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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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Master of Buddhism Course by Rev. Judith Wolf

Master of Buddhism
Final Essay
Dr. Judith G. Wolf
One wonders whether Eastern spiritualism, dominated by Buddhism, has been a calming influence during the trauma of the recent earthquake and tsunami. I can only wonder at the apparent calm of the general reaction. Contrast that to the hysteria of those in the United States who denounce the birthright of our president or shout falsehoods to the general public usurping their exalted places as congressmen and senators.
The lessons of the Buddhists are to be extoled. If everyone in the world followed their basic tenets, we would have a world of peace. It might be relatively easy to wish only good for all people, or hope that all humans are free from suffering. It is not so easy to be generous to ones' enemies, to be forgiving, to hope that a person is free of suffering no matter what he or she has done to you. It is also not easy to rejoice in and feel proud of those we do not know. And finally, it is particularly difficult for many to see all beings as equal.  The latter is demonstrated by the degree of racial discrimination that exists in the world; by the suffering imposed on people by those who perceive themselves as different and better.
But if at least some of us try to cultivate Buddhist virtues, it is a start. By practicing generosity, ethical behavior, patience, joyous effort and concentration, we can perhaps generate the wisdom of emptiness; the wisdom to know that the reality as we see it is a function of our projections and misunderstanding it is empty of these falsehoods. On the other hand, is trying to cultivate Buddhist virtues so different from trying our best to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ, sometimes described as the heights of virtue that God desires of all his children?
I believe that there are many paths to God and to living the life that God desires us to live. Buddhism is one of them.

Master of Religious Philosophy by Judith Wolf

Final Essay
Dr. Judith Wolf
This is the best course, maybe my favorite. Robert Chamberlain asks interesting and challenging questions and then presents different sides. The course involves you in the discourse by making you think. A real treat.
Of great surprise was the number of different religions there actually are in the world. Our usual Judeo/Christian view limits us in a variety of ways, but most importantly has the potential of limiting our understanding of how much we have in common with others in the world.
Regardless of how the presentation is organized (and the author presents many different ways), the most fascinating question to me is: Why do so many of us believe in a higher power? And how do we explain that this started eons ago. Religion is not a modern phenomenon. It goes back thousands of years. Do we in fact have a God gene? And if there is, how long ago did the gene appear?
Let's consider common ants. In their colonies there is a queen, drones and worker bees. Is the queen a focus of worship. Or birds, as they fly north and south following a leader, is the leader a focus of worship. How about ancient tribal chiefs and medicine men? And how about the concept of any monarch? Does the awe inspired by Kings and Queens fit into this paradigm?
If conclusions reached by Dr. Dean Homer in his research are correct, there is an inverse relationship between the amount of serotonin in a person's brain (determined by the concentration of serotonin receptors in the brain) and that person's degree of religiosity (how religious a person is). The course goes into this in greater detail, but suffice it to say the amount of serotonin is genetically determined. When you think about the fact that some people have a "religious calling," it simply boggles the mind. Incredible food for thought.
In spite of the depth of this course the question of whether or not there is a God cannot be answered definitively by us right now. As some wise person said to me one time, either there is a God or there isn't. If there isn't it doesn't matter, but if there is well….
And this brings us to faith. That all important concept. A discussion saved for another course, another time. Or isn't it necessary. Should we just believe and feel the blessing.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Final Essay - Spiritual Development

