Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Mares Eat Oats ...

Do you remember that old song that says, “Mares eat oats and does eat oats, and little lambs eat ivy; a kid’ll eat ivy too, wouldn’t you?” For years, as a child, I sang that song as a string of nonsense syllables, seeing absolutely no meaning in the words I muttered. I would sing, “Mairsy dotes and dozy dotes, and liddil amb zee divvy; a kiddle e dyvie two, wouldn’t you?” That’s what I thought everyone else was singing because that’s what I heard. It just never occurred to me that I was misunderstanding what I had memorized, until one day when it all fell into place.

More to the point, until then no one knew that I didn’t know what I was singing because what I sang sounded quite correct to them. They thought I knew what I was saying, so no one attempted to correct me.


Latter-day temples, stunningly beautiful though they may be, are unlike any other structures in Christendom. In fact to even the casual observer, there seems to be very little Christian about them, inside or out.

Outside, the symbols and markings, where present, are not those seen in other religious architecture. There are no gargoyles, no angels, no crosses and no statues of saints. Instead, all icons are either conspicuous by their absence, or there are copious illustrations of stars, planets and suns.

Inside as well, there is a striking absence of ritual and liturgy typically associated with Christianity, baptism and marriage being the two exceptions. References to Christ are infrequent, oblique and incidental, rather than being central. It’s as though the focus of the temple was almost entirely on something else.

The dissimilarities are pronounced and striking. They are especially so to those who enter a temple for the first time. The reaction of novice attendees to what they hear and see there ranges from mild surprise to outright shock. The temple ceremonies are so foreign to them, newcomers must be assisted throughout as to what to do and say in each rite. Nothing in their experience up to this point, in church teachings and practices outside the temple, prepares them for the oddity, strangeness and peculiarity of the temple odyssey.

Most accept the experience with equanimity, quietly accepting the apparent abnormality of the experience on faith alone. Some few are incredulous, openly rejecting the rites and ceremonies as foreign to their personal creed. In the end, conformity and compliance win the day as most initiates hide their surprise or dismay with either silence or expressions of the beauty and enormity of it all.
Those few who can bring themselves to articulate their surprise, confusion and incredulity by asking for an explanation are greeted with a trite statement from church and temple authorities, who usually explain to the quizzical party that with regular temple attendance and prayerful inquiry, it will all be made clear in good time.

Therefore, what is said and done in LDS temple rituals is mostly a mystery to Mormons.

In order to reconcile the obscurity and unfamiliarity of what they have been taught, temple worthy Mormons assume that the sole source of these temple rites and rituals is nothing less than pure revelation from God, that those things are consummately sacred, so above and beyond our poor intellects that we can scarce comprehend them, much less begin to understand them. Therefore, they assuage their confusion and ignorance by assuming that what is said and done within modern temples is uniquely spiritual and celestial, exceeding the grasp of our blinkered intellects. Thus they reason that any attempt to decipher them is doomed to failure in our benighted, telestial state.

On a personal note, my temple experience more or less paralleled that of my fellow Mormons — until my research unfolded an entirely unexpected yet welcome benefit. I learned that the temple is a monument to the ancient heavens, the primeval heavens. It is a memorial in stone and ritual of the astral drama that unfolded in Earth’s ancient heavens, a sacred, cultural treasure trove of information. What happens inside is all … I say ALL … about the same thing as we see on the outside, where icons are present: stars, planets and manifestations that emerged in our ancient skies and the traditions that evolved from them.

It was at that juncture that it became abundantly evident that what was rehearsed in our temples was the same, traditional story told in the sacred space of religions the world over. That this ancient story is also repeated in modern temple ritual, erected by prophets of God, is a powerful witness to the validity of the Restored Gospel. Joseph Smith had no access to this type of information in that bygone era, except it came through revelation, as he professed.

What a stunning development. I had followed the logic and rationale of avant-garde or maverick scholars regarding obscure, mythological and traditional beliefs, tested their conclusions against statements of modern prophets — especially those of Joseph Smith — only to find that this information made plain the meaning of temple iconography and ritual.

