Friday, April 30, 2010
An Egyptological Interpretation of the Grand Governing Star Oliblish (Book of Abraham Facsimile 2, Figure 2)
I Called by the Egyptians Oliblish
The Prophet Joseph Smith specifically terms Oliblish an Egyptian name: "Stands next to Kolob, called by the Egyptians Oliblish, which is the next grand governing creation near to the celestial or the place where God resides; holding the key of power also, pertaining to other planets; as revealed from God to Abraham, as he offered sacrifice upon an altar, which he had built unto the Lord" (Book of Abraham Facsimile 2, Figure 2: http://www.lds.org/scriptures/pgp/abr/fac-2?lang=eng).
"Called by the Egyptians": Banished forever should be the silly notion that Oliblish belongs to a mysterious universe of Adamic, or pure language names known only to Mormonism. Kolob--Oliblish--Kae-e-vanrash--Kli-flos-isis--Enish-go-on-dosh: Adamic? Not so. The Prophet, in his Explanation, quashes all such nonsense in the bud. And Joseph Smith never equates Egyptian or Hebrew with the pure language spoken of in the Book of Moses.
The standing figure--towering "like a Colossus"--also appears on many other hypocephali. (Facsimile 2 is such a hypocephalus.) From these we can garner clues about his nature and name. And the first thing to note is the theme of knowledge on the legends (or tags) accompanying the figure--though not on Abraham's hypocephalus--specifically, knowledge of names and, broadly, nothing short of omniscience.
II Masters of Those Who Know
To understand the standing figure at the apex of the hypocephalus, we need to understand the short legends that accompany him on several of these documents. We start with three or four examples:
a) Book of Abraham Facsimile 2 shows the following legend on the left of the figure: rn nj nTr pf '3, "the name of this great god," or even "(I know) the name of this great god." Alternatively, we might read rnn nTr pf '3, "praise this great god," in which rnn puns on rn (praise puns on name). After all, legends attached to the central figure below often read: dw3 nTr pn, "worship or sing praise to this god." So which is the correct reading? We need to get past the idea of a sole correct reading.
b) On the Ashmolean hypocephalus (Tashenkhons) we find the following: jw rx.kwj rn nj, "I know the name of. . " Just below, attached to the central figure, we find dw3 nTr pn. We thus see a communication between the spheres associated with the two divine figures, who, perhaps, coalesce into one: jw rx.kwj rn nj nTr pn, "I know the name of this god." The verbal form is the stative, first person singular; the theme is knowledge of the hidden.
c) Two legends describing the figure on hypocephalus BM EA 37909 (8445a) appear on either side the two-faced figure and run vertically from top to bottom (see Hugh Nibley and Michael Rhodes, One Eternal Round, 266). On the left we read: jw rx.kwj. Here we again see the first person singular stative, a verbal form that often expresses verbs of perception in a perfective yet present sense: I know. The Egyptian verb of knowing, rx, employs either a stative, more commonly, or a preterite construction to express present knowledge: the form that conveys I knew, learned, found out signifies I know, as we also see in Latin novi or Greek egnoka (Gardiner, 245). On the right, we find: jw rxy. Yet another hypocephalus, d) Leiden AMS 62 shows, at top, by the crown, jw rx. The legend on a fifth hypocephalus, e) belonging to one Irethorrou reads only rxy (Louvre Museum Web page).
This last expression of knowing, in its several spellings, forms, or grammatical constructions, defies easy analysis. The sentence syntax of jw rxy might conceivably be taken for the prospective sDm(.w)=f form (I shall know; may I know: Nibley and Rhodes, 266) or even for a perfect passive form (I am known). Yet the perfect passive sDm(.w)=f, while occasionally displaying a written -.w, would seldom, if ever, display a -.y. We turn again to the stative: sDm(.w)=f expresses the third person masculine singular stative, though the -.w only sometimes appears in writing. The ending in -y, rather than -w, while slightly baffling, does not obstruct analysis. Leiden AMS 62, which shows jw rx, gives the game away: jw rx, jw rxy, or even rx, rx.w, or rx.y, cannot be anything but the third person masculine singular of the stative. Jw rx.w or rx.y: He knows. He knows and I know. If we were dealing with an Old Egyptian text, which we clearly are not, I should strongly suggest the third person dual of the stative, rxwy: These two know. And that's, at any rate, what we see in the iconography: the double-faced being, in double or dual vision, knows: These two know. What do they know? They know both directions, both realities, past and future, all things. Let's not limit the learned scribe--the rx-jx.t, the knower of things, to his own time or to his contemporaneous grammar: should the scribe stretch for duality, he might conjure up the archaic rxy: These Two know.
