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Valentin Tomberg and the Ecclesia Universalis

Valentin Tomberg and the Ecclesia Universalis

A Biography

By Harrie Salman

268 pp

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About the Book

In his teens and twenties, Russian-born Valentin Tomberg (1900–1973) was already exploring not only the Orthodox influences in his home city of St. Petersburg, but also such currents as those of Theosophy, Anthroposophy, Kabbalism, and Hermeticism. In his thirties, he emerged as a leading anthroposophical researcher. As an emigré from revolutionary Russia, he went first to Estonia, then to Holland, where his work bore increasingly the imprint of the stream of Platonism. During the years 1940–1943, Tomberg worked with a small group unveiling ever deeper layers of the Our Father prayer. When the Nazi occupation brought this work to an end, he turned increasingly to the subjects of jurisprudence and the Hermetic tradition. During this period, he joined the Catholic Church. There followed his intense work on “Christian Hermeticism,” displayed in his masterwork, Meditations on the Tarot: A Journey into Christian Hermeticism. Tomberg’s works raised controversies: in particular, fundamental questions regarding the relationship between Anthroposophy and the Catholic Church. This long overdue biography finally illuminates thematically and historically Tomberg’s pivotal significance in a developing Christian culture—an Ecclesia universalis—in which he discerned the guiding impulses of the Archangel Michael and the Divine Sophia.


“Harrie Salman has here united the ‘gold’ of his loving respect for Valentin Tomberg with the ‘silver’ of a truly objective overview of his life story.”


Sophia Foundation

“Valentin Tomberg’s writings leave the impression of a towering figure in the landscape of 20th-century spirituality. Who was this man, so profound a thinker and mystic yet so ordinary and unassuming; and why so beset by controversy? We need wonder no longer, with Harrie Salman’s rich biography of Tomberg in hand.”


The Way of the Heart (substack blog)

“Here is unveiled the fascinating story of Valentin Tomberg, a man of deep contemplation and immense erudition, whose writings bring his readers endless wisdom and inspiration.”


Love and the Evolution of Consciousness: a Study of the Transformation of the Human Soul, the Double, and the Spirit

“At last, a comprehensive biography of Valentin Tomberg, one of the most important Christian thinkers in the history of Sophiology.”


Sophia in Exile, etc.


“As so little is known about his outstanding capacity as a teacher of humanity, it is a great gift to the world that Harrie Salman has written a comprehensive biography of Valentin Tomberg, now published in English translation.”


translator of Meditations on the Tarot: A Journey into Christian Hermeticism; author of many works.


“Valentin Tomberg’s personhood and spiritual oeuvre have at times elicited an odd contempt from one direction and yet simultaneously, the deepest possible respect from another. This contradiction intensifies the responsibility of any biographer’s mandate, and Harrie Salman clearly shoulders that task with great care and painstaking research. In tracing Tomberg’s biographical, cultural and spiritual footsteps chronologically, Salman sets up a much needed and very textured context in which to approach and consider the man, his thought and imagination, his struggle and sacrifice. Ultimately, the author brings readers to the essentials of Tomberg’s Christian hermeticism and to his covenantal relationship to prayer, to Christ and Mary, to the Eucharist and to the Catholic Church.

Salman’s concentrated effort attempts to reconstruct the facts of Tomberg’s literal outward journey while describing a pilgrim walking countless inner miles toward spirit vision. Tomberg lived through war, cultural crossfire and controversy. This is not a painless read; some of the historical backstories make one wince, but this transparency is healthy. Though the final chapter is interpretive/speculative, and one can certainly question it, Salman does not arrive at this lens without first having disclosed the earnest conscience, quiet courage and moral imagination of a deeply religious man whose Christian legacy deserves continued profound attention. The Salman biography allows readers to meet the prodigious Tomberg who freely chose to grapple authentically, make needed transitions, speak from direct spiritual experience, risk much, and err occasionally. This Tomberg honored his sources, practiced metanoia, prayed fervently and lovingly invited his Dear Unknown Friends to do the same and more. Harrie Salman has brought much needed biographical information to light today for which I am truly grateful.”


The Chalice of Repose Project

About the Author

Dutch cultural philosopher HARRIE SALMAN teaches at the Universities of Leiden and Prague. He is the author of numerous books on European culture and spirituality, and works with groups in many countries on questions of inner and social development. His major work, Europe—A Continent With a Global Mission, was published in 2009, and, in 2020, The Social World as Mystery Center, on the social vision of Anthroposophy. He continues to publish and present on these themes at the forefront of contemporary events.

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