Tuesday, 16 December 2008


Harold Bloom is haunted (he transfers, in a Freudian sense, that fascination onto Mormonism’s Joseph Smith) ‘by the figure of Enoch, who in ancient Jewish texts was transmogrified into the angel Metatron, sometimes called the lesser Yahweh. A giant in size, radiant with light, this patriarch-angel was renowned for his total knowledge of the secrets of God. If the distinction between God and man wavers anywhere in the Kabbalah, that wavering is most incessant in the figure of Enoch-Metatron. Enoch, who walked with God, is taken up by God and so does not die. The Kabbalists interpreted Enoch’s ascent as the restoration of the state of Adam, not Adam in the Garden but a preexistent cosmic anthropos, at once God, angel and man.' [Bloom, 'The Religion-Making Imagination of Joseph Smith', Yale Review 80 (1992), 29-30]

It can be hard to shake the sense that the (from certain perspectives) heresy of Mormonism is precisely the heresy of Babel: the notion that man and God are of equal stature. This makes it hard to follow the logic of the shift from sentence to sentence in this Bloomian passage:
Nowhere is Joseph’s genius so American as when he declares that God organized us and our world but did not create either, since we are as early and as original as he is. Emerson shrewdly anticipated David Brion Davis in finding Mormonism to be the last expression of Puritanism.
The superficial similarities (the strict daily rules, the centrality of lived faith and so on) are surely not so striking as the differences: that Puritanism is posited upon the gulf between God and man, the lighting of a flame of righteousness in the heart of men to signal the divine; whereas in Mormonism there is no gulf: man and God turn out to be the same thing. Puritanism a faith of soul besieged by body; Mormonism a faith founded upon an understanding of the immanent sacredness of the human form.

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