This was the last course in my series towards the Chaplaincy degree (and I will continue with the rest of the courses.
It took me quite a while to finish—the last year I have been sidetracked with many other spiritual/religious activities (more about that in my final essay for the complete chaplaincy program).
When starting the Spiritual Development course, I had a hard time getting into it. Even though I understood everything being explained, my heart/mind did not quite follow the materials. I am not sure why—maybe initially I thought some of the ideas were a bit far-fetched, or maybe because some of the subjects scared me a bit. Let's face it: it is a bit scary to start exploring other planes, other worlds, spirits, and so on.
But the further I got into the course materials, it all started to make sense to me, and suddenly I realized that a lot of the materials were actually already familiar to me, in some form or another. I may not have called it NLP , "6-Step Reframe", or other terminology as used in the course, but over the years of management training, employee coaching, problem solving and so on many of the same subjects were lightly covered there. This course brought it all together, and with a lot of detail to actually start using it in practice.
That brings me to a whole other subject related to this course: It will probably take me months or even years to fully digest the materials and put it all into practice.  I have done many of the exercises, but especially the ones in the second half of the materials are ones that need a lot of time, practice, and repetition. As Dr. Crouch mentioned, some people will "connect" with the materials a lot quicker than others. I have a feeling that I will be fairly quick, but to really take advantage of this vast pool of treasures I will need to go through it several more times while I practice and practice some more until it will come more natural to me.
As mentioned, a lot of the materials felt familiar. I am not sure if that also has to do with my history as an avid Science-Fiction reader when I was younger. Many of the stories I read were about alternate universes and changing outcomes.
One thing that came to mind as I was going through the course materials was a book I read many years ago as part of my self-discovery and self-improvement: Dianetics from L. Ron Hubbard. At the time, I did not know about the Scientology Church, and the fact that Mr. Hubbard actually used to be a SF author himself (it clicked later when I remembered I read some of his SF work).
As initially with this course, I ended up having a hard time with Dianetics, as I thought some of the concepts went off into an area which I thought was very improbable.  However, after having finished the Spiritual Development course, I have to rethink that. I am even thinking of picking up Dianetics and read it again, in light of what I have just learned. I think that may be an interesting experience.
Thank you for yet another excellent course made available through the ULC Seminary!

Rev. Peter van Sluis
Rev. Peter Paul

Multifaith Minister, Universal Life Church
Universal Spiritual Philosopher
Phone:  (612) 208-9168

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Final essay Druidism

What an interesting discourse!  I enjoyed that the lessons utilized a variety of authors, giving different perspectives, opinions and expressions of Druidism.  The overview was one of the traditions language and history of the Druid clans.  I did notice there is similarity between the celebration of holidays between the Druids and the Pagan practices.  It does seem like the modern day Druids, especially in America have turned towards the folly of the celebrations, maybe not the seriousness of the 'old days'.  The history of the Druids is also left to interpretation due to the lack of documentation.  It is not easy to grasp the real life style of how these people went about their daily living.  Their gods/goddess are brought to life by the holidays they celebrated.   I would have enjoyed being part of the simple life, the closeness of the clan and the strong support to Mother Earth, respecting all living animal and plants, showing concern for the environment.  I see a correlation between this idealism and the Native Americans.  Would it not be wonderful if this concept was shared in the present day!
My personal curiosity on Druidism stems from my heritage of being Irish.  My grandfather came from Cork County as a child to America.  He was a proud Irishman, and in hind sight I now wish I could have learned more from him regarding his heritage.  At one time I had a past life regression, one of my previous lives was served as a seer within the Druidism culture.  I also worked the Templars as a seer.  In this time frame I was well respected and protected by the Templar's for my abilities.  For these two reasons I was drawn to experience this discourse to learn more and to see if any of the information brought back a memory for me of my past life.  Each week I read new information and yet at the same time I felt I already knew what was being lectured . . . interesting . . .
The one section I really enjoyed was the language and written words/symbols.  I made a set of divination sticks, using the Ogham alphabet with their meanings and interpretation.  I use these sticks regularly to receive guidance and am amazed at their accuracy.  I loved working with the lettering of Ogham and symbology.
My overall critique of the class is positive.  I was a little overwhelmed by the holidays and figures presented.  This class offered so much information and was very well presented.  Thank you for the opportunity to join in this class.
Rev. Constance J. Hitts

Final essay, Insights Into Awareness

     The spiritual path for me began approximately ten years ago.    For the years previous I denied many of my Catholic up- bringing beliefs and looked more towards the mystical aspects for answers of why I am here on earth.  With hours of study and research along with interaction with fellow searchers, I have come full circle with knowing God and Jesus Christ.  I now cherish my religion and background, with the understanding that it is not the structure of the church it is more about grasping the concepts of God and the Love that is unconditionally given to each of us.  Thru the years the Celestine Prophecy was one of the books I have read and re-read frequently.  Author, James Redfield, did a fine writing of the Insights with a story line that held my interest.
     Most interesting was the concepts of drawing and using others energy to raise your personal levels of energy.  I have spent hours watching this occur within my social circle.  One person is always reaching for the top of the energy fields from others.  Thru the Fourth Insight the fact of using your childhood experiences from your parents and what their "drama" was and then how this affected your own personal drama, shaping the traits that you carry with you throughout your lifetime.  If you do not recognize and define your personal traits and dramas the road to self awareness will be slower.  Once these attributes are resolved the possibility of acting upon the universal energy is shown to you thru synchronicities.  This leads to a connection with the universe and the universal mind.

