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Spiritualism

Spiritualism

The Spiritual Journey
    I remember my first spiritual experience in my life when I was a child, but it took many years and several adverse circumstances to enter the realm of spirituality I enjoy today.

    I was five years old when my Grandmother Hattie died of cancer. After the funeral we all went back to our house to mend our broken hearts sharing stories, and partaking in the food and drink. After a while all the company had left for home, and it was time for us children to retire for the night.

    I went to my room confused about the days events. My Dad followed me into my bedroom . He was concerned as to how I was handling all that had transpired throughout the ordeal, and tried his best to comfort me with a pat on the head. We sat silent on my bed for several minutes with his big hand rubbing my back, and looking at the night through the window in my room. The sky was dark and clear with millions of stars shining brightly.

    My Dad was not a religious man, but did have a sense of a higher being…God?
    I always pictured God sitting in the biggest wooden chair ever seen with all of his angels around him.

My Dad stated,” pick a star in the sky and say a prayer to it, then Grammy will hear you and will  know that you loved her.” He also said that I should ask God to” let her into heaven,” because she had been a fine mother and grandmother. With his paternal part completed, he left the room to leave me to do what was instructed.

    The first thing I did was recall an exercise that the Sunday school teacher had taught us about Jesus on the cross. She had us hold our hands out to our sides for as long as we could to show how much pain that Jesus may have gone through for us. For some reason I held my arms out like she had instructed us in school, and closed my eyes. I’m not sure how much time had passed, but my arms were tired. I then picked out the star, and got on my knees and said, ” God, please take care of my Grammy, because I love her. Will you please take her to heaven with you. Amen!”

    A feeling of great peace fell over me, and I knew that my prayers would be answered.
    I never had another experience like that for many years to come, but I sure searched for it, in all the wrong places. It was not until I was thirty six years old that I was able to re-connect with God, and use him to manage my life on a daily basis. After battling Alcohol and drug addition for many years, I got sober through a gift of desperation , Then, a kidney transplant, multiple bone surgeries, contracted Hepatitis C from multiple transfusions, and living life on free will all caught up to me at once. I was empty with no self worth, but saw a little hope through a caring friend…God!

    The classes on spiritualism has enlighten my perception in the spiritual concept, explaining the patterns of spirituality played out in different times, for different people, and the evolution individuals and cultures have experienced. The spiritual life is not a theory, but has to be lived to become a valid and functional benefit of the believer. An abstract concept that creates possibilities through faith, love, and an open mind.

    Some individuals become spiritual through forbidden avenues, learning lessons the hard way. Spirituality may not get you to heaven alone, but will let you out of hell. Thank you for the enlightenment.   

Rev. Mark England
                                          
  

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As a long time member of ULC, Rev. Long created the seminary site 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.


