The Universal Life Church Seminary Sermons blog has a collection of a variety of sermons or discourses shared with us by our ministers. Please post a sermon or make a comment about any sermons you see here. To see our complete selection of sermons, go to www.ulcseminary.org
We have posted a lot of sermons from our Universal Life Church ministers. Some are Christian and some are not. You are welcome to use them or just enjoy them as you like.
IntroductionFrom the beginning of recorded history, and I am certain long before that, mankind has held polytheistic and monotheistic beliefs. In one form or another either a pantheon of deities or a singular omniscient being has reigned supreme over man's intellect. Few people, past or present, have held the view that there is nothing greater than humankind even though numerous sects, cults and organized beliefs claim this view. It appears that having a completely secular view of no being superior to or greater than the human being has a tolerable level of acceptance in some people's minds, but as a whole, the vast majority of humanity does believe in some form of greater Being, largely by default.
Since the earliest Homo sapiens looked to the heavens we have attempted to describe, characterize and catalogue what the exact nature of such a Being would be. In over six thousand years of the written language there still does not exist any form of unquestionable proof of any such deity or superior, creator Being. The beliefs systems in place world wide that elude to such an existence are purely theoretical based solely on faith and transliterations of ancient texts (1). Even those who, by decree of their being prophets, seers or divine embodiments, claim that they only express what has been given their understanding by the invisible powers that are spiritual in make up. The consensus offered by these exceptional humans is that the Supreme is but the life force within as much as external to our physical being. Traditional religions (2) place not only the importance of faith in such a Being, but all authority over mankind. Regardless of what theology one may prescribe to each of these avenues of skillful description empower the unknown and unseen while making subservient the human host of a religious, faith based system of worship.
Insomuch as this is purely subjective to begin with, it is my belief that such systems of religious doctrine have been put in place not for the betterment of mankind by making known the unseen, rather to place authority in the hands of those who perceive themselves as being of higher character and greater morals and ethics than his or her fellow man. Spirituality, Spirit(s) and references to this life force herein are inclusively used to characterize the concept of any religious deity known as a "God".(3)1. The Bible, Koran, Torah, Vesiva, Eddas etc…any authoritative religious text of any belief 2. such as Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism etc…any recognized and organized religious belief system 3. such titles as God, The Source, The Collective Consciousness, The All Father, Allah, The Divine, The Omniscient, The Supreme Being, The Creator and of course many, many more Before we can actually study religion, we need to determine what it is meant by the word religion. This may not be as straight forward a task as one is likely to suspect. There are many religions which hold views that one might consider very non-religious in nature. That notwithstanding, these peculiar organized systems are, in fact, religions. So, how do we know something is a religion? The Latin word religio referred to an 'obligation or bond'. Most linguists believe that this was derived from the Latin verb religere, meaning to 'tie back'. Gradually, the meaning evolved until it came to mean "a tie between humans and the gods". After the legalization of Christianity in Rome during the early 4 th century, a shift occurred with regard to what was meant by 'the gods'. When the ancient Jovian religion (Roma religio) predominated in the Empire, it was clear that 'the gods' referred to the members of the Jovian pantheon: Jupiter, Mars, Mercury, et cetera. Later, as Christianity supplanted it, Deity came to generally be accepted as referencing the God of the Jews and Christians: Jehovah, or Yahweh. As a result, religere came to refer to a formal tie between devout Christians and their God. The people who exemplified this formal tie were the monks and nuns of the monastic communities. So, from the 5th century, for roughly a thousand years, religion referred solely to the monastic life. In other words, the only truly religious people in medieval Europe were those living in a monastery or nunnery, those who had devoted their entire lives to the church, those who had "tied themselves to God". Then, around the 16th century, the term began to take on a wider, broader meaning. It was during the 1500's CE that our modern meaning for religion finally came into use. Initially, this was the service, worship, devotion and faithfulness to God or "the gods" depending on one's belief. But, that was a Western view, one perhaps accepted within Christianity, Judaism and Islam, but not necessarily applicable to numerous other worship systems around the world. The contemporary meaning has been modified to refer to nearly any form of devotion or fidelity. The reason that this was not necessarily accepted by all of the worship systems around the world is that there are those which either do not believe in a god, or which maintain that a belief in god is peripheral or incidental to the real purpose and meaning of their belief system. Westerners often prefer to label these groups as 'ethical systems' rather than religions.Ethical Systems An ethical system is an organized system relating to moral action, motive or character. Since moral refers to the establishment of principles of right and wrong in behavior, a moral or ethical system would thus be a system organized for, and based on, principles of behavioral right and wrong. If this sounds very much like religion, you begin to see the difficulty that some people have in distinguishing between them. Actually, the reason for this is quite simple: there is only one difference between them to distinguish. Religion, in the narrower sense, requires a god on which to focus worship, devotion and service; one to whom we must remain faithful. Ethical systems have no such requirement, so long as their standards for right and wrong can be derived without relying on deific decree and adhered to. For those who consider the Ten Commandments a foundation on which all morality is based ' ten deific, godly commandments' the idea that one can derive moral direction without involving God seems ludicrous. But, not only are there ancient traditions which do so (e.g. Confucianism, Taoism, Jainism, Druidism, Odhinnism and Buddhism), there are modern examples as well. The perceived differences between religions and ethical systems are derived from defining religion in the 16th century form: "the service and worship of God or gods", while the fact that religion is generally accepted today as any 'system of devotion, fidelity or reverence' is simply ignored. In this there is no difference than assuming that the only people today who are truly religious are monastic orders. That meaning may have been prevalent at one point in time, but it has long since broadened to include a much wider swath of society. It is simply not acceptable to apply 500 or 1500 year old meanings to a word today. Consider the case of obscenities. The word bitch came into use about 1000 CE to mean a "female dog". It was commonly used, had no adverse connotations, and could be readily used in polite company.
