Monday, March 31, 2008
Angels Who Stand As Sentinels
President Brigham Young taught us that the temple is where we learn about eternity, and where we prepare to pass certain angels that are standing gard. What we don’t always get is that they are guarding against us, not for us. When The Father had a flaming sword (& Cherubim) placed in the Garden of Eden it was to stop Adam from returning unchecked. Symbolically is was teaching that all of mankind (ha-adam) can only pass when we are ready (sanctified). We often think of angels guarding us, but in this process they are guarding the way back, so we don’t attempt to enter glories what are not yet ready to inherit.
"Your endowment is to receive all those ordinances in the House of the Lord, which are necessary for you after you have departed this life, to enable you to walk back to the presence of the Father, passing the angels who stand as sentinels, being enabled to give them the key words, the signs and tokens, pertaining to the Holy Priesthood, and gain your eternal exaltation in spite of earth and hell." (Brigham Young, J. D. 2:31.)
The Zohar is preoccupied with idea of gates we enter when we are ready, and at each gate is an armed guard. Egyptian initiation imagery is also loaded with example of stations (like rungs of a ladder) that the deceased must pass through to gain his full inheritance. Truth and fidelity are the initiates defenses against these destroying angels.
In Egyptian imagery, those who have not had fidelity to their covenants (“key words, the signs and tokens, pertaining to the Holy Priesthood”) in the mortal world, are slashed, cut, or otherwise destroyed if they try to pass. Perhaps this is the origin of the Tyler of Masonry?
Prof. Hugh Nibley discussed the Book of Breathings, and the Book of the Dead.
Here is an excerpt:
“it is permitted to wonder whether khrw-paw (faces-of-fire) with its Hebrew plural ending -im might be the source of the mysterious word Cherubim of the Bible. Or is the root the Egyptian Cherep, "to have control over," as in the long Book of Breathings: "Thrice welcome! say the Cherebneset-priests," i.e., "those who are in charge of the throne," they being the guardians of the gate (T 32, I, 22, O.M.R.O., 31:56)? Apophis is confronted by the Keepers of the Pylons standing with swords in their hands before a gate from which flames shoot forth, and is repelled by both sword and flame (Bremner-Rhind, 30:11-15). No one else can enter the place as yet either, excepting Re, since to enter it is to breathe the air of eternal life (Gr. Tb., 48-49), and man is not yet ready to live forever in his sins. The Jewish doctors, at least, made such a discrimination, telling us that when Adam was driven out of the place of delights, "the Watchers were placed there so that none could enter unless they had been first purified by the hand of the Cherubim" (B. Gorion, Sagen d. Juden, I, 118). From the earliest times, then, fire and the sword or the flaming sword prevent the serpent from returning to the garden. The serpent must remain in outer darkness (L. Kakosy, ZA, 97:104-105), being himself the mystery of non-being, the negation of all that is (E. Hornung, Ein.u. Viel., pp. 171-72). The Pistis Sophia gives the same explanation for the flaming sword: The time will come, it says, when the sword will be removed for Adam and he may reach forth his hand and partake of the fruit of the tree of life. But the serpent may never do so; in the end the flaming sword was for his benefit.” [Prof. Hugh Nibley, Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri, Part IV, The Garden Story]
Ancient temple initiations contained feathers of truth (Ma’at), swords of judgement, and angels guarding the way. Today we have an abbreviated version of what was Adam's ascension, which is our inheritance (endowment). Traces of a longer version, a deeper teaching, and fuller laws, give us hints of the path back. This is why the endowment can only truly be understood by revelation. The profane waste their time trying to understand it, only by revelation can we “get it.”
“Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest.” [D&C 84:20]
“If thou shalt ask, thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things—that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal.” [D&C 42:60