Joseph Smith and Kabbalah: The Occult Connection
by Lance S. Owens
Notes and Captions
CAPTIONS TO THE ILLUSTRATIONS
A Kabbalist contemplates the "tree"
of the ten Sefiroth, the Kabbalistic Tree of Life. One of
the first printed illustrations of the Sefiroth in this
form, it appeared on the title page from a Latin translation of a
Kabbalistic work by J. Gikatilla. Paulus Ricius, Portae Lucis
The sacred "Tree of Sefiroth",
superimposed upon the Adam Kadmon (as drawn by the early
twentieth century student of occultism, A. E. Waite in The
Holy Kabbalah.) At the top of the tree is Kether, "the
Crown", the first form of God. Below are Hokhmah and Binah,
the supernal Masculine and Feminine image of the the Divine. From
these pfotencies emanated the other Sefirah, the vessels
of Divine manifestation.
The world within the complexio oppositorum,
a creative embrace of masculine and feminine natures, here
accompanied by their symbolic counterparts, the Sun and Moon.
These symbols combined upon facade of the Nauvoo temple embodied
in sacred architecture a vision of Divinity unique to Hermetism,
Rosicrucianism and alchemy. From a seventeenth century alchemical
work. Herbrandt Jamsthaler, Viatorium spagyricum (Frankfurt,
Hermes Trismegistus (identified by his traditional
priestly robes and head-dressing) indicates the twin principles,
allegorically represented by Sun and Moon, conjoined in the
divine fire of the complexio oppositorum. In his
right hand he holds an armillary, indicative of the celestial
agencies indispensable to this mysterious, transformative and
creative union. Michael Maier, Symbola aureae mensae
The allegorical beehive (far right) is juxtaposed
with the alchemical oven (left), within which the transmutation
of matter into the "stone of the philosopher's" takes
place. The "false alchemists" (in the center) who
misunderstand the Divine nature of this work and seek only vulgar
gold, are compared to the useless drones of the hive. From an
alchemical work published at the height of the Rosicrucian
enlightenment. Michael Maier, Examen fucorum (Frankfurt:
Nicholas Hoffman for Theodor de Bry, 1617).
The All-Seeing Eye of God as it appears on the title
page of Robert Fludd's 1621 treatise on theosophy and Kabbalah.
The words ascending from the prophet, "In alarum tuarum
umbra canam" are a direct reference to a theme in the
Rosicrucian Fama Fraternitatis, "Under the
shadow of thy wings will I rejoice" (Ps 63:7). Robert Fludd,
Utriusque Cosmi Maioris... Tomi Secundi
Tractatus Secundus (Frankfurt: Johann Theodore de Bry, 1621)
"The Seal of the Priesthood" consists of a
phrygian cap or crown over the All-Seeing Eye of God; the private
seal of the Twelve Apostles is composed of this same emblem
surrounded by sixteen letters, an abbreviation for "Private
Seal of the Twelve Apostles, Priests of the Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter Day Saints, in the Last Dispensation All Over
the World." The seal was apparently first engraven in Nauvoo
under the guidance of John Taylor and Brigham Young in January of
1845. (Dean C. Jesse, ed., "Nauvoo Dairy of John
Taylor", BYU Studies 23 [Summer 1983]: 34.) It
subsequently appeared on the first gold coins minted in Utah in
1849 and 1850, as illustrated here. This same relatively rare
symbol is found in a superior positon on the title page of the
1682 edition of Jacob Boehme's collected "Theosophical
Works" published at Amsterdam, a book important to German
Pietist, strongly influenced by Rosicrucianism and by Boehme's
kabbalistically toned writings, who immigrating to Pennsylvania
during the eighteenth century. Jacob Böhme, Theosophishe
Wercken (Amsterdam, 1682).
Mormon Apostle and theologian Orson Pratt chose this
unusual emblem (B) -- the All-Seeing Eye within a heart -- for the banner
head of his paper, The Seer, published at
Washington D.C. in 1853-4. The figure is a near-exact replication
of a Rosicrucian emblem (A) from Daniel Cramer's Latin work, The
True Society of Jesus and the Rosy Cross, published at
Frankfurt in 1617. This small work contained forty allegorical
engravings developing Rosicrucian themes, each associated with a
scriptural verse and a motto. To this emblem was associated the
verse "In thy light shall we see light" (Psalm 36:9),
and the motto, "I see the light in your light, let darkness
be far away. He is wise who gains wisdom from the book of the
Lord." (Daniel Cramer, Iesu et Roseæ Crucis Vera:
Decades quatuor emblematum sacrorum... (Frankfurt, 1617),
reproduced in, The Rosicrucian Emblems of Daniel Cramer (Grand
Rapids, MI: Phanes Press, 1991), 29.) The image of the Eye within
the Heart again appeared in the 1682 edition of Jacob Boehme's
collected works. (Frontispiece to Von Christi Testamenten, in
Jacob Böhme, Theosophishe Wercken [Amsterdam, 1682].)
The alchemical King and Queen, Rex and Regina,
standing upon the dual eternal principals represented by sun and
moon, join in the holy wedding, the hierosgamos. The image
of this eternal, transformative union was perhaps mirrored in
Joseph Smith's ritual of celestial marraige. Trismosin,
"Splenor solis" (MS., 1582)
The 1650 edition of a thirteenth century alchemical
work by Albertus Magnus contains one of the earliest allegorical
representations of the key symbols later subsumed by both Masonry
and Mormonism: the compass and square. Christ as Adam Kadmon
appears within a sphere of light and dark, marked with the
ubiquitous sun and moon, suggesting the complexio oppositorum
manifest in creation. Within his body are encircled the four
primal elements: fire, air, water, and earth. In the four corners
of the madala are placed symbols of the divine work: the compass,
the square and ruler, the scale of justice, and (perhaps) the
vessel of chrism--an anointing oil of mercy balanced against the
scale of justice. At the top appear the ten sacred numbers
(represented also by the ten Sefiroth of Kabbalah) by
which creation was mediated. Albertus Magnus, Philosophia
naturalis (Basel, 1650).
The prophet being anointed by Elijah, as imaged in
a 1619 work by the Rosicrucian and Christian Kabbalist, Robert
Fludd. Fludd explained: "The gift of prophecy can come
directly from God, or else indirectly, through the ministration
of [spirits]. Examples are to be found in many biblical figures,
and also in those of Antiquity, such as Mercurius [Hermes]
Trismegistus.... Just as the Sun shines perpetually on all men,
so God incessantly offers his pearls of wisdom, and those who
receive them become prophets. Robert Fludd, Utriusque Cosmi
Maioris... Tomi Secundi Tractatus primi (Frankfurt:
Johann Theodore de Bry, 1619), 3-11.
The Kabbalistic "Tree of Life" from
Fludd's 1621 Rosicrucian work, and the "Kingdom of God"
as drawn by Orson Hyde in an 1847 number of the Millennial
Star. The crown represents Kether (which means in
Hebrew "crown"), the first emanation of Divinity.
Paul M. Edwards, "The Irony of Mormon History", in George
D. Smith, ed., Faithful History (Salt Lake City: Signature
Books, 1992), 26.
Harold Bloom, The American Religion: The Emergence of the Post-Christian
Nation (New York: Simon & Shuster, 1992), 99, 105.
Moshe Idel, Kabbalah: New Perspectives (New Haven, CT:
Yale University Press, 1988), 260.
Gershom Scholem, Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism (New
York: Schocken Books, 1974), 21.
For a discussion of the antiquity of Kabbalah and Kabbalistic
myth, also see Yehuda Liebes, Studies in Jewish Myth and Jewish
Messianism (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1993), 65-92.
