Dr. Einar C. Erickson
Ancient Document Mormon Scholar
Main Menu
Search
Statistics
Articles View Hits
1325503

Quote

The archeons have the purpose of denying knowledge to man, there is even an effort to forbid him to eat out of the tree of knowledge. But unknown to the evil archeon, but unknown to them the Father was acting through them. It was the Father's intention that man should eat. Temptations seem to be that the father knew man would disobey and order by the Gods.

INTRODUCTION

In 1981, while on a trip to China, about three years after the end of the cultural revolution in  1979, which in part, tried to rid China of religious texts, particularly Christian, we not only had to stipulate that we did not bring any Mormon literature or Bibles into China, but they also searched our baggage to make sure. We were with a BYU group so they knew we were Mormons and prone to carry Book of Mormons around with us. But they were very adamant at that time that no such literature was to be brought in with the intent to leave it behind. Precisely our intent. But we purposefully did not want to rise the ire of the officials so we were carrying no such literature.  That was more than forty years ago, since then things have really changed.  We had stayed overnight in Nanjing.  At the evening meal we met President Packer and Elder Holland, who, when asked what were they doing there, answered they were overseeing the recording of Chinese genealogies that had been in progress for eight months. The conversation turned to the preparation of China for the spread of the gospel throughout its nearly l.5 billion inhabitants, and a hoped for temple in western China. Until there is a political change that would permit missionaries in China and approve the construction of sacred structures from ward meetings places to Temples, nothing can be done. It appears that we are still a long way from having that kind of religious toleration and freedom, without which the gospel cannot be brought to China. There is still a great deal yet to do. Little did we know less than four decades later that changes would be in progress, Nanjing would be the location of AMITY PRINTING PRESS.

In the last several years the American Bible Society and a sister Asiatic Society have achieved success in getting approval of buying bibles that would be printed by the Chinese Government for one dollar each through a successful program called Bibles a Month Project.  Since the 1960's I had been affiliated with the ABS and when that program was initiated I became an active subscriber in addition to making other contributions for the publishing and circulation of bibles in China. Now, recently, especially this year, 2012, the entire program was greatly facilitated by the establishment of AMITY PRINTING PRESS in Nanjing with an agreement with the Chinese government to print the  bibles for merely subsidizing the paper. This paper subsidy has led to a great expansion of bibles becoming available in China. Is this part of the master plan for China? Late this summer, a generous donor to ABS provided $500,000 on the basis that matching funds of that amount would be donated by others by the end of September. By October a new political group will take their turn at ruling China. The funds came in and the combined donations provided the paper for more than one million bibles for some fortunate Chinese. Is there divine purpose in all of this?  Over the  past several years a tremendous increase in funds for bible publishing and distribution in China has become evident and has accelerated in 2012.

"On July 2, 2012, Chairman and Elder and leader Fu Xianwei of the Three Self Party Movement/China Christian Council visited the American Society to thank ABS for the continued support in providing Bibles for China, especially through the paper subsidy mentioned earlier. The President of ABS,  R. Lamar Vest,  presented Elder Fu with a gift on behalf of ABS: a replica plaque for Bible House. It was inscribed with the words, 'The entrance of thy words giveth  light: this Bible House-the gift of the Maryland Bible society to the American Bible Society-is dedicated to the circulation of the Holy Scriptures among the people of China since  1926. The Word of the Lord endureth forever'." (Liz Smith p. 6)  For more than 86 years Bible House had been providing bibles for China. Is this included in the great master  plan of Father in Heaven to prepare China for the restoration? Of great significance, most often it is the King James Version of the bible that is getting translated and circulated.   

In China, a woman named Yip, and her family, obtained a copy of the bible, allowing her to study and teach others. "Her family sold their most valuable possession-their water buffalo.  This was no small decision. Yip and her family are farmers, their water buffalo was the 'tractor' that helped plow their fields. The buffalo's milk also helped put food on the family's table. But they were willing to sell this valuable animal so Yip could have something even greater, an expanded knowledge of God's Word."  (Smith p. 6)  Yip and her family live in a mountainous area without roads or transportation. To go to church the people start out on Saturday making the six mile trek on foot over the mountains. They worship all day Sunday, then must walk back home on Monday.  The church does not have a pastor, like most 'churches' in China, the congregation relies on Yip, because she is the most informed, to instruct them in god's Word. The partnership between ABS and Amity Press in Nanjing, permits the Society to help to ensure people like Yip and her family to read, teach, and hear the Good News. (Smith p. 6)  Are they being prepared for the restoration of the gospel in their area of China?  Certainly!