By about 1400 CE, however, it had started to be used to refer to human females as an insult. By 1800, it was actually considered more offensive to call a woman a bitch than it was to call her a whore. To illustrate this, "bitch" is now a commonly used epithet in music, movies, radio and television. It is also not generally thought of as 'grossly offensive' by women today. In other words, both the meaning and the acceptability of the term bitch have changed dramatically over the past 1,000 years. It would be foolish to think today that we should restrict the meaning (and use) of the word to what it was either 500 or 1000 years ago. And yet, that is precisely what many people try to do with the term religion.
This becomes an issue when talking about groups which do not 'service and worship a god'. Groups that fall into this category include such people as Confucianists, Taoists, and Jains. The first two of these began as Chinese structures, and neither mentions Deity in their original forms. Both, however, saw later adherents graft discussions of Deity onto them. Today, there are clearly divisions of adherents which would be classified as a religion even with the 'God criterion'; however, they also retain large segments of their followers which simply never discuss Deity; and, this often gets them branded as ethical systems in contradistinction to being religions. Jainism is an avowedly agnostic religion, which means that it is also often classified as an ethical system by those who demand the presence of God before something can be declared as a religion.
Christian denominations which might fall into this religio-ethical trap include members of the Unitarian-Universalist Association as well as Christian Scientists. In the case of UU, the problem is that it is an inclusive structure which refuses to dictate a creedal position regarding God. So, some UU members might be "religious" while others are humanist or "ethical". The problem, for some, with Christian Science group is that God is defined in an impersonal form. It is a form that some more traditional Christian denominations do not consider to truly be God at all. In that case, it isn't enough to be God-centered, the description of God must also apparently comply with some unwritten set of criteria to qualify.Absurd? Absolutely. Offensive? Certainly it is to some. So, why bother to even mention it? Because when looking at religious philosophy we not only must agree on the method of analysis, but also on what is being analyzed (i.e. a religion versus an ethical system).
Although most people don't know what it is, there is actually a significant difference between a precept and a concept. And, in the field of religion, this difference can be critical. Consider the dictionary definition of each: concept n. [L. conceptus, fr. concipere to conceive] 1. A thought; an opinion.
2. Philos. An idea, as distinguished from a precept; also, a mental image of an action or thing. precept n. OF fr. L ;ceptum, fr. ;cipere to take beforehand, instruct, teach] 1. Any commandment, instruction, or order intended as a rule of action or conduct; esp., a practical rule guiding behavior, technique, etc. 2. Law An order, warrant, or writ issued pursuant to law, esp. to an administrative officer. These definitions make it relatively clear; but, just to be certain we have the difference firmly in mind, consider the following example. Each of the Ten Commandments is a precept. Each one is a "commandment, instruction, or order intended as a rule of action or conduct". According to the story in Exodus, 'Thou shalt not kill' isn't an idea that God had one day and would prefer all of us to think about (i.e. a concept) It is an injunction, an instruction whereby He has provided a "rule of action" ( i.e. a precept). If it is possible to give someone a clear idea about something that is foolish, nonsensical, and nonexistent, then one would assume that it must be a lot simpler to provide an image of something that was important, logical, and real. To adherents of a religion, God most certainly exists; He is supremely important; and, the rationality and reasonableness of a belief in God is to be accepted without question.
