Joseph Smith and the Persistence of Late Neoplatonism; Or, a Possible Source for “Telestial”

By December 26, 2010

As I mentioned in the prospectus I posted, I see both striking resemblances between Mormonism and late Neoplatonism and important influences of late Neoplatonism on the history of Christianity that need to be explored. My committee balked at linking Mormonism to late Neoplatonism and wanted further proof. So I’ve been doing some research.

Why I’ve wanted to stick with late Neoplatonism as illuminating early Mormonism is because I saw some very useful paradigms. At UCSB, under the encouragement of my adviser, I wanted to learn more about early Christianity with an eye toward understanding Brooke’s Refiners Fire. I audited a class from Beth DePalma Digeser on early Christianity who made it clear that she had a lot of expertise in the overlap between early Christianity and Neoplatonism. So I went by her office and asked if I could do a field exam with her on these topics. Later when I was ready to get going, she handed me a list of books. The first one I read was Gregory Shaw’s book on Iamblichus. The approach I had been taking on the Smith’s early “magical” practices was to think of them in terms of pre-Reformation holdovers but ultimately to try to understand their “religious” components. “Theurgy” seemed very helpful in this task. The goal was to do rituals to come into the presence of God and become divinized, which I saw as infused throughout Mormonism. This was also central to rituals usually called “ritual magic” or “angel conjuring” that persisted throughout the history of Christianity and that the Smith’s may have been engaging in.

So I really liked the term, but the more I thought about it, I wanted to get at what Smith’s central goals were. Smith did create rituals and means for others to come into the presence of God but he had done so himself in the First Vision. Afterwards he had additional goals, which seemed to be creating Zion, the perfect society. The central motif seemed to be the City of Enoch. Failing at that (the expulsion from Missouri) JS sought to bind his close friends to him to create a nucleus of heaven. So I looked for medieval prototypes and proceeded with that.

But as I was reading medieval stuff I kept running into the fact that Christians who were in to Plato promoted Mormon-looking ideas: heavenly mother, deification, pre-existence, etc. So after I was done with Prof. Digeser’s list, I told her of this trend that I had found and that I wanted to know more about Plato and his influence on the early Middle Ages. So she suggested that I read Dominic O’Meara’s Platonopolis. O’Meara argues that it had been assumed that the Neoplatonists were not political but this was not the case, particularly among the late Neoplatonists. The goal of the late Neoplatonists, argues O’Meara, was to become divinized through theurgy, but then, if one had philanthropy, he or she would go back into the cave to enlighten his or her fellow beings. The ultimate goal of the late Neoplatonists was to create Plato’s Republic, led by the Philosopher King. Yet the late Neoplatonists despaired of creating the Republic on earth and came to believe that it only truly existed in heaven—the city of the gods. Proclus conceived of three heavens. The Republic, where everything was shared, was the highest state. Lower heavenly cities also exited, based on Plato’s other writings (more on that in a bit). [1]

This seemed to match up remarkably well with what I saw in JS. So when my committee demanded that I either find late Neoplatonic influence on JS or drop it, I though I’d do some more digging.

1) First off, the late Neoplaotnists (Iamblichus and Proclus) do some interesting things with Platonism. Not to get into it all, but previous commenters wondered about Platonism and materialism. With the introduction of theurgy into Platonism by Iamblichus the physical became more important: physical rituals became a way to access The One. [2] The body was also a vehicle for the soul’s elevation.

2) Proclus was quite influential on the development of Christianity. First through Pseudo-Dionysius, because he claimed to be a convert of St. Paul, his writings were deemed semi-scriptural in the Middle Ages. Pseudo-Dionysius sought to merge Proclus with Christianity and may have been a devotee of Proclus. Another Christian devotee of Proclus was Boethius who quoted extensively from Proclus in his influential Consolation of Philosophy.