Last year Bill and Rita Bartlett, who had been supporting ABS programs for many years, had an opportunity to travel to China with ABS Senior Philanthropic Advisor Rob Smith and see the fruit of the China ministry firsthand.  Rob Smith arranged for them to distribute Bibles at a church in a small rural town in China.  They received a welcome there like none other. As they drove up the hill approaching the church, they were amazed to see people singing, clapping and waving. Outside the Church more people stood on the roof, inside, it was standing room only. Bill remembers the scene, describing how, as they presented the people with Bibles, the congregants received them with "tears of joy streaming down their faces."  Bill and Rita sold their successful business, prayed about how to share God's generosity with others, since they were already heavily invested in ABS's work, they made provisions in their estate for a major gift. (Smith p. 27)  Thanks to them and others with similar intent, God's word will continue to bear fruit in places like China until the next step forward will be the spreading of the gospel and the doctrines of the restoration throughout China through the efforts of full time missionaries of the LDS Church, with full authority to do so.  Most of the so called 'churches' in China are not affiliated with any particular denomination, they have no central authority, no pastor, no leadership as such, they meet wherever they can, mostly in homes, those who are most informed attempt to teach the others.  They are linked by a common interest in the Bible and a feeling of great changes to come, as if China is being prepared for a burst of light-the light of the gospel.

THE FERTILE CRESECENT

About two thousand years ago, four great civilizations were established in a semi-circle around Inner Asia. At the extreme east was the mighty empire of China under the Han rulers. Han is the proud name the Chinese use to-day when they distinguish themselves from the tribal or border peoples of their country. Westward were the highly developed cultures of the Indian, Iranian and Graeco-Roman worlds. To these China was linked-directly and indirectly- by the web of overland roads known as the  Silk Roads. This web of roads resembled a many-strand necklace on which hung, like pearls, the oasis-cities of Central Asia.  In these oases were exotic mixtures of the civilizations that nourished them.  There the seeds of Buddhism, Indian and Iranian influences which included Nestorian, Zoroastrian, Manichaean, Mandaeanism and Hinduism with the great epics of the Mahabharata and the Ramayana were given a chance for new forms of expression and to exchange freely the gifts of each. (Vincent pp. 4-5; Kagan p. 90)  At the time of Xuanzang, about 650 AD, the exchange was nearly at its greatest pinnacle.

HINAYANA AND MAHAYANA BUDDHISM

Buddhism has flourished in India "under the imperial patronage of the great King Ashoka in the third century B.C.  A royal saint, whose name was later honored throughout Asia, Ashoka was converted to Buddhism after he had completed the bloody conquest-begun by his grandfather [Moshaka]-of almost all India. ..Ashoka ordered to be carved on stone columns...the  precepts of Buddhism...the earliest known examples of Buddhist art, enjoined his people....to love one another, to respect all religious sects...the motif on one of his columns-the lion of Sarnath-is to-day the official seal of ...India...the kingdom became so peaceful...a woman might safely travel alone the length and breadth...with a jewel in her hand." (Vincent p.  6)  The Mauryan Empire established by Ashoka's grandfather had come to power to counter the invasions from Bactria and northwest India by Alexander the Great.  Alexander was forced to withdraw, he had reached the edge of his conquests.  India was not to be his.  Ashoka's "son carried the doctrines to Ceylon, which today remains the spiritual head of...Hinayana or LESSER VEHICLE, of  Buddhism." (Vincent p. 6) 

In India, Gandhara became the  pivotal point of departure for Buddhism in its eastward progress through Central Asia and to China, thence to Korea and Japan. (Vincent pp. 6-7)  "By 100 BC Gandhara became...the seat of a powerful empire..the  Kushans...Indo-Scythians...[Their] power extended over most of Central Asia and northern India...a great ruler...Kanishka...like Ashoka...revered throughout the Buddhist world...an age of extraordinary cultural and religious foment...in distant Galilee, Christ, founder of another world-religion, was born. ..the type of... Buddhism which was to triumph in north-eastern Asia...Mahayana or GREAT VEHICLE, was expanded...into a complete system." (Vincent pp. 8-9) In 58 AD "Buddhism is introduced in China by Han Emperor Ming Ti. Initially, it garners only luke warm interest." (Kagan p. 94)  In addition to the split of Buddhism into the Hinayana and Mahanya systems, there are at least 50 other off-shoot systems. My own studies and experience was with the Mahanya system in Japan. At about this same time, 100 BC, "Towns along the Silk Road ...such as Merv, Bukhara, Samarkand, Kashgar, and others, which are economically dependent on trade, allow merchants to build Buddhist monasteries and invite monks into their midst. The populace of these towns weres soon largely Buddhist." (Kagan p. 90) These were fruitful areas for the spread of other religions.                                

