BAR asks: Should We Take Creation Stories Literally?

My answer to that question is, YES. But ALSO we can take them figuratively and symbolically.  The creation stories are rich with numinous inspiring symbolisms, esoteric nuggets. But to some extent there was a literal creation. It’s a BOTH / AND spiritual question, my friends, not an EITHER / OR.

Just like the question, “Was Jesus an historical character, or was he a mythical-spiritual character used for wisdom-teaching,” — the answer is BOTH / AND. Yes, and YES.  Anyway, interesting articles this week (below). Check out Biblical Archaeology’s new streaming TV channel! Wonder if we can get it on our Roku….

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Bible History Daily
June 5, 2017
Feature

Should We Take Creation Stories Literally?

Finding multiple truths in Biblical myths

eden
Were the creation stories in Genesis meant to be taken literally? Maybe not, says Biblical scholar Shawna Dolansky of Carleton University in Biblical Archaeology Review. Creation stories in Genesis were etiological, Dolansky and other scholars argue. That is, the creation stories in Genesis served to provide answers to why the world was the way it was, such as why people wear clothes and why women experience pain during childbirth.
genesis
In the free eBook Exploring Genesis: The Bible’s Ancient Traditions in Context, discover the cultural contexts for many of Israel’s earliest traditions. Explore Mesopotamian creation myths, Joseph’s relationship with Egyptian temple practices and three different takes on the location of Ur of the Chaldees, the birthplace of Abraham.


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How the Serpent Became Satan

Adam, Eve and the serpent in the Garden of Eden

serpent
The serpent of Eden is portrayed as just that: a serpent. The story in Genesis 2–3 contains no hint that he embodies the devil, Satan or any other evil power. So where does the devil come into the details of Eden? In a guest post, Shawna Dolansky examines how the serpent became Satan. “The worldview of Jewish readers of Genesis 2–3 profoundly changed in the centuries since the story was first written,” writes Dolansky.
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Biblical archaeology is a fascinating journey toward understanding human history, culture and religion. Let Biblical Archaeology Review be your guide. Subscribe to BAR and enjoy six lavishly-illustrated issues that are destined to become treasures in your personal reference library.


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In Case You Missed It

Daily Life in Ancient Israel

What was life like during the time of the Biblical Judges?

israel
What was life like for the tribes of Israel in the time of the Biblical Judges, the period archaeologists call Iron Age I (1200–1000 B.C.E.)? The evidence for the early Israelite settlers of Canaan comes from two sources: archaeological survey and excavations. Much of the area of the central highlands, where most of the settlers of Canaan established their villages, was archaeologically surveyed in the 1980s and 1990s.
video
Discover cutting-edge insights of top Biblical scholars and archaeologists with our new streaming video site! Renowned experts masterfully illuminate popular and controversial topics and bring to life ancient texts, characters and places. Stream videos straight from your own computer, or download to view them on the go. To celebrate the launch of this site, BAS is offering an initial 75% off!


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Pre Marriage Counseling, Clergy Should Avoid Creating Life-time Religious Aversion

Spiritual Pastoral Counseling before MarriageEnjoyed the articles in this week’s CT Pastors clergy newsletter (link below), especially the Pre-Marital counseling section. So many of us originally become ordained to officiate a wedding, and there is much wisdom clergy can convey before the marriage!

Also very insightful (to me, at least) is the opening blurb how people get infected with a life-long aversion to the Bible, or to religion.  I have met people who are so burned from childhood experiences of religion being shoved down their throats that they have a terrible bad taste in their mouth to all things religious. As clergy, we must ever strive not to be the source of someone’s life-long bad taste to religion, scripture or spirituality! I think this is also why so many say “I’m spiritual, but not religion,” because they just don’t trust organized religion. Since our network here is alternative clergy, alternative spirituality, and thus non-mainstream, we probably encounter more “burned” or bad-taste-in-their-mouth people.

http://www.christianitytoday.com/lyris/ctpastors/archives/05-23-2017.html

What is the Central Mystery of Christianity?

Inner Christianity: A must read for ordained ministersBesides ordaining ministers, Rabbis, and other clergy, our Seminary also runs an online Mystery School with many fun lessons. One lesson is based on the life-changing book,  Inner Christianity: A Guide to the Esoteric Tradition by Richard Smoley.

A current member just answered the Chapter 4 question, “What is the central mystery of Christianity?” as follows:

For one to enter into the Kingdom of God, one must step past the constraints of the “I” and understand that the “I” is ultimately the same in all of us.  “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:22) “God has only one Son. If all His creations are His Sons, every one must be an integral part of the whole Sonship, so the Sonship in its oneness transcends the sum of its parts.” …that there is an underlying unity of Being of which we are all part.