G. Scholem, On the Kabbalah and Its Symbolism (New York:
Schocken Books, 1965), 97; Scholem, Major Trends, 75.
For example, see David J. Halperin, The Faces of the Chariot:
Early Jewish Responses to Ezekiel's Vision (Tübingen:
J. C. Mohr, 1988); Peter Schafer, Gershom Scholem Reconsidered:
The Aim and Purpose of Early Jewish Mysticism, the Twelfth Sacks
Lecture Delivered on 29th May 1985 (Oxford, Eng.: Oxford Centre
for Postgraduate Hebrew Studies, 1986), 3; David Flusser, "Scholem's
Recent Book on Merkabah Literature," Journal of Jewish
Studies 11 (1960): 65; Ithamar Gruenwald, "Jewish Merkavah
Mysticism and Gnosticism," in Studies in Jewish Mysticism,
eds. Joseph Dan and Frank Talmage (Cambridge, MA: Association
for Jewish Studies, 1982), 41-55. Dan Merkur reviews these objections
in Gnosis: An Esoteric Tradition of Mystical Visions and Unions
(Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1993), 155-80.
C. G. Jung, Psychological Types (Princeton, NJ: Princeton
University Press, 1971), 242.
For a recent summary of these approaches, see Merkur's chapter
"Defining Gnosis," 111-16. Couliano provides a variant
but equally insightful view, emphasizing the theory of independent
reoccurrence in Ioan Couliano, The Tree of Gnosis: Gnostic
Mythology from Early Christianity to Modern Nihilism (San
Francisco: Harper, 1990), 23-63; also see Stephan Hoeller, "What
is a Gnostic?" Gnosis: A Journal of Western Inner Traditions
23 (Spring 1992): 24-27.
Three traditions historically linked to the Gnostic milieu of
antiquity are often listed as agents of this transmission: Kabbalah,
Hermetism, and Alchemy.
Underpinning this declaration is an assertion that men can have
experiences--call them intuitions or visions--that carry revelatory
power and the savor of divine origin. It was the topography of
this experience that the Kabbalist sought to explore, and perhaps
to map. See Idel, Kabballah, 29.
Idel, Kabbalah, 59-73.
Moshe Idel, ed., Studies in Ecstatic Kabbalah (Albany,
NY: SUNY Press, 1988), 1-31.
Scholem, On the Kabbalah, 94; see also Scholem, Major
See Scholem, On the Kabbalah, 155. Moshe Idel discusses
the sexual polarity of divine qualities in Jewish mystical tradition.
Most striking of such evidence is the image of the cherubim that
adorned the Arc of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies in the Temple
of Solomon. In talmudic tradition the cherubim were male and female
and were sometimes found in sexual embrace (see G. Scholem, Kabbalah
[New York: Dorset Press, 1987], 130). The Talmud states, "When
the Israelites came up on the pilgram Festivals the curtain would
be removed for them and the cherubim shown to them, their bodies
interlocked with one another, and they would say to them, `Look,
you are beloved of God as the love between man and woman'"
(Yoma 54a, Bababatra 99a). For a detailed discussion of the symbolic
history of the cherubim and this sexual image, see Raphael Patai,
The Hebrew Goddess, 3d ed. (Detroit: Wayne State University
Press, 1990), 67-95.
Scholem, On the Kabbalah, 103-104. Each Hebrew letter has
a numerical value; words carry the value of the sum of their letters.
These numerical sums are used in Kabbalah to extract various relationship
and occult meanings from biblical texts, a practice called gematria.
The numerical value of the Tetragrammaton (the name of God composed
of the four letters, Yod he vav he, and read as Yahweh
or Jehovah) is 45, exactly the same value carried by the name
Adam; thus "Jehovah" = "Adam."
Scholem, Kabbalah, 190.
Frances A. Yates, The Occult Philosophy in the Elizabethan
Age (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1979), 3-4.
Though Kabbalah entered into the Christian consciousness mostly
by passive transmission and assimilation, this was not always
so. Abraham Abulafia, a seminal thirteenth-century Kabbalist,
considered himself a prophet sent to Jew and gentile. This belief
led him--despite warnings he would be burned at the stake--to
Rome in 1280 on an ill-fated quest for audience with Pope Nicholas
III, an adventure from which he escaped alive only by the good
fortune of the Pope's sudden death. (Idel, The Mystical Experience
in Abraham Abulafia, 3). From the end of the thirteenth century,
a number of Jewish converts to Christianity also brought with
them into the gentile fold a knowledge of Kabbalah and christological
speculations on Kabbalistic texts (Scholem, Kabbalah, 197).
The works of Catalan philosopher and Christian mystic Raymond
Lull (1232-ca. 1316) witness that elements of Kabbalah began penetrating
Christian thought as early as 1300. Lull exhibits the influence
of several Kabbalistic concepts on his quest to develop a universal
system of science and religion--a philosophy he hoped would reconcile
religious conflicts among Jews, Moslems, and Christians (Yates,
The Occult Philosophy, 17-22).
Walter Scott, ed., Hermetica (Boston: Shambhala, 1993),
31-2. Through patristic sources the name Hermes Trismegistos was
well known in the Middle Ages; Roger Bacon called him "Father
of Philosophers." The meaning of "Thrice-Great"
was variously explained. Marcilio Ficino suggests it refers to
his triple capacity of priest, philosopher, and king, a divine
triad that recurs in various manifestations throughout the Hermetic-Kabbalistic
tradition (including perhaps the 1844 coronation of the Joseph
Smith). See Frances A. Yates, Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic
Tradition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1964), 48-49.
In 1614 Isaac Casaubon correctly dated the works to the early
Christian centuries. This, however, did not entirely or quickly
penetrate into the more devoted Hermetic circles. See Yates, Giordano
Bruno, 16, 398-431.
Corpus Hermeticum I, Poimandres, 21 (this translation in Yates,
Giordano Bruno, 25).
Corpus Hermeticum XIII (Yates, 29).
Yates, The Occult Philosophy, 17-22. Yates provides an
earlier and more tentative evaluation, but with great detail,
in Giordano Bruno, 84-129. Scholem gives a summary, from
the view of Jewish Kabbalah, in Kabbalah, 196-203.
Scholem, Kabbalah, 197.
Yates, Giordano Bruno, 86.
See ibid., 85.
Yates, Occult Philosophy, 14.
The Tabula smaragdina or "Emerald Tablet" was
supposedly engraved by Trismegistos himself with the essence of
all truth. Its content was known to medieval scholars, and this,
its central dictum, is often repeated in Hermetic writings from
the Renaissance on. As with other Hermetic texts, the Tabula
smaragdina probably dates to the first or second century C.E.
Robert Fludd, Utriusque Cosmi Maioris . . . (Oppenheim:
Johann Theodore de Bry, 1617), sec. a, 145, translation in Joscelyn
Godwin, Robert Fludd: Hermetic Philosopher and Surveyor of
Two Worlds (London: Thames and Hudson, 1979), 14.
In Joseph Smith's translation of the Book of Genesis, begun in
1831, one finds a clear parallel. Smith gives this new reading
for Genesis 2:5-9: "For I the Lord God, created all things
of which I have spoken, spiritually, before they were naturally
upon the face of the earth . . . for in heaven created I them,
and there was not yet flesh upon the earth . . . . all things
were before created, but spiritually were they created and made,
according to my word." In Genesis 6:66 he continues the idea,
"And behold, all things have their likeness . . . . both
things which are temporal and things which are spiritual; things
which are in the heavens above, and things which are on the earth...both
above and beneath, all things bear record of me." (Joseph
Smith's "New Translation" of the Bible, [Independence,
MO: Herald Publishing House, 1970], 30.) Brigham Young developed
the idea: "We cannot talk about spiritual things without
connecting with them temporal things, neither can we talk about
temporal things without connecting spiritual things with them.
