Dr. Einar C. Erickson
Ancient Document Mormon Scholar
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Noah took with him into the Ark the books of these teachings. When he came out of the Ark he ordained in his turn that the generations that came after him were to repeat the many things and the holy mysteries written in the books of Seth upon the majesty of the Father.

THE ASCENT CEREMONY

INTRODUCTION

It is exciting and rewarding to search the ancient records of countries which have retained in their traditions some idea of their origins and produced records about the origin of man, the origin of the universe, and the governing thought of religion, their Gods and devils, their Hero’s, and the visits in Heaven by their great and good personalities. “God often gave the righteous, wherever, a fore taste of heaven by bringing them up for a look before they died…[those] of the Hebrew [Bible more than fifteen, had such experiences.]” (Palmer p. 83) “It is an experience to give one “certainty” to remove all uncertainty or doubt.” (Palmer p. 99) One of the earliest so for recovered is the great Epic of Gilgamesh, 2650 BC, of the Sumerians. The Heimskringla of Norway, The Kevalla of Finland, The four Vedas of early India. The Mahabarata of later India, and many, many more, all may have a little say on how to get to Heaven, they called it the ‘ascent ceremony.’

THE RAJASUYA RITUAL IN ANCIENT INDIA

“The rajasuya is without doubt an ascension ritually accomplished.  The very element of it is the prayaniya, a term which translates into ascension.” (Palmer p. 96) “The king is clothed in sacred garments (the “garment is connected with all the Gods,” says an ancient text); the garments are said to be marked in special ways representative of the ceremony undertaken by the king. The garment consists of several parts, one of which is worn on the head… the ends of which are tied into the upper garment. Throughout the ritual the king is called by the name of the various gods whom he is representing, [or standing in for], He is taken back into primordial time [to Adam] and performs the same function symbolically which the gods and the first king did at that time, by virtue of which they obtained heaven. (Palmer p. 96) … It is evident that the ritual ascension as exemplified in the rajasuya is for the benefit of the King, following this life. It may be of regenerative value for the here and now. … its major function, as indicated, is for the king [or the person representing the King] to attain heaven following death.” (Palmer p. 97) The ancient sources talk about two sacred garments, the sacred garments mentioned above are those of the rajasuyu-prayaniya ritual and the others are mentioned in ancient Jewish Texts: “Melchizedek (also known as Adonizedek), was Abram’s ancestor Shem, said that he now taught Abram the duties of priesthood, particularly the rules governing the shewbread, wine…and burned offerings. He also gave Abram the garments of skin made by God for Adam and Eve.” (Grave p.147) A temple going Mormon will know all about these things, if he has never attended the temple, he won’t know.

“The King is given God’s special knowledge [such as contained in the gospel] in the form of learning those things which occurred in ittro temipore, [mortality], which lead to the Gods becoming that which they have become.” (Palmer p. 97) The question is asked “Who are his [my] real Father and Mother?’’ The rajasuya is also concerned with ancestry, as well as the future offspring of the king.” (Palmer p. 97)

“In the Mahabharata, [the 1928 page] ancient Indian epic, it also has another function, Narada, an ancient Vedic rishi or seer, was coursing through the heavenly worlds, visiting the various levels of heaven and discoursing with the inhabitants therein. [Prophets can do this you know!] He describes the various heavens and the people who inhabit them. He then visits the lowest heaven, that of the pitrs, or fathers, the ancestors of those then living on earth. One of those pitrs was a former king named Pandu.  (Vol. 1, p. 486, Vol. 2,3, p 854, Vol. 4, 5, p. 567 van Buitenen) He had a special request to make of Narada. If Narada were to meet with his five sons when he returned to the earth would he please ask those sons to perform the rajasuya in behalf of their father? If they would,  said Pandu, then he would be enabled to advance to the higher heaven wherein [the supreme God] Indra dwells.” (Palmer p. 97)

The ancestors of Pandu and Pandu himself are waiting in the Heaven of the Fathers for the vicarious work to be performed. Exactly as expected by temple going Mormons. Without the ‘ascent’ ceremony one cannot enter into the presence of the supreme God.