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Biblical Egyptology

Dating Exodus
By
John Ozanich D.D.
“And I have said, I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt unto the land of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, unto a and flowing with milk and honey.  (Exodus 3:17)
            From the Old Testament, God describes to Moses the world into which He will deliver the Israelites from Egyptian bondage.  Dating the Exodus event has proven to be one of the most elusive mysteries of mankind.  Current mainstream archaeology has surrendered to the notion that Exodus is a mythical story enamoring Jewish idealism and providing a creation mythos for the nation of Israel.  Like all branches of science, however, opinion is in perpetual flux due to continuously incoming data and refinement in understanding.  Two sliding scales particularly exacerbate the dating of Exodus with their continuous re-adjustment to newly discovered facts.  One scale being the timeline associated with Egypt and the other being all timeline adjustments made regarding other cultures in the surrounding area.  The Bible itself gives us no solid date reference on which we can rely in regards to the events of Exodus though some minor clues are given which have a bearing on dating.  God’s description of the Canaanite area in which He promised to bring the freed Israelites in Exodus (3:17) describes a land in which Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites simultaneously occupied the region of present day Israel.  This may be noteworthy due to the fact that the Amorite Dynasty is believed to have fallen by 1550 B.C.  Numbers (21:13-27) tells of the Israelites putting the Amorites to the sword and overtaking several of their cities.  This would seem to imply a continued strong dynastic presence and thus make the 15th century date relevant.  Placing Exodus at or before the 15th century puts Exodus at the start of the 18th Dynasty of Egypt or before it.
            Genesis 37:28 tells us, “Then Midianite traders passed by; so the brothers pulled Joseph up and lifted him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver.  And hey took Joseph to Egypt.”
            Historical review of the going prices of slaves in and around Egypt at the time tells us that twenty pieces of silver for a slave would be the going rate around the 1500 BCE era.  The price increased to 30 shekels around the last quarter of the second millennium BCE.  This again places biblical reference any time during or prior to the 18th Egyptian Dynasty.
            “And these are the names of he sons of Israel, who to Egypt.”  (Exodus 1:1).
            The Hebrew name for Egypt is Mitzrayim.  The name is unusual because the –yim suffix is plural.  Mitzar would be the singular form of the name.  Around the 18th Dynasty of Egypt and the Hyksos occupation of Lower Egypt, the Egyptians themselves referred to Egypt as a plural, Tawy, due to the divided kingdom.
            “And the Egyptians made the people of Israel serve with rigor. And they made their lives bitter with hard slavery, in mortar, and in brick, and in all kinds of service in the field; all their service, which they made them serve, was with rigor.” (Exodus 1;13-14)
            Consensus among scholars is that there was no slave conscription before the 18th Egyptian Dynasty.  No records exist of any such action.  Prior to the 18th Dynasty, slaves were captured or purchased for domestic use.  Forcing Israelites to serve as brick makers appears to have occurred uniquely around the 18th Dynasty.
            The primary biblical clue cited for the dating of Exodus comes from Kings 6:1, “And it came to pass in the four hundred and eightieth year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign over Israel, in the month Ziv, which is the second month, that he began to build the house of the LORD.”  Archaeological evidence places the construction of the Temple of Solomon at around 960 BCE.  Back dating this by 480 years gives us an approximate year of Exodus around 1440 BCE – still within Egypt’s 18th Dynasty.
            The most solid archaeological evidence we have in respect to dating is the discovery of the Merneptah Stele.  It contains the earliest known Egyptian reference to the people of a place called Israel.  The stele commemorates the victory of Pharaoh Merneptah (1213 – 1203 BC) over Libu and Meshwesh Libyans and their sea allies.  The last two lines of the stele make comment that prior to defeating the Libyans, Merneptah also defeated Ashkelon, Gezer, Yanoam and Israel.  The stele itself has been dated to around 1209 BCE.  Thus, the nation of Israel was presumably firmly established by that time.
            Frustratingly, Egyptian records offer no help.  Thus far, no record found offers a comparative storyline to the Israelite claims of Exodus though it is believed that this is not surprising since it would be highly unusual for Egypt to record the defeat of a pharaoh as potentially embarrassing as Exodus claims.  Additionally, Egyptian records are vague and difficult to correlate to what might have been descriptions of the ten plagues of the Bible, which God inflicted on Egypt for refusing to release His people.  Natural events, which may correlate to the plagues have been identified and attempts made to correlate them to the plagues but none have been broadly accepted.

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The Universal Life Church is a comprehensive online seminary where we have classes in Christianity, Wicca, Paganism, two courses in Metaphysics and much more. I have been a proud member of the ULC for many years and the Seminary since its inception.

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.

 

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As an ordained minister with the Universal Life Church for many years and it’s Seminary since its inception, I’ve had the privilege of watching the Seminary grow.
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Paganism

The Choice to Learn: An Essay on Learning about and Understanding the Spiritual Philosophies of Our Fellow Pagans
by Rev. Amber D. Gray

“It is requisite that those who are willing to hear concerning the Gods should have been well informed from their childhood, and not nourished with foolish opinions.” – Sallust [Gods and the World]

“That person is all-best who themselves works out every problem and solves it, seeing what will be best late and in the end. This person, too, is admirable who follows one who speaks well. They who cannot see the truth for themselves, nor hearing it from others, store it away in their minds, those persons are utterly useless.” – Hesiod [Works and Days].

