The Masonic Book of Abraham

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George Miller
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The Masonic Book of Abraham

Post by George Miller » Tue Nov 15, 2016 4:12 pm

I hope none of you will mind me adding a new thread to the New Order Mormon - Doctrinal Discussions group. I just received a message from one of the groups members alerting me to the recreation of the New Order Mormon site. I wanted to apologize for my long time inactivity on the board. A couple of years ago I made a large career change which has taken up much of my time; however, it has also been extremely fulfilling.

Previously on the board I wrote extensively on the Mormon-Masonic connection. In addition, I promised at some time to share some of my research on the Masonic roots of the Book of Abraham. Sadly, other important tasks have largely superseded and I have never gotten a chance to post the information or get it published. If you guys are amenable, I would love to share some of the research here on this thread.

On June 30th, 1835 a traveling exhibitor of Egyptian artifacts began showing his "museum" pieces in Kirtland, Ohio. One of the documents he showed was the Hor Book of Breathings owned originally by the ancient Egyptian Hor. When Joseph Smith examined the document he declared that the document was actually an ancient book of scripture written by the ancient patriarch Abraham. The initial erroneous attribution of the Hor Book of Breathings as having been written by Abraham most likely was made when Joseph Smith looked at the two drawings on the papyrus, one at the beginning of the document, and another at the end of the document. Joseph Smith would later interpret the final drawing as depicting Abraham in the court of Pharaoh expounding on the principles of Astronomy. However, it is Joseph Smith's intriguing interpretation of the first drawing that is, at least from a Masonic perspective, even more intriguing.
Image
When Joseph Smith first saw the drawing at the beginning of the scroll he would have seen an already damaged (similar to it's present day form) scene in which a man is reclining on a "lion couch". Strangely, Joseph Smith interpreted this scene as the sacrifice of Abraham by a priest of Pharaoh. What is strange about this interpretation is that should Joseph Smith have been drawing from the Bible, a more available comparison would have been to attribute the executor as Abraham and the to be executed as Isaac. So why did Joseph suggest an assassination attempt on Abraham.

The key to understanding Joseph Smith's interpretation of this scene, and in fact the whole of the content and translation process is found in a Masonic book circulating in the New York area in the early 1820s entitled Antiquities of Freemasonry. This book tells how "[Abraham] [h]aving student Masonry under Shem with unabated diligence and assiduity, until he was perfect master of the art, he communicated with a select few of his own family, who retained some indistinct remembrance of Masonry, though much adulterated and obscured by innovations[.]" This story is similar to what Joseph Smith would translate including the idea that he was "successful in his own family" but that his "exertions to restore the true principles of Masonry" were "replete with danger" leading the "vengence of the Chaldeans" which "openly threatened [Abraham] with destruction." This led the authorities to take action making sure "[the king] overwhelmed the patriarch with every species of persecution, and condemned him to perish by fire." (Antiquities of Freemasonry, 149-150)

Thus Masonic literature in Joseph Smith's day suggested that Abraham had been exposed to Masonic priesthood authority, that he exerted influence to convert his family and close associates back to a belief in Masonic priesthood, and as a results he had raised the ire of the authorities. This assault on the local priesthood then, in turn, led to "every species of persecution". It is my thesis, that Joseph Smith was drawing from Antiquities of Freemasonry for content to reconstruct the Biblical record and to translate what he thought was the a manuscript written by Abraham which had appeared in Kirtland by divine providence.

In a subsequent post, I will examine Joseph Smith's translation of a portion of the five columns of vertical text surrounding this diagram using the Antiquities of Freemasonry as source material.

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Re: The Masonic Book of Abraham

Post by AllieOop » Tue Nov 15, 2016 4:23 pm

George Miller wrote:I hope none of you will mind me adding a new thread to the New Order Mormon - Doctrinal Discussions group. I just received a message from one of the groups members alerting me to the recreation of the New Order Mormon site.
George? Is it really you??? :D

I saw your name as the newest registered member and got so excited....ha ha! I haven't read your entire post, but I will.

Welcome old friend!
"There came a time when the desire to know the truth about the church became stronger than the desire to know the church was true."