What we see in these various legends are two balanced stative forms. Reading from the right side to the left, we translate: He knows; I know. The expression balances the duality of the divine being himself, two faces, two perspectives, he and I. And the expression, with that striking pronominal shift, also evokes a frequently occurring boast in the Coffin Texts: "What he knows, I know too." Thus: "I also now know the name of this great god." Such knowledge transforms the deceased into a divine personality.
Of further interest are hypocephalus Wien 253, on which we see a sole legend, jw rx(.w), and the Turin Bronze hypocephalus; still, while the accompanying tags vary greatly, the iconography remains unchanged. The iconography expresses just what the various legends seem to express, and it further suggests that one face sees all knowledge past; the other, all knowledge future. Leftward lies all that I have found out, and thus now know; yet rightward lies not an eternity of discovery but an eternity discovered. Past and Future, the temporal view of knowledge, may be too limiting here. The iconography simply shows how the double-faced divinity comprehends knowledge as a whole because he views and grasps it in its essential duality, its right hand, so to speak, and its left. The god looks at "both sides of the equation." The contrasting outlooks, though expressing a duality, properly signify a whole, or a fullness of knowledge. Figure 2 is the Supreme Knower.
Oliblish attains to supreme knowledge, for he stands at the apex of the circle. Just so, the giraffe, periscope of animals, becomes, in the mysterious workings of his name, both hieroglyphic signature for the animal itself (sr) and for the spoken word of prophecy (also sr). The ram, who bears a like name (zr), shares, by semiotic default, a like office, and towering Oliblish wears the mask of the ram. (For ram-faced Oliblish at the apex see One Eternal Round, 265-6; for the omniscient ram, Joris F. Borghouts, "The Ram as a Protector and Prophesier," Revue d'Egypte 32 (1980), 33-46.)
For Oliblish, all knowledge unfolds in One Eternal Round. The Prophet's translation of the Book of Abraham best conveys the idea. As God tells Abraham: "My name is Jehovah, and I know the end from the beginning" (Abraham 2:8). Knowing the end from the beginning (and here is the temporal reading of knowledge), from our own ignorant vantage point, is knowing backwards--yet "all things are present before me" says God. Hypocephalus Leiden AMS 62 also shows an additional accompanying legend for Figure 2: jw n=k ntr.w nb.wt (Truly, all gods are unto or before you), which recalls, so Hugh Nibley, Zeus and his golden chain. The god becomes all gods, the All-Ba, or All-Manifesting (see One Eternal Round, 261; see also David Klotz, Five Hymns to Amun-Re from Hibis Temple, 28). In the Pyramid Texts the divine king gains knowledge and power by swallowing and ingesting a variety of gods: to swallow becomes the verb to know in later Egyptian because the heart-and-belly (the jb and the q3b, qrb, Kolob) are the seat of knowledge. (For a reproduction of Leiden AMS 62 see One Eternal Round, 637). Doctrine and Covenants 38:1-2, revealed to the Prophet on 2 January 1831, best expresses the Egyptian idea of omniscience. "All gods are unto you" = "looked upon. . . all the seraphic hosts of heaven."
The pairing of jw rx.kwj and jw rxy on hypocephalus BM EA 37909 expresses a theologoumenon (or theological point) about the nature of infinite knowledge. Omniscience divides into two voices or modalities, two directions--even two persons--while yet remaining a unity. The idea forcefully evokes the Urim and Thummim as one object with two stones (see Nibley and Rhodes, One Eternal Round, 450, quoting Anton Jirku), or the division of knowledge, intelligence, or glory between kingdoms, as mediated by two types of stones, as explained in the 130th Section of the Doctrine and Covenants, verses 9-10.
III The name of that greatest god
The same idea appears in different wording on the Abraham hypocephalus. Next to Figure 2 (as also next to Figure 1) we read: rn nj ntr pf '3 (name of the god). "Name of the god" might also be more literally rendered as "name of this (or that) greatest god"--all gods being considered great--yet Brother Joseph specifically speaks of the grand governing star ('3j = greatest, greatest of all.) Yet what rn nj ntr pf '3 signifies to the discerning reader is not "Name of the (greatest) god" but "[rx.kwj] rn nj ntr pf '3" (I know the name of the greatest god, or of this particular greatest god). The Ashmolean hypocephalus of Tashenkhons (British Museum Website) so witnesses: jw rx.kwj rn nj (I know the name of . . .). What appears on the top panel leaves us hanging until we see that where the phrase leaves off, reading from top to bottom, another phrase, running horizontally in the next panel, begins: ntr pn hrw 4 ([of] this god with 4 faces--our Kolob figure). "I know the name of this (greatest) god with 4 faces," which is also to know all which those faces illumine. Omniscience, in the truest, most transcendent, sense of the word, is to know the Name of the greatest god, in whom all things consist, in whom all things "hold together" (see Elder Neal A. Maxwell, "In Him All Things Hold Together," BYU Speeches, 31 March 1991).
