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Meditations on the Tarot: A Journey into Christian Hermeticism Paperback – June 10, 2002

4.5 out of 5 stars 82 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“It is without doubt the most extraordinary work I have ever read. It has tremendous spiritual depth and insight.”  —Trappist abbot Basil Pennington, OCSO

“It is simply astonishing. I have never read such a comprehensive account of the ‘perennial philosophy.’ ” —Father Bede Griffiths

“This book, in my view, is the greatest contribution to date toward the rediscovery and renewal of the Christian contemplative tradition of the Fathers of the Church and the High Middle Ages.”—Trappist abbot Thomas Keating, OCSO

Meditations on the Tarot has become instrumental in my thinking….The writer – who calls himself ‘Unknown Friend’ – seems to be speaking to me directly, with endless wisdom and inspiration.” —Gerald Epstein, M.D., author of Healing Visualizations

“The most beautiful and instructive book of the twentieth century concerning Western esotericism.”—Antoine Faivre, professor for the History of Esoteric and Mystical Streams in Modern Europe, the Sorbonne University

“The book begs not only to be studied cover to cover, but also to be savored, meditated upon and assimilated into one’s life.” —Richard W. Kropf, National Catholic Reporter

About the Author

Written anonymously and published posthumously in 1980 at the wishes of its author, Meditations on the Tarot has been translated from the original French by writer and esotericist Robert Powell, who lives in Germany. Widely considered one of the greatest Catholic theologians of the twentieth century, the Swiss-born Hans Urs von Balthasar, who wrote the afterword in this new edition, was nominated by Pope John Paul II as a cardinal in 1988, and died in June of that year, two days before his inauguration.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 688 pages
  • Publisher: TarcherPerigee (June 10, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1585421618
  • ISBN-13: 978-1585421619
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (82 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #173,177 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Stephen Triesch on November 26, 2005
Format: Paperback
First, what this book is NOT: it is not a "how to" book that will teach you how to use and interpret Tarot cards for the purpose of divination. There is nothing here about "spreads," nor are the "minor arcana" discussed at all. So if divination is your purpose, or even a general introduction to the Tarot, this is not the book you are looking for.

Then what is it, and who is it for? It is what the title says, i.e., the Tarot cards (major arcana) are used as "launching points" for philosophical meditations on the {alleged) truths of Christian Hermeticism. And what is Christian Hermeticism? It is an occult philosophy that is the Western equivalent of what in the Hindu tradition is called the "Purusha," the doctrine of the Primordial Man or the Divine Man, in which the life of Jesus is viewed as an archetype of the relationship between every man and the Divine reality. The historical reality of Jesus is not so much denied as reinterpreted as a real-but-symbolic representation of the nature of man and man's relationship to God. The nature of man in a sense mimics and recapitulates the nature of God ("As it is above, so it is below."

This is heady stuff, and makes for difficult reading. Although originally published anonymously, the author is known to be Valentin Tomberg, an occultist of the Steinerian tradition who converted to Roman Catholicism relatively late in life. Tomber's erudition is impressive, and he is obviously widely read in the philosophical and mystical traditions of East and West.

This book is a tour-de-force in which Tomberg relates the symbolism of the Tarot cards to Christian doctrine, understood in both an exoteric (orthodox) and esoteric (mystical and/or heterodox) manner.
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By A Customer on May 13, 2002
Format: Paperback
This book has been listed as one of the greatest spiritual classics of the century.
For those who have been exposed to various religious, mystical, occult, philosophical, political and psychological thinkers and wondered how they all blend together in a meaningful way, this is the book that does it.
It is an effort to revive the tradition of Christian Hermeticism - that spiritual tradition that seeks the depths and the heights of meaning and authentic tradition. It is a welcome introduction to esoteric Catholicism - revealing the hidden meanings in the religion and explaining them in the light of Kaballah, Buddism, Sufism, Hinduism, Jungian thought, and on and on. There simply is no other book like it.
Finally the book itself is a work of spiritual exercises. Each chapter is to be read as a step in spiritual exercises.
You will find the answers to the following questions inside:
What is the method of seeing and understanding with spiritual depth?
What is the nature of Power and who is more powerful a lion or a virgin?
What are the three essential vows, necessary for progress in the spiritual life?
What are the esoteric meanings of the 10 Commandments?
What is the spiritual function of the Catholic Chruch in history?
What the difference is between black magic, magic and sacred magic? And why the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the most powerful ritual of sacred magic?
What is Catholic Chakra development?
The spiritual meaning of Nazism and Marxism?
The truth about the Virgin Mary?
The reality of the communion of saints and the hierarchy of angels?
And immensely more. . .
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Format: Paperback
At the very beginning of this book, the anonymous author, who left this book behind with strict instructions that it not be published till after his death, addresses the reader: `Your friend greets you, dear Unknown Friend, from beyond the grave.' He means it literally, absolutely literally.

That is to say, 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 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 alchemy - an alchemy that has undone my neuroses, strengthened my sanity, vastly enlarged my scope of feeling, vitalised my mind, melted my anger, fired my compassion, deepened my calmness - and more - so, so much, much more besides.

But not only this, he has given us a compendium of psychology, sociology, politics, theology, philosophy and hermeticism that could offer the new millennium - in all its potential horror - the wisest of guides.

Some may find this hard to read. Try it in the mornings, or whenever you feel freshest and most alert. Any difficulty will not be because it is dry or abstract. No, this is the most human book I have ever read. Human, human, human - kind and warm, profoundly kind and warm - calling us to heal our lives, heal our culture, not with destruction and polemic, but with peace and alchemy, with the most rigorous clarity of thought and the most tender of feelings.

For those suspicious of the author's orthodoxy, I suggest they note its foreword by no less than Hans Urs von Balthasar.
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