The Circle and the Square – Notes from Temple and Cosmos

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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. The Circle and the Square was a very fascinating read. It talks about the idea of a “spark,” which goes out to fill the immensity of space.

The Circle and the Square

Surprisingly, since ancient times, only Joseph Smith has come up with any kind of a plot. When he faced the world he had nothing to go on, and everything against him; he couldn’t lose. He had something concrete to put up, while the rest of the world had none. They had the abstract, the moralistic, etc., but nothing in the way of the infinities, of the realities of the next world. Only Brother Joseph had something to offer.

That’s precisely what a temple does: it puts us into the picture of time and space. It’s a sort of sacred observatory, like the tabernacle or the camp of Israel, and at the same time a kind of planetarium, a model of the cosmos.

There are two kinds of temple architecture — the circle and the square. The earliest nine pyramids along the Nile were perfectly square.

All ancient temples rehearsed the story of the creation, and the establishment of mankind and the royal government of God upon this earth. Then they moved into the heavenly sphere and the theology associated with the worlds beyond.

The order and stability of a foundation are achieved through the operation of a “spark.” The spark is sometimes defined as “a small idea.” This is interesting, because it reminds us of the contemporary anthropic idea. “That comes forth from God and makes all the difference between what lives and what does not.” This spark must go from world to world, and wherever it goes, it sets up a new center; this center in turn goes out and sets up other new centers.

“Matter without light is inert and helpless,” says the Pistis Sophia. “It is the first light which reproduces the pattern of the heavenly model, wherever it touches”; “when the rays from the worlds of light stream down to the earthly world, for awakening mortals.” Sometimes the column of light joins heaven to earth, as in our Facsimile No. 2 (a very important principle), even as the divine plan is communicated to distant worlds by a spark. According to Carl Schmidt, it is the dynamics of light from one world that animates another. “God’s assistants, the faithful servants of Melchizedek, rescue and preserve the light particles, lest any be lost in space.” The spark is also called “the drop”; the Egyptians call it the prt (“drop”). It is the divine drop of light that man brought forth with him from above, the spark that reactivates bodies that have become inert by the loss of former light. It’s like a tiny bit of God himself. Christ calls upon the Father to send light to the apostles.

With its “planting” completed, a new world is in business. A new treasury has been established from which new sparks may go forth in all directions to start the process anew in ever new spaces; God wants every man to “plant a planting,” nay, he has promised that those who keep his law may also become creators of worlds. Thus you can say there is indeed but one God who fills the immensity of space, yet we are in the act too, as potential creators of worlds

Time and place are always coordinated. After all, if you are going to have a universal meeting of people scattered all over the realm, what do you do? You appoint a particular place for them to come to. But if they are to assemble, they must come at a particular time, in a face-to-face meeting. That’s the function of the great assembly at the New Year, the best time, because there’s no planting or reaping going on. But most dramatically, it’s when the sun reaches its lowest point and must be renewed. And we must all participate in the revival of a new year, and a new age, in bringing things to life again, and make our new oaths and covenants for a new time.

The chief difference between the man of the archaic and traditional societies and the man of modern societies [with reference to the place he assumes in the cosmos] with their strong imprint of Judaeo-Christianity lies in the fact that the former feels himself indissolutely connected with the Cosmos and the cosmic rhythms, whereas the latter insists that he is connected only with History.

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