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Thoughts On Ritual Secrecy


Nathair/|\

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It's recently been brought up here that others find it strange that we don't talk about what goes on in certain aspects of our religious experience. I also had a conversation recently with someone who claimed to be Eastern Orthodox and former LDS. He told me that some of the things we do in secret, they do openly. I can't verify his claims immediately, but I think the concept of ritual secrecy is worth discussing here.

One thought I had is that it gives us a chance to practice integrity. We promise not to discuss them, so we don't. But, I think there is a more important reason. John Michael Greer wrote:

The work of a magical lodge takes place in secret, for reasons that go far beyond the merely practical; considerations of structure, symbolism and magic all play a part in the forms and applications of secrecy in the lodge system. It is through the art and discipline of secrecy, in the final analysis, that the magical lodge enters into the "space between the worlds" ...a space where the potentials of the lodge system can come to full flower.

Inside a Magical Lodge, p. 22

In other words, ritual secrecy is part of the process by which we make the mental shift from the mundane world into the realm of sacred space and time. It is that mindset which allows us to pierce the veil and experience the greater realities on the other side.

Thoughts?

Yours under the esoteric oaks,

Nathair /|\

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It's recently been brought up here that others find it strange that we don't talk about what goes on in certain aspects of our religious experience. I also had a conversation recently with someone who claimed to be Eastern Orthodox and former LDS. He told me that some of the things we do in secret, they do openly. I can't verify his claims immediately, but I think the concept of ritual secrecy is worth discussing here.

One thought I had is that it gives us a chance to practice integrity. We promise not to discuss them, so we don't. But, I think there is a more important reason. John Michael Greer wrote:

In other words, ritual secrecy is part of the process by which we make the mental shift from the mundane world into the realm of sacred space and time. It is that mindset which allows us to pierce the veil and experience the greater realities on the other side.

Thoughts?

Yours under the esoteric oaks,

Nathair /|\

I was discussing this indirectly with ERMD on another thread, and I made mention that the temple rites were designed to be a template, catalyst or substrate or- whatever- to allow US to receive our own revelation.

I think the linear information given has little to do directly with eternal truths- or otherwise it would not be changeable, unless God changes his mind about what is required from time to time. So the only option is that the purpose of what is secret is to allow us to NOT discuss it with others and allow each of use individually to seek revelation to find our own "meaning" and understanding.

The temple really is a "school of the prophets" in which we either have to have it all be meaningless, or discover our own meanings from it.

I have often noticed that when I go to the scriptures for answers to questions, I will see the answer in almost any scripture picked at random- or at least in a page or two.

Perhaps it is because I picked the "right" page by the spirit, or perhaps it is because the spirit will use anything at its disposal to reveal to us what we need to learn- by allowing our minds to "find" the correct meaning we need in almost any scripture regardless of its obvious literal meaning.

A battle in the Book of Mormon suddenly becomes the battle we had with our wife and the principles of its resolution mysteriously parallel what we should do to make ammends. That is not because it is "in the scripture" but because the Spirit teaches us from what is available.

The process is a totally subjective one- were we to discuss it with someone, they might discount what seems, to another to be a silly parallel, thus "killing" the emotional strength of the experienced revelation, much as those unacquainted with revelation ridicule the "burning in the bosom".

So the secret aspect of keeping that information in our own minds, indeed makes it sacred by becoming a shared intimate experience known only to the person who experiences it, and their God.

It is similar to the reason we don't discuss other sacred experiences we have had- miraculous healings etc- simply because to do so would make them public and commonplace.

When we learn something from another in confidence, the height of rudeness would be to go out and blab it all over town; if that is so with our human friends, how much more is it true that we should not act that way when we learn something in confidence, for us personally, from God himself?

Bottom line:

If the "meaning" of temple rituals were regularly discussed and bandied about- we would not have the opportunity to learn those meanings for ourselves from the Great Teacher himself!

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Short answer of course is that we covenanted with God to keep certain aspects secret.

Do you think there is any value in considering the lessons from other esoteric traditions?

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I was discussing this indirectly with ERMD on another thread, and I made mention that the temple rites were designed to be a template, catalyst or substrate or- whatever- to allow US to receive our own revelation.

That syncs perfectly with what I have experienced. Thank you!

From Elder John A Widtsoe: 'No man or woman can come out of the temple endowed as he should be, unless he has seen, beyond the symbol, the mighty realities for which the symbols stand.' As in no other place, I have found that the 'mighty realities' have been tailored each visit to my current and individual needs.

