Rudolf Steiner

“Rudolf Joseph Lorenz Steiner (27 (or 25) February 1861[5] – 30 March 1925) was an Austrian philosopher, social reformer, architect and esotericist. Steiner gained initial recognition at the end of the nineteenth century as a literary critic and published philosophical works including The Philosophy of Freedom. At the beginning of the twentieth century he founded an esoteric spiritual movement, anthroposophy, with roots in German idealist philosophy and theosophy; other influences include Goethean science and Rosicrucianism.

In the first, more philosophically oriented phase of this movement, Steiner attempted to find a synthesis between science and spirituality. His philosophical work of these years, which he termed “spiritual science”, sought to apply the clarity of thinking characteristic of Western philosophy to spiritual questions, differentiating this approach from what he considered to be vaguer approaches to mysticism. In a second phase, beginning around 1907, he began working collaboratively in a variety of artistic media, including drama, the movement arts (developing a new artistic form, eurythmy) and architecture, culminating in the building of the Goetheanum, a cultural centre to house all the arts. In the third phase of his work, beginning after World War I, Steiner worked to establish various practical endeavors, including Waldorf education, biodynamic agriculture, and anthroposophical medicine.

Steiner advocated a form of ethical individualism, to which he later brought a more explicitly spiritual approach. He based his epistemology on Johann Wolfgang Goethe’s world view, in which “Thinking… is no more and no less an organ of perception than the eye or ear. Just as the eye perceives colours and the ear sounds, so thinking perceives ideas.” A consistent thread that runs from his earliest philosophical phase through his later spiritual orientation is the goal of demonstrating that there are no essential limits to human knowledge.” (Wikipedia)

Valentin Tomberg

“Valentin Tomberg was born in St Petersburg on 27 February 1900. His parents, of Baltic German extraction, taught him their Lutheran faith. While still an adolescent, he was drawn to Theosophy and the mystical aspects of Russian Orthodoxy and attracted to the visionary teachings of Vladimir Soloviev (1853-1900), who helped to revive the Orthodox reverence for Sophia, the hypostasis of Holy Wisdom. Tomberg knew Shmakov’s Tarot book, and in 1920 he encountered some members of Mebes’ group. They befriended him and tutored him in Mebes’ use of the Tarot as an encyclopedic system of occultism.

During the Bolshevik Revolution and the subsequent civil war (1917-23) Tomberg’s mother was fatally shot by marauders as she ventured into the streets. Valentin fled with his father and elder brother to Reval (modern Tallinn) in Estonia. He worked sporadically as a farmer, apothecary and teacher. In 1924 he gained steady employment with the Estonian postal service and began to study comparative religion and languages (Hebrew, Greek, Latin, French, English, Dutch and German) at Tatu University.

In 1925 Tomberg joined the Anthroposophical Society founded by Rudolph Steiner (1861-1925); Otto Sepp was the Secretary General of the Estonian branch. By 1930 Tomberg was promoting Anthroposophy through lectures and essays, and the Society named him to succeed Sepp when the latter died in 1931. Steiner had specified 1933 as the year of Christ’s Second Coming, which would occur in the ‘etheric realm’. Believers would then be able to advance their spiritual growth by immediate revelations from the ‘Christ-Being’. Tomberg clung to this belief. His series of essays, Anthroposophical Studies of the Old Testament, was privately printed in 1933. Tomberg was encouraged in his spiritual aspirations by his wife, Marie Demski, a French-Polish woman who had lived in Russia. They met during their mutual exile in Estonia. Their only child, a son named Alexis, was born in 1933.

Immediately before the Second World War, Tomberg was invited to address Anthroposophist groups in Swanik, Bangor and Rotterdam. During the war years, however, his story becomes confused. He was forced to resign from the Anthroposophical Society. But was the expulsion because he was elevating himself over Rudolph Steiner, or because he was elevating Christianity over Anthroposophy? He moved to Amsterdam, where some say he was pursued by Nazis. He can next be traced to Cologne, either having been taken there by the Nazis, or having been spirited there to escape the Nazis (or to escape the Allied offensive against the Nazis in Holland). By the end of the war, he was either in a refugee camp or studying the law at the University of Cologne while Allied bombs fell on that city. We can say with certainty that he had left Holland for Germany, and that he had left Anthroposophy for Roman Catholicism.

Tomberg no longer desired a public role. In 1948 friends in England persuaded him to work as a translator at the BBC; based in Reading, he helped to monitor Soviet broadcasts. He retired at the first practical opportunity, in 1960, to write and study, and lived in seclusion with his wife and son. He died on the island of Majorca on 24 February 1973. Marie Demski Tomberg died not long after. His unfinished book, Covenant of the Heart, was posthumously printed. It includes discussions of Christ’s miracles, the Ten Commandments, and the Cabalistic Name of God.

