And, what many may not know, there were many "Christs" who came prior to Jesus, and who were not Jesus, nor do I think they were prefiguring or foreshadowing Jesus. They were the "Christs" in their own right, who came in their own time, who developed what it meant to be a "Christ" or "Messiah" in ancient Israel long before the word was ever applied to Jesus. I think it may be helpful to become acquainted with these "Christs/Messiahs" to better understand who Jesus was.
It's taken more time to write about this reconstruction, because it is perhaps a more sensitive subject, and more complex, than any I have written before about Mormonism or Christianity, yes, even more so than Jesus or Joseph Smith (which might be an indication that something is off-kilter). The Salt Lake City based Latter-day Saints take the Book of Mormon very seriously as a holy text, as scripture revealed by God, similar to the Bible, and perhaps even more important than the Bible. The Book of Mormon is one thing that makes them unique, their own testament of the divinity of "Jesus Christ," which they believe is also evidence of the unique prophethood of Joseph Smith and the divinity of the church he organized as God's "true church." But I think the truth may be much more nuanced.
This weekend I had the fortunate opportunity to go to Fairfax, Virginia, to attend a seminar hosted by the Shalem Institute, an organization that fosters contemplative living and leadership. Their invited guest to present for their annual Gerald May Seminar was Bernard McGinn, who is Professor Emeritus of Historical Theology and of the History of Christianity in the Divinity School at the University of Chicago. McGinn is an American Roman Catholic Theologian and is considered one of the world's foremost expert scholars on the history of Christian mysticism. He has written seven volumes outlining the history of Christian mysticism, and may write two more, bringing the history up to the present time. This series is known as The Presence of God.
The previous blog post marks 200 entries on ThyMindOMan.com that I have written over the past year and a half. I thought I'd take this occasion to reflect a bit about what I have done here, and introduce a new feature of the website.
Language often constructs our perception of reality. As the philosopher William H. Gass once said, "The true alchemists do not change lead into gold; they change the world into words." Or so they try.
The word mystical is derived from the Greek mystikos meaning "secret," and muo meaning "concealed." Why all the mystery? Why is it concealed? Why do people keep it a secret? This seems like shady business. But is it?
At times I feel like much religious terminology and symbolism has failed to bring unity to our modern culture and global society, and that we need new terms and symbols to point to these highest realities for which we yearn. New religious movements often emerge under such conditions (and there are tens of thousands of these movements in the world today). But I'm not sure that helps, but just further divides us, each believing they have "the truth."
How should I say what is infinitely ineffable?
Deep within me a thousand sweet breaths of Silence
cover my lips and say—
I suggest that the translation of the Book of Mormon was Joseph Smith's alchemical Magnum Opus, or "Great Work," a transmutation of his own base desires for materialistic gold and treasure into the highest spiritual realizations of human atonement in God consciousness, and a realization or awakening of eternal life in his Self, even theosis, which he continued to preach for the rest of his life.