It has become apparent to me that Joseph Smith and his successors had a clear vision of what had happened in the past, a vision that is distinctly different than that held by sectarian and secular scholars alike in our day and age. And like their predecessors, the Old Testament prophets, our Savior and his Apostles in the New Testament as well as the holy men in every other ancient culture, these modern prophets had restored and preserved that cosmological tradition in modern temples.

Along with that conviction came the realization that my fellow Mormons knew nothing of this. Even temple officiators who enacted those sacred temple dramas and rituals, including temple presidents, knew nothing of the meaning in what they were doing. None had been able to explain them to me. So I was left to assume that they did not understand the origins and meaning of what they were doing and saying.

This state of affairs left me incredulous. How could the meaning behind all this sacred ritual and architecture be lost while the vehicle designed to retain it has been so well preserved? Certainly, those who instigated it, beginning with Joseph Smith, knew the meaning of these rites. Such was no fortuitous accident. Church authorities have faithfully preserved our temple traditions for a dozen generations since Joseph Smith first established them in the 1840s; yet no one today can or will say what they mean or what they represent.

It’s quite odd, actually, when I think about it — preservation without comprehension. Yet, that’s what’s happened.

This is why at the outset of this monograph I cited the instance from my own experience. Like my “Mares eat oats …” story, that’s what the temple ritual is to today’s initiate and worker alike — mummery and mimickery with no comprehension of its truly profound meaning. It’s quite tragic and wonderful, both at the same time. The entire meaning is preserved, thankfully, but with absolutely no comprehension of its implication. What a stunning state of affairs.

© Anthony E. Larson, 2009

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The "One Story"

The mythology, traditions and religions of ancient cultures the world over and across all time are based in singular astral objects and events observed by the earliest inhabitants of this planet. That’s the basis of what one comparative mythologist called “the One Story told around the world.”

This is a novel concept, but one that is central to deciphering almost all the mysteries from the past. It declares that the seemingly bizarre beliefs and traditions of widely divergent and isolated cultures in hoary antiquity all derived from a single source: our ancient heavens.

This notion stands in diametric opposition to the traditional, scientific view that the heavens have appeared constant for as long as Man trod this planet. Yet, when we turn to the records bequeathed us by our ancestors, we find they tell us a very different story—one that makes no sense in light of our present concepts.

What those primeval people saw defies all description. We see nothing remotely like it in our present skies. It was so overwhelming, so dramatic that its elements indelibly impressed themselves upon the human psyche. The mythologies, legends, traditions and religions it spawned still retain a vivid memory of things seen in ancient skies, though we fail to perceive them as such.

These myths, legends, traditions and religions are the repositories for the memories of cosmological pageants that played out over Earth’s skies for an extended period of time in the very earliest epoch of Mankind. They are an invaluable record, bequeathed us by our ancestors, each containing some elements of the One Story.

Each culture remembered the story of those events from a unique, proprietary perspective. Yet they all retain a remarkable coherence when seen as memories stemming from a common, astral origin. Moreover, they were modified and elaborated down through time in very different ways by widely divergent cultures, such that today, they are nearly unrecognizable as the same story. But they are.

For Latter-day Saints who wish to fully benefit from their scripture study, their temple experience and the teachings of Joseph Smith, this knowledge is vital. Because the Prophet sought to restore “all things as at first,” he included the data about Earth’s ancient cosmology in his teachings. If we lack this perspective, his teachings in this regard are meaningless to us. Without this knowledge, our efforts to grasp the teachings of Christ and the Prophets are greatly hampered.

In order to provide the interested reader with an overview of the events once seen to evolve in ancient skies, the following narrative and commentary have been created in an easy to understand, side-by-side format. The italicized text is a narrative describing the beliefs and traditions in the One Story. The normal text is an analytical commentary describing the events and conditions that obtained in order to create those beliefs and traditions.

Once upon a time in a Golden Age, this world was an idyllic place, very different than it is now. People hardly aged at all. They lived much longer than today. There was little or no disease.

Comparative mythology tells us that all ancient cultures have traditions of an idyllic era, a halcyon epoch at the beginning of human memory when life was tranquil and without hardship, pain or illness.

There were no temperature extremes, no rain, no snow, no wind and no weather, as we know it.

Earth’s meteorological environment was drastically different than now due to tremendous electromagnetic forces in play.

