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

Should We Take Creation Stories Literally?

Finding multiple truths in Biblical myths

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.
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.

Download the Free eBook
In Case You Missed It

How the Serpent Became Satan

Adam, Eve and the serpent in the Garden of Eden

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.
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?

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.
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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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.

9 Obscure Religions You’ve Never Heard Of – Even if you have a degree in religious studies

I looked at this slideshow article with a “you won’t gotcha me!” attitude, I have a Ph.D. in Religion thank you very much. But sure enough, they got me with the second one. I’ve never heard of a certain Japanese sect they describe.

The Vietnamese religion mentioned was also fuzzy for me, but I do recall studying it years ago in comparative religions.

See if they can catch you!

Enjoy the vivid photographs while you’re at it.



Dalai Lama on Interfaith Cooperation – to Glenn Beck!

Words of wisdom fell like pearls (as usual) out of the Dalai Lama on the desperate need for people of all faiths to work together at this juncture in human history.  But not as usual, they were spoken to Glenn Beck.  T’was an awesome conversation on interfaith-ism. (I think that needs to be a word, interfaithism)

Glenn Beck told the Dalai Lama about the interfaith work he himself is doing “trying to bring different faiths together without mixing our theology,” in hopes of repairing some of the religious strife ripping the world apart these days.

Dalai Lama Buddhist priest on interfaith dialogThe Dalai Lama replied the way in which religions hate each other so much “is one of the biggest heartbreaks of his life right now.”

The Buddhist Pope as he’s been called says “we are dividing ourselves. That we’re being so foolish by dividing ourselves when we all will stand together. We all have similar, if not the same goal. Any good religion has the same goal, and that is happiness, love, and peace. And if we can’t unite on that goal as humans — because he said everybody on earth needs to recognize that we’re all equal, that we are all the same. We’re all human. We’re all born, and we all want to be happy. But as he said, there is some troublemakers in that lot as well. And he said many of the troublemakers are highly educated people that are using their position to crush others. He said we’re social animals and yet we’re very self-centered, and those two things don’t match. He said we have to get back to the basics — his words — back to the basics, because this is not good for our future, to be so self-centered, if we have to have each other to lean on. And he counseled that we begin to be friends again. He said friendship comes from trust. Trust comes from caring and serving others.”

Read the entire conversation and see a short video clip of the two here at The Blaze.

Women in Religion, Feminism, Patriarchy, Goddess Belief

Magdalene Christian Goddess Seminary online degree student course
Mary Magdalene – Would a Judeo Christian Feminine Deity make a difference in our culture?

One of our seminary students is writing a paper for her Women in Religion class and wants to interview us by email as follows. Please answer and take part!

1. What is your definition of feminism?

2. What is your definition of patriarchy?

3. What do you think of the stereotype “women are from Venus, men are from Mars?” Put another way, do you think it’s true that women are more emotional and men are more logical? Do you think that men and women are compatible?

4. What do you think America would be like if the main religion was centered on a goddess?

5. Do you think that religion in America has positive role models and messages for women?

6. Do you think that modern America is a healthy environment for women? What about men?

The Middle East: Multi-Faith not Interfaith non-Melting Pot

Ordained priest minister initiates boy into Zoroastrian church
Initiating boy into the Zoroastrian faith

Okay, so I have a PhD in Religion and teach world religions online, especially esoteric alternative religions with their roots in our ancient history. Yet I read this article and learned things I never knew — or maybe I thought I already knew. Ha ha.  Such as:

Alawites (like Assad of Syria) believe you can be reincarnated as a plant.  They won’t eat certain kinds of plants because it might be a relative…  This might be why Yazidis still don’t eat lettuce.

Zoroastrians hate cats because they believe they are inhabited by evil spirits. I knew they worshipped dogs, and that during the Iranian purge of Zoroastrians, the new religionists (Muslims) would attack the Zorastrian family dogs. But I didn’t know they fear cats to this day. Ironic that Muslims fear dogs to this day, won’t touch them due to them being unclean.