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Re: The Masonic Book of Abraham

Post by Red Ryder » Tue Nov 15, 2016 4:42 pm

Welcome! Glad to see you back George. I loved your Mormon Stories Podcasts.
George Miller wrote:In a subsequent post, I will examine Joseph Smith's translation of a portion of the five columns of vertical text surrounding this diagram using the Antiquities of Freemasonry as source material.
In your opinion, did JS use the seer stone in his translation efforts? Or is that irrelevant?
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George Miller
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Re: The Masonic Book of Abraham

Post by George Miller » Tue Nov 15, 2016 4:43 pm

AllieOop wrote: George? Is it really you??? :D

I saw your name as the newest registered member and got so excited....ha ha! I haven't read your entire post, but I will.

Welcome old friend!
AllieOop - My dear friend, it is indeed me. It is good to chat with you again. Sorry I have not been around this place. I miss my dear friends here.

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Re: The Masonic Book of Abraham

Post by Hagoth » Wed Nov 16, 2016 6:44 am

I knew if I kept clicking the heels of my ruby slippers you would eventually come back.
“The easy confidence with which I know another man's religion is folly teaches me to suspect that my own is also.” -Mark Twain

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Re: The Masonic Book of Abraham

Post by Hagoth » Wed Nov 16, 2016 7:02 am

Thanks, GM. I am really looking forward to the next chapter.

I was astounded at how similar some concepts in Antiquities of Freemasonry are to the some of the fundamental elements of Joseph's restoration.

If you haven't read Antiquities of Freemasonry,and are interested in a quick glimpse, I wrote a very brief overview with a list of some of the jaw-droppingly familiar phrases and concepts:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1WqN ... sp=sharing

There are many more connections that could be made, but these are the things that really jumped out at me.
“The easy confidence with which I know another man's religion is folly teaches me to suspect that my own is also.” -Mark Twain

Jesus: "The Kingdom of God is within you." The Buddha: "Be your own light."

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Re: The Masonic Book of Abraham

Post by Corsair » Wed Nov 16, 2016 8:17 am

We're really glad to have you back, George.
George Miller wrote:The key to understanding Joseph Smith's interpretation of this scene, and in fact the whole of the content and translation process is found in a Masonic book circulating in the New York area in the early 1820s entitled Antiquities of Freemasonry. This book tells how "[Abraham] [h]aving student Masonry under Shem with unabated diligence and assiduity, until he was perfect master of the art, he communicated with a select few of his own family, who retained some indistinct remembrance of Masonry, though much adulterated and obscured by innovations[.]" This story is similar to what Joseph Smith would translate including the idea that he was "successful in his own family" but that his "exertions to restore the true principles of Masonry" were "replete with danger" leading the "vengence of the Chaldeans" which "openly threatened [Abraham] with destruction." This led the authorities to take action making sure "[the king] overwhelmed the patriarch with every species of persecution, and condemned him to perish by fire." (Antiquities of Freemasonry, 149-150)
What's the story on "Antiquities of Freemasonry"? It's original publishing date is listed as 1823. Is it intended to be fiction? history? Masonic revelation? This looks like a contributing factor towards the mythic LDS cultural idea that Freemasonry originated with Solomon's temple.

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Re: The Masonic Book of Abraham

Post by Hagoth » Wed Nov 16, 2016 8:47 am

Corsair wrote:What's the story on "Antiquities of Freemasonry"? It's original publishing date is listed as 1823. Is it intended to be fiction? history? Masonic revelation? This looks like a contributing factor towards the mythic LDS cultural idea that Freemasonry originated with Solomon's temple.
It's a retelling of the history of the ancient world through the lens of Freemasonry. God gives signs and tokens to Adam and instructs him in secret knowledge which is passed down through the patriarchs.
“The easy confidence with which I know another man's religion is folly teaches me to suspect that my own is also.” -Mark Twain

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Re: The Masonic Book of Abraham

Post by FiveFingerMnemonic » Wed Nov 16, 2016 3:07 pm

Thanks for sharing your research, very enlightening!

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George Miller
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Re: The Masonic Book of Abraham

Post by George Miller » Wed Nov 16, 2016 3:23 pm

Hagoth wrote:Thanks, GM. I am really looking forward to the next chapter.

I was astounded at how similar some concepts in Antiquities of Freemasonry are to the some of the fundamental elements of Joseph's restoration.