So, how does this make these two terms differ when referring to religion? A concept is a mental image of either an idea (e.g. God) or action (e.g. forgiveness). A precept is a rule of action (e.g. "thou shalt not steal") or conduct ( e.g. love thy neighbor as thyself). Precepts, however, turn out to be a lousy way to analyze religion. Either they only exist within a specific faith (e.g. atonement -Christianity), or they exist within virtually every faith (e.g. the Golden Rule is found in every world religion). In neither case do they offer grounds for comparison or understanding of religion.Fundamentals What are the fundamentals, or fundamental concepts, that religions tend to share? I consider the following to be a partial listing of the fundamentals of what it takes to be a religion. The examples are minimal, but should provide at least a basic understanding of the questions each raises with regard to one's definition of religion. Deity/Reality Most religions accept that there is some form of, for lack of a better term, "spiritual being", some Ultimate Reality. Where religions often differ with regard to this is in defining how many of them there are; whether they have gender, and if so which; and what are the attributes of Deity. Even those that generally avoid discussion of Deity are almost always concerned with determining the true nature of Ultimate Reality, whether it is completely spiritual or totally materialistic and physical or perhaps even both at times. Theophany: If some form of Deity is accepted, does that deity ever "come to earth" in physical form? Has it, does it, can it incarnate? Prayer: What does it mean to a group to pray? Is this a process by which the followers petition Deity to act in their behalf? Or, is it simply a means of aligning the individual with either Deity or Ultimate Reality? Soul: Do we have a "soul"? Is there "that of God" in every man? Is there a divine essence, a divine spark, an inner essence of spirituality? Do all humans have this? Do animals? Do insects? Do plants? Is this just another term for "life force", or is it something far more spiritual and ethereal? Worship: What does it mean to "worship"? Does it make sense to worship an impersonal deity? Does Deity/Reality respond to human worship? Sacrifice: Virtually all religions embrace some form of sacrifice as a means of acknowledging the supremacy of Deity/Reality. What forms can this take? What do humans "get out of it"? Salvation: Not every religion has the concept of salvation. Salvation is predominantly a Christian belief coming through the belief that Jesus the Christ died for our sins and only through him might we be "saved". If there is no sense of impending doom, why must one be saved? How does this impel the other beliefs and practices of these groups? Mysticism: When is a religion being "mystical"? What does that mean? Is mystical knowledge somehow automatically either superior or inferior to conventional physical knowledge? Death: What happens after death? This is a key feature in studying religion. There are several possible answers: nothing, resurrection, reward, punishment, corrective penalty, reincarnation. Typically, the views a religion holds regarding death are indicative of a whole host of other beliefs and practices. Dualism/Monism: Dualism is the basic belief that reality can be seen as existing along a continuum with two opposing poles: good & evil, right & wrong, yin & yang, et cetera. Monism, by contrast, is the belief that all reality is composed of a single essence. This may be material, spiritual, or some third essence underlying both physical and spiritual existence. The impact that this belief has on one's religious practice is immense. Orthodoxy: Composed from two Greek roots, orthodoxy simply means to hold "correct thoughts". Most analysts seem to identify the orthodox position by a democratic process; in other words, it is often accepted by outside observers that the ideas held by the largest number are the "orthodox". Obviously, those within a religion, who may hold to different ideas, don't necessarily agree and find themselves in a conundrum of remaining within a sect, order or belief system or leaving to form their own. Orthopraxy: Similar to orthodoxy, orthopraxy (or orthopraxis) comes from the Greek roots meaning "correct practices". We can think of orthodoxy as "what they preach", and orthopraxy as "what they practice". Pantheism: Pantheism is another composite word that, literally, means all (pan) is God (theos). Although there have been pantheistic religions for thousands of years, it was the rise of neo-paganism in the 20th century that brought this back into academic discussion. Universality: Where most religions espouse and practice a degree of universality, there are clearly some that focus on an ethno-centrality. This means that most religions believe they are the answer for everyone. To that end, these groups often attempt to convert others to their way. By contrast, some religions accept that there is a strong cultural component to their religion, and that their religion is not the answer for people who do not share those cultural distinctions. Most of these groups would permit others to join with them, but they find it largely foolish, and therefore usually make no attempt to convert others. Uniqueness: Across the religious landscape, there are a number of religions that hold to unique (or rare) beliefs or practices. These are sufficiently rare to make it nonsensical to make them into a 'category' of beliefs to be analyzed; but, they may have significant importance to the group that holds them. Truth: What is it? Who has it? Is it exclusive? All religions claim that they have access to "the truth"; most believe that they are the only ones who do; a very few acknowledge that truth is a personal and cultural phenomenon, and that there can be many paths to Truth.Defining Aspects of ReligionSpiritualismA definition of Spiritualism Spiritualism is based on the conception in the mid 19th century of Spiritualist mediums having abilities in connecting the physical and ethereal worlds. A contemporary view of this belief includes the association with the ethers or Spirit Realm with our three dimensional physical world. It also revolves around the faith observers of this form of intellectual perception have in "God" being a collective conscious and touchable by meditation and concentrated thought. It is defined by some as a "religion" however it is far more than that. There is no specific dogma, doctrine or creed beyond the Spiritualist's motto of "Do what is right." Right in the eyes of "God" first and man second. Spiritualism holds strong to the belief that our Spirit or Soul continues after physical death of the vessel (body) that it inhabits during its time here in the physical planes of life on Earth. It is through discussion on this topic that most followers of Spiritualism beliefs are formed and used throughout their lives while interacting with other 'travelers' of the physical dimension. The spiritualist affirms that man's spirit survives death and enters a spirit or ethereal plane of existence which surrounds and interpenetrates our material life. This statement can be demonstrated under certain conditions when communication can and does take place between the spirit world and the earth plane. This communication is possible through people who have what are known as mediumistic abilities or "Gifts". Spiritualists, for the most part, tend to stress that the right conditions must prevail for communication to take place and that there is a spirit willing to communicate to the physical plane. Communication will take place if spirits are at ease and the medium agrees to channel for the communication. A misconception about Spiritualists is that they "call up the dead", this is not accurate at all, it is more accurate to say it's the reverse.
