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Joseph Smith and Kabbalah: The Occult Connection


volgadon

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I have a subscription to Kotar, an online library of educational and research books in Hebrew. Today when looking at the new books I found Moshe Idel's 2008 The Angelic World- Apotheosis and Theophany, which I've already had ocassion to post about.

Guess what, it gets even better. In the book are several references to Joseph Smith, completely unexpected.

As the book has yet to appear in English, I'll quote the relevant bits.

After a short paragraph on Emanuel swedenborg, Idel says the following on Joseph Smith.

I should remark that it is possible that angelologies from a Jewish source also influenced the founder of the Mormon faith, Joseph Smith. Hence, the founders of two new forms of Christianity, both with a clear revelatory form having to do with angels, religions in which the concrete dimension is obvious- needed this Jewish concept. If Jarl Fossum is correct in his conclusion that this ancient concept of the great angel, creator of the world and giver of the Torah, influenced the emergence of the gnostic movement, then here again there lies before us an example of the formative role of Jewish angelology in the developement of religious developements outside the world of Judaism. (Pg. 73)
See for now the controversial article by Owens, Joseph Smith and Kabbalah, pg. 117-194, which also contains a list of Kabbalistic sources which supposedly were in the library of Joseph Smith's teacher. The connection between Enoch-Metatron in Jewish tradition and Mormonism was first noted by Harold Bloom, in his book The American Religion, pg. 99, 105. I can't go into the details of the controversies created by Owens' article and the doubts about Smith's relationship to the Kabbalah. It seems that the matter of kabbalistic connections is more complicated and interesting than what can be learned from the currently published documents. (Pg. 156)
See the above, in the introduction, for Joseph Smith's studies with Alexander Neibaur, a figure of Jewish extraction who seemed to have known Kabbalah. See also the end of chapter 4. (Pg. 194)
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Is Kabbalah really considered Occult? In my understanding, there are at least two major flavors of Kabbalah, one being magical and the other being meditative.

I suppose the magical flavor is Occult in nature, I never looked into this much. But is the meditative considered to be so?

As near as I could tell, JS was taught the meditative by his Jewish Rabbi friend.

I came to this conclusion because of some of JS's views on creation and things I found in Sefer Yetzirah. I also seem to recall that the magical was frowned upon and not pursued by the likes of say Lubavitch Jews.

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Is Kabbalah really considered Occult? In my understanding, there are at least two major flavors of Kabbalah, one being magical and the other being meditative.

I suppose the magical flavor is Occult in nature, I never looked into this much. But is the meditative considered to be so?

As near as I could tell, JS was taught the meditative by his Jewish Rabbi friend.

I came to this conclusion because of some of JS's views on creation and things I found in Sefer Yetzirah. I also seem to recall that the magical was frowned upon and not pursued by the likes of say Lubavitch Jews.

Yes, both types of Kabbalah are considered 'occult'. I got over the negative connotations of the word 'occult' a long time ago, thanks to my Gospel studies and, yes, my Kabalistic studies as well.

Magical Kabbalah is often referred to as "Practical", rather than "magical". I don't do Practical Kabbalah. I don't even really do the meditative kind either, but it has been tremendously helpful for me to learn about it in detail. I encourage all mystically inclined LDS to do so as well.

Here's a good introduction

HiJolly

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As near as I could tell, JS was taught the meditative by his Jewish Rabbi friend.

As far as I know, there is utterly no indication that Seixas was a kabbalist.

I came to this conclusion because of some of JS's views on creation and things I found in Sefer Yetzirah.

would you mind elaborating?

I also seem to recall that the magical was frowned upon and not pursued by the likes of say Lubavitch Jews.

They aren't much into amulets and spells, probably because they hail from Lithuania where such things were despised by the educated Jews, hasidic or otherwise.

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I have a subscription to Kotar, an online library of educational and research books in Hebrew. Today when looking at the new books I found Moshe Idel's 2008 The Angelic World- Apotheosis and Theophany, which I've already had ocassion to post about.

