• Michael Martin

Sacred Magic and the Western Death Cult


'The Empress' by Katrin Welz-Stein

Over the past couple of months I have been enjoying a couple of unrelated online discussion forums studying Valentin Tomberg’s extraordinary text Meditations on the Tarot. In one recent conversation with Shari Suter and Nate Hile at the Grail Country channel on Youtube, we discussed the third letter of the book on the card The Empress. (You can watch it here).

I don’t know exactly how many times I’ve read this book, but it is definitely in the double-digits, and every time I read it I find new riches. One thing that jumped out at me this time—and which came up in our conversation—is what Tomberg describes as the role of “sacred magic” in the world through the symbol of the Tree of life which he contrasts to the methods of science since the seventeenth century. “For the practical aspect of the scientific ideal, “writes Tomberg, “is the domination of Nature by means of putting into play the principle of destruction or death.” [1] This was not a new insight of Tomberg’s: Goethe and Rudolf Steiner had said much the same things (as did Robert Fludd and Thomas Vaughan before them), and closer to our own time Mary Midgley, Pierre Hadot, Rupert Sheldrake, and David Bohm have stood in general agreement with this claim, which is in its essence a very sophiological intuition. He continues:

Imagine, dear Unknown Friend, efforts and discoveries in the opposite direction, in the direction of construction or life. Imagine, not an explosion, but the blossoming out of a constructive ‘atomic bomb.’ It is not too difficult to imagine, because each little acorn is such a ‘constructive bomb’ and the oak is only the result of the slow ‘explosion’—or blossoming out—of this ‘bomb.’ Imagine it, and you will have the ideal of the great work or the idea of the Tree of Life. The image itself of the tree comprises the negation of the technical and mechanical element.”

The subtitle of Tomberg’s masterpiece is “A Journey into Christian Hermeticism,” and by “Hermeticism” Tomberg means a Christian synthesis of art, science, and religion. This was evident in pre-Reformation Western Christian culture in, for example, the imagery of the microcosm and its relationship to the macrocosm or in the signatura rerum, the signatures of things (plants, minerals, animals, stars, planets) and the spiritual realities to which they point. This Hermeticism, I claim, is almost identical to Sophiology.

Now the ideal of Hermeticism is contrary to that of science. Instead of aspiring to power over the forces of Nature by means of destruction of matter, Hermeticism aspires to conscious participation with the constructive forces of the world on the basis of an alliance and a cordial communion with them. Science wants to compel Nature to obedience to the will of man such as it is; Hermeticism—or the philosophy of sacred magic—on the contrary wants to purify, illumine, and change the will of man in order to bring them into harmony with the creative principle of Nature (natura naturans) and to render them capable of receiving its willingly bestowed revelation. The ‘great work,’ as an ideal, is therefore the state of the human being who is in peace, harmony, and collaboration with life. This is the ‘fruit’ of the Tree of Life.”

Biodynamic farming is a great example of this kind of Hermetic cooperation with Natura. On the other hand, modern science, for the most part, continues to operate along the lines of compulsion (which we can by extrapolation define by the, alas, too-often heard term “mandate”). If anything over the past two-plus years, we have seen the apotheosis of a “science of the mandate,” in its grasping for a totalizing and absolute dominion over all aspects of human life. This is the way of death.

In fact, as my interlocutor Mr. Hile recently observed, what we have all around us is a “death cult,” and I would add that institutional science is the high priest of this religion.

Central to this religion—though rarely admitted openly—is a hostility to fecundity, which we can see in the cult’s hostility to fertility. And this fecundity touches all domains:


The third Arcanum of the Tarot, being an arcanum of sacred magic, is by this very fact the arcanum of generation. For generation is only as aspect of sacred magic, If sacred magic is the union of two wills—human and divine—from which a miracle results, generation itself also presupposes the trinity of the generator, the generant, and the generated. Now, the generated is the miracle resulting from the union of the principles of generator and generant. Whether it is a matter of a new idea, a work of art, the birth of a child, is not important; it is always the same law of generation which operates; it is always the same arcanum—that of fecundity—which is at play; and it is always the same mystery of the Incarnation of the Word which is the divine prototype here.