    Recognizing the synchronicities in your life is spiritually uplifting.  The 'knowing' and then the validations from the Divine gives us the confidence to move forward.  This occurs as either positive reinforcement that the path is correct or the not so good feeling in the solar plexus that points to a change in plans is needed to fulfill your heart's desire.  All the coincidences that occur have a deeper meaning that meditation can help us see objectively.
     There does seem to be a mass of people who have taken upon themselves a self-realization of the 'Greater Power of the Divine' that is ever present.  We are not left on this planet to fend for ourselves; we do have help from God and the Higher Spirit realms to tap into thru prayer and listening to the Word for the answers.  Each of us travels our own journey and paths may cross, still it is our path is our only concern.   Branch out to see the paths of others, but do not interfere with their decisions, show only love for what they are trying to accomplish while at the same time look lovingly at your journey during this lifetime.  Allowing, without judgment.  Allowing is generally not to difficult, judgment can be the challenge.    There is a certain amount of judgment in every interaction.  Try using 'opinion' versus judgment when reaching out to someone or having them reach out to you, they do not want to be judged, just understood.  Helping with an opinion of their situation is most kind, rather than pointing out the right or wrong of their predicament.
     As a Spiritual Counselor, bring awareness to the client lets them know that there is a Universal Power that can lead them straight.  Living the life is the best example for anyone.  Listening and waiting for the person to ask the important questions.  They know in their soul the question, sometime we can just act a facilitator to bring these questions and answers to the foreground.  Yet, above all it is about the listening skills that gives comfort to the client.  Also, presenting yourself in a peaceful, loving manner exudes confidence in all situations.
     The final Insight as explained in Lesson 18 was my most profound lesson.  "Creating confidence" in our personal spiritual journey is the way.  Letting go of others judgment is finding confidence and knowing within ourselves.  Accept guidance and if you are fortunate enough to have a spiritual mentor, listen to their advice. With all that said it is still your choice for the direction you take.  The connection you make with the Divine is personal, and with that great connection, comes the enlightenment of the connection to the ALL.  The knowing of just what unites the masses.  As is said that the flap of a butterflies wings can be felt across the universe.
     Thank you, Rev. King, for an outstanding presentation on the Celestine Insights.  I enjoyed these lessons whole heartily.  Rating this among the top of the classes I have taken at the Universal Life Church seminary.
Rev. Constance J. Hitts

Friday, July 20, 2012

Doctor of Spiritual Development Course - Essay

                                               Doctor of Spiritual Development Course - Essay
                                                                Donald A. Fiorito, Jr.
To begin with, I must say that I found this course to be of considerable value to me. Although it could be difficult, at times, to comprehend some of the concepts expressed with the totality of their implications, the effort is most assuredly worth it. The homework assignments range from "do able" to, often, downright difficult. However, Dr. D. Crouch is to be commended for writing a course of such significant value. His particular style of writing is quite provocative thus causing one to constantly question his/her thoughts, assumptions and personal biases.

This is not the type of course to be taken lightly, and certainly not one, once finished by the limitations of a linear time constraint, to be considered over and done. This is the kind of course that is never over; is never done; and is always… on going. After the first few lessons, I started to realize the magnitude of the information, concepts, techniques, and gems of practical wisdom written within its pages. In addition, I knew that what was being expressed was valid and true because it coincided with many of my own personal life experiences.

Here written down in a clear, logical manner for all to behold was an approach for living a healthier life, getting more in touch with an individual's true inner self, and even the possibility of connecting with the divine. However, the "Rub Is", this journey is far from easy. It requires many things, but, among them is a burning passion for self-awareness, truth, discovery, complimented with boundless perseverance.  Saying it another way,   I was shocked to see , written here ,thoughts, ideas ,experiences, and self-improvement  methods and techniques that have taken me a considerable part of my life time to come across. This course jump starts the individual's developmental process with focus.