If you haven't read Antiquities of Freemasonry,and are interested in a quick glimpse, I wrote a very brief overview with a list of some of the jaw-droppingly familiar phrases and concepts:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1WqN ... sp=sharing

There are many more connections that could be made, but these are the things that really jumped out at me.
Dear Hagoth- You are absolutely correct that there are some "jaw-droppingly" familiar phrases and concepts. Hopefully, as I continue we can see how some of them are SO similar that my thesis will have been adequately shown that Joseph Smith most likely owns a copy of Antiquities of Freemasonry and that he is actively using it in the translation process.

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Re: The Masonic Book of Abraham

Post by FiveFingerMnemonic » Wed Nov 16, 2016 3:33 pm

George, what are your thoughts on other potential sources for BOA content floated by authors like Grant Palmer, for example.

Some examples:

Ch 1 Josephus
Ch 2 4 5 king james bible
Ch 3 Thomas Dick's Philosophy of a Future State (astrology concepts)
facsimiles - Thomas Taylor theology of plato
Other materials from Hebrew teacher Josiah Seixas

Would you say the parallels from Antiquities of Freemasonry are more obvious than these other potential sources? Is it confirmed that Hyrum owned Philosophy of a Future State?

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Re: The Masonic Book of Abraham

Post by George Miller » Wed Nov 16, 2016 3:51 pm

Corsair wrote:What's the story on "Antiquities of Freemasonry"? It's original publishing date is listed as 1823. Is it intended to be fiction? history? Masonic revelation? This looks like a contributing factor towards the mythic LDS cultural idea that Freemasonry originated with Solomon's temple.
Corsair- You are correct that it was originally published in 1823 in England by George Oliver. The audience for this book is, however, most interesting and very important to the story. Prior to about 1810 there was very little Masonic literature published that was not meant to be the sole possession of Freemasons. Every Freemason vows upon his initiation according to Bernard's Light on Masonry to "always hail, ever conceal, and never reveal any part, or parts, art, or arts, point, or points of the secrets, arts, and mysteries of Free Masonry ... except it be [to] a true and lawful brother Mason". In addition, they promised to "not write, print, stamp, stain, hugh, cut, carve, indent, paint, or engrave it on anything moveable or immovable" such that "the least letter, figure, character, mark, stain, shadow, or resemblance of the same may become legible or intelligible ... to any other person in the known world." (Bernard, Light on Masonry, 20) Many Masons took this to be a ban on publication of information appertaining to the Freemasonry. However, this began to change during the 1810s and especially during the 1820s.

As the popularity of Freemasonry began to spread, and the desire for Masonic reading material increased among Freemason's it became relatively common for Freemasons to publish Masonic lectures for purchase by other Freemasons. As this became more common and no Masonic jurisdiction complained, it became common for Freemasons to publish the same Masonic lectures in local newspapers. This material did not contain the secret "points" of Freemasonry such as the secret means of recognition, but instead focused on philosophic principles and Masonic "history". As these publications saw success and readership grew (both Masonic and Masonic), it was realized that there was a market for books about Freemasonry that were targeted for both Masonic and non-Masonic audiences.

One of the most prolific and popular writers of books which had an audience for BOTH the initiated and uninitiated were those of George Oliver. Not only would Antiquities of Freemasonry been read by initiated brothers, but this book would have been readily lent to non-Masons interested in the craft or by a father to a son whom wanted to interest their sons in becoming Freemasons.

We know that by two years after it's publication that George Oliver's works were popular among New York Freemason and based on the numbers of copies that were ordered of Oliver's second book, that his works were likely making the rounds of local Masonic lodges. In fact, one lodge that had close ties with Joseph Smith Sr.'s father's lodge ordered more than 10 copies of George Oliver's second book. In other words, it would not have been unlikely for father Smith, Joseph Smith's brother Hyrum, or any of the many Masonic treasure hunters with whom Joseph Smith spent inordinate amounts of time to have either given Joseph Smith Jr. a copy. In addition, it would not have been unlikely for the concepts in the book to have been discussed around the dinner table.

You asked about the nature of the work. George Oliver considered himself a Masonic Historian and an antiquarian. In writing Antiquities of Freemasonry he believed he was using the best evidence to recreate the history of Freemasonry all of the way back to the time of Adam. However, his writing makes MANY very dubious leaps in logic and his characterization of Masonic history is not one that would be in any way supported by Masonic historians. In fact, the available evidence would suggest that Oliver was simply incorrect in most, if not all, of his rendition of his dubious ancient historical renderings. That being said, in the 1820-1850s it was assumed by most, if not all Masons, that George Oliver's view of Masonic history was accurate.

