Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Zodiac in LDS Theology

The masterpiece we refer to as the 88th. Section of the Doctrine and Covenants has some interesting connection to what I propose is the Zodiac. I know this makes some LDS folks recoil just a bit, but if we can free our minds and just see truth, truth will pour itself into us. I am not here supporting Astrology or any type of divination by looking at the cosmos. 
“Unto what shall I liken these kingdoms, that ye may understand?” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:46)
Staring in verse 52 a parable is given to us, to help us understand these kingdoms and the people who reside in them.

The complete meaning of this parable is not completely understood by me, but a few points are observable and we can see some hints of the underlying truths. We see in the parable the Lord visits different people of different kingdoms in 12 different hours. This parable may raise more questions than it answers, and that may be it’s purpose.

We read in verse 47:
“Behold, all these are kingdoms, and any man who hath seen any or the least of these hath seen God moving in his majesty and power.”

The above must mean more than what someone could see with a telescope in their backyard. What a person can view from the backyard may whisper at God’s majesty, however, to really see God moving in His majesty a person needs to see this with spiritual eyes like Moses or Abraham did. In modern temples we receive a very short representation of this understanding of that we are to run with and expand, it should expand to where we understand that same thing, via a little different route, that Abraham and Moses received.

Even back to ancient Egypt the idea existed that man, in at least one stage is associated with the 12 part Zodiac, and passed through the Zodiac in his eternal journey. This association of the number 12 with the Tree of Life, and the many variation of the plan of salvation as found among the many peoples of the earth is distinct.

We see in the Sefer Yetzirah that a similar description of kingdoms is connected to the 12 stations of the Zodiac (At least in some versions). The Sepher Yetzirah is a commentary on the creation and the redemption. This commentary uses the Tree of Life as the backdrop for this explanation (like Solomon’s temple), and employs images of ten “Sephiroth” or number and twenty- two letters as the building blocks of creation.
(Ten are the numbers of the ineffable [or intangible] Sephiroth, ten and not nine, ten and not eleven. Learn this wisdom, and be wise in the understanding of it, investigate these numbers, and draw knowledge from them, fix the design in its purity, and pass from it to its Creator seated on his throne.” Sepher Yetzirah 1:4.)

The family used as the prototype of salvation is Israel. When a convert receives the gospel they are grafted into the Tree of Life - the House of Israel. Towards the end of the Book of Genesis we see that God set up the House of Israel to rule and reign on this earth. It is true that Israel has often struggled with it’s own periods of apostasy, yet between such periods it is Israel that has been the custodians of the rites of salvation and sanctification. A primary characteristic of the House of Israel is that it is divided into 12 tribes, the descendants of the 12 son’s of Jacob. But this employing of the number 12 did not start or end with Israel’s children. I would suggest that this usage was calling on a larger imagery less know to modern theologians. This larger imagery is the cosmos with all of it’s “worlds” and the people who inhabit them. The cosmos can be represented in shorthand with the Zodiac. The Zodiac can be thought of as a kind of Hypocephalus.

The visiting of the Lord to each kingdom is the millennial reign of Christ in each respective kingdom. Each earth or world receives it’s reign of Christ in it’s proper time. Joseph Fielding Smith spoke about this:

“During the millennium, the Savior will spend one thousand years here which is one day according to the Lord. In D&C, Section 88, it is written that the Savior will do the same thing in other worlds, visiting each in its turn.” (
Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, 3:212.)

So, if this is speaking of other worlds or earths, are we to accept that there are a total of 12 of these earths, of which our earth is one? Abraham and Brigham Young taught us that there are millions of earths. So why the connection to the number 12? I suspect that it is using a related imagery in the macro; the cosmos (crated under the direction of the council of the gods). The next panning in towards the micro is the Tree of Life - the House of Israel (Jacob 5:3) with it’s 12 tribes. Further panning in is the 12 apostles that run the church, the custodians of salvation - the Tree of Life in our day and in the original church.
Just as the apostles have less to do with the actual number 12 than what that number represents, this holds true at each progressive level, micro or macro. We should not get stuck on 12 kingdoms, but embrace the understanding that we are part of a larger plan that includes many worlds, each of which will be visited in their time. This understanding will draw us to investigate the pre-earth life and the plan of all these kingdoms. It is likely this imagery of 12 apostles extends to each of these worlds, and that each world has it’s 12 custodians of salvation (at any given time).