A great deal of evidence has shown throughout history that the spirit energies call to us, we do not call on them. There has also been found a number of "Higher Spirit Beings" that seem to have an intended and enlightened message for the physical beings. These 'messages' usually revolve around topics such as our purpose and destiny and what this higher consciousness sees as a benefit to our humble lives here in the physical world. The modern Spiritualist movement began around1848 when sensational happenings in America led to the beliefs in such things ethereal and eventually spread across Europe and around the globe. The largest Spiritualist Organization found today is the Spiritualists' National Union based in the UK, as it is recognized by H. M. Government, being the legally established religious body for Spiritualism. It has an extensive philosophy based on the Seven Principles that expressly set forth ethics for Spiritualists to follow in their beliefs and everyday manner of living.The Seven Principles of Spiritualism (4)(4) Provided by the resource www.pathwaytospirit.co.uk
1.The Fatherhood of God By the study of Nature - that is, by trying to understand the Laws of Cause & Effect which govern all that is happening around us - we recognize that there is a creative force in the universe. This force, or energy, not only created the whole universe, but also life itself in its many forms and is continuing to create today. The effects of this eternal creation can be seen around us and this leads us to the evidence that 'God' - 'The Creative Force' - manifests directly, or indirectly, in all things. We know this power as God and as we are part of the Life created by God, we acknowledge God as our Father.
2.The Brotherhood of Man Because we all come from the same universal life source we are, in effect, one large family, small individual offshoot from the whole. This means that all mankind is part of a brotherhood. A brotherhood is a community for mutual support and comfort. We are all members of the same divine family. We need to share our joys as well as our burdens; we need to understand the needs of other individuals in order to assist them as part of our service to each other. As we learn to give so must we also learn to receive thereby achieving the necessary balance for our life. We must look not only to the material necessities of our fellow creatures but also to their spiritual needs and help those in need to become strong and worthy of their relationship in the Family of God.
3.Communion of Spirits and the Ministry of Angels All religions believe in life after death but only Spiritualism shows that it is true by demonstrating that communication with departed spirits can and does take place. Spiritualist Churches provide one of the venues where communication, through medium-ship, is possible and many loved relatives and friends take advantage of this opportunity to continue to take an interest in our welfare. There are also spirit people/teachers who are dedicated to the welfare and service of mankind. Some bring inspiration and teachings whilst others work within the healing ministry.
4.Continuous Existence of the Human Soul It is scientifically proven that matter cannot be destroyed; it merely changes its form. Spirit, as part of the Creative Force is, therefore, indestructible. On the death of the physical body, the spirit continues as an integral part of a world, which interpenetrates our world but in a different dimension. This world is referred to as the Spirit World. In spirit life we have a spirit body, which until we progress far enough, is a replica of our earthly body. We are the same individuals in every way with the same personalities and characteristics and we change only by progression, or otherwise, as a result of our own efforts. Our personal responsibilities do not stop at death.
5.Personal ResponsibilityThis principle is the one which places responsibility for wrongful thoughts and deeds where it belongs - with the individual. It is the acceptance of responsibility for every aspect of our lives and the use to which we place our lives depends entirely upon ourselves. It is not possible for any other person, or outside influence, to interfere with our spiritual development, unless we are willing to allow this. No one can put right the wrongdoing except the offender. As we are given freedom of choice (freewill) so also are we given the ability to recognize what is right from what is wrong. We are totally, as well as personally, responsible.
6.Compensation and Retribution hereafter for all Good and Evil Deeds done on Earth.As with all the other Principles, the natural laws apply and this one echoes the law of Cause and Effect (e.g.: as you sow, so shall you reap). One cannot be cruel and vindictive towards others and expect love and popularity in return. It must be understood that the compensatory or retributive effects of this law operate now -on earth - they do not wait until we begin to live in the Spirit World.
7.Eternal Progress open to every Human SoulIn every heart there exists the desire for progress and to every human spirit belongs the power to progress in wisdom and love.
All who desire to tread the path that leads to perfection are able to pursue it. The rate of progress is directly proportional to the desire for mental and spiritual understanding. If we do our best in earth life to follow our inward prompting or intuitions; we shall find progress very easy, on earth as in spirit; if not, every step in advancement will follow a struggle against imperfections, which we ourselves will have worked into our natures. Within the Family of God, with all the advantages that our realization of that state can give us, we are all given the opportunity to be responsible for our own eternal progress. Influenced by these Principles as well as its scientific and philosophical ramifications, for many people Spiritualism has become more than just a religion; it has become a Way of Life. What is also a misnomer among those outside of these teachings is that followers of Spiritualism do not believe in God. This is far from the truth as it is the first principle in the belief system. Most Spiritualist have a firm belief in a Higher Being, a Creator, The Source, The Collective Conscious and myriad of other 'labels' or names. Spiritualism does not try and confine and define "God" as being anyone thing or being. Instead they acknowledge that there is a Divine Source that manifests itself to individuals in many different forms so that collectively we can identify this source within our Self. What may make sense to one person may not make much sense to another so the message changes even though the end result is a unified understanding.