They are inseparably connected...." Leonard Arrington emphasized
the importance of this concept for an understanding of early Mormonism's
evolution: "Joseph Smith and other early Mormon leaders seem
to have seen every part of life, and every problem put to them,
as part of an integrated universe in which materialities and immaterialities
were of equal standing, or indistinguishable, in God's kingdom.
Religion was relevant to economics, politics, art, and science."
(Leonard Arringtion, Great Basin Kingdom: Economic History
of the Latter-Day Saints [Cambridge: Harvard University Press,
1958; reprinted Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press], 5-6.)
It is a view closely parallel by the Hermetic tradition.
The Latin terms used were sciencia, intellectus and mens.
See Peter French, John Dee: The World of an Elizabethan Magus
(New York: Dorset Press, 1972), 19.
Yates, Giordano Bruno, 88.
See Moshe Idel, "Jewish Magic from the Renaissance Period
to Early Hasidism," in Jacob Neusner, ed., Religion, Science
and Magic in Concert and in Conflict (New York: Oxford University
Press, 1989), 83.
The legacy of this strange vision, itself transmuted, was a foundation
of the science leading our own age to summon from a metamorphosis
of mathematical symbols the dread dream of nuclear fire.
Yates, Occult Philosophy, 46.
Stanislas Klossowski de Rola, Alchemy: The Secret Art (London:
Thames and Hudson, 1973), 7.
Although a few authors (the most notable being C. G. Jung) have
seen alchemy as a direct offspring of classical Gnosticism, this
is problematic. For a critique of this view and a summary of Gnostic
elements in alchemy, see Merkur, 37-110.
The works of Magnus remained important to seventeenth-century
alchemical scholars, as evidenced by the inclusion of two of his
works in the influential compendium Theatrum Chemicum,
vol. 2 (Usel, 1602), xxii, and vol. 4 (Strasbourg, 1613), xxxvii;
another of his alchemical works was published as late as 1650:
Albertus Magnus, Philosophia naturalis (Basel, 1650). (See
figure 9.) Several alchemical treatises were attributed to Aquinas.
Though probably all pseudoepigraphic, the Aurora Consurgens
does date to a time close to his death in 1274 and could have
been by his hand (as von Franz believes) or from the school surrounding
him. Marie-Louise von Franz, Aurora Consurgens: A Document
Attributed to Thomas Aquinas on the Problem of Opposites in Alchemy
(New York: Princeton University Press, Bollingen Series LXXVII,
Richard S. Westfall, The Life of Isaac Newton, (New York:
Cambridge University Press, 1993), 141-6. Frank E. Manuel, A
Portrait of Isaac Newton (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University
Press, 1968), 160-90. A summary, with references, on the alchemical
studies of Locke and Newton appears in, Quinn, Early Mormonism
and the Magic World View, 10. Yates suggests, "Behind
the great exoteric movement typified by Newton's achievements
in the fields of mathematics and physics, there was also an esoteric
movement, connected with the exoteric movement through the importance
which it attached to number, but developing this through another
approach to nature, the approach through alchemy" (Rosicrucian
Edward F. Edinger, Goethe's Faust: Notes for a Jungian Commentary
(Toronto: Inner City Books, 1990), 9.
C. G. Jung, Alchemical Studies (Princeton, NJ: Princeton
University Press, 1967), 140. The concept of matter as uncreated
caused considerable tension during the early Christian centuries,
the period of alchemy's earliest evolution. Augustine attributed
the idea to the Manichaeans (De Actis cum Felice, 1:18)
and specifically attacked the concept of co-eternal matter and
spirit expressed by Simon (Contra Faustum, XXI, 1, in Willis
Barnstone, ed., The Other Bible: Jewish Pseudepigrapha, Christian
Apocrypha, Gnostic Scripture [San Francisco: Harper &
Row, 1987], 680). That a figure named "Faust" would
subsequently emerge as the archetypal literary image of the alchemist
is a complex and interesting historical side note to Augustine's
comments. Hippolytus attacked this same heresy expressed by the
Gnostic Hermogenes (a name meaning "born of Hermes"):
"God created all things from coexistent and ungenerated matter"
(Refutation of All Heresies, 7:10, 10:24). The concept
of the increatum as the mother of all created things is fully
developed in later alchemy, particularly in the work of Paracelsus;
for a discussion, see C. G. Jung, Psychology and Alchemy,
2d ed. (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1968), 320-23.
That the stone was the "pearl of great price" is evidenced
by the early sixteenth-century Aldine edition of a treatise by
Giano Luciano, The New Pearl of Great Price: A Treatise Concerning
the Treasure and Most Precious Stone of the Philosophers . . .
, trans. A. E. Waite (London, 1894). I know of no association
between this metaphor and the Mormon Pearl of Great Price,
first published in London in 1852.
In alchemy, the stone was the "orphan"; the term "son
of the widow," now associated with Masonry, may be of Manichaean
origin. For an evaluation of this theme in alchemy, see Jung,
Mysterium Coniunctionis, 17 ff.
The best recent scholarly summary of the Rosicrucian movement
is in Francis Yates, The Rosicrucian Enlightenment (London:
Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1972). Still useful, though dated,
is Arthur Edward Waite's The Real History of the Rosicrucians
(London: George Redway, 1887). In these comments I rely heavily
on Yates and her analysis of the movement, but I emphasize that
all scholarship on this realm of history--including the work of
Yates--involves conjecture and interpretation.
Yates, The Rosicrucian Enlightenment, 42.
All quotations above from the Fama are from the English
translation of the manifestos published by Thomas Vaughn in 1652,
as corrected and presented by Yates in her appendix to The
Rosicrucian Enlightenment, 238-51. The texts of the original
Vaughn translations, as well as the 1690 Foxcroft translation
of the Chymical Wedding which Yates omits, appear in Waite.
See Yates, The Rosicrucian Enlightenment, 49.
Yates, The Rosicrucian Enlightenment, 45. The full title,
as given by Vaughn, is Confessio Fraternitatis or The Confession
of the Laudable Fraternity of the Most Honorable Order of the
Rosy Cross, Written to All the Learned of Europe, in Yates,
- Confessio Fraternitatis, in Yates, The Rosicrucian Enlightenment,
This text is from the first English translation, The Hermetic
Romance: or The Chymical Wedding, trans. E. Foxcrort (London,
1690), reprinted in Waite, 101.
So proclaimed the Fama, "...for Europe is with child
and will bring forth a strong child, who shall stand in need of
a great godfather's gift."
Christian Knorr von Rosenroth (d. 1689) traveled widely throughout
Europe. Having been greatly impressed by the writings of Jacob
Boehme, he later influenced the Cambridge philosopher Henry More,
the Rosicrucian mystic Franciscus Mercurius Van Helmont, and the
philosopher Leibnitz. During his last two decades, his role as
a senior official and close adviser to Prince Christian August
in Sulzbach, Bavaria, gave him prominence in broader cultural
and political circles as well. His Kabbalah Denudata, The Kabbalah
Unveiled, or The Transcendental, Metaphysical, and Theological
Teachings of the Jews was published in Sulzbach in two large
volumes, 1677-84. Scholem, Kabbalah, 416-18. A complete
English translation of this important work has yet to be accomplished,
but an excerpt appeared in S. L. McGregor Mather, The Kabbalah
Unveiled (London, 1887).