3) Other Proclus works popped up in the Middle Ages: The Book of Causes circulated in the Middle Ages which was a summary of his important Elements of Theology but attributed to Aristotle until the Elements were translated into Latin in 1268. This sparked an interest in such things and influenced Meister Eckhart who had a major influence on late medieval mysticism. He taught things like the idea that humans had uncreated souls and could become gods and even that God had become God. [3]

4) Brian Copenhaver argues that scholars have misunderstood Ficino and his Hermetic revival based on Ficino’s own misunderstandings. The belief that the Hermetic writings were ancient, dating back to Moses, dated back to antiquity. That is why de Medici instructed Ficino to translate the Corpus Hermeticum before Plato: the Corpus was deemed to be the source of Plato’s ideas. As a result, Ficino believed that Platonism and late Neoplatonism came out of Hermeticism. It was believed that Proclus, who Ficino also translated and was heavily influenced by, was simply the best expositor of Hermeticism. Thus the things that Renaissance Hermeticists and later scholars like Francis Yates called Hermeticism were largely the ideas of Proclus. Much of what Renaissance Platonists and Francis Yates called Hermeticism are not in the Corpus Hermiticum but are instead found in Proclus. [4]

5) The Cambridge Platonists were also into Neoplatonism but seemingly focused more on Plotinus than Proclus.

6) The main translator of Plato into English was Thomas Taylor who did so around 1800. Taylor was a Proclus devotee and his commentary on Plato intermixed in his translation was Proclus heavy. Says Jay Bregman, “Taylor’s work suggests that he was, metaphorically at least, a ‘reincarnation’ of Proclus. His translations of all Greek philosophers evoke the Greek style of Proclus transliterated into English, as it were. New England intellectuals, therefore, read Plato, and Plotinus as well, through ‘Procline spectacles.’” [5] Taylor went so far as to name his son Thomas Proclus Taylor.

7) The biggest contemporary devotees of Proclus among JS’s contemporaries were the Transcendentalists. Emerson wrote in his journal in 1843 that “I read Proclus for my opium.” [6]

8 Emerson is a little late to be influential on JS but it is possible that the things that influenced Emerson could have influenced JS. Harvard got a copy of Taylor’s translations of Plato in 1820 and Emerson started reading them in 1828. Emerson did not start seriously reading Neoplatonic texts until after 1837, but he was aware of their ideas from Taylor’s translation of Plato and from reading Ralph Cudworth’s (the Cambridge Platonist) True Intellectual System. Other possible sources include the Romantic poets Coleridge (and his Biographia Literaria chapter 12) and Wordsworth, who were also influenced by Neoplatonism. [7]

9) There are striking similarities in things like DC 88, Book of Abraham, the interest in Thomas Dick. [8]

10) Where the term Telestial comes from has long eluded Mormon scholars. Late Neoplatonism offers a possibility. First, Proclus had a three-tired heaven. Second, the word “telestic” was used by the late Neoplatonists as a synonym for Theurgy. Another late Neoplatonist name Hierocles came up with a triadic typology for virtues: the highest was the philosophical, the second was the political, and the third was the telestic. That is, for Hierocles, one started with telestic rites and then moved upward in order to elevate the soul to become one with God. [9] The fact that telestic was third in his typology is striking considering that late Neoplatoists also had a three-tired heaven. Some quick Google searching said that Hierocles’s writings were around in the Middle Ages and were in Emerson’s library.

The word itself doesn’t have much to do with the usage of Telestial but Celestial and Terrestrial are also ill-fitting terms: all the kingdoms are “heavenly” and none of them are “earthy.” The terms are only used to designate their rank: Celestial best, Terrestrial second, Telestial third.

11) If late Neoplatonism was the source for Telestial, then it would suggest familiarity with late Neoplatonism among JS’s inner circle. So the question is, what did Rigdon (Pratts, Phelps) read?

________
[1] Dominic J. O’Meara. Platonopolis: Platonic Political Philosophy in Late Antiquity (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2003), 95-96.
[2] Andrew Itter, “Psuedo-Dionysian Soteriology and Its Transformation of Neoplatonism” Colloquium 32/1 (2000), 77.
[3] I heard a paper given on this topic at last years Catholic history meeting held at AHA.
[4] Brian Copenhaver, “Hermes Trismegistus, Proclus, and the Question of a Philosophy of Magic in the Renaissance,” in Hermeticism and the Renaissance: Intellectual History and the Occult in Early Modern Europe, ed. by Ingrid Merkel and Allen G. Debus (Washington: Folger Shakespeare Library, 1988), 79-110; and D. P. Walker, The Ancient Theology: Studies in Christian Platonism from the Fifteenth to the Eighteenth Century (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1972).
[5] Jay Bregman “Proclus Americanus,” Late Antique Epistemology: Other Ways to Truth, Ed by Panayiota Vassilopoulou and Stephen R. L. Clark (Houndsmill, U.K.: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), 228.
[6] Bregman, “Proclus Americanus,” 229.
[7] Kenneth Walter Cameron, Young Emerson’s Transendental Vision: An Exposition of His World View with an Analysis of the Structure, Backgrounds, and Meaning of Nature (1836) (Hatford: Transcendental Books, 1971), 37-46.
[8] Sam Brown’s forthcoming article does a good job of pointing out similarities. I would only add that the since the chain of being was only one aspect of Neoplatonism, there remains much more to be studied. Samuel Brown, “The Early Mormon Chain of Belonging,” Dialogue, forthcoming.
[9] O’Meara, Platonopolis, 129-130.