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George Miller
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Re: The Masonic Book of Abraham

Post by George Miller » Wed Nov 16, 2016 4:09 pm

FiveFingerMnemonic wrote:George, what are your thoughts on other potential sources for BOA content floated by authors like Grant Palmer, for example.
Ch 1 Josephus
Ch 2 4 5 king james bible
Ch 3 Thomas Dick's Philosophy of a Future State (astrology concepts)
facsimiles - Thomas Taylor theology of plato
Other materials from Hebrew teacher Josiah Seixas

Would you say the parallels from Antiquities of Freemasonry are more obvious than these other potential sources? Is it confirmed that Hyrum owned Philosophy of a Future State?
FFMneumonic- That is a great question. Let me give you my thoughts in turn.

(1) Josephus- There is little doubt that Mormon's had access to Josephus in the 1830s. In addition, there are some obvious parallel's to Josephus in the Book of Abraham. Of the references above defining which information came from Josephus and what came from Antiquities of Freemasonry (AoF) is difficult since, in fact, George Oliver's reconstruction on Masonic-Biblical history relies in part on Josephus. However, there are often differences in how Josephus and Oliver present that information and for the most part where there are differences, Joseph Smith seems to follow the rendering of Oliver more often.

(2) King James Bible- Joseph Smith relies HEAVILY on the KJV whenever he constructed scripture, of this there is no doubt. While I will get into this at a later point, Joseph Smith seems to be triangulating between the KJV, AoF, and Hor Book of Breathings manuscript (HOB) as he makes his translation of the egyptian papyri.

(3) Philosophy of Future State (Dick) - We know that this book was owned and being discussed by Mormons. There are indeed some parallels. However, the astronomical aspect within the Book of Abraham are more influence by other sources including AoF, Masonic structure, and Cornelius Agrippa's De occulta philosophia. When I discuss the astronomical sections of Joseph Smith's Egyptian Grammar, the section in the Book of Abraham, and the facsimiles in a Masonic context, I will explain this a little more.

(4) Thomas Taylor's Theology of Plato- I have done very little research on this area, so I am somewhat reticent to comment. However, for the most part I have been able to explain Joseph Smith's translations and understanding of the facsimiles using other Masonic and Magical sources.

(5) Josiah Seixas- Without a doubt Joseph Smith is heavily influenced by his learning of Hebrew. However, what is more important is why Joseph Smith is so interested in learning Hebrew. Or should I say, that he is interested in restoring Hebrew to it's Adamic state. I can't wait till we get to that conversation.

Sadly, that is all the time I have to spend today. I will try to post again tomorrow and continue with discussing the AEG.

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Re: The Masonic Book of Abraham

Post by Unendowed » Thu Nov 17, 2016 11:37 am

This is great stuff! Glad you are here. I'll look forward to your posts. The Mormon Expression podcast you did about Mormons and Masonry is one of my all time favorites.

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Re: The Masonic Book of Abraham

Post by AllieOop » Thu Nov 17, 2016 5:01 pm

George Miller wrote:Previously on the board I wrote extensively on the Mormon-Masonic connection. In addition, I promised at some time to share some of my research on the Masonic roots of the Book of Abraham. Sadly, other important tasks have largely superseded and I have never gotten a chance to post the information or get it published. If you guys are amenable, I would love to share some of the research here on this thread.
Hey George...just now getting a chance to read through your post! Holy Cow...I love the connections you are making!

What is funny (well...not that funny really...), I was reading last week over on MD&D and someone who is an active member (and claims to be well read) said something like, "Well, Joseph wasn't even exposed to Freemasonry much for years after he organized the church". I was like,"seriously???"

Some members REALLY fight any masonic tie in (especially when it comes to the temple endowment.) or that there was any masonic influence on Joseph.

But, what you are researching and writing about is fascinating (a connection with the Book of Abraham). It all helps to make sense out of what Joseph was thinking and why he made certain statements and proceeded as he did. I truly do believe that Joseph was sincere and wasn't just out to dupe everyone (well, at least not all of the time :lol: ).

I have wondered about your book? Weren't you working on one with Chris Smith (if I'm remembering correctly)? Is that the one you refer to in your post?