Yates, The Rosicrucian Enlightenment, 200-202.
This was in line with the declared Rosicrucian program: "Also
we do testify that under the name of Chymia many books and pictures
are set forth in Contumeliam gloriae Die. . . . And we pray all
learned men to take heed of these kind of books" (Fama
Fraternitatis, in Yates, The Rosicrucian Enlightenment,
250). The Confessio explains further that the books are
"so we may verily foreknow and foresee the darkness of obscurations
of the Church, and how long they shall last. From the which characters
of letters we have borrowed our magic writing, and have found
out, and made, a new language for ourselves, in the which withall
is expressed and declared the nature of all things. . . . We speak
unto you by parables, but would willingly bring you to the right,
simple, easy and ingenuous exposition, understanding, declaration
and knowledge of all secrets" (Confessio Fraternitatis,
in Yates, The Rosicrucian Enlightenment, 257, 259). A detailed
survey of the evolution of this hieroglyphic tradition during
the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, along with reproductions
of its principal works, appears in Stanislas Klossowski de Rola,
The Golden Game: Alchemical Engravings of the Seventeenth Century
(New York: George Braziller, 1988). A large collection of alchemical
engravings and pictures, along with a complex historical and psychological
critique, is found in C. G. Jung's Psychology and Alchemy
(Princetion, NJ: Princetion University Press, 1968).
See Confessio Fraternitatis, in Yates, The Rosicrucian
Writes Elias Ashmole, "And certainly he to whom the whole
course of Nature lyes open rejoyceth not so much that he can make
Gold or Silver or the Divells [devils] to become subject to him,
as that hee sees the Heavens open, the Angells of God Ascending
and Descending, and that his own name is fairely written in the
Book of Life" ("Prolegomenia," in Theatrum Chemicum
Bitannicum [London, 1652]).
A symbol's "meaning" is perpetually open to interpretation,
but in this particular case there is strong historical precedent
for assuming a deeper allegorical text. This exact metaphor of
the honey bee as the alchemist and the hive as the alchemical
retort is presented on the title page of Michael Maier's Examen
fucorum (Frankfurt: Nicholas Hoffman for Theodor de Bry, 1617),
facsimile in Klossowski de Rola, The Golden Game, 65. (See
Fig. 5.) The bee and beehive seems to have
entered the symbolic vocabulary of the sixteenth and seventeenth
centuries through a rediscovered and influential work of the third
century Neoplatonist Porphyry, De Antro Nympharum (On
the Cave of the Nymphs). In this short essay, Porphyry examined
several verses from the thirteenth book of Homer's Odyssey
and showed how they were to be interpreted as an allegory of the
immortal soul's passage through mortality and on to liberation.
The bees and hive are among the objects encountered in this "cave
of generation." As Kathleen Raine notes in her introduction
to Thomas Taylor's translation of the work, "Porphyry's interests
in symbols and myths is central--in what Henry Corbin has called
the mundus imaginalis, the imaginal world where sensible images
are informed with meaning, and where higher worlds may be discerned
under symbolic forms. . . . With the revival of Neoplatonic learning
in Renaissance Florence, De Antro Nympharum spoke immediately
to the imaginative genius of those gifted painters whose works
communicated the profoundest philosophic realizations in the lightest
vestures" ("Introduction" in, Porphyry, On the
Cave of the Nymphs [Grand Rapids: Phanes Press, 1991], 10,
13.) It is this same intent to convey an understanding of "higher
worlds" through symbolic forms that subsequently animated
the seventeenth-century genre of "hieroglyphic" alchemical
emblems; and it is only natural that they would pay homage by
echoing imagery from De Antro Nypharum. Porphyry associated Homer's
Cave of the Nymphs with the cave-temples of an ancient mystery
religion and gave a long discussion to the symbolic, allegorical
meanings of the bees and honey combs found there. The web and
beehive were subsequently linked together in emblems identifying
the royal patron of the Rosicrucian enlightenment, Fredrick V,
Elector Palatine and King of Bohemia (this linkage helps identify
their joint origin in Porphyry, a fact I have not seen
elsewhere noted). Fredrick's reign became the focal point of reformative
aspirations, and under his patronage in Oppenheim several of the
most influential emblematic "Rosicrucian" books were
published. These included works published by the de Bry firm and
several authored by Michael Maier (Examen fucorum, noted
above, is an example--on the title page Maier identifies himself
"Count Palatine, Free Knight of the Empire, Doctor of Medicine").
The Rose Cross, spider's web, and beehive are again linked on
the title page of Robert Fludd's and Joachim Frizius's collaboration,
Summum bonum, The True Magic, Cabla, and Alchemy of the True
Fraternity of the Rose Cross (Frankfurt, 1629) (Yates, The
Rosicrucian Enlightenment, 72, 102). The symbol of the beehive
subsequently entered into Freemasonry as one of the ten emblems
(including the "All-seeing Eye") given to a Master Mason
at the time of his ceremonial initiation; in Masonry it was associated
with the motto "industry" (Jabez Richardson, Richardson's
Monitor of Free-Masonry [facsimile reprint, Chicago: Charles
T. Powner, Co., n.d.], 40). Nearly every priesthood leader of
Joseph Smith's church present in Nauvoo was "given"
these two symbolic emblems when entered as Master Masons (see
discussion below). In a bizarre historical twist, after the failure
of the reign of Fredrick V, the next political kingdom to which
this symbol would be widely linked was Brigham Young's Kingdom
of Deseret. The beehive and the motto "Industry" remain
today the emblem and motto of its successor, the State of Utah.
Upon a dwindling remnant of Utah's nineteenth century Mormon facades
these symbols still remain. See Allen D. Roberts, "Where
are the All-Seeing Eyes?" Sunstone 4 (May-June 1979):
Jung gives extended discussion and documentation to each of these
specific themes in Mysterium Coniunctionis.
Yates touches some of these issues in her chapter "Rosicrucianism
and Freemasonry" in The Rosicrucian Enlightenment,
206-19. For further discussion of the Hermetic tradition's influence
on Masonry, see Yates, Giordano Bruno, 214, 414-16, 423,
and The Art of Memory (Chicago: University of Chicago Press,
Yates, The Rosicrucian Enlightenment, 210.
Douglas Knoop and G. Jones, The Genesis of Freemasonry: An
Account of the Rise and Development of Freemasonry in Its Operative,
Accepted, and Early Speculative Phases (Manchester, Eng.:
Manchester University Press, 1949), 274.
The allegorical nature of Masonic rituals is thoroughly evidenced
in records of the eighteenth century. When these the rituals took
form is a matter of supposition; Gould posits an origin of the
Masonic rituals in the seventeenth century, but subsequent historians
have suggested that the rituals as currently recognizable originated
during the 1720s (see Michael W. Homer, "`Similarity of Priesthood
in Masonry': The Relationship between Freemasonry and Mormonism,"
in this issue of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought;
Robert Freke Gould, The History of Freemasonry, 4 vols.
[New York: John C. Yorston & Co., 1885-89]; Knoop and Jones,
Material published in German by J. G. Buhle in 1804 served as
the foundation for De Quincey's work "Historico-Critical
Inquiry into the Origins of the Rosicrucians and the Freemasons,"
reprinted in Collected Works, ed. David Masson (Edinburgh,
Yates, The Rosicrucian Enlightenment, 218.
This association, though recognized, was not cast in a positive
light by the wider culture. Quinn provides several examples of
America anti-Masonic material from this period associating Masons,
Kabbalah, and Rosicrucians in a negative context (164-65). Much
of this material probably took form from the evidence provided
by Buhle and De Quincey. Links to Rosicrucians and Kabbalah were
also variously affirmed in esoteric Masonic myth.