Descartes Said It’s Necessary to Doubt All Things at Least Once

Rene Descartes on spiritual seekers
Rene Descartes, Philosopher

Don’t feel bad if you get agnostic from time to time! Doubting is a necessary thing according to the great philosopher and mathematician, Rene Descartes.

In the course of our homeschooling today (annoying Cartesian math for 8th graders!) we looked up Rene Descartes for the fun of it. Up came a bunch of his famous quotes — for once not the “I think, therefore I am” quote.

Agnostics, skeptics and spiritual seekers will appreciate his words.

If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things.

I tried to think of when this doubting of all things might have happened to me. Then I remembered as a young college student my jaw dropping over the Mithras-to-Jesus similarities. Birthdate, Roman-style worship, 12 disciples, etc.  I was already upset by the absence of a God-the-Mother and God-the Daughter, and suspicious of all the (wonderful!) pagan elements in Judeo-Christianity. The Mithras stuff and Acharya S’s exaggerated correspondences pushed me into full doubt-mode for a short while. I had to rise up from either / or belief and mature into both / and.  As in, yeah, Mithras, Jesus, Dionysius, Adonis, were probably the same — and Horus the Light of the World. Then there is Helios, El, Allah with the “EL” name of God hiding in there. Adonis is similar to Adonai, also. Paganism, Monotheism, Gnosticism, ALL of it. It is the same. They are BOTH true, this AND that and that and this, too. There is no black and white, no either / or in spiritual truth.

Then again, I will probably never grasp the Truth with a capital T.  I really like the title Gnostics gave to Mary Magdalene. She was the Woman who knew the ALL. Gnostic knowing is spelled with a g. She gnew it in her marrow, it was the ultimate gnowing.

Just rambling here…

Huston Smith World Religions Scholar Has Died

The World's Religions by Huston Smith, Ph.D.One of our Seminarians told me today that Huston Smith died on December 30th. I somehow missed it in all the craziness of the news lately. All those losses in 2016: Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds, Prince, George Michael, Mohammed Ali — and also Huston Smith.  I used to get a Religion-in-the-News email “newsletter”. Since everyone seems to prefer news delivered by Facebook or blogs these days my inbox doesn’t get newsletters anymore.

We use Dr. Huston Smith’s famous book, The World’s Religions, in our seminary training program — as do countless colleges and universities.

CNN says:

Huston Smith sat at the bedside of his firstborn child, watching her life ebb away.
“I have no complaints,” Karen Smith told her father. “I am at peace.”
During their last moments together, Karen told her father that she was thinking of angels. She told him not to cry. She told him how much she loved the ocean.

“Religion,” Smith once wrote, is “the call to confront reality; to master the self.” Smith had strived to answer that call for much of his life.
Smith’s public persona has long been established: He is the tall, thin, affable scholar who can distill the essence of the most esoteric religious subject in concrete language.
* * * * * *
Here at the multi-faith Esoteric Interfaith Church, Inc. & Theological Seminary we are quite fond of that word esoteric. We like the interpretation of the word as “inner” because we often focus on the inner traditions of Christianity, Judaism and other great world religions. Our seminary offers a distance-learning Ph.D. in World Religion, Religion, Religious Studies, etc.
I love the cover pictured above. It’s Norman Rockwell’s famous “Golden Rule” painting. “Do unto others,” he reminded us right on the canvas. When I had The World’s Religions as a textbook in university it had a rather plain and boring cover. This edition would have kept me staring to the point of distraction during every lecture. Some very cool elements and even a couple esoteric symbols hiding in there despite the fact Rockwell wasn’t known for esotericisms.
Oh hey, I just checked Amazon and see they have another version of this classic called  The Illustrated World’s Religions: A Guide to Our Wisdom Traditions. You can click and see inside the book to enjoy some of the many photos.
The seminarian who mentioned Smith’s passing also has a Ph.D. in World Religions from our seminary. He said he had read many of his books, even the ones not assigned in our seminary degree and ordination programs, and this great scholar of religion will be missed.

Try this Spiritual Practice: People Watching from Eckhart Tolle

For esotericists, clergy and ancient wisdom practitioners, PRAXIS (spiritual practice) is everything. Here’s a quick lesson from Eckhart Tolle teaching the spiritual practice of people watching. Fun.Ordained clergy often fear public speaking

Tolle addresses people looking back at us. As ordained clergy, teachers and/or public speakers we sometimes flip out when we think “all those people” will be “staring” at us. (laugh)
Tolle explains how to eliminate that fear by realizing — convincing your fraidy-cat brain — that “even the attention of 100 people doesn’t add [or detract] anything to who you are in truth.”
Who you are in truth. Right.
I also liked Tolle’s point about dogs being easier to trust / love than humans because there is no big fat ego — human mind — in the way to clash with our own big fat ego!
From http://communicate.eckharttolle.com/news/2016/12/13/the-practice-of-people-watching/

