Seminary Program

This is where we post the essays from many of our Universal Life Church Seminary students. When students finish a ULC course, they write a comprehensive essay about their experiences with the course, what they learned, didn't learn, were inspired by, etc. Here are their essays.

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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A Course in Miracles

                                            A Course in Miracles
                                            Dr. of Metaphysics
    I have completed the course in miracles, each lesson took on a life of its own.
This is a course for the strong and determined for it will bring about fundamental change in perception.  Changes in the perception of one person  thus brings about changes in all that surround them, for all things are connected and all things are relative.  We are all a part of the great energy some call God, touching all things living and perceived dead (not dead at all just different).                   
           These lessons took more than just one week, each became  experiential as they exponentially evolved,  full of life changing energy. I believe Loretta wrote these with the intent to create an environment for each individual to change their world toward a more loving and enlightened place thus changing the world she lives in as well, all for the better.              
     The question is where to begin simply because it feels as if I have lived an entire life within the time it took to complete this course.  I thought I had lived a full life but what I experienced was more like being a drift in the great ocean of life subjugated to the tides ebb and flow of others near and far. There was no control of my own destiny nor creative energy, or for how I should live and create my own reality.  I did not understand that this was for me to create and not anyone else. Realization and action of these principals began with tuning out the outside influences that bombard us on a daily basis (eg. I turned off the T.V.Permanently!).  Amazingly enough this opened the doors of perception to begin seeing things just a bit different. This allowed a good look at those that seek to control us for their gain of power and a boost to their ego with little regard for our well being at all.  It is amazing how wrapped up in feeding the ego the entire world has become.  One must conceive that this ego feeding frenzy will have to self implode like a blotted tick, for how much gorging on the gimme gimme buffet line can those power hungry buggers take before they have become just meat suits with no spiritual conceptual-ism.  This exemplifies the exact opposite reasons we have chose to come to this planet.                                                                    
     Our existence here is for the experience of creating in a loving accepting manner toward all things and not for our domination or control over them. Through our thought and actions circumstances, events and things manifest into our conscious reality. We control our destiny and the outcome of our thoughts and decisions, we allow others to influence or lives or not, we make these choices, we need to be consciously aware of this at all times to guard against those that seek to do harm to this grand plan.  I believe Loretta has guided and directed each of use who took this course in a amazingly loving way to take hold of our lives to reclaim our destiny from others and from the fear that lives with in each of us to boldly create a place that the Great Mystery could be proud to live and love in.  The act of taking control of our creative energy is exactly what causes a state of being ready , waiting and experiencing  the miracles that manifest.
                                                                                   Cheryjn Rose Carson
                                                                            aka: Raven Whitecoyote  


To ordain yourself with the Universal Life Church, for free, for life, right now, click on the Free Online Ordination link.

Rev. Long created the ULC seminary site to help ministers learn and grow their ministries. The Seminary offers a huge catalog of materials for ministers of the Universal Life Church, as well as an online seminary program and a chaplaincy program.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Four Gospels

Thoughts on the Four Gospels
            I really enjoyed this chapter. It still fits in this world a lot some people just get baptized today because they think that it is what they are expected to do. It really doesn't mean to them what it should. Sometimes it is just for show and doesn't change the persons heart at all. When really it should be a life altering moment. It changed me forever.

         The new cloth on an old cloak and old wine in an old wine skin. Of course still applies today. Some people just can not change. But I believe that everyone has some good in them and if there is a glimmer of hope that God can enter into your life anyone can change. Because he is most powerful and almighty and if you let him in he will change your life.
        Jesus was given the power by God to forgive. Jesus is God's son and he was given God's power while here on earth . God did this so that all of us  would know that he is and that he is all powerful. Jesus was sent here to show God's children that he is and that he loves us.
             About the journey back home. That definitely applies to today because everyone who goes back home for a visit is judged. People are just naturally curious and judge mental.
                                When Jesus tells us that what we put into our mouths doesn't matter, it is what comes out of our mouth that matters. I think this is one of this strongest statements in the Bible. Because God is not going to judge you for what you eat , or drink, or how dirty your hands are when you eat. What comes out of your mouth comes from who you are. It comes from your heart and soul that is much more important.
                   Staying true to your beliefs is very much a part of today's world. In today's world there are so many different belief systems being taught, and so much pressure on a person for what they believe that it is hard to stay true to your beliefs. But if you have faith and you have God and Jesus in your life, really in your life. It shouldn't be hard to stay true.

This chapter was interesting. I have read the Bible probably about 5 times and reading it slower like this makes a difference. It really makes you think and compare the times. Jesus did not want them to talk about him and his miracles because he did not want the praise and recognition for him. He wanted it for God his father. Unfortunately today everyone wants recognition for themselves even when they are trying to teach about God.
                                    Barriers in this life are just tests but you have to do your best to make it through them with your faith still intact. Because they really do mean nothing in the long run. But sometimes in the world we live in today they make us stray so far from our faith that we get lost.
                 Divorce and Marriage are both taken way to lightly in today's world. People take these vows not understanding the true meaning of them. When you marry you join your life to theirs until death do you part. So you should take your time and be sure of what you are doing. You make that vow to yourselves and witnesses and God and it should not be taken lightly. Divorce sometimes is necessary. But not just because you are tired of being married. Marriage is hard there is nothing about sharing your life that is easy. But you should consider that before you take that step. Then when you do you should do everything in your power to keep your vows not just give up when things get a little tough.
                   Jesus tell us that God worked through him when he did the miracles. God still performs miracles today through others because he can. He is the almighty and he can do anything. I have had so many miracles in my life I do not think I could even list them all.
                I do believe what goes around comes around in today's world. There is so much hatred and anger in this world it is so unbalanced. We need more joy and love and the only ones that can change that is us. So we all need to wake up and start changing what we don't like.
                 The lesson of the drummer boy is so great we don't see much of this anymore. Everyone should give more . But people don't appreciate it and we don't want to be hurt so we just don't try.
                          The story of Judas is so much a part of today's world. Everyone stabs everyone in the back. It is hard to find anyone who is trustworthy at all even family. People are out today for themselves and they just don't care about what their actions cause.
                     When God was angry at the crucifixion of Jesus.Then people believed
  their was physical proof. They believed that the crucifixion angered God and he did all of the destruction. They could see it so it scared them into believing. People are doing this again today because of all of the natural disasters. They believe that the end is near and God is doing all of this so they are starting to believe again. God needs you to believe because he has told you that he is. His son came and told you that he is. He sent many men before him that told you he is . He had them write the Bible to teach you of what he expected. But still we need physical proof. I have no doubt in my Father in heaven and I need nothing to prove to me that he exists. But everyday I get signs that he does and it just strengthens my faith even more.

Rev. Gwen


To ordain yourself with the Universal Life Church, for free, for life, right now, click on the Free Online Ordination link.

Rev. Long created the ULC seminary site to help ministers learn and grow their ministries. The Seminary offers a huge catalog of materials for ministers of the Universal Life Church, as well as an online seminary program and a chaplaincy program.

Spiritual Development

Joseph Ceh

It would appear that self-acceptance begins very early in one's life – even while one inhabits the womb. Science tells us that singing, reading, music, and noises affect the yet-to-be-born. After birth one continues the process of learning, experiencing change and growth in one's self perception, viz., self-acceptance. This process is life-long and inherently dynamic because it involves change and inner growth. As we grow chronologically, ideally we develop core, personal values that enhance one's life or not!

