Spirituality Course

This blog is about the various courses on Spirituality offered through the ULC Seminary. The students offer responses to their various lessons and essays upon completion of the courses.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

David Hume concept is interesting so offering we don't use spirituality in its purest form of thought maybe ministers have little time to do this and we spend so much time at the coal face we are apt to think of philosophy as a separate ideal yet with Hume and the other philosophical teachers. We have concepts to guide us forward I have not commented before on the lessons kindly sent asvi actually wanted to. Read around the subject before replying philosophy by its very nature. Possibly is not an exact science and therefore. From the humanist point of view relies not on the existence of a supreme being but on our training from childhood to use. Logic in so many ways we loose our childlike Faith at about 9 or 10 due in part to our education system in the uk I appreciate in certain states in America they do not accept the concept of the death of God philosophy as readily S we do here I would like to just say that a lot folks here readily accept spiritualism or the new age belief its not the fact they are not spiritual they are but not in the traditional sense e.g. Anglican Methodists etc but. Their concept of Faith is based on spiritualism and its. Seven principles, which are open minded spirituality that is the concept of logical spirituality based on the ones in the spiritual dimension called higer side of life along with scientific explanation via aura camera's etc. That is scientific approach to scientific applied spirituality and a living philosophy of life

Monday, June 6, 2016

The opening paper

Thank you for your opening notes I was surprised to receive them so soon after registration and payment I must right from the start say I have served GOD. From the age of 19 not always at full power but like an earthly father well some anyway he has loved me through 2 divorces and I am hanging in their what I like about the notes I have received is. The fact that at all times we are servants of God not. Out their in the world to treat people with disrespect just because their belief system is different to our concept of Faith or if you take the scientific approach a completely different view of the world as those with a humanist approach I can accept both points of view for example my mom as you Americans call your mum she was a woman of Faith but I have always known she thought parts of the. New testament were questionable that is why when I conducted her funeral I chose psalm 121 and dis a secular committal because I was not prepared to do mums service to please and comfort others as it happened apart from my partner BERYL and a friend from a spiritualist church 2others were we're not Christians as defined by. Faith one was a wiccan the other was a lapsed Catholic the other was an old school chum of mine ,, now the point I am making is. Whatever the view of this present it showed a love that went beyond personnel faith to what we. Call agape part of what we are to show to all thank you Amie GOD BLESS YOU X

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Final Lesson Master of Spirituality - lesson 19

Final Lesson Master of Spirituality - lesson 19
Having reached the end of the Master of Spirituality course I am happy to offer my assessment of its construction, arguments and content. I will lay out my views in no particular order.

I enjoyed this study very much and looked forward each week to receiving a –fresh lesson. As the course progressed a succession of philosophers were discussed with reference to their teachings some of which were quite challenging. However, the writer had a flair for breaking down complex issues using vivid illustrations to aid learning. That was very good. The stated object of this course is to help ministers convey their faith to scientifically minded people; and it achieved that end magnificently in my view.

I have been in Christian ministry in England for over twenty five years and during that time I've studied a great deal of theology and related topics. Prior to that, and many years ago, I studied to "A" and "O" level passing various public exams from Economic and Social History to Religious Studies. One course I did was in "Classical Civilisation" which included a study of ancient Greek culture and philosophy. So, it was wonderful to get my old books out again and revisit: Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Thales and Anaximander etc. The first time I studied them I learnt a great deal and this course helped to build on that by digging a bit deeper. That was very rewarding and I enjoyed it a great deal. Throughout this course I bought additional books to broaden what I learnt and to help me write the essays I submitted.

As a Christian some of the teaching in this course challenged me deeply and at times made me feel distinctly uncomfortable. I was taken out of my comfort zone which made me defensive of my beliefs. However, I gradually came to see this as a positive thing. Having preached the Bible for over twenty five years during which time I've been totally immersed in my faith I've rarely been exposed to alternative (atheistic) points of view. So, again although challenging it has made me stronger, wiser and more able to deal with similar arguments when I meet them. In that sense the course has achieved the purpose it was designed for. I also liked the fact that I could write freely in response to the lesson notes without feeling hemmed in or restricted in what I could say. That was truly liberating and enabled me to be creative in my responding.