Yet again we are left hanging since the name itself is never written. Or is it? Bien sur: "the name of the greatest god" is written in lieu of the god's own name. That is the point. A linguistic strategy of replacement or avoidance is at work. The phrase name of the god replaces the ineffable Name that only the Knower knows. Indeed the given name of the god, perhaps another smokescreen, meets the act of knowing itself: jw=j (or just jw) rx or rx=k (with its lateral glide and possible bilabial, followed by a liquid and an x or sh) comes as close phonologically to our Oliblish (jw=j = Oli or Olibi; jw = Olb, Olib, rx = lish, rish, resh, esh) as anyone could ask. Oliblish, Olibilish, or Oliblishk might then signal: I know your name. "I know (Eg. Oliblish) the name of this god" thus masks a riddle: "the god whose name is 'I know. . . his name'" that is to say, "the god whose name is Oliblish." While I shall suggest several other readings that may more closely approximate the name Oliblish, we must always keep in mind the Egyptian penchant for approximation and wordplay. Here is subtlety--and Egyptian writings teem not only with wordplay but with like strategies of avoidance, euphemism, and taboo. Each of the hypocephali cited renders the legend a little differently; that found on the Abraham hypocephalus simply yields: "the Name of this greatest god," which is both a name without naming and a declaration of knowledge. The same idea appears on a Wikipedia page titled, "Joseph Smith Hypocephalus": "This reading identifies/represents the name of the god without actually writing it," as in Hebrew practice. (The Wikipedia article, otherwise odd beyond telling, partakes of Budge and other dated and derivative "sources.")
All of the above recalls the story of Isis and Re in which Isis coerces Re into revealing his Name. He responds by reeling off name after name without ever revealing the Name. The word for that Name is given simply, in the story, as rn, Name, not, as the commentators have it, "secret name" or "true name." The Name of the god is simply his name, just as in the phrase rn nj ntr pf '3. And yet the Name turns out to be a secret, after all--so we might as well read "secret name of this greatest god" on our Facsimile 2. Here is Name as Mask, a peculiar and specific correspondence to the idea of "hypocephalus as mask," with the mask or head as replacement and substitute for the god's invisible head (Dimitri Meeks, "Dieu masque, Dieu sans tete," Archeo-Nil, 1991). It is not that the god has no head: The head is invisible because it is beyond "knowing" and "seeing." We are facing transcendence. To receive the hypocephalus, says Professor Meeks, is to receive a new head, a solar head, and "Then shall the righteous shine forth like the sun" (Matthew 13: 43). Or even like Kolob. (Elder Neal A. Maxwell wished for LDS students some of the "candlepower of Kolob." In transcendent correspondence we enter the circuit of Oliblish, we hie to Kolob; "Out of the Best Faculty," BYU Magazine, Aug. 26, 1993.) To confirm Meeks's idea we only have to note how every single figure on the hypocephalus, either masked--the new head--or naturally represented, appears in the form of an animal. All is symbolic, not one of the figures is what it appears to be.
While it may be the owner of the hypocephalus who boasts such secret knowledge through the mouth of "the standing solar figure," it ultimately is that (masked) figure himself who so asserts: "I know the name of the greatest god with 4 faces." Notice he is not that greatest god himself, but the chosen heir to the knowledge of one great beyond all, one "more intelligent than they all"--as Abraham has it. Oliblish "Stands next to Kolob" as the Knower. Such knowledge can indeed be no other than the "the key of power" held, the Prophet tells us, by that same Oliblish. He also quite literally holds the Wepwawet, or Opener-of-the-Ways staff as key, according to Brothers Rhodes and Nibley (One Eternal Round, 267-268). To know the names of the governing planets, and of the divinities associated with them (an Egyptian idea), is to hold the key of universal power. Thus the hypocephalus itself becomes an encyclopedia of how the Egyptians order their universe and, thus, itself becomes the key to order and power.
