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.
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.
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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.
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.
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! http://www.patheos.com/Galleries/Obscure-Religions
Our seminary ordains men AND women because we believe becoming ordained as a priest (or other clergy ordination) should be an answer to the Call, not dependent on one’s gender! We also ordain both men and women as minister, rabbi, reverend, chaplain, etc.
A few days ago the Pope in Rome called for equal pay for women worldwide. Women should get the same pay as men, he said. Yet the Pope won’t even HIRE women because they are not allowed to become ordained as a priest or even deacon.
Our seminary does not discriminate in any way, and one of our bishops, Bishop James, wrote:
“So this means that female Roman Catholic Bishops and Cardinals make the same as their male counterparts?”
Father Erik chimed in: “Lol, sharp wit, and a great point +James! Why would one worry about equal *pay* when one is not even recognizing men and women are equal in more basic human rights – specifically in this case, opening the priesthood to *all* human beings. Seems pretty fundamental to me.”
Becoming Ordained — and she’s female!
One of our seminarians, Deacon Angela, who will soon be ordained a woman priest, concurred saying, “I agree. Let’s implement equality at all levels!”
This is such a paradox, yet we all know the feeling, don’t we? You still believe in God and most aspects of your religion, still have faith, but you despise going to church or synagogue. You are reluctant to go perhaps because either you’re so exhausted from trying to keep up with the culture-techno-information age “activities” and “entertainments” OR because church is so old-fashioned / gossipy / politics / boring / hokey — take your pick. Also for some of us, the theology and teachings just don’t inspire as much as they did our ancestors. Have movies spoiled us? Do we need updated myths and spiritual stories — more inclusive ones? I personally believe, as most of you know, that the absence of the Divine Feminine, of God-the-Mother, is part of the problem, but that’s another post.
I know that as an Ordained Minister, Rabbi, priest or other clergy we should pay attention to this unchurched phenomenon so we can still reach the people who want to work / worship / learn with us. They are all still out there, just not showing up to brick and mortar buildings anymore. Our alternative clergy who receive ordination from us here have many kinds of ministries and churches, including online churches, in order to connect with people.
There is a Free Webinar on this topic April 15 which I plan to “attend” / view. I urge all of you ordained clergy just starting out to sign up also:
Sociologists reveal why people are DONE with church but not their faith
After devoting a lifetime to their churches,they’re walking away.
Sociologists Josh Packard and Ashleigh Hope reveal the results of a
major study about the exodus from the American church. And what they’ve
discovered may surprise you…
Church refugees aren’t who you’d expect. Among those scrambling for the exits
are the church’s staunchest supporters and leaders. Leaving the church
doesn’t mean abandoning the faith. Some who are done with church report
they’ve never felt spiritually stronger.
Training Objectives [ for the ordained ]
• Learn what prompted a study of the dechurched?
• Get background on how was the study conducted and what hypotheses were confirmed or challenged in the process?
• Discover any consistent themes that came out of the study?
If you can’t make the webinar time be sure to register anyways, we’ll send
you a link of the recording to watch afterwards. You’ll also
get a special offer on the book Church Refugees.
Webinar will be approximately 50 minutes in length.
We have been recommending to all our ordained ministers the Interfaith Minister Manual by Angela Plum for decades. But it is harder to get lately, so I ordered these to see if I like ’em:
1. The Interfaith Worship Manual by Rev. Stephanie Rutt. This manual includes a wide variety of interfaith worship services from Reverend Stephanie Rutt’s extensive repertoire. They span many faith traditions and cover musings on inspiring individuals as well as major holiday celebrations. Also included are guidelines for creating sacred spaces and for developing and facilitating meaningful interfaith worship experiences.
2. The Interfaith Prayer Book “…immensely popular for use both at interfaith gatherings and for personal reflection, having found its way into hospitals, motel rooms and college classrooms as well as places of worship all around the world. A selection of prayers from six religious traditions; Hindu, Jewish, Buddhist, Christian, Muslim and Bahá’í. This Expanded Edition adds prayers from eight additional traditions; Native African, Native American, Zoroastrian, Taoist, Confucian, Shinto, Jain and Sikh.