For instance, we could say "God is: Love, compassion, understanding, devotion, Self expansion, caring, graciousness, ethereal, spirit, higher power, creator, source, never ending" and so forth. No one description gives a full and complete understanding of God's love for us, yet collectively encompasses the many and diverse aspects of a Supreme Being. I am enthusiastic about my Spiritualism Beliefs. Spiritualism in our contemporary view incorporates the principles and theories of the medium-ship abilities of the Spiritualist with those of a more contemporary view of religious believer. To have the belief that "God" bestowed these abilities or gifts upon us to use in our quest for a better understanding of ourselves and our eternal spirit expresses no conflict in my faith. I feel this is what resonates the best with my inner core being, my Spirit. By removing dogma and doctrine from this basic principle of the Cosmos we find that labels, titles and names are far less important than the message of "Doing what is right". When we fill our lives with striving to be the best we can be by being 'love, compassion, understanding, devotion, Self expansion, caring, graciousness, ethereal and of the Spirit, we set an example to emulate for those not so grounded. After all, every prophet or messenger of God's will has described this basic premise of God being "within". That we are in essence a part of God and God is a part of us, puts a whole new angle on things. It is through this very statement that we should all strive to be a representative of God's Will and allow that energy to flow through us from the ethers to mankind. Nine Noble Virtues Odhinnist Charge
Asatrû Folk Assembly Courage
Courage is better than cowardice Truth Realism is better than dogmatism Honor Honor is better than dishonor Fidelity Kinship is better than alienation Discipline Strength is better than weakness Hospitality Joy is better than guilt Self Reliance Freedom is better than slavery Industriousness Vigor is better than lifelessness Perseverance Ancestry is better than universalism The Old Nordic way was one of personal responsibility and inner strength. By living up to The Code of the Nine Noble Virtues, one was expected to have a full and meaningful life. One of the most beneficial virtues was that of Self Reliance. This meant to the ancients that one had a full and complete understanding of the other eight virtues and practiced this belief system in everyday life. To be individually strong of character assured the benefit of the clan, family and community. One of the most misunderstood aspects of the Nordic clansman was the incorrect view that they worshipped a pantheon of gods. They did in fact have a large number, some 100-150 "gods" that they recognized, however emulation, not worship of the aspects of each 'god' was their inspiration. In all actuality they held strong to the belief that worshipping any deity was belittling to their inner strength and character. Insomuch as Odhinn (Odin, Othin, Odinn, Oddin a.k.a "All Father) is the highest ranking god in Asgaard (heaven) who sits in Gildesheimer, the Golden House, he himself is not the ultimate "god" of the ancient Norsemen. The following is a brief view of Nordic story of creation, which in contrast, is greatly familiar to most "Christians".Odhinn, the All Father, brother to Vili and Ve, father to Thor, born of Buri and Ivesta, took up his cause in his youth. There was no order to the cosmos and Earth had yet to be formed. Aldunna, the Mystic Cow had brought forth all manner of things from her mouth, yet there was no one to make things usable for mankind.During this creation, it was said that there must be division between the spirit world and the physical world, just as there is separation between night and day. Therefore it was commanded and the physical world became day and the Spirit world became night. But there were so many spirits in the ethers that darkness prevailed so that Sunni (sun) could not shine bright enough to balance things. It was Odhinn who took on the task of bringing balance and harmony to the ethers.He asked the Creator to make available to him all manner of spirits from all corners of the Multiverse (the nine universes) so that he could achieve his goal. A small speck of dust (Earth), near to Sunni seemed the right place to collect his bounty, so it was there he placed each spirit as he caught it. He called this place Midgaard, the world between worlds. The spirits could not leave this place as the light prevented them from finding the ethereal darkness.After a long period of searching the ethers and collecting all forms of spirits, Odhinn once again called on the Creator. In communing with Creator it was determined that balance and harmony were in the true heart of Odhinn, so Creator granted him his second wish, that all spirits be given form. It was done. From the Earth sprang every form of living thing. Feathered and scaled creatures, those creatures with smooth skin and those with fur all manifested into physical form.Odhinn noticed that Sunni had began to brighten, yet darkness still held the majority of the sky. Only when facing her directly did Light prevail. Odhinn thought on this awhile and once again sought counsel with the Creator. It seemed to him that as long as things remained the way they were, there could be no balance between light and dark so he petitioned to the Creator."Oh Great Creator, who brought forth Aldunna which brought forth life, you keep the spirit of all within you so that nothing may change. If one is a spiritual thing then darkness is of no consequence, however, if one is a physical thing light gives hope and blesses the icy coldness with warmth. Shall I always, forever and forever, be held in the clutches of the cold? Or should all spirits know the joys of warmth to make their cold eternity worthwhile?Therefore I propose as All Father to allow each spirit to know warmth and each manifest creature to know coldness and dark. I shall return the manifest creatures to their origins when their time has been allotted, however while in the Light, they shall know comfort and multiply."Thus it was for all living creatures that they should have the privilege of knowing both the manifest and spirit world of the ethers from whence they came. The Creator saw this as good and called upon all things to adhere to Odhinn's command. Since man was the closest resemblance to the gods, in mind and spirit, he would be given authority over all