Moving through childhood, pubescence, adolescence, and eventually emerging into adulthood, we have gained in self-acceptance and self-actualization. However, this is a process both ongoing and developmental. That is to say, we are always becoming, always changing – ideally for the better. We may come to recognize that we are much more than our job or title; more than our academic background or other mundane achievements. We are complex beings. In other words we are more than what we do. As homo-sapiens we live also on other levels, namely, the physical, emotional, and spiritual levels along with our intellectual capacity. Furthermore, it is not uncommon for us to experience aspects of life that threaten or strike an axe at our self-image. Negative self-talk about one's regrets and disappointing behavior may weaken authentic self-esteem and self actualization. In such circumstances we may fall into the trap of debilitating self-doubt or unnecessary worry. Genuine self-acceptance and spiritual growth ought not allow negative self-talk to grow, but rather one may employ the "tools" of prayer, meditation, journaling, spiritual reading, spiritual direction and any other methods to ground one in the highest good, altruistic living, and service to humanity. These are the touchstones of what is sacred and offers peace of heart, peace of mind, peace of soul, self-actualization and self-acceptance.

Being a responsible person fundamentally means having the ability to respond to life's circumstances with clarity of heart and mind. We are responsible when we aim to act purposefully in our choices while choosing goals worthy of us as beings reflecting the Divine image. These choices include living daily attuned to each aspect of that which makes us fully human and spiritually alive. As sojourners on this earthly journey we may ready ourselves to receive insights flowing from being attentive to every life situation, and appealing to one's inner conscience or soul or heart or spiritual intuition. And, too, it may be more than useful to consider a life-coach or spiritual director when life throws its inevitable curve balls that disrupt inner peace. Life-coaches help us to re-evaluate the paths we are taking on our earthly journey.

The goal or goals we set before us are more about the path itself and not the destination. Mistakes, personal disappointments, wrong turns, so to speak, are opportunities for growth. If, for example, my goal is to become a teacher, it is not merely obtaining the credentials to teach, but also to become a skilled teacher and a person of patience, compassion, understanding and openness. An authentic teacher continues to keep her/his goals in mind while at the same time remaining open to all those life lessons and challenges along the way.
During my ministry in a very large suburban parish, I fell victim to stress stemming from the demands of a large parish. I wrestled with this uncomfortable feeling far too long before naming the stressors brought about by daily time constraints, meetings, pastoral care, preaching and… You get the picture! I was able to refocus and take additional quiet, reflective time to reevaluate my ministry. In conversation with my spiritual director I learned something, or rather re-learned what I had lost sight of: that being present to/with parishioners means being in the here-and-now. That is to say, we may only be present to others when we are present to this very moment.

I recall an adolescent who was struggling with many issues inherent in the often tumultuous late adolescent years. We met often, but one particular day I asked if he might try living just one day at a time. His response was, "No, not for me. I can only live moment to moment for now." What insight he had! It is only in the NOW that we live, and each day takes us a little farther along on our journey. To place ourselves in the present is not to lose sight of one's goals, but to allow our goals to unfold in the thoughts and actions of this moment. We recognize that our thoughts affect attitudes and attitudes influence behavior in this moment.

There are many techniques to help us refocus and review our goals and aspirations – as has already been said. Whatever techniques or tools we use, the aim is the same, to allow time to reestablish clarity when life's waters become a little muddy. I especially like using a daily journal to help affirm established goals, evaluate and living in this moment, and reaffirm my goals for the future.

Rev. Dr. Joseph T. Ceh


To ordain yourself with the Universal Life Church, for free, for life, right now, click on the Free Online Ordination link.

Rev. Long created the ULC seminary site to help ministers learn and grow their ministries. The Seminary offers a huge catalog of materials for ministers of the Universal Life Church, as well as an online seminary program and a chaplaincy program.

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Spiritual Development

Essay for Doctor of Spiritual Development

I was originally drawn to this course as it was probably the only one I have seen that links up NLP and hypnosis with aspects of spirituality.

I have to lay my cards on the table and say at the outset that I am not exactly new to the subject of NLP. In fact, I have been associated with it now for a number of years, qualifying first as a Practitioner and, in 2009, finally achieving the status of Master Practitioner. I am also a registered hypnotherapist in the United Kingdom with a lifelong interest in that subject.

However, I am aware that this is not the "be all and end all".  All systems of belief and practice have their limitations and constraints. The danger of misusing systems such as NLP is that they can achieve an almost cult-like status. NLP has its followers, its own language and jargon, its "founding fathers" and influential writers and teachers. It is tempting, although unhelpful, to live within an NLP world seeing everything in these terms. In my model of the world, I see NLP as most useful when it is integrated into everyday life and practice rather than as a belief system operating on its own (and perhaps that seems strange, coming from an NLP Master Practitioner!).

To me, one of the great strengths of NLP that differentiates it from a cult is that it never seeks to assess or judge anyone's beliefs. It does not say what anyone "should" or "should not" believe. It does not question anyone's beliefs. It simply asks the question "Is this belief useful for YOU?"  If someone wants to believe in God and that belief is useful for him, that's fine. If someone prefers to believe that there is no God, and for him, that is a useful belief, that is also OK, from an NLP point of view.

Now, for all of us, beliefs are really important since they affect who we are. They are the basis of our values. In other words they are part of our identity. When our beliefs about ourselves and the world are attacked or under threat, we will react in some way, even if only through a strong emotion or sense of anger. Many of the dreadful terrorist activities that have taken place in the last ten years can trace their origin to beliefs and values being under attack (or, more exactly, the perception that they are under attack).

Many beliefs are formed in us when we are young.

"Don't talk to strangers. They're all bad."
"People are out to get you – you can't trust anyone."
"Little boys should be seen and not heard"
"If you don't do well in school, you'll fail in life."
 "A woman's place is in the home"

We are all, at least to some extent, the products of our own background and upbringing. We will have cause to follow – or else consciously reject – what our parents, teachers and mentors have told us, whether that has been done expressly or by implication. So, if a child is brought up to believe that he is clumsy, stupid, talented and clever or whatever, this belief about his capabilities will be deeply seated. And the problem is that useful beliefs and non-useful beliefs are equally powerfully rooted. Our unconscious does not know how to differentiate the one from the other.

So, if I have a belief that I cannot add up a column of figures, it will, in essence become a self-fulfilling prophecy. [Some people would say that all prophecies are self-fulfilling. That is another story.]

If, on the other hand, I believe that I am "good" at addition, I will almost certainly find that I am good at addition.

Also, some beliefs are useful but have only a limited shelf life. It is a useful belief for a young child that he needs to check things out with his parents and cannot stand on his own two feet. Young children need protection and guidance. But that need does not and should not last for ever. The time comes when that same belief needs to be changed. The "child" is no longer a child and needs to make his own decisions. He is now independent of his parents or at least moving in that direction. That process of change can prove difficult and painful.

Some aspects of personal change can certainly be difficult. But not all personal change needs be so. Some changes can be made surprisingly quickly by using appropriate techniques of NLP or hypnosis or other related disciplines.

Reference has already been made to the fact that the subconscious (or the unconscious) does not make moral distinctions. It will seek to reinforce a belief that is already programmed because it thinks that if that belief is there, then it must be useful and in the person's best interests.

So, the person who believes in God will look at the world for all signs of a creating and loving God to reinforce that belief. The atheist, on the other hand, will look at the evil in world and ask how a loving God could possibly allow such terrible things to happen. They will also tend to gravitate towards people who hold similar views.

At a more mundane level, when a person who believes deep down that he cannot do a particular thing – and is then asked to do it – his subconscious will send him the protective message – "No, you cannot do that; remember?" The subconscious perceives that it is working for the best (and the subconscious always tries to do its best) in preventing the person from attempting something he cannot do, with all the repercussions that brings.

In NLP terms, this "cannot do" is an example of a "limiting belief". Some of our limiting beliefs have been with us for a long time and may be so deeply seated that we may not even be consciously aware that we have them. (Of course there are many very useful beliefs that are also programmed in, such as that fire burns.)  Scientists have proved that, aerodynamically, a bee should not be able to fly. Of course, no one has told the bee that!  Just recently, I observed my neighbour's tabby cat running up a vertical garage wall. Again, that "shouldn't" be possible, but the cat didn't know that.

