Kabbalah used the term "tradition" in a radically deconstructed sense. The tradition it guarded was not a dogmatic or theosophical legacy, but a pathway to prophetic consciousness. The teachings of Kabbalah were not dogmatic assertions, but maps intended to lead a dedicated and worthy student to experiential cognition. Unlike the rabbinical tradition which placed the prophets in a past age and closed the canon of revelation, Kabbalah asserted that the only valid interpretation of scripture came when the individual passed beyond words and returned to the original vision. Though such a visionary experience was shared in full measure only by a vital elite among Kabbalists, it nonetheless was the sustaining heart of Kabbalah. In the inner sanctum of his contemplation the adept Kabbalist found—so he claimed—no less than the vision granted the ancient prophets; with them he became one. To speak pseudoepigraphically with their voice was a natural expression of the experience.
The was, however, what a modern student might call a forgery: it was a pseudoepigraphic work—a work written in the name of an ancient author by a contemporary figure. This was a literary device popular with Kabbalists, as it had been with Gnostic writers in earlier centuries. Though probably based on oral tradition, Scholem argues that the majority of the is the work of a single thirteenth-century Spanish Kabbalist, Moses de Leon. To understand how a pseudoepigraphic work—a "forged book"—could remain at the center of a religious tradition for centuries requires consideration of the Kabbalistic experience.
Joseph Smith a modern Gnostic prophet? Certainly nowhere within the vast domains of America religion did this proclamation cause more consternation or amazement than within its Mormon provinces and borderlands. But Bloom (a self-pronounced "Jewish Gnostic") is no casual observer; his knowledge of Gnosis and Kabbalah is tempered by vast experience critiquing the creative matrix of its vision. His thesis deserves – and is receiving – attention. Joseph Smith is taking on a new visage, and words like "gnostic", "kabbalistic" and "hermetic" have suddenly gained a quite prominent place in the vocabulary employed by those trying to understand him.
The study of criminal justice and criminology has experienced tremendous growth over the last years, which is evident, in part, by the widespread popularity and increased enrollment in criminology and criminal justice departments at the undergraduate and graduate levels, both across the United States and internationally. An evolutionary paradigmatic shift has accompanied this criminological surge in definitional, disciplinary, and pragmatic terms. Though long identified as a leading sociological specialty area, criminology has emerged as a stand-alone discipline in its own right, one that continues to grow and is clearly here to stay. Today, criminology remains inherently theoretical but is also far more applied in focus and thus more connected to the academic and practitioner concerns of criminal justice and related professional service fields. Contemporary study of criminology and criminal justice is also increasingly interdisciplinary and thus features a broad variety of research paper topics on the causes, effects, and responses to crime. See
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As a young man in the company of occult treasure seekers, drawing magic circles and battling enchantments in the Pennsylvania countryside, Joseph Smith probably first learned about this alternative and very un-Puritan religious vision. Smith may even have there heard the old Rosicrucian legend of a sixteen year old prophet named Christian Rosencreutz and the mysterious Book M which he had translated. Certainly he would have learned of alchemy's transmutational mystery, and of the Philosopher's Stone. Soon after, the eighteen year old Smith found his own sacred treasure buried in earth, a treasure golden and yet – as alchemical lore promised – of substance more subtle than vulgar gold. Gazing into his seer stone, he saw in the Book of Mormon's golden plates a record of ancient fratricidal oppositions, and a Christ who brought union.
Christian Kabbalah was not a recapitulation of the Jewish tradition, but its creative remolding, a metamorphosis engendered by newly aroused religion-making vision. Though it would be too bold to judge Gnosticism a legitimate historical parent, this movement was arguably encouraged and fostered by distant transmissions and legacies of the old heresy. In the broad creative confluence of Kabbalah, Hermeticism, and alchemy were numerous eddies and counter-currents. Like early Christian Gnosticism, the tradition reborn had a dynamism which bred creative reinterpretation, and the important and subtle distinctions among its various redactions form the subject of specialized study. Nonetheless, there are a few themes echoed so often by sixteenth- and seventeenth-century proponents of this alternative, reformative philosophic and religious vision (which I hereafter refer to simply as Hermeticism) that they may serve almost as its hallmarks.
This was not just a speculative philosophy, but a new (though cautious and often occult) religious movement which radically reinterpreted normative Christianity. In some fashion it touched every important creative figure of the Renaissance. To an age seeking reformation and renewal, there had come forgotten books by prophets of old—pagan and Hebrew—who foresaw the coming of the Divine creative Logos, who knew the secret mysteries given to Adam, who taught that man might not only know God, but in so knowing, discover a startling truth about himself. These ideas reverberated in the creative religious imagination of the Western world for several centuries, perhaps even touching—though illusively and attenuated by time—the American religious frontier of the 1820s.
Second, you will benefit enormously from batting around your research paper in workshops. The more you speak about your subject, the better you will understand it yourself. The better you understand it, the clearer your research and writing will be. You will learn about your project as you present your ideas; you will learn more as you listen to others discuss your work; and you will learn still more as you respond to their suggestions. Although you should do that in sessions with your instructor, you will also profit from doing it in workshops and tutorial sessions.
Fifty years later, at the end of the nineteenth century, leaders of the Utah church would still occasionally state in private that the Mormon temple ritual embodied "true Masonry" – a fact unknown to most modern Mormons. But then, of course, almost all of this history is unknown to the average modern Mormon. Even well-educated "Latter-day Saints" today seldom understand the origins of the compass and square embroidered upon the breasts of the ritual garment worn by temple initiates. The relationship of these temple rituals' development with Joseph Smith's occult vision and the concurrent introduction of Masonry in Nauvoo is now, however, becoming the subject of intense renewed interest.
During the period after 1841, Joseph introduced the practice of plural "celestial marriage" – what later evolved into Mormon polygamy in Utah – to a small group of his most trusted followers. In this era not only men, but a few women – like Lucinda – secretly took a "plural" spouse. The sacred wedding ritualized by Smith was a transformative union that anointed men and women to become "priests and priestesses", "kings and queens", and then ultimately Goddess and God – the dual creative substance of Divinity in eternal, tantric intercourse. The ceremony was intended to be performed in the holiest precincts of his new Temple. By late 1843 Joseph revealed several ritual extensions to the "endowment", all ultimately incorporated into Mormon Temple ceremony. This legacy of mysterious initatory rituals revealed by Joseph Smith between 1842 and 1844 remains little altered as the sacred core of Mormonism.