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Wednesday, August 16, 2017
Date Posted:

Fr Athanasius Kircher Sj, “Master Of A Hundred Arts”

Dr Clive Gillis

In the year 2000, Chicago University commemorated Jesuit Fr Athanasius Kircher by publishing a catalogue of his works.  But a mere 1,750 copies were printed in paperback, and they will last only for a few years.  They testify to a great scientific mind which never achieved its full potential because of the crippling effects of the Jesuit system.

Compare this with an exhibition in 1989 at Brigham Young University in Salt Lake City, Utah, the home of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whom we call the Mormons.  Their catalogue of Kircher’s works was produced by a fine books publisher, in hardback, on acid free paper, to last at least three centuries.  And it is now in its third edition.

The Book of Mormon

The Mormons have split up, as sects do, but they all follow the Book of Mormon.  The Utah Mormons are the large wealthy group.  Most of us have come across their missionaries who obviously pose a significant threat to the Gospel.

To the Mormons, the Book of Mormon is, “a literal history of the inhabitants of the ancient Americas”.  Joseph Smith, the founder and first prophet of the Mormon church, claimed to have translated the book in the late 1820’s from a set of golden plates which he found buried in a hill near his home in upstate New York.  It was probably just as well for the Mormon Church that when Joseph Smith had completed his translation he had the good manners to return the plates to the angel who had entrusted them to him.

There was of course no Mormon movement at this stage. The Book purported to be a history of the Americas.  It was condemned at once by the fine Reformed Baptist preacher Alexander Campbell as containing, “every error and almost every truth discussed in New York for the last 10 years…”.

Strangely, there is a lot of matter in the Book of Mormon which we would not expect to come from the mind of a backwoods lad.  This mystery seemed to have been solved in 1834 when evidence appeared that Smith and an accomplice called Rigdon had stolen a manuscript off one Simon Spalding who died in 1816.

The Spalding theory is now discredited.  It was an altogether too convenient way of disposing of Mormonism.  Mormonism was clearly a complex cultural phenomenon born out of the adventurous spirit and deprivations of the age of the wagon train and the westward migration.

Joseph Smith

Today’s critics tend to argue that Joseph Smith held the worldview of his time – “every error and almost every truth discussed in New York for the last 10 years,” as Campbell put it.  This anchors the Book of Mormon in that decade.  It is a history of the primitive American people, it is an amalgam of all the known thoughts and theories about the native Americans held at that point in time and funnelled through the psyche of Joseph Smith – a psyche which had already been moulded by a Bible-based upbringing.

We now know that in the decade 1820-1830, Joseph Smith could have been aware of mounds in which were buried stone boxes containing metal plates.  But he would have believed that Christian white men had buried them which was the theory current at the time.  We now know that they were the work of American Indians.

What the Mormons at Brigham Young University really need in order to corroborate their weird theories of past civilisations, is to produce some source of knowledge of ancient tribes independent of the findings of modern archaeology.  This is where Kircher comes in, as we shall see in a moment.  Joseph Smith would then be a true prophet, though hampered by the religious beliefs of his day.

Brigham Young University is attempting the impossible.  Biblical archaeology only confirms the truth of the Bible.  Even when the Bible and archaeology appear to contradict one other, later discoveries clarify the discrepancies.  The Hittite controversy is a good example.  The Bible is confirmed by archaeology.  And archaeologists of necessity have to use the Bible to guide them in their searches.  The mounds of the near east have filled the whole museums with artefacts which corroborate Scripture.  The British museum is a stunning witness to the veracity of the Bible.  The same cannot be said of the Book of Mormon.

The Angel Moroni

We are told that Angel Moroni, the heavenly messenger who first visited the Prophet Joseph Smith in 1823, was:

“the resurrected son of an ancient prophet historian named Mormon who had written on golden plates quotations and abridgements of earlier writers such as Neph Jacob Enos, (and) before dying as the last of the Nephite people in AD 421 buried the gold plates in a stone vault on Hill Cumorah in W. New York State”.

These people were said to have grown from 600 BC onwards into a great nation like Israel.  If this was so, there would clearly be an abundance of archaeological evidence.   Suffice it to say that the final authority, the Smithsonian Institute, says there is none.  Further, the Institute confirms that there is no evidence of cereals such as wheat, barley, oats and rice, or of iron, steel, wagons with large wheels, and animals such as chickens, pigs, camels and elephants, all of which happily appear as part of the daily life of the people described in the Book of Mormon.

So why does Brigham Young University make so much of Athanasius Kircher?  The answer is that it seems that the majority of the golden plates were inscribed in “reformed Egyptian” hieroglyphics which Smith translated with special eyeglasses, Urim and Thummim, provided by the angel.  In the Mormon Essentials of Church History by Joseph Fielding Smith there is no illustration of an early poster ‘Stock of Joseph’ advertising the Book of Mormon.  The hieroglyphics are plainly visible.  They would have sent Kircher into raptures.


Incidentally, Joseph Smith let down his guard after the initial opposition had subsided, as confidence tricksters often do.  The title page of the first edition, Palmyra 1830, reads: “By Joseph Smith, Junior.  Author and Proprietor”.   That at least we will not question!