Food grew in abundance year round, with no need of cultivation or irrigation. The whole world was a garden.

This electromagnetically enhanced environment dramatically affected its flora and fauna. All life prospered, whether animal or vegetable.

There were no nations, governments or even tribes. Therefore, there were no wars, no battles, no contention and no strife.

The abundance humans enjoyed led to an absence of need and hardship. Competition for vital resources was unknown. It was a completely egalitarian society.

Not only was this Earth vastly different, so were the heavens. A motionless, golden sun that never set warmed the world. Thus, there was no darkness, no day-night cycle. Its light was softer and more diffuse than the brilliant sunlight we see today.

Cultures the world over worshipped this god/sun. Anthropologists consistently refer to early cultures as “sun worshippers,” which is true. But it was not the sun we see in our sky today. Surprisingly, the ancients report the “first, best sun” was the planet we know today as Saturn.

Though it produced a subdued light equivalent to our twilight, Saturn generated sufficient electromagnetic energy to illuminate and warm our world.

It appeared to hover, motionless, because Earth was positioned directly beneath Saturn’s southern pole. At the same time, Earth’s North Pole was oriented toward Saturn. Put simply, they shared a common axis of rotation. Thus, Saturn stood where Polaris, the North Star, stands today.

A Supreme or Universal Monarch, the same sun that lighted the world, ruled from the high heavens. He was the Creator King, the first light of creation, who created himself as well as all the cosmos.

This was the archetype for all earthly kings. Coronation rites reflected Saturn’s station and actions in the heavens. This is also the source of royal imagery in our scriptures.

This creator brought himself into being as he emerged from a pool or sea of churning water, foam or mud, seen hovering like a layer of clouds in the heavens. From that chaotic void, he emerged to begin his reign over this world and its heavens.

This was the event that all cultures, including the Hebrew, recalled as the creation. The cyclonic pool, called the “firmament” in the Old Testament, was the core vortex of a plasma column or “pinch” that enclosed several planets, positioned along the common axis of rotation between them.

This Great King, seated on his throne, was also the City, Temple or Kingdom of God. He presided over an age of natural abundance, longevity and cosmic harmony.

A variety of symbols were ascribed to Saturn, due to its position and size. It was not only anthropomorphosized as a king, it was also considered a city, a temple and a kingdom. Thus, it was so described in a multitude of variations on one archetype, a dominant orb in Earth’s ancient skies.

Also born in this fixed spot in the northern heavens were the Monarch’s first creations and companions. They appeared as the Warrior or Hero of Heaven and the Son of the King and as the Queen of Heaven. Together, they joined the Sovereign to form a Holy Trinity of ruling, celestial deity.

The first act of this creator god/planet was to bring two others into existence to accompany him. Both were planets that shared the same axis of rotation with Earth and Saturn. They were Mars and Venus, Mars standing closest to Earth.

Like Saturn, anthropomorphic characteristics were attributed to them because of their appearance and behavior. One was the female planet, and the other was the male planet—the yin and the yang. Together, they spawned a multitude of sacred images: the celestial city with a temple in the middle, a heavenly eye, a wheel, etc.

These two active, companion planets appeared to stand before Saturn as it emerged from what was characterized as the heavenly “waters” of creation.

All four planets shared a common axis of rotation and were “stacked” in the following order, from the “bottom” upward: Earth, Mars, Venus and Saturn. From a visual perspective on Earth, Mars appeared centered on Venus, and Venus appeared centered on Saturn. Thus, earthbound observers saw three nested planets in Earth’s northern skies.Earth’s inhabitants honored, worshipped and revered these celestial powers in all their phases and manifestations, and there were many.

The abode of the Three was fixed in the heavens, suspended on a marvelous column or pillar of light, the Cosmic Mountain or Celestial Tree of Life. This was also the Heavenly Street and Great River of Light. It was The Way to heaven. It was this Pillar of Light or Celestial Mountain that supported and sustained the Celestial City wherein dwelt the gods. Only the worthy could mount its heights to access high heaven.