And, given that "all gods are unto him," who is this greatest god (or stand-in for the greatest), the one greater "than they all," the god into whom all other gods fold as the curtain of knowledge is drawn open? It is Amun (jmn), "the Hidden One." He sees the cosmos in its entirety with his solar eye, but the Eye (pupil-with-iris) for us is masked: "masked" in overwhelming multispectral brilliance, that is, or hidden in plain sight (see David Klotz, Adoration of the Ram, Chapter 7). The iris holds all light, all color, the vision of all nature in all its infinite variety. One thinks of the sea of glass before the throne of God, what the Prophet Joseph calls another Urim and Thummim. Even that translucent sea merely reflects the throne: the sea stands near to God's residence but remains at a remove. "Residence of God" is a strange, even bizarre, phrase for 19th Century Protestant Americans, since it implies that God has a house (and that concretely not "a house without hands"). Good-bye to the poetic phraseology of Paul; Prophet Joseph is giving us a planet as residence. What could be more unthinkable?
IV Eye and Throne: the Name of Osiris
Yet what of the signs of Eye and Throne that write the name Osiris, another greatest god? Eugene Lefebvre suggests we read the signs as "The residence of the sun" ("Osiris" in Lexikon Aegyptologie, 624). By residence, Lefebvre has in mind the setting down of the sun in the netherworldly realms of Osiris, a blending or residence (not subsidence!) of powers both above and below. And we accordingly note what Brother Joseph says: "Kolob, signifying the first creation, nearest to the celestial, or the residence of God," as well as the two mentions of the divine throne, one above, one inverted and below (Facsimile 2, Figures 1, 3, and 7). Osiris is the Throne of the Eye. That is to say: "God sitting upon his throne, revealing through the heavens the grand Key-words of the Priesthood," which Key-words are represented, Hugh Nibley teaches us, by the sign of the Wedjat-Eye (One Eternal Round, 313-22). Osiris, where the sun is concerned, is also the Residence of Resurrection.
Despite endless attempts at interpretation, that particular combination of signs nevertheless stands outside the wisdom of scholarship. Yet we think we know everything about it. The Prophet speaks profoundly of writings to be had in the Temple of God, and we blithely read, or "translate," one of those lines as "the Ba of Osiris Shoshonq" or of any-old "Osiris NN", that is, Osiris + Nomen of the deceased, which means--as all know-- just "the late So-and-So." True enough--and yet we forget that the hieroglyphic combination of Throne and Eye that make up that Name, that of the greatest god, has never been adequately explained. Both Throne and Eye, as Brother Nibley is at pains to point out, are the province of goddesses like Isis, Hathor (and Princess Sarah). The goddess in her role of transmission of royal authority informs the name of Osiris (Abraham in Egypt, Chapter Five; One Eternal Round, 151-160; I also note the familiar wordplay on the name of Osiris and the title of Prince, wsjr and sr--if not also princess, sr.t, srh, Sarah). No princess, no prince. No Sarah, no Osiris.
What does Throne and Eye mean? And exactly how was it pronounced in Pharaonic times? Not a living soul has any idea--it's a mystery. In this light one remembers that the Name we read, for convenience, as Jehovah was only "to be had in the Temple of God." (According to Hugh Nibley, One Eternal Round, 256ff., something approximating the sacred Name is found in the Prophet's Explanation as Jah-oh-eh.) We must never forget, when discussing divine names--should we even dare the attempt--that Jehovah (with its many variants), Ahman, Alphus, Omegus, Osiris, Isis (and wsjr and js.t), among others, remain mere masks of Names and pure convention. The question, then: When exactly is it that we know what we're talking about? Well did the Prophet Joseph say that anyone claiming knowledge about God might well go home and put his hand over his mouth until he finally came to know something (anything). After all, knowing is doing, and who would dare to act out his salvation without knowledge of God? The Netherworld texts of the Egyptians, as is well-known, sometimes substitute rx and jrj, knowing and doing the names of the gods and associated rites; indeed, one hypocephalus (Wien 253) gives as legend jwryk, perhaps a sort of fusion of the two verbs, if that's how the signs are to be read.