The decision to take the Masters of Paganism course was not easy. I didn’t know much about the broad subject of Paganism. What I knew of Wicca, were the little bits I learned when I was 17, and general Paganism, I admittedly knew nothing about. My entire life, my religion has been Hellenismos, also know as Hellenic Paganism or Reconstructionism. I had been sheltered and separated from other Pagans, who like me, were devout and true to their belief system. I had come across two passages which ultimately helped me to decide to take the Masters of Paganism course. I decided to learn about my fellow Pagans and what their belief systems were, as well as what moved their hearts. This course helped to pave that road for me.

The course was broken up into twenty parts: creation, deity, pantheon and culture, magical beings, the after life, pagan celebrations, sabbats and many other aspects of New Age Paganism. One of the most interesting aspects to this type of Paganism is that New Age Paganism pulls from several different religions. When I was learning about New Age Pagan beliefs in creation, I noticed that the Hellenic view of Chaos is shared between the religions. However, one of the first variants I noticed was a dyadic system, in which it appeared that the universe, world, nature and all of life was comprised of a masculine and feminine power. Another variant that was interesting was that New Age Pagans appear to be pantheist, where All Gods are One. This is a foreign concept to me, being a rigid Polytheist. While I understand the conceptualizations presented within the course, I was not as receiving of this point of view. However, while I didn’t agree with the philosophy, I most certainly would not censure the belief of others. Another concept that got my attention was the wheel of the year philosophy. It was remarkable how that philosophy was able to be adjusted to all Pagan beliefs in some form or another. Finally, another lesson which held my attention was the two part lesson on the Great Rite. The Great Rite seems to be a ritualistic aspect in New Age Paganism that gives its members a sense of oneness, unity and communion with their spiritual deity. I believe that a person, who is spiritually in tuned with their divinity, truly understands the importance of piety and wholeness.

Things that did not work for me, were things that I felt I could not put into a philosophical context, that I could understand. For example, the lesson on magical beings and spiritual guides was philosophically understandable, until it had rationales in it that stated things like, “Demons only have the power that we give them.” Inimical spirits within my own belief system have metaphysical powers, whether a human being believes them to or not. Thus, the conceptualization of that particular line of thinking was particularly arduous for me.

Another concept that did not engage me was the concept of magick: the manipulation and vibration of energy for a positive change. This concept reminded me somewhat of Christian prayer, and “making things happen.” It is my belief that the will of the Gods changes things, and no chant or manipulation of energy can force the hand of the Gods. On the flip side, when put within the context of advanced prayer, suddenly, the concept of magick seemed to bring humans back down to earth and was far more palatable. Overall, this was an interesting experience.

Personally, I feel like this course helped me to understand where New Age Pagans are coming from, and why certain Pagan populaces receive this group well, or do not receive this group of Pagans well. This course opened my eyes to a groups understanding of how the universe functioned, and how one could be in communion with their God. New Age Paganism is very in tuned with nature, other religions, and a myriad of philosophies and concepts from all over the world. To understand New Age Pagans, from their own words, text and philosophies will help me to be a better Pagan Priestess, and have a better understanding of a group which is often ostracized by other Pagan groups. That sort of spiritual growth is favored most by the Gods… and should be favored by all Pagan Priesthoods.


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The Universal Life Church is a comprehensive online seminary where we have classes in Christianity, Wicca, Paganism, two courses in Metaphysics and much more.

Ordination with the Universal Life Church, is free,  and lasts for life, so use the Free Online Ordination, button.

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.


