Cultural Encounters: A Journal For The Theology Of Culture Volume 11 Number 1 (Winter 2015) - Page 82

MORMON METAPHYSICS - Morehead stands out above all the rest. According to Albanese, “perhaps none were so significant for the Hermetic underlay of early Mormon theology as the teachings of Emmanuel Swedenborg.”17 Swedenborg “had become something of a Hermetic household magus”18 in upstate New York during the nineteenth century. His doctrines included a concept of “God as the ‘Divine Human,’” aspects of “the Father Mother God of Hermeticism,” “heavenly soulmates with their etherealized sex,” “conjugal love,” and a tritheistic anti-Trinitarianism where the persons of the Godhead are radically “distinct and separate.”19 As students of Mormonism know, these elements of Swedenborg’s teachings find parallels in Smith’s teachings in Mormonism. God is understood as an Exalted Man; this Heavenly Father is accompanied by a Heavenly Mother; marriage is viewed as a covenant for time and eternity that will involve eternal procreation, and human beings are of the same species as the divine with potential for exaltation to godhood.20 As a result of her research on American metaphysical religion, Albanese concludes that Smith is “a New World Alchemist of the spirit,” who in his teachings blended folk magic “with a vernacularized Hermeticism [into] a new and combinative version that moved beyond itself even as it was being created, laying a path for the infusion of Hebraic and Christian strands and also much more.”21 Assessing Smith’s Metaphysical Materialism Webb is to be commended for interacting with Mormonism with respect and giving its metaphysical materialism serious consideration as a possibility for more traditional forms of Christianity. He raises important issues that must be reflected upon carefully since the stakes are high. As Webb states, if Mormon metaphysical materialism is true, then it “calls for the revision of nearly every Christian belief.”22 But before Christianity engages in such an 17. Ibid. 18. Ibid., 67. 19. Ibid., 68. 20. See the relevant entries in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism for discussions of these and other Mormon doctrines at 21. Albanese, “The Metaphysical Joseph Smith,” 70. 22. Webb, Mormon Christianity, 124. 81