Periodicals; Mormons; Religious thought; Philosophy and religion
Independent national quarterly established to express Mormon culture and examine the relevance of religion to secular life. It is edited by Mormons who wish to bring their faith into dialogue with human experience as a whole and to foster artistic and scholarly achievement based on their cultural heritage. The journal encourages a variety of viewpoints; although every effort is made to insure accurate scholarship and responsible judgment, the views expressed are those of the individual authors and are not necessarily those of the Mormon Church or of the editors.
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The Book of Abraham and Pythagorean Astronomy William E. Dibble They called the earth a star as being itself too an instrument of time.1 The subject of Pythagoreanism is so controversial and loaded with uncertainties2 that what follows should be considered as speculation and suggestion for future research. Also, recalling the excellent advice of Galileo in his "Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina"3 regarding committing the Scriptures on matters of science, let me say that any interpretation of the Scriptures attempted here is likewise to be regarded as speculation and suggestion. However, there are some interesting comparisons which appear to be worth noting, and which, although some of them have been noticed before, have not been commented upon in print as far as I know. By the Pythagorean astronomy4 I refer to the system ascribed to Philolaus, apparently dated at about the end of the fifth century b.c. In this system the earth is a sphere revolving not around the sun, but around a central fire, which is variously termed the "Watch Tower of Zeus," the "Throne of Zeus," the "House of Zeus," wherein is located the "governing principle" and the "creative force" which gives life and warmth to the earth. The earth revolves around the central fire once a day, and also rotates on its axis once a day, thus keeping the same face directed toward the fire all the time. "Below" the earth is another planet, the counter-earth, also revolving around the central fire. Above the earth, also revolving around the central fire, are the moon, the sun, and the five planets, in that order outward from the orbit of the earth. Outside of them is the sphere of the fixed stars, and outside of that another fire surrounding the whole system. (We shall assume that, as is ascribed to the later Greek astronomy, the planets are ordered so that the slower moving ones are farther out than the faster moving ones.5) The sun does not shine from its own light, but transmits to the earth what it receives from the central fire, or perhaps from the outer fire. One source claims that some Pythagoreans also believed that the moon was inhabited by a superior race of plants and animals.6 Pythagoras himself, born early in the sixth century b.c, supposedly traveled to Babylonia and Egypt. Establishing himself in Southern Italy, he established his own order, the Pythagorean Brotherhood, with its own initiations and mysteries. There is a tradition of secrecy of doctrine among the Pythagoreans that even influenced Copernicus about two millenia later.7 Abraham presumably antedates Pythagoras by 1,500 years or so. According to the Book of Abraham,8 Abraham knew Mesopotamia and Egypt and was interested, or at least informed, in astronomy; in fact, Facsimile No. 3 has "Abraham in Egypt" "reasoning upon the principles of Astronomy, in the king's court." (We 135