Article filed under Categories of Periodization: Origins Christian History


Comments

  1. I agree this is a great topic and that the Chain of Being is only the low-hanging fruit for Mormon “Platonism.” Best of luck persuading your committee to let you incorporate this into your dissertation. I doubt you’ll find takers for “telestic” as the prototype for telestial, though. (I personally still think it’s a creative phonetic merger of the other two names.) I spend more time discussing images of metaphysical correspondence and the personified universe in In Heaven As It Is on Earth, but again I agree that there is much more to be developed in earliest Mormon intellectual and cultural history.

    I’m primarily interested for a future project in images of “translation” as regards Smith’s distinctive Platonism.

    Surely there is a way, though, to think through the Vision as a sort of post-Protestant Platonism more generally. I find the comparisons to Swedenborg’s spiritual/celestial/earthly a little facile, but I do believe that the images of a) personified universe and b) threefold hierarchies that come out of the 1830s are probably best accounted for as a type of eclectic Platonism.

    You may want to try to map out the pre-Mormon writings (or writings from their pre-Mormon associates) for the inner circle of earliest Mormonism. I suspect you’ll be able to find fragments relevant to your construction of the intellectual world of earliest Mormonism.

    Comment by smb — December 26, 2010 @ 6:54 pm

  2. Quinn suggests this as a source for the terms, although not terribly rigorously. (Don’t have my copy handy to check exactly where he attributes it)

    I think conceptually it makes sense to have a “telestial” below the earthly given the common cosmology of there not only being a heavenly realm, and earthly realm but also the old tradition of hell being below the earth. (I’ve been watching Bugs Bunny with my kids and it’s funny that Yosemite Sam gets smashed down in the earth and ends up in a chamber meeting a devil – basically the same cosmology)

    The linking of the terms with stars, moon and sun is more interesting and I suspect comes out of Platonism in some way too although I couldn’t point to where.

    The most interesting bit is of course the tripartite conception within Plotinus. Tripartite categories abound among the Platonists so I think it’s dangerous to read too much into them although their nature is significant in some ways.

    Comment by Clark — December 26, 2010 @ 6:57 pm

  3. fun stuff steve.

    you probably saw this post:

    http://bycommonconsent.com/2010/01/27/the-etymology-of-telestial/

    for what it’s (not) worth, this was my comment there:

    nibley goes on a bit after that. it’s all very baffling.

    iamblichus might be of some help (de mysteriis 8.3-4). in his discussion of egyptian (feel those goosebumps!) first principles, he begins with the highest and most transcendent metaphysical principles above and ends with the lowest level of cosmic principles below. (think celestial to telestial, though iamblichus himself employs the three-fold division of empyrian, epouranian, and aitherian.)

    the adjective he uses for the lowest level of principles is teleutaios, -a, -on (last, terminal, uttermost, final …). it is apparently related to the the verb teleo (i’m no lexicographer) and to the compounding prefix (yes, i am making this terminology up as i go) teles- (though i can’t say whether all greek words beginning with teles- are necessarily related).

    so from a top-to-bottom perspective, telestial might make rather good sense and even have an ancient precedent in wacko neoplatonic/theurgic/hermetic literature. not that there is any connection between the two.

    i actually think terrestial is the more problematic descriptor.

    (that’s right, i am quoting myself.)

    one thing i have been thinking and wondering about lately, for no particular reason:

    so our take on the double creation in genesis as found in moses and abraham would seem to stem from platonizing interpretations going back at least as far a philo of alexandria, according to which the priestly account (genesis 1:1-2:4) has an intellectual or noetic or spiritual referent. such is my understanding, anyway.

    the coats of skins according to the platonizing interpretations represent the physical body, much inferior to the ‘body’ formed from the dust of the earth, and the androgyne made in the divine image.

    but we don’t see the coats of skins that way at all. quite the opposite.

    if we have inherited something from the platonizing interpretations of genesis, our theology of dress would seem to be more in line with, say, judaism proper.

