So after researching Proclus’s influence on Christianity these last few months and some conversations with my adviser, Ann wanted me to write up a new proposal. Ann really stresses that dissertations/books ought to have one clear thesis and thus we thought it best to go with the Neoplatonic one over the medieval Catholic one. I do still plan on arguing that Mormonism was a rejection of Protestantism, that crypto-Catholic ideas and practices persisted in folk practices that JS drew on, and thus Mormonism looks more Catholic than Protestant. But I’m arguing that Christian Platonism informs the direction of JS’s religiosity. Anyway, here’s my latest write up.
“The Presence of God: Joseph Smith and the Christian Tradition”
After a similar introduction to my earlier Prospectus, I write:
Brooke traced the roots of Mormonism back to the English Civil War and back further beyond that to the Italian Renaissance when the Corpus Hermeticum was translated from Greek to Latin. Brooke drew upon Francis Yates’s model of the influence of Hermeticism on western esotericism, yet in doing so promulgated one of a Yates’s mistakes. The belief that the Hermetic writings were ancient, dating back to Moses, dated back to antiquity. This belief led de Medici to instruct Ficino to translate the Corpus Hermeticum before Plato, because it was deemed to be the source of Plato’s ideas. Ficino viewed Platonism and late Neoplatonism as arising out of Hermeticism and the Neoplatonic philosopher Proclus, whom Ficino also translated and was heavily influenced by, as 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. Indeed, much of what Renaissance Platonists and Francis Yates called Hermeticism are not in the Corpus Hermeticum but are instead found in Proclus. 
Proclus (411-485 AD) was the head of the academy of Athens after Syryanus and the leading Neoplatonic philosopher following Iamblichus. Proclus, explained E. R. Dodds, “expounded and harmonized all earlier theologies ‘both Greek and barbarian,’ and critically sifted the theories of all previous commentators, keeping what was fruitful and rejecting the rest. Proclus, then, is not a creative thinker even in the degree of Iamblichus, but a systematizer who carried to its utmost limits the ideal of the one comprehensible philosophy that should embrace all the garnered wisdom of the ancient world.” 
The cosmology of early Mormonism shares a number of features in common with that of Proclus: pre-existence, deification, female deity, multiple gods, hierarchy of gods, emanations from the creator god, three-tired heaven, and theurigical rites. Brooke was pioneering in his assessment that “Joseph Smith’s cosmology becomes comprehensible only when it is placed in a setting broader than that of antebellum America,” and was on to something when he labeled Mormonism “Hermetic.”  However, in light of recent research, it still remains to more fully explore the directions to which his research pointed.
Proclus and His Influence:
I argue that Proclus’s influence on Western Christianity can be divided into three categories: the “magical” tradition, the mystical/Pietist tradition, and the philosophical tradition. Proclus’s most significant influence on Christianity came first through Pseudo-Dionysius (sixth century) who, because he claimed to be a convert of St. Paul, was taken to be quasi-scripture in the Middle Ages and beyond. Dionysius is called the Christian Proclus as he essentially “baptized” Proclus and thus Proclus’s ideas were disseminated through Christianity after being translated in to Latin around 830. The Twelfth Century saw the next big surge in Platonic ideas in the West with the revival of interest in Plato’s Timaeus (the only Platonic text to survive throughout the Middle Ages) at Chartres. Plato became even more pronounced with the influx of Neoplatonic Arabic writings soon after in the forms of occult and astrological writings and the commentaries of Avicenna. The Kaballah, or Jewish Neoplatonic mysticism, was also born in this era. Aristotle soon became the preferred philosopher for medieval academics but another misattributed Proclean text allowed his influence to continue to thrive.  The Book of Causes, which was in fact a summary of Proclus’s Elements of Theology, was believed to the high point of Aristotle’s thought. Both Roger Bacon and Albertus Magnus wrote commentaries on it, and in 1255 it became part of the curriculum at the University of Paris; all students would take a seven-week course on the text. 
