Monday, March 29, 2010

Easter's Eternal Round: Halfway through, or The Dangerous Passage

How apt that Hugh Nibley's and Michael Rhodes's One Eternal Round should meet us at Easter: the book's theme is the resurrection of the dead.

Nibley's hypocephalus figures both map and compass. It needs to, for it takes us into strange places: we who are as often distraught as "caught up" in the rounds of the ascension literature so liberally treated here. As in the words of the Native American poet caught in the "turns of time" far above the earth: "I wheeled in the shadow of a hawk. Dizziness came upon me." Coming to, the poet finds himself lying "in a cave, On a floor cured in blood. Ancient animals danced about me" (N. Scott Momaday, "At Risk"). From the heights to the depths.

And it is precisely here, in the depths, buried in the middle of the book and wondering why we need to hear about all these other worlds, that Hugh Nibley stuns the reader with a resounding rebuke. Nibley has taken us to strange places indeed, places as strange as the Sokar Land in the middle of the fearful solar passage through the Netherworld, even the depths of the Aurignacian-Perigordian(!) and the Magdelenian Eras (now that's Easter indeed!) and the caves of archaic France. We are open to visiting other worlds, and there are many worlds, but the authors are insistent: We must consider the caves of Lascaux. Why those caves? Why these paintings of ancient animals? Why this dance? And why these matters of prehistory, so troubling to our fathers, that bring science and religion into ineluctable collision? We draw back from the mouth of the cave, but Nibley insists we take the rope, and down we tumble--into a face-to-face confrontation.

There are answers here, and the answers are all found in the Pearl of Great Price. We listen, amazed, as matters of "greatest moment" are summarily tossed off: here are answers indeed. But we can't escape the rebuke that comes with knowledge (ps. 392-4). How could you not have known this? How could you have not read these scriptures? Hugh Nibley stands crosswise the typeface like some doughty warrior challenging our ignorance and attendant arrogance. We lose our sense of self as our selfishness is told off roundly (Nibley's word is "provincial"): "Fortes erant ante Agamemnonem" (didn't you know?); "holy men ye know not of"; and, definitively, "man is nothing." These pages, in the depths of archaic caves, the last place in the world we think to go, pack a rebuke like nothing else in Nibley's writings.

Hugh Nibley doesn't ever close the door on learning. We're just getting started and he will show the way. Here opens a door to freedom from debate and fret over all the wrong things. Cut out the endless theorizing and speculations that displease God, says Nibley. He grasps us by the wrist: Let's move on.

The scriptures are newly opened to view: that's his purpose.

The call to repentance is, at once, President Kimball's call to discover and rediscover the scriptures, even as the bounds of the hypocephalus (the "known universe") expand in encircling circumference. We also recall Elder Maxwell's intense focus on galaxies that swirl by the million, and the spheres of glory found in infinitesimally small and large compass, as Elder Scott reminds us. At this Eastertide we are invited to contemplate not alone the creation but the reality of the resurrection.

And resurrection is the hypocephalus writ large, as its central lines show: "O noble god in the First Time, Lord of heaven, earth, underworld, and (his) cosmic waters...enliven the soul of this all too, too mortal king" (Joseph Smith hypocephalus). On the Vienna hypocephalus we find the stative form of the verb to live: "O god alive forever in the First Time" (ntr 'nh.w m zp tpj). The Morning of Creation and the Morning of the First Resurrection make up One Eternal Round: "But Thou wast up by break of day, And brought'st Thy sweets along with Thee" (George Herbert, "Easter Song").

The idea also appears on the hypocephalus with the cryptogram Lotus, Lion, Ram (srp.t-m3wj-sr). If read acrophonically, s-m-s, the cryptogram yields a palindrome that means not only, as Marie-Louise Ryhiner points out, "Eldest," but also, "the one who continually brings about birth" (smsj; and compare the Hebrew word for sun: shemesh). The Eldest who brings about birth is, clearly, the Hathor cow, or female sun, which takes center place on the hypocephalus as earnest of the resurrection.

Here is the hope of George McDonald in his darkest novella so aptly named Lilith. Adam (Osiris) and Mara (the mother, Hathor) afford rest for weary Lona and her hero: "The sleepiness is full of lovely things: come and see them"; "I dreamed cycles, I say"; "You have died unto life, and will die no more"; "Sleep that you may wake." Here is Native American King Lamoni and his brilliant queen in their ancient trance-like sleep, wherein they witness the birth and redemption of Christ: "He is not dead, but he sleepeth in God, and on the morrow he shall rise again." (Alma 19:8).

The poet has been spun, in hawk's wheeling (Fac. 2, Fig.7, as Hugh Nibley would point out), right out of time and space, yet, wonderfully, through "the mirror of masks," the drama rings out a heightened identity: "I am a feather on the bright sky" (Fac. 2, Fig. 2, Oliblish); "I am the farthest star" (Figs. 1 and 2, Kolob); "I am a flame of four colors" (Kolob Quadrifrons); "You see, I am alive, I am alive" (see N. Scott Momaday, "The Delight Song of Tsoai-talee").

Nibley and Rhodes, like Peter and John along that breathless path which all humanity must run, beckon us on toward the reality of One who has sped heavenward our mansion to prepare:

I got me flowers to straw Thy way;
I got me boughs off many a tree:
But Thou wast up by break of day,
And brought'st Thy sweets along with Thee.

1 comment:

  1. Just bought vol, 19 and i'm a few pages into ch. 3. The line, "The embracing of the two, body and spirit, is the supreme moment of resurrection..." (p. 40) spoke volumes to me about the nature of AT-ONE-MENT; the combination of eternally coexistant individualities. The necessity of opposition as found in body/spirit, male/female, mercy/justice, etc. Caused me to reflect on the nature of the relationship between the Father and the Holy Spirit, being one yet physically distinct...


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