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...ritual secrecy is part of the process by which we make the mental shift from the mundane world into the realm of sacred space and time. It is that mindset which allows us to pierce the veil and experience the greater realities on the other side.

Thoughts?

Yours under the esoteric oaks,

Nathair /|\

It could be nothing more than that. But also believers hold the concept that "God will not be mocked". This is far more than just achieving a "mental shift". Secrecy also has the potential for abuse. For instance, the leaders at the Mountain Meadows Massacre made the members of the militia swear a blood oath of secrecy, before they made them swear to mass murder. This was done invoking the priesthood no less. So secrecy in ritual can definitely turn nasty.

I do not trust oath-taking of any kind, especially the "religious" variety. This aspect of the LDS temple rituals bothered me from the getgo. And by now I have nothing to do with it beyond the family involvement, i.e. marriages and such....

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I usually keep things secret because I don't want other people to know about them.

With temple content though, even members who have both been through the temple and who 'know' everything, are not allowed to talk about it to each other outside of the temple.

If the secrecy was only about keeping people from knowing something, there wouldn't be much reason to keep people who already know from discussing it. This is what seems to imply that it's not just about not wanting other people to know. It seems to imply that there is a separate purpose and maybe it's one worth pondering as Nathair has done.

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Do you think there is any value in considering the lessons from other esoteric traditions?

Sure - why not?

For me it is like a spiritual discussion, or knowing many "languages" of the spirit. How others view symbols is important I think in enriching our own understanding of what each means.

I mean if you go around thinking that "pentagrams are Satanic" or something like that- that "circles mean thus and so (only)" you are not in a position to expand your understanding much are you?

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While this may not be "ritual" secrecy, I've been thinking a lot about religious experiences that are "too sacred to talk about." Sometimes people talk about personal experiences they have had and don't get into details because they are too sacred. There isn't a specific covenant made not to reveal it (unless the visitor, voice, angel, etc requested such), so why don't these people talk further about it. If it is that they do not want to be mocked, then it begs the question of why to bring it up in the first place.

I also think there should be something different about a random member of the ward talking in sacrament meeting about seeing Jesus vs. a prophet or apostle talking about seeing Jesus. I have heard a number of times the "too sacred to talk about" phrase from apostles. If apostles are called as especial witnesses of Christ then why should those experiences not be talked about? I was trying to trace back the history of apostles not talking fully about experiences and it seems to have been talked about freely in Biblical and early church times, but there may have been exceptions.

Apostles and prophets of the past definitely have talked about seeing the resurrected Christ, does anyone know the last prophet of apostle to unequivocally say they saw Him? Is Joseph Smith the last one?

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While this may not be "ritual" secrecy, I've been thinking a lot about religious experiences that are "too sacred to talk about."

'And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. And Jesus put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And Jesus saith unto him, See thou tell no man...'(Mattew 8:2-4).

'Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ' (Matthew 16:20).

'And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying, Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen again from the dead' (Matthew 17:9).

'And he put them all out, and took her by the hand, and called, saying, Maid, arise. And her spirit came again, and she arose straightway: and he commanded to give her meat. And her parents were astonished: but he charged them that they should tell no man what was done' (Luke 8:54-56).

'And there came a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him. And when the voice was past, Jesus was found alone. And they kept it close, and told no man in those days any of those things which they had seen' (Luke 9:35-36).

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'And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. And Jesus put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And Jesus saith unto him, See thou tell no man...'(Mattew 8:2-4).

'Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ' (Matthew 16:20).

'And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying, Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen again from the dead' (Matthew 17:9).

'And he put them all out, and took her by the hand, and called, saying, Maid, arise. And her spirit came again, and she arose straightway: and he commanded to give her meat. And her parents were astonished: but he charged them that they should tell no man what was done' (Luke 8:54-56).

'And there came a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him. And when the voice was past, Jesus was found alone. And they kept it close, and told no man in those days any of those things which they had seen' (Luke 9:35-36).

Yet we know about all of these things, and I would think on purpose. And you are not implying with Matt 16:20 that the disciples were NEVER to say that Jesus was the Christ. I understand about discretion and waiting until the time is right... but that's a little different that my original question.

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This is most likely a no-win topic for me to tackle here. The fact is that if I address the topic in this forum, I must do so with one hand tied behind my back, as it were, because forum rules dictate that I cannot discuss the specifics. But there is really no way to deal adequately with the issue of whether these specifics should be kept secret without talking about them. Yet this thread was started in response to a discussion on another thread in which my organization's policy in this matter was challenged, so it seems I ought to respond.