The Neoplatonic context laid the groundwork for much of medieval cosmology as well as what was called “natural magic.” Scholars point out that natural magic was deemed more science than magic in the view of medieval scientists and that it essentially saw the universe as operating on Neoplatonic principles: powers emanating from the heavens that make their way into the physical world.  Though considered more science than magic in the middle ages, this Neoplatonic worldview would be rejected in the scientific revolution and thus become more magic than science in the views of scientists afterward.  Thus the survival of the Neoplatonist worldview became part of the post-Enlightenment “magic” tradition. Here Neoplatonist views mixed with folk beliefs and even crypto-catholic practices. Such a worldview had a major influence on Smith and is an important reason for the Neoplatonic and medieval orientation of early Mormonism.
The second category of the Proclean tradition began in the Fourteenth Century. With the translation Proclus’s Elements of Theology in 1284, scholars now realized that the Book of Causes was Proclus not Aristotle. However, the West now had a primary Proclean text to draw on and mystics began to do just that. Meister Eckhart made considerable use of Proclus in his mysticism and spawned a new mystical movement, called either Rhineland mysticism or German mysticism. Johan Tauler became another major figure along with Henry Suso. Such authors spoke of deification, a divine pre-existent spark in humans, union with the One, and even Holy Mother Wisdom. Tauler called Proclus “the great pagan master.” 
Early modern radicals in Protestant lands drew heavily on these thinkers and came to similar conclusions.  Seventeenth-Century German Pietists did the same.  Many such Pietists made their way to America, but the most influential movement in the tradition was Methodism. Though Wesley did not adopt the more radical elements of the theology (pre-existence and deification) he did promote perfectionism, religious experience, and a more medieval-looking anti-Calvinist Arminianism. These forms of Neoplatonic mysticism persisted in Catholic lands also, which climaxed with the mysticisms of Madame Guyon and Francois Fenelon.  Samuel Coleridge (mentioned below) declared that “almost all the followers of Fenelon” believed that “men are degraded Intelligences, who had once all existed, at one time & together, in a paradisaical or heavenly state.”  Further, Guyon spoke of “an irreversible deification of the soul, which no longer exists as a separate entity.”  A new book discusses Guyon’s and Fenelon’s influence on German Pietists, Quakers, and Methodist early America.  Like the “magic” tradition, this Pietist tradition played a major role in young Joseph Smith’s world through Methodism, Quakerism, and German sectaries.
The last tradition, the philosophical, is the easiest to trace. Proclus continued to have a major influence and was the primary way through which Plato was interpreted for centuries. Ficino’s Platonic revival relied heavily on Proclus.  Thomas Taylor finally translated Plato into English beginning around 1780 and also translated Proclus’s works. Taylor was a Proclus devotee, going so far as to name his son Thomas Proclus Taylor. Taylor hoped to effect a reformation of Christianity based on Proclean principles and had a major impact on both Romantic poets (Wordsworth and Coleridge) and Transcendentalists. 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.’” In 1843, Emerson declared, “ I read Proclus for my opium.”  This more intellectual tradition would not have influenced Smith in his early years, but Smith gathered an abundant following shortly after founding his church, among whom were many autodidacts who would have had greater access to these ideas in various forms. The Proclean direction of Smith’s religiosity suggests more overt contact with Proclean ideas as his theology developed.
Proclus and the Development of Mormon Theology
To give a brief sketch of both how that theology progressed and the types of Proclean influences Smith might have been under, I break the development of early Mormonism into three time frames (not a perfect method, but roughly useful), and give two examples of particularly striking pieces of Proclean thought in Mormon theology (there are many others).
The first period was Smith’s young life prior to the founding of the Mormon church in 1830. Here Smith would have been under the first and second types of Proclean influences: “magic” and mystical/Pietist. Smith was heavily involved in Methodism and the Whitmers, an important early Mormon family, were Germans from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, the heart of German sectarianism in America. Such influence would have been diffuse but still could have laid the groundwork for his later Proclean orientation. The major work of the period, the Book of Mormon, has little if any Neoplatonism. However, Smith’s story of finding the book (i.e., an angel leading him to a treasure of wisdom) is in line, I argue, with Neoplatonic theurgical concepts.