Even keeping in mind my earlier discourses on Revelation 22:2 we see the correspondence between the number 12 and the 12 fruit and the Tree of Life in Revelation 22. A possible, at least partial explanation of the 12 different types of fruit people eat is that the 12 fruit are for the 12 divisions of the cosmos, which is consistent with Doctrine and Covenants section 88. If this is true, the symbol of the Tree of Life in the Book of Revelation is enriched to include a symbol of salvation not only for our world but as a shared source for all the cosmos. If we take that understanding and logically extend it to the rest of our Tree of Life images, all kinds of interesting possibilities begin to show themselves. For example, we could easily hang a Zodiac as a wreath on our Tree of Life.

Notice that in Rev. 22:2 they eat 12 manner of fruit, one for each month. Months have to do with times or seasons. In Doctrine and Covenants 88:61 “...times, and in its season...” is used to describe the plan.)

Jacob’s Alligory of the Olive Tree does not include or end in the use of the number 12, but it does end in Jacob 6:13 with a reminder that we will meet again before the bar of Christ, which is a millennial setting, which is earth’s (one twelfth) turn for the presence of Christ. A rose by any other name...
In John 15, Jesus spoke to one branch of the 12 tribes, and to the 12 apostles, about the True Vine.
While no cosmic connection is recorded in John, the fact that He was explaining a Tree of Life image to the twelve was more than appropriate.

In short, the number 12 is associated with the work of redemption, be that that the keys of the mysteries of each dispensation are held by the 12 apostles, that the work of a separate unit of the church is lead by 12 disciples, that the work of this world is under the 12 that Jesus ordained, or that this world will have it’s part in the 12 part plan of the cosmos. In Solomon’s Temple and most authorized temples we find a baptismal font on the backs of 12 oxen. The abbreviated, but perhaps not the full explanation is that the oxen represent the tribes of Israel. The pattern of the 12 apostle is based upon the earlier imagery of the 12 tribes, which is based upon the cosmic plan of redemption, that can be represented by the Zodiac. Moving into the holy place of Solomon’s Temple we see the Menorah across from the Table of the Shewbread. Upon that table were 12 loaves of bread, these had a connection to the sacrament, which is a renewing of the lower ordinance of baptism, which in the temple is done on the backs of 12 oxen. The post-apocalyptic new Jerusalem is seen by John coming down out of heaven, and it had 12 gates and at each gate was an angel with his name upon him. The name of these angeles are the names of the 12 tribes of Israel (the son’s of Jacob). John’s vision goes on a little further connecting the 12 foundations of the holy city to the 12 apostles. The angel showing these things to John then measures the city, similar to how Ezekiel’s messenger did for Ezekiel. Carrying forth the imagery of the number 12, the city is 12 thousand furlongs (a furlong is 185.2 meters). This is clearly a symbolic measurement, like Ezekiel’s measurements were. Both employed the symbolic number 1,000 which has cosmic implications, as used from earliest times, [1] and right into Jewish and Christian imagery.

That's the way I see it - what say you?
[1] See the Peril of Great Price, Book of Abraham, Facsimile 2, Explication 4. “Answers to the Hebrew word Raukeeyang, signifying expanse, or the firmament of the heavens; also a numerical figure, in Egyptian signifying one thousand; answering to the measuring of the time of Oliblish, which is equal with Kolob in its revolution and in its measuring of time.”

Friday, August 19, 2011

Three Sacrifices and Three Altars.

The notion of four worlds which also includes three degrees of glory is well established in LDS theology. These three degrees of “glory” are three degrees of “salvation.” Frequent readers of my posts and other materials know that I contend that the three glories are three different “dimensions,” or groups of dimensions (as our current world is a group of three and a half dimensions). If you take this idea further, salvation is a very delineated proposition.

Let me propose this questions: Did the atonement take place in the garden or on the cross?

LDS folks are often quick to answer “the garden” because we have been taught about what happened in the garden, but was the garden the completing of the atonement? If you answered yes then you must believe that the cross was not necessary? Or perhaps it only had to do with accommodating the resurrection? If so why was it that Jesus waited until His experience at the cross was complete to say “it is finished.” The cross is prominently pointed to in scripture as the place of atonement.

I would suggest that the atonement happened in three different glories, and three different places. We see this pointed to in the plan of salvation in stone, the temple. We can observe the underlying structure that is shared with all true temples. Central to this structure is the existence of three levels of salvation, or holiness. For simplicity, let’s look at Solomon’s temple. There are three basic section; the Court representing the Telestial Kingdom, the Holy Place representing the Terrestrial Kingdom, and the Holy of Holies representing the Celestial Kingdom.

Each of these kingdoms has a prominent feature, and that is the altar for that kingdom.

