Haha, good stuff.
However! At risk of sounding looney and discrediting myself forever ... I have to say, if we're honest, it's not an entirely
inappropriate comparison. Certainly the anti-Mormons love to point out similarities between us and, like, the Erich von Däniken-type conspiracy theories. Secret combinations indeed.
Now, true, there are very significant differences; we're not saddled with secret brotherhoods of Reptilians, etc. We haven't attempted much in the way of theorizing about the actual physics of the glowing bodies of the personages who appeared to Joseph, and far from being Roswell aliens, they were quite explicitly human
. So I'm personally very wary of people who seem to be desperate to believe in the New Age mix of myth and modern technology (cf, the Urantia Book), when people take the ancient astronauts theories too far, too seriously, beyond what the evidence allows.
At the same time, however, I'm also somewhat incredulous when people refuse to see any
similarities. The thing is, as a big science fiction fan, I've read enough to realize that Nibley is largely correct in his evaluation of the genre: ( http://maxwellinstit...103&chapid=1158
) All the powerful themes dealt with in science fiction are, in fact, merely updates of ancient stories, slathered with a thin coating of vaguely-feasible contemporary technology to make the romantic tales palatable to a self-consciously sophisticated modern audience.
For example, I was reading through 2 Esdras this morning, and if that had been written after Spielberg's time, it would surely
have been seen as a "UFO religion". All
the Ascension literature, really - the books of Enoch talk about being taken up to see the world in a "house" carried on flames, fer cryin' out loud!
There is an emotional need
that these types of theories fill; there is a reason
why the History Channel indulges in such sensationalistic programming, and that is the unarticulated desire within many people for the physicality
, the potential reality
of a larger context, a larger drama of which this entire world is a part of. While the unjustified speculative leaps made by the conspiracy theorists are simply not trustworthy, as they misinterpret the Hebrew and assume that every ceremonial headdress is a memory of an astronaut's helmet, they do
point out something that has been lost in most religions today.
That is, in "spiritualizing" and "allegorizing" and "deeschatologizing" the plain meaning of ancient sources, most religions tinged with Neoplatonic or transcendental philosophy have lost a very important aspect of what made the stories worthwhile. If God is transcendent and bodiless and outside of time and space and incomprehensible to the human mind and disdainful of matter and cannot be detected by any human measurement at all, then we've effectively consigned Him to nonexistence.
We reject that concept of God as being a product of the Apostasy. "When the Savior shall appear we shall see him as he is. We shall see that he is a man like ourselves. And that same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there, only it will be coupled with eternal glory, which glory we do not now enjoy. John 14:23 - The appearing of the Father and the Son, in that verse, is a personal appearance; and the idea that the Father and the Son dwell in a man’s heart is an old sectarian notion, and is false. In answer to the question - Is not the reckoning of God’s time, angel’s time, prophet’s time, and man’s time, according to the planet on which they reside? I answer, Yes. But there are no angels who minister to this earth but those who do belong or have belonged to it. The angels do not reside on a planet like this earth, but they reside in the presence of God, on a globe like a sea of glass and fire, where all things for their glory are manifest, past, present, and future, and are continually before the Lord. The place where God resides is a great Urim and Thummim. This earth, in its sanctified and immortal state, will be made like unto crystal and will be a Urim and Thummim to the inhabitants who dwell thereon, whereby all things pertaining to an inferior kingdom, or all kingdoms of a lower order, will be manifest to those who dwell on it; and this earth will be Christ’s." (D&C 130)
I think this move towards concreteness is a trend we're going to see more and more as scholarship progresses - see, for instance, Wesley Williams, who has a great paper on the "Sapphiric God: Esoteric Speculation of the Body Divine in Biblical and Post-Biblical Jewish Tradition" ( http://drwesleywilli...rt_I.471537.pdf
Isn't our entire tradition, in fact, essentially a repudiation of those philosophies which refuse to grant a tangible reality to the "other worlds"? Instead of residing in an abstract unreachable metaphor of heaven, Christ says merely that he is not of this
world, that he has to "go up" to the Father, a separate being residing in a place which the wisdom of the first century world could not find.
They, of course, had never seen NASA launch a space shuttle.
Is it inherently ludicrous to believe, as some abstract religions would tell us, that there is something far-fetched and science-fictional about saying that a higher being really does live in a separate part of the universe, near a star? We
live on a planet orbiting a star; we
have technologies now that can cause plagues and change the weather. In the billions of years the universe has existed, is it impossible to imagine that there are others like us out there? Isn't the Book of Abraham pretty explicit on this theme?