Oh well...can't wait to read your next installment and I'm so thrilled you're here with us :)
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George Miller
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Re: The Masonic Book of Abraham

Post by George Miller » Sun Nov 20, 2016 12:12 pm

Most of the scholars that have written about the Hor Book of Breathings suggest that Joseph Smith believed that it was an ancient document that could be attributed to the ancient patriarch Abraham. However, before we examine in depth Joseph Smith's process of translating the text, let investigate how it got Kirtland, Ohio in the 1830s.

The papyri Joseph Smith attributed to the ancient patriarch Abraham was actually constructed for an ancient Egyptian priest by the name of Hor who lived in Egypt somewhere between 200 - 150 B.C. According to the document he was a prophet of three Egyptian religious figure Amon-Re, Min, and Khonsu. Amon-Re (King of the Gods). We know this because we can read the vertical hieroglyphics written to the left and right of what would later be called the Facsimile 1 in our Book of Abraham. Upon his death, Hor was buried just west of Thebes in a burial ground known as the Valley of the Nobles. Buried with him were two magical papyri called the Book of Breathings and the Book of the Dead. The first of these documents would find it's way to Kirtland Ohio, while the other would end up in a Museum in Europe. Hor and his papyri would remain buried until 1818.

Hor's body, however, was not interred alone, but instead he was buried in a mass grave with many other mummies. Upon being exhumed, Hor and eleven of his grave mates would be transported to America. While we don't know the identities of all of the eleven of Hor's mummy friends, we do know the identity of four others due to writings that accompanied their bodies. One of the mummies belonged to Sheshonq, Amenhotep, Ta-Sherit-Min, and Nefer-ir-nebu. In March of 1833 the 11 mummies arrived in New York. Through the months of April - June the mummies were in New York and Philadelphia where they were exhibited in Masonic halls. In July-August they toured Baltimore before reaching Ohio. Throughout their tour the 11 mummies were periodically sold with two of the mummies being sold to Philadelphia's Academy of Natural Sciences, 3 to the Detroit Museum, and two to Louisville Museum.
Image
By 1835 the touring mummies had reached Ohio with only four mummies left along with various papyri. The Painsville Telegraph would make a report of the remaining 4 mummies along with surviving papyri. The newspaper claimed that one of the mummies contained a "roll or book, have a little resemblance to birch bark" which had "ink black and red" which also contained "many female figures". Based on the present state of evidence this was most likely the Book of the Dead belonging to to Ta-Sherit-Min. The newspaper also claimed that that a second mummy was "found with a roll" which was similar to the first roll and "filled with hieorglypics, rudely executed." This roll was most likely the Book of the Dead Belonging to Nefer-ir-nebu. According to the newspaper article, there was one final roll as well. This was most likely the Book of Breathings belonging to Hor.

Thus by the time the traveling mummy museum had made it's way to the Mormon stronghold of Kirtland there were only four mummies and three papyri rolls. So how did the Hor Book of Breathings look like when it came into the possession of Joseph Smith. We will examine that in the next post.

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Re: The Masonic Book of Abraham

Post by Hagoth » Sun Nov 20, 2016 1:11 pm

GM, I did not know about the Painseville Telegraph description. Good stuff. Do you know what happened to the Nefer-ir-nebu papyrus?
“The easy confidence with which I know another man's religion is folly teaches me to suspect that my own is also.” -Mark Twain

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Re: The Masonic Book of Abraham

Post by George Miller » Sun Nov 20, 2016 1:58 pm

Hagoth wrote:GM, I did not know about the Painseville Telegraph description. Good stuff. Do you know what happened to the Nefer-ir-nebu papyrus?
That is a great question and lets us explore a fascinating Masonic discussion. A portion of the scroll, and potentially all of the scroll that was extant at the time, are still available today. The extant portion can be seen below. It is unclear from the contemporary statements how exactly Smith and his associates viewed the scroll. They may have viewed it as part of the Book of Joseph or alternately it was part of the "epitaphs" or other "small pieces of papyrus" purchased by Smith.
Image
Despite whether Joseph Smith considered it to be part of the Book of Joseph, there are descriptions of the Nefer-ir-nebu papyrus which reveal Smith's interpretations of the text. For example a memoir from Henry Caswall's visit with the Mormons in City of Mormons has the following description of his experience when he saw the scrolls.
Turning to another of the drawers, and pointing to a hieroglyphic representation, one of the Mormons said, "Mr. Smith informs us that this picture is an emblem of redemption. Do you see those four little figures? Well, those are the four quarters of the earth. And do you see that big dog looking to devour the four quarters of the earth? That is the old Devil desiring to devour the four quarters fo the earth. Look at this person keeping back the big dog? That is Christ keeping the devil from devouring the four quarters of the earth. Look down this way, This figure near the side is Jacob, and those are his two wives. Now do you see those steps?" "What", I replied, "do you mean those stripes across the dress of one of Jacob's wives?" "Yes," he said, "that is Jacob's ladder." "That," I remarked, is indeed curious."