In his nineteenth-century encyclopedia of Freemasonry, Macoy gives
a partial summary of these, listing forty-eight rites or systems
of symbolical ceremonies designed to convey "Masonic ideals";
the vast majority of these originating between about 1750 and
1810 (Robert Macoy, General History, Cyclopedia and Dictionary
of Freemasonry [New York: Masonic Publishing Co., 1872], reprinted
as A Dictionary of Freemasonry [New York: Bell Publishing,
1989], 326-29). As Ellwood notes in his review of the movement,
"There was no unity of rite or structure among groups using
that title [of Mason]. The name was immensely popular, and so
was adopted by any sort of society with a secret handshake and
pretension to ancient lore. These ranged from the Swedenborgian
rite lodges . . . to the inimitable Cagliostro" (Robert S.
Ellwood, Jr., Religious and Spiritual Groups in Modern America
[Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1973], 64).
Massimo Introvigne, "Arcana Arcanorum: Cagliostro's Legacy
in Contemporary Magical Movements," Syzrygy: Journal of
Alternative Religion and Culture 1 (Spring/Summer 1992): 117-35.
A review of these various movements is in Ellwood, 60-69.
Linda Sillitoe and Allen Roberts, Salamander: The Story of
the Mormon Forgery Murders (Salt Lake City: Signature Books,
Yates, Occult Philosophy, 46.
See n60. "The appearance of ancient bodies of literature,
Neoplatonic and hermetic, in Latin and Italian translations, together
with the rendering of a significant corpus of Kabbalistic literature
into Latin and Italian, precipitated the emergence of a new attitude
toward magic, first in the circles of the Florentine literati,
and afterward, under their influence, in a long series of European
Renaissance and post-Renaissance figures all over Europe. . .
. For them, magic was the lore taught by ancient masters like
Hermes Trismegistus. . .a lore based on a vast knowledge of the
universal order, a knowledge that culminated in actualizing the
potentiality inherent in human nature. Instead of being the practice
of obscure and peripheral persons, the Renaissance magician came
to designate the apex of human achievement, to be cultivated by
the elite in order to exercise the human qualities that testify
to the fullness of human perfection. It was not so much the subjugation
of the material world to which the learned magicians of the Renaissance
aspired, as to the fulfillment of their spirit." Moshe Idel,
"Jewish Magic from the Renaissance Period", 83.
Keith Thomas, Religion and the Decline of Magic (New York:
Charles Scribner's Sons, 1971), 228. Thomas's study is itself
dominated by an interest in the folk magical.
At the same time, it must be recognized that there was an important
mystical and alchemical element in some sectors of seventeenth-century
Purtianism. See Yates, The Occult Philosophy, 167.
Meric Casaubon (1599-1671) was both the son of Issac Casaubon,
the distinguished philological scholar who had dated the Hermetica,
and a staunch Anglican critic of the Hermetic and magical movement.
Quoted in French, John Dee, 13.
Godwin, Robert Fludd, 11.
In evidence, as this paper went to press I received an advance
copy of a comprehensive and very important new study of Mormonism's
relationship to Hermeticism: John L. Brooke, The Refiner's
Fire: The Making of Mormon Cosmology, 1644-1844 (New York:
Cambridge University Press, 1994). Prof. Brooke reviews much of
the material I have presented above, and draws very similar conclusions:
"The Mormon cosmology constructed by Joseph Smith was as
optimistic as Renaissance hermeticism and shared with it a startling
number of common themes. . . . [Smith] reproduced the three heavens
of the Cabala and hermeticism in the three Mormon heavens, the
telestial, terrestial, and celestial kingdoms. Both hermeticism
and Mormonism celebrate the mutuality of spiritual and material
worlds, precreated intelligences, free will, a divine Adam, a
fortunate, sinless Fall, and the symbolism and religious efficacy
of marriage and sexuality. And, as in hermeticism, Adam, 'the
father of all, prince of all, that ancient of days,' would occupy
a central position in Mormon cosmology. . . .Three centuries after
the height of the Renaissance, Mormonism echoed the hermetics--and
explicitly rejected Calvinism. . . . Joseph Smith gave Mormon
hierarchy the same authority that the hermetic alchemist assumed:
human means to immortality, indeed divinity." (Ibid., 13.)
See my review of Brooke's work in this issue of Dialogue.
These are discussed and illustrated in Quinn, 53-111.
The magical square on the back of Joseph's talisman appears, pregnant
with symbolic meaning, in one of Albrecht Dürer's most famous
engravings, "Melancolia" (Horst Michael, Albrect
Dürer: The Complete Engravings [Artline Editions, 1987],
plate 72); for a discussion, see Yates, The Occult Philosophy,
135 ff. See also the chapter "Cornelius Agrippa's Survey
of Renaissance Magic" in Yates, Giordano Bruno, 130-56.
Paracelsus (ca. 1493-1541) was a seminal figure in the alchemical
and medical tradition. Paracelsian alchemy was central to Rosicrucianism.
His works were even among the items supposed to be in the mythic
tomb of Christian Rosencreutz. During the early and mid-nineteenth
century in England and Europe Mesmerism was closely linked with
spiritual alchemy by occultists interested in visionary states,
and as Merkur notes, "In the Gold und Rosenkreuz, a development
of the alchemical tradition of Paracelsus and Boehme in late eighteenth-century
German, the insignias of the ninth and highest degree, Majus,
consisted of a `gleaming and fiery' Urim and Thummim with a Schemhamphorash.
It is at least probable that the German alchemists named their
engraved brooches in allusion to their use in crystal-gazing and
Jolanda Jacobi, ed., Paracelsus: Selected Writings (Princeton,
NJ: Princeton University Press, 1979), 134, emphasis added. Paracelsus
also prophesied of the coming of the prophet "Elias"
as part of a universal restoration, another idea possibly affecting
the work of Joseph Smith (Yates, The Rosicrucian Enlightenment,
Dan Vogel offers an exception by briefly noting the influence
of spiritual alchemy on the important seventeenth-century Seeker
John Everard. See Dan Vogel, Religious Seekers and the Advent
of Mormonism (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1988), 9n50.
E. Gordon Alderfer, The Ephrata Commune: An Early American
Counter Culture (Pittsburgh: Univ. of Pittsburgh Press, 1985),
Ibid., 62, 122-23.
The commune apparently possessed Kabbalistic texts, including
the Zohar (ibid., 87), and may have even instituted an
order associated with one of the Rosicrucian variants of Freemasonry
(ibid., 70; Julius Friedrich Sachse, The German Sectarians
of Pennsylvania, 1708-1800; A Critical and Legendary History of
the Ephrata Cloister and the Dunkers [Philadelphia: Printed
for the author, 1899-1900], 1:354f.). That Sachse, a late-nineteenth-century
Masonic historian, would perceive a variant Masonry in practice
at Ephrata again indicates both the wide acceptance of Rosicrucian
ties in Masonry in the nineteenth century and the wide latitude
of esoteric things allowed classification as "Masonic."
Noted are: the presence of a Rosicrucian cross on the Smith family
"Holiness to the Lord" magical parchment; the similarity
of rituals used in the Ephrata commune for conveying Melchizedik
priesthood and performing proxy baptisms for the dead to forms
later incorporated by Joseph Smith; the use of pseudonyms exactly
like those adopted in early Mormonism ("Enoch" as a
code name for Joseph Smith) within the Ephrata Rosicrucian society;
and the similarity between one of Joseph Smith's 1829 revelations
(recorded as D&C 7) and a Rosicrucian legend (Quinn, 133,
180-81, 169; Alderfer, 88).
