Chapter

The Metaphysical Joseph Smith

Catherine L. Albanese

in Joseph Smith, Jr.

Published in print March 2009 | ISBN: 9780195369786
Published online January 2009 | e-ISBN: 9780199871292 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195369786.003.005
The Metaphysical Joseph Smith

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This chapter examines the Mormon prophet as a metaphysical figure. Noting that American religious history has too often limited itself to mainstream denominationalism and evangelicalism, the chapter has been able to limn the contours of metaphysical religion. This tradition emphasizes the world and human beings as ontologically parallel to, and deriving a stream of spiritual energy from, a higher reality. The consequent world view, as above, so below, is characteristic of hermeticism and modern mystics like Emanuel Swedenborg. Exploiting Richard Bushman's suggestion that Smith is a protean figure amenable to any number of religious agendas, this chapter finds he fits the bill perfectly as a proto-metaphysician. Extending the arguments of Bloom and Brooke, it argues that in addition to exploring occult antecedents and their influence on Joseph Smith, it is time for American historians to take account of the debt metaphysical religion owes to Joseph Smith.

Keywords: Mormonism; metaphysics; hermeticism; Emanuel Swedenborg; magic; occult; spiritualism

Chapter.  3218 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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