But there were down sides too. If I were to undertake an MA in England a supervisor would be appointed; between us we would have to agree a title for a dissertation; I would have to submit work from time to time for marking and the whole thing would take around two years. This course on the other hand seems to require little from anyone which seems odd to say the least. As far as I can see I could have completed this course without doing anything at all not even reading the weekly lessons. That cannot be right. A course needs to set "outcomes" and then have some means of assessing whether those outcomes have been met. How could the ULC know with any degree of certainty if these outcomes have been achieved if there is no means of assessing a student's work? Won't this make the qualification worthless? It would certainly be laughed out of court in England – and that's discouraging as it won't build confidence. To counter this I made up my mind to write an essay for every lesson received as a way of stretching me and getting me engaged academically. And because of this I feel I have justly earned this qualification through the work I put in. I guess the ULC's philosophy is to present various ideas and then leave the interpretation up to the student. That maybe commendable but it will not promote consistency across the board.

I was also surprised at some of the views expressed by the writer - some of which I felt were bazaar and occasionally offensive. For example presenting the God of the Old Testament as a child throwing its toys out of the pram was, in my view, offensive particularly as it has no basis in historical fact; and when "Star Trek" made several appearances during the course this, in my view, was bazaar. I found these things challenging and, to a degree, threatening but I stuck with it for reasons already stated above.

Finally, I would recommend this course for various reasons. Firstly, it encourages one to think carefully about what one thinks one knows. Do we know anything at all? For Christians the ideas expressed by ancient Greek philosophers will help to illuminate what they read in the New Testament e.g. where Paul speaks in his letters of opposites: "when I am weak then I am strong" etc. Also, living in a scientific age this course presents a convincing argument of science as a "faith" every bit as unprovable as any other philosophy. The prospective minister will learn from this course how to enquire of the scientifically minded person how s/he "knows" what s/he knows as Socrates did of old - not to win an argument or to come across as superior, but to challenge people and so get them thinking about what they think they know about life; death and beyond. Well done!

