The world is changing. The United States is becoming less and less a “Christian” nation. Neighborhoods that used to be predominantly Protestant, Catholic, or Jewish are now receiving those who are Muslim, Buddhist, or Hindu. Further, there has been an increase in interest in older religions such as Wiccan and various types of paganism.
As a minister, I believe we must be able to work with those of other faiths. We can easily go into our own religious or denomination corner with the idea of separation for “purity” sake or we can actively engage all we come into contact with. Religions that emphasize conversion require its followers to “go into the world and make disciples of all nations.” But to do so does require some knowledge of the other religions.
This course is an absolute necessity for any minister of any faith. As the communities and work places become more mixed, we need to be aware of the differences and similarities between the various religions. Further, as a part-time Protestant chaplain I encounter people seeking guidance who are not Christian. So this course comes to me as a welcome addition to my education.
One of the strengths of this course was the wealth of resources I was directed to. I was able to find many of the various sacred texts needed to study. I have been studying these other texts in between lessons to help me gain a broader understanding of the world’s religions.
This course was very in-depth in content. I realize that this was a very challenging task for the course developer to take on. The material and the scope of this subject are such that it is possible to make two courses to cover a total of 40 weeks between the two. I must congratulate Rev. Kythera Ann for her ability to put together such comprehensive course and avoid the temptation of just skimming a topic here and there.
The illustrations given in each lesson were very helpful. They added “flavor” to the lessons. Along with the illustrations were the many scholarly quotes and footnotes that I found useful as well. The charts were all helpful. For me, I like to see things as part of my learning style. Having a chart gives me something to evaluation in a simple, direct fashion. The chart in lesson 20 was real illuminating to me.
One criticism I have of this course is the occasional website links provided were broken. This is not the fault of the course developer. The Internet is dynamic place with new sights being posted, old ones being updated, and some being deleted. The one recommendation I would have is that this course’s links be reviewed quarterly. Also, I would recommend the first lesson include some administrative instructions about notifying ULC about links that are broken or no longer active. This is the only criticism I have.
I highly recommend this course to any minister of any religion. I would also encourage Rev. Kythera Ann to develop other courses and would be happy to study the material. Blessings to all who take this course.
Final Essay for Master of Mystical Christianity Course;
The Master of Mystical Christianity course has had impact on my spiritual thought, prayer life and academic knowledge. I found much of what Mother Maryesah Karelon OMM taught through the lessons to be thought provoking. The format of Questions for the Heart and Mind inspired me to view the lessons with prayer and reflection, as well as from the academic point of view.
The lessons clarified issues which had been in my mind at the start of the course. In the first lesson, I realized just how important the Scriptures and Sacred Writings are for me. They are my daily spiritual bread. I now have deeper understanding of further dimensions to the Genesis story after studying the teaching of Mother Maryesah. This has been reflected in the blog post I wrote;
The second lesson highlighted for me the necessity of ecological respect as a part of spirituality. The third lesson deepened my understanding of each of us being called through the inspiration from God to be priest, prophet and king in our personal lives.
As the course progressed, I learned much about Gnosticism and other movements in spirituality over the years. I relived experiences in myl life through reflection on the lessons and questions. I learned more about myself and my personal spiritual road.
I understand more clearly now that God has had a plan in my life, while leaving me free to make decisions.
I realize how important Jesus Christ is to me, and just how much I love and admire Him. Reflections about His Life as put before me by Mother Maryesah led me to spend much time in reading the Bible and Sacred Writings. The understandings I came to during the courses are beneficial resources to me in my ministry.
I derived much benefit from learning more about the mystics Julian of Norwich, Meister Eckhart and Teresa of Avila. The writings of the mystics seemed so difficult in the past for me to understand; Mother made them simple. The mystics are simply writing about their experience. The further we move in spirituality, the more we understand of how God moves profoundly and deeply within our souls as He leads us to growth and wholeness. God leads us to reincarnation of our inner selves as we constantly grow in our spirituality.
The teachings of Mother Maryesah on the mystics inspired in me the thought that God manifests full intelligence in harmony with compassion and emotional intimacy. God is able to reach out to all without over harshness or over emotionality. God is thus balanced, and I believe upon completing the course that it is our life’s work to continue to seek harmony within our personal beings.
The overriding lesson I have learned from Master of Mystical Christianity is the reality that:
God is not outside me.
God is not at the end of a long life road
God is not in another heaven that I must move forward to attain.
God is within me, and has always been within me.
In the final lessons of Mother Maryesah I reflected on all I was learning.
I realized that I I simply need to turn within and contemplate the God Who has been in my heart, soul and mind all the time I have been seeking with Him without.
“The kingdom of God is within you,” Luke 17;21. (The great Jesus)
“You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you.” (Augustine, Late have I loved Thee)
Essay for the Master of Gnosticism Course
Joseph H KovacicHaving dabbled in the study of Gnosticism for several years, a formal examination of the subject seemed in order. The course, “Master of Gnosticism,” offered at Universal Life Seminary appeared to be a means of satisfying that goal. Early on the World Wide Web provided a plethora of information on Gnosticism. Ecclesia Gnostica offered an abundance of data on their web site (www.gnosis.org/gnintro.htm). Bishop Dr. Steven Hoeller, is a prolific writer, scholar and Bishop of the “Ecclesia Gnostica” Diocese in Los Angeles, California and the expanded Diocese consisting of parishes in several western states. There were reams of data on Ecclesia’s Web Site, including a Gnostic Catechism (http://www.gnosis.org/ecclesia/catechism.htm). Various texts on Gnosticism were used to supplement a wealth of information from other sources such as: The Gnostic Bible (Meyer, Barnstone); The Nag Hammadi Scriptures (Meyer) and works by Erhman; Freke and Gandy; Tabor; Krosney; Pagles: Starbird; Nahmad and Bailey; Jacobovici and Pellegrino; Leloup; Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln, et. al. The Gnostic Bible and The Nag Hammadi Scriptures were used primarily as references and The Catholic Encyclopedia was also consulted. It is a good source of information about Gnosticism. One, however, must read the material cautiously and filter out all of the negative propaganda and focus on the history.