In Solomon’s temple, the space designed to represent the Telestial Kingdom had an altar called the “Altar of Sacrifice.” It is here that the working out of the salvation of man is symbolized, and memorialized.

The gate into the telestial space is equated with membership into the church, or in other words, the Kingdom. To rightfully enter that space the initiate had to accept the principles and ordinances of that space. We are not told all of what went on in Solomon’s Temple, but we do know some things.

The altar in any given holy space represents the spot where God and man come together in that degree of glory, where the symbols of the covenant for that degree are expressed, and where a portion of the “Covenant of Creation” is renewed.

The symbols for a kingdom are not some unrelated abstract token, they not only symbolize of the underlying saving truth. they are emblematic of that truth, and in a likeness of that truth, which is the covenant.

The Altar of Sacrifice was the first order of business in the telestial space (The Court). It symbolizes the suffering and death that Christ endured on the cross. It is meant to impress upon us that in a telestial world that justice is achieved in brutal and violent ways. The Altar of Sacrifice is the space where the covenant, the cross, justice, mercy, man, and God come together in what some ancients thought of as a knot, where all of these things intertwine. What happened on the cross is symbolized by what happens on the Altar of Sacrifice.

If we then enter into the space representing the Terrestrial Kingdom (in Solomon’s Temple) we find another type of altar, the Table of Shewbread. It is at this table that the covenants belonging to the Terrestrial Glory, along with the ordinances are expressed.

We know [1] of only two places where Jesus atoned for our sins; the cross and in the Garden of Gethsemane, 
but certainly there are three. It is likely that the place that Jesus retired to with Peter, James, and John, that was farther into the garden than He allowed the other apostles, where He was “exceeding sorrowful unto death” (Mark 14:34) is the place that is represented by the Table of the Shewbread, and is the place of atonement in the Terrestrial World. This could rightfully be referred to that which saves someone into that kingdom, but it might be more properly be described as a level of sanctification.

The Table of the Shewbread has a strong resemblance to the modern LDS rite of Sacrament. The existence of the bread and the wine 
on each table leads us to believe this connection may exist. If this is a real link, we are forced to consider the Sacrament as a Terrestrial Ordinance [2].  Which would also make some symbolic or mystical link between the altar of the Terrestrial Kingdom, and the Sacrament tables of LDS meetinghouses. We could view this as an extension of the temple into our weekly worship. In the telestial realm our baptismal fonts clearly have a theological link to the temple sea on the backs of twelve oxen.

The priests and laymen (at least in the early years of Solomon’s Temple) killed the lamb and other victims on the north side of the Altar of Sacrifice in the Court, or the Telestial area of the temple. This was a playing-out, or theater of the Atonement upon the cross. When the participants burnt the offerings it was an invitation to deity to participate in or accept the sacrifice (like burning incense symbolizes prayers or petitions to God). The eating of the remaining parts of the victim has to do with internalizing the deity, or becoming one with God.

We can eat the flesh (flesh and blood) of the Telestial sacrifice, at the Altar of Sacrifice, and become one with God there, be identified with Him at that level, with that law, with those ordinances, or we can eat from the Table of Shewbread, drink the wine, and be sanctified and one with God at that level, glory, dimension, law, and ordinances. It’s our choice.

There is an additional choice. When Christ went further into the Garden of Gethsemane, there He suffered to the greatest degree. There he suffered alone. He left the area where Peter, James, and John waited, the place of “suffering unto death” and went in further. What exactly happened there we don’t really know [1], 
other than; for us He suffered to a very great extent:

“Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit...” (Doctrine and Covenants 19:18)

1. Others may know, but it is not widely known.
2. Some may view this assertion differently, but I see this as a holy and inspiring thing.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Tents and Hebrewisms

Never shying away from speculation, I have some observations that I would like to attempt here to tie together.

I have observed that there is a practice found among some older Hebrew writings where a person, but more specifically a prophet, equates a physical journey to his spiritual journey, and more specifically his ascension teaching and initiation. I am not sure that some of the stories as we receive them may not have even been adapted and adjusted to better demonstrate the points of the stories. This practice could be called a "Hebrewism."

In a prior post (click here) I described how Abraham considered going down to Egypt as going into a "deep [spiritual] pit." I described how he made that trip by holding to his "knot of faith" or a line going into the pit with knots that represented his covenants. He was not afraid to go into the pit because he was confident he could escape by pulling himself up grasping the knots. For Abraham this trip was a spiritual journey.