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As an ordained minister with the Universal Life Church for many years and it’s Seminary since its inception, I’ve had the privilege of watching the Seminary grow.
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A Course In Miracles – A Universal Life Church Course

Throughout this course Love has been mentioned. Lightworkers in general, and those who follow New Age beliefs often mention Unconditional Love. Many of them claim to love everyone, but if you really pay close attention to some of their comments, you soon realize that this is simply not true, there is one person that they do not have Unconditional Love for, and that one person is themselves.
True Unconditional Love has to start with ourselves, until we love ourselves unconditionally, it is impossible to love others unconditionally. Lets forget about others for the moment and concentrate on ourselves. How can we know that we do not love ourselves unconditionally? It is really very simple. If we find ourselves getting angry at someone because of their actions or speech, unless they are doing something to harm us or someone else, it is because they are reminding us, if even only subconsciously, of some aspect within ourselves that we do not like. The guilt of that aspect makes us project anger at them.
Having determined that there is something within us that we don’t like, we cannot feel Unconditional Love for ourselves. And since we are angry at someone else, obviously we do not feel Unconditional Love for them. Unconditional Love is not judgmental, it judges neither ourselves nor anyone else, it simply accepts all as they are and loves without conditions.
If we find ourselves becoming angry about other’s behavior or words, it is time for some serious soul searching and meditation. We need to find out why we feel that anger, and then to rid ourselves of the cause.
If we can almost immediately come up with a reason that we are angry, it is very likely that we have not really found the cause, only an excuse. If on the other hand, we do find the cause, it may be a secondary cause of an even deeper aspect. So we need to eliminate the secondary cause and then find and eliminate the original cause.
Only once all of the things within our makeup that we don’t like have been eliminated can we find Unconditional Love for ourselves and others.
Charles H. Grooms

 

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Historical Jesus by Ernest Kayorie

Final Essay
Search for the Historical Jesus
Submitted by Ernest Kayorie

The search for the Historical Jesus course has been a delightful review/romp through the various theories surrounding this controversial subject.  The instructor takes you through the various theories surrounding the search beginning with Reimarus and his school of thought and ending with current theories which have recently found fresh food for thought on the subject. The instructor’s expansion of ideas about Jesus’ kingdom theories and his approach to his role as a way shower and messenger is carefully explained to show how each could be a viable explanation of Jesus’ role on the world scene.

The search for a better representation of this important figure is a worthy journey and the only one that makes any sense.  If we can determine who this individual was and how he viewed himself and his role, we might better appreciate his message of simplicity. His strong sense of mission and his insistence on establishing the kingdom of God was a message of timely import.  He stated over and over again that the kingdom was within and not an earthly one that was hoped for by many.

The otherworldly persona placed on him and his role has been the product of other’s thoughts and philosophies under the guise of divine interpretation and is not wholly associated with his message.  When historians and theologians create their own divine messenger, it is easy to attribute and manipulate what they thought was stated.  The Jesus/God that was created was the product of Jewish thought intermingled with Greek metaphysics.  There is no scarcity of documentation attesting to the existence of  the God/man Jesus.   The solidification of those theories eventually became a reality as a result of the   decrees issued by the various Church councils.   On the political side, all of this to insure that the emerging administrative church could take its place as an heir to the Roman Empire.  On the spiritual side, the Fathers  (theologians, philosophers et al.) of this organization were sincerely earnest in their quests to understand the divine nature of Jesus/God’s message and messenger.  They endeavored to interpret doctrine and dogma in the best possible way for the Church and its followers.

The major challenge begins when one realizes that the subjects are on two different levels.  The Fathers of the Church were dealing with their own conception of their deity or at least the one that came to be accepted as the “true” god.  The search for the historical Jesus is a search for a “real” human being who had hopes, aspirations, ideals and  a sense of mission or not.  The human Jesus is the one that people can identify with as opposed to some “created” superhuman giant.