I remember reading in an NLP book (unfortunately I cannot remember which one) that the most important question anyone can be asked is "What do you want?"  I remember being just a little sceptical when I first read that. However, the more I think about it, the more I realise just how insightful this statement is. If we can actually work out what it is we do actually want, we can move on from there.

It is easy to drift through life without any aims, objectives or goals in mind. If you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there, as the Cheshire Cat said to Alice. What NLP and hypnosis can do is to allow the conscious and the subconscious to function together, find out what the person really wants and begin the process of moving in that direction.

There is no doubt that NLP received a rather bad press in the 1980s when it came to be associated with techniques used by the less reputable end of the used car market. Similarly, for many years, hypnosis was viewed with suspicion although even today it seems to be much more main stream in the USA than it does in the UK.

However, if we are thinking (as we are) of the ethical uses of such techniques, we have to be aware that we only seek to help people do what they really want to do. I am sometimes asked, for example, if I can "make" someone stop smoking. The answer to that is a clear "no" – I cannot make anyone do anything they do not actually want to do. I can, however help that person to improve his clarity of purpose.

But how does all fit in with the spiritual issues involved? Coming myself originally from a mainstream Christian background, I know that Christianity (and probably all the major world religions) seek to put the puzzles and challenges of life into a meaningful context. Jesus said that he had come to give life and give life abundantly. He healed many people who were sick, not only physically but mentally. It is God's purpose for us to be well and not ill. Indeed, Jesus went even further and told his disciples that they would be able to do greater things even than he had. This was a very radical statement. It is something the mainstream Christian church has not yet come to terms with.

Of course, a great deal of what has just been said will clash with our rational minds. If we cannot make sense of something then it doesn't make sense – at least this is the way in which Western society has thought since the beginning of the Age of Reason. We have had a long love affair with reason and tend, culturally, to believe that reason must always triumph over feelings and intuition. If it cannot be measured, we assume only too quickly that it does not exist. (Actually Charles Dickens wrote his novel "Hard Times" to ridicule people, known at that time as "determinists" who believed that everything could, sooner or later, be measured!)

Yet, the mediaeval mystics were able to recognise that something can be "true" without there being scientific proof. I can believe that the Genesis account of creation is "true" from a theological and spiritual point of view yet I can also accept that an evolutionary scientist also produces a different version of creation that is "true". If both sides in the creation argument could see that, a great deal of human energy would be saved!

In the developing world, some amazing things have taken place even in my own lifetime. This is because people in some of these cultures believe that the words of Jesus are actually true. There are amazing modern accounts of healings through faith, even accounts of people being raised from the dead. This is more than we can take in the Western world.  We often block the power of the spirit with our chilly rationalism. In Capernaum, even Jesus could do no mighty works because of the unbelief of the people.

Spiritually, we need to be able to tap into our mystical and intuitive sense in a new way – or else rediscover the older way. It seems (to me) that the world is full of "religion" yet is spiritually parched. There is an old Gospel hymn that has the chorus "I will pour waters on him that is thirsty" There is such a need for a time of refreshing today among all the great world religions.

As a registered hypnotherapist, I know that even in a light trance, it is possible to access our true desires even, dare I say, to regress into past lives. In fact our most useful state is that area of light trance – such as when we awake in the morning. People such as Thomas Edison and Winston Churchill were able to put themselves easily into that state and came up with their best solutions as a result. In the Old Testament, many of the prophets went into trance-like states. It is said that the famous Anthony of Padua could, in such a state, bilocate, i.e. be in two places at once. Saint Teresa of Avila could get into such an ecstatic state that she actually levitated and the other nuns had to hold her down!

I believe that, in the western world, our religions have become far too cognitive. Certainly where I live, in Scotland, in centuries past it was very important to know what people "thought" from a doctrinal point of view – with much less importance being placed on what they did or how they practiced, far less how they felt.

Alasdair Bothwell Gordon

Aberdeen, Scotland (UK)


To ordain yourself with the Universal Life Church, for free, for life, right now, click on the Free Online Ordination link.

Rev. Long created the ULC seminary site to help ministers learn and grow their ministries. The Seminary offers a huge catalog of materials for ministers of the Universal Life Church, as well as an online seminary program and a chaplaincy program.

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Monday, March 22, 2010

Wiccan Studies

Rev. Robert Heyer

The Wiccan Studies Course was interesting and informative. I think it is important for every Christian to have an understanding of all religions and religious practices. Many Christian's speak out against Wicca from a preconceived notion of its beliefs and practices. Others refuse to accept Wicca as a religion and refuse to accept its tenants as conforming to an organized system of beliefs. This course, though very elementary, gives a good basic understanding of the core of syncretism practices that come under the heading of Wicca.

One important false premise I held, was that Wicca was an ancient religion. This is not the case at all and is traced only back as far as the Middle of the last Century. The belief in an earlier date is attributed to the, now debunked, work of folklorist Margret Murray. Her publications that traced a European "Witch Cult" were interesting, but found to be incorrect by mainstream anthropologists. Modern Wicca is traced back to the work of one man Gerald Gardner. Much of his claims for contact with hereditary witch covens were later found to be invented. In fact most of the religion he created was borrowed or invented. As a supplement to the course I read Fifty Years of Wicca by Frederick Lamond. The books paints are rather unflattering picture of Gerald Gardner and his problems with the truth. It was interesting to see that the majority of Wiccan practices are taken directly from rituals but the old hermetic groups of the Nineteenth Century. In fact at the Museum of Witchcraft located at Gardner's old residence drawings have been found from manuals of Alaster Crowley's group called the Argentum Astrum (silver star) that show every tool and practice used in Gardner's Wicca. It is obvious he borrowed heavily from Crowley's works in his more sanitized form of occult practice he named Wicca. Of great interest was to read of Gardner's fetish for self flagellation that led him to add scourging to ritual practice of Wicca.

Wicca uses Old English in many of its important religious documents such as the Wiccan Rede and rituals that lend to the atmosphere of an ancient origin, but no Book of Shadows has been found that dates further back than the 1950's. Many practitioners claim ancient hereditary roots in the "old religion", but can offer little proof of the claim other than the occasional folk magic practices with some member of the family.

Modern Wiccans are often falsely accused of being in league with the devil. This is not true as there is no devil in the Wiccan pantheon. Instead they worship a variety of dualistic gods and goddesses tied to ancient religions past, again attempting to give a ancient history to their practices. Most are unaware of the writings of Gardner, Farrar, and Cunningham and accept teachings from modern books are being ancient.

Many Wiccan's claim to have no connection to any bad practice commonly assessed to witchcraft such as human sacrifice or animal abuse. The sad fact is most are unaware of the history of their religion and its origins. They have no problem chanting goddess chants calling ancient goddesses to come, yet are oblivious that many of these goddesses and gods required animal and even human sacrifice. They blindly deny that they would condone such behavior yet will sing songs to Iananna, Ashara, Ishtar, or Astarte all of which at some point were sacrificial deities.

In its defense modern Wiccans practice an earth friendly religions that has no connections to the ancient religions of the gods and goddesses they invoke. There are two main type of Wiccan believer the first being the young teen that finds dabbling in witchcraft exciting and titillating. It is their attempt to control their fate and have power over others in a very confusing and difficult time of life. Few of these go on to become adult practitioners. The adults that practice are for the most part like any other new age followers looking for control in a life that not always been kind. Some are very sincere and pursue their religion in earnest.

From the course it is clear that the practices of Wicca are not harmful to anyone, but are totally unacceptable for Christians. The practice of spell craft and divination are important parts of Wicca. Also the worship of other gods and goddesses is expressly forbidden for Christians. It was amusing to see that one of the many branches of this eclectic religion call themselves Christian Wiccans. As many of the practices of Wicca are clearly forbidden by the Bible, I am not sure how they reconcile their beliefs.

I recommend this course to others studding to become Christian Clergy. Knowledge is a wonderful thing and as Christians we should seek an understanding of other religions. A knowledge of Wicca is necessary for every Christian counselor as they will almost all encounter teen dabblers and adult practitioners in their pastoral care work. It is much better to council with knowledge then to just accept all that is commonly said about this small, but well known religion.