CH'IEN FO TUNG: THOUSAND BUDDHA CAVES

CH'IEN FO TUNG, the Caves of One Thousand Buddhas , also called the Oasis of Tun Huang, (Dun Hang), meaning  'Blazing Beacon'; the ancient Han Chinese name for the Sacred Oasis, is at the extreme west of Kansu province. (Geelan p. 98-B1)  This was anciently the port of entry for Buddhist missionaries of the western region and India going and coming to China by the overland Silk Roads.  "It was the last Chinese outpost, where Chinese pilgrims and merchants fitted themselves out for the long journey west. Even before the Wei period, Tun Huang was already a very old garrison city and trading centre, dating at least to the Han dynasty, and where ruins of Han fortifications, once a vital link in the chain of western defences, may be seen today...It was located in a natural corridor between Central Asia and China." (Vincent p. 12) For a period of time it was also known as Sha Chow, but more than 350 years ago its old name was revived.  There was a chain of these Buddhist rock-cut chapels and monumental sacred carvings extending from India through Central Asia to the mountains south of Kanchow in Hansu and elsewhere in China. Those that my wife and I have visited were most spectacular.  At Tun Huang there is an inscribed stone tablet of the T'ang dynasty, the most brilliant in Chinese History, that states this first chapel, Moa Kao K'u, was constructed by an Indian monastic, called Lo Ts'un, about 366 AD.  (Vincent pp. 14-15)  The first caves were occupied with some wall paintings a decade or so before then. From that time, a great  cliff more than a mile long, and more than 100 feet high, next to the river channel, has been carved and constructed into an amazing unique feature of human religious endeavor often ten stories high. Vincent's book has many photos in it.  Vincent also lists and describes eight groups of rock-cut  chapels and caves in Kansu Province alone.  (Vincent p. 18)  One scientific achievement was the so called 'Dunhuang Star Chart'.  It was painted on silk around 940 AD. The stars of each constellation around the north celestial pole, joined by lines showing the curved sky on a flat surface, was an early form of the  Mercator projection not invented until 600 years later by  the famous Flemish cartographer Gerardus Mercator. (Sivin p. 74) Chinese astronomers made many other significant discoveries.

The Tang Court at the Capital, Ch'ang an, modern Xian, received "embassies from  the rulers of the north Indian states, Persia and even from Byzantium, then at the height of its power.  Not only  was there free intercourse between China and the lands to the west, but the Chinese showed great interest and often deep admiration for the arts and ideas of foreign countries. In the capital and elsewhere, there were not only flourishing and wealthy Buddhist monasteries-for this was the great age of Buddhism in China-but the followers of Nestorian Christianity, Zoroastrianism, Mohammedanism, Judaism, and Manichaeism  [and Mandaeanism]  were permitted to build their temples, and this spirit of tolerance was due-very largely to the Buddhists." (Vincent p. 16) Some Buddhist schools were influenced by Taoism that spread into Korea and Japan, one of the important ones was "the worship of the Buddha Amitabha and his 'Paradise of the West', a doctrine of salvation by faith.  Another was the Ch'an, (in Japanese, Zen) sect, [very popular then as well as today], which aspired to enlightenment through contemplation, or the 'sudden flash' of intuition." (Vincent p. 16) Zen has also split into many competing systems.