Shortly after founding the church, Smith attracted a number of followers some of whom were autodidacts. The most important of these were Sidney Rigdon, Parley Pratt and his brother Orson, and William Phelps. All had considerably more education than Smith and were major writers and thinkers in early Mormonism. They suggest possible conduits to Smith of the third type of Proclean influence in the culture.
Smith began to record revelations in addition to the Book of Mormon (compiled in what is called the Doctrine and Covenants) some of which look Neoplatonic. Smith received the most striking of these, Doctrine and Covenants section 88, in the winter of 1832-33. The revelation declares in the voice of Jesus:
He that ascended up on high, as also he descended below all things, in that he comprehended all things, that he might be in all and through all things, the light of truth; Which truth shineth. This is the light of Christ. As also he is in the sun, and the light of the sun, and the power thereof by which it was made. As also he is in the moon, and is the light of the moon, and the power thereof by which it was made; As also the light of the stars, and the power thereof by which they were made; And the earth also, and the power thereof, even the earth upon which you stand.
And the light which shineth, which giveth you light, is through him who enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings; Which light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space—The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God who sitteth upon his throne, who is in the bosom of eternity, who is in the midst of all things. (Doctrine and Covenants 88:6-13).
Light that emanates from the One and enlightens human understanding is very Neoplatonic, but what is particularly striking is that Proclus describes the Demiurge as emitting light that lights the sun.  John Scotus Eriugena, who translated Pseudo-Dionysius into Latin in 830, spoke of “the threefold light of the Trinity” that “pervades the universe, ‘shining in all things that exist.’”  What version Smith may have heard needs further study, but the passage, along with one that suggests human pre-mortal existence, suggest Neoplatonic influence in these early years.
I put the third phase of Smith’s development at roughly 1840 when the Mormons are now in Nauvoo. In this phase, Smith became interested in Freemasonry, whose rites Smith reworked in a theurgical direction: initiates symbolically come into the presence of God at its apotheosis. Also, Mormons had been very successful in England, beginning proselytizing there in 1837. By the early 1840s, many of these converts had emigrated to Nauvoo, among whom could have been further conduits of Neoplatonism to Smith. (Transcendentalists began going to England in the early 1840s to gain greater access to Thomas Taylor’s translations). 
In Nauvoo, Smith’s theology became even more Neoplatonic, not only with Masonry as theurgy, but also with the publication of the Book of Abraham, a “translation” of Egyptian papyrus Smith had purchased in Ohio. The Book of Abraham presents a very Neoplatonic cosmology and creation myth. The pinnacle of this theology was Smith’s King Follett Discourse, or the sermon Smith gave at the funeral of a man named King Follett. A major source for the theology therein, argues Lance Owens, came from the Kabbalah, or Jewish Neoplatonic mysticism, via a German Jew turned Christian turned Mormon.
Alexander Neibaur was from an educated Prussian Jewish family and trained to become a rabbi but became a Christian instead. Neibaur moved to Preston, England, in 1833, the city in which the first Mormon missionaries to England began proselytizing in 1837. Neibaur joined the church and moved to Nauvoo in 1841 and soon began working for Smith as his Hebrew and German teacher. Neibaur was apparently versed in the Kabbalah and cited a number of Kabbalistic texts in an article in the Mormon newspaper on Jewish ideas of transmigration of souls (a Neoplatonic concept). 
Niebaur showed his influence in the King Follett Discourse, where Smith said that humans could become gods, that god was once human, and that there was a hierarchy of gods, and also rejected creation ex nihilo; all ideas found in the Proclean tradition. Before launching into an exegetical attempt to prove his point, Smith declared “I suppose I am not allowed to go into an investigation of anything that is not contained in the Bible. If I do, I think there are so many over-wise men here that they would cry ‘treason’ and put me to death. So I will go to the old Bible and turn commentator today.”  Smith seemed to be saying that he wanted to reference some source other than the Bible but felt doing so would generate antipathy. When Smith turned to “the old Bible” he gave a good indication of what the source was. Smith discussed the Hebrew of Genesis 1:1 and how it ought to say that the head of the gods brought forth the gods and then created the world. This Hebrew restructuring is found in the Zohar (the principle text of the Kabballah) and is a reading in line with Plato’s Timaeus. While Neibaur may not have possessed a copy of the Zohar itself, he certainly had access to Kabbalistic writings.
