Reviewing ‘Eternal Man’ Part 7 – Revelation and Self-Revelation

The last of a seven part series.  See 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.

Chapter seven of ‘Eternal Man’ by Truman Madsen is called Revelation and Self-Revelation. Madsen begins by talking about efforts to explain mankind’s religiousness. There are many who would reduce this as nothing more than folk-psychology, primitive taboo, flights of wish, emotional purgation, or aesthetic ritual. But he claims that there is something of a universal agreement among such writers that man has an innate sense of something holy and sacred. And that this fact of human consciousness cannot be traced to rational and empirical sources. Madsen again credits this sense of the sacred and holy to the modern revelations regarding man’s premortal spirit.

 In typical Madsen style he explains that this recognition of the sacred and holy is more recovery than discovery. He paraphrases Joseph Smith often saying the influence of Jehovah can be convincing without other testimony. He explains the spirit as the flow of pure intelligence and the confirmation of what is certainly already known. Thus faith is not a blind leap toward the absurd, but is an act of knowledge and self-knowledge, bringing one’s inner-self into harmony with prior experience.

 The skeptic may ask, ‘How can you believe what is entirely unevidenced?’ To which the believer may respond, ‘How do you repress what is ingrained within?’ One may caution against saying that he knows when he does not know. The other may caution against saying that he does not know, when in fact he does know. Either error betrays the self.

 Madsen describes part of the process of life as an effort to not lose the light and knowledge we started out with. And then to continue to receive more light and knowledge until the perfect day. Attempts to express these feelings of revelation and self-revelation are difficult at best. Madsen offers explanations of the types of experiences he is talking about which include:

Prayer flashes – someone is listening
Familiarity of persons – immediate rapport
Numbing protests – something more than conscience
Shades of consciousness – important inner impressions and expressions
Dreams and illusions – that seem like more than simple dreams
Unaccountable reverberations – tear in the eye, lump in the throat, tingling spine
Reflections of our faces – looking into the eyes, not at them and seeing something more
Right-track feelings – the uncanny instinctual self

While some may dismiss these experiences with naturalistic explanations, the joy of them supersedes any pleasure of human possession or external manipulation.

Madsen concludes by stating that much of modern life can cause a misalignment with our inner selves. He believes there is much wisdom in the advice to become as a little child. He does not believe that the infant is like an empty tablet on which the chalk of childhood writes. The child is exemplary not for his readiness to believe others’ voices, but in the unity of soul that prevents disbelief in his own.


7 Responses to “Reviewing ‘Eternal Man’ Part 7 – Revelation and Self-Revelation”

  1. 1 Matt W. August 7, 2009 at 9:43 am

    Madsen seems to strongly be after a definition of light of Christ here close to “things we remember from beyond the veil”. I’ve noticed this through several of his writings. It seems to me that this is very hard to prove, and difficult to discern. While Interesting, I don’t know that I’d push it at a skeptic.

  2. 2 Eric Nielson August 7, 2009 at 11:07 am

    I agree Matt. This chapter sort of assumes that we all know religious truth innately, and the difference is who is repressing it and who isn’t. This was probably my least favorite chapter of the book, and is why I dragged my feet on it.

  3. 3 Matt W. August 19, 2009 at 2:27 pm


    I’d love to see a close out post to this series on how you feel Madsen’s thoughts have influenced or changed your own own, if you have the time.

  4. 4 Eric Nielson August 19, 2009 at 2:38 pm

    A request? Wow. I think this is a first. I will consider it.

  5. 5 Ethan September 27, 2009 at 12:43 pm

    Enjoyed the posts. For a great look at this concept google: “TRUMAN MADSEN ETERNAL MAN” and click on the video link at Mormon Times. There is a fantastic video tribute to Truman where he demonstrates how Eternal Man came about.

  6. 7 Eric Nielson September 27, 2009 at 9:00 pm

    Thanks for the link Ethan!

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