Seven years ago when I was starting this project, I came across the three-tiered system of the Neoplatonist Hierocles, who called the first step the telestic, or purifying mystery rites. Thinking that was a remarkable similarity among many other similarities between Neoplatonism and Mormonism, I wrote this post giving an overview of those similarities and proposing Hierocles’s system as the possible source of that unusual word.
Many expressed understandable skepticism, and as I was brainstorming, I said the following in comment 17:
Purification brings up further contexts though since it’s central to DC 76….
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 forever, 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.
DC 76 says it is those who go the the Telestial kingdom who will undergo this post-mortal purgation. The Telestials will undergo telestai.
This was definitely shooting from the hip, and as I researched and wrote my dissertation, I didn’t find anything more on telestai as a third heaven, so I just dropped it.
However, in doing more research after the dissertation, I came across some new information. As I’ve mentioned in these posts, I’m now thinking that Smith actually looked up translations of Plato earlier than I had argued in my dissertation. Andre Dacier’s 1701 translation The Works of Plato Abridg’d contains Plato’s Phaedo, which has the following passage:
True Vertue is really and in effect a purgation from all these sorts of Passions. Temperance, Justice, Fortitude and Prudence or Wisdom it self, are not exchanged for Passions; but cleanse us of them. And it is pretty evident, that those who instituted the Purifications, call?d by of Teletes, i.e. Perfect Expiations, were Persons of no contemptible Rank, Men of great Genius’s, who in the first Ages mean’d by such Riddles to give us to know that whoever enters the other World without being initiated and purified, shall be hurled headlong into the vast Abyss; and that whoever arrives there after due purgation and expiation, shall be lodged in the Apartment of the Gods.
So those who are purified by the Teletes will be with the Gods in the afterlife and not be “hurled headlong into the vast Abyss.”
Dacier also added the following footnote: “There’s a pleasant Passage to this purpose in the second Book of his Republic. They say, That by virtue of these Purifications and Sacrifices, we are deliver’d from the Torments of Hell; but if we neglect ’em we shall be liable to all the Horrors of the same.”
Section 76 says those who go to the Telestial Kingdom “are they who are thrust down to hell” where “they who shall not be redeemed from the devil until the last resurrection” (84-85). Those going to the Telestial Kingdom will undergo post-mortal Teletes.
In my dissertation, I noted that section 76 is particularly similar to Jane Lead’s visions of the afterlife, but the Phaedo has some similarities as well. In it, Socrates muses that just as the earthly realm is superior to the ocean, there is perhaps a realm above the earthly realm that is better than our world here. Such is a kind of three-tiered system–ocean, land, the realm above–and Dacier’s notes refer to this better realm as the “Terrestrial paradise,” one of the words from the Vision. 1 Corinthians 15 was likely the principal source for the names of the first two kingdoms, but Dacier’s Phaedo may have provided Telestial.
 Andre Dacier, The Works of Plato Abridg?d, 2 vols. (London: A. Bell, 1701), 2:99.
 Dacier, Works of Plato, 2:170.