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.
Dialogue Foundation, 900 Hilgard Avenue, Los Angeles, California 90024
Backstage Library Works - 1180 S. 800 E. Orem, UT 84097
Rees, Robert A.
Pages scanned at 400ppi on Fujitsu fi-5650C sheetfed scanner as 8-bit grayscale or 24-bit RGB uncompressed TIFF images. Images resized to 950 pixels wide, 150 dpi, and saved as JPEG (level 8) in PhotoShop CS with Unsharp Mask of 100/.3.
Digital image, copyright 2004, Dialogue Foundation. All rights reserved.
136 I Dialogue are reminded of Santillana's characterization of astronomy as the "Royal Art/' or the "Royal Science/' in ancient times.9) The astronomy of the Book of Abraham is much concerned with time reckoning, "times and seasons," a matter of concern to ancient astronomy.10 To compare the Book of Abraham with the system of Philolaus, we note from the Book of Abraham Chapter 3 (and Facsimile No. 2) the following: The earth moves (e.g., verse 5). There is a great star, Kolob, "nearest unto the throne of God,"11 which is set "to govern all those which belong to the same order as that upon which thou standest" (verses 2, 3, 9). Moreover, at least according to the Egyptians, the sun borrows its light from Kolob,12 through the medium of a "governing power" which governs, among others, "the Moon, the Earth and the Sun in their annual revolutions." (See the explanation to Facsimile No. 2, Fig. 5.) Similarities to the system of Philolaus are evident. Verse 5 indicates that the moon, "the lesser light" (see Moses 2:16), moves "in order more slow" than the earth. We are informed that "this is in order because it standeth above the earth upon which thou standest, . . ." We are reminded that in Greek astronomy the slower planets are above the faster ones. Of course, I am not suggesting that the system of Philolaus is the Lord's astronomy, or that Philolaus is right. There are differences between Philolaus and Abraham. For example, the Book of Abraham does not follow its comments on the moon and the earth with similar comments about the sun; i.e., that the sun should move slower than the moon because it is above the moon. We are only told that if "the moon be above the earth, then it may be that a planet or star may exist above it" (verse 17, my italics.) We are assured, however, that there are other planets whose reckoning of time is greater than that of the moon (verses 7, 8.) In Greek astronomy the sun was above the moon, and it moved more slowly. In modern astronomy, the sun moves with the solar system around the center of the galaxy, and presumably with the galaxy through "space"; and it also rotates on its axis. The period of rotation at the surface is different for different solar latitudes; it is less than that of the moon at the solar equator, but becomes greater than that of the moon in regions sufficiently close to the solar poles. We note that the Book of Abraham makes no specific comment on the motion of the sun, except the comment about its annual revolution,13 which may be merely an opinion of the Egyptians (see the explanation of Facsimile No. 2, Fig. 5). To some extent the controversy about the Pythagoreans does not affect our discussion here—the similarities exist regardless of who was responsible for the various parts of the system of Philolaus and when they first appeared. They suggest to me the following queries: 1. How much information regarding these matters was unavailable to Joseph Smith, or available only with difficulty? Since our sources are ancient authors, (e.g., Aristotle), they were presumably not absolutely unavailable, but it would not appear to be exactly trivial to use them correctly. 2. Can evidence be found of a public or secret astronomical tradition14 from Abraham's day, passing perhaps through Egypt or Babylon, which could have reached the Pythagoreans, perhaps in corrupted form? (Of course further corruption or misunderstanding could easily have occurred from the Pythagoreans to us.) 3. What astronomical knowledge and belief might Abraham have had already