The catalogues tells us, “The Brigham Young University has one of the most significant collections of Kircheriana in the country … Although now superseded by modern scholarship, Kircher’s work in fields such a Egyptology and religion still hold a gold mine of curiosities and information not found in other sources … The acquisition of Kircher’s Egyptian works is the result of the University’s long standing interest in Egyptology … Kircher’s works are especially pertinent to religious studies, because they record the conflict between the age of orthodoxy (that is the Aristotelian world view) and the emerging age of science, a conflict not only between men but within men …”.

What they are saying is that we know the Book of Mormon is correct, all we need is someone with sufficient mystical insight into ancient civilisations to prove it and Kircher could be the man.

Norse runes

Brigham Young University currently hopes to show that there was migration from Egypt to Mexico, but apart from a few Norse runes in Greenland, their quest has so far been futile.  So with all conventional science against like Kircher, who could move seamlessly from pure science into the fanciful and mystical and who is not yet widely known, is just what they need.  No wonder Brigham Young University sates that it is poised to play a significant role in “his re-evaluation”.

Kircher, like all Jesuits, was multilingual.  Hebrew and Coptic and Syrian were three of the 12 languages he spoke.  But above all he appeared to understand the inscriptions on Egyptian obelisks.  Nowadays we can read hieroglyphics, following the pioneering work of Jean Champollion who showed that they were ideaographs with phonetic signs.  But in Kircher’s time they were shrouded in mystery and often thought to have magical meanings.  During his Jesuit training Kircher came across a book of engravings, Mercati’s The Obelisks of Rome, which led to a lifelong obsession to understand their meaning.  Pope Sixtus V was also besotted with the mystical symbolism of obelisks.  He re-erected many of those that the Romans had imported and arranged them in a sinister geometrical pattern, still to be seen today.  Mercati had faithfully copied them in his book.

Secret knowledge

Despite having the Bible, men craved this secret knowledge to empower them.  The Jesuits with their plans for world domination, were no exception.  Once in Rome, Kircher filled the Collegio Romano with minor obelisks and studied the public ones.  He also gathered all the ancient writings of their meaning from the orient.  Over a period of 20 years this “most sweet rack” puzzled and tormented him deep into the night.

He wrote a number of books on Egyptology.  Amongst them was his 1643 Lingua Aegyptiaca Restituta – The Language of Egypt Restored.  Then followed a massive four volume Oedipus Aegyptiacus 1652-1654, because his Jesuit masters prevented him from doing anything more profitable in mainstream science lest he upset their Aristotelian explanation of the universe.  The Oedipus volumes are splendid examples of early printing with special, spectacular fonts commissioned especially for them.  But they only further confounded his earlier guesses as to the meaning of the hieroglyphics and led Kircher into mystical flights of fancy.

As his fame grew he was asked by the pope to fill in broken portions of a public obelisk.  Of course he only succeeded in defacing an ancient monument.  A modern Jesuit biographer admits, “He has been described as a retarder rather than an advancer of Egyptian studies.  Indeed his errors, coupled with the esteem in which he was held … did, most probably lead many who tried to follow in his footsteps into dead ends.”

Spell of the Jesuits

Brigham Young University, despite all their wealth, faces an impossible task in trying to make the Book of Mormon stand up to archaeological scrutiny.  Yet they have clearly fallen under the spell of the Society of Jesus and they hope that the Jesuit Kircher will yet save them.  When Kircher’s Jesuit contemporary, Adam Schall and his followers went to China, Kircher immediately began to ruminate on an Egyptian basis for Chinese culture and writing.  This erroneous theory persisted into the 19th century.  The writer of their catalogue clings to the hope that, “the contributions of Kircher to a startling variety of fields will perhaps prove more significant than scholars of the past two centuries have thought”.  Or perhaps not.

Besides Egyptology, Kircher, in his desperation to have a realm of academic freedom beyond the scrutiny of his superiors, passed from the scientific into the mystical in many disciplines.  His ten part 1650 Musurgia Universalis, Dictionary of Music, ranged from accepted theory and instruments that he had himself invented to part 10, The Symphony of all Nature.  This describes the “natural harmony of plant, animal and human worlds all in tune with the music of the planetary spheres, the angelic choirs and The Great Divine harmony”, which comes close to the area of universal sounds and harmonies of all time.  This lead to the Jesuit inhabiting the borders of science and mysticism creating the climate for clever but misguided minds to explore bizarre notions such as the Vatican Time Machine (BCN 19 September 2003)

Sacred Science Institute

Likewise he passed effortlessly from Chemistry to Alchemy, Geology to the lost continent of Atlantis, Magnetism to the World of unseen Spiritual forces, to name but a few of the topics covered in his vast 42-volume output.

The present writer noticed that Kircher is now included in the recommended reading for the Sacred Science Institute which aims to beat the stock market by mystical means.

No doubt Kircher’s writings which might have been a cornucopia of scientific discovery, will instead be a fount of strong delusion for all who desire to partake until the Lord returns.  Such is the effect of Jesuitry on the minds of men.

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