But there was more … much more. There was also a polar, plasma column that appeared to connect heaven to Earth, resembling a great pillar of light, that embraced those three planets overhead and our planet beneath, illuminating our world day and night. From its magnificent crest, the planetary triumvirate dominated the earth and the heavens. To the Hebrews, it was Zion or Sinai; to the Greeks, it was Olympus, the abode of Zeus, Hera and all the Olympians.

The polar column was also visualized as the Celestial Tree, with roots in the earth and branches among the planets/stars/gods. It was also seen as the Great River of Light, Life or Abundance connecting heaven and earth and as a ladder/stairway/path to heaven, the only avenue to the gods’ abode, the Heavenly City.

The Queen of Heaven was the wife/daughter/consort of the Creator King. She was the Celestial Egg or the Womb or Heaven, who held within her the Holy Seed, the Son of God, to whom she would later give birth in a monumental event that stirred the imagination of ancient peoples everywhere. She was the Iris of God’s Eye; her unborn child was the Pupil of God’s Eye. She was the Mouth; he was the Opener of the mouth. Together, they were the dual Heart of Heaven, the Creator’s Heart.

Venus was the archetype of all female goddesses in antiquity, the prototype of every female character in religion and mythology.Because Mars was centered on Venus, various aspects were attributed to that planet. It was an iris to Mars’ pupil, forming an eye with Saturn. It was part of Saturn’s heart. It was an egg, with the unborn child within it. Mars completed the mouth formed by Venus on Saturn’s face.

Soon, she became the Star of Heaven, the dazzling Radiant Goddess. She burst into glory that eclipsed the Creator King. She was the light and power of the Heaven King, the animating force that illuminated and protected heaven or the Kingdom of God.

The entire world remembered the planet Venus as the “star” goddess. It was Astarte, Ishtar, Ashteroth, Aphrodite, Hathor and the Greek Venus. It was not only stunningly brilliant, the planet’s plasma discharge assumed a variety of shapes that came to dominate the iconography of all ancient cultures. These star icons still dominate the imagination of humankind today. The flags of nearly every nation carry Venus’ star image in one form or another.

The Warrior Hero was a powerful god, the son of the King and Queen of Heaven. Born of his mother, he left his exalted station to descend to the Earth. As he descended, he grew from a dwarf to a giant, and heaven erupted into chaos. He had become the Destroyer of Worlds. The earth and the heavens shook. The closer he approached, the worse things became and the more terrible he looked. In so descending, he became old, sickly and decrepit, becoming human-like and taking upon himself the evils of the world, thus redeeming mankind.

Mars was the archetype for most male gods of antiquity. That planet’s story is the stuff of a multitude of legends. Mars became the model for every legendary, cultural hero. It was powerful, yet strangely impotent at times. It could topple the heavens, but it could not control itself. It was the dwarf who became a giant, the prototypical shape shifter. It was the quixotic Hero that very nearly destroyed creation, yet it was also the god who restored the heavens to their former peace and glory. It was the youth that aged and then became a youth again.

Yet, this is only one take on a variety of misadventures of Mars in ancient skies.

After his descent to the Earth, the Warrior Hero returned to his home in heaven by climbing the Cosmic Mountain or Celestial Stairway to Heaven. As he ascended, the commotion and tumult diminished. He became the Prince of Peace as the heavens ceased their tumultuous roar and the incessant shaking of the earth died away.

As Mars receded from its close encounter with Earth, it appeared to grow smaller as it also appeared to ascend along the polar column toward Venus. As the distance between Earth and Mars increased, its harmful effect on our planet diminished.

He ascended once again to return to the Mother Goddess’ womb. As he did so, he became youthful once again or reborn. He had completed his given task and overcome many vicissitudes. The Hero entered Heaven only after great Gates of Light parted to admit him, whereupon he took his mother as his wife by coupling with her in the celestial city or garden.

This is the story of the polar column as told in conjunction with Mars’ odyssey. As such, its story became the genesis of heroic adventure tales in all ancient cultures.This version of the Mars saga is the core of the Oedipus legend. As risqué as it sounds to our Victorian ears, this was at the center of many cultural traditions, including illicit temple rites the world over.

In returning to the Center Place, the Warrior/Hero reinstated the Eye or Mouth of God, thus restoring Heaven to its former appearance, glory and splendor.

