Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Understanding Section 133

The acquisition of vital information from catastrophists and comparative mythologists about the traditional, cultural archetypes that dominate our scriptures and the information contained in an anecdotal story related by Patriarch Homer M. Brown of his grandparents’ encounter with Joseph Smith one evening in Nauvoo now allow us to turn our attention to one of the more symbol laden, latter-day revelations about future events given to the prophet.

In Doctrine and Covenants, Section 133, the Lord reveals much about the changes in the heavens and the earth that will be seen one day. But in order to fully understand what is recorded there, we must combine our understanding of the Saturn traditions and the concepts Joseph Smith communicated to Benjamin Brown.

A new reading

We turn our attention to the verses in Section 133 that focus on a series of events seen to occur prior to the second coming. “For behold, the Lord God hath sent forth the angel crying through the midst of heaven, saying: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, and make his paths straight, for the hour of his coming is nigh—.” (Doctrine & Covenants 133:17.)

This verse sets the scene. We are about to be told of events that will transpire immediately prior to the second coming. Thus, we now have at hand a method of understanding more clearly the nature and impact of those things that will be seen in the very last days.

In the next verse, we are immediately immersed in traditional, astral imagery. “When the Lamb shall stand upon Mount Zion, and with him a hundred and forty-four thousand, having his Father’s name written on their foreheads.” (Ibid., v. 18.)
For a full interpretation of these allusions used in the prophetic language in verse 18, we must turn to the Saturn traditions.

The lamb of god

Just as the crescent in its inferior position on the limb of Saturn ...

... became the symbol for the sacred cow or bull, ...

... so the same crescent when located in the superior position ...

... was characterized as a ram due to the similarity in appearance of the planet’s inverted crescent with the horns of a male sheep.

The “lamb” in the polar configuration was the small, red planet, Mars, the son of the “sire,” the “ram,” Saturn. The use of this imagery became highly anthropomorphisized in Egyptian art and was rendered accordingly, as seen above.

Given that imagery, it is iconographically correct to refer to the son of the ram god as a “lamb,” an often-used allusion in ancient symbolism.

Naturally, the prophets would immediately see the symbolic value of referring to the Savior, the Son of God, as a lamb. It was an association that anyone steeped in ancient symbolism would easily understand. So, the phrase “Son of God” became the “Lamb of God.” Once made in antiquity, the connection would persist to become part of the language of the prophets and the scriptures, right down into New Testament times.

The fact that revelations produced by Joseph Smith display the proper use of such ancient iconography speaks eloquently for their authenticity. False prophets in this day and age have no grasp of such idiographic relationships and thus fail to use them properly, if at all.

Mount Zion

Looking further, we see that Mount Zion mentioned in verse 18 is, of course, the axis mundi, world or cosmic mountain upon which the polar configuration, the temple or city of god, appeared to stand, answering to the this archetypical image.

This “mountain” is the basis for temple imagery the world over—Olympus in the Greek culture, Jerusalem’s Mt. Moriah in the Israelite culture—where temples are often either designed to resemble a mountain, mound or pyramid, or set on top of one or next to one. It is also the basis for a similar allusion in the scriptures where the temple is described as “the mountain of the Lord’s house.”

The 144,000

So, too, is the “hundred and forty-four thousand” named in verse 18. That symbolically derived number (12 x 12 x 1000) is simply a metaphoric means of saying “more than you can count.” It was never meant to express a fixed number, as it is so often misinterpreted in modern prophetic schemes.

These ‘individuals’ are also prominently mentioned in Revelation where they stand with a “Lamb” and are part of mount “Sion.” Joseph Smith and the scriptures depict them in symbolic terms, as though they were individuals, servants of God or priesthood holders. Originally, they were based in the thousands of illuminated prominences that radiated outward from the edge of the celestial planet/god/city, as seen in this exploded view.

They were characterized in tradition and mythology as the inhabitants of the celestial city, and as such are iconographically useful in depicting those saved or exalted souls who will stand with Christ at the final judgment, as John and Joseph Smith explained.

The returning hero weds

The next verses introduce a new dimension to our investigation, allowing us to see the origins of Christian symbolism in the more ancient cultural and religious usages.

“Wherefore, prepare ye for the coming of the Bridegroom; go ye, go ye out to meet him. (Ibid., v. 19.)

While the reference to the “Bridegroom,” as every Christian knows, is clearly an allusion to Christ’s role as husband to the church, this reference goes back to a more ancient, cosmological tradition.