Guess what, it gets even better. In the book are several references to Joseph Smith, completely unexpected.

Lance Owen and John Brooke are latecomers to the discussion of Joseph Smith as a magus or qabbalist. I had already circulated my views on the subject before they had put pen to paper. In early 1977, when Professor Matthew Black visited BYU and spoke with Hugh Nibley (a descendant of Alexander Neibaur), Hugh wrote to me saying that Black had told him "that whoever produced the Book of Moses was 'saturated' in pseudepigraphal Enoch literature" -- and not the Ethiopic Enoch which was available in an 1821 English translation, but Slavonic Enoch. Black suggested that Joseph Smith must have been in touch with some secretive, marginal group (subterranean Judaism?) which had been keeping such ideas and literature alive for thousands of years. By what means had Jewish mysticism remained in circulation? Gershom Scholem could only say that it had survived.

In addition to all that, and quite aside from Professor Jan Shipps' ideas about early Mormon "sacred time" (recapitulation of sacred events by the Mormons), there is the interesting series of synchronous correlations with the Jewish calendar:

Joseph Smith is born in a Sabbatical year, nearly dies of Typhoid and Osteomylitis the next Sabbatical (recuperating in Salem that summer),

has his First Vision in the next Sabbatical;

marries Emma Hale during the next Sabbatical, and obtains the Book of Mormon Plates at the close of that Sabbatical -- at midnight, 1 Tishrei 5588 -- hiding the Plates in a hollow log, and retrieving them ten days later on Yom Kippur;

during the next Sabbatical crucial church organizing takes place (Patriarch, President and High Councils chosen and organized) and the so-called "Army of Israel" goes on the long Zion's Camp expedition to Independence, MO.

At the dedication of the Kirtland Temple, on April 3, 1836, on Passover Day 2, Elijah comes as Kohen & Prophet to that Temple, restoring certain authority to Joseph (D&C 110:13-16).

The next Sabbatical Hyrum is chosen Patriarch, and Nauvoo Temple cornerstones are laid and construction begins.

On the 5th day of Passover 1847, the so-called "Camp of Israel" sets out to pioneer the way to the Great Basin (D&C 136 is filled with "Exodus" language).

The next Sabbatical (a Jubilee Year) the two major companies of Mormons make their exodus to the Great Basin and witness the Miracle of Seagulls and Crickets (May-June 1848);

After skipping many more Sabbaticals, we come to the Sabbatical of 1938-1939 in which Kristallnacht occurs, and WW II begins with the invasion of Poland;

At war's end, the Sabbatical of 1945-1946 saw peace -- it was another Jubilee year, in which a young Mormon Lieutenant and the group he headed began the process of designing a new gov't for Germany and it's Axis partners. When he encountered mistrust and push-back, he obtained an audience with Pope Pius XiI and suddenly his way was clear.

The Arab-Israeli Six-Day War took place in a Sabbatical year. So did the Yom Kippur War.

What lies in the future? Pay attention to the Jewish calendar. And don't forget about the Lamed-Vavim (the 36 Righteous, without whom God would destroy the world without further ado).

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Robert, I'm starting a new topic on sacred time, etc.

:P

USU "Can't wait!" 78

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would you mind elaborating?

The 2.5 billion year eternal round concept is straight out of Sefer Yetziarah, where it is explained as a sabbatical creation, which is then extended to jubilee creations (49 eternal rounds)

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Robert, I'm starting a new topic on sacred time, etc.

When you do, I have some questions on sacred time/space and the Exodus.

Yours under the anticipating oaks,

Nathair /|\

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The 2.5 billion year eternal round concept is straight out of Sefer Yetziarah, where it is explained as a sabbatical creation, which is then extended to jubilee creations (49 eternal rounds)

Actually, the 2.5 billion year eternal round concept is straight out of Aryeh Kaplan's Sefer Yetzirah. That is to say, Kaplan did not originate it, he read it in the Sefer Temunah, a work of the early 145th century. The idea of an eternal round apparently was held by other circles of Judaism.

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