As unusual as this combination would be, Joseph Smith did apparently
come close to having all three in Nauvoo during the last two years
of his life, as will be discussed below.
The "Tree of Sefiroth" is a diagram depicting the ten
Sefiroth or divine emenations within the archetypal structure
of the Godhead (see Fig. 1). For a example, see the illustration
in Robert Fludd, "Aboris Sephirothicae," in De Praeternaturali
utrusque mundi Historia, Vol. 2, 157, part of the larger work,
Utruiusque cosmi maioris . . . (Frankfurti, 1621). This
image or an image like it seems to have been copied by Orson Hyde
in 1847, as discussed later.
Joe Sampson, Written by the Finger of God (Sandy, UT: Wellspring
This situation also has precedence in the Hermetic-Kabbalistic
tradition. The writings of the German mystic Jacob Boehme have
such a strong Kabbalistic flavor that his students have long thought
he must have had some direct contact with Kabbalah, even though
no firm historical evidence of this has yet been developed. (Interesting
in the present context is that the most likely source identified
by historians from whom Boehme might have learned about Kabbalah
is a "Dr. B. Walter" who had traveled widely in the
East and collected esoteric knowledge of magic, alchemy, and Kabbalah.)
Andrew Weeks, Boehme: An Intellectual Biography of the Seventeenth-Century
Philosopher and Mystic (Albany: SUNY Press, 1991), 43, 147.
In 1842 the Apostle Heber C. Kimball quote Joseph Smith saying:
"thare is a similarity of preast Hood in masonary. Br Joseph
ses masonry was taken from preasthood but has become degenerated.
but menny things are perfect" (Quinn, 185). In 1899 Apostle
Rudger Clawson related the opinion that "Joseph . . . was
aware that there were some things about masonry which had come
down from the beginning and he desired to know what they were,
hence the Lodge. . . . Joseph inquired of the Lord concerning
the matter and he revealed to the prophet true Masonry as we have
in our temples" (in Stan Larson, ed., A Ministry of Meetings:
The Apostolic Diaries of Rudger Clawson [Salt Lake City: Signature
Books in association with Smith Research Associates, 1993], XXX).
Quinn, 164-65. This same assertion had been widely publicized
by De Quincey in his London Magazine piece, "Historico-Critical
Inquiry into the Origins of the Rosicrucians and the Freemasons."
Arthur Edward Waite, A New Encyclopaedia of Freemasonry
(London: William Rider and Son, 1923), 1:47.
Albert Pike, Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish
Rite of Freemasonry (Charleston, SC, 1871), cited in Hoeller.
Robert Kirk, The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns and Faires
(Stirling: Eneas Mackay, 1933), 107-108. Kirk's original manuscript
is dated 1691.
Homer makes particular note of the 28th degree of the Scottish
rite, which is based on the 23rd degree of the Rite de Perfection.
This degree is known as the "Knight of the Sun," "Prince
of the Sun," or "Key to Masonry." As Homer suggests,
the ritual of this degree has several motifs familiar to the Mormon
temple ceremony: Father Adam is the presiding officer, accompanied
by seven angels, including Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, and Auriel;
and the rite is to be administered in a room painted like a vast
garden, with open fields, forests, and mountains. The rite has
an obviously alchemical and Hermetic flavor, leading Macoy to
suggest the "28th degree of Freemasonry must have been composed
by Freemasons who were also members of the Order of the Rosy Cross."
The seal of the degree (illustrated in Macoy) is emblazoned with
the Hermetic motto of the Tabula smaragdina ("That
which is above is also below"); over and under the image
of God reflected in himself as dual white and black triangles
interwoven in the Seal of Solomon are inscribed the terms common
to Rosicrucianism and alchemy, "Macroprospus" or macrocosm
and "Microprosupus" or microcosm. In the ceremony, a
five-pointed star represents man, the microcosmos, and the staff
of Hermes, the caduceus, sits at the right hand of Adam. The collar
donned in the rite bears the single "All-seeing Eye"
of God, and the medal worn is a golden Sun similar to the Nauvoo
temple sunstones. Macoy, 209-11, 331.
Scholem, Kabbalah, 284, 304.
Irenaeus, Adversus haereses, 1.18.1.
A third issue deserves brief notation: the "Joseph Smith
to Joseph Hull" letter, mentioned by Durham, said to have
been written by Joseph Smith about Freemasonry. A copy of the
original is in my possession, and a transcript (with some errors)
was published with the Durham paper as Appendix A (No Help
for the Widow's Son: Two Papers on the Influence of the Masonic
Movement on Joseph Smith and His Mormon Church [Nauvoo: Martin
Publishing Co, 1980], 29.) This torn and undated letter was discovered
around 1966-67 in a group of miscellaneous manuscript materials
by George Rinsland, an Eastern manuscripts dealer. In April 1967
Rinsland sent it, unsolicited and free of cost, to Steve Barnett,
then an active collector and dealer of such materials in Salt
Lake (Barnett to Lance Owens, 12 Feb. 1991). I have made an extensive
study of the Smith-Hull letter's content and handwriting. It is
my opinion that the letter is not in the hand of Joseph Smith,
though the similarities are strong enough to suggest a period
forgery of his hand. The signature essentially matches Smith's
post-1840 signature (when he ceased to append "Jr.").
The letter itself is interesting, regardless of the author, and
represents the type of esoteric Masonic thought to which Joseph
Smith might have been exposed. In an esoteric disquisition, the
Masonic temple is metaphorically interposed upon the world and
the offices of the temple are placed geographically over the face
of the globe, as they are arranged within the Masonic temple ceremony.
Symbolically, Masonic ritual is seen as an image of greater forces
working historically in human society--a telling example of esoteric
Masonic thought. This is just the type of expanded, esoteric interpretation
one might expect Joseph Smith to impose upon Masonic ritual.
The dualistic view of humankind's guiding genius is also interesting:
"Mankind is guided through this life by two Spirits viz light
& Darkness two opposites & Thay appear in ten-thousands
Shapes & thay have as many names as thay have Shapes."
This theme of a compexio oppositorum, played against the
image of the single all-seeing "Eye/I" of God, is echoed
again in the cryptic poem on the last page of the letter: "that
our 2 eyes Sprang from his 1; that our 2 Spirits did the Same;
Light; Darkness." This dualism of two natures within the
single "I" of God, of two eyes and two spirits, of Light
and Dark, being born from his singleness, is the crux of an ancient
heresy echoed in Joseph's vision of God: a holy wedding of uncreated
matter's darkness with the supernal light of consciousness, intelligence
or knowing, a creative union ceaselessly bearing new Gods in the
dark/light transformation of man/woman.
Klaus Hansen, Quest for Empire: The Political Kingdom of God
and the Council of Fifty in Mormon History (Lansing: Michigan
State University Press, 1970), 55-71.
Minutes of the Council of Fifty, 1880, cited in Hansen, 60-61.
Given the forty years elapsed between the events and this recording
of the history in 1880, it is possible that the date of the revelation
was 1841, as Bennett claimed, and not 1842.
- The Return 2 (June 1890):287, cited in Robert Flanders,
Nauvoo: Kingdom on the Mississippi (Urbana: University
of Illinois Press, 1965), 249.
Prior to joining Strang, Bennett asked, "Can I depend upon
my old place? . . . While you will be the Moses of the last days,
I hope to be your Joshua, my old position, while you stand as
the crowned Imperial Primate, I will be . . . your General-in-Chief."