So what might Oliblish signify in Egyptian? In the absence of hieroglyphs we must turn to phonology for answers, imperfect and preliminary though our understanding of Egyptian phonology may be, and as speculative and tentative as any such answers must be. The discerning question must therefore be: Could Oliblish, by any stretch of the imagination, represent an Egyptian name--and a meaningful one at that? Oli- finds an "exact" hit, surprisingly, in both '3j and in the nearly synonymous wrj (great or grand, greatest, to be greatest). Joseph Smith does term Oliblish a "grand governing star." But how about the -b? It might represent the preposition m, a cognate with the Hebrew preposition, b: thus "the One great(est) in knowledge or knowing (lish). Even closer may be wrj-ib (great of heart), the heart being also the seat of knowledge, or 3wj-jb (expansive or expansion-of-heart = joyful; cf. Moroni in Alma 48:12, "his heart did swell with thanksgiving, [joy], etc."). A phonological transcription of 3wj-jb would yield owib or even owlib, or olib. (Remember that Egyptian jb and Hebrew leb [lev] are cognates.) Wrj-jb (Great of heart), an attested Egyptian name (Ranke, Personennamen II), would yield the same. If we consider phonological correspondence to Semitic languages, Egyptian 3wj-jb, with its lateral glides, suggests Oli-lib or Olib (Eg. jb = Semitic lib or libb, the heart; as others have noted, Lib also names the most energetic Jaredite king).
Possibilities for a phonologically viable Egyptian reading of Oliblish indeed abound. As noted above, the solution to Oliblish may be as simple, and as puzzling, as the cryptic words: jw=j rx=kwj rn nj ntr pf ("I know the name of that god," or even, "I know" is the name of that god). Hugh Nibley also notes a star whose Egyptian name, "granted the elusive quality of the Egyptian liquid sounds," recalls Oliblish: 'bsh ("The Three Facsimiles of the Book of Abraham," Provo, 1980; Wb. I, 179, 3: New Kingdom).
How about -lish? Two possible readings come to mind, though I find neither convincing.
1) It is altogether possible to see in -lish not three distinct Egyptian phonemes, but one. The Egyptian grapheme we commonly associate with phoneme /sh/ (the shin) may well mask more than one phoneme. For instance, it may mask a lateral fricative, like the phoneme represented in Welsh by ll. The Hebrew grapheme shin apparently masks an additional phoneme, perhaps the lateral fricative. Whether lateral fricative or not, a rough transliteration, made for the ear, not the eye, might not be readily identifiable. We have to work at it, puzzle things out. In other words, lish could represent Egyptian shin. We might, then, see Oliblish as reflecting wrj-b3-Shw = Oli-b-Shw = Oli-b-lish (Great is the Ba of Shu). The giant Oliblish figure on the hypocephalus is, after all, and beyond dispute, the Ba of Shu (or, the Ba Shu). (Nibley, Improvement Era, August 1969, notes how these striking names in the Book of Abraham are written, and sometimes variously so, for the ear.)
The god Shu personifies the power of light moving, in its brilliance, through the atmosphere or expanse of space. (Doctrine and Covenants 88 so speaks of God "moving in His majesty and glory" in the midst of space.) Amun, or Amun-Shu, is the Ba of Shu :
[Yo]u are Amun [both twt n jmn = You are Amun and Image of Amun],
You are Shu,
you are the highest of gods,
you are 'Sacred of Manifestations' as the four winds of heaven,
so (you) are called, when they come forth from the mouth of his majesty.
The Ba of Shu, who bends the winds, who traverses heaven daily. . .
unto the limit of the heavenly circuit [rim of hypocephalus, etc.]
(Hymn to the Ba's of Amun, David Klotz, Five Hymns to Amun-Re from Hibis Temple, 59-60).
As the Ba of Shu all gods "are unto him": b3 Sw n nTr.w nb.w (the Ba of Shu for every God), Invocation Hymn, Third Ba, Klotz, ibid. 28. Hugh Nibley also calls figure 2 "Shu." As Shu, the giant wears the Shwty feathers that represent the "light and energy that traverses and fills the space between heaven and earth, a light (to quote Joseph Smith) 'pertaining to other planets.'" (Hugh Nibley, Michael Rhodes, One Eternal Round, 267).
So does -lish represent a phonetic attempt to write the name Sw, Shu? I don't think so. Let's keep looking.
2) The outcome for rx (to know) in Coptic, the latest form of the Egyptian language as written in Greek letters, is esh. And the Egyptian lateral we conventionally associate with an r as often as not corresponds to l (in fact was originally an l). But how about sh for x? The third of the four h's in Egyptian, which is a guttural h (x) not found in English, often has an outcome sh in later Egyptian--if that's not frequently the original pronunciation anyhow. And remember, we cannot recover all the manifold workings of dialect in the earlier stages of the language. We're left with the vowel. Coptic shows e: esh, but the earliest phase of Egyptian had no e-vowel at all. There was, however, an i. A reading rx for -lish remains a possibility, though, here again, I'm not convinced.