During the evolution of the polar configuration, Mars was seen to move away from the center. In doing so, it seemed to the ancients to “wander” about heaven and grow much larger as it engaged in a variety of metamorphoses in a planetary ‘dance’ that engaged both Venus and the Earth.

These phases of the planetary epic spawned a multitude of myths and traditions about cultural heroes who wandered away from home, orphaned or dispossessed, who then engaged in a series of misadventures, challenges or contests in which they performed miraculously and then finally returned home to discover their heritage, roots or exalted station in life. These mythical archetypes are recognizable to modern eyes, for example, in recent incarnations such as the story of Aladdin, the Prince and the Pauper, the story of King Arthur or the tales of Hercules.

Eventually, Mars returned to the center place after several eventful excursions. This return was seen as a marriage ceremony wherein the two planets, the warrior/hero Mars and the goddess/queen Venus, were ‘joined’ or ‘wed’ after the wanderer’s long absence from the center place or home.

So the early Christian church adopted this cultural tradition to describe the returning Christ, coming to initiate the Millennium after his long absence from the Earth. Hence, the Christian imagery of the bridegroom and the bride, as used by the Lord and Joseph Smith in Doctrine and Covenants, find their roots in ancient planetary imagery.

Bigger than life

The next verse leaves the impression that the Lord’s return will see him as a giant standing on the Earth, with one foot on the Asian continent and the other on the American continent. “For behold, he shall stand upon the mount of Olivet, and great deep, and upon the islands of the sea, and upon the land of Zion.” (Ibid., v.20.)

Once again, such imagery is based on ancient symbolism spawned in the Saturn configuration of planets when it assumed the prototypical image of the “heaven man” with its ‘arms’ stretched heavenward and its ‘feet’ planted on the limb of the Earth, as seen in this illustration.

This Egyptian glyph, below, is perhaps the best example of the heaven man archetype and a reminder that the primary symbols were occasionally portrayed most precisely in ancient art. More than most, this example approaches an accurate portrayal of the archetypical symbol derived from the polar configuration and serves as strong evidence that this symbol was the origin of much biblical imagery.

In this instance, the planet Venus, seen to sit in the center of Saturn, was considered the head, Saturn’s crescent formed the outstretched arms, Mars at the top of the column became the chest or torso and the pillar the legs of the heaven man or angel archetype.

While the return of the Savior will undoubtedly be a magnificent manifestation, just as it was when he descended from heaven after his resurrection to appear before the Nephites, his stature will not assume epic proportions as this verse implies.

A celestial metaphor

Indeed, it is the thesis of this presentation that these verses are not at all meant to be descriptive of the Savior’s coming, as it is commonly supposed. While it is symbolically correct to apply these metaphors to his advent, the imagery tells us more. It betrays a celestial scene based in cosmological origins.

If we return to the first verse quoted in this monograph, we find that we were introduced to an angel “crying through the midst of heaven.” Ironically, it is the very “heaven man” image from which the ancients derived the “angel” icon. Thus, this icon is likely the origin of the “angel” image of prophecy, used by so many prophets.

This opens the door to a more meaningful or amplified reading of these verses. It is the concept that what is described here is not Christ’s advent at all, but a planetary encounter between the Earth and another planetary body — the harbinger of the second coming or last “grand sign” of the Savior’s advent. And, in fact, when we consult Joseph Smith’s pronouncements as recorded in the Brown account regarding these very verses, we find that, indeed, he spoke plainly of a planetary encounter.

After re-entering the house, the Prophet said, “Brother Brown, I noticed when I came in that you were reading the Doctrine and Covenants. Will you kindly get it?”

He did so. The Prophet turned to Section 133 and read, commencing at the 26th verse and throughout to the 34th verse. He said, after reading the 31st verse, “Now, let me ask you what would cause the everlasting hills to tremble with more violence than the coming together of the two planets? (Scriptural and Secular Prophecies Pertaining to The Last Days, pp. 89, 90.)

What better way to impress on the reader the planetary nature of the events described in these verses than to couch them in symbolic terms reminiscent of ancient times when Earth was a satellite of a gas giant and a companion to other planets? If what will be seen in Earth’s heavens just prior to the Savior’s advent—Joseph’s “planet, comet”—is a planetary display akin to that seen anciently, why not use all the traditional metaphors to memorialize that fact? To do otherwise would be inconsistent with prophetic convention. Anyonewell versed in the ancient traditions, such as a prophet, would be inclined to use the ‘proper’ and ‘correct’ symbolism and metaphor. And, indeed, that is what we see done in these once enigmatic verses.