In addition, the ULC Seminary’s course provided, not only reinforcement for previously learned material, it offered new Concepts. Myth is presented throughout the “Master of Gnosticism” course. Evidently, certain movies reflect the Gnostic Experience. “Matrix” was alleged to contain “many” elements of Gnosticism. Science fiction? Well, . . . don’t know about that. This writer saw the movie after reading its reference in an early lesson (lesson two) of the “Master of Gnosticism” course. The movie was alleged to offer many examples of Gnosticism; that, however was not recognized by this student. Only “bits and Pieces” were observed; the movie was found to be boring. It was probably someone’s loss having not focused during the preponderance of the “flick.”
There were many terms presented, id est: demiurge, aeons, archons, Basilides, Valentinus, Marcion, Docetae, monad, pleroma, Sophia, Jaldabaoth, Jao, Sabaoth, Adonaios, Astaphaios, Ailoaios, Oraios and many others. Basilides, Valentinus, and Marcion were bishops who were excommunicated by the orthodox Roman Church. Having became disillusioned by the narrow views ordered by the orthodox, they drifted to Gnosticism and founded important Gnostic schools. Actually, they drifted prior to excommunication.
This observer finds the KISS principal (keep it simple, stupid) more than adequate for consideration of the Gnostic phenomenon. The many myths seem to be an encumbrance.
Basilides, Valentinus, and Marcion were involved with establishing various schools of Gnosticism. Egypt, Alexandria, and Syria were some of the areas these men congregated and disseminated Gnosticism. Gnostic is from Greek and means knowledge. This is not knowledge one embraces via a book. Here one does not need to search for knowledge outside of oneself. Seeking knowledge from others, priests, bishops, etc. is not necessary. All one need do is look inwardly and commune with God directly. This did tend to pose a threat to the orthodox establishment. Therefore the establishment sot to eliminate the Gnostics. Solitary worship is what is practiced by most Gnostics according to Bishop Hoeller.
Gnosticism is dualistic; good, bad, evil, etc. The Demiurge would be equivalent to the creator god of the universe, earth and all material things encompassed therein. That would be concomitant to the Jewish people’s god; angry, punitive and a “witz-vogel”, so to speak. Space alien maybe; that was Yahweh. The Absolute God is far above the Demiurge and projects love rather than the hatred and meanness as do the lessor gods.
The Supreme Being was unknowable, a pure Spirit. Jesus was, perhaps, associated with this “loving” God. Love is what Jesus represented, and thus the all powerful God made its appearance through and in Jesus. That would be the basis for the concept of duality, two gods, the materialistic evil god and the Supreme Spiritual Good God of Love; the Trinity, Father, Son and the Holy Ghost with Sophia representing the Holy Ghost; Wisdom.
Bishop Hoeller in one of his homilies mentioned that many people consider themselves Gnostic, but there are few who actually are. Clarification would be helpful. This writer considers himself a Gnostic Christian. Where did he go wrong?
One of the possible authors (there were obviously several writers involved in the course construction) of the “Master of Gnosticism” course drew some outstanding contrasts between Gnostic Christianity and Orthodox Christianity in lessons fourteen and fifteen. Perhaps the author overdid the comparisons in lesson fifteen. This writer took offense at the very extreme presentations and called it “tommyrot.” Although, there were obvious errors in spelling, grammar and syntax, etc., the information was thorough. Yet, there may have been a bit of redundancy, but that is expected. Driving the issue home may be crucial. Repetition is of value to the student. So, that was, perhaps, a favorable technique.
This writer was confused by some of the text. Run on sentences without definite conclusions plagued this writer, especially in undergraduate school. This may still be a problem.
The thing that jumps out strongest about the course Master of Religion – it was entirely too short. There is so much information to be covered in just 20 short lessons. I could have gone on for a lot longer. I always enjoy a course when it opens ideas and forces me to think about my beliefs and even research further into the issues involved. One issue I felt compelled to tackle in this course was discernment.
Following the discussion on the multiple flavors of Christian religion I felt challenged to look not only at the variety of beliefs but also the influence on people and on the lives of individuals. Does this “flavor” of Christianity lead to a good life – bear positive fruit – or can it be linked to an evil influence – do the followers lie, steal and cheat?
I myself feel that it is the fruit of the flavor that bears witness to the strengths of the belief system.
The Catholic Church’s long term battle on opposing view points certainly does not lend itself to a positive life style. Yet, it is the leaders that continue unjust persecution not the average believer. So can we condemn the system for such former abuses Other denominations have been just as repressive and destructive through the years. I believe it is the hatred that disturbs our heavenly creator and not the flavor of the belief we follow. Often the average believer does not even understand the complex theology used to support the views and actions of the leaders. Nor do they necessarily follow the same political issues.
In past ages many believers were unable to read and could only follow the leadership they were given, which might not be the most Christian view point. Check out the view of the puritans when they sought to establish themselves in this country. It was not a very glorious story, and fortunately they have vanished.
Today we are very lucky to have the opportunity to follow God and learn line upon line, precept upon precept. Before I feel confident telling others what to believe I need to be sure I know what I really believe. This course have given me a choice opportunity to question and study my belief system.
Keep up the good work.
I consider this course a good introduction to the Christian faith and beliefs. Thanks
1.Explain how the ladder of prayer has affected your understanding of prayer.
I have never explored the leap from asking God for something and thanking God for ITS will and provisions. Somehow I moved from “now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep, if I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take. Bless mommy…..” to affirming God’s intention, will and provisions. Before this lesson I did not know what to do with those whose behavior produced things and situations I did not like. So I continued to use Bible scriptures verbatim just to assure I was praying according to the “Word.” For so long my prayers were “give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses.” The routine of asking God for my needs was complicated. I often would rationalize that since God sees and knows everything then God does not need me to ask for what I want. Because to ask God for my needs was a sign that I was aware of my lack, guilt, and sin. The ladder of prayer explains the evolution from asking for needs to be met to asking for freedom from bondage to the arrogance of praying for “those who spitefully use me/enemies” (now this feels so self-righteous) to joining and to humility.