Backing up this interpretation of the scroll is that of Sarah Studevant Leavitt who wrote the following.
Now I will go back to my story. We stayed at Kirtland about a week and had the privilege of hearing Joseph preach in that thing the Baptists said they called a meetinghouse [temple], which proved to be a very good house. We went into the upper rooms, saw the Egyptian mummies, the writing that was said to be written in Abraham;s day, Jacob's ladder being pictured on it, and lots more wonders that I cannot write here, and that were explained to us.
Image
So what were our two tourists talking about when they talked about "Jacob's Ladder" which is "across the dress" of one of Jacob's wives? It appears that they are talking about a series of stripes across what appears to be an apron covering the dress of an Egyptian character. So why the heck would Joseph Smith ever think that Jacob's wives would be wearing aprons depicting Jacob's ladder? As it turns out the answer makes perfect sense in the context of how Freemasons in Joseph Smith's day thought about Jacob's Ladder. More on that in my next post.

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Re: The Masonic Book of Abraham

Post by George Miller » Sun Nov 20, 2016 8:01 pm

As mentioned in the last post, visitors who came to see the Mormon Egyptian mummies were shown the Book of the Dead Belonging to Nefer-ir-nebu. This papyri showed two women and a man which Joseph Smith taught were actually depictions of the ancient patriarch Jacob with his two wives Leah and Rachel. Smith also was said to have taught that the "stripes on the dress of one of Jacob's wives" was actually "Jacob's ladder." However, why would Joseph Smith ever have made this interpretation? Not only was this interpretation odd to modern Mormon readers, but it was also odd to Joseph Smith's contemporaries such as Henry Caswall whom mockingly remarked that it was "indeed curious". Surprisingly, this interpretation makes perfect sense when viewed through the Masonic lens.

A careful examination of the figure shows vertical lines making up Jacob's wife's dress. However, the horizontal lines which Joseph interpreted as Jacob's ladder appear to be an apron covering the front of the dress. It is likely that Joseph Smith, upon seeing the Egyptian depiction, was suggesting that she was wearing a Masonic apron. Before, however, explaining the connection, let's first discuss the role that Jacob's ladder played in Freemasonry according to George Oliver.
Image
Jacob's ladder is a prominent symbol within Freemasonry which appears on the a iconographic teaching tool within the lodge called a tracing board. A tracing board has drawn upon it the various symbol of the degree whose philosophical and moral message the new initiate must learn prior to progressing to the next degree. The first degree tracing board shown above has a central ladder which reaches from the black and white checkered floor (a masonic symbol of the earth) to heaven. Surrounding the ladder are three columns. The meaning of these symbols according to an American Masonic expose was as follows were taught to the initiate through a memorized catechism given in a question answer format.
Q. What is the form of of your lodge?
A. An oblong square. ...
Q. How high?
A. From the surface of the earth to the highest heavens.
Q. How deep?
A. From the surface to the center.
Q. What supports your lodge?
A. Three large columns or pillars.
Q. What are their names?
A. Wisdom, Strength, and Beauty.
Q. Why so?
A. It is necessary there should be wisdom to contrive, strength to support, and beauty to adorn, all great and important undertakings; but more especially of ours.
Q. Has you lodge any covering?
A. It has; a clouded canopy, or starry-decked heaven, where all good Masons hope to arrive.
Q. How do you arrive there?
A. By the assistance of Jacob's ladder.
Q. How many principle rounds has it got?
A. Three.
Q. What are their names?
A. Faith, Hope, and Charity.
Q. What do they teach?
A. Faith in god, hope in immortality, and charity to all mankind. (Bernard, Light on Masonry, 39)