things. Thus the cycles of life and death began. It was therefore commanded by the Creator that all living things should know the comfort of Light and the Blissful Peace of darkness.And when things came into being and manifest upon the Earth, they should live kind with kind and give of each other readily in order to bring balance to night and day. As there were then creatures of the day there was also brought into being creatures of the night. As Odhinn would hunt the manifest creatures for meat to fill his belly and furs to clothe his cold skin, the cycle began. So many creatures now existed that the Creator saw need for help for his manifest presence on Earth. Odhinn was blessed with two brothers, Vili and Ve and in turn blessed each of them with many wives to fill there houses.It is from this lineage that the Keepers of Balance came into being and from whom we were taught to respect the cycle of life and death and allow it act freely in the best interest of the Multiverse. Odhinn commanded that on Midgaard, no living creature should be taken before it's time, therefore hunt only those of age or inflicted with wounds. Be thankful and give praise for each life returned to the Source of All Life.Since those early days of life in the ethers came the cycle of one physical death gives way to one spiritual manifestation, and for every spiritual return gives one physical birth. And thus it has been so since near the beginning and how we have obtained balance between then Light and Dark. From good comes evil and from evil comes good. It is the purest form of Isa, the great cosmic contraction and expansion, that all things are manifest whether spiritual or physical manifestations. As well, the ancient form of divination with the runestaves was knowledge handed down to us from Odhinn to mankind by his "hanging on tree nights nine and he fell back to the ground roaring with the knowledge of the runes". This gives us the picture of an inherent "knowing" of things ethereal rather than a learned or instructed education in such things. As a person well versed in the runestaves and the use of these instruments of divination it is much the same as a true medium or psychic. There is an inner strength, an inner working of one's Spirit that allows us to read the staves 'correctly' and give Spiritual knowledge to those that seek it with a genuine heart. The ancients of the Viking era were a prime example of theosophy in orthopraxy in that they practiced their Spiritual knowledge in a very real and manifest physical form. This was the true embodiment of esoteric emulation versus the exoteric venue of worship.
Image of God
Our images of God are an attempt to decipher the Being we have intellectualized and manifested as God. For instance in the clockmaker model, we think of ourselves as the product of creation, evolved here to harvest the world's resources and to exploit and dominate the planet. In the spirit model, the function of every being is to participate as co-creator in our collective consciousness. Seeing ourselves in those terms, we tend to view our responsibility to the larger whole, whereas if we think of ourselves as the end product, then we have no particular investment to try to make this a better world for all. The humanistic image of God merely sets up a competition between "my" Belief and "your" Belief, which is the basis of all religious confrontations and violent exchanges. However, if one thinks of creation as the manifestation of a unified spiritual intelligence, the interwoven nature of all beings comes to the forefront of thought. Therefore a perception of competing gods evaporates. We then are able to see the face of God in every human being and every other living thing upon the Earth. Michael Angelo painted one of the few pictorial representations of God creating Adam on the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Other than this historical reference very few likenesses have been produced mostly because God is granted a supremacy role of which we humans are to tread upon very lightly. In this thinking God is far too holy to be depicted by the hand of mere man. This creates yet another authority over our lives that is mandated by a religious hierarchy. (I would have liked to have been present at the meeting of the Pope and God when this edict was handed down.) Since we have no depiction of any of the myriad of "gods", beyond that of the imagination or vision of the artist, we must assume the following:A. "Gods" do not photograph or pose for paintings B. No one has ever actually seen a god, including Moses when given the Ten Commandments(5) C. No god exists D. God(s) are a concept of intelligent philosophy(5) Biblical referenceI tend to believe in choice "D.". We have conceptualized the face of God in order to lend graphic credibility to his presence and to expand upon the philosophy. I am certain that among the earnest and devout followers of any of world's religions, sometime, somewhere the Supreme would have made a physical manifestation of some form in order to end the suffrage of blind faith. To my mind it is inconceivable that any benevolent god of love would allow the hundreds of wars and billions of deaths that have resulted over the question of his existence by merely being a bit 'camera shy' or too busy to show himself. Actually a couple of things come to mind on this premise. There are numerous mentions in religious texts of "God" communicating with mankind in the form of a trumpeting voice or booming verbalization. We are also instructed in the Old Testament:
Gen 1:26 And God said, Let us make man(kind) in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. Gen 1:27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