I would first like to suggest that at least some of you are engaged in what from my point of view is after-the-fact rationalization. You have been taught that you must keep the things that transpire in the temples as secrets, that you may not discuss them publicly, and you have agreed to follow this policy. But merely saying that you are to keep them secret because they are sacred does not really explain the policy. The death and resurrection of Jesus are sacred events and sacred truths, but you don't have a policy of keeping them secret. "The Book of Mormon is a sacred record," the "Brief Introduction" begins, but you don't try to keep its details secret. Indeed, the Book of Mormon has Nephi saying that he only wrote sacred things on the plates (1 Ne. 19:5-6). So sacredness doesn't seem to be a sufficient explanation for keeping something secret. This, I would suggest, is why you find it necessary to discuss the reason for the policy: it isn't clear what that reason is. You are committed to a policy for which no clear reason has been given.

Second, as I see it, New Testament Christianity is not esoteric. There are no secrets hidden from the uninitiated. The early church (by which I mean the first-century church) had no temples, no buildings to which only faithful initiates were granted access--and the early church doesn't seem to have felt any loss for not having such buildings. The early church practiced no rituals to which only elite members were privy. Every Christian was baptized; every Christian partook of the Lord's Supper; and no other ritual was normative or regular in the early church. The development of LDS temple rituals as sacred secrets for the initiates appears not to have been a restoration of primitive Christianity but an instance of the secret societies that were so popular in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. One must resort to finding precedent in Gnosticism or other non-apostolic traditions in the second and third centuries to find anything significant in the ancient church supporting esotericism--and it turns out they were esoteric about different sorts of things than the LDS Church is today.

You are, of course, free to practice your religion in any way you like. You are also free to explain it in any way you like. I don't doubt that some of you find the esoteric elements of LDS religion profound. I am simply offering my perspective, which naturally you are free to reject.

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New Testament Christianity is not esoteric. There are no secrets hidden from the uninitiated.

"I speak to them in parables."

Sounds like there were secrets.

The early church (by which I mean the first-century church) had no temples, no buildings to which only faithful initiates were granted access--and the early church doesn't seem to have felt any loss for not having such buildings.

They worshiped in the Jerusalem Temple until +/- 70 C.E. The Elephantine Temple survived well after that, and there's no evidence that I've seen that the Christ followers were expelled from that Temple. Perhaps you have contrary information? Which is the true early C.E. Christianity: that which lived cheek-by-jowl with their Jewish cousins and worshiped in the same Temples and nascent synagogues . . . or the poor folks who got kicked out the synagogues years later?

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I don't think I explained myself very well in the OP. (Bluebell gets a gold star for mind reading.) As MFBukowski suggested, one of the purposes of the temple ritual is to receive revelation. I am trying to suggest here that whether or not there is anything in the endowment that inherently needs to be kept secret, the practice of ritual secrecy facilitates its purposes.

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Here's something from a Native American group that has sacred material. It pertains directly to the issue of the

sacredness of LDS temple ceremonies and artifacts.

I would love to hear how Rob Bowman and others who shamelessly reveal LDS temple secrets would justify the desecration of this

tribe's religion as described by the Council of Chiefs.

Bernard

http://www.peace4turtleisland.org/pages/maskpolicy.htm

The Haudenosaunee Policies on this page are the official word of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy as promulgated by the Grand Council of Chiefs concerning cultural patrimony & repatriation.

From Kanatiyosh. The policies contain statements that are important to insure cultural sensitivity towards the Haudenosaunee. The statements are evidence of why some school projects, museums, private collections, sellers, governments, and etc., are not being culturally sensitive or respectful to the Haudenosaunee.

Haudenosaunee Confederacy Policy On False Face Masks

The Grand Council of the Haudenosaunee, The Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy, issued in 1995 the following policy statement regarding all medicine masks of the Haudenosaunee:

Medicine Societies

Within the Haudenosaunee there are various medicine societies that have the sacred duty to maintain the use and strength of special medicines, both for individual and community welfare. A medicine society is comprised of Haudenosaunee who have partaken of the medicine and are thereby bound to the protection and perpetuation of the special medicines.

Such medicines are essential to the spiritual and emotional well-being of the Haudenosaunee communities. The medicine societies are a united group of individuals who must uphold and preserve the rituals that guard and protect the people, and the future generations.

Among these medicine societies are those that utilize the wooden masks and corn husk masks, which represent the shared power of the original medicine beings. Although there are variations of their images, all the masks have power and an intended purpose that is solely for the members of the respective medicine societies. Interference with the sacred duties of the societies and/or their masks is a violation of the freedom of the Haudenosaunee and does great harm to the welfare of the Haudenosaunee communities.