We have said above that sacred magic is life such as it was before the Fall. As life is always generative, the arcanum of sacred magic is at the same time that of generation before the Fall—vertical generation, from a higher plane to a lower one—instead of horizontal generation, which is accomplished on a single plane.” [2]

So, what we have is fecundity versus the Western Death Cult, as I have recently written on the gradual opening to the possibility of socially acceptable infanticide. And the presence of the Death Cult is nowhere more apparent than in its constant attacks on Nature—most vividly shown in its attack on the feminine.

Examples of these attacks are rampant, particularly in the rhetorical games (and I’m an English and philosophy professor—I know about rhetorical games) currently at play by the Enemy. One absolutely tragi-comic example is the recent story in which midwives in the UK’s Brighton and Sussex Hospitals were told by higher ups to stop using “vagina” when referring to a woman’s reproductive organ and, instead, adopt “‘front hole’ or ‘genital opening’”—an idea that surely is the product of some woke administrator’s back hole. Such innovations would be unthinkable without the interventions of Science, Inc. Just as Huxley predicted in Brave New World, the word “mother” is now increasingly equated with the most vulgar profanity. A similar word game now coming into common parlance is to replace “pedophile” with “minor attracted person.” O brave new world that has such people in it.

Tomberg’s exact contemporary Lewis Mumford also saw what was happening and what was coming. Writing in 1964 (very close to the time at which Tomberg wrote on The Empress), Mumford had this to say about the march of technology:

The danger springs from the fact that, since Francis Bacon and Galileo defined new methods and objectives of technics, our great physical transformations have been effected by a system that deliberately eliminates the whole human personality, ignores the historic process, overplays the role of abstract intelligence, and makes control of physical nature, ultimately control over man himself, the chief purpose of existence….


The bargain we are being asked to ratify takes the form of a magnificent bribe. Under the democratic-authoritarian social contract, each member of the community may claim every material advantage, every intellectual and emotional stimulus he may desire, in quantities hardly available hitherto even for a restricted minority: food, housing, swift transportation, instantaneous communications, medical care, entertainment, education. But on one condition: that one must not merely ask for nothing that the system does not provide, but likewise agree to take everything offered, duly processed and fabricated, homogenized and equalized, in the precise quantities that the system, rather than the person, requires.


“…. Once our authoritarian technics consolidates its powers, with the aid of its new forms of mass control, its panoply of tranquillizers and sedatives and aphrodisiacs, could democracy in any form survive? That question is absurd: life itself will not survive, except what is filtered through the mechanical collective. The spread of a sterilized scientific intelligence over the planet would not, as Teilhard de Chardin so innocently imagined, be the happy consummation of divine purpose: it would rather ensure the final arrest of any further human development.” [3]

Medical, technological, and rhetorical attempts to control Nature are ultimately attempts to control the Real. Attempts to control Nature and the Real, therefore, are assaults on both the feminine and the masculine, as well as on the family. Assaults on the feminine and the masculine and the family, then, are finally assaults on the Divine Feminine and the Divine Masculine—and they’re not on a spectrum.

It is a matter of what kind of science one wants: a science based upon the will to power, or a science of collaboration with life. It doesn’t seem like a very difficult choice.


Scene from Terrence Malick's Tree of Life. He certainly understands Sophiology.


Michael’s latest book is Sophia in Exile. He can be reached at director@thecenterforsophiologicalstudies.com See also The Center for Sophiological Studies' available courses. Also check out the latest volume of Jesus the Imagination: The Divine Feminine.

1. Meditations on the Tarot: A Journey into Christian Hermeticism (Amity House, 1985), 68.

2. Ibid., 72-73.

3. Lewis Mumford, “Authoritarian and Democratic Technics,” Technology and Culture 5, no. 1 (Winter 1964); 1-8, at 6-7.

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