Another interesting person of more recent historical note who got himself in trouble and eventually killed for teaching the Godhood of man was the Mormon prophet, Joseph Smith. Now because I mention the name of the Mormon founder do not get the idea that I am promoting Mormonism, for I believe that Mormonism has drifted far from the original teachings of its founder just as most other religious groups have done. However, in examining the teachings of the founders of any worldwide movement one will normally discover that they were originated by a person of high spiritual thought.
Joseph Smith was no exception. He courageously took a group of crude Christian frontiersmen and shattered their thoughtforms on man and God by proclaiming to them that their destiny was to become as Gods. Some believed and were raised up in consciousness, others disbelieved and sought to take his life, but no one remained neutral. The doctrine was indeed a stirring missile to be cast in the stagnant pool of Christian thought.
Joseph was the first major public western figure in our era to proclaim the major doctrine of the New Age. Since that time many others have followed; churches such as Unity and Religious Science; movements began by Gurus from the East, as well as esoteric schools of thought as Theosophy, and the Arcane School by Alice A. Bailey; The Foundation for Inner Peace which publishes "A Course In Miracles"; numerous New Age books, and even Shirley MacLaine and The Star Wars movies all proclaim that there is a "Force" or God in man.
Joseph then introduced the doctrine contrary to all the then current lines of thought and met with tremendous opposition. But he taught that "truth will cut its own way." And indeed this is what is happening. Those who are not chained down with dogma feel good inside when thinking about being one with God as was the Christ. The free-thinking youth of the world felt good about "the Force," and many identified with Shirley MacLaine when she shouted "I AM God!" Joseph said the doctrine "tastes good" and indeed it does.
Feel within. Even at this moment it feels good to know that God is within and we are to be one with Him.
Among those who taught this doctrine in our age Joseph Smith is unique in the fact that he taught it to an unbelieving Christian people in the 1840's, and he attempted to prove it out of the Bible. Because he struck a nerve at the heart of orthodox Christianity there have been many enemies of the doctrine from his day to the present time. Many other New Age people who espouse the concept more as a philosophy than a religion do not seem to draw the fire that Joseph did. It is also paradoxical that many New Agers categorize Joseph's teachings with orthodox Christianity and do not see the harmony between their own belief and his. They fail to realize that Joseph had many pure revelations and inspiration of pure esoteric truth that he had to clothe in the acceptable Christian language of his time. This caused his teachings to be somewhat misunderstood by later generations.
Many of his teachings about God were given in his last major address shortly before he was killed. It was given April 6, 1844 and has become known as the "King Follett Discourse." In it he taught the principle of eternal progression -- that man does not stay man and God has not always been God. He later elaborated and taught about a hierarchy of Gods. He said that there was one being in particular who was appointed to be the God or Master for this planet before mankind set foot upon its surface, but that this person was once a man like ourselves, but learned his lessons of salvation on another planet. It is our destiny to eventually become as he is.
He further stated that the spirits or intelligence of men were not created by God but have always existed and are "co-equal" with him.