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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Chaplaincy Studies

As a Masters level professional counselor who has worked for years in mental health crisis intervention, I had some difficulty revisiting concepts and techniques that I use everyday. The text relies heavily on anecdotal examples of the concepts and tasks of the pastor in crisis situations. Because of this I found it somewhat repetitive and sometimes oversimplified. But, perhaps because of the repetition, I had little difficulty understanding the intent of the writer and the concepts being presented. What is new to me is the view of crisis from the perspective of the minister.

As I stated above, I have been a crisis intervention counselor for many years but never from the role of minister or chaplain. I can see immediately that I may have to work very hard to understand and compartmentalize my roles in some situations. Within my professional community I am known as a mental health first responder. In my capacity as a chaplain I must be aware that there is the possibility of role confusion by others. One way I can "show" in which capacity I am functioning is to wear my "chaplaincy" attire. Another is displaying my "CHAPLAIN" badge. My biggest challenge will be to separate these roles in practice.

Dr. Switzer breaks down pastoral crisis management into a few separate but equally important areas. In this approach he is able to distinguish what is and what is not part of the job. Again, relying heavily on anecdotes and personal examples, he is able to present these concepts in a workable and easily understandable fashion.

Before we put ourselves "out there" as a care provider, we must have a sound spiritual as well as specialized knowledge base. Not to do so puts others at risk of further injury and crisis. A caring individual knows what his/her limitations are and has a firm grasp on what is being asked of them. We must ask and answer the question, "What makes me a caring person?". Is it enough to just want to be helpful? Well, sometimes this is enough. Filling sandbags during a flood requires little more than a strong back and a willingness to help. Almost everyone can help out at a food pantry in some capacity or another. But to promote ones self as a spiritual leader and helper to those in crisis requires much more.

First of all, we must adopt the rule to, at the very least, do no harm! This comes from the medical Hippocratic Oath and for good reason. When we are asked to intervene in a crisis situation we are being asked to be helpful, not to cause more problems. A crisis situation is not the time to evangelize or criticize someone for past behaviors. We must also know our limitations. I like to think of myself as an educated man. However, I have very little understanding of some other faiths and there rites and rituals. I would be less than helpful for me to try to assist in the death rites of a faith that is foreign to me. In that situation the but practice would for me to offer compassion on a personal level while helping the family connect with a practitioner of their faith. It would be very important to ask the family what they need from me, knowing that I respect them and their faith.

Addressing crises in hospital environments is my forte'. But my experience in this area is limited to the role of mental health crisis first responder and counselor.

However, in this capacity I have had the opportunity to witness the chaplains in their work with the same families. I found that they had one special function that I was not comfortable using, Prayer. The ability to offer a grieving family or patient a prayer is far and away more valuable in most situations than all of the explanations about the illness or treatments any doctor or mental health counselor could provide during the emergency. Everyone brings some form of belief system to the table. Some may have a deep faith in God and practice it in their daily lives. Some may not be able to put a name or face on what they believe, but they may feel very strongly that what they believe is correct, even if what they believe is that there is no God at all. In these cases it becomes the role of the chaplain to offer an ear to the sadness and anger of those effected.

A chaplain will also be called upon to assist in crises of faith. When that happens the individual chaplain must be strong in his beliefs if he is to be able to assist those who are experiencing a period of weakness. A chaplain who is unsure of his faith will not be effective in helping others.

A lot of content is dedicated to what is (or could be) appropriate to do and say in hospitals, hospices, and when attending to the dying. I found this information both accurate and appropriate to this discussion. Many times I have witnessed a minister taking on the role of advocate in their attempts to minister to the sick, injured, or dying patient. This is almost never the role of a minister or chaplain. To do so is to tell the medical and nursing staff that they are inept and incapable of making the correct decisions on behalf of the patient. It is of vital importance to remember the scope and limitations of the role of chaplain. It is never appropriate to second guess the doctors or to recommend a course of treatment. It is always appropriate to support the patient and family as they make difficult decisions and to offer the spiritual perspective to those decisions.

Conclusion: Pastoral Care Emergencies is a well thought out and presented text book for those of us who are contemplating entering the world of the crisis intervention chaplain. It addresses the general issues of faith as a tool of healing and the specific functions and responsibilities of the chaplain in emergency situations. The text deals with some "do's and don't" when attending in a hospital of other medical environment. As a practitioner of mental health crisis intervention in these venues, I found this information both accurate and complete. This text helped me to put into perspective the differing roles of crisis intervention counselor and chaplain, and how I will be challenged to keep these roles separate in familiar settings.


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Chaplaincy Studies

Linda Muhammad
Master of Chaplaincy

This course began by describing what a chaplain was and how chaplaincy began. A chaplain is a minister; however his ministry is out in the community instead of in a stationary building. A chaplain is the epitome of the workplace minister. The chaplain is truly the minister who is out in the highways and byways of life ministering to the needs of the people in the community setting. It was interesting to note that monks were some of the early chaplains. The monks often traveled from place to place and used signs to help the community find the various meeting places. They met in places that the community knew and they went to the community to meet their spiritual needs, much like the modern day chaplain. I found this course to be insightful. Most of the information was review, however the majority of the information I received as though a long time mentor was passing on needed information. One of the first items of discussion in the course was "The Call". The call is a term used to describe the awakening one receives from God to reach others with the good news of the Gospel. It is that innate desire within one to minister to others. The discussion of the call was such a confirmation for me. The call is a call from God for one to be God's representative on the earth. Those who are chosen to do the work of God have usually felt different, set apart, and we are, "We are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood "as stated in the bible. I have always felt different and set apart and had a desire to help others. This feeling began early in my life, as I am sure other ministers have felt the same way. There has always been a knowing in my spirit that I was here for a divine purpose, and with that purpose was the obligation to live a consecrated life.

There is the saying in the bible, "To whom much is given much is required", this statement really relates to ministers. The qualities that a chaplain requires were also addressed in this course. Some of these qualities were described as follows:
  • Compassion
  • Caring
  • To be a good listener
  • To be available and attentive to those who need your help
  • To be accepting
  • To be genuine
  • To keep those items discussed private and recorded information in a secure place.
Chaplains are now available in hospitals, armed forces, nursing homes, in the prison setting, and truck stops. The need and the setting in which chaplains serve is ever evolving. I am sure that the future will bring many more opportunities to serve in various settings within our communities. Just as religion puts ministers in a box sometimes, it is our responsibility as chaplains, to think out of the box and be creative in meeting the needs of God's people. Chaplains can also serve employees in the various setting also, and those who have been hit by devastation and disaster. It is the job of the chaplain to come alongside those in need as a spiritual friend and guide.

In almost all of the settings in which a chaplain may serve it is important for the chaplain to be accepting and respectful to those of different religious beliefs. It is not our job to push our religious ideals, however when asked we can talk openly about our beliefs. It is also important for chaplains to have a working knowledge of the different religious groups or world religions. Our job is to serve, regardless of the person's religious persuasion. Studying various coursed with ULC Seminary has helped me to be open to others of a different religious view than mine. I personally feel that I am to live my life as an ambassador for Christ, and that the way I live my life will draw others to Christ. I am to be prepared to describe the hope I have and the peace I have obtained by dedicating my life to Christ. This is my personal walk, but I honor those who have chosen another path.

Burnout often happens to those who serve and give to others, especially ministers. As ministers we freely give to others, we pour out what God has given to us. However if you keep pouring out the vessel will soon be empty, and this can affect any minister. We also have to take the time to feel the vessel, with love, rest compassion, fun, and balance. We, as chaplains are the vessel, and we have to care for ourselves first in order to care for others. It is imperative for the chaplain to set healthy limits for those whom you work with and serve. Things such as having set office hours, set visiting hours, taking breaks and vacations are all ways to take care of you, while serving others. Taking care of your personal temple, through exercise, eating healthy foods, taking time for solace and prayer helps those we serve, because it helps the minister lead the life God has called him to.