This tends to give the "image" that "God" is at minimum a dyad if not a triune because of the reference "Let us make…" and "…in his own image". If we are to take as evidence that Genesis is actually the word of God given unto Moses then we must accept the precept that God deliberately made reference to his multifaceted Being. The Holy Roman Catholic Church uses the terminology of 'God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit' in its blessing and signing by priests of the Order. In contrast to this, Heathen, Pagan and Naturalists beliefs use "God the Father, God the Mother and God the Son". Even further to the left there are those of paganistic beliefs that use "Mother Earth, Father Sky and Spiritual Son" in their trinity and yet others that conform to "Father Spirit, Mother Manifest and Son Ourselves". This translates to the Father being the ethereal Spirit within, the Mother being the earth and all that is 'alive' upon it and the Son being mankind and its capacity to show emotion, speculate and conceive of ideas beyond what is manifest before us and real. (I feel it necessary to also discern here that the definition of "Heathen" simply refers to those who, in ancient days, worshipped a naturalized world amongst the heath rows, or rows of the heather plant commonly used as land partitions from about 600 BCE to 1900 CE. "Pagan" is an Old English word that simply referred to those that lived in the hills or pages and goes back to around the first century.) Since we do not have a clear understanding if "God" actually dictated the words to Moses to write down in Genesis nor do we have a clear interpretation of the dyad, triad or greater division of the omniscient Being, we again have a situation of mere faith and belief concerning our understanding of the exact nature of The Almighty Creator Spirit. What we can clearly understand from Scriptural reference is "God's" absolute intention to have us figure this out for ourselves through our physical interpretation of the ethereal plane of existence. Physical beings or matter can not occupy the same space at the same time without a great deal of turmoil in the surrounding area. In simplistic terms, this is why we get a nuclear explosion by forcing two elements to occupy the same space. So since Earth is not like the Sun, in that it is not a continuous hydrogen explosion, "God" in the multiple or singular, must have meant that image of himself was to be Spiritual in reference, not physical. It seems to me that attempting to depict Spiritual Energy is much like trying to paint a picture of electricity. We can portray lighting, sparks and the trailing effects of electricity, but not the actual series of electron flow. So much like an artist paints a picture of a bent tree or flailing piece of fabric to represent wind, we would have to come up with a similar method of depicting "God". In other words, the effects of "God", not the Being itself. And of course this is done on a regular basis by the spectacular sunrise, perfect flower or beautiful animal with a scripture attached that lends the reader to imagine the awesomeness and wonder we have labeled "God".
The Purpose of Religious Belief
Regardless of which particular path one may follow, their belief is mostly a conscript of their raising and upbringing; Christian begets Christian, Muslim begets Muslim, Jew begets Jew and so forth. This is of greater importance to the church, temple or synagogue than to the individual by all means and is why the first five years of a person's life is so important as to what influences a child during those years. Even if in adult life one happens to stray from their parent's views and doctrines there remains that tingling little question at the back of the mind "what IF they were right?" No matter how devout we may become to a different belief than our parents and their peers in our adult years, that one, seemingly inconsequential question burns at the very base of our latter found belief. However, many of us have found that when we truly open our hearts, minds and eyes, we see something that seems to be overlooked by our predecessors. All religious beliefs are so very similar when we take away the mask of illusionary uniqueness. Whether religious doctrine or secular enlightenment permeates our thinking it boils down to a set of moralistic and ethical behaviors we are subjected to, and expected to follow, in order to be accepted by our fellow human beings. So whether it is the Nine Noble Virtues or the Ten Commandments in which we place our belief, the source of those beliefs is instructing us in basically the same manner. As a member of the human race and supposedly being the highest form of intelligence on this planet, I find it hilarious that we need to be taught these things when the majority of other species we share space with do it with what we have labeled "instinct". But then we, as humans, have this one little aspect of Self that fails the animal kingdom, we have the abilities of dreaming of things beyond instinct and to speculate and conceptualize. However, these "abilities" come with a great responsibility, to do that which is right and for the best of all. For most people this is where their sense of right falls into the category of what they have learned through religious teachings. In order to be accepted by others we must follow a certain guideline of moral and ethical behavior. We are taught our responsibilities and the consequences of choice. If we follow our religious foundations (moralistic) we are included or accepted by the rest of humanity (ethic). It is purely the need for mankind's ego to be stroked that the authority of religious tradition and doctrine be given precedence over secular law. "Do only that which is right" in itself has no religious connotation to it. Addressing what was said above about our morals and ethics versus animal instincts, philosophically there tends to be a gray area. Our instincts dictate to us that if we treat others as we wish to be treated, for the most part, that is what happens to us. If we act in wanton disregard for the life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for others, that is more than likely what will become of our short life. So in essence we could surmise that religion serves a purpose in lengthening our physical life as much as offering us hope of yet another life to come in the ethereal planes of existence. However, should we choose to be in touch with our instinctual self preservation guidelines through secular means, we will have reached the same intellectual goal. It seems to me that man has redefined what we are taught through "God's" Word by requiring worship, through public demonstration of prostrate obedience to an invisible, ethereal Being. Emulation of the qualities, ethics and morals already embedded in our instinctual sense of self preservation appears to have a higher vibration closer to that of The Source. If we are made in His image, it is a Spiritual image, not a physical one. As well, if "they" decided to create us to dominate the Earth, They did so with full knowledge and intent of our using our instincts and Spiritual Gifts. Instincts are embedded, doctrines are learned, which do you feel is of a Higher Power or Supreme Source?