    Comment by g.wesley — December 26, 2010 @ 7:05 pm

  4. BTW – What’s most interesting with the Mormon use of telestial is that it is associated with the fixed stars as the least glory whereas for the Platonist Christians the fixed stars were typically the highest, not lowest glory.

    Comment by Clark — December 26, 2010 @ 7:21 pm

  5. Thanks, Steve. Interesting stuff. I’m going to have to check Brooke out.

    Comment by Ryan T — December 26, 2010 @ 7:47 pm

  6. Clark, Quinn suggests what? In his 2nd edition of Magic Worldview he offers no guess as to the term Telestial (does he offer a guess somewhere else?) He points to Swedenborg and to a “magical” concept of spirit beings he found: celestials, terrestrials, and infernals. Quinn missed the fact the Pseudo-Dionysius’s nine orders of angles were divided into three groups, which seems a better fit to me.
    You’re right the the central metaphor for the degrees of glory is sun, moon, and stars (based on their brightness) but where “telestial” comes from still remains. The attitude toward the stars is interesting but Smith was in the post-Capernian/Newtonian world that viewed the heavens differently. How Smith merged the new with the old is interesting though.

    Combining celestial and terrestrial is a possibility, Sam, I still find Hierocles’s usage striking.

    Comment by Steve Fleming — December 26, 2010 @ 10:34 pm

  7. I don’t really have anything to add, but after reading this, did some digging around. All I have to say is that Iamblichus on the Mysteries of the Egyptians, Chaldeans, and Assyrians just sounds rad.

    Comment by J. Stapley — December 27, 2010 @ 12:19 am

  8. Thanks for this, Steve. I’m starting to better understand what you are trying to argue, here.

    As my current research is focused on the influence of German idealism and British romanticism on American politics during the antebellum period, I’ve been digging into some related topics. I was amazed at the prevalence and spread of neoplatonic views in 19th century America, and not only through the Transcendentalist movement (though they are the most popular). A strong strain of Christian platonism permeated American sentimental discourse since the revolutionary age, even if they never identified it as such. Particularly, the work of Richard Price and Mary Wollstonecraft (though the latter figure was much more problematic) had a tremendous influence on American political discourse. Though not typically identified as platonists per se, they embraced, adapted, and vindicated much of the work of the Cambridge Platonists (most especially Ralph Cudworth). While I can’t speak to the influence on religions and liturgy, it may provide some important connections.

    Platonism takes on a much more distinguished and acknowledged (at least in contemporary circles–it is still understudied in American historiography) role in American culture in the 1840s, though that is probably too late for your purposes. I’ve been amazed at how many people even outside Transcendentalist circles started turning to idealism and Platonism to defend democratic politics as their biblical empiricism began falling apart and as the rhetorical battle over slavery required new epistemological foundations. It’d be interesting to see if this move similarly effected religious discourse during the same period.

    Finally,

    Emerson is a little late to be influential on JS but it is possible that the things that influenced Emerson could have influenced JS.

    Who would ever want to consider such a silly approach as that?

    Comment by Ben — December 27, 2010 @ 8:10 am

  9. My mind must be playing tricks on me. I could have sworn he’d come up with something for telestial where he talks about infernal. My bad. (This is why it’s so important to actually check your sources before posting rather than going by dim memories)

    Comment by Clark — December 27, 2010 @ 1:13 pm

  10. g. that’s awesome. I had not seen the post. I’m partial to the late Neoplatonic explanation. Iamblichus wasn’t as influential as Proclus but those who liked Proclus tended to like Iamblichus also (Ficino, Taylor). Proclus wrote a lot more. The scholarship on Proclus is rather new. He seems to have fallen between the cracks being one of the last pagan philosophers. Scholars are working on elaborating the extent of his influence.

    Ben, thanks so much. I need to figure out how to link yours and g.’s areas of expertise. I also need to read you stuff. I read over your Emerson piece which was very good. Could you send me a list of your articles?

    Discovering Neoplatonic influence on American thought prior to 1840 is also in process. Bregman’s article that I cite looks really important. But I think that with the list you mention (Sam list some important things also), it’s clear that it was there. So I’ll be in touch.