3. The Interfaith Alternative: Embracing Spiritual Diversity “Whatever your spiritual path, chances are that the primary tenets of your faith include universal love, acceptance, and compassion. Yet three thousand years after Moses, twenty-five hundred years after the Buddha, two thousand years after Jesus, and fifteen hundred years after Muhammad, we are still divided by our differences. Religious intolerance, discrimination, even persecution and violence make up the not-so-golden rule.
The Interfaith Alternative shows us how we can celebrate each other without fear of losing our own identity. It illuminates the path to creating a nurturing spiritual community that honors and includes all religious languages.”
We encourage all our ordained clergy to share any ceremonies they have created.
If you are not yet ordained, and have heard the Call to become ordained, we would be glad to have you in our interfaith, multi-faith community of clergy. Read the easy steps to ordination. This is not an online ordination, but distance ordination and we have been ordaining clergy of all faiths since 1987.
Rev. Dr. Leonel Hinkert, who received his Ph.D. in Religion and Ph.D. in Metaphysics degree from our online Seminary, posted the following to the Seminary’s Facebook page today. I’ve always enjoyed the study of Pythagoras. When he comes up in live classes, I like to pronounce his name the French and Greek way “Pee-tag-or-ROSS”. That pronounciation better matches the spelling Pitagoras used below. He is one of the great founders of Greek philosophy, and one of the first to be called “doctor”, a word meaning teacher. Without him, we would not have any such thing as the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree in our civilization. It is something for our alumni to think about. If you hold a PhD degree in whatever discipline, you are a Doctor aka “Teacher” of some kind of Philosophy.
THE GOLDEN VERSES OF PITAGORAS
Pythagoras was a Greek philosopher and scientist, the legendary founder of the Pythagorean society of initiation. He was a man whose mind has been a basis of mathematics, and geometry.
Pythagoras lived on Earth about 570-500 years BC, He was known as a Greek philosopher and mathematician. He was a strict vegetarian.
Pythagoras was born on the island of Samos in the Aegean Sea. His birth was predicted by a prophet, through which God told his parents about the birth of this boy who would grow and become famous for his wisdom, beauty and great deeds.
From childhood, Pythagoras had interest and skills for philosophy and other sciences. He learns music and painting, and the sciences of medicine, biology, astronomy, mathematics, learned from famous scholars of that time.
At a matured age, Pythagoras founded His spiritual School in the city of Croton. Concerning the work in this school we know the stories told by several great students, who also they had succeeded, with the help of Pythagoras, to the Divine, the Union with the Creator.
The goal of the Brotherhood was the moral renewal of society and purification of religious ideas, and the delivery of confidential methods of spiritual development to deserving students.
The Brotherhood was a monastic community consisting of both men and women who regarded Pythagoras as an incarnation of God. The activity of this great School ended due to the savage repression of primitive people.
Pythagoras wrote works on philosophy, mathematics, astronomy and music. In particular, he already knew about the phericity of the earth, within which is the Central Fire. He also taught about the immortality of the soul and its gradual development during incarnations.
Now we know the literary translation of the ancient text “The Golden Verses of Pythagoras” which was written to be studied by the neophyte students of his school.
Performs to the immortal gods the consecrated worship and keep your faith. Reverence the memory our heroes, benefactors, the spirits of the demigods.
Respect your mother and father, and also your neighbors.
Choose for yourself a truly wise friend, listen to his advice and follow his example, do not quarrel with him for petty reasons.
Remember the law of cause and effect in your life.
It is given to you the opportunity to overcome your passions. So, repress yourself with great effort of greed, laziness, sexual passions and unreasonable anger!
Whether you’re alone or with people, be afraid of doing something wrong. Save your honor!
Be always just in your words and actions; follow the dictates of reason and law.
Do not forget that the inevitable fate leads everyone to death.
Remember that earthly goods are easily given to people, and in the same way, are easily removed.