Tomberg wrote Meditations on the Tarot, a Journey into Christian Hermeticism (Amity House, Warwick, New York, 1985). It was published anonymously and posthumously, as he had requested. The book uses the Tarot de Marseille as a pretext for teaching Tomberg’s theosophy, which he says is a living tradition, namely the esoteric church of St John (the ‘heart’ of the Church), as distinct from the exoteric church of St Peter (the ‘head’ of the Church). According to Tomberg, Hermeticism is not a sect or a school, but a mystical predisposition, which he hopes already connects him to his readers. Their shared destiny is to nurture esoteric Christianity until the Second Coming of Christ is complete. The book is primarily inspirational and exhortatory. Tomberg is sympathetic to non-Christian mysticism, notably yoga, Sufism and Cabalism. He avoids Rosicrucianism, perhaps because one of its seminal manifestos — the Confessio — is hostile to Catholicism. He slights all Protestant faiths, and ignores Swedenborg. He condemns dualism, whether Zoroastrian, Manichaean or Gnostic. Each of the Tarot trumps, from le Bateleur to le Monde, occasions a ‘letter’ to the `dear Unknown Reader’. The Fool (le Mat) is discussed in the twenty-first position, immediately before le Monde, still using the placement established by Levi. The French magus is sometimes cited, along with other occultists, in a wide range of mystics, theologians, philosophers and scholars. In his meditation on the Death card, Tomberg includes favourable remarks about Gurdjieff and Ouspensky. Meditations on the Tarot has been well received by Tarotists: it is praised by Antoine Faivre, the noted French historian of esoterism: ‘There is perhaps no better introduction to Christian theosophy, to occultism, to any reflection on esoterism than this magisterial work, not that of a historian but of an inspired theosopher — a rather rare occurrence — one who is careful to respect history’.”

from pp. 209-210, Ronald Decker and Michael Dummett’s A History of the Occult Tarot (Duckworth, 2002)

John Moriarty

“Just two weeks before he died from cancer, aged 69, the Irish philosopher-poet John Moriarty sent the checked proofs of the second part of his mighty autobiography, Nostos, to his publisher. During the last two years of his life, he managed to finish and have published three other books: Invoking Ireland, challenging contemporary Irish attitudes to their land, history, religion and culture; Night Journey to Buddh Gaia, a monumental work which builds a vision that confronts our western Enlightenment assumptions and conceptions; and Serious Sounds, a personal reflection on the seven Christian sacraments. John sought a rebirth of a Christianity that was inclusive of all religions and mythologies, and that took account of the deep and often dark dimensions of our turbulent humanity.

Born in County Kerry to a farmer, John showed early promise at school in Listowel before going to University College, Dublin, where he gained a double-first in philosophy and English literature. He was widely regarded as having one of the finest minds of his generation. He confounded his peers and teachers by failing to appear at his graduation, drifting off across Europe and ending up in London. There, he was invited by James Cameron, head of the philosophy department at Leeds University, to read for a postgraduate degree, and because of his financial situation, he was offered the post of tutor to first-year students.

After a couple of years, John went to the University of Manitoba, Canada, where he taught English literature for a further eight years. But he was uncomfortable as an academic and decided to return to his beloved Ireland and search for his biological, cultural and spiritual roots, seeking to develop a relationship with the earth and his fellow creatures. When his money ran out, he helped out in hotels and then turned to gardening.

In 1977, he returned to England and became live-in gardener in the Carmelite monastery at Boars Hill, Oxford, where he found solace in confession. His table talk and ebullience entranced the novices. On returning to Ireland, he worked as a gardener again in Connemara and County Galway, and having been given a piece of land, he started building his own house.

Then, in 1985, he was discovered by Andy O’Mahony of RTE Radio 1, who introduced John by saying: “My guest tonight is the most remarkable person I have ever met.” His work was brought to the attention of Antony Farrell of the Lilliput Press, Dublin, and in 1994 his first book, Dreamtime, was published. Having read this, I eventually met John in 1997 and we became good friends. The three-volume Turtle was Gone a Long Time (1996-98) was followed by the first part of Nostos in 2001.

John also hosted the radio discussion programme, The Blackbird and the Bell, for RTE and lectured widely, using his extensive knowledge of mythology and religion to enliven his talks with entrancing storytelling. In the mid-90s, he moved to his new home on Mangerton Mountain, near Killarney, County Kerry. I invited him over to England to stay with us in Shropshire and organised conferences, lectures and storytelling events for fellow artists and others, and many fell under his thrall.

In 2002, he began to realise his vision of a Christian monastic “hedge school”, Sli na Firinne, by buying a piece of land near Kilgarvan. He hoped this would be “a place where Christianity can recover its nerve”. The original hedge schools arose out of the prohibition of Catholic education in the 18th century.

Many recognise John as a major writer, comparable to Yeats, Joyce and Beckett. A collection of 13 CDs of his talks and lectures is to be released later this year under the title of One Evening in Eden, with proceeds funding Sli na Firrine. Last year he was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Ireland, Galway.

A large, rough-hewn man with bright, deep set eyes beneath a leonine mass of curls, John had a rich and melodious Kerry voice that changed from a gentle softness to a bellowing ebullience that erupted into a laughter that shattered all pomposity. His pain at our blindness to the riches of our created world and the God who made us resonates through all his writing. A mystic and prophet in the Old Testament meaning of the word, his was an inspiring vision of a world and a culture that is truly healing.

His writing could be dense and difficult, requiring a knowledge of myth and religion similar to his own, but there are so many passages of such intense and vibrant beauty, one can forgive such heavy going.

The great love of his life, Eileen Moore, moved in to take care of him in the last year of his life, and he died surrounded by family and friends.

· John Moriarty, philosopher-poet, born February 2 1938; died June 1 2007″ (Guardian)