Jacob in his physical journeys stopped by a place called Beth-el and as he slept he dreamed a dream where he saw a ladder ascending up to God (see Gen. 28:12). Among LDS and Jewish thinkers it is understood that the rungs on the ladder represent the covenants, ordinances, or levels of ascension, that can also be applied to each of our lives (or the lack of such covenants). This is a temple/ascension motif (Gen 28:16-19) where Jacob called the place the "house of God" and poured oil upon a stone that created an altar. All true altars have a mystical connection to one of the three altars of the temple. 

Moses meet God on the Mountain. Mountains anciently represented and physically presented ascension. Going back to Abraham we read in the Zohar:

"He [Abram] moved on from there (ha-harah),  to the mountain. There he discovered (har he), Mountain of He. and all those rungs planted there." (The Zohar, Matt vol . II, pg 18 - Lekh Lekha)

Abraham climbed the physical mountain and built an altar, and the Lord added a "he" to Abrams name. The "he" represents the "Shekhinah" or divine presence resulting from covenants - it is a a sign of covenant. See THIS and THIS. Continuing on:

"He [Abraham] spread (ololoh), his tent, spelled with a (he) -spreading a spread, accepting the Kingdom of Heaven with all its linked rungs."(The Zohar, Matt vol . II, pg 18 - Lekh Lekha)

We see a couple concepts intertwined. When Abraham had the sign of the covenant (he) added to his name, he spread his tent. But the "tent" was spelled with a "he" instead of the normal "vav," indicating a tent of covenant or "the tent of Shekhinah."

From the above we see an association with covenants, temples, altars, and tents. A tent can be thought of as a "Tallit Gadol" reminiscent of the temple, with "tzitzit" tied at all four corners. The Zohar continues with Abraham:

"...Abram journeyed, continually journeying towards the Negev ... Continually journeying, rung upon rung until ascending to the South, where he was fittingly bound, ascending to his rung..." (The Zohar, Matt vol . II, pg 18 & 19 - Lekh Lekha)

It is a Hebrewism to connect like this the journey, the tent, the altar, the covenants, the ascension, and the temple. 

My point has to do with 1 Nephi chapter 2. In a prior post I pointed out a few of my observations about 1 Nephi 2:6-9. See my post HERE. The points I tried to make there was that there was a Hebrewism pattern in the text. In 1 Nephi 2:6-9 here is what I see:

- Lehi and his family are on a journey. It is a real journey, but also a journey of ascension.

- They camp by the river. This is an association with other ascension - living water imageries.

- Lehi builds an altar - associating this with covenants, ordinances, and the temple, and the tree of life.

- Also of interest, but not of our present concern is the valley, the sea, and the fountain of all righteousness. 

My point, in 1 Nephi 2:15 which reads:

"And my father dwelt in a tent" 

Which critics have cited as being out of place in the text, and useless. I submit that it is very much in place with the preceding Hebrewisms.

I would bet a dollar that the Reformed Egyptian that conveyed the word "tent" contained a modifier that gave a meaning somewhere close to  "a tent of covenant" or "a tent of Shekhinah."  At the very least, the way in which "tent" was used would convey the idea to any readers of Lehi's day, but is not right on the surface in our translation.

That's the way I see it. What think ye? 

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Holy Spirit of Promise

I was teaching a class the other day in High Priests Group on the Plan of Happiness. I had proffered my contention that each ordinance we receive must be sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise (Holy Ghost) to be of force. It is my view that when a person receives an ordinance the Holy Spirit of Promise “seals” that the ordinance was performed correctly regarding form and authority, and the associated law was received and has been kept (assuming that person is living that law - or it is later sealed when the person does live the law).

I used a paragraph in the "Guide to the Scripture" under “Holy Spirit of Promise” which reads in part:

“He [the Holy Ghost] confirms as acceptable to God the righteous acts, ordinances, and covenants of men. The Holy Spirit of Promise witnesses to the Father that the saving ordinances have been performed properly and that the covenants associated with them have been kept.”

This notion was challenged by one of the good brethren, because of the following paragraph that reads: 

“They who are sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise receive all that the Father has, D&C 76:51–60 (Eph. 1:13–14).”

The distinction being where I contend that each law and ordinance must be sealed upon a person, he read the reference to mean that at some point, all at once they are all, including exaltation sealed upon a righteous person.

I would argue that the next line also needs to be considered to understand this concept:

“All covenants and performances must be sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise to have force after this life, D&C 132:7, 18–19, 26”

I believe that baptism is a critical ordinance, even for a person who never has “all that the Father has” or exaltation sealed upon him. But, that each ordinance and its corresponding law, including baptism, must be sealed upon each of us. If not, we are son’s of perdition (in the case of baptism).

The same would hold true for each ordinance and law. 

