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Personal Certainty

Personal Certainty

On the Way, the Truth, & the Life

By Valentin Tomberg

216 pp

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About the Book

On the Feast of the Assumption in 1956, Valentin Tomberg began to work on the hitherto unpublished text which is set before the reader in this book…. Written in the second half of his life (a decade or so following his conversion to Catholicism), this text documents an essential, transitional stage in the development of his work. Here Tomberg gives an account of how far, and in what way, he might be truly certain of matters pertaining to the great questions humanity faces.… He wanted to discover and set out the method by means of which other seekers might also arrive at authentic certainty regarding the great questions.—From the Foreword


Personal Certainty strikes me as a work of astonishing maturity, humility, texture, and insight. It maps the human-making curriculum required of and inhabited by a specific writer of consummate merit and unique destiny. Tomberg consistently moved forward—evolved—through internal and external experience of war and upheaval, turbulence and concentration, migration and choice, ideals and possibilities, hope and disappointment, truth and deception, strength and fragility, hypocrisy and integrity. Most of all, he was able to share intimately regarding the mystery of prayer, meditation, contemplation, liturgy, the rosary, while reflecting upon the communion of saints, the Risen Christ, Mary and all that is Sophianic, and more. As his perspectives widened and deepened, Certainty traces how and why new capacities rooted and were liberated in his life and how he sustained human, intellectual, psychological, and spiritual growth. In tracing how he learned to diagnose personal error, how he learned to change, how he found the courage to reconsider his personal religious commitment, how he learned to re-adjust and self-correct, we learn of the consciousness required to actually inhabit and shoulder freedom in a new and living way. Were he here today, he would face similar difficulties, requiring other conscious and costly “free” decisions, each heroic, valoric, and loving. Since history has labeled this the post-truth era, the testimony of one man’s Personal Certainty could not be more urgently needed. As such, it is sacred medicine. 


Chalice of Repose Project 

In his late work, Valentin Tomberg makes much clearer the relationship of his orthodox Christian esotericism to ancient and modern philosophical traditions. Somewhat like Vladimir Solovyov, he points to the paradox of invisible explanation of visible experience as something that unites science with religion. Out of this insight he develops a symbolist metaphysics that refuses any sundering of the personal from the cosmological, albeit in a distinctly post-Kantian fashion. No one concerned with philosophical theology should ignore this attempt at a rather more speculative Grammar of Assent


author of The Future of Love: Essays in Political Theology, etc.

In Tomberg’s view, personal certainty is not a science. It is wisdom, which for him is not compelled by “proofs” but is born and grows in the soil of freedom. Wisdom shows itself to be true in the course of life: it is not a matter of firmly circumscribed concepts, but of growth, achieved by what he called the “total method,” which leads to the symbol—for the significance of the symbol is inexhaustible and thus the only adequate means by which the mysterium can be known. It is this emphasis on the symbol, and the attendant method of analogy, that we find vastly expanded in the author’s later, magisterial Meditations on the Tarot, now considered one of the classic spiritual texts of the twentieth century. Personal Certainty is essential reading for all of Tomberg’s later works


author of Weisheit in Person, etc.

About the Author

Valentin Tomberg was born in St. Petersburg on February 26, 1900. Having been baptized a Protestant, he entered the Greek Orthodox church shortly before 1933, and, in 1945, became a Roman Catholic. In 1938 Tomberg emigrated to the Netherlands and began actively to lecture on Christological topics. At the beginning of 1944 he moved to Cologne, where he was awarded the title of Doctor of Law for his dissertation, The Art of the Good: On the Regeneration of Fallen Justice, published in English for the first time by Angelico Press. This dissertation marked an important turning-point in Tomberg’s life: humanistic studies he had presented during his thirties are now replaced by a strict orientation towards a Platonic model of knowledge, and a medieval, so-called “realism of universals.” Tomberg came to regard the modern path away from natural law (founded upon religion) and toward legal positivism (oriented toward power) as a dismantling of the different levels of law (and at the same time a loss of both the idea and ideal of law)—that is, as a process of degeneration or “fall,” which Tomberg seeks to reverse in the direction of regeneration. He also proposes a new way of organizing the academic study of law, in which the higher levels of law would be included, and in which access to the idea and the ideal of law would be restored.

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