If ten people critiqued this course there could be ten essays that appear quite different because of the vast amount of material expressed within it. However, they really are not. They are only expressing different aspects of the course that appealed most to them. What follows are just some of mine.

I liked the neuro-linguistic programing techniques, the giving of permissions to try or succeed, the questioning of biases and the filters that people unknowing use each day to make important assumptions, decisions that critically affect their lives. The intent of focus and trying to quiet down the chatter and clatter in our external and internal worlds is quite scary to some folks. They might realize when the noise goes off that they are unique in and of themselves and that what they do really does matters to themselves and others.

Of special interest to me personally, are the sensory modalities and positive words that one says to ourself.  " I can ,I will, I must , I have done, I will continue to do more, I will continue  to accomplish, I will strive for a better performance each time ,etc."  Contrary to the old rhyme "sticks and stones", bad thoughts, bad words can really hurt ones emotional psyche and physical body. Words, thoughts, ideas, perceptions are extremely important the way they are intermingled and expressed in language and in our mind.

Some may say that prayers, sacred trance, religious meditation, reading the bible, good deed s ,church activities are the appropriate ways  to attain spiritual development. What I am saying is that the approach expressed within this course's pages is simply… just another way. One way does not necessarily work for all. I say, find what works for you as an individual that will help you connect with the all, the  other, the cosmos, the multi-  alternate  universes, the divine…God.  I say this because I feel our nature is connected to the divine. To roughly recall a piece of learning from my youth- "There is a divine spark that animates us from the cradle to the grave if we are but willing to make the effort to seek it out."

Masters in religion - final essay

  In the opening of this final essay, I feel that I should introduce some things about myself. This should reflect my views somewhat on various aspects of religion. I was raised primarily in the Church of Christ, as my maternal grandfather was an Elder in that denomination. Most of my adult life, though, has been involvement with the Southern Baptist doctrine. I also hold an accredited Associate of Science degree in Sociology, and a Bachelor of Science degree with a double major, in the fields of Sociology and Political Science. I also have obtained graduate studies in Religion and Counseling, through Liberty University of Lynchburg, Virginia. 

I found this course to be personally enlightening, and as an outstanding preview of my previous religious studies. It is presented in a way that can be understood by most people, without being too complicated, which would distract from the main eschelon the subject of the Christian religion. It also presents information which may be utilized in the defending of the faith.  The first five lessons does an outstanding job of establishing the veracity and establishment of the Bible as the true Word of God, as presented by Him, to mankind. It presents the historical aspects of the Old Testament and it's relationship to the understanding of the New Testament.

These lessons also present the basic doctrines of the Christian religions, even though some of the various denominations have chosen different applications of these given doctrines. Most of those differences appear to be primarily uninspired man-made rules of their given denomination. In applying our lives to the appropriate doctrines, we must make sure that they are supported in the Bible. The only way to be sure of this item, is an enhanced study of God's Word in the Bible. The Bible does direct us, as disciples of Christ, to study to show us approved.

As such, it cannot be overstated for the intense study of the Bible.   I feel that the aspects and supportive evidences were well presented. Also, the other aspects of the practices of the various denominations, including their title of the clergy in the specific denominations were covered very well.  I think that the history of the Church did not include enough of the expansion of the Christian Church by the Apostles and Disciples was inclusive enough. However, the fundamental aspect was presented. The lessons also reflected on the eventual splits of the churches into the many denominations which we now know today. Many of these were accomplished due to various man-made rules, as expressed earlier in this essay. However, some of these splits were caused due to the intervention and endorsements of the government involvement in religion over the years. A prime example of this would be that of the Church of England disassociation from the Catholic Church. The laws that we live under today were originally taken from the doctrine of the various church bodies.  In summary, I feel that this course presented the essence of the Christian doctrine in a very understandable form. The design of this course is so fundamental for anyone desiring to spread the Gospel for God.  God bless you.   