While we continue to seek a sound phonological equivalent for our -lish in the Egyptian lexicon, we may yet mull over the following definition found in the Kirtland Egyptian Papers (as penned by one of the Prophet's friends):
Ah lish ['3 rx = The One who is Greatest in Knowing?]: The first being--supreme intelligence; supreme power. . . without beginning of life or end of life; comprehending all things; seeing all things.
The accent falls on knowledge, just as on the hypocephalus labels. Although the Kirtland Egyptian Papers constitute not scripture but speculation, they do sport a few bona fide Egyptian and Semitic words and ideas and may accordingly contribute something to our knowledge of the ancients, as Hugh Nibley pointed out so definitively many years ago. Yet because we nowadays have the blessing of a five-volume Egyptian lexicon, we don't need to spend a New York minute on such preliminary Papers--as Hugh Nibley several times admonishes us in his masterpiece, One Eternal Round. (Let's listen!)
Olib-lish can perhaps be read variously as 3wj-jb [m?] rx or 3wj-jb rx(y), or 3wy-jb [m?] rx(-sw) (the Expansive of Heart, the Knower, that is, the Joyous One, who knows (it), or the Knower). Such a reading also suggests, by way of word play, 3wj-jb rash (the Joyous One, who rejoices, or the Joyous, the Rejoicing One). Here is a being who rejoices in knowledge, and Abraham himself is ever seeking greater knowledge--including the knowledge of the star Oliblish. Oliblish, in the image of Kolob, is thus a second "Heart Star" (Abraham 1:1).
Oliblish bespeaks both strength and joy. "Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world/ Like a Colossus" (Julius Caesar 1.2.135). There is no fault in that star! In Book of the Dead Chapter 162, the hypocephalus chapter, this very figure takes the epithet Pal or Par (Oli-bl-ish? Wrj-Pal-Shu?) and is described as both the mighty lion (p3 lw ph.tj) and a mighty runner. The theme of the solar runner appears both in the Psalms and Egyptian cosmological texts (as often noted by Hugh Nibley): "Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoices as a strong man to run a race. His going forth [Eg. prj] is from the end of the heavens, and his circuit [Eg. phr] unto the ends of it [the circle and the apex of the hypocephalus]: and there is nothing hid from the heat [Eg. hh] thereof" (Psalm 19:4-6). Here is joyous Oliblish at the apex of sky and season, holding the keys of the burning Summer solstice; his opposite number, the feminine Enish-go-on-dosh, is a "name" describing the moment of the Winter solstice. And Winter is the low point, or ho telos, reminiscent of the telestial kingdom of Doctrine and Covenants 76 (Hugh Nibley links telestial to the Greek noun telos).
VI Stands Next to Kolob
Even so, Oliblish does not outshine Kolob; he is second in command, the lieutenant-governor of the stars, the outcome or emanation of Kolob's radiant morning. What the Prophet says is: "Stands next to Kolob," which itself approaches "nearest to the celestial, or the residence of God." Veiled in the bosom of eternity lies the crowning Celestial Throne Star, the diadem of Eternal Home. As for Kolob and Oliblish: "Neither one is the center of everything." Nor indeed is our local sun, Enish-go-on-dosh! There are many kingdoms of glory (One Eternal Round, 265).
The repeated word next finds a parallel in Egyptian writings about the heavenly bodies. Rait, the Female Sun (pictured as the cow, Enish-go-on-dosh, in Facsimile 2, Figure 5) is naechste (so Heinrich Brugsch translates) to the Sun. Brugsch builds on the idea that the Egyptians also considered certain other heavenly bodies to be "suns", that is, reflections of the Sun, the greatest of all, the grand governing creation (Heinrich Brugsch, Thesaurus Inscriptionum Aegyptiacarum I (1883), 78f.: r' pw nb r'.w nb.w, that Re who is lord of every Re). In his Thesaurus Brugsch also lists an array of planets bearing names reflective of the ancient sky-and-solar god, Horus. Their light is a borrowed one.