Thus Jacob's ladder was one of Freemasonry's central symbols of the ascension from earth to heaven by practicing the principles of Faith, Hope, and Charity. However, there were also other philosophical ideas about the meaning of these symbols among Masons of Joseph Smith's day. For example George Oliver had the following to say about this Masonic symbol.
The application of this emblem is said to be derived from the vision of Jacob. When the Patriarch, to avoid the wrath of his brother Esau, fled to Padanaram; benighted and asleep, with the earth for his bed, a stone for his pillow, and the cloudy canopy of heaven for his covering, he beheld a Ladder, whose foot was placed on the spot where he lay, and its summit lost in the subtle ether. On this Ladder, angels continually ascended and descended, to receive communications from the Most High, who visibly appeared, above the uppermost round of the Ladder; and to disseminate their divine commissions over the face, of the earth. Here God graciously condescended to enter into a specific covenant with the sleeping Patriarch; who was hence so impressed with the feelings of gratitude and devotion, that when he awoke, he pronounced this consecrated spot, "the house of God, and the gate of heaven.” (Oliver, Signs and Symbols Illustrated [1826] p. 140-144)
George Oliver discussed at length the symbolic nature of Jacob's ladder in Freemasonry. For Oliver ascending up and down the ladder were angelic messengers from whom the initiate was to gain divine revelation. At the foot of the ladder Jacob entered into a covenant with the God himself in the same way as that an initiate made covenants at the Masonic alter as depicted in the tracing board during his initiation. George Oliver even suggested that the patriarch Jacob personally introduced this symbol into the craft anciently, though it's had even older roots.
[Jacob’s Ladder was] introduced by Jacob into the system of Masonry which he taught to his children, and from them be transplanted into the mysteries of Egypt, whence it might spread into other countries, until the symbol became common to the mysteries of all. I rather incline to the opinion however, that its origin may be ascribed to a much earlier period; even to the first institution of Masonry in Paradise, when the communication between God and man, was immediately and unrestrainedly practiced by the common parents of mankind. The ascent to the summit of the paradisiacal mount of God, by means of a pyramid consisting of seven steps, was an old notion, certainly entertained before the vision of Jacob; for it prevailed amongst the Mexican Savages; and the original settlers on the vast continent of America could have no knowledge of this vision, either by tradition or personal experience. (Oliver, G. Signs and Symbols Illustrated [1826] p. 140-144)
Thus for Oliver the Jacob's ladder was symbolic of the "paradisaical mount of God" on which the ancient patriarchs on which Adam and his sons "immediately and urestrainedly" could communicate with God. Not only would Joseph Smith have agreed with this Masonic view, but in addition he would concur that such mysterious Masonic knowledge was known by the ancient native-American inhabitants. However, Joseph Smith would also have been fascinated by other Masonic views about Jacob's ladder expressed by Oliver.

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George Miller
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Re: The Masonic Book of Abraham

Post by George Miller » Mon Nov 21, 2016 8:49 am

Not only would George Oliver emphasize how Jacob's ladder was a central symbol in modern Freemasonry which hearkened back to the original patriarch Jacob and his progenitors, but he would also emphasize how Jacob's ladder was utilized by Jewish Kabbalistic practitioners which Goerge Oliver viewed as inheritors of the ancient patriarch's Masonic traditions.
The Jewish Cabalists entertained a belief that the paradisaical mount was the place of residence chose by the children of Seth, while the contaminated descendants of Cain resided in the plains below; and its altitude was said to be so great, that from its summit might be heard, the angels of heaven singing their celestial anthems before the throne of God! (Oliver, Sign and Symbols Illustrated [1826] p. 140-144)
Thus the Jewish Cabalists taught that the children of Seth, which would included Enoch, ascended into the mount while the descendants of Cain remained below. This language both suggests that the Jewish Kabbalists were aware of an ancient tradition appertaining to Enoch and his brothers in which they utilized Masonic symbolism. Of course such discourse would also show up in Joseph Smith's writings as well. However, George Oliver would also discuss how Kabbalists expanded upon how the ancient patriarch's priesthood power was exercised.
In ancient Masonry, the Ladder was figuratively said to the rest on the Holy Bible, and to consists of three principal staves, although the general number was indefinite, pointing to Faith, Hope, and Charity, as the fundamental virtues which EXALT mankind from earth to heaven. But in subsequent ages, the Essenes increased the number to seven, and subsequently to ten principle steps, which were denominated Sephiroth. In the emblematical representation of the divine splendours, we find the three great hypostases of godhead surmounting the seven steps of the Ladder, and by regular gradations ascending to the celestial abodes.