The Druze (such as George Clooney’s new wife) believe in family reincarnation, not just “ordinary reincarnation.” Druze believe they can reincarnate as other Druze (much like Northern European “heathens” believed).  Furthermore, Druze youth must be initiated into the religion or they don’t get to know the secret inner teachings.  The article author doesn’t know if Mrs. Clooney was actually initiated into her ancient faith as a teenager. I knew the Druze were an esoteric religion influenced by Plato and Aristotle — they are Gnostic neo-platonists, but I didn’t know they were so secretive of their full teachings, requiring initiation of their youth.

Zoroastrians and Mithraism are alive and well, still performing the Mithras worship annual bull sacrifice. The Yazidi priest still whispers in the ear of the bull before he is killed just like the ritual 5000 years ago in the Epic of Gilgamesh! The taurobolium later evolved into a bloody initiation and then “baptism” cleansing ritual. Sacrificing a bull originally symbolised the death of the Age of Taurus as the ancient world entered the Age of Pisces (thousands of years ago). Now we are moving into the Age of Aquarius (it goes backward thru the Zodiac, called the precession of the equinoxes) so I wonder if we will be killing fish. Well, we “killed” Jesus…he was a sacred fish. That is a wierd thought. Carl Jung delved into it, but I digress. Back to stuff I learned in the National Geographic article above…

The reason the Yazidis put conical shaped rooves on all their temples. It was done to represent the Sun-god’s rays — these people date back to the time of the Pharoahs. The Yazidis invented the handshake, it is connected to the Mithras worshippers secret handshake. The Yazidis won’t eat lettuce, and their long mustaches symbolize they are worthy to learn secret teachings.

Samaritans, as in “the good Samaritan” Bible story, still exist and pray daily by bowing on the ground (similar to Muslim prostrations) toward their holy mountain, Mount Gerizim in the West Bank / Israel. They are almost as old as the Jews, and still worship there. I encountered some of them during my trip to Israel in the 1990’s, but I forgot their daily prostrations toward a holy location resembles Muslim prayer toward Mecca. The Samaritans pre-date Islam by at least 1000 years…

As I read, there were also things I did indeed know, but was reminded of, such as:

The Pythagoreans would not eat beans — why not was kept as a sacred secret. (Must’ve been the gas!)

There are Gnostics (with a capital G) that survive to the present day, not only the Druze in Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, but the Mandeans who have been quietly hiding out for 2000 years in the marshes of southern Iraq. They are neighbors with other religious hiders such as the Marsh Arabs who worship pre-Islamic gods of Mesopotamia — Old Testament “pagans” who live near the spot the Garden of Eden supposedly once stood and know it.

If you want to hear the language spoken by Jesus / Yeshua and Mother Mary, and Magdalene, you no longer have to travel to hidden villages in Syria and Iraq. You can go to Detroit, USA. Yes, indeed there are now more Aramaic speakers settled there than in my favorite ancient Christian village of Maaloula, Syria (now completely deserted thanks to al Nusra terrorist murderers). We study the Aramaic Lord’s Prayer in our Esoteric Mystery School lessons, it is so beautiful to hear in Aramaic and even to read and speak in the English translation of the Aramaic.  The Aramaic version up until 2013 was sung daily by children’s choirs in Maaloula — a favorite experience for Western visitors to Syria. That experience is lost now forever unless the nuns of St Thecla Monastery / Convent somehow survive Syria’s dissolution and somehow manage to return there in the distant future. But even if the nuns go back, and clean up their pillaged, desecrated mountain-top home, will the Christian families who lived there since the time of Christ also come back? Doubtful. Most fled to Damascus in 2013, a few made it out of the country.  I wonder how many are in Detroit…and if any of them can sing the Lord’s Prayer. A haunting, lovely, other-worldly sound….  You can still find it on YouTube, thanks to religious tourists in 2010 before the Syrian Civil War.  Search for St Thecla Syria Aramaic Lord’s Prayer.