Finally, it is important to be aware that there will be those we serve who may try to manipulate a minister and certain situations to meet their need. Setting appropriate limits, confronting in a compassionate manner, being wise and open are all appropriate interventions to handle manipulation. There are definitely tools to our trade prayer, a relationship with the living God, a good listening ear; love and compassion for others are some of the tools needed for the trade of chaplaincy. A chaplain has to stay true to himself, his or her God, their families, and the community in which they serve. It is imperative to live an ethical life that is worthy of the high calling from the most High God. As chaplains we need to avoid those situations that may cause needles controversy.

A chaplain, in my opinion, is one of the major foot soldiers in the army of God. It is an honor and a privilege to be used for the work of God on the earth. I think the author of this course did an excellent job of providing information that was very concise and organized. I could definitely use the information provided for reference material. There was many thought provoking topics discussed. I sincerely hope that taking this course will add validity to me as a minister and a chaplain. In order for ULC ministers to be taken seriously we have to be educated and confident in whom we are. Our relationship with God is of course the most important thing, but after that is to be prepared for the high calling he has called us to. That preparation comes from study, application, and training. As stated in the word of God we must study to show ourselves approved.


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Monday, March 15, 2010

Wiccan Studies

"Wiccan – No Broom or Pointy Hat Needed!"
A Final Essay for the Master of Wiccan Studies Course

This completes my personal journey in exploring the "earth religions" (Druidism, Shamanism, Paganism were the others). My goal was simply to understand and get through the popular notions to what is really practiced. Flying on brooms sticks, bubbling cauldrons, and pointy hats may be entertaining through the lens of Hollywood. The truth is that modern Wiccan is form of an ancient religion.

I liked the approach of this instruction. The discussion of consequences was important. Responsibility plays a big part in the practices of the followers of Wicca. Spiritual forces are powerful. As a pilot of a jet fighter must be responsible in control of the jet and its systems, so to must the Wiccan be in all he or she does.

The lesson on tools and symbolism lessons were valuable to me. it is I who would give meaning to the tool. Again, I see a lot of sense in this approach. The stone, the salt, the fire, the wand…will have representation of what I see to use it for. They are tools to be used to help me concentrate, focus, divine energy. It is like a four foot stick I find in the woods. I can clean it up and use it as a cane or walking staff. The stick by itself has no power. I bring my imagination to it and then … the possibilities are many.

Over and over again, the instruction teaches that behind the altar, tools, and rituals it the "personal touch." This is something we all do to a degree. I buy a truck but I will "personalize it" by putting in a new pickup bed lining, a tool box, and custom tires.
I also note that use of the objects help in another way…it is one of familiarity. There is power in this. I can relate. I go fishing and though I have several rods and reels…I have my high confidence ones. They are the ones I reach for first. In my tackle box I have lures that also are tried and proven. I can't explain it, but there is energy in those I have high confidence in and it would be the same in the objects used in the rituals, ceremonies, and spells.

Another strong point of this course for me was the interaction – homework – in some assignments. I had to define the names of the holidays, I would write a ceremony, I was encouraged to practice a couple of rituals. This is plus. It is one thing to read about a subject but it is another to be actively involved. I can read about preaching a sermon but it is quite another to do all that is involved from research, writing, practice, and finally delivering the sermon. It stretches one!

I was really challenged with the exercise of lessons 14 and 15 dealing with mythology. At first I was stumped to find a "modern myth" but remembered some of my favorite characters as a child – Tarzan! As I look back on that lesson, one can also find modern myths in the stories of various movies and television shows today.

Finally, I liked the instructor's ability to question. In lesson 17, he asks concerning Catholic rituals, "Where do they get all their rituals?" When we accept blindly without asking a ritual or tradition, that action fails. Why? I believe that in the beginning a ritual or traditional practice was designed to be a teachable moment. What has happened is that the story or event behind the ritual is forgotten.

For any student seeking to understand the early religions in a modern context, this is a good one. It also helps to round out the courses on Druidism, Paganism, and Shamanism in a complementary way. Well done!


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ULC Seminary
Rev. Nick Federspiel, DCS March 12, 2010
Gnosticism – what is that? I never heard of it until I initiated formal theology studies and prepared for a trip to Egypt. I should have taken this course before I went to Cairo and Aswan, I would have been asking an entirely different set of questions of the Coptic Church. In my opinion if one is unfamiliar with the vocabulary related to Gnosticism and similar philosophies one won't be by mid course – patience is required; for example: Aeons, Autogenesis, Archon, Demiurge, Dualism, heresiological, Hermetic Corpus, leontomorphic, libertinistic, Monism, mythopoetical, Manicheanism and Mandaeanism, Neoplatonic / Neopythagorean , pseudepigrapha, syzgies, pleroma and etc. and etc. Thus until all this soaks in speed reading is out and rereading and external research are in. Other than that I am a bit nonplussed – what to say in this essay? I am not sure I yet comprehend Gnosticism in all its variations or if anyone really does. So to anchor an essay starting point, and highlight some key points of Gnosticism, I include other Gnostic references, and I now skip ahead to lesson 17:

Lesson 17: "When it pertains to evil, Gnostics believe that anything from the physical world or creator of that world, such as the Demiurge is evil. And …
Certainly, all the manuscripts found at Nag Hammadi had some different perspectives, and thus they were determined not worthy of "holy" (Catholic Church canon) inclusion. That they were ordered destroyed is shocking and almost unbelievable.  But such an action shows how unfairly Christianity, as we know it, was established.  Only the chosen books of the Canon held the "truth." …"

If the purpose of the course was to highlight the virtues of Gnosticism, I admit I failed to appreciate them. The canon was not based per se on the 'truth" but weighed the apostolic content, fundamental synergy of messages and glorification of one good God. The canon did not require all the verses within "books" to be congruent and void of any hint of contradiction. The ancient scribes could read through textual issues just as well as we can – maybe better.
Christians and Jews died by the tens of thousands under persecution and thus to say the church fathers were "unfair" in establishing Christianity defies civil comment.
If this course was to impress one with scholarship, I would be more complimentary if the author was more politically sensitive or less critical of shall I say "other established religions." Since the tone is in many of its parts are a criticism, then I will discuss some fundamental issues of Gnostic doctrine explained within this course in like manner.
The first fundamental difference is that of Gnostic polytheism and that the inferior and evil God was the creator of Earth. Of course, Christianity developed monotheism given the eventual definition of the trinity. Christianity was a break in the pagan legacy of most of the world's existent philosophical approach to gods of the elements, animals, idols and heavens and Gods that procreated more gods. Gnosticism retained polytheism and Christianity matured away from it. The Gnostic's supreme God creates (allows) an evil creator (perhaps akin to a Satan) , but he did permit "a spark" of himself to be in all humans. If humans develop the spark into GNOSIS, aka knowledge, then their souls will be saved. The doctrine goes on to say few will achieve that. Thus the religion is but a doctrine for the few. Gnostics believed Jesus acquired Gnosis. What is Gnosticism? From lesson 1:
Lesson 1: If I was to give an answer to what is Gnosticism then I would have to say, Gnosticism is about creation and cosmology, (it is study of the Universe in its totality ), myth, moral principles, salvation and mysterious.
Since the world's creator is evil, so the Creator must be evil as well. To the Gnostic, this physical world must be rejected for the individual must do all it can to escape it.

As well saying 8 and 107. This tells us only a very select few will entry the kingdom of The Father. The central character passes up the multitude so they may choose only one, the largest and strongest. To the Gnostic though this didn't mean physically, but the spiritually strongest.