Smith would be shot dead a few months later but not before infusing the remnants of Proclean thought into his religious movement.
Here’s the proposed chapter outline. I don’t know how to indent here but you should get the idea. After giving the backgound in chapter 1 I’ll then go through the major points in the development of JS’s theology discussing each in the broader context of the history of Christianity and Christian Platonism.
Smith largely rejected the innovations of the Reformation and the enlightenment, drawing on other traditions instead, both high (Christian Platonism) and low (folk Christianity). These traditions could overlap and did so in the creation of Mormonism.
A) Magic, Superstition, and the Christianity of the Folk
The religion of the common people has often been derided as superstitious and magical, but such needs to be understood on its own terms, not through the lens of elite derision. With the Reformations and Enlightenment, the definition of what was deemed proper Christianity changed while the folk continued older practices and thus were labeled “magic” and “superstition.”
a) The Dechristianization thesis
b) The Reform of Popular Religion, 1400-1700
c) The Enlightenment
B) Christian Platonism
Proclus played a major role in the dissemination of the Platonic tradition in the West; his influence was felt in three ways, all of which were accessible to early Mormons.
a) Christianity and Plato: the Ancient Wisdom
b) Proclus and Neoplatonism
c) Proclus’s influence
i) the philosophical tradition
ii) the mystical/pietist tradition
iii) the “magical” tradition
2) The Village Seer: Young Joseph Smith
Smith, seeking access to the divine felt rejected by the Methodists and looked instead to folk magic, embarking on a theurgetical quest leading to his translation of the Book of Mormon. At this early stage, the Proclean influences implicitly shape the form of his quest rather than the content of his thought as reflected in the Book of Mormon.
c) Treasure digging
d) Gold Plates
3) Kirtland (1830-1838)
In conversation with self-taught early converts who are more widely read than he is, the content of Smith’s teachings takes a more overtly Neoplatonic form.
A) Things in Heaven: Soteriology and Cosmology
Smith unfolds a cosmology and soteriology that begins to look Neoplatonic.
a) Worlds without number
b) Universal Salvation (almost)
c) Degrees of glory
d) The Olive Leaf Revelation
e) The Book of Abraham
B) Things on Earth: Utopianism and Liturgy
Smith attempted to create the perfect society based on the archetype of his Enoch myth, all in accord with the Neoplatonist concept of the Philosopher-King.
a) The Church
b) The City of Enoch
c) Trying the spirits: Church Organization
e) Kirtland Temple
f) Baptisms for the dead
4) Nauvoo (1839-1844)
In Nauvoo, Smith’s Neoplatonism becomes overt as he finalizes his cosmology. Here Smith drew both on Freemasonry, with esoteric Neoplatonic elements, and the Kabbalah (Jewish Neoplaotic mysticism) of his Hebrew tutor, Alexander Neibaur,
A) A Nucleus of Heaven
Smith’s utopianism did not work as the Mormons were kicked out of Ohio and Missouri and suffered internal rancor. Smith continued his attempts at community building while backing off his more utopian goals. Instead Smith sought to bind his closest friends to him to form a “nucleus of heaven.” In doing so Smith combined Neoplatonic elements of divinization through marital/sexual union (based on the Plato’s Symposium and enhanced by later Neoplatonic thinkers) and the utopian wife sharing of Plato’s Republic. (Both of these trends have a long history).
a) Collapse of Zion
d) Celestial Marriage
Smith’s “nucleus of heaven” did not work as his friends rejected sharing wives. Smith switched to polygyny while continuing to bring his religion further in line with Neoplatonic concepts: multiple gods, deification, heavenly mother. Smith reaches his final apotheosis when he’s shot dead by a mob.
d) Heavenly Mother
 This Christian fascination with Plato, many scholars have argued, was behind the Christian embrace of the Hermetic myth. Christian similarities to Platonism (Augustine declared that Plato contained all the fundamental aspects of Christianity except the incarnation) led to some concern over originality. The belief that the Hermetic writings were ancient allowed Christians to say that Hermes was the source of Plato. “In order to preserve the uniqueness of the Judeo-Chrisitan revelation,” asserts D. P. Walker, “it was usual to claim that pagan Ancient Theology derived from Moses; but sometimes it was supposed to go back further, to Noah and his good sons, Shem and Japeth, or to antediluvian Patriarchs, such as Enoch, or even Adam.” D. P. Walker, The Ancient Theology: Studies in Christian Platonism from the Fifteenth to the Eighteenth Century (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1972), 1.