During Mars’ absence, the eye or mouth was no longer complete. With its return to the center place, the eye or mouth archetypes were reinstated. This is the source of Egyptian resurrection rituals called “The Opening of the Mouth or Eye,” and similar rites in other cultures.

All was well for a time. But one day, a fierce Chaos Monster arose from the Cosmic Mountain. Breathing fire and roaring across heaven, it menaced the Celestial City and the Gods as it writhed and struck out at heaven and earth. The Queen of Heaven became the disheveled Hag of Heaven, the Witch. All creation seemed doomed to destruction by the dragon who had grown many heads until the Warrior/Hero stepped forward to subdue the monster or beast. When he did, all things became tranquil again. Life was beautiful and all heaven was at peace.

On occasion, the denizens of this kingdom moved from their appointed places, changing their appearance and their behavior, menacing our Earth, unleashing chaos and catastrophe. At such times for example, the Cosmic Mountain transformed into a serpent/snake/beast called the Chaos Monster, writhing and fierce beyond comprehension in disordered heavens, striking fear and awe into Earth’s inhabitants.

During these periods of disorder, the formerly brilliant and spectacular Venus did a role reversal, taking on the appearance of a disheveled monster that raged across the skies.

At these times of chaos, Mars became a warrior, appearing to do battle with a monster, using great bolts of lightning to subdue the threatening beast, as in the Babylonian tradition of Marduk and Tiamat.

Then, things would settle down again for a time.

In the end, this Golden Age perished in the greatest upheaval the world had ever known. The monarch was thrown down, fled and vanished, along with his castle, city or kingdom. The mountain that sustained him vanished as well, along with the queen and the son—all went into the dark abyss. The remnants of their dismembered bodies were scattered across the sky to become the glittering star field we know today. But in the process, our world was nearly destroyed, and mankind with it, by a vast flood of epic proportions. Yet, some few survived to inherit a new world and a new sky—not as pleasant as the first, but survivable.

All the movement, appearance changes disruptions and dislocations of orbs in the ancient polar configuration of planets were the result of forces dismantling that grouping. When the final dissolution came, earthlings saw the gods and the mountain they lived on recede into distant space.

Once those brilliant planets and glowing plasma disappeared, the starry heavens could be seen for the first time.

The polar oceans, held in place as permanent tides, were released, flooding the Earth. Centrifugal force drove those waters to the equator, dividing continents and creating islands for the first time. This was the origin of flood traditions in all ancient cultures.

So, everyone lived happily ever after. The end. (Until it all starts over again.)

Humans adapted and thus survived, but at a terrible cost. Constant fear of destruction from the skies haunted all mankind. We adopted survival strategies that evolved into beliefs, institutions and practices taken for granted today.But the fear of astral destruction remains, buried deep in our subconscious. The fear of doomsday remains vivid in the human psyche, though unrecognized and largely unacknowledged. We struggle to suppress those fears, denying them by replacing them with ‘scientific’ theories that put us on a peaceful and largely uneventful planet for “billions and billions of years.”

Sounds a bit like a fairy tale, doesn’t it? That’s because all myths and legends began life as cultural traditions, reenacted in sacred rites, rituals, pageants and holidays designed to preserve those memories. This One Story is also the basis for all religious tradition. Parts of it were incorporated into our temples, telling us that Joseph Smith knew the One Story ... all of it ... by heart.

This overview may be a bit hard to accept for those new to these ideas. Yet, if given enough time to fully consider them and study them in relation to the restored gospel, anyone can see the simplicity and power of such concepts. They not only explain the system of traditions, myths and legends of all nations and cultures, they explain the iconic elements of our restored religion, instituted by a prophet who knew and understood all these things, judging by his many corroborating statements.

Restoring the true religion meant reinstating all the elements of the One Story. The evidence for this can be found in our temples and scriptures, where symbols, rituals and metaphors true to the many actors and elements of the One Story abound. They are the iconic and metaphorical trappings of our religion, restored in their fullness for our edification and enlightenment. This connects us to antiquity and our ancestors. It offers a basis for understanding the ineffable and the inexplicable. But most of all, it promises to expand our wisdom and our testimonies far beyond their present, narrow boundaries.

© Anthony E. Larson, 2009