Noord notes, "With the arrival of John Cook Bennett in Voree
came stirrings of a royal order, of a kingdom, and of power for
James Jesse Strang. [Wrote Bennett:] `I have many things to tell
you when I come that I cannot commit to paper--some very important
indeed.' " One thing Bennett told Strang after his arrival
to Voree, Wis. in the Summer of 1846, was the details about an
"Order of the Illuminati". Shortly after his arrival,
the "Order of Illuminati" was formed, with Strang as
imperial primate and Bennett as his general-in-chief: Bennett
was indeed again "Joshua" (Roger Van Noord, King
of Beaver Island: The Life and Assassination of James Jesse Strang
[Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1988], 45, 48-49.) Among
Strang's followers were others who remembered the organization
in Nauvoo, including another prominent disciple of Joseph Smith,
George Miller, first Worshipful Master of the Nauvoo Masonic Lodge,
member of the "Holy Order" that first received the endowment
in 1842, and an original member of Joseph's Council of Fifty in
The most specifically example is Adam Weishaupt's prominent Masonic
organization of the same name founded in 1776 in Bavaria. The
concept of the Illuminati appeared in varied forms and was widely
attacked in anti-Masonic material circulating in the period. Ellwood,
In Cagliostro's Egyptian rite the female Masonic consorts were
known as "doves." Quinn illustrates a "masonic
medal" Smith gave to his plural wife Eliza R. Snow; though
otherwise unidentified as to origins, it is interesting that the
medal is of a dove. Timothy O'Neill, "The Grand Copt",
Gnosis: A Journal of the Western Inner Traditions 24 (Summer,
1992), 28; Introvigne, 117-35.
Brief notations on Neibaur and Kabbalah are found, for example,
in Newell and Avery's biography of Emma Smith (325n36). Susa Young
Gates presented the first published biographical note on Neibaur
in the Relief Society Magazine 9 (1922): 132-40. Gates
apparently obtained much of her material from Neibaur family sources.
A typescript biography of Neibaur is found in LDS archives. This
is the most complete biography I have found and contains several
stories about Neibaur attributed to family recollections. These
sources of information on Neibaur are supplemented by a biographical
note in the papers of Louis C. Zucker, a Jewish scholar and Professor
of English at the University of Utah who researched Joseph Smith's
contacts with Hebrew (see Louis C. Zucker Papers, Special Collections,
Marriott Library). A brief recension of this material appears
in Theda Lucille Bassett, Grandpa Neibaur was a Pioneer,
(Salt Lake City: Published by the author, 1988).
The biographical material contained here is obtained principally
from the undated typescript in LDS archives.
Frankist Jews in this area had nominally converted to Christianity.
A Sabbatean or Frankist source would have interesting implication
for Joseph Smith's understanding of Kabbalah as interpreted and
presented by Neibaur--particularly with regard to the concept
of the mystical intent of sexual intercourse and anomian sexual
relationships. For discussions of these issues, see G. Scholem,
Sabbatai Sevi: The Mystical Messiah (Princeton, NJ: Princeton
University Press, 1973), and his notes on Sevi and Frank in Kabbalah,
244-309. Niebaur's parents were both Jew's born around 1780 in
western Poland (then part of Prussia) during a period of intense
Frankist foment. Though Alexander was born in Alsace-Lorraine,
the family apparently had returned to and remained in Unruhstadt
(now Kargowa, Zielona Gorz, Poland) after 1814. Kabbalistic interests
fostered by the Hasidic movement also were present in this area,
and the young Neibaur might have had some contact with them in
his studies. Neibaur Family Group Sheet, LDS Geneological Library.
Newell and Avery, 325n36.
- "The Jews," Times and Seasons 4 (1 June 1843):
220-22; 4 (15 June 1843): 233-34. The article is introduced by
editor John Taylor: "The following very singular notions
of the Jews, with regard to their resurrection, will no doubt,
be read with interest by many of the curious, especially the lovers
of Jewish literature." On the composition of this piece,
we have only Neibaur's brief explanatory endnote: "Having
commenced this sometime since--and having had the privilege, a
few Sundays back, to hear our worthy prophet on the same subject,
I was determined to go on with it, and hand it over to you. If
you think it will be of any interest to your readers, I shall
take another time to continue the subject, and tell you the means,
as held by my brethren the Jews, whereby the Lord will bring to
pass this glorious work." The proposed continuation never
See G. Scholem, "Gilgul: The Transmigration of Souls",
in On the Mystical Shape of the Godhead (New York: Schocken
Books, 1991), 197-250. The concept of transmigration of souls
received further discussion in early Mormonism. William Clayton
records in his diary arguments among Mormon companions over the
idea of "baby resurrection," or rebirth as a mortal
infant. See George D. Smith, ed., An Intimate Chronicle: The
Journals of William Clayton (Salt Lake City: Signature Books
in association with Smith Research Associates, 1991), 429-30.
Given the importance of this material to the discussion that follows,
I have provided an Appendix to this essay listing each citation
made by Neibaur in his Times and Seasons article.
If he did not have the works at hand, then it would appear he
either possessed an exceptional memory or had previously compiled
and maintained a fairly comprehensive set of notes listing his
citations. A third option, that he relied on a single secondary
source which provided all of the citations remains possible. His
own note on the essay's composition suggests that he took some
time and effort with its compilation, perhaps supporting the view
that he labored to collate sources. A single work containing this
wide collection of citations has not yet been brought to my attention.
If Neibaur was quoting from a compilation instead of using the
original texts, it is apparent by the material contained therein
that his source or sources were Kabbalistic in nature, and that
he would have recognized them as Kabbalistic. I have found no
mention of Neibaur's books after the Nauvoo period, and at his
death documents relating to his estate of do not list personal
effects such as books. See documents relating to the estate of
Alexander Neibaur, LDS archives.
Alexander Neibaur Journal, 26 Apr. 1841, and entries between 24
May 1844 and 17 June 1844. Neibaur's journal begins with his departure
from England, and has sporadic entries made throughout 1841, 1842,
and 1844. There are no entries for 1843. The more frequent entries
made during May and June 1844 indicate Neibaur was a regular companion
to Smith. On 24 May 1844 Neibaur also records Smith's recounting
to him of the "First Vision". Neibaur Journal, 1841-62,
LDS archives. Smith's journal records several additional study
sessions between the men during the spring of 1844: on 18 March,
"At home reciting German with Neibaur"; 23 May, "reading
Hebrew with Neibaur"; and 3 June, "read German with
Neibaur." Scott Faulring, ed., An American Prophet's Record:
The Diaries and Journals of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City:
Signature Books in association with Smith Research Associates,
1989), 460, 481, 487. On 23 March 1844 William Clayton notes that
Neibaur accompanied Smith on a sensitive trip to confront Robert
Foster about allegations of Smith's sexual improprieties. Smith,
An Intimate Chronicle, 127.
A newly amalgamated and authoritatively edited text of the King
Follett Discourse appears in Stan Larson, "The King Follett
Discourse," Brigham Young University Studies 18 (Winter
1978): 179-225. Three excellent interpretive articles appear in
conjunction with the discourse's text in the same issue.
Fawn M. Brodie, No Man Knows My History (New York: Alfred
A. Knopf, 1945), 366.
Van Hale, "The Doctrinal Impact of the King Follett Discourse,"
Brigham Young University Studies 18 (Winter 1978): 213.
Larson, "King Follett Discourse", 202.
The phrase "Rosh--the Head Father of the Gods" is used
by Smith to clarify his translation shortly after the above text.