Status of Masks

All wooden and corn husk masks of the Haudenosaunee are sacred, regardless of size or age. By their very nature, masks are empowered the moment they are made.

The image of the mask is sacred and is only to be used for its intended purpose. Masks do not have to be put through any ceremony or have tobacco attached to them in order to become useful or powerful. Masks should not be made unless they are to be used by members of the medicine society, according to established tradition.

Sales of Masks

No masks can be made for commercial purposes. Individuals who make masks for sale or sell masks to non-Indians violate the intended use of the masks, and such individuals must cease these activities as they do great harm to the Haudenosaunee. The commercialization of medicine masks is an exploitation of Haudenosaunee culture.

Authority Over Medicine Masks

Each Haudenosaunee reservation has a medicine mask society that has authority over the use of masks for individual and community needs. Each society is charged with the protection of their sacred masks and the assurance of their proper use.

The Grand Council of Chiefs has authority over all medicine societies and shall appoint individual leaders or medicine societies as necessary. However, no individual can speak or make decisions for medicine societies or the displacement of medicine masks. No institution has the authority over medicine masks, as they are the sole responsibility of the medicine societies and the Grand Council of Chiefs.

Exhibition Of Medicine Masks

The public exhibition of all medicine masks is forbidden. Medicine masks are not intended for everyone to see and such exhibition does not recognize the sacred duties and special functions of the masks.

The exhibition of masks by museums does not serve to enlighten the public regarding the culture of the Haudenosaunee as such an exhibition violates the intended purpose of the mask and contributes to the desecration of the sacred image. In addition, information regarding medicine societies is not meant for general distribution.

The non-Indian public does not have the right to examine, interpret, or present the beliefs, functions, and duties of the secret medicine societies of the Haudenosaunee. The sovereign responsibility of the Haudenosaunee over their spiritual duties must be respected by the removal of all medicine masks from exhibition and from access to non-Indians.

Reproductions, castings, photographs, or illustrations of medicine masks should not he used in exhibitions, as the image of the medicine masks should not be used in these fashions. To subject the image of the medicine masks to ridicule or misrepresentation is a violation of the sacred functions of the masks.

The Council of Chiefs find that there is no proper way to explain, interpret, or present the significance of the medicine masks and therefore, ask that no attempt be made by museums to do so other than to explain the wishes of the Haudenosaunee in this matter.

Return Of Medicine Masks

All Haudenosaunee medicine masks currently possessed by non-Indians, including Museums, Art Galleries, Historical Societies, Universities, Commercial Enterprises, Foreign Governments, and Individuals should be returned to the Grand Council of Chiefs of the Haudenosaunee, who will ensure their proper use and protection for the future generations.

There is no legal, moral, or ethical way in which a medicine mask can be obtained or possessed by a non-Indian individual or institution, as in order for a medicine mask to be removed from the society it would require the sanction of the Grand Council of Chiefs. This sanction has never been given. We ask all people to cooperate in the restoration of masks and other sacred objects to the proper caretakers among the Haudenosaunee. It is only through these actions that the traditional culture will remain strong and peace will be restored to our communities.

Dawnaytoh,

Chief Leon Shenandoah, Tadadaho

Grand Council of the Haudenosaunee

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You are, of course, free to practice your religion in any way you like. You are also free to explain it in any way you like. I don't doubt that some of you find the esoteric elements of LDS religion profound. I am simply offering my perspective, which naturally you are free to reject.

And by your wanton desecration of those sacred esoteric elements you reveal your profound antipathy

for the LDS and knowingly violate our most sacred inward spiritual life. It's the same as stripping us naked and hanging

us out for public gawking and ridicule. Someday I'll tell you how I really feel about this shameful betrayal.

Bernard

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I would love to hear how...others who shamefully reveal LDS temple secrets would justify the desecration of this tribe's religion.

I am headquartered in a research school with a strong emphasis in anthropology, linguistics, and history. If one of our researchers ever published material which a society or group of people considered to be sacred and not for public eyes, s/he would be in breach of strongly worded ethical guidelines and would be disciplined. It's a sad day when mostly godless academics have higher ethical standards in this area than some fellow Christians. The notion that the sacred is not something to be spoken of carelessly or casually is not unique to Latter-day Saints by any stretch. As per my post above, obviously the Lord Himself felt the same way on a number of occasions.

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I am simply offering my perspective, which naturally you are free to reject.

Can't you keep your nose out of anything?

You are ruining this forum. We cannot have a LDS discussion without your irreverent comments.