Xuanzang had stopped at Tun Huang on  his way west and had chosen to travel the northern route of the Silk Road to travel.  A pious military officer, stationed near there during the early T'ang dynasty, begged Xuanzang, the 'Tang Monk', to end, at Ch'ien Fo Tung, his proposed and officially forbidden journey to India. At Tun Huang there were teachers, scriptures to satisfy him for years. But Xuanzang refused and continued on his way, passionately eager to worship at the great shrines of India and Gandhara and then to return to China with scriptures and knowledge which would settle forever doctrinal matters misunderstood in China.  In the nearly twenty years he was gone and with all he brought back, he didn't settle any of the doctrinal questions and matters, but he did increase their number.  The Great Questions were still unanswered and for most Chinese today, they still are a mystery.  It will take the doctrines of the restored gospel to answers the Great Questions, among them are Where did I come from? Why am I here? Who am I?  Where am I going? What is reality? What is being? If there is a God where is his residence? What is the nature and content of the Universe? How was it created? What is the geography of the Universe? Is there only one Universe? Do I really count? What should I be doing? Might I cease to exist? What is truth? How does one reconcile all of the competing religions? How does one reconcile the truths of science with the dogmas of religion? Does true religion contribute to the truths of astronomy, geology, biology, chemistry, archaeology and sociology, etc.?  The little questions about pain, suffering and despair the ancient systems tried to answer. But there was much competition as to who had the answers for all or any of it. 

WANG YUAN-LU, THE PIOUS MONK

Before the turn of the twentieth century, Europe was getting all excited due to the reported vast archaeological discoveries in Central Asia. British, French, German, Russian and Japanese archaeological missions began a brisk competition to bring home manuscripts, paintings, sculptures and wall-fragments for western scholarship and consumption. "The greatest of these scholar-explorers was the British archaeologist, Sir Aurel Stein [who has appeared elsewhere in these studies] , Ch'ien Fo Tung [Tun Huang] found a curious would be saviour...a simple Taoist monk named Wang Yuan-lu of Hupeh province in central China. He had come upon the deserted caves during a journey...moved by the neglect he saw, he dedicated his life to restoring the site. Penniless...he made long begging trips to acquire the money for his pious task" (Vincent p. 33) "With the funds thus gained, Wang diverted the stream to create a small oasis at the foot of the cliff, planted poplar trees and built a guest house for pilgrims. He began...construction of a building to cover the massive statue of Buddha...and devoted much effort to restoring chapels. His ambitions for his...oasis were great...he was often short of funds. During the repair of a large chapel in 1899, he found by chance that part of one frescoed wall was hollow [cave 17 behind a three story Buddha]. Tearing it out, he discovered a small room packed floor to ceiling, with manuscripts and paintings, obviously very old. ...although he did not know it, [it was] the library of the monastic community...sealed up in the eleventh century and forgotten. (Vincent pp. 33-34)  For the most part and for years he kept his discovery to himself.

SIR AUREL STEIN THE ARCHAEOLOGIST

Sir Aurel Stein, mentioned earlier in this series, was engaged at this time in his fruitful exploration of Central Asia.  He had heard glowing reports from a distinguished Hungarian geologist, Professor de Loczy, who had visited the caves of Tun Hang in 1879. Stein wanted to visit the caves especially when he got wind of a discovery of ancient manuscripts. Stein arrived in Tun Hang in 1907, travel-stained, weary in the teeth of an icy buran. never thinking for a second this would be the site of his greatest discovery. There he heard from an Urumchi trader that a Taoist priest, Wang Yuan-lu, who had found a hoard of ancient manuscripts. (Hopkirk p. 158) The discovery in Cave 17, also known as the Library Cave, turned out to be extremely valuable and more interesting than he had dared hope for. Cave 17 had been carved out in 851 AD. (Akiyama p. 244) Among the discoveries was a block printed book dated to 868 AD, so far the oldest of its type prepared not long after the cave was established. Trying to get the documents from Wang turned out to be an exercise in despair. But, when among the first manuscripts he examined there appeared rolls carried from India and translated by Xuanzang himself,  Wang felt this was a very good omen so he trusted Stein. By tact, diplomacy and some silver, which Wang desperately needed, Stein acquired twenty-nine cases of manuscripts, paintings, many on silk,  embroideries and other objects. However, he had to work in secret and at night because of the superstitions of the Tun Huang inhabitants. (Vincent p. 102) Wang, with evident joy, received a large donation of silver from Stein to continue the pious project of restoring and preserving Chj'ien Fo Tung. Many gaudily painted new statues and brightly redecorated walls as well as the soaring roofs of the buildings to cover the colossal Buddhas are evidence that the good monk applied himself single-heartedly to his chosen task.