Prayers of need are motivated by my underlying feelings of lack and vulnerability. It never occurred to me that when I tell God what I need through the act of prayer, I am really saying in ignorance that I know more than God. The act of saying to the creator of the universe “you don’t know how to sustain your creation for your intention so I am going to tell you what I need” feels so insane after this lesson.
Prayers of freedom are motivated by feelings of lack and guilt. As I ask for things of this world or overcoming my enemies, I am holding myself hostage. This deliverance that I request keeps me more deeply tied to the illusions that more is better and power over others is the optimum position.
Prayers of joining are to acknowledge the common goal of love with all. The word love has been so corrupted, to presume that someone I perceive separate from me as sharing this goal requires journeying to God. It requires recognizing that only together can we know the peace of heaven.
Prayers of humility represents full communion with God. At this fourth step on the ladder, we know what Jesus knew – there is no separation between myself and God. There is no lack or unworthiness. We are willing and able to give up any barrier to the truth of connection to God.
2. Write a prayer of need, freedom, joining and humility.
I find myself in need of a new work location that pays a better salary, has spiritual co-workers who honor and respect me, where I receive appropriate recognition and the people we work with and for by summer of this year. In the name of Jesus, Thank You
I feel so small in my work environment since the director arrived. It seems that he usurps the recognition, prime conversations and gives little time to partnering with me to do this work. I am angered by this. It reminds me of surreal it felt when no local business would fund the organizing work in and I was no longer a project director. I feel the presence of racism and patriarchy once again. This director has assumed oversight of all national issues, assigned himself as the key organizer and remove me from every place I held leadership in this organization. Please free me from this. I pray to see and receive my redemption provided for me by Jesus. In the name of Jesus I pray, thank you and Amen.
The director and my two male friends share the goal of heaven. It appears that we each seek to arrive to heaven by a different path. We have been joined to walk together for a purpose. I pray for heavenly rewards and the will of God concerning us. In the name of Jesus, Thank you, Amen
I surrender my life to the will of God. I take my cue from Jesus who communed with God. I accept that the affairs of my life are mediated by the Holy Spirit. I release my desires and hopes for things, power over people, a need to judge, ignorance of God and other barriers. I see only the good of God. I line up with the will of God and am at peace at how Gods’ will unfolds in my life. I walk with my brothers and sisters in peace to heaven. This is true. I accept this truth. In the name of Jesus, my elder brother; thank you and Amen.
The course was very well written. It was organized and flowed well. The lessons all went together each supporting the one before and after. The course seemed to easily fit in spiritual development and psychic development. It supported very well the information I have learned in my parapsychic science. They validate each one very well. There some things already knew from previous work but there were also some aspects that went deeper than I had previously.
I thoroughly enjoyed the ideas about Karma as a teacher, and souls having lifetimes.Reincarnation allows us the luxury of learning the lessons we missed the last time around, and paying off past karmic debts. The use of active versus passive mediation helps people know there really is no way to do it incorrectly. The different types of mediation such as visualizations, soul trip with your guardian angel and regression mediation, which as he describes it sounds much, like self-hypnosis. I agreed with his perception of good and evil and how important it is to know yourself.
Clairvoyance, telepathy, guardian angels and Reiki spirit guides ring true to me in that I find these perceptions in all the studying I’ve done. As a Reiki Master Teacher, I loved his description of the Chakras and colors as these are incorporated in to energy healing sessions I do. Once he notes that we are “child of Divine Creator”, which reminded me some much of the part in the Desiderata that states, “You are a child of the Universe…”
Finding your own answers is frequently done by learning and trying other religions and he suggests the use of a mentor. From my lifetime and just plain common sense there are good people in any religion and bad people in any religion, which is why it is so important to know yourself and listen to your intuition. You have all the answers in you if you will just listen and be aware of signs around you.
We also get guidance from spirit guides, guardian angels, ascended masters and animal spirit guides. I enjoyed and appreciated his discussion on high spirits versus low spirits. That is a point not made often enough.
In the chapters, that deal with the Laws, I will only comment on the one’s I either hadn’t heard of it before or disagree with or did quite “get”. Most of the laws have been part of my training with either Reiki or parapsychic science. The law of cycles made sense but maybe too much. It just seemed like good old plain common sense. I didn’t quite under his description of the Law Of Gender. In his explanation of the Law of God Will, I found myself thinking it was much like Albert Ellis’ work on Rational Emotive Therapy. Beliefs cause filling, feeling cause behavior therefore if your belief is faulty than it is likely that your actions/behaviors will be wrong and not in anyone’s best interest. The Law of Lotus didn’t remind me of anything I’d read elsewhere and seemed to be vaguely described for to agree or disagree. I would have to say that all in all the laws he discusses I agree with and for the part have become familiar with in other areas of study. This made me feel good in that it validated previous learning.
The discussion on Ley lines was nice to see. He explains it well and how to protect yourself as well letting you know you can always call for help from guides, Archangel Michael and the use of a mirror. This was good information and area where I believe I can never have too many ways to help people know how to protect themselves if necessary. He explains Kundalini , prana, the I AM presence in terms that are easily understandable and again fit nicely with other teachings I’ve had. In the chapter, in which he discusses the 7 rays, their colors etc. was much like the chakras. His description of how each ascended master is associated to each color and virtue was the perfect way to wrap up the course. Although I knew a lot of this before the course I learned so much more and I must add I love the way he writes. It is down to earth and often quite humorous.
This course is a rigorous introduction to the field of Biblical Egyptology and explores in some detail questions concerning the historicity of Moses and the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. It provides the student with an overview of Egyptian history beginning with the Predynastic period which began about 4000 BCE and ending with the Graeco-Roman period. It discusses difficulties and controversies concerning dating and transparently explores the opinions of various scholars and schools of thought. It goes beyond merely regurgitating information to explore the sources of information such as the various king’s lists and the problems with those sources. It also provides a brief overview of the gods of Egypt and theories concerning the origin of the Egyptian hieroglyphics.