"God himself could not create himself. Intelligence is eternal and exists upon a self-existent principle. [...] The first principles of man are self-existent with God. [...] If men do not comprehend the character of God they do not comprehend themselves. [...] Here then is eternal life -- to know the only wise and true God; and you have got to learn how to be Gods yourself, and to be kings and priests to God, the same as all the Gods have done before you -- namely by going from one small degree to another, and from a small capacity to a great one -- from grace to grace, from exaltation to exaltation, until you attain the resurrection of the dead, and are able to dwell in everlasting burnings and sit in glory, as do those who sit enthroned in everlasting power. [...] The mind or intelligence which man possesses is co-equal with God himself. [...] God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted Man. [...] That is the great secret. [...] God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth the same as Jesus Christ did." ("History of the Church" by Deseret Books; Vol. 6; Pages 302-317; 473-479)
Concerning Jesus and the Father he said:
"If Jesus Christ was the Son of God, and John discovered that the Father of Jesus Christ had a Father, you may suppose that he had a Father also. Was there ever a son without a father? And was there ever a father without first being a son?" ("History of the Church; Page 476)
He also said:
"Jesus is one of a grand order of Saviors. Every world has its distinctive Savior and every dispensation its Christ." (Women in Mormondom by Edward W. Tullidge; Page 192)
In the King Follett discourse he also taught that the first verse in the Bible was changed in ancient times and also mistranslated. "In the beginning" is translated from the Hebrew RESHIYTH. However, this word is sometimes translated as "chief" (Amos 6:1 & 6) and "firstfruits." (Lev 2:12) It is derived from ROSH which means "the head." Joseph believed that when the Bible was first written ROSH was used instead of RESHIYTH. He taught that the Hebrew word for God, ELOHIYM should be rendered as "Gods" (plural). All modern Bible scholars agree with this. However, using the Hebrew Joseph came up with quite an unorthodox translation for the first verse. Instead of "In the beginning God created" he translated it as:
"The Head One of the Gods brought forth the Gods."
This is a very possible rendition that would never occur to orthodox translators for obvious reasons.
Joseph said that in the morning of creation the Gods (ELOHIYM) had a council and formulated a plan for the organization of the earth and the salvation and progress of man. One God in particular was chosen to be the head over this planet. Later, Brigham Young who was tutored by Joseph said that this God later became Adam, "The only God with whom we have to do." In the Bible Joseph said he was also called "The Ancient of Days." (Daniel 7:9, 13 & 22) Brigham said that Adam had lived as a man on another planet and was faithful there; hence he progressed and became a God ("Master" in New Age language). He came to this earth in an immortal body, or one that was not subject to death as we know it. However, he partook of the elements here which created a change until he eventually became a mortal man again.
Joseph's revelations seem to support the teachings of Brigham. Concerning those who overcome all things he wrote:
"Wherefore, as it is written, they are Gods, even the sons of God. Wherefore, all things are theirs, whether life OR DEATH. [...]" [Doctrine and Covenants (D&C) 76:58-59]
Apparently Joseph and Brigham thought that even a God, or Master, could take for himself again a mortal tabernacle and become subject to death if it filled some purpose.
It is true that we cannot prove every detail from the Bible that Joseph Smith claimed to receive by revelation. After all, that was the purpose of the revelations past and present -- to give us knowledge that is not readily available from the Bible. Nevertheless, truth harmonizes with truth and if the Bible is true then Joseph's revelations should not disagree.
Paradoxically, Joseph also taught that there was only one God. In the Book of Mormon we find several quotes similar to this one:
"And now behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only true doctrine of the Father, and of the son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is ONE GOD, without end, Amen." (2 Nephi 31:21)
He also wrote:
11 "And the light which shineth which giveth you light, is through him who enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings;
12 "Which light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to full the immensity of space --
13 "The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God who sitteth upon his throne, who is in the bosom of eternity, who is in the midst of all things."
Here we have a teaching of the omnipresent God "who is in the midst of all things." Joseph also wrote that "the elements are the tabernacle of God; yea, man is the tabernacle of God, even temples...." (D&C 93:35)
The idea of the elements being the tabernacle of God is an interesting, but ancient concept. In other words, there is one life: God who permeates all things. He is everywhere. All the elements of the entire universe compose the physical body of the one great life which is God. Man, being composed of element, is a tabernacle of God, or a temple. The body of man is a symbol of the body of the one great God whose body is the universe.
Joseph said that the Gods are called one because they agree or work together as one. Thus even though there are many masters and great lives that are Gods to their dominions they all work in agreement and have a communion with each other that harmonizes with the One Great Life that permeates all things. Just as the tiny lives called cells work together in unity to produce the greater life which is man, even so do the Gods (or Masters) cooperate with the will of the One Great Life. They also identify with him and seek to be one with him.
-- End Of Part Two --
Index of Chapters
Copyright 2001 by JJ Dewey, All Rights Reserved