The manuscripts and art that Stein shipped from C'ien Fo tung to England were of incalculable value to western scholarship, and when the gospel is permitted to be preached in Mainland China, the ancient sources will confirm Joseph Smith got it right the first time. One only has to recall that through temple ordinances, all the ancestors of those who now or who will join the church may have their work done for them and it will be as though they had been born under the covenant.  Think of the tremendous work that will be required to be done for all of those who lived in China and nearby countries, certainly much of it will be done during the millennium.

There were many Buddhist scriptures and commentaries in Chinese, some previously thought to be lost, as well as accounts of local secular history. Manuscripts in hitherto little-known Central Asian languages and in Sanskrit and Tibetan revealed much concerning this region and of other religious which had flourished there, and not enough can be said about the art objects which cast new light on the art of the T'ang dynasty, (618-907 AD)  one of the great Chinese dynasties. "Incompletely described here, the contents of the sealed chapel were one of the most important archaeological finds ever made." (Vincent p. 35)  The true worth will not be known until the gospel is taught in  China. After centuries of preparation, the gospel will eventually be taken to the Chinese.

As noted elsewhere, after Stein had removed a lot of the manuscripts, Professor Paul Pelliot visited the caves  and obtained a good portion of what was left. However, Pilliot made a large collection of photographs of the chapel interiors and the statutes of Buddha some three to nine stories high, the most extensive published until the work by Akiyama in 1974, that form the principal basis for western studies of the art of Ch'ien Fo Tung. (Vincent p. 35) The Chinese government, then a struggling republic from 1911, was weak and ineffectual, but it did order the remainder of the contents of the manuscript chapel to be sent to the Capital.  But Wang had prudently laid aside part of the contents as a 'nest egg', some of which were acquired by Stein during a later visit to the site. Stein knew that he had left as many as 10,000 documents and rolls behind when he had left years before. Many manuscripts were plundered by officials and handlers traveling to Peking. And as it turned out, many unspecified number of rolls and paintings were cached away in certain houses in Tun Huang, as a result Tun Huang art and manuscripts turn up with fair regularity in the curio shops of China. This also generated a lot of copies and fake reproductions. (Vincent pp. 35-36)  About 1920 a band of Russian refuges, fleeing the Bolshevik revolution, spent some months here and left ruined walls and soot covered ceilings in some of the chapels. Not long after this Professor Langdon Warner of Harvard University visited the region and secured wall fragments and sculpture to make chemical analyses for a study of the pigments and painting materials of the T'ang dynasty, at the time Xuanzang was there. The intrepid monk, Wang, died in 1931, and though some of his successors tried to carry on his work, they just did not have his zeal and commitment. Then came the civil wars.  The province of Kansu was rent with the wars, seriously affecting Tun Huang, and every May day, to celebrate communism's ascension politically, people come from all around came for a three day celebration. But during the rest of the year, Tun Huang assumed an air of complete desolation. Before World War 11, the Chinese government sent surveyors and engineers to Kansu, "with corvee labour drawn from the country-side, they turned the ancient silk road through Kansu corridor into a motor highway, so that war materials could be hauled down by truck from Russia...the shrine became accessible to a hoard of casual sightseers and, bluntly expressed, vandals." (Vincent p. 37; Geelan p. 98) In1943 in the midst of the second World War, the Chinese government, then taking refuge in Chungking, "set up the National Art Research Institute of Tun Huang, which was to have custody of the site...in response to the petitions of art lovers...officially declaring Ch'ine Fo Tung of  'archaeological and historic importance and extending over it official protection'." (Vincent pp. 37-38) However, the new, and for practical purposes, practice of turning temples into schools is a striking example of the increasing secularization of Chinese life. After the take-over of China by the communists there has been a revival of past importance of some areas, and perhaps a change towards Kansu again becoming the front-gate to China. The Tun Huang Art Institute has done a remarkable job of preserving and classifying the chapels and carvings for Chinese heritage. In the 1950's the People's Republic of China decided to start an official archaeological bureau. But with just 30 archaeologists at the start of the program, only a handful of sites could be considered for excavation. Chang'an was an easy choice. The excavations at Chang'an will be summarized in PART 9 of this series. It would be years before the importance of Tun Huang would be recognized. Today, Tun Huang (Dun Huang) is a point of destination.  Half way between Lanchow and Tun Huang is Chiu Ch'uan, formerly Hsu Chow, the location of the only oil field in China, it is almost depleted. China has to get most of its oil from Iran. We now return to the discussion of another of the religious groups for which Xunzang brought back records of their thought and doctrine. Like the others, this will be just a brief summary and introduction.   