The Egyptian word that underlies naechste is sn.nw(.t), which means second in order (sn means two; sn.nw, second: as in Joseph Smith's labeling for Oliblish, Figure 2; the so-called Book of Breathings is the sn-sn document, two-by-two, twain). The Prophet Joseph renders the Egyptian ideas in the Egyptians' very idiom! Because Sn.nw(.t) also corresponds to the word twtw (image, copy, likeness), when referring to Re, Sn-nw(.t) signifies a reflection, double, image, twin, or likeness of the sun. Again, we recall the Prophet's words: "said by the Egyptian to be the Sun," that is, not necessarily the actual sun but perhaps a reflection thereof, a likeness, as "another of the governing planets." Note the attested Egyptian name Wrj-twtw-imn (Great is the Image of Amun), which something suggests the Oliblish idea. Brugsch speaks of the female twin of the Sun in a text from Philae, but Rait is not the only solar star. David Klotz (Adoration of the Ram, 177), cites the following from the Harris Magical Papyrus:
"I am Shu, the image of Re (twt R'), who sits within the wedjat-eye of his father,"
which recalls the double-plumed "Shu-crown" of double-faced Figure 2, who stands within the wedjat-eye, or the hypocephalus (see One Eternal Round, 267-8).
An early Christian writing--I momentarily forget which writing--calls Adam the "proto-plasmos," or "first creation"; his son, Seth, was begotten "in his own likeness, after his own image" (Moses 6:10: sn.nw and twtw), a teaching upon which Joseph Smith places much attention: "Because he (Seth) was a perfect man, and his likeness was the express likeness of his father, insomuch that he seemed to be like unto his father in all things, and could be distinguished from him only by his age" (Doctrine and Covenants 107:43, from the Book of Enoch; Facsimile 2 of the Book of Abraham, Explanation, figure 1: Kolob, "the first creation." See also History of the Church, V: 247, where Joseph compares his brother Alvin to Adam and Seth.)
Thus the Harris Magical Papyrus, the lost Book of Enoch, and the Book of Abraham hypocephalus all teach one doctrine about the primeval inheritance of authority from father-to-son, a teaching emphasized by the Prophet Joseph in the great Revelation on Priesthood and also in his Explanation of the hypocephalus. The explanation for Facsimile 2, figure 3 specifically mentions Seth as the link between Adam and future generations ("Noah, Melchizedek, Abraham, and all [others]") in the line of patriarchal authority, "the grand Key-words" of which "Holy Priesthood" takes hieroglyphic representation as the wedjat-eye (Nibley treats the wedjat-eye in One Eternal Round, 315-22).
"And all to whom the Priesthood was revealed": note how priesthood is both passed down in unbroken line and also revealed, separately, to individuals. The pattern subtly, though paradoxically, suggests both line and dispensational cycle. The Prophet Joseph also unfolds a distinct, though incomplete, pattern of presidency at the opening of dispensations, a pattern but little spoken of. In several gospel dispensations, if not all, the keys of presidency are conjointly held in order to accord with the law of witnesses. Though not able to speak to particulars, we can attempt a list: Adam (who really presides over all dispensations) and Seth (or, Abel and Seth); Enoch; Noah and Shem; Abraham and Esaias (or Isaac?), or Abraham ehad--"I called him alone"; Moses and Elijah; Peter, James, and John; Joseph and Hyrum.
Seth, according to the Revelation on Priesthood (Doctrine and Covenants 107), was ordained by Adam to transmit the blessings, ordinances, and teachings specifically to his own posterity. (Prophecy dares the larger, worldwide audience in Enoch's day, with a resounding challenge, and with good measure of success.) A second Prophet, son of Hyrum, continues Joseph's vision: As "one of the mighty ones, who was in the express image of his father," Seth holds the keys of the priesthood and its ordinances conjointly with Adam, or as the link with Adam, being also his personal representative or agent, his standard-bearer (Vision of the Redemption of the Dead, Joseph F. Smith, Doctrine and Covenants 138: 40). Thus the Prophet Joseph can also say, without any contradiction: "The Priesthood was first given to Adam: he obtained the First Presidency [that is, the first Presidency], and held the keys of it from generation to generation. . . He is Michael the Archangel. . .Then to Noah, who is Gabriel; he stands next in authority to Adam in the Priesthood. . . and was the father of all living in his day" (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, 104). Adam and Seth, like Kolob and Oliblish, though in standing order also stand in fusion of authority; the others, archangels and stars alike, follow in the wake. Oliblish, at the side of the king, holds the Wepwawet standard, the planets follow (see One Eternal Round, 267
On the Nash hypocephalus, "figures 1 and 2 are combined and their identity clearly established," or dually established (One Eternal Round, 265). One solar phase flows imperceptibly into another: master of forms aplenty, sun upon sun (nb xpr.w 'ash3.w, lord of many kheperu ~ r'w nb r'w, Book of the Dead Chapter 162). The hypocephalus displays a pattern, a relational pattern, bespangling creation, never rigid depiction.