The truth is a simple definition of Gnosis and Gnostic doctrine is illusive. It certainly is a complicated structure to "preach" to the illiterate majority 2,000 years ago. But several of the significant differences in faith and teachings as demonstrated above vs. Christianity are clear. First, we have to deal with polytheism vs. monotheism. Then one has to ponder the logic of a supreme God allowing the universe and earth within it to be entrusted to an evil creator vs. a "good" one (himself?). One must recognize that then pagan "religions" throughout the world worshiped nature, the sky, water, sun, birds, etc. as they owed their lives to their bounties. Many cultures had a God assigned to each. They hardly considered the Earth and its riches evil. They did know there was evil – most frequently that attributed unfortunate circumstances to an ill worshiped god of some sort.

Below is a brief about the Gnostic legend of Sophia. Sophia is too complex to develop in this essay, but to illuminate the Gnostic legends (or beliefs if one is Gnostic); here is an excerpt from external reading. I suggest an adept student will be frequently going outside the box to better understand Gnosticism. Here is a portion of Sophia and the Gnostic equivalent of Hebrew Genesis. The bold highlights are mine.

In his great ambition Ildabaoth decides to create a man after an image he had seen reflected in the waters of space. He employs all the powers of his various creations, but the creature proves a failure, helpless and ignorant and crawling on the ground like a worm. So he is forced to call on the help of his mother who sends him an impulse of divine light. This animates the man and he rises to life.
But seeing the newly made creation soar higher and higher because of the spiritual light from Sophia, Ildabaoth flies into a rage of jealousy. Angrily staring into the deep abyss of matter, his image is reflected back to him and there arises a serpent with eyes flashing red. It is Satan, the Ophiomorphos (having the form of a serpent, an embodiment of envy and cunning. After this Ialdabaoth encases his creations, symbolized in Adam and Eve, in mud to keep them closely tied to the earth. He builds for them the Garden of Paradise, giving them all of the gifts therein. But lest they taste death, he forbids them to eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.
Sophia-Achamoth, from her kingdom above, is always watching over and protecting humanity. Seeing the world that Ialdabaoth has fashioned, she sends her own serpent, the Ophis or Agathodaemon (a divine instructor), who induces Adam and Eve to taste of the forbidden fruit of knowledge. Though they are cast from the Garden of Eden, and do indeed learn the sorrow of death, the divine wisdom stays with them through every trial of worldly life.
In the final act, after watching mankind struggle through aeons of pain and conflict, constantly pursued by Ialdabaoth's cunning, Sophia-Achamoth begs her mother, Sophia the Elder, to send the Christ to help humanity in its unending torment. It is through his crucifixion and resurrection that the kingdom of matter is finally subdued and Ialdabaoth's reign of blindness comes to an end. From his throne in the heavens the Christ continues to reign, collecting all of the souls who have triumphed like him, each one freeing a portion of light encased in the kingdom of matter.

If one makes it through this towards understanding Gnosis or accepting by faith gnosis, then one must consider he is analyzing a religion for a few who achieve gnosis vs. one that offers some hope to all. We need to be objective observers of their respective principles. The eleventh commandment in John 15:12 is to 'love one another as I have love you …' which is not a concept forced upon the people by an evil creator or proposed for the benefit of the few. So one takes whichever religious path one prefers if one limits the field to Gnosticism vs. Christianity.

"I shall choose you one out of a thousand, two out of two thousand and they shall stand as a single one."
Meaning they will come to see the light the truth. They thought Jesus born of evil never the less overcame that obstacle and obtained this state of rarely achieved comprehension. [NF: This is like the Eastern religions. Mediate and become aware.]
The Demiurge was originally sent out by the good God to create the world but [he then] established himself here as an independent deity, that is, he gave himself out to be the Most High and [now] holds captive in his creation the souls which [in truth, instead] belong to the supreme God." (p.109-110)

Who was the hero of Gnostic evangelism? Valentinius was one such person (there were others identified in the course) who merged first century B.C. Gnosticism with Jesus Christ. Lesson 11 describes Valentinius Gnosticism. He became at least in part monistic (also explained in the course). What is monasticism? It is akin to materialism and pantheism. I think it is best described in general terms by Buddhism.
Lesson 20: Because of Gnosticism's insistence on personal responsibility and ethics, its emphasis on singular prayer, the practice of compassion, detachment from materialism and the striving for enlightenment, it has been called "the Buddhism of the West".
What Gnostics reject is not the earth, but they system: the artificial world of injustice, prejudice, institutionalization and materialism.

Of Valentinius we read:
Valentinius taught first in Alexandria and went to Rome about 136 AD, during the pontificate of pope Hyginus, and remained until the pontificate of pope Anicetus. In Adversus Valentinianos, iv, Tertullian says:
Valentinius had expected to become a bishop, because he was an able man both in genius and eloquence. Being indignant, however, that another obtained the dignity by reason of a claim which confessorship had given him, he broke with the church of the true faith. Just like those (restless) spirits which, when roused by ambition, are usually inflamed with the desire of revenge, he applied himself with all his might to exterminate the truth; and finding the clue of a certain old opinion (NF Gnosticism) …"

Thus we have an older religion (not per se an issue as Judaism preceded Christianity) that was, unfortunately for us, integrated with Christianity by a dissident rejected for the high office of Bishop. This is in contrast to Jesus who per the canon Gospels was a humanist, worked "miracles" of healing and was an activist in regards to Pharisee abuses of the temple and aloofness from the common people the "Sons of God." Speaking for myself I'll accept Jesus as the New Testament teacher over a character like Valentinius as my foundation for my earthly efforts to enjoy eternity. What would we have if every contender for becoming a pontiff, if passed over, and impatient, started his own religion?

As for monasticism, the search within ones self for the true essence of spirituality as a theology or simply self discipline, that all things are integrated in some way, I think, is a good thing. I do not find some parts of that philosophy in conflict with Judaism or Christianity. I do find monasticism inadequate and accept the applied tests put forth in Christian Apologetics by Doug Powell. One is not going to be obedient to any religion or process of instruction unless one knows himself, his limitations and seeks to improve in all physical and intellectual accomplishments. Thus the Eastern disciplines do not have it all wrong – very much to the contrary. Perhaps renouncing all worldly (material) things goes a bit far in my view as in today's environment one would not be a participant and contributor in most societies with such a stringent view. If it were not for material things we all would be living a primitive existence.

Worshiping material things however is wrong. Only the poor and / or ineffective shoppers say, "money can not buy happiness." The poor can not contribute donations and taxes to the poor. By example, the poor did not recently contribute the reported on billion dollars to the relief of Hati. BUT 'how much is enough?' – 'just a little bit more' is not what this world is about either. Athletes many times talk about being in their zone before a major competition. So can we not have material comforts and honorable spiritual, ethical and moral zones? Is not such a mature balance in life a form of Gnosis?

The author does not avoid any opportunity for controversy.
As history has graphically demonstrated, the various religious crusades to "immanetize the Eschaton" are deadly serious. This truth is tangibly evidenced by the atrocities committed by the socio-political Utopians of secular Gnosticism. Both Auschwitz and the Soviet gulag are products of the same jihad. The secular theocracies that have waged this jihad have consistently been scientific dictatorships edified by Darwinism.

What is immanent Eschaton?

To immanentize the eschaton means trying to make the eschaton (the transcendent, uncreated, spiritual, or future; the end of days, to trigger the apocalypse, see eschatology) in the IMMANENT (within the limits of possible experience) world. …

In all these contexts it means "trying to make that which belongs to the afterlife happen here and now (on Earth)"

Eschatology (lit. 'study of the last') is a part of theology and philosphy concerned with what are believed to be the final events in the history of the world, or the ultimate destiny of humanity. eschaton and Eschatology

Scientific dictatorships are?

As antiquity gave way to modern history, the religious power structure shifted to an autocracy of the knowable, or a 'scientific dictatorship.' Subtly and swiftly, the ruling class seized control of science and used it as an 'epistemological weapon' against the masses.