    Comment by Steve Fleming — December 27, 2010 @ 2:42 pm

  11. steve,

    you might find this site useful, if you don’t already know it:

    http://www.hiw.kuleuven.ac.be/dwmc/index.html

    under ancient philosophy there are links to editions and translations and a bibliography of proclus.

    also, in the supplements to brill’s new pauly just out they give a run down for a lot of ancient authors. proclus would probably be there. and it might help you track his influence and accessibility over time, showing you when his works were edited, translated, by whom, where, in what languages:

    http://www.brill.nl/default.aspx?partid=227&pid=30700

    i think the project is really insteresting. pushing on christian platonism doesn’t bother me–in fact i am predisposed to do it myself (however, american religions, mormonism, and the like are not my field).

    at the same time, as i think you’ve mentioned, the risk is giving short schrift to other avenues (possibly more central, depending what you are looking at). the hellenism vs. judaism and/or christianity split is an ever present pitfall as far as i can see.

    but no one manages to cover everthing. at least i can’t. real life is far messier than could ever be narrated.

    Comment by g.wesley — December 27, 2010 @ 8:20 pm

  12. Other Proclus works popped up in the Middle Ages: The Book of Causes circulated in the Middle Ages which was a summary of his important Elements of Theology but attributed to Aristotle until the Elements were translated into Latin in 1268. This sparked an interest in such things and influenced Meister Eckhart who had a major influence on late medieval mysticism. He taught things like the idea that humans had uncreated souls and could become gods and even that God had become God.

    Steve, does the last sentence speak of Eckhart or Proclus?

    Comment by WVS — December 27, 2010 @ 8:37 pm

  13. A bizarre version of this seems to have unfolded on one of the argument boards a couple years back.
    http://www.mormonapologetics.org/topic/36564-the-meaning-of-telestial/page__st__20

    Comment by smb — December 27, 2010 @ 8:41 pm

  14. Another possibility is bad OCR software–search “telestial” pre-1830 on GB. there are scads of hits.

    Comment by smb — December 27, 2010 @ 8:46 pm

  15. Thanks so much g.

    WVS, the last sentence was a reference to Eckhart but It’s my understanding that he got the idea from Proclus. At the paper I heard at the Catholic History conference, the respondent to the paper said “In your paper you quote Eckhart saying ‘love was in the bridechamber before God was God.’ That’s like that question ‘what was God doing before he created us?’ That’s like that question on steroids.” I couldn’t help but think that he sounded like our kind of guy. Again, Eckhart had a major influence on late medieval mysticism which had a major influence of pietism etc.

    E.R. Dodds has a quote in Pagans and Christians in the Age of Anxiety, “man is an immortal God; God is an immortal man” that he says was a standard late antique saying. Dodds was the first scholar to study Proclus.

    Sam, thanks for the link, quite a mess I’m jumping into.

    Comment by Steve Fleming — December 28, 2010 @ 5:35 pm

  16. Steve, I worked through my vague memories to recover the telesterion, which is, I think, the temple/building where the telestic rites occur. My quick scan of the early 19th c. translation of iamblychus strongly emphasizes telestic as purifying rites. I just don’t see that in 1832 Vision afterlife theology. This would then require a misreading of a reference to Greek esoteric worship instead of a creative misreading of the text he was actually reading (1 Cor). I just can’t make yours a credible practical etymology. but it’s good to have fun in esotericism and Christian Platonism.

    Comment by smb — December 28, 2010 @ 10:44 pm

  17. Purification bring up further contexts though since it’s central to DC 76. The theurgist seeks to purify himself to come to the divine. Again, Proclus did some interesting things with Plato and tracing these themes is informative.

    1) While Plato saw post-moral punishment as punitive, Proclus saw it is redemptive and reformative. Bad people were punished post-mortally to purify them.

    2) Plato believed that there were incurable souls but Proclus believed that no one would ultimately be left in Hades but all could be purified and get out.

    3) Psuedo-Dionysius’s major change to Proclus was to place theurgy in the hands of Jesus: Jesus does the work of God through his sacrifice. We participate through the sacraments.

    4) Proclus’s ideas sound a lot like medieval purgatory. Purgatory developed over a long period of time: prayers for the dead started in early Christianity but the need became intensified after the Christianization of the empire when average Christians became more concerned about their post-mortal state. Purgatory as an actual place became reified in the late 12th century.

    5) Protestants get rid of purgatory but the persitance of such ideas are interesting, particularly among universalists. Universalists were influenced by neoplatonism, some going so far as to believe in transmigration of souls. Most did not, but universalists like Charles Chanuncy and Elhanan Winchester believed that all would go to heaven after a series of post-mortal purgation. JS’s grandfather associated with universalists.