A major portion of the course is concerned with the evidence concerning Moses and the historicity of the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt as described in the Bible. Various theories are mentioned including Graham Phillips’s belief that Thutmose IV was Moses or rather, one of two “Moses” personalities.
One of the more interesting theories is that Moses was originally a priest at Heliopolis named Osarseph who changed his name to Moses when he joined with his own people according to Manetho who was the Egyptian High Priest of the Sun God. This is particularly interesting because of the name change under Akhneton which would have caused Osarseph to become Ramoses – which the author points out would have been represented in hieratic as simply ms. I find this theory particularly intriguing since we read about Joseph marrying the daughter of the high priest of On (Heliopolis) where the sun god, Ra, was worshiped.
Then there are also the ideas that Senmut, vizier to Hatshepsut or Thutmoses III, was the historical Moses. (Although some have proposed him as Solomon but the dates do not work out right.) And the idea that Sinhue may have been Moses is supported by the parallels between the story of the two men. According to Berkeley, Sinhue was Ra-hotep which would have been the equivalent of Moses. And then there is the amazing analysis and commentary of the Star Priest statue with the conjecture that it might actually represent Moses.
I find all of this information fascinating. The course opens the door to a number of fascinating questions and issues including the nature and origin of writing, the relationship of the Egyptians and Hebrews with other ancient people, questions of Egyptian history, and questions of Biblical history. He also provides the student with an impressive bibliography for further research. This course is well worth the tuition and effort for anyone who is seriously interested in ancient Egypt or the early Biblical period.
It does raise for me three specific questions or areas of inquiry. These concern the language of the Egyptians and Hebrews, the identity of the Hebrews and the role of Mesopotamia, and the question of the relevance of this information theologically.
As for language, the author mentioned two points that I found particularly interesting. He mentions that Moses may have written the Pentateuch in cuneiform and he notes the absence of any bilingual dictionaries.
The idea that Moses may have written the Pentateuch in cuneiform is fascinating because it points again to the importance of Mesopotamia in the origin and development of the Biblical teachings. But it also points to a greater role of Mesopotamian culture in Egypt than is usually given by most authors who tend to treat Egypt as a totally separate culture that arose without the influence of other societies. Of course we know from archaeology that there were cities and significant cultural development in southwest Asia that preceded the Predynastic period of Egypt. The archaeological evidence from Jericho in Palestine and Catal Huyuk in what is now Turkey shows cities with domesticated animals, grain storage, and religious shrines many thousands of years prior to Predynastic Egypt. Similarly, the Sumerian civilization (which itself was lost to memory until modern times) has revealed through the libraries of cuneiform tablets found in the late nineteenth century that it had a sophisticated system of schools, economics, justice, and writing prior to the rise of the Egyptian civilization. It seems likely that these ancient cultures played some role in the development of Egypt and it is clear that Mesopotamian culture played a role in the development of the Hebrew culture and religion. This is evident in such parallels as the story of Utnapishtim with that of Noah.
The Mesopotamian evidence on the Hebrew culture and religion is also explicit in the Biblical text where we find that the patriarchs of the Hebrew people – Abraham and Eber – came from Mesopotamia. Abram came from the Mesopotamian city – Ur of the Chaldees and it seems that his ancestors were resident there or in other Mesopotamian cities. One of his ancestors, Eber, was apparently recognized as the ancestor of the Hebrew people – some of them preceded Abraham to the Levant where he would become known as a Hebrew. It would be several more generations before a portion of his descendants would become known as Israelites.
In any case it seems likely that the writing method of Mesopotamia – cuneiform would have been a likely method for the original writing of the Hebrew scriptures. The Aramaic alphabet which would later become the source of most of the world’s alphabets including those of the Greeks, Phoenicians, Hebrews, Arabs, and later even the Romans and the Copts. But prior to the rise and spread of Aramaic (which did not occur until the late Babylonian and early Persian period) cuneiform was used to produce libraries of clay tablets that included business records, religious texts, medical references, material medica, literature, legal texts, and a large number of divinatory texts. Given that the Sumerian developed the oldest form of writing so-far discovered and that it was influential to the Indus River and even in China, it seems likely that it was influential on the development of the sacred writing of the Egyptians and among the literate classes who conducted business and diplomatic relations with the cultures of Anatolia and Mesopotamia.
As for the absence of dictionaries I have no clear answers but I do have some thoughts. It is not surprising to me that there would be no bilingual Greek-Egyptian dictionaries. The Greeks in their arrogance never at any time expressed any interest in the languages of non-Greeks. They never acknowledged their debts to other cultures including the Sumerians and Persians, even when those borrowings were significant as with the teachings and practices at the temple of Asclepius. In fact, it would be surprising to find any evidence of Greek interest in the languages of the rest of the world.
It is interesting however that there are no bilingual dictionaries with Egyptian and languages recorded in cuneiform. We know that the Egyptians used cuneiform in their diplomacy and trade. I think there might be several possible explanations for the absence of dictionaries. First, the sacred writing of the Egyptians was just that – sacred and it probably never occurred to them to translate these writings into a secular form. What would be the point? Secondly, there is the reality that only a minority of the Egyptians would have been literate and most of those would have been priests with no interest in translation or writing in other tongues. Those literate in cuneiform would have comprised an even smaller number and they probably learned cuneiform from Mesopotamian clerks who even at that early date were members of guilds who learned writing in a very formalized manner in schools. This same approach would have been used to teach their Egyptian students and consisted of learning the cuneiform syllabary by rote on some sort of erasable tablet. In other words, the Egyptian users of cuneiform may have not felt the need for dictionaries. After all, dictionaries are not commonly found among any ancient cultures.