THE RAJASUSYA  

Those in India compete with the Chinese for who has the oldest, longest most complete genealogies. Pandu’s extensive genealogy is in part given as an “insert between pages 12 and 13, in the Mahabharata.” (Vol. 1. van Buitenen p,12-13) This is one of the most recent complete translation of this great epic of India and contains references to the rajasuya and the Book of the Ascent to Heaven and the story of Pandu and his five sons. (vol. 1-5, van Buitenen) Upon encountering the five sons of Pandu, Narada stated: “If thou preformist that sacrifice thou shall then be able to go, along with thy deceased ancestors, into the same region that is inhabited by the chief of the immortals [Indra]; The PANDAVAS, the five sons of Pandu of whom the Mahabharata is the personal story, then perform that sacrifice in behalf of their dead ancestor.” (Palmer p. 98)

“The rajasuya while being a ritual for the benefit of the living, can be, if performed accordingly a ritual in behalf of one’s ancestor. In other words, it has vicarious value as well as value for the living…[wasn’t] the sole purpose of Jesus descending into hell was to teach the inhabitants and release them from their bondage so that may gain access to heaven...Prophets …returned to the spirit world told the inhabitants there that the advent was soon to take place. (D&C 138) Enoch following his translation into heaven, had spent his days teaching the children who died in infancy.” (Palmer p. 98) The Saints in India are going to love all of this when they examine their history. (See Ishabah (Son of Abraham), entry in this website, 18 Sept. 2004)

BUDDHAISM

Another cultural treasure is the knowledge of the Buddha, today there are more than 52 Buddhist sects, a popular one is ”MAHAYANA, The ‘GREAT VEHICLE.’ (Thurman p. 141) “The Buddha ascended into the tavatimisa heaven for the sole purpose of teaching his mother who had died when he was just seven years old and therefore had not heard the gospel her son was proclaiming on earth, the shaman [prophet] receives his ascension calling so that he might learn the secrets of regaining the souls of those who are sick and/or dead.” (Palmer p. 98) Mormons have the secrets and they are most sacred, but available to all. I can say with the scholar F. Max Muller “If I do find in certain Buddhist works doctrines identically the same as in Christianity [or Mormonism], I feel delighted.” (Carus p. xi) I subscribe to what Alma had to say: “The Lord doth grant unto all nations, of their own nation and tongue, to teach his word, yea in wisdom, all that he seeth fit that they should have.” (Alma 29:8) Some have more than others but every country has something to show that the Lord had given them something. And the restored Church has it all.

“The Ascent Doctrines are those ordinances and ceremonies that provide a ‘knowledge of the Way’…the sacraments to be performed now, of the ‘names’ to be employed later when the ascending spirit meets the powers after leaving the body at death, and whatever ritual or ethical preparation may assure this future passage…the secrets of the way’ …the ascent  doctrine in its details, …the itinerary and adventures of the soul on this occasion lead through the complete order in reversal of the primordial fall…deadly earnest befitting a doctrine of salvation.” (Jonas p. 272) “Philip said that the Lord had revealed to him what the soul must say in its ascent to heaven and what answer it must give to each of the powers above.” (Finegan p. 276) They need to have “baptism, the sign and the name.” (Foerster p. 133) Where do you get those? Some Mormons know! Some Mormons have them.

Section D&C 76 relates the vison of Joseph Smith in which he was shown the condition of those in Hell, as well as the various levels of kingdoms making up the heavens:

“But great and marvelous are the works of the Lord, and the mysteries of his kingdom which he showed unto us, which surpass all understanding in glory, and in might, and in dominion; Which he commanded us we  should not write while we were yet in the Spirit, and are not lawful for man to  utter; Neither is man capable to make them known for they are only to be seen and understood by the power of the Holy Spirit, which God bestows on those who love him, and purify themselves before him to whom he grants this privilege of seeing and knowing for themselves. That through the power and manifestation of the Spirit, who in the flesh they may be able to bear his presence in the world of glory.” (D&C 76:114-118; D&C 138) Joseph and Narada were men of God, they saw and knew a great deal.

Note that the ancient documents assume and confirm the existence of a Spirit world, the presence of other kingdoms, and communication between the spirit world and the present mortal world. The next article in this series will deal with some aspects of the spirit world.

                                       

                                                  BIBLIOGRAPHY

CARUS, Paul, The Gospel of Buddha, The open Court Publishing Co., Lasalle. Illinois,1917

FOERSTER, Werner, Gnosis 11, Oxford at the Clarendon Press. 1974

GRAVES. R., & P. Patan, Hebrew Myths., 1968

JONAS, Hans, Philosophical Essays, Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, new Jersey, 1974

PALMER, Spencer J., Deity & Death, Vol 2 in the Religious Studies Monograph Series, Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, 1978

THURMAN, Robert A.F., The Holy Teaching of Vimalakirt, A Mahayana Scripture, The Pennsylvania State University Press, University Press and London, 1976

VANBUITENEN, I. A. B., The Mahabharata, Vol. 1-5, Translated by I.A.B. van Buitenen, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1978

 

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.
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