The value of the search is important because the closer we get to valid possibilities, the better we can appreciate those possibilities.  This seems to be the only way to proceed because of the scarcity of first hand documentation.  Jesus apparently did not write his teachings down but relied on oral transmission of his message to others and seemingly left it to their discretion to relate what was said and meant.

Historical research has a tendency to rely too heavily on its own definition of historical fact.  Much of what we know of our own historical past is based on tradition and also fictionalized versions of those individuals we deem as great personages.  The same situation applies to the individual we know as Jesus. The translation of apocryphal writings, some very fictionalized, present a very human Jesus.  They present stories of his mother’s life and his childhood.  They relate stories of his family life and how he was viewed by his peers and neighbors.  Again no one person has played on the imagination of the world as has this person.  The more we have a chance to know and experience Jesus, the easier it will be  to make an informed decision about his mission and how it can influence our lives.  Millions of individuals look to the New Testament  as their leader and guide without questioning the authenticity of the writings.   Many do not question anything relating to “accepted” scriptures not realizing that the canon of those scriptures was the result of a decision made by men and sanctioned by an organization.  They were the result oftentimes of decisions motivated by bitterness and jealousies and petty rivalries.

This writer finds that the search for the historical Jesus is a worthwhile endeavor in and of itself and finds that delving into that search is both exciting and informative.

The role of the academic community devoted to finding the historical Jesus beginning with  Hermann Reimarus’ investigations (1778/old quest), and continuing today with the Jesus seminar groups has brought to the forefront the necessity of finding out who the human Jesus was. The recently formed Jesus Project continues the search with promised results that will be as varied as previous attempts no doubt.

Prior to these endeavors, it seems that the existence of a historical/human Jesus had become irrelevant.  Who needs to be concerned with humanness when we have a divine being to emulate?   As was pointed out in the course, quite simply human and divine…they were the same or at least they were explained as how that could be. The years of establishing that fact was the result of the first seven Church councils and since that time, little alteration has been necessary.  As time progressed and the farther we got from that fact, the need to reacquaint ourselves with the source became evident.  There is ample evidence that suggests that each culture who claim to be Christian see their founder in their own light.  In this case, people are not interested in the Jesus of history but prefer to “worship” their own conception of Jesus even if that conception is exaggerated or totally distorted.  As an example, some Christians find the fact that Jesus was Jewish to be an affront to their beliefs.  They prefer their “god” to be like them.

The value of the search for the Jesus of history forces us to confront falsehood and study this popular figure  for what he was, namely a Jewish man from the Middle East who was responsible for relating a message that could change lives for the better.  The simplicity of that message is astonishing and will remain so despite the efforts of so many to destroy it, albeit in good faith.  The value of the various quests definitely lies in the fact of seeing this person as everything from a social revolutionary to a wandering peasant sage to a disillusioned teacher who was ushering in a new age.  The search will go on under the guise of different theories with different names but the importance lies in the fact that the search continues.  Seen in this vein, it seems that the search for a valid explanation of who the historical Jesus was is a separate study from what has been the search for our own cosmic significance.

The quest for the historical Jesus has transitioned to a quest for the Cosmic Christ.  The search for the Cosmic Christ has become the quest of modern man in search for his own destiny.  It is the time for our return to our beginnings and the realization of who we truly are and if Jesus can bring that about in our lives then it’s good to have someone or something to rely on until we find enough confidence to realize that we have to learn to stand on our own.   Was it not said by Jesus through the gospels that “whoever believes in me will perform the same works as I do myself, he will perform even greater works.”    Was this an allusion to the fact that we have inherited the right to become like the “Christed” one that he represented?  Paul, in his letter to the Galatians refers to this progression  when he says that “I live now not with my own life but with the life of Christ who lives in me”  (Gal. 2:20)  and again “I must go through the pain of giving birth to you all over again, until Christ is formed in you.” (Gal. 4:19)

As studies progress towards that inevitable conclusion with the pioneering works of Teihard De Chardin and Matthew Fox and many notable members of the scientific/religious  community (the list goes on and on), we can conclude that the journey continues.