On the other hand it is a little surprising that there are not some sort of dictionaries or word lists found among the libraries of ancient Mesopotamia. And, there may be some sort of dictionaries to compare the multiple languages of southwest Asia which included Akkadian, Hittite, Mitanni, Elamite, and Old Persian. The problem here is that the impressive libraries of that area have only recently been rediscovered and there were undoubtedly many which remain lost. We know that Alexander the Great (or the Accursed if you were one of the victimized cultures) destroyed over 10,000 volumes of sacred writings at Persepolis. We also know that the Persians from Cyrus the Great until after the rise of Islam had schools and teaching hospitals and they made great efforts to collect and translate the writings of other cultures. Their libraries held millions of volumes in Samarqand, Bokhara, Baghdad, Tabriz, and elsewhere. Unfortunately many of these books were lost in the destructives wars of the Mongols, Timurlane, and the Arabs. A similar loss of culture can be seen in Egypt where the production of hieroglyphs and the practice of the ancient religion quickly declined under the rules of the Greeks and Romans. In fact, we can see from Coptic writings that Greek culture largely replaced that of Egypt in that the greatest portion of Coptic writings now known are either versions of the Illiad or commentaries on the Illiad.
Even at that I have to hope that there still lie more under the sands of the desert which like the Coptic writings at Nag Hammadi, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the Persian writings of the Gobi desert will shed still more light on our understanding of ancient history.
It is clear that the ancient Hebrews and other Semites lived in a world that was much more complex and sophisticated than is sometimes supposed. The eastern end of the Mediterranean was connected by trade and conflict with Egypt, Anatolia, and Mesopotamia. The author mentions how Jerusalem was a vassal state of Egypt by the mid-1330s BCE. The Bible mentions how the Israelites were conquered by the Babylonians and later ruled by the more benign Persians. Each of these great civilizations influenced the Hebrews and Israelites and each of them also interacted with each other as allies, enemies and partners in trade. But the identity of these various groups of people is not always clear from the historical record.
The author mentions the Saka were called by the Babylonians Gimirri and by the Assyrians Khumri and speculates that they may have been the Lost Ten Tribes. The speculation then leads to the Welsh Celtic Kumery since the Welsh were Khumru or Cymry which may in turn may be connected to Kimmeroi or Cimmerian. Certainly there seems to be some connection between the Welsh and the Iranian people known as Cimmerian especially when we remember that Saka was the most common term for those Iranian nomads who would become known as Scythians in Europe. A Celtic-Iranian Scythian connection has been shown by archaeology as well as by linguistics, legend, and history. But what does this have to do with the Lost Ten Tribes?
The truth is that we do not know for certain how the various ethnic groups and nations of the ancient world developed. We know that they spoke different languages. The Hittites, Mitanni, Medes, Persians and other Iranian people spoke Indo-European languages akin to modern Persian. The Babylonians, Arameans, Arabs, and Hebrews spoke Semitic languages similar to those of modern Arabic, Aramaic, Hebrew, and Amharic. We know there were cultural differences in clothing and customs but there was also extensive interaction between cultures especially during the rule of the Persians. In at least one case we know of a sophisticated urbanite, Abram, who took his family to live a pastoral existence. The opposite probably occurred many times as well just as we know that Hittites lived in Egypt and Israel, Israelites and Greeks in Persia, and merchants connected everyone from Egypt to India.
The development of the Semites who in turn gave rise to the Hebrews who in turn gave rise to the 12 tribes of Israel and the 12 tribes of Ishmael left little if any record. The relationship of these ancient peoples with others is scarcely mentioned in any record. We can of course explore the records including those of Egypt and attempt to understand the history and development of these people – including the story of Moses and the Exodus but at this point it is like a giant complex jig saw puzzle which is missing many parts. I think it is a fascinating realm of inquiry that is well worth pursuing although perhaps not possible without much more information than we now have available.
Finally I have to ask, Does it really matter? Do we need to know the identity of Moses from historic records? Do we need to know the details of the formation of the Hebrews and Israelites? I think we as humans need to ask and need to search for answers and that is just part of being human. But it is important theologically? Do we need to prove the historic validity of the Biblical record as ministers? I don’t think so. The historical truth of the Bible does not have any bearing for me on the importance or meaning of the teachings of the Bible. The historicity of Moses or Noah has no bearing on the wisdom of their respective covenants or laws. In fact, while I think it is an important and valid intellectual pursuit to explore theses questions of history, sociology, and anthropology, I can see that when taken to the extreme they distract from the core issues of Biblical teachings. Far too many people treat the Bible as a history or science text and focus far too much energy on “proving” the Bible by fighting evolution, archaeology, and other scholarship rather than adding wisdom to wisdom. They are focused on what is truly trivial when compared with the profound teachings of justice, compassion, grace, sacrifice, and wisdom that form the core of the Biblical teachings. I don’t think this course has taken this lesser road however and recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about the background of the Holy Scriptures.
Final Essay for the Master of The Historical Jesus Course
Rev. Sharon J. Mayer
While taking this course I used the information given by Dr. Morris as well as other sources that will be listed at the end of this essay. This essay in no way defines my beliefs or thoughts about Jesus. I took the course for a purely historical study of Jesus. I wanted to objectively look at all information positive or negative as I took the course. I decided the best was to use the ideas of a forensic investigator and go piece by piece through the information given.
Finding the historical record of Jesus is rather like doing a jigsaw puzzle where all the pieces are one color and the same shape. For all the information on what people perceive to be facts about Jesus it is very hard to pinpoint information that has not been tainted by adjenda to promote the church, a program, or to enhance belief structures. In some cases the stories were given a local flare to attract followers.
The main source of information is contained in the canonical four gospels Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Matthew and Mark having been taken from the same writings as Luke as well as a writing that is called “Q” from the German work quelle – source. No one is certain who composed “Q” and it is thought the gospels were named for persons to enhance the information given rather then by the persons named. There are also source writings listed as “L”. The Gospel of John was written much later. There are no early writings about Jesus and as with any orally transmitted information the stories changed with telling over the years. The gospels themselves were not written until many years after the events and taken from oral stories and remembrances that may or may not be complete or true. Many followers repeated what they heard, or thought they heard from followers who had heard the stories from others.