As for the misfortunes that come to people according to their fate, you must endure them patiently. But strive to relieve pain as possible. And remember that the Immortal Gods do not give people tests that are beyond their strength.
People have many possibilities to choose between them, good and bad. So you have to look carefully and choose the path worthy to oneself.
If there is a prevailing misconception among people about the truth, the wise steps aside and waits until the truth prevails again.
Listen carefully to what I say, and keep it in memory:
Do not be troubled by the acts and thoughts of others; do not induce harmful words and deeds!
Listen to the advice of others and deliberate yourself! For, only a fool acts without thinking ahead!
Do only what you do not then add in affliction and cause no pangs of conscience.
Dare not to start to work immediately if you do not know how to do, but learn first, only then will you achieve success!
You must not exhaust your body, unlike it comes to giving food, drink and exercise with measure for strengthening without knowing the excesses and laziness.
Keep, if possible, order in your life. Check out the luxury of everything! Well, it provokes envy in others.
Be afraid of being greedy!
Have fear also to squander goods like careless people do.
Do only that whereby you do not ruin yourself now or in the future! Premeditate therefore, before every step and act.
Let not reach to your tired eyes the dream, before your remember your deeds three times a day. Consider them as an impartial judge, asking yourself, “What good have I done? What I fail to do that should be fulfilled? “So, check by everything you’ve done during the day. Severely Repróchate yourself for everything that was wrong! And rejoice for the good you have done and successes!
Use this instruction, reflect on it and tries to always to follow it! Well, you can approach to Perfection! And that is the guarantor of this truth. He who hath placed in us the garment of the Divine Essence and the supreme virtue!
By putting hands to the work, go first to the gods, with the earnest request so that with His help you can finish the work!
And when thou shall be in this way, you’ll know all about the Immortal Gods and also about people, about the difference between them, about him that contains them in Himself, being its Foundation, and also know that the entire universe is One and the Eternal One which there is no dead substance.
By knowing this, you will not go wrong again, because all will be revealed to you!
You will know also that people themselves provoke misfortune for themselves because of their ignorance! And you know that they freely choose their destinies!
Woe to them! In their mad blindness they do not see the desired happiness is in its own depth!
There are very few among us who can throw through their own efforts the trouble out of themselves, as most people are blind to the law of the formation of their destinies! Like wheels they descend from the mountains, carrying the burden of the damage they have done and past fights, charges that controls their destinies until death.
Instead of looking for a fight, people should, where possible, to avoid it, give up uncontested.
O almighty Zeus, just you have the power to deliver those born of afflictions, showing to them the veil of ignorance that blinds their eyes?
However, there is hope for the salvation of the people of this darkness, as each human has a Divine Root, and nature is ready to reveal to him the mysteries of existence.
If you also penetrate in these, you will realize what I am preaching to you! So, heals the soul! This will reveal the path to liberation!
And abstain from eating meat: it’s against your nature and will prevent your purification!
So if you want to get rid of earthly fetters, follow this higher understanding given to you! Let this governed your destiny!
And after completely transform the soul; you can become an Immortal God who will crush with his foot the death!
Bishop James posted Wikipedia’s definition of esoteric Christianity,
Esoteric Christianity is an ensemble of spiritual currents which regard Christianity as a mystery religion, and profess the existence and possession of certain esoteric doctrines or practices of which the public is unaware (or even to which they may be denied access) but which are understood by a small group of people.
and then he asked:
Do you think it is an accurate description? How can it be defined as “the existence and possession of certain esoteric doctrines or practices of which the public is unaware (or even to which they may be denied access) but which are understood by a small group of people” and yet many of the described elements have so many books and public websites devoted to it?
How can a Christian possibly be devoted to Crowley type goetia?
* * * * * * * * * * *
Very thought provoking question; I responded thus:
Aleister Crowley’s perverted nonsense is not esoteric Christianity. One might call it esoteric Satanism, but never Christianity.
The Wikipedia definition of esoteric Christianity is accurate in my opinion for the “original” esoteric Christianity. Almost exactly 100 years ago esoteric Christianity finally became talked about in the salons and publications of the Western world. Of course it did exist before, but the turn of the last century is when it gained a wider audience, a small niche, but much wider than the centuries before.