Moreover, approaching these verses with this in mind, we find immediate clarification of the imagery. All that is needed is knowledge of how these icons were employed anciently and we have the proper interpretation. Or as Peter put it, “No prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.” Prophecy is meant to be interpreted systematically, using the imagery known in the times of the ancient prophets who spoke these words, imagery common to all ancient cultures. It is we moderns, who esteem this imagery as ‘myth,’ that have stripped it from our culture and our traditions, leaving us unable to grasp its meaning when we encounter it.

Returning planet imagery

Looking back at the verses examined thus far from Section 133, we find that, indeed, all the imagery has its basis in ancient planetary imagery, just as the following verses. “And he shall utter his voice out of Zion, and he shall speak from Jerusalem, and his voice shall be heard among all people; And it shall be a voice as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder, which shall break down the mountains, and the valleys shall not be found.” (op. cit., vs. 21, 22.)

Sound was an integral part of the ancient events. Electrically energetic planets in close proximity were easily capable of generating a multitude of electromagnetic oscillations that became audible in Earth’s atmosphere, from the most subtle to excruciatingly loud. It is proper to refer to the sounds as coming from a geographical location — “he shall utter his voice out of Zion, and he shall speak from Jerusalem” — because the sound or voice would seen to emanate from there since the entire Earth would become a planet-sized transducer or speaker, oscillating in response to electromagnetic waves propagated by nearby planets.

Thunder and crashing water are probably only somewhat reminiscent of those sounds since they were heard to accompany the tremendous shaking of the ground, as alluded to in these verses. Furthermore, it is appropriate to connect these colossal sounds with the transformation of Earth’s topography — “which shall break down the mountains, and the valleys shall not be found” — because they likely went hand in hand.

The next verse further confirms our thesis. “He shall command the great deep, and it shall be driven back into the north countries, and the islands shall become one land. (op. cit., v. 23.) Let’s learn what this means in Joseph’s own words from the Patriarch Brown account.

“Relative to the waters rolling back to the north, if you take a vessel of water and swing it rapidly around your head, you won’t spill any. But if you stop the motion gradually, it will begin to pour out.

“Now,” he said, “Brother Brown, at the present time this earth is rotating very rapidly. When this planet returns it will make the Earth that much heavier, and it will then revolve slower. That will account for the waters receding from the Earth for a great while, but it has now turned and is proceeding rapidly eastward.” (op. cit., p. 91.)

Here we see yet another anticipated effect of the Earth joining in a polar orbit with another, larger body. Joseph was exactly right in assessing that our planet’s rotation might slow when electromagnetically joined with a new neighbor, thus significantly diminishing the centrifugal forces that maintain an equatorial bulge at the equator. This would have the effect of raising the ocean levels at the poles and diminishing or depressing those around the equator.

But there would be another, even greater reason for this oceanic migration that may not have occurred to Joseph: tremendous tidal action due to gravity, which would also serve to draw Earth’s oceans into gigantic tides, the primary one centered on the North Pole and the secondary or reflexive tide on the South Pole.

A consequence of such permanent polar tides would be the appearance of heretofore submerged land bridges between many of the continents — especially at the equatorial latitudes where the effect would be the most dramatic. Water levels in some places might subside hundreds of feet in great, worldwide tsunamis as the oceans raced to the poles, thus “receding from the Earth.” Imagine a ring of dry ground girding the equator, joining all the continents.

Thus, we would see the literal fulfillment of verse 23. “… the great deep … shall be driven back into the north countries, and the islands shall become one land.”

A planetary “docking maneuver”

Having introduced the concept of intersecting planets, “the coming together of the two planets,” Joseph next refers to a circumstance that has no meaning except in a universe governed by electromagnetic forces.

“Now,” he said, “scientists will tell you that it is not scientific, that two planets coming together would be disastrous to both. But, when two planets or other objects are traveling in the same direction and one of them with a little greater velocity than the other, it would not be disastrous because the one traveling faster would overtake the other.”

In fact, the perception by science of such an event has not changed since Joseph’s day. Scientists still speak, hypothetically, of such events as collisions, insisting that they would be, as Joseph said, “disastrous.”

