all different directions so really one has to ask the question in the realm of spiritual
science is it necessary to follow the same criterion as do we have to find a new attitude, a new spirit that spiritual
science can flourish.
So this then led very early to a significant problem for Valentin Tomberg in his work. The year 1933 was not only a significant time for him with the beginning of these publications, the beginning of his spiritual work of bringing a deeper understanding to Christianity, it was also the time he had just shortly before married a Polish woman who had lived in Russia and who had managed to escape Russia, Marie Demski, who then became his wife and in 1933 their son, Alex, Alexis, was born in Estonia, their only child, so from 1933 outwards Valentine Tomberg was active in the Anthroposophical Society in Estonia and through his writings, publications they were published in their very primitive form, typescript, and then were sent to who ever was interested in them and Elizabeth Vreede became very interested. She visited Valentin Tomberg in Estonia and she took a part in a conference held there in Estonia. She recognized in him someone with a special spiritual task, a special spiritual impulse, which led then to her writing the forward to the Old Testament Studies when they were published in English.
It also led her to arrange that Valentin Tomberg became invited to England and Holland to give lectures there. So in 1937, ValentinTomberg came to England and took part in the Anthroposophic summer school there at Swanick and held lectures there on the different trials on the path of initiation, the trial by fire, by water, by air. Then the following year, he was invited back to England andat the Anthroposophical summer school which was then held in Bangor, Wales which is quite close to where the Druids had many stone circles and was very close to Pennemawr where Rudolf Steiner was in 1923, where Rudolf Steiner was able to take in spirit the Druid culture that had existed there thousands of years before and at this conference in Bangor in 1938, Willi Sucher was present. He had also been invited there by E. Vreede and as Willi Sucher wrote years later, that was his last meeting with E. Vreede where they walked and saw one of those Druid stone circles and there Willi really felt he was taking up from E. Vredde a task to work towards the now star wisdom. There Valentin Tomberg held lectures, he held four lectures on the working of the spiritual hierarchies in the 20th century. Unfortunately, with these lectures on the Hierarchies and the lectures held the year before on the trials only very brief notes have survived, but as far as I understand, Candeur manuscripts are hoping to make these notes available in the course of next year. These notes convey something very special as to how one can come into a living connection with the spiritual Hierarchies.
Valentine Tomberg was at that time 38 years old and also present at that conference
was Dr. Ernst Lehrs and I asked him of his impression of Valentine Tomberg, that was his first meeting with him
and he said his experience was of a tremendously youthful being and his words were "Valentin Tomberg appeared
like a comet from the east" and he said the whole conference was not to his liking. He said there were too
many English Anthroposophists there heading terribly dry and intellectual lectures and he said then "there
came Valentin Tomberg who transformed the thing, who held those very deep esoteric spiritual lectures on the Hierarchies
and raised everybody to a very high level of consciousness." In fact Ernst Lehrs then traveled together with
Valentin Tomberg after this conference. They traveled together also with George Adams who used to do the translations
for Rudolf Steiner when Rudolf Steiner was lecturing in England. The three of them traveled to Holland. It was
on a night ship, it was in those days the boats were not very quiet, but were very noisy and very difficult to
get any sleep and Ernst Lehrs, George Adams, and Valentine Tomberg were talking about this and Tomberg made the
remark that when one is truly connected with the Christ Being external noise is no longer a problem at all and
unfortunately Ernst Lehrs took this remark personally because he could not sleep and he never forgave Tomberg.
When they reached Holland, Tomberg had been invited by the Anthroposophic branch in Rotterdam to hold a series of lectures there and these lectures have also been translated in English. Thee are the lectures on inner development. These are the lectures where he describes the path of Christian-Rosicrucian path of initiation and in these lectures there again you can find things Rudolf Steiner never spoke of.
For example, where Tomberg speaks of the three Doppleganger, the three Doubles, of the human being, and the last of these seven lectures, he describes Rudolf Steiner's life path as the life path of a Christian initiate. This lecture is especially revealing for its clear characterization of Rudolf Steiner's path. There in Rotterdam, Tomberg had already made contact with the branch leader there in Rotterdam, A musician named John Denniscap and with another young man named Jan van der Most and when they heard of how difficult Tomberg's situation was in Estonia, they invited him to come to Holland and they would be able to support him so he would be able to continue to do his writing and lecturing activity there in Holland. In Holland I visited both of these people and John Denniscap described that he and in fact his whole Anthroposophic group in Rotterdam, saw in Tomberg somebody who was able of continuing the spiritual scientific research that Steiner had begun and it was then for this reason that. they invited Tomberg to Holland to hold lectures and he agreed to continue his writing activities already by that time in 1939, Tomberg had already started his 12 studies of the New Testament, which like the 12 studies of the Old Testament have been translated into English and there he also started his studies on Rudolf Steiner's Foundation Stone Meditation, and if one really works with these three studies on the Foundation Stone Meditation are a tremendous help to unlock the spiritual power which exists in the Foundation Stone.
END PART I next PART II.