 

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Universal Life Church – Love is the Answer

Universal Life church
Essay by Mara Fonseca
‘Love is the Answer’
As I have meditated deeply on what captured my soul’s and heart’s interest in the twenty lessons in a Course in Metaphysics – Everyday Miracles, I recall one particular question and response that I asked and received from Dr. Loretta Siani:
Dear Loretta:
In a weekly sermon from Brother Daniel on Beliefs, he says:
“…I really don’t want to deal with you or your situation because unfortunately like many thousands of instant ministers they labor under the delusion that miracles happen…”
I found the above statement to be a quite thought-provoking quagmire, especially after reading (and enjoying I might add) your various lessons on the medium of miracles.
His comment made me reflect deeply on who I am and what my belief system is. I am the vessel of ‘change to prosperity’ through acquiring inner peace and understanding of the laws of the universe. I also believe in the power of prayer, for it focuses me on the concept of ‘Prosperity Programming.’ (Prosperity Programming – a term used in Shakti Gawain’s book ‘Creative Visualization’ that means having the understanding, or consciously taking the point of view, that the universe is totally abundant. Everything you need or want is here for the asking; you only need to believe that it is so, to truly desire it, and to be willing to accept it, in order to have whatever you wish.
My question to you is thus:
Is it our belief in miracles that makes them happen, or is it our shift in perception when ‘miracles’ happen that changes our belief system?”
Dr. Siani’s response to my question was:
“It isn’t our belief in miracles that makes them happen. It’s our belief in Love and our ongoing faith that Love will prevail…”
Dr. Siani’s response not only answered my question, it also provided me with the tool for continued inner reflection, transformation, and confirmed resolution:
~ Love is the Answer.
~ When we believe in Love, anything is possible.
I have also experienced in my life that the greatest miracles occur when there has been a change in heart. When I love unconditionally and pray for that which will change my perception and bring more compassion, understanding and patience into my heart, a ‘miracle’ happens.
The ‘miracle’ that occurs is that when I open up my heart and believe that Love will prevail a true healing occurs. I no longer carry fear in my heart, for I know that I am a vessel of ‘prosperity’. I am a child of God. I no longer ask for circumstances to be changed in my life, but rather to ask that my perception of my circumstances change. I look at each challenge as a blessing in disguise, and to pray that I will become a better person in the end. I pray for forgiveness and that others may forgive any trespasses I have committed against them. I do not look behind me at what has happened or before me at what has yet to happen. I live in the moment, trusting that Love will prevail.
In summation, this to me is at the core of how miracles happen: When we believe in Love, anything is possible. Love is the Answer. All we need to do is BELIEVE. Ask in LOVE and thou Shall Receive in LOVE. This has been the greatest challenge, lesson, and teaching that I have received in this course and the course of my life. For this, I am eternally grateful.
In closing, I would like to share a poem that expresses my essay ‘in a nutshell’. I hope that you will enjoy it as much as I do:
Essential Love
You have come here to remember love,
and as you heal,
you come to be a light that
others see and follow.
They see, reflected in you,
the light of their own forgotten self,
and in seeing this,
they too can heal and be healed.
When you join with the universe.
you see yourself in all things
and all things in yourself.
This is love in its highest form –
pure and unconditional.
It has no motive,
and it seeks nothing.
This is the Essential Love,
awaiting eternally for you to
embrace it so that
you might be embraced.
Love is the guiding light,
Love is You.
–Patricia Easton Graves

 

Biblical Egyptology

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.

Brother Joseph, Fr.

