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By Common Consent, a Mormon Blog. Hugh Nibley was an undeniable and major influence on my life. I first discovered his writings as a young missionary, and soon became something of a fanboy, which continued when I returned to BYU to finish my undergraduate degree.
My study of ancient languages is just one of the many scholarly things I inherited from him. For more background on my own encounters with Nibley, please read my Sunstone In Memoriam piece. I caught up with Nibley just as his academic career was winding down. His last published book was Abraham in Egypt in He had a few more years of smaller publications, and then the trickle stopped. Maxwell for Religious Scholarship at BYU began publishing the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, which was intended to be a comprehensive reissuing of all of his writings.
One Eternal Round , which was just issued in time for the one hundredth anniversary of his birth, marks the 19th and final volume in the series. Nibley spent the last 15 years of his life working on this book, until he finally became too ill to do any more.
The Preface p. Nibley was lying on a hospital bed in the living room, but he was unconscious. Eventually they left the house with 30 boxes of papers, notes and pictures and some computer files containing numerous drafts some chapters existing in 20 different versions. It was an awkward moment; they all looked uncomfortably at each other, as no one at that point was prepared to make the kind of commitment necessary to shepherd this project through to completion.
After struggling with the idea for a day, the next night Michael Rhodes lay awake thinking about it, when a feeling of calm came over him, and he felt he could actually do it. So Rhodes took on the task of bringing some sense of coherence to this mountain of material.
Rhodes was the ideal person to do this. The book is supposed to be an extended treatment of Facsimile 2 of the Book of Abraham, and he had already published a seminal article on the subject: Michael D. He also keeps an updated version of that article on his website, which you can read here. Rhodes worried about their different writing styles. Rhodes even toyed with the idea of trying to show their different voices graphically in some fashion, such as with a different typeface a la KJV italics; thankfully he abandoned that notion.
So what is Facsimile 2? More broadly, it was a sort of short version of the Book of Breathings, which was a short version of the Book of the Dead, which reflected themes from the Coffin Texts, which reflected themes from the Pyramid Texts, all of which were focused on instructions and means to navigate the afterlife and become gods. They were private and intimate documents belonging to a very limited social class, families of priests and priestesses of Amun-Re.
The Critics 2. What Is the Problem? Dispensations and Axial Times 4. Myth, Ritual, and History 5. Abraham and the Great Year-Rite 6. What Is a Hypocephalus? Reading the Hypocephalus: Part 1, Figures , 8. Reading the Hypocephalus: Part 2, Figures 9. The Ascension Dramas Jewel of Discernment Joseph Smith, Hermetic Tradition, and the Hypocephalus The Kabbala Alexander the Great Nimrod For most readers, that assumption will be a vain one, I fear.
Personally, I liked chapters 6, 7 and 8—the material most directly commenting on the JS hypocephalus—the best. All of this material is related to hypocephali, even if sometimes only tangentially.
This material is quite expansive and traverses a lot of territory, both in geography and time. Although some see in this type of approach parallelomania run amuck, I see it as largely Nibley being a product of his own education. The approach has an old fashioned feel to it, but its ambition is certainly exhilarating. Much of this is kind of a high flying read, so Rhodes helpfully supplies brief summaries for some, though not all, of the chapters.
The book just sort of ends without a conclusion, which is probably inescapable given its posthumous nature, but it is unfortunate all the same. Although that is starting to change, Nibley gives those ideas a lot of respect.
Even though he views them through his omnipresent Mormon lens, here is a chance for a secular, modern Egyptologist to see a rare bird: a person who is highly educated and intelligent, can read the language, is very knowledgeable in both the texts and the modern scholarly literature, but who also reads those texts seriously, engaging his own religious sensibilities in the process.
I should think that for a 21st century Egyptologist reading Nibley would be an anthropological dream, rather like Dian Fossey studying her gorillas in the mist. Thanks for the review, Kevin.
The book is almost pages long. I think he was using the scriptural expression because hypocephali are round and deal with matters of eternity. FARMS sent the trucks and workers to clear all the materials out of his house a couple years before his death. The meeting where Rhodes, Welch, Gee discussed the nightmare of the editorial task, with Nibley unconscious in his bed, took place the day before he died.
I was also there, as was iirc Boyd Peterson, and a few others. I actually have some draft copies of a few of the chapters, as they looked circa It will be interesting to compare that with the collaborative finished product that Rhodes so bravely helped produce. There were multiple drafts of all the chapters, with wide variation, as well as multiple drafts of the table of contents — all different!
He simply knew he was getting on in years, and wanted to get out from under the payload. Nibley was working through some pretty mind-blowing stuff, and if Rhodes has managed to turn what he was given into a cohesive, readable whole, he deserves major credit.
Thanks Brad for pointing out my conflation of two separate events. Yeah, the differences in drafts were not minor. Some drafts were in Q and A format, and some were in dialogue format a format one can see in some of his Improvement Era articles. A lof of us thought it would be many years before this could be pulled together, so the fact that Rhodes was able to do it within five years is indeed a tremendous achievement. It seems like this paper mess offered some insight into how his mind worked.
Thanks for the review Kevin Nibley stated several times that he felt that once he had the book finished his life would end, that it would be his last work. Interesting, all in all. A question critics will have to continue to evade. It was just, in general, a great experience. The other was having a very pleasant walk across campus with him during the semester. It must be about 2. It made a nice cap-stone to the conversation. A fond memory, particularly his giving that much time to a freshman.
The Living Christ. There are a little more than surviving from a period of years. So who should read this book? I tried to come up with a list: 1. People who are fascinated by the pictures in the BoA and are curious what they mean.
People interested in BoA studies. Serious students of LDS scripture underline serious. People with an antiquarian interest in the ancient world generally. Preach It: Tweet. Filed Under: Mormon. Comments Ben Pratt says:.
March 21, at pm. Kevin Barney says:. Brad says:. Ben Pratt says:. March 22, at am. Bob says:. Jared T. Pedro A. Olavarria says:. March 22, at pm.
Stephen M Ethesis says:. I was there for some of the talks that are in the book, still really enjoyed reading it. Clark says:.
Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, Vol. 19: One Eternal Round
Mormonism and the Scientific Persistence of Circles: Aristotle, Spacetime, and One Eternal Round
By Common Consent, a Mormon Blog. Hugh Nibley was an undeniable and major influence on my life. I first discovered his writings as a young missionary, and soon became something of a fanboy, which continued when I returned to BYU to finish my undergraduate degree. My study of ancient languages is just one of the many scholarly things I inherited from him.
One Eternal Round
Abstract: The prominence of circles and circular motion has been one present in scientific discussion of the structure of the universe from Aristotle to Einstein. Development through Ptolemy, Copernicus and Kepler created elliptical variations, but in essence, the scientific community has been unable to break free of a certain degree of circular motion that ultimately seems fundamental to the very nature of the universe. In the premodern West, people reflexively assumed that the heavens and the earth mirrored each other. Science was not merely the art of discovery on earth, but it was a means for discovering truths on earth, which could yield insight about the heavens.
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