Now there are indeed tons of books and websites dedicated to esoteric Christianity, my first website in 1999 was one of them. But the esoteric underground stream is still just a small niche in Christianity. In this Internet Age esoteric is still little known, but not as obscure and “occulted” as it once was.
My favorite definition of the word esoteric is based on the original Greek word “esoteric”, which means “inner”. Esoteric Christianity is really “inner” Christianity. Richard Smoley lays it out perfectly in his very enjoyable book, Inner Christianity: A Guide to the Esoteric Tradition
Our tenets of faith are not dogmas that must be followed by all our ordained minister and rabbi clergy. We are definitely multi-faith and interfaith in addition to being esoteric. We recently ordained a New Thought minister and a Celtic Minister. Technically since esoteric Judaism (Kabbalah, etc.) is part of the underground stream we enjoy, we should call ourselves esoteric Judeo-Christianity….and multi-faith, interfaith, spiritual…
…A pastor local to me stated that when the MO State Police got involved one of their commanding officers helped calm the crowds by walking with them in a protest march. If that is an accurate report, we see another example of face-to-face human interaction having a positive, peaceful effect over and above the use of gas and bullets.
As the movie “The Five Element” observed, violence begets violence.
Now I’m neither a peace- or war-monger. I feel there are times when violence must be met with violence. But it is never a long-term solution.
I find it encouraging that clergy began to show a significant presence (over 100 as per the report) and that this has begun a positive shift. It seems it might collectively give us something to think about.
So too, the larger social issues are worth consideration. These are national and even international problems, so our individual effective response is limited. To my mind a popular bumper sticker summed this dilemma up nicely: “Think Globally – Act Locally.”
My gut instinct is that we are most effect close to home, where we can look someone in the eye. Voting is important, and being active in our local communities is important.
The following is a YouTube link to a sermon which addresses these points (I think it was the one that mentioned the MO State Police too).
Another reason to become an ordained minister, rabbi, or other clergy
You can be one of the peacemakers. There is work to be done in ministry. If you have heard the Call to serve as a spiritual guide, a member of the clergy, to become an ordained minister, reverend, rabbi — now might be your time to answer that Call.
Here is another article on the subject, Clergy calm tension on the streets of Ferguson — where you can see several photographs of ordained clergy in Ferguson, both men and women ministers, priests, black and white, all working together to bring peace. It’s worth remembering that the great Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was an ordained minister, Doctor of Divinity, and a peacemaker with martyr-like stature surpassing Ghandi.
He never supported violence — and he went on a very famous protest march.
Somebody who became an ordained Rabbi via our seminary sent me the following.
It’s Okay. Don’t Cry for Us Israelis
By Naomi Ragen
I’m sitting here in Jerusalem after a week of heartbreak over three murdered teens, followed by two weeks of sirens, bomb blasts, and finally, the funerals of young IDF soldiers, of whom one-third are students who should be taking their final exams, instead of risking their lives. I’m reading on the internet about what a horrible person I am as an Israeli and as a Jew, and what a terrible, immoral country I live in.
All this criticism comes mainly from the European press: The Guardian, the BBC, papers in Italy, Norway, France, and don’t forget America: The New York Times, CNN. And I’m thinking: Gee, the British should understand. After all, they lived through the blitz, Nazis raining bombs indiscriminately down on them, the way Hamas is raining bombs down on us. And when the brave pilots of the RAF aimed their bombs at Dresden killing 300,000 men, women and children, they didn’t throw down leaflets telling people to politely evacuate; didn’t send their soldiers to knock on doors to see if they’d followed the leaflets instructions (as CNN complained Israel failed to do at an UNRWA school, which was possibly hit by a Hamas rocket that didn’t make it out of Gaza to Israel, anyway.)
And I think of the rest of Europe, who rounded up our grandparents and
great-grandparents, and relatives –men, women and children—and sent them off to be gassed, no questions asked. And I think: They are now the moral arbiters of the free world? They are telling the descendants of the people they murdered how to behave when other anti-Semites want to kill them?