Universal Life Church – Creating a Sacred Space

Creating my Sacred Place was easy for me to do. There is a beach that I go to that is very peaceful and has a lot of wildlife there. Once you get to this beach you can smell the salt water. I like the smell of it and if I forget that smell I go be to the beach. I do find that my Sacred Place is very relaxing and safe. I always invite the Holy Spirit to be with my. When I am with the Holy Spirit I fill so much love, peace, and safety. I have a log that I sit on and the Holy Spirit sits beside me. I find this so comforting.
    The first day after being in my Sacred Place I took the family out to dinner and we had the greatest customer service I ever had. It was so enjoyable and the kids a such a good time. The next I took the boys out for haircuts and we had a great time at barber shop. Most of the time we just go in and come right out. But this time every one in the barber shop was have a great time. After the hair cuts we went on a drive and saw all kinds of wildlife. It was great we saw so many Eagles that we stop counting. I am seeing more and people are talking to me more. They start the conversion. I did do the reading 3 times and I wanting to go back to it for a 4th & 5th time. Thank you very much this class is a real blessing for me!!!

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ULC Buddhism Course by Rev. Jean Pagano

Buddhism Final
Jean Pagano
The Buddhism course is one of the best courses I have taken at ULC. It is a perfect blend of philosophy, history, and wisdom, blended together in an unbiased overview of one of the world’s great religions.
One of the truly beautiful things about the Buddha is that he is, first and foremost, a man. He is not a divinity, he is a man. Since the rest of humanity is also just men/women, then one can aspire to what the Buddha has attained because of this commonality. This is truly revolutionary and, quite frankly, refreshing.
The Four Great Vows, a) to save all people; b) to renounce all worldly desires; c) to learn all the teachings; and d) to attain perfect enlightenment, are all great guides. In this modern technological age, renouncing all worldly desires is very, very difficult, if not impossible. This is especially so in the Western world.
The Four Noble Truths are powerful in both their simplicity and their interconnectedness: a) all life is suffering; b) the cause of suffering is desire; c) the end of desire leads to the end of suffering; and d) the way to end desire, and hence to end suffering, is to follow the Eightfold path.
The Eightfold path is the blueprint to break the cycle of suffering. It is simply stated, but within its simplicity is a very difficult process. It truly takes a remarkable individual to follow these tenets, in my opinion. While I may attempt to do so, I know that I cannot accomplish them all – at this time. The Eightfold path is: a) Right View or Right Understanding; b) Right Thought or Right Intention; c) Right Speech; d) Right Action; e) Right Livelihood; f) Right Effort; g) Right Mindfulness; and h) Right Concentration.
An aspirant looks to the Three Jewels: a) the Buddha; b) the Dharma (or the teachings of Buddha); and c) the Sangha (the Buddhist community). There is great refuge to be found in the Master, in his works, and in the community of like-minded individuals.
From a historical perspective, the differences between Theraveda and Mahayana were very interesting. In great movements, schisms are inevitable, yet the differences between the two give some insights into the religion itself.
The Six Worlds present an interesting dissection of life: Gods, anti-Gods, humans, animals, hungry-ghosts, and hell-beings. Surrounding these worlds are the twelve links of dependent arising. They are ignorance or spiritual blindness, karma, consciousness, name and form, the five senses and the faculty of thinking, contact, feelings/emotions, craving, grasping, becoming, birth, and aging, decay, and death.
The ten fetters are so very important and interesting. They are: self-belief, doubt, superstition, sensual desire, ill will, materialism, a lust for anything without form or shape, awareness of superiority and inferiority, agitation, and ignorance. The Four Stages of Enlightenment describe one’s journey on the path to Enlightenment: the Stream-Enterer, who has freed themselves from the first three fetters; the Once-Returner, who has freed themselves from the fourth and fifth of the fetters; the Non-returner who has completely freed themselves from the first five fetters and will be reborn in the heaven of the Pure Abodes, where they will gain enlightenment; and Arahant, who will not be reborn but will enter parinirvana.
The differences between Theravada and Mahayana give some excellent insight into the differences between the two major schools of Buddhism. I found the Basic Points Unifying the Theravada and the Mahayana to be especially powerful especially the one that proclaims “We do not believe the world is created and ruled by God”. To me, this one statement repudiates much of modern Western religion. I agree, with whole heart, the basic premise of this statement. I particularly like the Mahayana concept of the Bodhisattva, one who returns to the world in order to bring everyone to Enlightenment.
The Buddhist vow to not kill speaks directly to me. As a vegetarian, I am ultimately concerned with the well-being of animal, vegetable, and mineral entities. This is one of the highest moral requirements, as I see it. I am glad to see that Buddhism is thriving across the world. It places the requirements on the individual and does not lean upon messiahs or prophets to attain enlightenment, wisdom, or goodness. All of these things remain in the realm of the individual. Therefore, the individual sets out upon the path of enlightenment and achieves it by following the requirements set down by Buddha.
This course is a complete overview of Buddhism and gives the learner all of the tools they need to investigate, engage, and attain an understanding of Buddhism. I would highly recommend it.

