Friday, June 27, 2008

Ein Sof - A Matter Of Semantics?

There is a well developed understanding in LDS theology that:

“There is no such thing as immaterial matter. All spirit is matter, but it is more fine or pure, and can only be discerned by purer eyes...” (D&C 131:7)

I wonder if our firmness in this teaching can prevent us from understanding a fuller understanding of this teaching? What I mean is if we out-of-hand reject the apostate teaching of "creatio ex nihilo" without understand the possible origins, we may be missing something.

Some of the so called “church fathers” of the first few century A.D. propagated the idea of “creatio ex nihilo”, meaning "creation out of nothing."

This topic has been hotly debated over the centuries, and laid to rest by Joseph Smith in the minds of many fine LDS folks. But a mind at rest is not always the sharpest. Theophilus, Justin Martyr, and Origen believed matter was pre-existant with God, while Irenaeus, Tertullian, etc. believed otherwise.

I submit that only a highly inspired mind could have seen beyond “creatio ex nihilo.” But to swing from there to a fundamentalist view that the mud of the universe always existed in it’s physical form, is an unnecessary swing.

Joseph Smith taught that matter “can not be created nor destroyed” but that it only changes form. In short, the prophet taught matter is simply stored energy (long before Einstein came to the same conclusion). And that matter is only one of the forms energy can take. The LDS view is often, in my opinion, mistakenly reduced to thinking the physical matter is used and reused, but I believe it is the eternal underlying energy that always existed (and perhaps eventually recycled), not necessarily the mud.

The bones of dinosaurs are not left over from other worlds, this is a silly, childish, and pedestrian view.

I further submit that much of the centuries of debate stem from misunderstanding the intent of words like “creation,” “beginning,” “matter,” and so on.

In ancient Hebrew thought they had the same problem. And in-fact I suspect it was their problem that spilled over to the “church fathers.” The Hebrew term “ein sof” is often thought of on one level to mean “nothingness,” a shapeless, lawless, non-physical, immaterial existence that God resided in prior to creation. It is from here that Irenaeus and Tertullian believed creation began.

But on another level, a fuller understanding of Hebrew thought resembled the prophet Joseph’s teaching that in Celestial spheres a highly organized being, a material being of “fine or pure” matter created our physical world. He is a being of light, intelligence, or energy. Where He lives is “ein sof” or the “Endless,” the “Eternal,” the “Boundless.”

That when He extended His arm downward it created the lower kingdoms of existence. The Cabalists describe this with the idea of the “sephirah” which create the Tree of Life (which is the pattern of creation and the path of return. The pattern of temple architecture).

When God extended a portion of His light into our sphere it created the big bang, or creation. That light carried with it all the laws of physics we now observe and experience.

So, was the creation from something or nothing?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Fear and Faith

The idea of a fear of God has fallen out of vogue. But anciently people understood that a fear of God, which really just means we have some understanding of, and are serious about what is going on here on earth, is a good thing. If we are going to understand the finner points of doctrine we must fear God. The unholy do not receive the holy, and not fearing God is unholy.

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.” (Proverbs 9:10)

“..fear of God is faith.” (The Zohar, Matt vol. 2, pg 280, Teledot)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Whirlwind - The Stuff of Creation

I was listening to the Dennis Prager radio program this morning and he was interviewing an atheist scientist. The scientist described how he suggested that we do not look for life on certain planets because they were motionless, stagnant, and still. That for life to exist there needed to be movement. He contrasted the earth, in which things are moving and mixing. It appeared as though entropy had overtaken those planets.

This drew my mind to a few things. In the Sefer Yetzirah it described the motion of this physical existence as a whirlwind:

“These ten Sephiroth which are ineffable [intangible], whose appearance is like scintillating flames, have no end but are infinite. The word of God is in them as they burst forth, and as they return; they obey the divine command, rushing along as a whirlwind, returning to prostrate themselves at his throne.”[1]

In ancient Jewish thought the Sephiroth are the powers of God that create the differing kingdoms of existence. As they extend into the kingdoms they create the whirlwind, or the motion necessary for our life.

Perhaps Abraham saw the heavens and they appeared as a great whirlwind. This would be a macro application. Perhaps he saw into an atom and saw the microcosm of creation. These forces of creation play out in the souls of men.[2]

The whirlwind is thought of as another symbol of redemption like the Tree of Life.

Clearly this corresponds to the whirlwind of Ezekiel 1:4 which is a play on the same theme. The whirlwind is the outside force inserted into a closed system that creates and maintains life

Once this motion has completely went forth and completed the plan of salvation, then the returning beings.

We are told this whole process is like a coal of fire, both the coal and the flame are conjoined.[3] Existence is not being improvised as we go, this is one plan, the Plan of Salvation.
[1] Sepher Yetzirah 1:6

[2] Sepher Yetzirah 2:4 “These [Mem, Shin, and Aleph] three mothers again represent in the Microcosm or Human form, male and female; the Head, the Belly, and the Chest; the head from the fire, the belly from water, and the chest from the air lieth between them.”

[3] Sepher Yetzirah 1:7

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Joseph Smith in the Zohar?

The Zohar is a medieval book, which I think is largely successful in capturing and preserving the thought and teachings of ancient Israel. It put into story form much of the oral teachings of the Jews.

In the Zohar there is a teaching that describes the seven thousand years of man upon the earth, the milleniums. The Zohar ascribes a letter to each of the milleniums (which may have significance beyond what we are discussing here), the letter “vav” is associated with the sixth millenium. The letter “vav” is the sixth letter in the Hebrew alphabet. It then gives us what amounts to a prophesy:

"Every sixty years of that sixth millenium, he is invigorated, scaling its rungs. In the six hundreth year of the sixth, springs of wisdom will open above, springs of wisdom below, and the world will prepare to enter the seventh..." [1]

The Zohar scholar, Daniel Matt, calculated this time for us in his commentary as corresponding to the year 1839. [2] We could talk about the happenings of 1839 and the 121st. section of the Doctrine and Covenants, but I think I would take a little larger view, and allow for an allusion to the period of the restoration generally.

I don’t know the ultimate origin of this “prophesy,” but it does seem to point to the time that the heavens opened, wisdom, or revelation was poured out upon man (Joseph Smith in particular), and that this was being done in prĂ©paration of the seventh period know as “The Millenium.”

Many angels visited Joseph Smith, including Moroni. For a period Moroni visited Joseph each year and instructed him:

“... and [Joseph Smith] received instruction and intelligence from him [Moroni] at each of our interviews, respecting what the Lord was going to do, and how and in what manner his kingdom was to be conducted in the last days.” [3]

This was part of the “preparing to enter” the final millenium the Zohar teaches about.
[1] The Zohar, Daniel Matt. Vol. 2, pg. 180, Va-Yera
[2] The Zohar, Daniel Matt. Vol. 2, pg. 180, Va-Yera, Matt's note #501, "Corresponding to 1839/40 C.E.."
[3] PGP, Joseph Smith History.

Monday, June 2, 2008


David Larsen has started a new blog HEAVENLY ASCENTS. You need to Bookmark his new site! This will be a first rate site dealing with the topics related to the topics we discuss here at MormonMysticism. David Has been a commenter here, on The Backyard Professor, and Temple Study. He always has insightful things to say. He passes me good information from time to time. He introduced me to Dr. Andrai A. Orlov's work.

I can't tell you how excited I am to see David entering the Blogernacle. There is a small but growing group of us who blog on these topics, Heavenly Ascent is a welcomed addition.