    6) DC 19 says that those who don’t repent must suffer as did Jesus and then Jesus says to repent lest one’s suffering be sore. Sinners will go through post-mortal cleansing. It will not last for ever, just until the process is complete. The work of God (theurgy, telestai) is in Christ’s hands. Either accept Christ’s theurgy in this life or go through it the hard way in the next.

    7) DC 76 says it is those who go the the Telestial kingdom who will undergo this post-mortal purgation. The Telestials will undergo telestai.

    Comment by Steve Fleming — December 29, 2010 @ 1:18 pm

  18. I’m still not persuaded, but you’ll want to grab the David salvation issues of the 1840s on this front–some curious phrases about purification during hell for David who had killed Uriah (murderers belong telestial).

    Smith broadly is proposing theurgy as a mode of entering his celestial heaven. I think the tripartite heaven of The Vision is mostly a philosophical red herring.

    Incidentally, I’m having a vague memory that Kathleen Flake has been working on Mormon theurgy.

    Comment by smb — December 29, 2010 @ 3:17 pm

  19. Tricky stuff, Sam. I appreciate your work on the topic, but I’m going to do some more digging :).

    Comment by Steve Fleming — December 29, 2010 @ 3:30 pm

  20. You should absolutely keep digging. Much good scholarship comes from digging past initial erroneous ideas. I hope that my responses would not be perceived as resisting further work that disagrees with me.

    Comment by smb — December 29, 2010 @ 4:51 pm

  21. Steve, if you happen to have anything more on Proclus -> Eckhart -> uncreate souls, I’d be very interested.

    Generally: looking forward to how seeing how this develops.

    Comment by WVS — December 30, 2010 @ 2:13 am

  22. WVS That came from the paper I heard and then some google searching I did after, which I can’t seem to find now. Need to put this all together.

    Comment by Steve Fleming — December 30, 2010 @ 3:03 pm

  23. […] survived in the West and this was done largely through misattributed texts that I described in these posts. I find this rather remarkable. Most Christian leaders did not like the idea of accepting […]

    Pingback by Juvenile Instructor » Creation ex Nihilo, Proclus, and the Apostacy — April 11, 2011 @ 12:45 pm

  24. I’m not an expert when it comes to words or languages, but I was intrigued when I read this article about “The Telesterion”. I assume there is no connection, however, I took special notice because of the context, ie, ancient initiation rituals that were very secretive.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Telesterion

    Regarding your post, Steve – thanks. I was myself curious about the Mormonism/Neoplatonism connection. Most of the blog articles I googled were about how neoplatonism, ie, paganism’s last stand, had played a very influential role in the so-called “Apostasy” of the early Christian Church.

    On the other hand, I see other possibilities. Joseph Smith taught the plurality of Gods in the ‘Sermon in the Grove’, D&C 132:19 indicates that humans can attain godhood, and Family: A Proclamation to the World reaffirms the existence of Heavenly Mother. What I’m getting at should be obvious: Mormonism, as much as we try to deny it, smells a lot like Paganism – and for many more reasons than the above mentioned.

    So before we get all flustered, lets use our heads here. The ever-maligned ‘paganism’ so-called was practiced universally before Christianity and Islam ever came along (I exclude Judaism because it clearly evolved from polytheistic tradition), and humans have been polytheists for a lot longer than they’ve been monotheists. Neoplatonism came from Plato; Plato was an initiate into a Greek Mystery cult; Greek Mystery cults are plausibly tied back to (proto-)Indo-European religion, which would probably take us back all the way to the neolithic revolution. The mythological Genesis creation story could probably be pinned to various times in pre-history–not the least of which, however, the beginnings of agriculture.

    All I’m proposing is that we rethink our view of ‘paganism’ as this religious boogey-man of sorts. Then we can at least explore the possibility of parallels. This obsession with appearing more “mainstream” to the masses, I’m very afraid, has made us quite blind to the possibilities before us. Frankly, I think the old “Adamic” religion has been staring us in the face all along…we’re just too terrified of polytheism to approach it.

    Comment by Noah — May 2, 2011 @ 7:23 am

  25. Thanks for the reference Noah. I agree that we need to get over the “pagan boogeyman.” A number of early Christians saw Plato as a precursor to Christianity and I think that’s a fine interpretation. See the link on comment 23. I may do some more posts on the topic.

    Comment by Steve Fleming — May 3, 2011 @ 11:35 am


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