The Hebrew grammar for the Use of Beginners was published
in 1833 and 1834, and a copy is found in Special Collection, Marriott
Library. See the discussion in Louis C. Zucker, "Joseph Smith
as a Student of Hebrew," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon
Thought 3 (Summer 1968): 41-55.
Steven Epperson's recent study offers an example of the failure
by even a well-trained Mormon historian with interests in Judaism
to recognized the Kabbalistic sources in Neibaur's essay. Epperson
makes brief mention of Neibaur and his article, but essentially
quotes Zucker. Steven Epperson, Mormons and Jews: Early Mormon
Theologies of Israel (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1992),
Scholem, Major Trends, 221. Yehuda Liebes also comments
on this same Kabbalistic interpretation of Genesis 1:1 in Studies
in the Zohar, 153-54.
In Kabbalistic interpretation, the "Hidden Nothing"
in Kabbalah is not "nothing" in the common sense, but
the vast unorganized mystery preceding creation. There is no truly
ex nihilo creation in Kabbalah. Thus Joseph's translation
"organized" accords with Kabbalah. Scholem, On the
Kabbalah, 102-103. See also Idel, Kabbalah, 220.
Interpretively, this verse can be read in Kabbalah to mean that
the brightness or Zohar from which creation emanated is
Intelligence, the first Being of God. The sympathy of this view
with Mormon theology is apparent now, as it perhaps was then.
Zohar I:15a. All translations used here and below comes from the
Sperling translation of the Zohar: Harry Sperling and Maurice
Simon, trans., The Zohar, in five volumes (London: Soncino
In the amalgamated text, the phrase is taken from William Clayton's
transcription given here (Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook, eds.,
The Words of the Joseph Smith [Orem, UT: Grandin Press,
1991], 358). In Larson's amalgamation, the bracketed words in
the reconstructed text "ROSHITH [BARA ELOHIM] signifies [the
Head] to bring forth the Elohim" are interposed by Larson
based on the assumption that in the original other Hebrew words
may have been spoken but not recorded (Larson, 198 n15). Clayton's
transcription stands well without these interpolations. Joseph's
use of the words "bring forth" is also significant;
this is a closer translation of the Kabbalistic concept of emanation
implied in the verse and perhaps a better choice than the word
"created" used by the Sperling translation of the Zohar
quoted above (Scholem, Kabbalah, 98-99).
The full text of this passage in the Zohar is as follows:
"A further esoteric interpretation of the word bereshith
is as follows. The name of the starting-point of all is Ehyeh
(I shall be). The holy name when inscribed at its side is Elohim,
but when inscribed by circumscription is Asher, the hidden and
recondite temple, the source of that which is mystically called
Reshith. The word Asher (i.e. the letters, Aleph, Shin, Resh from
the word bereshith) is anagrammatically Rosh (head), the beginning
which issues from Reshith" (Zohar I, 15a). It should
also be noted that each Hebrew letter has an independent meaning;
the letter resh has the meaning "head."
- Zohar I, 23b.
Ehat and Cook, Words of Joseph, 379.
In the King Follett Discourse on two occasions Smith noted he
had been recently "reading from the German," and he
does actually read aloud in German near the end of the discourse.
Neibaur was Joseph's tutor in German and Hebrew, and was the only
person in Joseph's immediate company who knew German, Hebrew,
Latin, and Greek, the languages Smith mentions or uses during
his oration. And Neibaur was the figure in Nauvoo who knew Kabbalah
and perhaps even possessed a copy of the Zohar, containing
the exegesis Smith used in his greatest doctrinal discourse. Hale
notes that the sections of the King Follett Discourse containing
foreign languages probably receive some advanced preparation (Hale,
210). It seems probable that Neibaur helped.
See David John Buerger, "The Adam-God Doctrine," Dialogue:
A Journal of Mormon Thought 15 (Spring 1982): 14-58.
The Zohar says, "The King [God] seeks only that which
corresponds to him. Therefore the Holy One, may He be blessed,
dwells in him who (like Him) is one. When man, in perfect holiness,
realizes the One, He is in that one. And when is it that man is
called one? When man and woman are joined together sexually. .
. . Come and see! At the point at which a human being as male
and female is united, taking care that his thoughts are holy,
he is perfect and stainless and is called one. Man should therefore
act so that woman is glad at that moment and has one single wish
together with him, and both of them united should bring their
mind to that thing. For thus has it been taught, `He who has not
taken a woman is as if he were only a half'" (Zohar
See Quinn, 138-40.
Mozart was of course a Mason, and his royal patron, Joseph II
of Austria, (reign 1780-90) was both a Mason and a patron of Masonry
Robert Fludd, "Aboris Sephirothicae," in De Praeternaturali
utrusque mundi Historia, Vol. 2, 157, part of the larger work,
Utruiusque cosmi maioris . . . (Frankfurti, 1621). One
also notes that Joseph Smith's presidential campaign poster (illustrated
in Smith, lxxxvi) is similar to several other illustrations in
this volume by Fludd.
- Millennial Star 9 (January 15, 1847): 23-4.
- "Since Clayton attended virtually all meetings from general
chruch conferences to Joseph Smith's private prayer circle, and
was often appointed to take minutes, he was usually present when
Smith delivered prophecies and revealed new doctrines" (Smith,
An Intimate Chronicle, xxiii).
James B. Allen, Trials of Discipleship: The Story of William
Clayton, a Mormon (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1987),
Richard L. Bushman, Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism
(Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1984), 184.
- "The theosophical system of the Sefiroth was interpreted
by Abraham Abulafia as referring to human actions and psychological
states . . . [I]n principle, the psychologizing of Kabbalah in
the ecstatic trend served to bridge the immense gap between it
and philosophical psychology, which never emphasized the esoteric
nature of this realm of speculation" (Idel, Kabbalah,
For example, see Scholem's discussion of this practice among the
Sabbateans in his Sabbatai Sevi, 426-32.
The Eranos Society met each summer in Ascona, Switzerland, beginning
in the 1930s. From 1933 through the 1950s Jung was a dominant
presence in these conferences--gatherings which united many of
the great minds of the time. In 1949 Gershom Scholem first lectured
at Eranos and continued to lecture almost annually until 1961.
These eleven lectures now compose the body of two books by Scholem,
The Mystical Shape of the Godhead and On the Kabbalah
and its Symbolism. Jung and Scholem shared a warm intellectual
friendship, though Scholem was hesitant to develop his studies
of Kabbalah using purely psychological terminology. See William
McGuire, Bollingen: An Adventure in Collecting the Past
(Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1982), 152-54. See
also Joseph Dan's foreword to Gershom Scholem, The Mystical
Shape of the Godhead, 1-14. A six-volume collection of papers
from the Eranos conferences edited by Joseph Campbell has been
published by Princeton University Press as Bollingen Series XXX.
- "Analysis of the psychological implications of using Kabbalistic
techniques to attain paranormal experiences cannot be avoided.
If the approach proposed here to see Kabbalah more in terms of
experiential phenomena than has been previously done is correct,
then psychology, as an invaluable tool, must gradually be integrated
into future study of this kind of mysticism." Idel, Kabbalah,
For a summary of Yates's debt to Scholem, see the introduction
to her The Occult Philosophy in the Elizabethan Age, 1-3.
In addition to The American Religion, see Bloom's Kabbalah
and Criticism (New York: Seabury Press, 1975); and his critical
interpretation titled "A Reading," in Marvin Meyer,
The Gospel of Thomas: The Hidden Sayings of Jesus (San
Francisco: Harper, 1992), 111-21.
Joseph Smith and Kabbalah: The Occult Connection