This is where the danger lies: in wanting to distance ourselves from the more extreme and laughable crackpot theories, we might go too far and end up denying a very important aspect of the Restoration. Speaking as a former atheist, it's already
seen as crackpot fringe nonsense to believe in a God at all,
so anyone who thinks we're really gaining anything by refusing to even acknowledge
the obvious parallels is being amusingly quaint by imagining that belief in the Judeo-Christian God is somehow more "respectable" than the Nibiru stuff, at least in the eyes of outsiders.
For instance (snipping a blog post I wrote awhile back): I'll admit that I'm a big fan of William Irwin Thompson. Some of his stuff is pretty dated at this point, and a lot of it is deeply partisan, but I can't help but be impressed with the pains he takes to at least attempt to weave the innumerable cultural strands he sees from Mesopotamia to Disneyland into some sort of coherent narrative. So I laughed in embarrassed chagrin when I read:
"The career choice one makes says much about one's unconscious agenda. The autodidact, the lonely person in the library compulsively constructing a revisioning of human history, figures himself against the stars as a solitary and misunderstood genius. He alone has discovered the secret that connects everything together. He can show how the DNA code, the hexagrams of the I Ching, the molecular structure of mushrooms, and the geomantic lattice of the power-points in the Earth's crust are all part of a grand puzzle that proves that the gods are out there. The grand paranoid cosmic synthesis is always a fascinating narrative of occult connections, and this mad compulsion to find the single code that explains everything does not necessarily invalidate the entire narrative of the work, but it does render a darkness visible."
This is exactly what he does, as he admits a moment later, and it's probably part of the reason I'm a history major and have always been interested in every genre of fiction and nonfiction under the sun, including the bizarre conspiracy theories and New Age nonsense and mad scientist stuff. I'm not a very good student, and I'm not a fast reader; I simply don't have the intellectual stamina to be a really good scholar, and I admit it. But darnit, I'm also so interested in the stories people tell about why they live their lives the way they do that I'm hoping I can eventually make up for it through sheer persistence. I'ma find that paranoid secret code, Willy, don't you tell me I ain't! *grin*
I was further amused when later, after a discussion of the implausibility of the Alien Astronaut theories and Steiner's claims of being able to access the akashic
record of the past, he writes:
"I don't think that one should take a clairvoyant's reading of the akashic
record as gospel truth. Steiner himself admits that "reading" the akashic
record is a very difficult and complex act -- that it is not like the Mormon leader Joseph Smith finding a piece of angelic script engraved on metal and buried in the hill of Comora. The literalism of the Mormons, or of Zecharia Sitchin, comes about precisely because they do not understand the nature of psyche and the imagination and always seek to literalize, to concretize in simple and idolatrous fundamentalism."
Now, I find Sitchin to be pretty fascinatingly bizarre myself. I actually have a pretty deep fondness for the cranks, since my hometown growing up in Hawaii was filled with 'em and I know that they're at least sincere most of the time with their (usually) harmless Time Cube theories. Obviously I'm a member of a religion which is seen by outsiders as amazingly weird as well; it's a lot harder to be irritably judgmental about other people's stories about the Hollow Earth, Atlantis, and the Indigo Children of 2012 when you believe in unproven histories of ancient Mesoamerica. But this is also a revealing quote because Thompson, even as he unwittingly exposes his deep ignorance of Mormon history, simultaneously implies that "imagination" is a more valuable tool than empirical observation, no matter how biased:
"The imagination is an intermediate realm between the ego in its perceptual body of senses and the intuition of higher, multidimensional states of consciousness. Information moves in both directions."
I think this sentiment itself is a product of Thompson's own deeply ingrained syncretistic religion based on an interestingly idiosyncratic combination of Neoplatonic Western theories and Eastern nonmaterialism, along with a slathering of Jungian quadripartite psychoanalysis for fun. In this view of the world, it's actually considered a drawback
when Smith claims to have found physical records and been touched by a physical angel, because such things are really meant to be taken as metaphorical by Serious People. When Smith preaches that immaterial material is a contradiction in terms, that all Spirit is merely Matter we don't have the capability to see yet, he is guilty of contradicting the establishment view of "spirituality" as being on an ephemeral "higher plane". Which is of course why I love Smith's view of life as a beautifully physical, essentially scientific and experimental experience.
I love this world. I love the feel of the elements on my skin, the solidity and mass of the Earth and the people on it. I want to use my imagination to help me get closer to understanding reality, not some poetic fiction. So I'll take a God I hope to shake hands with one day over a philosophical abstraction.
But I'll also still have fun reading the work of people who disagree.