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I am headquartered in a research school with a strong emphasis in anthropology, linguistics, and history. If one of our researchers ever published material which a society or group of people considered to be sacred and not for public eyes, s/he would be in breach of strongly worded ethical guidelines and would be disciplined. It's a sad day when mostly godless academics have higher ethical standards in this area than some fellow Christians. The notion that the sacred is not something to be spoken of carelessly or casually is not unique to Latter-day Saints by any stretch. As per my post above, obviously the Lord Himself felt the same way on a number of occasions.

Also, Ignatius to the Trallians:

http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/ignatius-trallians-roberts.html

CHAPTER V.--I WILL NOT TEACH YOU PROFOUND DOCTRINES.

Am I not able to write to you of heavenly things? But I fear to do so, lest I should inflict injury on you who are but babes [in Christ]. Pardon me in this respect, lest, as not being able to receive [such doctrines], ye should be strangled by them. For even I, though I am bound [for Christ], yet am not on that account able to understand heavenly things, and the places of the angels, and their gatherings under their respective princes, things visible and invisible. Without reference to such abstruse subjects, I am still but a learner [in other respects]; for many things are wanting to us, that we come not short of God.

I grew up in the Pueblo Indian area of northern New Mexico. We knew a number of tribal members including a tribal elder who was LDS.

He would not discuss the kiva ceremonies, artifacts, or dress and compared their sacredness with those of the LDS temples. It would be

the height of conceited disrespect to try to ferret out their secrets and publish them to non-tribal members. I cannot imagine him or

any of his fellow Pueblos betraying that trust, even if they did not abide by the ancient religion. As a committed LDS, he never betrayed

the sacredness of his heritage.

Bernard

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"And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord." Isaiah 54:13.

Replying at least partially to Brother Bowman, it may interest you to know that most LDS temple worshippers also wrestle with the idea of secrecy and its purpose, perhaps even feeling uncomfortable with it (not everyone, but that wondering can happen) -- as evidenced by the midrash happening in this thread. However, many LDS don't experience questions and struggles as taking them outside of the faith, but as an opportunity for learning more deeply about their faith -- again as can be seen by the answers Nathair and others have received for themselves as they've pondered this element of temple worship.

As I have pondered the secrecy element, I have come to some ideas that mfbukowski and others stated more eloquently, but it is the realization that the secrecy is part of the experience and the symbolism -- NOT merely to hide the rest of what is going on. The full revelatory experience requires secrecy as one of its symbols. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the secrecy is integral to the experience of the initiate NOT necessarily to keep others out.

Here is another thing to go along with that. The thing that has to be remembered about the temple is that no one is barred. All the children of God are completely free to enter the temple. No one can be barred male, female, black, white, bond, free (paraphrasing scripture). The children of God self-select to baptism (first) and their endowments (subsequently). But no one can or will stop them from coming. The temple IS completely open and free for everyone, although covenants do work like stepping stones and one must prepare for the temple. If you come unprepared--if you were permitted by Christ to partake of what you cannot bear--then you haven't arrived at all, even if you entered the building or know the words.

Like mfbukowski was articulating, one thing the secrecy and sacredness do or can do is put you "in a room by yourself" with God, so that the verse in Isaiah comes to pass. I (as a daughter) am not authorized to transmit to you this knowledge, because your Father wishes to transmit this knowledge directly to you himself and he does not permit another to stand at the gate. HE is waiting for YOU. This process itself is highly symbolic and has to do with so much about our purpose in mortal life in its entirety.

As for good things being secret . . . not to be too plain . . . but how about the clothes we wear so that the most precious parts of ourselves are only revealed between authorized persons (husband and wife)? Does the secrecy involved in this matter of our bodies and their sacred creative power degrade its value or invest it with value (or is only corollary and have not as much to do with the value of our body as we imagine)? Also it may very well be that the secrecy in the endowment can be learned to have something to do with marriage anyway, since the marriage sealing is the culminating covenant? Hmmmmmm, shall have to think on this more, just came to me now . . . . .

The New Testament is full of temple text, by the way. Nor does the New Testament, by its very nature, represent even a small portion of reflecting the historical matters of what took place in Jesus' ministry.

Edited to add: By the way, if temple worshippers were to keep all their covenants perfectly or more perfectly than now, and were to perfectly or more perfectly make the progressions available within the covenant and the endowments, then there wouldn't be any secret, because all who ever came in contact with these sanctified humans would see very clearly what the nature or consequence of the covenant is. In fact, you can understand this now if you ever met a Mormon/disciple of Christ/son or daughter of the Father that you understood as living in charity . . . you would see what the creative result of the temple is and is meant to be. Clearly.

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