There are several other writings that were not incorporated into the known Bible that are sources to look at. These noncanonical gospels were written in the second to eighth century. There are about a dozen and it is thought they were pseudonymous, claiming to be written by the apostles, disciples or Jesus’ bother James or Mary Magdalene. All the books appear to be forged.It was felt they either did not conform to the teachings of the church or they contained inaccurate information.
When looking at other writings outside the Christian faith it is noted that very little was written about Jesus. The Pagan scholars did not write of him during the time of his life or soon after his death. The Jewish scribes did not write about him either. He is mentioned in Josephus’ history of the Jews but even that may have been tainted when Josephus’ writing were in the hands of Rome and parts were added as Rome embraced the Christian Faith. Here and there on finds a few words or a question in a letter but no great amount of writing for a person who was to be known as the Son of God or part of the Trinity.
It is know, from what little writing that has been found and from oral tradition that Jesus was born in the northern province of Bethany and his mother was Mary. His father was a carpenter or tradesman and there were more children in the family than Jesus. we don’t know much about his childhood from the gospels but there are some writings outside these texts that tell about him but there is no way to check them for truth and many of the stories seem to be a way of making Jesus sound more supernatural or to make him greater in the eyes of the person hearing or reading the story. In some of the writings it reminds one of the story of Washington and the cherry tree written by Parson Weems.
There are several ways that historical scholars decide if information passes the test to be considered a reliable source. There is the Criteria of Independent Attestation: Multiple sources for the same information. Criteria of Dissimilarity: When there are dissimilar sayings from early church teachings. Criteria of Coherence: When sayings and events remain the same from story to story. Criteria of Language and Environment: Where the words would not have been used and do not fit or the event could not have happened in the time or place noted. Criteria of Embarrassment: If the saying was against church policy and would be an embarrassment.
Another form of usable information is if it would not be something that church would use to promote a tenant of faith, multiple things that are published and contain the same information. Taking into consideration that Matthew and Luke were copied from Mark when the information remains the same it can be used to prove the information. There is also the book of The Coptic Gospel of Thomas that was from at Nag Hammadi in 1945 and is the only complete book found. Although it only contains says of Jesus it can be used to verify what Jesus may have said.
There are so many “faces” of Jesus that one is not sure what to believe. Was he just a local prophet that was preaching to the neighbors? He preached a prevalent ideal of the time and one that John the Baptist also preached the apocalyptic idea that the time was near for God to send someone to rule the earth and that were would be turmoil before this happened. He never directly stated he was that person and used the known form of the Son of God being understood by the Jews of the times. Some thought he was to take over the land and dispose of the Romans in a mighty battle. Although the Romans were no harder on the Jewish peoples than others they had conquered, the people where tired of being ruled by others and wanted to see someone come and defeat the Romans. He isn’t seen to have followed or been a member of any of the four groups of Jewish people at the time although some of the ideas he put forth were followed by some. This makes it very hard to pinpoint his true belief. If you read the different gospels there is no direct information of exactly who he was.
Even his death is under question. Was he crucified although it was a Jewish tenet that anyone hung on a tree (cross) was to be condemned? Was he laid to rest in a tomb? Did his rise from the dead. Or was he just stunned by the events of his beating and/or given drugs to make him appear dead and later removed from the tomb and met with the disciples before leaving the area to go to India or France? There seem to be stories that either of these might have happened. Again, we have no proof.
The ideas that were fostered and gave way to the Christina religion were promoted best by Paul. He was rather like the Carl Rove of the ancient world when it came to promoting the church. Having been a nonbeliever it is said he had a conversion experience and saw the risen Christ and realized he had wronged people and should make amends by preaching the gospel of the risen Christ. He also wrote in militant terms and this helped when Constantine become a Christian while conquering the known world.
While new information is forthcoming and items are being found we may never really know, in a historical sense, who the son of a carpenter and young mother was or why he came to be such a force in the world.
Additional reference material from my personal library used for course;
New International Version of the Holy Bible
King James Version of the Holy Bible
The New American Bible
The Koran, Translated with notes by N.J. Dawood, Penguin Books, 1956
Jesus Interrupted, Bart D. Ehrman, Harper One, copyright 2009
Misquoting Jesus, Bart D. Ehrman, Harper, copyright 2005
Lost Scriptures Books that Did Not Make it into the New Testament; Bart D. Ehrman, copyright 2003.Bart D. Ehrman chairs the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is considered an authority on the early Church and the life of Jesus
Lost Christianities, The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew, Bart D. Ehrman, Oxford U Press, copyright 2003
All the Miracles of the Bible, Herbert Lockyer, Zondervon Publishing House, 1961
The Secret Teachings of Jesus, Four Gnostic Gospels, Translated and with notes by Marvin W. Meyer, Vintage Books, copyright 1984
When Jesus Lived in India, The Quest for the Aquarian Gospel: The Mystery of the Missing Years, Alan Jacobs, Watkins Publishing, copyright 2009
The Nag Hammadi Library; Revised addition. James M. Robinson, General Editor, copyright 1988
The Gnostic Bible, Gnostic Texts of Mystical Wisdom from the Ancient and Medieval Worlds; Edited by Willis Barstone and Marvin Meyer, copyright 2003
.The Historical Jesus Course, Bart D. Ehrman, The Teaching Company, Copyright 2000
From Jesus to Constantine, A History of Early Christianity, Bart D. Ehrman, The Teaching Company, Copyright 2004
I have found this lesson to be very interesting as regards the spiritual side of depression. Quite rightly no layman should get involved in the medical side of this all too common illness but there is much that I am sure can be done on a spiritual level by a competent person. I know a few people who suffer from bouts of depression but these do not at present constitute what I would call medical depression. They are mainly cases where a person feels generally low and needssomeone to bring to them a brighter view of daily happenings.