The Practice of People-Watching 

A little spiritual practice I recommend is to go to a public place where you can sit and watch human beings, perhaps at a café or in the park. I call it “people-watching.” The only difference between ordinary people-watching and this kind of people-watching is that your practice is not to attach any label or judgment on any human that you watch; you allow them to be as they are as they walk along or do whatever they do, and enjoy the incredible spectacle of the multiplicity of human forms.People Watching as Praxis or Spiritual Practice
 
There is no judging as good or bad; just allow them to be, so the mind does not call them anything. You’re there as an innocent observer. It’s a beautiful thing; it even does something to the energy field where you are, where you’re sitting. You bring in a different frequency, but that’s a secondary thing. Don’t start thinking, “I am here to bring in a different frequency…”; just be there an alert watcher.
 
As you do this, something amazing can happen: you begin to love other humans, which for some people is a difficult thing. It’s easier to love a dog, for example, than a human, usually, because there’s no mind to get in the way: a dog doesn’t judge you; a dog has unconditional love. It’s easy to love a creature like that.
 
But humans are different because they’re often burdened by mental activity and thoughts, conscious or otherwise, like, “Who are you? What do you want? What does he want from me?”
 
So, the next step up, of course, is to watch people that you know very well in the same way—at home or wherever there’s a lot of past that you share. And then be present, even with people with whom you share a lot of past. But at first I recommend limiting your practice to observing strangers, with whom you don’t share any past. Next step up is you practice with relatives, friends, and family; just in little moments when you watch them without wanting anything.
 
Do it with your children, without saying, “you should be doing this; why are you doing that?” Just watch. You can also say, “yes, brush your teeth;” it’s fine, but just watching is beautiful.
 
So, that’s an enjoyable method for incorporating awareness practice into everyday life. I’ve been practicing people-watching for many years. And after a time, you begin to love everybody, no matter what they look like, because it’s all the human form expressing itself in so many different ways.
 
You very rarely actually attract attention to yourself—which to the ego may not be such a great thing. There are two egoic states that could arise while people-watching: one is to want to be seen and the other is to be afraid of being seen. The purpose is going beyond both, and if people are looking, if you’re not there as a thinking person—in other words, if you’re there as presence—it doesn’t matter if they’re looking. It doesn’t add anything to who you are nor does it detract anything from who you are; even the attention of 100 people doesn’t add anything to who you are in truth.
 
To the ego it could be a great thing; many egos love attention, except for those who fear attention. So, if you are in a position where people are looking at you, again, to be still and present, you go beyond both the timidity of not wanting to be seen or the pride of, “oh, they’re all looking at me.” In ancient Greek mythology, Narcissus was a young man who saw a reflection of himself in a pool of water and became obsessed with his own reflection. That story speaks of the arising of the human ego. It’s the image of who you are in your mind, which gets reinforced by others. It’s ultimately a phantom. People-watching can help us go beyond the ego in everyday life.

Heavenly Mother Increasingly Mentioned by Mormon Church Leaders

Veiled Mother of the World by Russian esoteric Christian Nicholas Roerich
Veiled Mother of the World, 1930, by Russian esoteric Christian Nicholas Roerich

Yay. God-the-Mother is coming out more and more in various religions. The Mormons have always believed She existed, and a Heavenly Mother has been in their doctrine all along. But they have told their leaders not to preach sermons about Her (due to persecution, being called a “sex cult” back in the 1800s). Now that is changing. Pretty cool.

Mormons also believe Mary Magdalene was Jesus’ wife. My daughters love hanging out with Mormon friends, one whose parents have prominent paintings of Jesus and Magdalene on the wall. (Painted by Mormon artists).
Here’s a news article about the Heavenly Mother being increasingly mentioned by LDS (Mormon) leaders. It has an interesting Madonna-like picture of Her with a hidden face.
 

http://www.sltrib.com/home/4549096-155/meet-the-heavenly-parents-mormon-leaders

God Has a Wife! (and Goddess has a husband) — as we’ve been saying here on this website since 1999. Here’s our 2006 God Has a Wife! slideshow for more images of Her…

 

Absorb some Super Moon Light for Stability, Magic and Wisdom

Super moon has magic and religious significanceThe moon is the closest it’s been in 69 years and thus is called a SUPER MOON. It actually appears larger, see image.

Be sure to get out, or at least sit by a window and experience her special light. Put some jewelry, talismans, prayer beads, knotted prayer rope or rosary in your windowsill to absorb the light of the super moon.