Yet Kolob remains Kolob. It is also a mistake to say, as some do, that Kolob images the Celestial Christ in one-on-one correspondence. After all, both Oliblish and Enish-go-on-dosh (as sun)--and even the earth in its four quarters--also bespeak His glory. "All things testify of me;" but witness differs from identity, likeness remains likeness. Nor can we simplistically suppose Canopus or Sirius to be Kolob. Zarahemla may well be El Mirador, pyramids bathed in red, but Kolob is not Sirius. It lies beyond our Milky Way. Names and symbolism may match and reflect, but identity in an absolute sense is another matter. Neither Joseph Smith nor Hugh Nibley identify those stars. As our view of galactic space expands, so should our certitude about places lesson. Humility hits us from both sides; yet, as saving grace, we also come to call humility but wonder, and wonder grants us a place in the world. Though shaken by instrumental revelation of every kind, we still stand just a little lower than the angels.
Nor can (nor do) egyptologists blithely label every seeming-solar figure simply sun. Many stars and planets are said to be the sun, yet there is perchance one grand governing star. The central figure on the hypocephalus sun-like appears, but ever examples something more than just sun (as Jan Assmann insists). R' pw nb r'.w nb.w (Re it is, who is lord of every re) bespeaks a mystery, a game of words, a relational go-round: Ria nib riaw nibw. The One and the Many--so Erik Hornung subtitles his classic work, Conceptions of God in Ancient Egypt.
The One and the Many; the One in Duality: "On some hypocephali," Nibley and Rhodes tell us, "this figure is labeled both Re and Amun-Re, the same power at different levels. He stands at the zenith of the year and the noon of the day at his greatest moment of power [a solar phase]--the sun, the ruler of the solar system, but everything about him reminds us that he is in motion [running the round]. What about the rest of his journey, passing through the underworld from west to east? We are referred to the key, the Wepwawet, 'Opener of the Ways,' which lets us out of the underworld" (One Eternal Round, 265, italics added).
"All these are kingdoms" says Doctrine and Covenants 88:47, with that which is below in likeness of that which is above (see Moses 6:63). Here, then, are three solar images, even Kolob and its mirroring in descending kingdoms of light and power, an image that answers to the revelation of the three kingdoms of heavenly glory found in Doctrine and Covenants Sections 76 and 88. Given the Prophet's statement about both Kolob and Oliblish standing, in graded order, "near to the celestial," a reading of Facsimile 2 in light of Section 76 has doubtless occurred to most readers. We need not try to specify which star matches which glory. It is simply the triadic nature of the cosmos that matters here.
The depictions on the hypocephalus reflect a cosmos bathed in light. At least two figures can be said to represent the sun: our Figures 1 and 2 (sunrise and solar zenith). But the Egyptians always speak of the three phases of solar light, including the setting, or night sun in its netherworldly manifestation. For the hypocephalus idea to be complete, for the times and seasons to come to fullness of glory, we must look for three images, three phases, or three manifestations of that glory--and this is where the Prophet Joseph comes in. According to the Prophet, who expands our view by giving us three kingdoms of glory as well as three glorious phases of celestial light, the Hathor Cow, standing opposite to Oliblish, and inverted, "is [also?] said by the Egyptians to be the Sun, and to borrow its light from Kolob through the medium of Kae-e-vanrash," that is to say, an image reflected through a mirroring from above.
"And behold, all things have their likeness" (Moses 6:63). So God spoke to Adam in the beginning of the world. One kingdom stands mirrored in another, and all brilliantly reflect the glory of God (Moses 6:63; Doctrine and Covenants 88:4). These verses from Moses and the Olive Leaf revelation appear often in Hugh Nibley's study of the Prophet's Explanation of Facsimile 2, and in so noting, I extend to the reader an invitation to discover and to re-discover that marvelous volume, One Eternal Round, as coauthored and edited by Hugh Nibley's friend and student, Professor Michael Rhodes. A good place to begin is on pages we have not even begun to explore: Facsimile 2, Figure 2, 265-268. Here we descry a governing Star "Striding forth boldly on his eternal rounds," with the Sw.ty-feathers of his crown, "a symbol of eternal beginning" and of light's distribution, loftily "protud[ing] above the confining edge" of the known universe.
The essay has been edited several times since its date of initial posting. For instance, the last four paragraphs, along with further elucidation, in light of the Prophet's Explanation of Facsimile 2 of the Book of Abraham, of Professor Eugene Lefebvre's reading of the name Osiris as the Residence of Re, were all added on 12/6/2011. Material on Seth and Adam added 4/28/2012. The reading of Oliblish as Wrj-b3-Shw added 2/9/2014.
Copyright 2010 by Val H. Sederholm