Theosophies vs. Theologies
By title this is basically the difference of religious speculations dealing with the apprehension of God versus a study of religious truths concerning the nature of God; Emulation vs. Worship. We certainly could not have one without the other unless we were not meant to use our brains for every purpose of understanding and defining our world around us. I may be crossing a line here, but I firmly believe this is one of the fundamental differences between the two: Theology is provided for us by the great Prophets and religious teachers since the dawn of modern civilization, Theosophy is experienced and thus self taught through varied means and occurrences of situations presented to the individual. The sheep mentality of follow the leader or fox mentality of being an independent, self sufficient spirit. The only "right" or "wrong" that should be differentiated here is what fits the individual best. Some of us simply can not survive in a world where everything is handed to us and there is only "one" correct way of living. Some people fold their socks while others prefer to stuff them, some do a little of both. There is nothing more important, or shouldn't be anyway, than our Spirit, Soul, God Within; that tricky and elusive little thing we label the "spark of life", to any individual. How we choose to treat that spark should be completely up to the owner of their personal little spark insomuch as it does no harm or ill will towards others. Centuries ago I would have been called before the Inquisitor and almost certainly been hideously murdered for such a belief. I'm also certain that there are far more Inquisitors in Hell than average folks. While there has never been any direct evidence of a Supreme Being, beyond that of visions, this is where I believe it only healthy and being right minded to express theosophy rather than theology. Theosophy questions and intends to answer mankind's individual needs while theology declares itself the true nature of God and authority over the individual while having absolutely no grounds for doing so. I'm sure my "vision" of being Supreme Dictator of the World would end rather badly should I try and enforce my true nature. We would not have been created with our intellect, instinct and creativity were we to simply be a sheep of the masses. By the very nature of our creation, in being given these qualities, it seems to me by default we were meant to question and become Self sufficient. When we surrender our Self to that of dogma and doctrine we fail to grow, expand and add to the Collective Conscious in any form or manner. This to me would be like insisting that we manage our contemporary lives by using the official dictionary in use at the time of the Magna Carte. When we usurp our very intellect by failing to expand our understanding of the Universe, the world and our Self, we box ourselves into a stagnation effect that was never intended for us by the Almighty. In today's world we paint a very different picture than that of the Apostle's when we hear "look within". Theologian or secularist can see, now, that this means looking at the true nature of that by which we were created. A Source Energy that is meant to be emulated not worshipped and that we are an omniscient Being in the physical form.
Our purpose then is to learn, grow and bring intelligent thought back to the Collective Conscious from which we originated. How then do we do this? We do this through a very simple concept. It is called Hope. Hope is the greatest attribute to religious belief and faith. It is hope that tends to keep us all, for the most part, obligated to lead a good and moralistic life. Without hope we would have nothing for which to strive to keep us responsible to Self above all things and to each other as a rule. It is therefore Hope that is the goal of all theological, theosophical and theoretical thinking concerning our disposition, as human, in context to the universe and all living things within it. In summary Hope becomes the purpose of religious belief. We fulfill this purpose by following a family tradition or a path we discover through our individual desire to adhere to a doctrine that best fits with our own thinking.
Regardless of an individual's means or reasoning for taking on a belief system it is merely a method through which the person expresses their own vision of Hope. Thusly, anyone who then demands adherence to only one vision is completely blind to the concept and purpose of faith and belief in the first place. Closing RemarksThe statement was made that the impact of being monistic is immense. This is the belief that "All is One". If a faith is monistic, what might it mean if that "One" is God? Is there any such thing as evil? Is there matter? Do you exist? If you do, what is your true essence? What about the apparently physical world in which we find ourselves? Is it real? Is it separate from the "One" or is it all encompassing?Orthopraxy is the practice of expressing orthodox views, in other words putting faith into actual works and action. Is this a necessary function? Is there a point at which orthopraxy is merely a condition of attempting to prove one's faith in their belief to themselves?I believe this to be one of the fundamental differences, and one closest to my own belief, of Universal Life Ministries. That we may speak orthopraxy, or not, and still be able to communicate Spiritually amonst each other. Regardless of our personal views and beliefs, we have faith in a common goal of "Doing That Which is Right", not doing that which is "Orthodox", dogma or doctrine.
Submitted by:Rev. D. A. "Reverend Al" Kjono Church of Universal Humanism Atwater, CAUniversal Life Seminary ID# 12600
Reference also previously published articles:Living the Humanist View, Rev. D. A. Kjono, 11/08Emulation or Worship?, Rev. D. A. Kjono, 07/08Monotheism in a Spiritualist Age, Rev. D. A. Kjono, 10/07Cultural Views on Paganism, D. A. Kjono, 04/07The Gods and Their Runes, D. A. "Felbain" Kjono, 03/99An Introduction to the Runestaves, D. A. "Felbain" Kjono, 07/98Nordic Beliefs, Contemporary Religions, D. A. "Felbain" Kjono, 06/97 Blessings of Peace, Light and Prosperity, Rev.