A Radical Reconstruction of the Mormon Narrative (and Christianity)

Richard L. Bushman, a leading scholar of Mormonism and foremost biographer of its founder Joseph Smith, said the following during a meeting on June 12, 2016:

I think that for the Church to remain strong it has to reconstruct its narrative. The dominant narrative is not true; it can’t be sustained. The Church has to absorb all this new information or it will be on very shaky grounds and that’s what it is trying to do and it will be a strain for a lot of people, older people especially. But I think it has to change.

I think these words will echo for many decades to come, as Mormonism comes to grips with its history, theology, and scriptures in the light of new modern understandings and shifts in the way people are approaching spirituality. Many things about its traditional narrative just don’t ring “true” to many people anymore. I will begin to offer a radical reconstruction of the Mormon narrative, what I think may be a better interpretation of the revelation in our modern day, which also applies in many ways to Christianity in general. Continue reading “A Radical Reconstruction of the Mormon Narrative (and Christianity)”

The Mysticism of Falling into a Black Hole

The unitive mystical experience can be compared to falling into a black hole. When compared this way, it doesn’t sound like a nice experience. Likewise, for many mystics throughout history, their divine experiences weren’t always a merry venture, sometimes encountering hellish realms along the way (see, for example, St. Teresa of Ávila, or St. John of the Cross’s Dark Night of the Soul).

But the similarities between the mystical encounter and theoretically travelling into a black hole are quite interesting to consider. It makes me wonder if there is more to it than mere analogy. Is there something fundamental to the nature of the universe that mystics are actually experiencing that may also be found in black holes? Continue reading “The Mysticism of Falling into a Black Hole”

Fyodor Dostoevsky’s “First Vision” Account

fyodor_mikhailovich_dostoyevsky_1876
Fyodor Dostoevsky, 1876

Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821-1881) was a Russian novelist, writer, and philosopher. He often explored questions of psychology, philosophy, and religion. He wrote many acclaimed novels.

He published a short story in the 1870s in a collection called A Writer’s Diary with the title “The Dream of a Queer Fellow,” also published as The Dream of a Ridiculous Man. As Maria Popova points out, “the story sheds light on Dostoyevsky’s personal spiritual and philosophical bents with extraordinary clarity — perhaps more so than any of his other published works.” As with so much so-called “fiction,” it is perhaps a true reflection of his own deepest intuitions, spiritual experiences, and understandings. Continue reading “Fyodor Dostoevsky’s “First Vision” Account”

Margaret Barker on the Radical Original Understanding of Resurrection

The Methodist biblical scholar, Margaret Barker, wrote a book published in 1996 titled The Risen Lord in which she proposed that

“the original understanding of resurrection may in fact be Jesus’ mystical experience at his baptism, when he was raised up and transformed into the divine Son.”

Margaret Barker
Margaret Barker

Later she summarized these thoughts in a few pages in her 2008 book Temple Themes in Christian Worship, from which I’ll share a few of her intriguing, and I think accurate, insights into the nature of resurrection and how it was originally regarded in the early Christian church. Continue reading “Margaret Barker on the Radical Original Understanding of Resurrection”

Joannes Stobaeus’ “First Vision” Account

Joannes Stobaeus was a 5th-century AD compiler of Greek texts in Stobi, Macedonia. He likely read widely, and recorded many of the most interesting passages he came across from Greek authors, including poets and prose writers. The following seems to be a reference to the ancient Mysteries, religious rites, secret ceremonies and initiations, and what took place in them, perhaps a reference to the Eleusinian Mysteries. The reference may have come from Plutarch. Continue reading “Joannes Stobaeus’ “First Vision” Account”

Joseph Smith’s “Sinking” Into the Darkest Abyss to Commune with God

A recent quote I saw shared was from the nondual spiritual teacher Rupert Spira, in which he said this:

…just as the beam of light from a flashlight can be directed towards an object but cannot be directed towards the bulb from which it emanates, so awareness, in the form of attention or mind, can direct the light of its knowing towards objective experience but cannot direct itself towards itself.

Continue reading “Joseph Smith’s “Sinking” Into the Darkest Abyss to Commune with God”

Saint Teresa of Ávila’s “First Vision” Accounts

Saint Teresa of Ávila, by Peter Paul Rubens, 1615.
Saint Teresa of Ávila, by Peter Paul Rubens, c. 1615. (click to see the full painting)

Saint Teresa of Ávila (1515-1582) was a Spanish mystic, Carmelite nun, and was canonized a Roman Catholic saint by Pope Gregory XV.

In her penetrating autobiography, The Life of St. Teresa of Jesus, she describes many of her ecstatic visions of the Divine, which should ring many bells for Latter-day Saints.

Here are a few selections, beginning with a vision of hell: Continue reading “Saint Teresa of Ávila’s “First Vision” Accounts”