Freddie Mercury, legendary lead singer of Queen, was born into a Zoroastrian community surviving in exile. He was even initiated into the religion as a coming-of-age ritual — just like boys 3000 years ago.

The article also answers the question “Why aren’t there druids running around in London”, since some of their contemporaries have survived in the Middle East? His answer is considered insulting to some, but hey, survival of the fittest, people, and Christianity has pagan DNA. Just look at this week’s European holiday! (Halloween)

Show Your Support of Middle East Christians Suffering Ethnic Cleansing

Support Ancient Christians of the Middle East
Show solidarity with Christians in the Middle East who are suffering ethnic cleansing at the hands of the murdering ISIL “the Islamic State”. These are descendants of ancient Christians who settled in Iraq and Syria 2000 years ago — which is 600 years before the religion of Islam even existed. Now they are being killed or forced from their homes by the tens of thousands. Besides killing their Christian victims by beheading, the Islamic State army are also crucifying some victims. Videos of both methods surfaced last week.

Many Twitter and Facebook people have changed their profile photo / image / icon to this black and gold image. Friend Christine Chase is displaying this symbol and tells here what it means:

“In Iraq, the homes of Christians are being marked with this by ISIS aka ISIL and their Sympathizers. It is the Arabic “N” for “Nazarene”, marking the people so identified as Christians. In much the same way the yellow star marked Jews in Germany. I and some others have adopted it as our avatar as a sign of solidarity with those so marked.”

The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood under the Morsi government forced the Egyptian Coptic Christians (whose ancestors were there since the beginning of Christianity 2000 years ago) wear black crosses on their clothing, and black crosses were spray painted on their houses, cars and shops. The guy that made the video that supposedly caused the Benghazi Libyan hit on the US consulate there was a Coptic Christian from Egypt. I used to go to church with ancient Copts (because they are Eastern Orthodox like the Greeks, Russians and Ukrainians.  Copts are so cool. It’s ashame they are being chased out of Egypt in droves.

Luckily the Egyptian Army kicked out the Muslim Brotherhood and the Christian citizens have a better chance, although their churches are still getting burned and their houses are still getting marked with black crosses.  My daughter says she wants to wear a black cross in honor of the persecuted Christians and we discussed putting the Arabic “N” as shown above onto our front door.  Yeah, we’re Nazarenes, you got a problem with it? we will be saying.

Wish we could do more, something tangible to help those suffering in Iraq on the Ninevah plain especially.  I am still sick just thinking of that video showing the Islamic State freaks blowing up the 1600 year old church that surrounded the 27oo year old(!) tomb of Jonah (the guy swallowed by the whale in the Old Testament).  They blew it up two weeks ago, just like the Taliban blew up the Buddhist statues in Afghanistan, the only standing Buddhas in thee world.  Muslim extremists are on the rise everywhere it seems.  They are perpetrating ethnic cleansing in Africa (Boko Haram kidnapping the school girls), the Middle East, and no doubt want to keep going.

Gift Idea for the Ordained Minister – Bible in Chronological Order!

This looks nifty. Just think, no Soap Opera style flash backs any more while reading the Bible!  <grin> 

Might be a good version of the Bible for our Doctor of Theology degree candidates since it’s non-mainstream and non-fundamentalist.
I need to put this on my Christmas wish list. The list I really don’t have this year. But if I did, my children and husband would groan and say, “What? Another booook on your gift idea list….?!”  Worse yet, it’s another religion book. That’s all I like to read. Hee hee.  But this is no ordinary religion book people, it is a version of THE religion book. PERFECT gift for the ordained minister in your life hint hint hint…

The Chronological Study Bible

The Bible in Dynamic Historical Order

Immerse yourself in the beautifully designed pages.  Dig into ancient civilizations, religions, governments and the cultures and peoples that continue to shape our world today.  Explore the hidden connections in Scripture through one dramatic historical timeline.