THE MANDAEANS

The Mandaeans were a temple revering people. The most sacred Mandaean ceremonies are performed inside a fenced off area, called a mandi, and the only building inside the mandi  is a sort if temple called manda ir bunanda , 'house of the manda', or 'house of knowledge'.  If refers to those who use the 'house of knowledge'.  Anciently the Mandaeans were called masknaiia,  'those of the maskna', which again means 'temple'. Sometimes they were called Kantaeans, again meaning their sanctuary, or Kanta. "The principle redeeming figure in Mandaeanism is , Manda d-Hiia, 'knowledge of  Life' or 'Dwelling of (the) Life', " where 'life' is the epithet referring to the supreme divinity.  Mandaeans are those who believe in Manda d-Hia." (Lupieri) pp. 6-7)  The early Mandaeans believed in baptism by immersion and the name had the connotation of  'Baptist'. And those who possessed the profound knowledge of the secret religious mysteries of Mandaeanism were called nasuraiia. compare this with Nazarene. Nasurai and the type Arabic word for Christians-Nasara, were how the Mandaeans were referred to anciently. (Drower p. 4)  Early in their history most Mandaeans were considered to be erudite, however, early in the last century, many of the male members of the group centered in Iran died of Cholera and today only a few of the remaining members of the group are considered nasraiia. "Those of former times were infinitely powerful: they knew the secrets of the stars and of herbs, they could read the future in the stars and in magic cups, they lived in absolute purity and were invincible, and they were not touched by fire and were unmoved by even the sharpest of blades...the nasuraiia make up a sort of caste of cultural elites within Mandaeanism...by no means [are] all nasuraiia ...priests." (Lupieri p. 9) In her books, Drower provides photos of Mandaeans in their attire, using the right hand grip or clasp, and other aspects their worship that Mormons can recognize.

"The older writing make frequent mention of the term maskna,  'abode, temple', a word which goes back to the Hebrew name of the tabernacle...[here] the cult life runs its course, and to this belong above all baptism...mass [ceremonies] for the dead...carried out in the mandi only, consecration of priests and bishops, weddings and festival rites. The most important ceremonies and also the oldest are baptism and the 'ascent of the soul ceremonies." (Foerster p. 131)  The mass or rites for the dead were the same as for the living.  This is one of the early systems and documents that not only refer to baptism for the dead, [what? conduct weddings for the dead?] but also introduce the concept that other ceremonies were also involved, including weddings and sealings for the dead, doctrines long lost among Christian  denominations.  Baptism (masbuta) was by immersion. Like the Christians the Mandaeans celebrate the first day of the week as their sabbath. "masbuta consists of the actual baptismal rite ...the neophyte, who wears his white sacral dress throughout...a threefold signing of the forehead...and the laying on of hands...further is the ceremony ...of the anointing with oil, the offering of the sacrament of bread and....water and the 'sealing'...both parts are always concluded by the extension of the right hand...known as Kusta (truth; 'Justice')  between the priest and the neophyte...performed at all ceremonies and has a special sanctity...Since the journey of the soul leads through dangerous demonic spheres certain guarantees are required which involve more than those things which accompany the soul, like baptism, the sign, the name, and good works."  (Foerster pp. 131-133)

Unlike modern Christians, but like the Mormons, the doctrine of pre-existence was important to the Mandaeans. "With regard to pre-existence, the Valentinian system [a Gnostic system in the second century] offers the richest pleromatic display. With regard to contemporary existence, it is the Mandaean system, while with regard to the postexistence, it is the Manichean." (Neusner p. 242) "...there is a common technical language in Manichaean, Mandaean, and Syrian Christian religion...that behind it we in most cases are able to discover the original Mesopotamian religion...especially Babylonian influence...[and] Jewish and Iranian components the third main stream of influence in Mandaean religion." Neusner pp. 573-574) Most of these threads and  pristine doctrines are those revealed in great clarity through Joseph Smith in the restoration.