The Roche limit is the orbital distance at which the gravity of the larger planet will begin to tidally tear apart the smaller planet as they approach one another. Even if, as Joseph proposed, the planets were traveling in the same direction or sharing a similar orbit as one gradually overtook the other, their approach would eventually bring them within the Roche limit, which would be utterly disastrous to the smaller orb. It would be summarily sundered into so many chunks.

Yet, Joseph’s scenario sees no such outcome. Saying emphatically that “it would not be disastrous,” he seems to understand what orthodox science denies to this day: There are greater forces at work in such a scenario than gravity. These electromotive forces would serve to both prevent an outright collision or dismemberment and, at the same time, lock the two planets together in a tandem orbit.

In fact, proponents of the electric universe theory insist that electromagnetic plasma layers — once called VanAllen belts but now called Langmuir sheaths — surrounding both approaching planets would pull the planets together at a distance, yet also prevent them from colliding by holding them apart as the distance between them diminished. In effect, the two planets’ approach would first be cushioned, then the two would electromagnetically couple, held in stasis at a distance from one another, neither drifting apart nor colliding. And while the tidal effects would be tremendous, pulling the oceans to the poles, they would be insufficient to destroy either planet.

Joseph’s prophetic insight

Joseph Smith’s scenario, as we have read, suggests just such a circumstance. Yet, how could he know of this? Even today science denies such a possibility. Indeed, electricity was only a novelty in that day. Thus, its role in creating electromagnetic effects was virtually unknown. In fact it still has no acknowledged role in planetary science even today.

Clearly, Joseph had learned through revelation that Earth was once held in juxtaposition with another planet anciently before being separated, even if he did not completely understand the mechanics of such a coupling. For this reason he speaks of it “returning” in conjunction with the events described in Section 133.
Indeed, this is the only context in which these statements have any meaning.

And this is the point: In the context of modern “scientific” notions, Joseph’s statements in the Brown account sound like the fanciful inventions of a fertile imagination. However, when seen in the context of the Saturn traditions and the electric universe, it is a stunningly accurate depiction and a testament to the prophetic prowess of Joseph Smith. Moreover, the Brown account allows a much more meaningful interpretation of Section 133.

Seen in the light of our new perspective on ancient history, we can see that the next verse from the 133rd Section has been grossly misconstrued by Latter-day Saints. “And the land of Jerusalem and the land of Zion shall be turned back into their own place, and the earth shall be like as it was in the days before it was divided.” (op. cit., v. 24.)

Continents do not drift

This verse does not describe the popular geologic notion of continental drift. As we have seen, Joseph does not speak of shifting landmasses in his interpretation of Section 133. However, he does speak of shifting oceans that will permanently reveal great tracts of land, thus reversing the “division” of the Earth in Peleg’s day.

More significant still is the reference to Jerusalem and Zion being “turned back into their own place.” While such a statement might be construed to be an indication of continents in motion to our ears, seen through the lenses of ancient tradition, it tells a very different story.

Latter-day Saints tend to think of Zion as a people, for so it is used in modern parlance. We also think of Jerusalem as an earthly city in the Middle East. However, anciently this was not so. The archetype of the holy city, Jerusalem was the Saturn configuration, and Zion (Sion) was the name of the heaven-spanning mountain that both held up the celestial city and connected it to the Earth. Thus, if the heavenly city and its sacred mountain are “turned back in their own place,” the phrase refers to the return of that grouping of planets that gave rise to that imagery anciently.

This verse, then, is not about earthly cities. It is, as is consistently done in these verses, an allegory based in celestial constructs. And, in fact, the return of a planet is what Joseph’s instruction to the Browns was all about, lending further credibility to this idea.

The proposed explanation of these verses extends to yet another verse in the 133rd Section. “And they who are in the north countries shall come in remembrance before the Lord; and their prophets shall hear his voice, and shall no longer stay themselves; and they shall smite the rocks, and the ice shall flow down at their presence.”

Joseph’s explanation of the melting ice is as follows:

“Now, what would cause the mountains of ice to melt quicker than the heat caused by the friction of the two planets coming together?”

And then he asked the question, “Did you ever see a meteor falling that was not red hot? So, that would cause the mountains of ice to melt.” (op. cit., p. 91.)

Once again, we see an explanation that not only supports the contention that Joseph viewed these prophesied events as planetary catastrophes, we also a reiteration of the joining planets theme.

Also, in this same passage, we come to one of the most misunderstood prophecies in all scripture in that many claim the “they” in this verse means the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel.