- by Phillip D. Collins ©, Feb. 24th, 2005
"As the Sun/Moon cult lost some of its popularity, 'Scientists' were quick to take up some of the slack. According to their propaganda, the physical laws of the universe were the ultimate causative factors, and naturally, those physical laws were only fathomable by the scientific (i.e. Illuminati) elite."
- Keith, Saucers of the Illuminati, 78-

Hmmm, like fudged data leads to "Global warming" paranoia which leads to T.A.R.P. legislation?

It is true that the nag Hammurabi texts on display in the Coptic Museum in Cairo have created a realm of controversy that the original Christian process was flawed and usurped by organization and process in the course of its establishment. I am not certain if any religion or discipline well accepted today is any different; certainly not pre A.D. Gnosticism, post Christ Gnosticism or Coptic Gnosticism.

One's faith in the acceptability of a religion should not be based upon the political-bureaucratic process that allowed it to prevail against doubt, persecution and suppression, including force of arms, but in the message itself. Hypothetically what is Gnosticism was the "truth" and it was wiped out by the Roman armies and Catholic canon to extinction, and Hinduism was the "truth" and it together with the Romans brutally scoured both religions from the earth? Then neither would exist. So what any entity did to survive bureaucratically in effect preserved them for their congregations today. Were their acts of those facing the lions, crosses, fires and swords any more revolting than those of the real persecutors? I suggest they were far less so. What of Hindus vs. Buddhists? Jews vs. Muslims? To appreciate this course one should read some of the corollary texts that nag Hammurabi opened us up to. One such text familiar to many is the so called "Fifth Gospel of Thomas" – aka the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas.

Among such Gnostic groups as the Valentinians, women were considered equal to men; some were revered as prophets; others acted as teachers, traveling evangelists, healers, priests, perhaps even bishops.

Gospel of Thomas 114, (also a ULC course) according to Gnostic Gospel of Thomas this is an exchange including Jesus Christ:

(114) Simon Peter said to Him, "Let Mary leave us, for women are not worthy of Life. Jesus said, "I myself shall lead her in order to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every woman who will make herself male will enter the
Kingdom of Heaven."

One can analyze login 114 to any extent one so desires but to make any "politically correct" religious interpretation of this element of "Gnosis" that is acceptable and inspirationally effective to women (one half of the potential congregation) then one must really do some serious editing and achieve some degree of gnosis eloquence typical of a politician or a lawyer - not a corner church minister or corner evangelist! One point is the course does discuss several denominations of Gnostics as I lesson 19 "Gnosticism Today" which is analogous to reviewing the various denominations and apologists of Christianity that march to the beat their own drum.

Also the course, lesson 13, discussed the Gnostic movement's influence on the verses attributed to disciple Paul and Apostle John. This is one reason I took the course. I became aware that some sayings (verses) failed to make any sense within the context of Christ's or the apostles teachings. The verses were being directed at a threat not defined by Roman Emperor worship and paganism, but by something else – Gnosticism. However the course strongly implies Paul was a Gnostic. But was Paul Gnostic or aware of Gnosticism and preached against it as did the Christian church fathers of the next two generations?

Lesson 20: As well we have compared the possibilities that some of the biblical characters such as Paul in his own right may have been Gnostic. The topic has been twisted, gone over and over as the Gnostic believes the teaching of Paul in Gnostic text was actually proof that Paul was a Gnostic

Paul says "The Kingdom of God is within you" which is probably the best single summation of Gnostic theology. Jesus says "My kingdom is not of this world" (Jn 18:36).
From Lesson 13: Some of the scholars of today that study the Gnostics believe that of the four canonical gospels, the elements associated with Q show the clearest connection to Gnosticism.
Gnostic scholars believe that many of the sayings written in Matthew and Luke and attributed to Q have a distinctly koan-like obscurity; for example
Luke 17:33: Whoever seeks to gain his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will preserve it and
Luke 13:30: Some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last. Other sayings have reference to secret teachings and knowledge to be revealed, such as
Luke 12:2: Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known, which are themes intrinsic to the idea of gnosis - secret knowledge that can be learned. Also, the question-and-answer format of Q was a main form of writing used by Gnostics (for example, compare The Sophia of Jesus Christ).

The motivation, strategy and logic behind these Gnostic vs. Christian or any Hebrew verses are vague and speculative at best.

Lesson 13: For example, Isaiah 34:14 is usually translated ... the 'screech owl' also shall find rest there ..., translating the Hebrew term lilitu as screech owl rather than as Lilith, the name of a Hebrew demon.

"Lilitu" in Aramaic and Hebrew is considered by many scholars together with its gender suffix 'ith' to refer to a night bird not a demon within the context of Isaiah 34:13-15. One must be schooled beyond my current efforts in the intricacies and rules of Biblical Hebrew grammar – but prefixes and suffixes and context are important elements of ancient language translation. This is determined in part by interpreting the 'Lilitu' text inclusively with its surrounding text – i.e. not out of context. Thus 'owl' being as good as any considering Isaiah 34:13-15 is discussing 12 creatures that are not pseudonyms for ancient mythological Hebrew demons.

This is one of the translation differences reflected in contemporary scholarship and the 1611 KJV classical Bible. By example, 'screech owl' KJV is "owls" in GNV and "night creature" in NKJV and "night hag (storm demon Lilith)" in the more recent Oxford RSV. BUT In Biblical Hebrew Westminster Interlinear text Isaiah 34:13 "owl" is 'ione' Strong's H3234 Hebrew for ostrich. 34:14 owl is 'lithith' H3913 hoot-owl, and in 34:15 owl is H7901 an scops-owl (darting on its prey). The Jewish Publication Society Interlinear Tanakh agrees except for 34:14 is "some kind of demon". Thus 5 of 6 very well regarded translations of the text are of fowl and 1 of demons. Judge for yourself.
Lesson 13 Continued: Paul also refers to his teaching by terminology of gnostic significance - I long to see you, so that I may share with you a certain pneumatic charisma (Romans 1:11-12); pneumatic is the gnostic term for the class of people who were governed by their spiritual side and thus saved. As well as the koine Greek word for spirit, though no other alternative word for spirit in Koine Greek is suggested.

The comment on pneumatic charisma (Romans 1:11-12) is accurate. Thus one good point the course makes is the disciples of the New Testament did speak directly against Gnostic theology as did the next generation removed church fathers. The course says there was organized resistance to Gnosticism then. True – 'so the Bible tells me so' if one is aware of and tuned into the Gnostic verses. Gnosis as a movement or word is not in the concordance. (Nave's Topical Bible, Unabridged edition with Index.) Therefore, I would have appreciated an exhaustive list of such Biblical verses, as I doubt I could recognize them all on my own. I would suspect such a list would be highly controversial.

Then there is Hermetic Gnosticism developed by Hermes Trismegistus who by medieval era legend was a contemporary of Moses.
The Asclepius and the Corpus Hermeticum are the most important of the Hermetica, writings attributed to Hermes Trismegistus, which survive (NF as redacted) the Renaissance it was accepted that Hermes Trismegistos was a contemporary of Moses, however after Casaubon's dating of the Hermetic writings as no earlier than the second or third century CE, the whole of Renaissance Hermeticism collapsed.
As to their actual authorship:
"... they were certainly not written in remotest antiquity by an all wise Egyptian priest, as the Rennaissance believed, but by various unknown authors, all probably Greeks, and they contain popular Greek philosophy of the period, a mixture of Platonism and Stocism, combined with some Jewish and probably some Persian influences.
Hermes Trismegistus is described as a man who became a god, or as a man who was the son of a god.

The easiest way to define Hermetic Gnosticism is to contrast it to its slightly more famous cousin, Christian Gnosticism. It takes volumes to define Christian Gnosticism in its entirety so - for the purposes of this discussion - the focus will be on that which distinguishes it from the Hermetic variety.

