Balthasar the Occultist

Since I mentioned Hans Urs von Balthasar in the previous post, I thought I would call attention to this singularly excellent expose on one of the most troubling “orthodox” theologians of the last century.



Hans Urs von Balthasar is probably the most alarming of the false teachers who have brought such ruin to the Church over the last fifty years. This is because of his deceitfulness. He constantly veils his meaning and systematically misquotes authorities. He frequently begins some passage in which he intends to promote some dreadful falsehood with a strong denial of the doctrine he is about to introduce. The evil is usually veiled enough that one could easily think he was just carried away by error into a disingenuous style but there is one short piece in which the true nature of his loyalties and mission is revealed. This is the introduction he wrote to a book called Meditations on the Tarot by an Estonian occultist and ‘convert’ to Catholicism Valentin Tomberg (1900-1973). It serves as a key to the understanding of Balthasar’s other writings. When I first heard of it…

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  1. The post is a good example of why people don’t take trads seriously, and I say this as someone who, in the current situation especially, has a lot of sympathy for the SSPX. It’s pretty obvious that the author isn’t making a real attempt to understand Balthasar, and the hysterical, hyperbolic tone is really not very helpful. It’s just outrage porn, really, which in fairness is something in which most people on the Internet seem to engage these days. I suppose it’s unreasonable to hold the vaunted defenders of all 168 years of the Church’s history to a higher standard.

  2. I’ve read though Balthasar’s Introduction and some of the Meditations by Tomberg. I’ll have to agree that Aelianus’ reflection/review is rather more like outrage porn than anything else. It would be akin to condemning Tolkien for fostering pantheism by including divine-like beings in Lord of the Rings.

    Balthasar, Tomberg (and I would include Danielou, Tolkien, Lewis, and Charles Williams, but it begins with Dionysius [or pseudo-Dionysius is you’d prefer]) are part of a greater discussion regarding the nature of mediating powers – angels and demons. Most of the Church Fathers declare outright that the gods of the pagan religions were demons. However, some modern authors have wished to posit a reflection that the some so-called divine-actions, specifically in a platonic synthesis drawing one up to the One, may actually be some sort of angelic influence – Apollo and Athena are but ciphers through which one can ascend to the One.

    Really, the whole thing goes back to the neo-platonic synthesis and the Church Father’s use of it. Origen is a major player here, but so are the Cappodocians (very conscious of their debt to Origen) as is Maximus the Confessor (are the “Logoi” or “Ideas” in the mind of God uncreated mediating powers?). For the East, one could also see Palamite energeia developing along similar paths.

    I’m personally still very unsure about the validity of such reflections (then again, I’m also sympathetic to Solovyov and Bulgakov’s Sophiology, so my opinions may be suspect). However, I don’t think the questions are absolutely useless or even de facto dangerous. All good theology is dangerous. The trinitarian teaching of Homousious (consubstantial) did not only develop into the glory which was the Chalcedonian definition but also gave birth, in the hands of heretics, to Nestorianism, Monophysitism, and Monothelistism.

    I’ve got a taste for these types questionable philosophy/theology/theosophy – too many fantasy novels as a child and a great love for mythology leaves one with such tastes. The possible errors should be warned against, but they need not be lambasted and made looked like buffoonery just because of the possibility of errors. Some of the critics of homousios were not Arians but thought the language, without biblical grounding, would ultimately lead to great confusion and error – which it did in the teachings of Nestorianism et al. That does not lessen the importance or the necessity of homousion.

    The teachings of Balthasar (and, to a lesser extent, Tomberg) and still to be discussed and, perhaps, inevitably laid aside and even condemned. Or perhaps they need to be used by one greater than them to highlight their good, perhaps new wine for the Church, while leaving behind the chaff. But oftentimes that takes time. Origen was not condemned in his lifetime or even 30 years after his life time. It took 100 years for Origen to be condemned, and that was only after he became a great influence on the Cappodocians and subsequent theologians.

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