I would further contend that what ordinance and corresponding law we receive (we receive law by ordinances) dictates the resurrection we will receive. This is clear in the Doctrine and Covenants. Regarding the Holy Spirit of Promise we read:

“...All covenants, contracts, bonds, obligations, oaths, vows, performances, connections, associations, or expectations, that are not made and entered into and sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise ...are of no efficacy, virtue, or force in and after the resurrection from the dead; for all contracts that are not made unto this end have an end when men are dead.” (Doctrine and Covenants 132:7)

And then to the point of the law we keep or abide determines our resurrection:

“22For he who is not able to abide the law of a celestial kingdom cannot abide a celestial glory.

23And he who cannot abide the law of a terrestrial kingdom cannot abide a terrestrial glory.

24And he who cannot abide the law of a telestial kingdom cannot abide a telestial glory; therefore he is not meet for a kingdom of glory. Therefore he must abide a kingdom which is not a kingdom of glory.” (Doctrine and Covenants 88)

I suspect that for most of us we receive the ordinances and the laws, and we grow into the law some time in the future. When we do, we have some spiritual experience and don’t even know that it was the Holy Spirit of promise sealing those ordinances upon us. And like those who receive “all the Father has” or have their calling and election made sure in this life, we may spiritually digress and return many times. But, we have proven that we can live the law, and only a full rebellion will separate us from that kingdom sealed upon us.

What think ye?

Friday, June 3, 2011

Ezekiel 47 and Lehi's Vision of the Tree of Life

In my most recent book on the Tree of Life I attempted to tie a number of biblical images to the hugely significant image of the Tree of Life. 

One of the biblical images I covered was the vision of Ezekiel 47. The importance of this chapter, to me, is staggering. Yet it seem largely ignored by LDS scholars and laymen (and completely undecipherable by the non LDS world). In my view, it is the very same vision that Lehi and Nephi saw of the Tree of Life. It is not usually seen as such because certain components of the imagery are swopped for other theologically equivalent images. For example, in Lehi’s vision there is a Tree, and in Ezekiel’s vision there is a temple at the head of the vision - but if you understand the vision you will see they both represent the same underlying principles. They are theological equivalences.

They both have a river. We are told by Nephi that the tree of the river both represent the same thing (1 Nephi 11:25). They both represent the “love of God” which is meant in the wide sense, the creation, the Plan of Happiness, the atonement, and the redemption.

We see the Plan of Salvation portion in Ezekiel with a little more detail. The river is the emanations of God flowing from Heavenly realms, that as Ezekiel walks in them they first rise to his ankles, representing the Celestial Kingdom. Then they rise to his knees, representing the Terrestrial Kingdom. Next, they rise to the level of his loins, representing the Telestial Kingdom. As the waters flow into the sea and salted marshes they represent Outer Darkness.

Both of these visions are of the same genre, and if they are laid one upon the other they bring tons of understand to each other. We see the Lehi’s vision right at home with the imagery of Ezekiel’s vision, in fact they can elegantly intertwine to bring us a picture that is greater that the sum of it’s parts.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Genesis 50 - The Cords That Bind Us.

One of the things we can learn from ancient Hebrew mysticism is that if we pay attention to the text we can learn more than the casual reader. And if we can free our minds from the cords that bind us to our puny views, truths are in front of us. For example:

I have always enjoyed and believed the text of the Joseph Smith Translation of Genesis chapter 50. It describes what some would consider convenient doctrine about the restoration, the prophet Joseph, and the tribes of Israel.

However, I always felt a little uncomfortable with the notion that it was ever on the end of Genesis in the Hebrew Bible.

 So when I read Genesis I had a conflict reconciling the existence of chapter 50 with the fact that Genesis is the undefiled base of religion. I always considered Genesis to be the standard to judge all other texts with. Now, if I had explored that uneasiness earlier on, I would have come to my current view by a much shorter route.

 I would have come to the conclusion that many bible scholars are coming to, that what we have in Genesis is a rewrite of one or more earlier records. And, that this rewrite may not be completely free of bias.

David Larsen and Margaret Barker have expressed views that what they term the “Deuteronomist” may have had a political bias in rewriting some of the biblical books.

I am of the opinion that Genesis 50 never was in the Hebrew bible, but should have been included, that it existed as a part of an earlier text, and was excluded. But a proper render of the Genesis story should have included it, and so the Prophet Joseph tacked it on.

If my hypothesis is correct, I have to ask the question, what else could I understand today if I only opened my eyes? My spiritual journey could really pick up speed if I could loose these bands a bit faster. What bands are holding you back from the truth?