As for Americans, represented by the New York Times, that bastion of high-minded hypocrisy and mediocre journalism parading as the “newspaper of record,” one has only to read the article by Professor Auerbach in the New York Observer (Two Weeks of Shallow, Facile Moral Equivalency From the New York Times) to see how Jodi Rudoren and other Times apparatchiks have learned to close their minds and love Hamas. After all, there are CHILDREN DYING. It doesn’t matter that the Palestinians have educated an entire generation to be little Nazi-wannabes, who worship death and hate Jews, murdering their souls, and are now callously putting their bodies in harm’s way to use for touching photo ops. We shouldn’t be shocked by this omission by the Times. After all, The New York Times was one of the last news outlets to bring to the attention of the reading public the Nazi atrocities in Europe. Read the Times during the nightmare years, and see if you can’t find a pattern here.
And so, as an Israeli, brought up with Jewish values, and an American, taught to love freedom, justice, democracy and fair play, I have to tell all of you — Europeans, Americans, and last of all Muslim terrorist sympathizers and barbarians — that what you are saying no longer moves anyone of good moral judgment and intelligence. The current crisis in Gaza is so morally clear-cut, so absolutely a case of self-defense, that I must say to you, as someone finally said to Senator McCarthy: “Sir, have you no shame?”
I prefer that you — writers of these lies and libels — hate me and my country, if it means that you can save your tears for other people’s dead. We aren’t greedy for sympathy. After all, we got so much after the Holocaust, we prefer other people to have their share now. These days, we prefer to live, rather than have people cry over us and the injustices done to us.
So by all means, cry for the Palestinian people – men women and children- whose duly elected leadership has callously left them without protection from just retribution for Hamas’ terrorist crimes. Who took the Gazans’ aid money and are living in Qatar in five star hotels building shopping centers for themselves. Who built terrorist tunnels under the Gazans’ homes, mosques, hospitals and schools, and recruited the sons of Gaza to die for Allah, while the Hamas militants sit in bunkers waiting for the U.N. to rescue them.
Don’t cry for us, or our families, or our children, or grandchildren. Not this time. Not ever. Not if we can help it. Because this time, thank God, we have a country. We are armed. This time, with God’s help, we know how to protect ourselves from Nazis and their high-minded media cheerleaders.
I would like to end this with an expletive and a hand gesture towards the
people I’m addressing. Please choose one you think would be fitting. I can
think of many.
Anger toward religion may have provoked deadly attacks on priests in Phoenix last week
The person who brutally attacked two Phoenix priests might have a lot of anger toward people and things associated with religion, a Phoenix Police Department spokesman said.
Police also said they are looking for a man who was seen entering a residence attached to Mother of Mercy Mission Catholic Church, where one Phoenix priest was shot and killed and another badly beaten Wednesday night.
The violent nature of the crimes – the Rev. Kenneth Walker was shot multiple times and the Rev. Joseph Terra was brutally beaten – leads police to believe the attacker is angry at churches, priests or religion in general, said Sgt. Darren Burch of the department’s Silent Witness program.
Burch said there was a lot of anger and venom involved in the attacks in the rectory of the church on Wednesday.
“Somebody in our community knows about an individual in his 40s that has that type of anger, that type of violent nature, those tendencies and that’s the perfect tip that we need,” Burch said.
Terra remains hospitalized in critical condition.
Burch said the attacker might have previously outwardly exhibited anger toward religion or priests but might have become more withdrawn and not as visibly agitated since the attack.
A flyer issued by the Phoenix Police Department said police were looking for a white man, 40 to 49 years old, who was seen entering the residence at the church near 1500 W. Monroe St. about 9:11 p.m. Wednesday.
Police continue to urge anyone with information about the suspect or the crimes to call Silent Witness at 480-WITNESS (480-948-6377), or 480-TESTIGO (480-837-8446), or 800-343-TIPS (800-343-8477).
Silent Witness is offering up to $1,000 for information leading to the arrest and/or indictment of the suspect or suspects in this crime.