The notion that the Corpus Hermeticum was ancient was debunked in the early seventeenth century. Modern scholars have thus been aware the Corpus Hermeticum post dated Plato, but still tended to see the Corpus as the source of the thought and practices of Renaissance Neoplatonism instead of Neoplatonic sources.
 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.
 Proclus, The Elements of Theology, A Revised Test with Translation, Introduction and Commentary by E. R. Dodds, 2d ed. (Oxford: Clarendon, 1963), xxv.
 Brooke, Refiner’s Fire, xvi.
 C. S. Watkins, History and the Supernatural in Medieval England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 153-55. Watkins explains that “new tools” from Arabic sources were central to the rise of intellectual astrology in the West in the Twelfth Century. Proclus’s writings explain how to construct and use the one of the most important tools in charting the heavens, the spherical astoble. Proclus thus provided both the tools and the theory so influential for the use of astrology in the West. Siorvances, Proclus, 262.
 David C. Lindberg, The Beginnings of Western Science: The European Scientific Tradition in Philosophical, Religious, and Institutional Context, Prehistory to A.D. 1450. 2d ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007), chp. 9.
 Bernardo Carlos Bazan, “Foreword” to The Book of Causes, translated by Dennis J. Brand (Marquette University Press, 1981), 1-2.
 Robert Bartlett, The Natural and the Supernatural in the Middle Ages (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 21-22, 141-44.
 Hebert Leventhal, In the Shadow of the Enlightenment: Occultism and Renaissance Science in Eighteenth-Century America (New York: New York University Press, 1976).
 Barbara Newman, God and the Goddess: Vision, Poetry, and Belief in the Middle Ages (Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2003), chp. 5. Bernard McGinn, The Harvest of Mysticism in Medieval Germany (1300-1500), Vol 4 of The Presence of God: A History of Western Christian Mysticism (New York: Herder and Herder, 2005).
 Siorvances, Proclus, 35.
 Steven E. Ozment, Mysticism and Dissent: Religious Ideology and Social Protest in the Sixteenth Century (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1973).
 W. R. Ward, The Protestant Evangelical Awakening (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 48, 310.
 Moshe Sluhovsky, Believe Not Every Spirit: Possession, Mysticism, and Discernment in Early Modern Catholicism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007), chp. 4.
 Quoted in Terryl L. Givens, When Souls Had Wings: Pre-mortal Existence in Western Thought (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 246-47.
 Sluhovsky, Believe Not Every Spirit, 130.
 Patricia A. Ward, Experimental Theology in America: Madame Guyon, Fénelon, and Their Readers (Waco, Tex.: Baylor University Press, 2009).
 Raymond Klibansky, The Continuity of the Platonic Tradition during the Middle Ages (1939, reprint; London: Warburg Institute, 1980), 26-36.
 Jay Bregman “Proclus Americanus,” in Late Antique Epistemology: Other Ways to Truth, Ed by Panayiota Vassilopoulou and Stephen R. L. Clark (Houndsmill, U.K.: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), 228-29.
 Lucas Siorvances, Proclus: Neo-Platonic Philosophy and Science (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996), 153.
 Bernard McGinn, The Growth of Mysticism, vol II of The Presence of God: A History of Western Mysticism (New York: Crossroad 1994), 103.
 Bregman, “Proclus Americanus,” 234.
 Lance S. Owens, “Joseph Smith and the Kabbalah: The Occult Connection” Dialogue 27, no. 3 (1994): 173-77.
 Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 6:307.
 Owens, “Joseph Smith and the Kabbalah,” 178-82.