I am reading Temple and Cosmos, which is Volume 12 of the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley. The book is a collection of essays that focus on the temple work being performed in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. There are numerous insights into temple work and I have been highlighting many passages. Because of the number of highlights and notes I have, I will be splitting the notes by individual essay. I believe this will help the notes stand on their own, as each essay is self-contained.
Temple and Cosmos consist of the following essays (links are to my notes):
- The Meaning of the Temple
- Return to the Temple
- Sacred Vestments
- The Circle and the Square
- The Expanding Gospel
- Rediscovery of the Apocrypha and the Book of Mormon
- Apocryphal Writings and Teachings of the Dead Sea Scrolls
- The Terrible Questions
- One Eternal Round: The Hermetic Vision
- Do Religion and History Conflict?
- Genesis of the Written Word
- Science Fiction and the Gospel
- The Best Possible Test
- Some Notes on Cultural Diversity in the Universal Church
- From the Earth upon Which Thou Standest
- Foreword to Eugene England’s Book
All of these notes are direct quotes from the book.
Return to the Temple
Granted that many Jews want to rebuild the temple, and many Christians would apply the word freely and quite incorrectly to their church buildings, still the question remains: Once you have a structure, a temple, unique and strikingly different from synagogue and church, what do you do in it that makes it different? Here we can take the Bible for our guide. Certain well-known rites, ordinances, and fixtures can be easily copied. In temples and mysteries throughout the ancient world we find washing and anointing — types of ritual purification and healing — a special garment, prayer circles, veils, etc. But these are mere fixtures and properties. The ancient Roman word for rites to be visibly performed (whose Greek equivalent is drama, “actions carried out”) is the action.
This temple was to be in three levels, in three concentric squares or in three cubes, as Frank Cross sees it, the taḇnîṯ being “a model of the cosmic Tabernacle of Yahweh.” Joseph Smith takes it back to “the three principal rounds of Jacob’s ladder — the telestial, the terrestrial, and the celestial glories or kingdoms,” the highest level being an assembly hall facing a veil that ran from one side of the room to the other. According to Cross, the place behind the veil was reached by workers who would ascend a winding staircase in a tower or “house of the winding stair,” which stood ten feet free of the building and was connected with the top story by a little bridge. In the Holy Place, for the priesthood, was the table of the “presence-bread”
In a very old Manichaean manuscript recently discovered we read, “These five things [ordinances] about which you asked me,” says the Lord, addressing the apostles after the resurrection, “appear to the world to be small and foolish things, and yet they are great and honorable or exalted (eutaiait). I am he who will reveal to you its ordinances [mysteries]. These five tokens are the mystery of the first man Adam.”
Anyone approaching the holy enclosure must identify himself in three steps — the admission of initiates is the central theme of the Manual of Discipline.
Satan disobeyed orders when he revealed certain secrets to Adam and Eve, not because they were not known and done in other worlds, but because he was not authorized in that time and place to convey them.
Where did the creation begin? The answer for the Jews was in the temple: “The first thing which emerged from the primordial waters was the temple,” from which point creation spread in all directions, specifically this earthly creation, for the temple was actually transplanted from a preexistent world created long before. The ancient temple drama begins with the council in heaven when the creation is being planned.
There is an instructive parallel between the loss of the First Temple and the Second Temple by the Jews, and the loss of the Kirtland and Nauvoo temples. In every case, it was for the same reason — the covetousness of the people. The temple doesn’t need to be protected; it doesn’t need security, since it is the only security. The positive side of the injunction to live up to every covenant made is that it will absolutely guarantee prosperity — the law of consecration being the most difficult of the tests. We have been repeatedly assured that if the Saints observe that law, they will never suffer by privation or persecution.
“The first man brought the five ordinances with him when he came out of the aeon of light,” says a newly discovered Mandaean manuscript; and “having completed his testing [agōn] he ascended again with these good tokens and was received into the aeons of light.”
A study of the earliest Jewish shrines and monuments has pointed out the importance of the veil and its identity with the mantle worn by the high priest. It is at one and the same time the veil that hangs between the worlds (his “curtains are stretched out still” [Moses 7:30]), bearing on it the cosmic marks of the compass, the square, the omphalos or universal center, and the eḇen shδtiyyāh or solid earth on which a man kneels to praise God. In the temple these marks are clearly shown in the Astana examples (Taoist-Buddhist-Nestorian veils from the sixth to seventh centuries A.D.; cf. fig. 28, pp. 114-15). It is, according to the Talmud, at the veil that information is exchanged between the worlds.
The mysteries of the marriage covenant, according to the Gospel of Philip, are hidden in types and images behind the veil.
One of the most remarkable of these is 2 Jeu. It tells how one approaches through the stages, passwords, and mysteries in a process which alone qualifies one to return to the Father. These ordinances cannot be obtained until one first receives baptism. “There are three stages to be passed through and at each one a password or name is required.” “There is a series of veils that are drawn before the great king…
There Christ checks to make sure that everything has been done correctly; he questions everyone at the veil personally…
…This whole thing, says one of the most recent and thorough students of the subject, “introduces us into a world of the most mystifying speculation: the Temple is here considered as a person and the veil of the temple as a garment that is worn, as a personification of the sanctuary itself.”
The supreme test was, in ancient as in modern times, an economic one. Every Israelite made his token sacrifice at the temple once a year, but at the same time he brought his basket, and consecrated all his property. The bulk of the old law is taken up with the economic obligations of the individual. The beginning and ending of the law is not legalism or ritualism but grace and truth; the whole teaching of the law is to be fair, compassionate, magnanimous, with heavy emphasis on equality. The first two commandments tell it all: If you really love God and your neighbor, there is no need to be commanded not to steal or lie, or do any contemptible thing.
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