I have found that the more you can cheer somebody up with bright and interesting conversation, the quicker they find their way out of the depths to which they have sunk. It does not happen immediately of course, and may take a few days for them to come back to their normal selves, but one usually finds that they are grateful for your help at such times. It all comes back to showing love wherever you go and bringing that love to bear on problems, both your own and other people’s.
I feel that I have learned quite a lot about the basic facts of depression from the spiritual points raised in the lesson, especially in Dr Siani’s comments about Sally who was obviously missing her vocation as a teacher and had nothing to replace it until she discovered her second vocation in the cancer clinic.I have heard about others who had similar problems on retirement and needed help in finding a new path to follow which was as fulfilling as their previous job.
Prayer is one answer if the person is receptive to it but sometimes this is not what they want, at least initially, but if they can be persuaded to try the meditation aids as shown in the lesson, I feel that these will give them a basis on which to rise above their problem. In fact, I have found the ‘smile meditation’ to be very helpful to me if I am feeling tired or a little out of sorts. The prayer visualisation has also been helpful as to imagine oneself immersed in light in a pleasant atmosphere helps to rest the spirit and revive oneself from a tired state.
I had been surfing the net when I came across the ULC seminary website and it was precisely what I had been looking for. The ULC provided a one of a kind concept and idea. So, I became ordained immediately in 1999 and have acted as as a Reverend and Minister of Peace ever since. It was personal goal to become ordained and doing this has really assisted me to spiritually grow as well as opening my thoughts to a hunger for universal truths. I have always felt drawn towards learning about the subconscious, conscience, people’s true way of being and the personality of people in general, ever since childhood … searching for my true self, you could say. Your class was of particular interest to me, so I took it. For me, it was the perfect next step to learn from the lessons offered.
I’ve moved past many ordeals since beginning this course and I have spent a lot of time going through the lessons and pondering. For quite some time after my marriage broke up, I was a mess and my life was completely imbalanced. It felt as if the floor under me had disappeared. I kept sinking into dark hole and finally dropped to my knees in pain and wept. My brother, with narry a word, just lightly touched my shoulder and I felt a sensation of warmth, love and peace.
It was a similar situation to what was mentioned in one of the lessons and now I understand what my brother did. He used the “Laying of hands” whether he was aware or not.
The information on your course brought many things to light and helped me in spiritual journey and has aided me in understanding what is meant by spiritual healing and energy fields. I find that I project a different way of being since reading and meditating on your information. The thing I like most about your course is that it has helped to become a more spiritual being with a new mindset. It has even reinforced proper nutrition and exercise for the physical.
I would like to say it has taken me a while to send you this essay only because I kept getting side-tracked until now. I would like to share that your program was timely and it has helped me to become more open minded to energy fields and manifesting healing.
I have always felt like plant and I grow when I learn and that’s exactly what your program did for me. Though Many times, I found myself going off on tangent researching additional information and being baffled by how much there is to know … so many disciplines that intertwine. I noticed in my research that I was delving more into more holistic cures for disease. The spirit, mind and body present a plethora of disciplines and paths for practitioners.
I personally found the Endocrine System very interesting as it relates to chakras.
I was fascinated by a book I came across named “Adrenal Fatigue” by Dr. J. Wilson. I found it very informative plus it can be used as a scientific tool to aid in healing. The book is a great read with contains self-help exercises.
I am somewhat of an orator by nature and have also researched, as a hobby, information on NLP, general-semantics, Tarot, Birth Bio-Rhythms and Etymology. I find this other knowledge compliments your program beautifully. I realize and acknowledge the world is more than meets the eye. The concepts and ideas in the course also gave me a new drive and pragmatic exercises which have caused my new personal mission to be a personification of a gentle smile with eyes that can only project pure intention. On a more serious note I’ve started looking into becoming a Registered Massage Therapist or Personal trainer.
The mix of your program, my life’s learning keep directing me towards helping others.
As a long time member of ULC, Rev. Long created the seminary site to help train our ministers. We also have a huge selection of Universal Life Church minister supplies. Since being ordained with the Universal Life Church for so many years and it’s Seminary since the beginning, I’ve watch the huge change and growth that has continued to happen.
Having spent the last twenty-five years studying comparative religion and philosophy, as well as several esoteric/ mystery systems, I found this course to be very straight forward, concise, and easy to understand. What I found of particular value was the advice given from a practical, ministerial perspective. When ministering to others, it is clearly necessary to not only understand why a person would come from a completely scientific perspective, and the thought process, historically, that would bring a person to that perspective.
A very practical, nice little course for ministers. Or, so I thought. And then came Lesson 18.
In Albert Pike’s “Morals and Dogma,”# there is an odd chapter describing the lessons taught in the 15th Degree of Scottish Rite Masonry. The author goes on for quite some time, explaining the exoteric and esoteric meanings within the Zend- Avesta, Kabbalah, and Gnosticism (all favorite subjects of students of the Western Mystery system), then suddenly tells us that they are “wild and useless speculations.” This generally leaves most readers scratching their heads, wondering what Pike was trying to do with this chapter. Then, it is usually quickly forgotten and the average reader goes back to his in- depth study of the same systems he was just told are a waste of time.
Rev. Chuck Bynum nailed it in one, short lesson, and that one lesson, Lesson 18, is the inner, secret beauty of this entire course, and the one I enjoyed and identified with the most.
To quote another famous Freemason (albeit a contemporary one, still living), “As I begin the seventh decade of my life, I find myself more inclined to listen to a story than to study a text or reflect on an argument- more inclined to tell a story than to presume to teach a lesson or offer advice.”# I have not hit my seventh decade yet, but I have the same issue, so I suppose that is sufficient apology for the story that follows. Even in the case of trying to describe what I learned from the course and my impressions, this seems the best way to do it, particularly with the subject at hand, and even more particularly with the fact that the knowledge imparted by Rev. Chuck is entirely indescribable- in his words, “The problem with words is that they are limiting.”
