A candidate for ordination and a religious doctorate degree asked recently:
“I’d like to ask you about the Doctor of Divinity and PhD in Spiritual Philosophy. Does the diploma read Esoteric or Interfaith Theological Seminary and what would keep someone from looking it up online and seeing that only a paper was required?”
Somewhere online there are two negative comments about our seminary dated 2007 and 2009. They are actually forum or blog discussions, asking if the seminary is a “diploma mill”. Some guy without a seminary degree gives his opinion — that we are walking a “fine line” but stops short of calling us a diploma mill, then suggests people attend “real” seminaries if they want a Doctor of Theology, Divinity, PhD in Metaphysics, Religion, etc.
The traditional “mainstream” brick and mortar seminaries have been losing students by the droves, and the people they graduate simply cannot find jobs. It’s no wonder spiritual workers want to come to alternative online seminaries like ours. Even worse, each traditional seminary is denomination-specific (unlike ours) and teaches only a narrow set of religious subjects tailored to their specific belief system. Worse yet(!), besides taking 4 or 5 years to grant you their degree, they are extremely expensive — student-loan debt is astronomical for clergy.
Our seminary is not only affordable with one-time donation fees for ordination or degree, but we are also completely flexible allowing the candidate to decide what and when they will study. And yes, we give credit for current work in the field! The most successful clergy are those that do not attend brick and mortar seminaries, but simply start preaching / teaching / guiding from wherever they are — even if it’s a house church or rented space in a shopping center. People flock to them because they sense the sincerity and the genuineness of the spiritual “food”. Traditional churches and synagogues are being sold off in the thousands due to chronic empty pew syndrome. Drastic decline in membership has been epidemic for the past two decades while alternative non-denominational self-started places of worship with alternative clergy and spiritual teachers are thriving.
There is a misconception that our seminary “only” requires a thesis paper before we grant a degree. Here is part of what I wrote back to the lady who asked about that.
A religious degree means you become a Doctor of the Church. The word Doctor comes from the Greek word meaning “Teacher.” The original doctors were spiritual teachers, not physical healers. Those are physicians. Something I notice in your spiritual history is in addition to receiving the “Call” to become ordained, you have also received the Call to TEACH, the Call to become a Doctor of Divinity. There is presently a tremendous need for clergy and Doctors of the Faith. And considering your current spiritual teaching / counseling / guiding / coaching you sound definitely called to be one, and qualified to be one.
A “funny” thing is, after so many years of screening applicants, we have developed an uncanny knack of recognizing the right candidates, and it seems of drawing only the right applicants to us. For over 25 years the Seminary has never (knock on wood) accidentally granted a degree to an unscrupulous person. We’ve had a few close calls over the years, but Providence always seems to intervene and indicate to us this is not someone truly “Called” for ordination or a religious doctorate degree. The candidates to whom the Seminary grants degrees are usually always people already working in the field of spirituality / religion and deserve the credentials they have technically earned through their personal study and work. We ordain many people as minister, rabbi, pastor, reverend, spiritual life coach, etc., but only rarely grant religious doctorate degrees – maybe a dozen per year.
You asked how the Seminary’s name will appear on your degree diploma. Our full name must be on there, which is the Esoteric Interfaith Theological Seminary, in order that the degree be valid. The Seminary is approved to grant religious degrees by the State. Each and every year we have to submit an affidavit to the State describing what we do, reaffirming that we only grant religious degrees to deserving people working in clergy-type fields (religion, spirituality), and that we only use specific degree titles with clearly religious words in them, such as PhD in Religion, PhD in Metaphysics, Doctor of Divinity, Doctor of Theology, and the PhD in Spiritual Philosophy that you are seeking.
As you mentioned, a handful of visitors to the Seminary’s website per year do indeed criticize our educational method because we don’t demand they sit through four+ years of denomination-specific classes at a brick and mortar school. We put candidates through an application process, require written work, thorough description of what religious work the candidate is currently doing in the field of spirituality, a detailed description of their goals as clergy and how they will use their ordination and/or degree. The spiritual history compilation and the writing of a doctorate level thesis (or masters level thesis, or Bachelors research paper) are large written works required from each and every candidate before ordination or a degree can be conferred upon them. We have hundreds of lessons online, that all applicants are invited to study if the particular lesson appeals to them. Most of our lessons are optional (only required if you want a transcript) because as mentioned above, most people who study here are already spiritual leaders, teachers or spiritual / pastoral counselors.
Furthermore, we only grant degrees to active clergy. If a person is not an ordained minister or other clergy when they come to us, the Seminary’s parent church will ordain them for free as a requirement for the religious degree. Communities are in great need of clergy and religious teachers who give people guidance that truly resonates with their life. People crave spiritual teachings and religious “systems” that make sense in today’s world, not something that only makes sense thousands of years ago — although it’s especially awesome when a teaching applies to BOTH ancient man and current humanity!
As the seminary repeatedly reminds everyone in our online lessons, we humans are 3-part beings, Mind-Body-Spirit. For too long people have ignored or suppressed their spiritual third. Many (most?) are asleep to their spiritual side, but for those actively seeking spiritual “food” aka teachings, for those wanting to “awaken”, we want teachers (like you) to be out there ready to point the way, gently guide, suggest, lead, inspire – and above all READY TO SERVE. Serving the religious and spiritual needs of a community is a very high Calling indeed. It’s a calling with a capital “C”, as the saying goes. That much has not changed over thousands of years.
In the past there have been restrictions on who gets to answer that Call, and who gets to be “certified” and “labelled” as clergy, as religious doctors aka teachers. For instance, women have not been able to answer that Call until quite recently. And there are restrictions put on even the men — “requirements” and “rules” for who can do spiritual teaching, preaching, advising, life coaching. You have to be approved by committee and “authorities”.
Our Seminary and the Esoteric Interfaith Church, Inc. that founded it, believe only the Divine can choose who gets ordained, who gets degreed as a Doctor (“Teacher”) of the Faith. There should be no restrictions on who is allowed to answer the Call, as long as they espouse a positive spirituality, no matter if they are male or female, seminary trained or self-trained. When the Call comes to a person it is a very intimate, powerful, personal event. Who has the right to demean or disparage a person answering that Call to ordination, spiritual healing or teaching?
Of course clergy should be put through an application process where all who want clergy credentials are screened to make sure they are not pretending to have been Called, not intending to use their clergy status to harm others while claiming to want to help them. We screen all our applicants via the application process, the compilation of the spiritual history, etc. and require them to make a pledge to use their ordination status only for the service of humanity. Each candidate must make that pledge or their application is not approved.
One major goal of the Esoteric Interfaith Theological Seminary and its parent the Esoteric Interfaith Church, Inc. is to end up with graduates spread across the country, in every state, in every county and city, We actually have dozens of alumni now in many countries all around the world, including places you might not expect such as China, the Middle East, Nigeria, Indonesia (struggling population there as Islam continues to take over all aspects of life).
Our alumni give the people they serve an alternative to the restrictive, exclusive “club”, tired-old forms of religion. Today’s spiritual seeker wants a new kind of clergy, someone who can give them spiritual gems they can put to use immediately in their life. If you weren’t one of those “different kind of clergy”, it is my firm belief you would not be reading this.
You can read more about some of these legal issues on our FAQ page here: http://northernway.org/faq.html
Get Ordained: to see the three-step process how to become an ordained minister, visit this page.
See our religious degree programs here, and for the PhD specifically go here.