Rev. Victor Lee Ferguson, D.D.,

Final Comments/ Dr of Spiritual Development/ D. Irwin

Comments on the Doctor of Spiritual Development course (as presented by Dr David Crouch)
By Rev Daniel S. Irwin
Dr David Crouch's course, Doctor of Spiritual Development, is, in itself, a fantastic guide in developing one's own spiritual self.  All lessons lead to the enhancement of our personal spiritual selves.
We are given discussions on soul, mind, and body and the synergetic nature of this combination when we enhance out spiritual being and potential.  We are entreated to engage in sorting to find the divinity within.  The very goal of spiritual development and enhancement.  We must search within ourselves for our own spiritual self and basis for beliefs. 
In this course, we are made aware of the Nature of Natural Magick and taught to consider the will in being aware of change.  Change that we can effect ourselves thru a dissection of life and a realization of wants and needs, desires.  Perception being our basis of thought and belief, we are introduced to the 'Meta-Program'...a type of perception filter. 
We have here a course on spiritual awareness which considers body and soul in achieving life with clarity and purpose.  Energy flows thru everything, and so, everything is connected.  And, as the author notes, "truth is always a matter of perception".
We must clarify the way to our desired objective in order "to achieve a Well-Formed Outcome" as Dr Crouch notes.  This partly thru a set of rules:  rule of expectation, rules of possibility, rule of permission, and rule of action.  Rules of awareness that help to identify and, subsequently, as needed, modify limitations.
In Lesson 11, Dr Crouch notes "Growth in life is an accumulation of lessons".  Hopefully, lessons well learned.
I found this course a great guide ion inward looking and inspiration, a step-by-step plan in development of one's spiritual awareness and in our endeavors to further enhance our spiritual selves.
I would, indeed, recommend this course for anyone (no matter if they are set on a particular path, sworn to any certain faith, or profess non-deist beliefs).  We all have this inward sense beyond body and mind. 

Online Seminary Program

Final Essay - Master of Wiccan Studies

Master of Wiccan Studies
Final Essay
July 3, 2012
     I came into this discourse with a limited knowledge and understanding of the Wiccan practices, I left with information overload!  Devon and Lord Starwalker gives us an impressive overview of all basic aspects of the Wiccan lifestyle, the reasons for the rituals and the holidays which they celebrate and honor.  Starting with the history, which has been ongoing for many hundreds of years and their beliefs handed down throughout the generations.  This first lesson gives a point of reference to how and why this group came to be and the importance of the rituals they practice.  The responsibility for the magick performed is placed on the performer and is taken seriously and respectfully.
     The tools of the practice are simple, but again taken seriously, using your own positive energy to bring them in alignment with the highest good for each use.  The list given is quite extensive with an excellent explanation of each:  Athames, candles, incense, salt, water, Chalice, Ritual Book, Book of Shadows, Pentacles, sword.  Most of these tools are handed down to the next generational leaders or cult group.  Another section dealt with the use of the pendulum, dowsing rods and using Bio-electric energy.

     I especially enjoyed the area of holidays and how to celebrate the changing of the seasons.   As Mother Earth revolves around the four seasons, I love the fact of honoring her for this precious gift of change.  The Equinox's show us the full potential of the power of God.  Each seasonal change gives me a chance to start anew, fresh start with a beginning point for advanced growth.

     There are a few chapters on rituals, which did not strike a cord with me and my present belief system.  I recognize and honor the choices of others; they have some belief which is much better than no beliefs.  It just seems to me a lot of preparation and 'work' to get to a place that is much simpler to attain with prayer and meditation.  Religion and religious practices all seem to get us into a ritual frame of mind to keep our attention on the structure of the church.  Focusing on the ritual and that it is done correctly instead of the point that the Higher Power is a touchable and commutative Being to each of us.  Is it the ritual that unites us within the clan?  Is it the ritual that unites us with the Higher Power that we seek?  I truly see that there is Only One – given any name or label you wish.  With sincere love and adoration my God is with me each moment within and without external guidance.

     My overall comments on this discourse are positive.  Thank you, Devon and Lord Starwalker for a brilliant, well written and researched discourse.  I appreciate your insights and references.  The entire class came together with enlightenment on a 'mysterious' religion that I knew little about and is not that scary fiction that is sometimes represented.
Rev. Constance J. Hitts