About two years ago, I felt I had hit a wall in my studies and practice, both as esotericist and as a minister. Everything I had studied suddenly seemed to be meaningless, even though it had been intensely interesting and exciting to learn. Even Freemasonry, of which I have been a member for 14 years (and of which some of my Brethren foolishly believe me to be a “leader” and mentor) had lost its appeal and interest. I gradually stopped reading the oddball and obscure texts I had once so much enjoyed, and everything seemed to lack any particular meaning. About six months ago, I decided to put into practice something I had preached and given lip service for years: the line written above the doorway to the temple of Apollo at Delphi.
“Man, Know Thyself, and thou shalt know the secrets of the gods and of the universe.”
Having meditated for many years (effectively, I thought), I hit it with extra force and this orientation. So as not to further bore you, I won’t go into the progressive understanding, but suffice it to say, I arrived at the same conclusions as Chuck (and Albert Pike).
It’s so complicated that it’s not that complicated. I don’t think I can explain that in a way that makes any sense, maybe the worn- out phrase “the only secret is that there are no secrets” might come close.
What gets in our way with everything is our ego. Like it or not, I’ll bet that almost all of us initially became ministers largely because we could put “Rev.” in front of our names and have people think that we’re wise, serene gurus who have all the answers. C’mon, admit it. I originally became a minister and then even studied for the priesthood (Liberal Catholic) for just those reasons, although I fooled myself into thinking it was purely to “serve humanity.” Don’t get me wrong; some of it was that. But I realized most of it was me wanting to feel superior. My study of esoteric religion and philosophy eventually became motivated by the same thing.
There are really only a few of things we need to know, as ministers and just as regular people: - There is some sort of universal organizing, creating Source (I call it “God” because it’s easy to type and socially acceptable) that has its presence within all of us. Know Thyself to know God. You aren’t Him/ Her/ It, but you’re certainly a part of Him/ Her/ It, and He/ She/ It dwells within you, and connects all of us. - There is only now. No past, no future. What is, is what there is. Live in it, now. - Your ego isn’t going to go away, and completely forget the popular idea of “dissolving the ego.” You can’t do it, nor do you want to- it’s a useful tool. But manage it. Question your own motivations by standing back and analyzing why you are doing what you are doing. - You can’t know everything, because there isn’t all that much to know. Like a rabbi friend of mine says, “You can try to get to the center of an onion by tearing off every layer, one at a time. And when you finally reach the center, you’ve destroyed the onion.”
That’s about the sum total of it. The course spent 17 weeks giving some incredibly valuable information on the evolution of Western thought, as well as great advice on how to minister to non- spiritual people, but the gem was Lesson 18.
It is a near impossible challenge to select a few techniques from the many methods described in this course as all have their own unique value. Here I describe just a selection of the methods I tried and found of value.
Spirit Guides and Angels: I initially found it very hard to make contact with my spirit guides and angels, largely, it seems, because of an irrational fear within myself. Having broken through this barrier and reached out to these beings, there was a wonderful feeling of completeness and safety. Although I still find it hard at times to contact my guides and angels, particularly when under immense stress which is when I most need them, I have achieved this on occasion with spectacular results. Inevitably, when returning from the hospital, I just miss my train. On one occasion, when my connection with my angel was strong and when I was desperate to get home, I found myself almost propelled along the station concourse and onto my train with a minute to spare – a real miracle.
I found the roses described in the course to be a perfect symbol. There were the roses to detect lies which I have used effectively on many occasions; the sticky roses ro remove stale energy and to intercept bad energy and/or problems; and particularly the roses to absorb bad karma after breaking the pattern like a bundle of sticks. This latter has brought me immense relief from non-specific anxiety. The rose is such a perfect flower, a flower of love and peace, and a flower that is ideal to this purpose.
I regularly use energy healing, taking care to channel the life force or cosmic energy rather than use my own energy, and in doing so have managed to bring relief to many. One recipient had just been diagnosed with first stage cervical cancer, but when she attended the clinic for treatment all traces of the cancer had gone – another miracle.
I find working with the chakras to be a very powerful tool, often spending time balancing the chakras and smoothing the flow of energy to bring relief to some very bad migraines. The chakras are also an invaluable asset to other energy work, and in meditation by opening the upper chakras to gain connection to the spirit. The reading screen as a place for thought has been very useful for my failing memory!
Finally, the female creative energy was a subject I knew nothing about and identifying and taming this source of intuition and feminine powers has been very useful, giving me greater clarity to that female intuition rather than a nameless fear which I experienced previously.
It was a superb course, the few examples above represent a mere fraction of my learning over the past weeks and I shall use all I have learned regularly in my work.
The ULC, run by Rev. Long, has created a chaplaincy program to help train our ministers. We also have a huge catalog of Universal Life Church materials. I’ve been ordained with the Universal Life Church for many years and it’s Seminary since the beginning and have loved watching the continual growth of the seminary.
From the virtual edge of the area in north east Egypt that is designated as Avaris, there is viewed a green expanse of land as far as the eye can see. This area would make an excellent grazing pasture,albeit that probably noones intention. Breaking up the beautiful landscape in the foreground one can see a rather conspicuous hole in the ground. This hole is alleged to be the remains of this ostensible Avaris of Hyksos fame. Although the Avaris excavation is relatively small according to the “powers that be” it must be covered over with the soil extracted from the dig every year.
As the result of some sort of rule the remains thus far excavated are subject to a prejudice, I believe, concerning discovery of evidence the Hebrews occupied the area BCE. Evidently the “powers” want such a prospect kept hush, hush. The dig, however, as I recall, is limited to only a three month period each year. Following the annual dig all of the area must be returned to its pristine appearance. Then again, the annual flooding of the Nile river may be as plausible.
I suppose, because of the area of the Hyksos conclave consisted of many acres and the limited time span when excavation transpires, one can not expect the unveiling any time soon.
As a long time member of ULC, Rev. Long created the seminary site to help train our ministers. We also have a huge selection of Universal Life Church minister supplies. Since being ordained with the Universal Life Church for so many years and it’s Seminary since the beginning, I’ve watch the huge change and growth that has continued to happen.