A previous post, "Gnosticism: a working definition", defined the nature of the dilemma of Humanity according to the Gnostic view. The various forms of Gnosticism,* all propose
various ways of achieving Gnosis; that is, of finding a way to 'awaken' humanity and to eventually get everyone back to the Pleroma. Christian Gnosticism presents Christ, the Logos,** who with his twin, the unmanifested Sophia, provides a means of achieving Gnosis.

*(I will deal with these in a separate post in which I question whether Gnosticism should properly be defined as a religion at all)

**(lit.: logos the word. See the beginning of the Gospel of John)

A perusal of strictly
Christian Gnostic literature will show that it is from this variety that the gloomiest views of the world originate. This is provides the key to understanding Hermetic Gnosticism. One of the defining characteristics of Gnosticism is something called the doctrine of anti-cosmos. Simply stated, it is the belief that, owing to the way the phenomenal universe (lit.: the universe that we can sense) originated, this universe is altogether objectionable. There is nothing redeeming in it and the sooner it is escaped, the better for all concerned.

Christians were put to death by the Romans. I do not read that the Gnostics were equally persecuted – which is not to suggest they should have been – of course not. The point is today a defensive attitude is irrelevant to presenting, accepting or rejecting a philosophy paramount as it is regarding our eternal guidance. Sadly, religious animosity to the extreme still continues today in the form of hypocritical murder-bombers. At the opposite extreme of atheism are those that murder their own people to help a few elitists with their selfish goals – fabulous religious logic (sic). More blood has been shed over the religions of the world than for any other cause – and it continues. Such is a sad irony and epitaph for any religion with fresh blood under the feet of its lay devoted and faithful. Therefore, I ask this of a religion:

  • Do its supreme most leaders or idol(s) publicly preach love or a call to arms?
  • Does it (did it) produce heroes that transcend(ed) regional geography and religions?
  • Was its cause created by good heroes or by dissidents?
  • Does it give ME an "average Joe" an opportunity to hope for the best in eternity – there obviously being a God of creation as science has no answer for the beginning of the beginning?
  • Am I to hope or to fear?

I could care less how many hands redacted the scripture. It is to me all about the message that counts – the end result – the guidance – the timeliness of the teachings.

Therefore, based upon the above criteria would I choose Gnosticism over Christianity? No. Might you? That is for you to say. Should you take the course? Knowledge is power, but knowledge of what? Lesson 15 is an interesting brief in Christian apologetics. Lesson 15 presents several hypotheses in regards to the resurrection of Jesus Christ and then follows this Christian apologetic dissertation:

Lesson 15 excerpts: (This is regards to Jesus resurrection) With myth, hallucination, and a flawed autopsy ruled out, (NF i.e. theories of grave robbing, magic act, etc.) with incontrovertible evidence for an empty tomb, with a substantial body of eyewitnesses to his reappearance, and with the inexplicable transformation and impact upon the world of those who claimed to have seen him, Morison became convinced that his preconceived bias against Jesus Christ's resurrection had been wrong. He began writing a different book—entitled Who Moved the Stone? — to detail his new conclusions. Morison simply followed the trail of evidence, clue by clue, until the truth of the case seemed clear to him. His surprise was that the evidence led to a belief in the resurrection.
In his first chapter, "The Book That Refused to Be Written," this former skeptic explained how the evidence convinced him that Jesus' resurrection was an actual historical event. "It was as though a man set out to cross a forest by a familiar and well-beaten track and came out suddenly where he did not expect to come out." 36
Morison is not alone. Countless other skeptics have examined the evidence for Jesus' resurrection, and accepted it as the most astounding fact in all of human history.

This is also the path taken by Josh McDowell in his series of books titled Evidence Demands a Verdict. Once he was a skeptic and agnostic that set out to prove Jesus was Jewish mythology at best and in the process became a Christian, apologetic author and guest speaker at the largest churches in America.

The 'scripture' of Gnosticism, Judaism, Christianity, and probably Islam were redacted by scribes (re)recording the original verbal lore. The authors are not always specified thus many say about Judean and Christian scripture that they are pseudonymous. Did the evangelists, scribes and visionaries insert themselves into the text – YES. Even the texts of Hinduism change over time. One can go on an on over the edited and redacted issue of holy books. Who, how many, contributed over to the content of nag Hammurabi Gnostics texts and those that followed?

Acts 8:13 is a simple to explain example of redacting. Jerome deleted Acts 8:37 as his sect believed more than a confession in Jesus was required to qualify one for baptism. But one hundred and fifty years earlier Irenaeus discussed Acts 8:37. However, modern translations of the Bible delete it on the authority that "early translations do not contain Acts 8:37." i.e. Jerome's Vulgate and Psalter! Circular proofs always lead to errors and trouble.

Irenaeus: Similarly, according to Irenaeus, the Ethiopian eunuch needed only baptism for his complete salvation after confessing belief, because he had already been "instructed by the prophets" in his reading of Isaiah. Philip could leave immediately with no problems arising (CCEL Irenaeus, Heresies:III.XII.8; IV.XXIII.2). c 185 – 188 A.D. and …

[Philip declared] that this was Jesus, and that the Scripture was fulfilled in Him; as did also the believing eunuch himself: and, immediately requesting to be baptized, he said, "I believe Jesus Christ to be the Son of God."[Ref Acts 8:37.] This man was also sent into the regions of Ethiopia, to preach what he had himself believed … Irenaeus, Heresies:III.XII.8; IV.XXIII.2).

Irenaeus published in the late second century A.D. about c 185 A.D. so Acts 8:13 was original gospel prior to Jerome (c 347 – 420 A.D.) Jerome deleted Acts 8:13 due to his sectarian beliefs on Baptism. BUT Irenaeus clearly refers to Acts 8:13 "after confessing belief..." Modern translations not foot noting this at the very least are in significant error. This redacting example is minor compared to the effects Valentinius had on pre Jesus Gnostic text.

Valentinius merged the original Gnostic religion with that of Jesus and the apostles and that egocentric reaction to not being elected a Christian bishop polluted both (in my opinion). Scribal error and redacting are common to all sacred texts during their eras of development – Gnosticism especially so (i.e. Valentinius and Corpus Hermeticum).

What is the point of all this? Can two (or four) seemingly divergent religions all be true, and at the core of their differences is nothing more superficial than insufficient textual presentation? It is logical that in this universe and on our little earth is there but one true word of God; but is it true that only some of us know what it is and are in 'his' grace, and all others are yet in need?

The Lost Books of Gnosticism were not lost as it turns out, they survived. They were rejected by Christians no differently than if they competed with a 'canon' of Confucianism, Shinto(ism), Hinduism or Judaism. They are Gnostic and perhaps Coptic Gnostic– their own thing. What is your thing? From lesson 20:

Gnosticism stands at the crossroads of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, representing a common ground. Historically Gnosticism influenced Judaism in the development of Kabala, and Islam in the
development of Sufism; it both encouraged and challenged Christianity through its early centuries and contributed profoundly to Christian theology and identity.

Many are agnostic and atheists. Reports indicate atheism is the fastest growing 'religion' on college campuses today. Do people really believe in nothing; that is that the entire universe is that of pure science? Most people are the life time religious captives of their birth right. Are you seeking, questioning, or simply learning? To evaluate other religions, whatever the motivation may be, one has to experience them in some form and read of them. This course is that for Gnosticism. One can take this course as a first time introduction to Gnosticism, not to forget that otherwise there will be no ULC Seminary Gnosis credits (for you)! But, perhaps, more importantly there might not be any 'Gnosis' either. No matter how this fits into one's belief system, at the very least, practicing Gnosticism is a positive, intellectual, spiritual involvement and commitment vs. do nothing drop-out atheism and agnosticism. Just because Gnosticism does not work for me as a Christian Minister does not mean it will not work for you, or that as a person sufficiently motivated to pay for on-line study that this course does not contribute to a greater and more balanced personal knowledge base – for 'knowledge is power - always.'

Copyrighted Rev. Nick Federspiel, DCS 2010.

Permission for ULC Seminary to publish is granted.


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