Not about the Lost Tribes of Israel

Because ancient tradition connected to the disappearance of the Lost Tribes tells of them disappearing into “the north countries,” modern Saints have interpreted this verse to refer to those Ten Lost Tribes because of the identical reference.
Once again, however, when we look at Joseph’s statement, we get the picture of a returning planet.

He continued, “Now, as to their coming back from the northern waters, they will return from the north because their planet will return to the place from whence it was taken. (op. cit., p. 91.)

That is, their planet will once again take up its historic, traditional position in “the north.” This, of course is indicative of the unique polar orbit posited by Talbott and illustrated in the Dibble facsimile, as drawn by Joseph Smith.

Note that nowhere in the Brown account does the Prophet suggest that the Ten Tribes would come from that planet, only that it was thought to be “their” planet or the one that was connected to them by tradition.

Since Joseph attributes all the other phenomena in this account to effects generated by the return of the old celestial or heavenly order, it seems likely that he meant to convey that same point in this instance rather than referring to the return of any group of people. In fact, placing the Ten Tribes interpretation on this solitary verse in an entire sequence dedicated to planetary symbolism seems completely out of place. A more sensible approach would seem to be to allow the verse to be seen as complementary to the rest of the passage rather than interpreting it as a parenthetical comment.

It bears mention at this point that many early Saints attribute to Joseph Smith the belief that the Lost Tribes inhabited another planet. This, of course, is impossible to verify since there is no direct statement to that effect recorded by the Prophet.

From the standpoint of the polar configuration of planets illustrated above, such a circumstance would seem to be patently impossible. First of all, no known mechanism would allow people to relocate from Earth to Mars or Venus, the two planets most proximate to Earth in the Polar Configuration. The natural forces unleashed in those events would have been too traumatic to humans to see the Lost Tribes survive the transit—even if a transport mechanism could be identified. Secondly, the distances were similar to those that separate the Earth and its moon today. Bridging such a hostile gap would appear to be even more of an impossibility.

Since the traditions tell of no other, habitable planets parking in a polar orbit above the Earth anciently that might have served as a refuge for migrating Israelites, the Lost Tribes interpretation of this verse fails.

Furthermore, space probes to those two planets have returned no evidence that they are inhabited. Indeed, the environments on Mars and Venus today could not support human beings, except one imagines some supernatural intervention to miraculously preserve them alive. Even if these two planets were to return to their former location near the Earth, there could be no people living there to return. Therefore, the interpretation of these verses as the return of an inhabited planet also fails.

The most likely explanation for the belief of many early Saints that Joseph taught such an idea can only be considered a uniform misinterpretation based on the way the prophet explained the concept. Indeed, since the return of the Lost Tribes will coincide with these latter-day catastrophes, the two are closely connected in prophecy and easily mistaken one for the other.

A celestial highway

Moving on, we see another, traditional aspect of the polar configuration reused in the description of the coming event as recorded in Section 133. “And an highway shall be cast up in the midst of the great deep.” (op. cit., vs. 27.)

Once again, Joseph clarifies the revelation.

“And relative to the great highway which should be cast up when the planet returns to its place in the great northern waters, it will form a highway and waters will recede and roll back.”

This “highway” was also Mt. Sion supporting the holy city at its apex where it appears to split into twin peaks.

In this phase of the configuration’s career, the pillar or mountain could easily be construed as a road or path. It is the origin of the symbolic notion that the streets of heaven are paved with gold. It is the reason many ancient temples were accessible only via a lengthy causeway or avenue leading up to the gates.

The final verses we will consider here from the 133rd Section follow the returning planet imagery.

Their enemies shall become a prey unto them. And in the barren deserts there shall come forth pools of living water; and the parched ground shall no longer be a thirsty land. And they shall bring forth their rich treasures unto the children of Ephriam, my servants. And the boundaries of the everlasting hills shall tremble at their presence. (op. cit., vs. 28-31.)

Lest the reader lapse into interpreting these verses as applying to the Lost Tribes, consider the third verse. The “everlasting hills” do not tremble at the “presence” of any people, but they do tremble at the return of a planet to Earth’s northern skies, re-establishing the ancient heavenly order.

If one reads “them” to mean the returning 144,000 or “servants” that stood about the polar configuration, a more consistent interpretation with internal themes, then these verses simply continue the same planetary metaphor.

So it is that the powerful imagery of these verses from Section 133 are easily interpreted, thanks to the Brown account of Joseph’s teachings about the last days and the pivotal research of modern catastrophists and comparative mythologists.

© Anthony E. Larson, 2004

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