 

Christian History

Final Essay for Masters, Christian History
One of the first striking elements of the course, which may or may not have been intended by the author, was the initial framing of the purpose of the course as one that ultimately explores history from a theological–revelatory perspective. Dr. Loy opens his lesson with an exploration of Paul’s historical assessment that the Greeks, Romans, and the Jewish people had participated in the historical preparation for the emergence of Christ. While I would argue that this bears no resemblance to the field of history per se, it does illuminate one perspective of how history is interpreted theologically. This is a striking continuance of how the gospels themselves reexamine and reinterpret the Hebrew Scriptures outside their Jewish theological and social contexts and within the Christian frameworks.  In this fashion, what I am ultimately arriving at, is one of the most striking elements I gained from the course was an awareness of and appreciation for the continued tradition of interpreting historical events as the unfolding revelation of God’s direct involvement in human lives.  While I am not a Christian, I can appreciate the vitality that such, what might be best termed, a “theohistorical” examination provides in assuring the continued potency of the faith and reinforcing the centrality of the theological belief that Christianity is the final covenant and revelation of God to humankind.  In short, history is preparation for Christians—it is a place of continued discover of God’s will.
This sense of unfolding revelation and continued vitality was also illustrated in the course through its examination of the theological, how Christians came to think about and understand their faith, development over time.  Dr. Loy does a superb job in exploring the diverse fruiting of thought that emerged after the death of Christ and the rise of monastic orders and the structured Catholic Church.  One thing that I would suggest would be a continued discussion of this unfolding through contemporary times that examines the true diversity of theological strands that have framed the diverse Christian views; in this fashion, truly examining the past and current breadth of the unfolding revelation of God within the Christian faith.
I was also struck with the relationship between the unfolding of the Christian faith and Christendom—that is a Christianized political environment.  Dr. Loy discusses at length the growing complexity that such merging led to liturgically; additionally following this it appears the Christian church also underwent significantly greater refining of complex theological issues such as freewill. On the one hand, Pope Gregory asserted that while we inherit sin, we do not inherit “badness”—thus human beings not only engage in redemptive behavior through the baptismal and continued participation in the Eucharist, affirming their relationship to Christ, but are charged with engaging in rigorous self-assessment to ensure they are engaging in right-acting behavior.  What questions I was left with in this lesson (16) was the precise definition of sin from a theological level as Gregory saw it—are the seven deadly sins defined at this point, is sin reflective of something less tangible, how is it defined against its Hebraic origins? I also found this theosophical element a fascinating one in that, to some degree, it logically undermines the notion that one can interpret the unfolding of historical events from a revelatory and theologically preparatory way.  Pope Gregory appears to address this aspect by holding there are exceptions to the predestined versus freewill argument by suggesting there was an “elect” exempt from free will.  I would have liked greater clarification as to who reflected this.
All in all, I enjoyed the course and I appreciated Dr. Loy also attending to issues pertaining to women within the church, violence that emerged as the Church became a political authority, as well as defining the unique differences between East and West Christian structures and the source of this schism. 
Katherine MacDowell
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