The names of the Seven Sephiroth were Strength, Mercy, Beauty, Victory or Eternity, Glory, the Foundation, and the Kingdon. Initiation was considered absolutely necessary to entitle the candidate to a participation in these divine splendours; which communicated with each other by progressive stages; until, from the summit of the Ladder, the three hypostases of the divine nature were attained, whose consummation was a crown of glory and the throne of God. (Oliver, Signs and Symbols Illustrated [1826] p. 140-144) Emphasis Added
Thus Freemasons like George Oliver suggested that the ancient Jewish Kabbalsits practiced a system of initiation in which they ascended Jacob's ladder traveling through the sephiroth in order that they might take upon the "divine nature" and obtain a "crown of glory" and become seated in the "throne of God." This language is similar from Joseph Smith's descriptions of exaltation in which humans are crowned prophets, priests, and kings only to sit on thrones in the presence of God. While modern-day Mormon may not be familiar with sephiroth, Joseph Smith would have been extremely familiar with these concepts because Kabbalistic ideas were contained in the very book which informed the religious-magical practices which Joseph Smith Jr. entangled himself while a treasure seeker in rural upstate New York.
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Among the Smith family relics, which family tradition described as "masonic", are a number of magical artifacts (Above). Careful study of these artifacts by D. Michael Quinn in his groundbreaking Early Mormonism and Magical World View revealed that these Smith family "masonic" possessions were likely used by the family in their religious-magical practices surrounding both their treasure seeking exploits which went hand in hand with Joseph Smith's religious experiences. The construction of several of these objects (the Mars Dagger, Jupiter Talisman, and the magical lamens) all relied on magical writing of Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa in his work De occulta philosophia. Examination of the particular construction of these objects suggest that their creator most likely had access to Agrippa's work through the reprinting of his work Francis' Barrett's work The Magus. In Agrippa's work he speaks at length about Kabbalah.

Agrippa described Kabbalah as the "the art of calculating by divine names" by which one could "prepare the mind and spirit" to "know the truth". These practices were not considered satanic or spurious. According to Agrippa, the practice of Kabbalah was "intellectual and divine, because it chiefly takes God and the good spirits for it's object." Like Masonic secrets, Agrippa explained that Kabbalistic secrets were to be "communicated by word of mouth only" and Agrippa informed his readers that he was "not permitted to divulge some certain things". Agrippa further warned his readers that they should not "expose or babble [Kabbalistic secrets] to the unworthy; but reveal them only to the faithful" such that they might not be profaned. For Agrippa the practice of Kabbalah was not meant to be used for "carnal affections" or "material possessions" but was a method to "ascend to an intellect pure" so that one could be "joined with the powers of the celestials".

Agrippa then went on to discuss how, through the practice of Kabbalah, one learned the "ten principle names of God" through which one could "have influence upon the nine orders of angels" to travel with them "into the celestial spheres, planets, and men". He then tells his reader that the highest sephiroth is Kether and that it was through the power of this sephiroth that "the Lord spake to Moses." According to Agrippa, each sephiroth was attended by a "particular intelligence" or angel and each of these angels had provided power to a Biblical figure; such was the angel Metatron described as a "the ruler of Adam." Other sephiroth such as the the one associated Jupiter was the "ruler of Abraham". other of the sephiroth were linked to "intelligences" who gave power to the ancient biblical figures such as Samson, Jacob, David, Solomon, Joseph, Joshua, and Daniel, and Moses. Thus Agrippa's description of Kabbalah combined sephiroth to a system of magic which the ancient patriarchs practived. This was not a form a dark magic, but instead a proper religious power which Christians could exercise to obtain the same power as that ancient patriarchs in order that they might ascend Jacob's ladder whose rungs symbolized the Kabbalistic sephiroth. It is no wonder that Freemason's such George Oliver enthusiastically linked the fraternity with Kabbalistic practices. In addition, it begins to explain why Joseph Smith, who came from an ardent Christian tradition, did not have qualms about such Kabbalistic owning and using such magical paraphernalia.
Last edited by George Miller on Mon Nov 21, 2016 11:36 am, edited 1 time in total.

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