LADY DROWER AND THE MANDAEANS

A great deal of what is known about the Mandaeans comes from the works of Ethel S. Stevens, also known as Lady Drower. Her husband was an English diplomat, they spent most of their life      in Iraq in close contact with the Mandaean communities there, forming deep friendships with some of the Mandaean priests who ultimately let her translate many of their documents. (Lupieri p. 6)  She thought Mandaean ceremonies and doctrines "are closer to Mazdean  [Zoroastrian] sources than has hitherto been suspected. Resemblances between the Mandaean, Nestorian Christian, and Parsi [Zoroastrian] rites are identical whereas those of Christianity have travelled wide, I submit that the Mandaean cults are nearer in essentials to some Iranian original than they are to primitive Christianity, although the latter, there is no doubt, may have been intimately related to Iranian models at its inception in Judaea or Galilee." (Drower pp. xviii-xix)  Compare the two CD's, The Pahlavi Texts [Zoroastrian] , CD #24 (old tape #133)  with the CD The Ancient Mandaeans, CD 17 (old tape # 164).  Lady Drower, who has provided most of the essential information on the doctrines of the  Mandaeans, sees specific parallels between them and the Zoroastrians, she lived with the Mandaeans for more than 10 years during the 1920's and personally visited many of the Mandaean centers. She refers to parallels in Judea or Galilee. The Mandaeans are considered to have originated in the Jordan Valley (Judea), or related to those who survived the destruction of the temple in 70 AD by Titus, a future Roman Emperor, from Galilee. The Mandaeans trace their origins back to John the Baptist. Their ancient accounts have a description of the destruction of Jerusalem so they seemed to have departed that region before Titus of the Tenth Roman Legion destroyed Jerusalem and scattered the Jews.  (Drower pp. 6-7)

According to the great Christian Historian, "Eusebius...there continued to exist a Jerusalem church with an unbroken succession of Bishops. Eusebius makes other references to events concerning the 'Jerusalem Church'  after 70 AD...Eusebius continues to write about the 'Bishops of Jerusalem'...some viable Jewish Christian remnants did survive Jerusalem's disaster." (Pritz p. 123)  The Mandaeans seem to have immigrated to Iraq and Iran.  The Mandaeans and Nazarenes may well be "direct descendants of the first Jewish believers in Jesus." (Pritz p. 108) As such they would be expected to carry a baggage of doctrines abandoned by Orthodox Christianity after 400 AD.  Over the years, bizarre and distorted doctrines have crept into these early systems and groups, but the remnants of unique doctrines they carried clearly indicate what was                  present originally. And many of these are parallel to the unique doctrines of the restoration. 

"Persia and Media offered natural conditions favorable to the growth of religious conceptions   compromising between ancient traditions and cults and ideas which had travelled from the old civilizations of China by way of the Vedic, philosophers of India-ideas which spiritualized, revived and inspired man's belief in the immortality of the soul, its origin in the Divine Being, and the existence of beneficent ancestral spirits." (Drower p. xix)  In time, the Mandaeans became heavily influenced by Zoroastrianism. (Drower p. 10)

SOME MANDAEAN DOCTRINES

"The Mandaean believe that at physical death there is no cessation of existence." (Dower 2 p. xii)  "When the human soul leaves its earthly existence and is met by 'the guide,' 'the helper,' or 'companion,' mdabran, abed eda, or adyaura...all these names are designations of the saviour who in the moment of death brings the soul back to its heavenly home." (Nusnuer p. 556) Compare that with "as soon as they are departed from this mortal body, yea the spirits of all men, whether they are good or evil, are taken home to that God who gave them life." (Alma 40:11)

The mana or nisimta, the eternal and indestructible part of human personality, had pre-existence, and continues to exist after the body has died...[life is a] long journey upwards to the worlds of light. (Drower 2, p. xii)  They talk and are occupied about the "Mystery of the Father' and the "Mystery of  the Mother...[the]  ganzibra teaches him three secret words [names]... [which] have their place somewhere in the liturgical...formulae in which...[one] must be word- perfect...whispered to him especially at the most solemn moment of the 'great mystery'...an error...could invalidate ...ordination. ..sacred texts represent the blessed departed on their journey to the worlds of light sojourning for a time in Msunia Kusta, an Elysium  [spirit world] in which they eat from heavenly trees...(Alma 5:62) and drink  'living waters' [in] a world created before the material cosmos in which there exist the images or counterparts of everything and being later created on earth, (Moses 3:5-9) with their material doubles they retain connection and eventually re-unite with them." [Resurrection] (Drower 2, pp. xiii -xvii)  They "perform (s) the kusta-(rite) ...an order is given to two witnesses ... shall clothe him in his new garments." (Drower pp. 2-3)  

They teach "Jesus is represented as leaving the sepulcher on the dawn of the third day...the soul of a dead person remains within the precincts of this world for three days...on the dawn after the third night it goes to the other world.” (Drower p. 202) Mormons have a similar belief.