Also, soak your face in her light and ask, “Do you have a message for me?”  For thousands of years people (and Magi, the “Jedi” of earth) have done that.
In the Holy Land the moon was viewed as male, but then so was the sun and everything but Venus. Very male-centric solar system in the eyes of our Middle-East forbears. The Norse also view the moon as male and this may be where we get our “man in the moon” concept, just as we get our weekday names from the Norse. The Norse believed the sun was female (a warm loving mother) and the moon her husband. In ancient Sumeria and what is now Iraq / Syria, the earth was a woman and the moon her husband. His name was Sin pronounced Seen, and we now have the Sinai peninsula and of course Mount Sinai named after her beloved.
Without the moon we would scoot around from north to south poles and agriculture would not survive due to unstable weather patterns, neither would we. We might even fly completely out of orbit. S/He stabilizes us. It’s pretty cool!
Absorb some of that magical and yet stabilizing energy this week…. especially Monday night when it is strongest.
Esoteric spiritual clergy gather for super moon ordinationWhen you gaze at the Moon, know that hundreds of thousands of people are doing the same thing at that same moment. Know that some are fellow esotericists like yourself. Some will be putting things in their windowsills, especially silver is said to be nicely “charged up” by moonlight. I will be thinking of you all when I do my moon-work this week.
“See” you there!
Bishop Katia

Martha – Sister of Mary Magdalene and Lazarus – added to the Gospel later

Margaret Starbird writes this morning:

Master's Degree Thesis Martha Mary Magdalene
Jesus, Mary and Martha (Lazarus in background) at their home in Bethany

Elizabeth Schrader, [aka singer-songwriter Libbie Schrader] whose “Magdalene Song” is dear to my heart, has just had a paper published in the Harvard Review at this link: Was Martha of Bethany Added to the Fourth Gospel in the Second Century?  (abstract below)

The article is technical with regard to ancient Greek and Latin texts, but the gist is that the presence of “Martha” in John 11 and 12 is “unstable” in many of the earliest copies of the Gospel, suggesting that she was added in to the story of the Mary whose tears moved Jesus to raise her brother Lazarus and at the supper in Bethany where Jesus was anointed by the same Mary, the sister of Lazarus [and Martha].
I hope many of you will find time to read this article for the light it throws on the New Testament Gospel of John and the woman who was later identified with the title  “the Magdalene.”
Peace and light,
Margaret
The Woman with the Alabaster Jar
Here is a video where Libbie Schrader talks about raising money to make a music video of her Magdalene Song. She shows a few clips of her trip to France to secret Magdalene gardens, destroyed churches, etc.
Here is the Abstract of Elizabeth’s Master’s Degree Thesis:
Abstract

This study examines the text transmission of the figure of Martha of Bethany throughout the Fourth Gospel in over one hundred of our oldest extant Greek and Vetus Latina witnesses. The starting point for this study is instability around Martha in our most ancient witness of John 11–12, Papyrus 66. By looking at P66’s idiosyncrasies and then comparing them to the Fourth Gospel’s greater manuscript transmission, I hope to demonstrate that Martha’s presence shows significant textual instability throughout the Lazarus episode, and thus that this Lukan figure may not have been present in a predecessor text form of the Fourth Gospel that circulated in the second century. In order to gain the greatest amount of data on the Fourth Gospel’s text transmission, I rely on several sources. Occasionally these sources conflict in their rendering of a variant; I have tried to make note of these discrepancies and look at photographs of witnesses whenever possible. Although this study is primarily focused on Greek and Vetus Latina witnesses, an occasional noteworthy variant (e.g., from a Syriac or Vulgate witness) may be mentioned when relevant to the subject at hand. The work of many established redaction critics, who have already hypothesized that Martha was not present in an earlier form of this Gospel story, will also be addressed.

Read the whole Master’s Degree Thesis here: Was Martha of Bethany Added to the Fourth Gospel in the Second Century?

Sacred Partnership of Jesus & Magdalene

Magdalene anointing Jesus
Magdalene Anoints Jesus making him “the anointed one” aka the Messiah

Margaret Starbird wrote on the GoddessChristians forum:

When Pope Francis announced that Mary Magdalene’s “Memorial” on 22 July would henceforth be an official Feast Day of the Catholic Church, he commented that “She loved Jesus and Jesus loved her.”

I’ll be doing an interview with Kris Steinnes for “Women of Wisdom” on Friday afternoon October 14th (1-2 PM Pacific; 4-5 Eastern)–centered on the Sacred Partnership of Jesus and Mary Magdalene at the heart of the earliest Christian community. Please tune in here for the live broadcast or later archived segment: http://www.transformationradio.fm/host/kris-steinnes,16.html

 
In memory of Her
Margaret
“The Woman with the Alabaster Jar”