One aspect of the early doctrines is the teaching that "he (the Word) [Jesus] instructed him (Adam)...and taught him all Nasirutha, [the treasure, teaching given to initiates, the inner gnosis, or knowledge, FN 1]." (Drower 3, p. 6)  Here one might note the Joseph Smith Translation, JST, for John 1:1: "In the beginning was the gospel preached through the Son.  And the gospel was the word and the word was with the Son, and the Son was with God, and the Son was of God."  When was the beginning?  To whom was Jesus preaching? Where were they? When were they? What did he say?  An old Chinese saying goes: "A fool can ask more questions in a minute than a wise man can answer in a life time."  If you possess knowledge you became a nasuraiia...[they are] those who posssess nasiruta...profound knowledge of the secret religious mysteries of Mandaeanism. 

"On the day of his wedding the bridegroom [and bride] is invested with ...ritual dress." (Drower p. 555)  Which includes a "Garment, girdle, covering (shirt) [or dress], stole [shoulder], crown [hat], turban, drawers [pants], staff, banner...[veil, mouth covering] sash and...sandals...the deceased before his heavenly ascent is wrapped up in the ritual dress...the ritual dress is possessed of royal character...both royal and priestly character...crown and kingship are put on his head and he is made perfect in them...in a House of Perfection, forever and always...the soul receives the same destiny [exhaltation]  as the deity who is enthroned on his divine seat in power and splendour ...in the splendour of my Father I am standing and in the glory of the MAN, my Creator. " (Neusner pp. 553-560)  Here they designate Father by the name 'MAN', This is a peculiar doctrine of Mormonism. (Moses 6:5; 77:24;7:35) And Christ is called the Son of MAN. (Moses 7:24, 47, 54-55, 56, 59, 65) In the "earliest confessions which deal with God, God appears, not as Creator, but on the contrary he is the 'Father of Jesus Christ'. He is brought in as the One Who raised Christ from the Dead." (Neusner p. 228) And "man, can himself become eikan, or heavenly man." (Neusner p. 232)  So, when the Church is established in China, it is these kind of records that will confirm that China has had many of a the doctrines on and off for many years and the records have been retained and kept for just such a purpose. In PART 9 we will continue to discuss ancient records brought to China by Xuanzang as well as other aspects of Chinese history and how China is being,  and has been,  prepared for the restoration. 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

AKIYAMA, Terukazu & Saburo Matsubara, The Arts of China, Buddhist Cave Temples, Kodansha International Ltd, Tokyo, Japan, 1972

GEELAN, P. J. M., The Times Atlas of China, Times Books, London, 1974

DROWER, E.S., The Mandaeans of Iraq and Iran, E.J. Brill, Leiden, 1962

                         2, The Coronation of the Great Sislam, E.J. Brill, Leiden, 1962

                         3, A Pair of Nasoraean Commentaries, E.J. Brill, Leiden. 1963     

HOPKIRK, Peter, Foreign Devils on the Silk Road, University of Mass. Press, Amherst, 1980

FOERSTER, Werner, Gnosis, Vol. 2, Coptic and Mandaic Sources, Oxford at the Clarendon Press, London, 1974

KAGAN, Neil, Concise History of the World, National Geographic, Washington, D.C. 2006

LUPIERI, Edmondo, The Mandaeans, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2002

PRITZ, Ray A., Nazarene Jewish Christianity,  E. J. Brill, Leiden, 1988

SIVIN, Nathan, The Contemporary Atlas of China, Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, 1988

SMITH, Liz , International Update: China, American Bible Society, The Record, Fall 2012

VINCENT,  Irene Vongehr, The Sacred Oasis, Caves of the Thousand Buddhas, Tun Huang, Faber and Faber, London,  1953

WRIGGINS, Sally H., The Silk Road Journey with Xuanzang, Westview Press, Perseus Books Group, Boulder,  Colorado, 2004

 

 

 

All research and opionions presented on this site are the sole responsibility of Dr. Einar C. Erickson, and should not be interpreted as official statements of the LDS doctrine, beliefs or practice.
To find out more about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, please see their offical websites at LDS.org and Mormon.org