Rog

7th May 2016

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Spiritualism - Lesson #18

Spiritualism - Lesson #18

This lesson gave a challenging assessment of the personal qualities needed for ministry. We are human-beings with human-limitations but there can be no room for pride or self-serving in ministry as if we possess all the answers; our motivation should be to serve others in humility gaining rapport through listening and empathy. But as the writer of the course makes clear we have no means of knowing what motivates someone into ministry, charity-work or any other profession if it comes to that. As one charity worker once said about volunteers working for their organisation: "volunteers need us as much as we need them." People are driven by powerful unseen forces e.g. guilt, insecurity, inferiority, superiority, regret and loss etc. I repeat what I said above that we are human; consequently we all wear masks.
During this course it soon became apparent that much of the material presented was subjective rather than objective in tone so it was informative to read that the writer had intended this. Since time began everyone who has ever lived has had an opinion which they've either keep to themselves or sought to force on others. Because of that it's a wonder that agreement about anything has ever been obtained. Emanating from the subconscious self-interest is a powerful motivator craftily manifesting itself as concern for others. It's part of the human-condition which we would do well to be mindful of. While a person's thoughts cannot be known one only has to look on social media to see the kind of destructive, critical comments people hurl at others from the anonymity of a computer. And it's noteworthy that when those who make such comments are traced by the authorities they're often embarrassed or remorseful at the distress they've caused. With that sobering thought ringing in the ears anyone responding to a "call" to ministry should not be surprised to find themselves in the cross-hairs of critics who "think they know better" and get great delight from kicking the legs out from under us. That may be so hard to bear it may well precipitate a collapse into the darkness of despair. It is not unknown that when a person shows compassion to another they are accused of being "holier than thou" by people hiding from something deep within themselves. Again, we are all human on a journey trying to make sense of life's mystery – and we all come to that journey from different directions.
I have both the Republic and the Crito which have so much to teach about human-nature, people and their problems. And it's interesting that during the final hours of his life Socrates, surrounded by his friends all urging him not to drink the poison, was composed and serene within himself – casually drinking the poison before laying down to die. As a man who confessed to knowing nothing Socrates calmly told his friends that if there was another life beyond death that was fine; likewise if death was nothing but a long sleep that was fine too. To have arrived at that point of contentment within himself with neither regret nor remorse and without heaping blame on the authorities for sentencing him to death Socrates showed great fortitude, courage and a quiet contentment that comes from the assurance of not needing to strive to know anything – that kind of "certainty" is beyond all of us. Yet for many people "fear," with its gnawing-partner "doubt" drives us to cling to life at all costs; yet we know so little about what life is. And here I agree with the writer that we know nothing – nothing meaningful that will survive our time here. For example as a people we have no idea how this planet got here or who may have been here before us – and we will never know that. We can look at Mars through a telescope and speculate whether life existed there billions of years ago; and we can measure, weigh and observe the universe in which we live yet we will only ever scratch the surface of "knowing" anything. The best we can do as far as "certainty" is concerned is concur with Euclid who discovered that in any triangle the internal angles always add up to 180 and that a straight line can be drawn between any two points. But that's hardly earth-shattering knowledge nor even discovering that "pie" is an infinite number. Maybe the best we can say about that is that a mere mortal, Euclid, was able to glimpse something of the immortal.
As a minister my "calling" came out of an acute crisis that almost brought about psychological collapse. But that's not a bad place from which to start - in a heap on the floor. But it was a great leveller. Today, in my preaching ministry I do not hold to any feelings of grandeur; quite the reverse I consider myself inadequate and therefore dependant on God! For those who've been to the "bottom" will recognise that these thoughts, though irrational and silly, are difficult to override. For me it means that every service I conduct (and I've been preaching for around 25 years) and every funeral I preside at I feel incredibly weak and vulnerable. But as the Apostle Paul said: "when I am weak then I am strong" – that is very much my testimony. If knowing oneself is the aim of philosophy I have a long way to go to get there – but not that many years left to complete the journey. The Bible has a verse which says: "If God is for us who can be against us?" My reply is: "myself" I can be my own worst enemy, critic, judge, jury, jailor and cynic. To believe in oneself is probably the hardest concept for me to hold to. Others too may feel the same way as we all carry baggage with us loaded upon us by parents, teachers and others in authority who were labouring under their own heavy burdens. In that sense no-one can know anything about anything that hasn't first come to us through the prism of someone else's prejudice. But those who have been through the mill and survived the dark-night of faith are often the most dedicated, gifted and empathic ministers having been to the bottom and survived. That is the story-line running through the entirety of the Hebrew Scriptures so we are in good company.
The plight of others can be so moving it lays on the bleeding-heart a desire to help. I watched a programme on TV the other day about people who drink themselves to oblivion. They wasted their money, were reckless with their health; their lives; their careers; their families and their prospects. Yet they were broken people with heart-rending stories and as sick in body and mind as anyone with a physical illness. Their injuries were mostly self-inflicted yet so sad and moving to watch; these people were God's children (all sharing the image of God) suffering deep traumas often because they weren't able to face the truth about themselves. And I guess that most people would see something of themselves in them. Philosophy asks questions and builds on the insights of those who went before them. Yet how often those insights were manipulated to gain power over others. We may be able to change society but human-nature is constant and cannot be altered so there will always be those who seek to lord it over others. For many life is a riddle. It's as if we've been deposited on this planet not knowing where we came from and so left puzzling what cannot be fathomed. Some people seek answers in science; others bury their heads in activity; still others drink (or take drugs) to dull their fears and insecurities. Words are inadequate to express these gnawing feelings although poetry does help by painting pictures of the obscure. Our task in ministry is to meet people where they to support them in their dilemmas shining a light on the way ahead that they might find their way to the "Spirit." Speaking personally the answer is found in God. That doesn't mean I have some kind of higher knowledge than other people and should I be tempted to think otherwise the Apostle Paul has some helpful words here: "I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to" (Rom. 12:3). So this is obviously a perennial problem! As as ministers we are merely guides pointing the way. In the work we do we may be ridiculed, laughed-at, ignored or side-lined but we take for our example the "Suffering Servant" of Isaiah – who though rejected and abused was vindicated and rewarded. So too will those who serve others faithfully (with humility and compassion) from the heart.
Rog

1st May 2016

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Master of Spirituality - Lesson #17

Master of Spirituality - Lesson #17

I can only speak from my own experience of ministry in England. But what has become increasingly evident to me over the years is that often depressive illness and emotional distress are the result of people feeling: overlooked, insignificant, powerless and frightened; with the result that they live futile, meaningless and empty lives. The causes are complex but amongst them is a secular society that is growing in confidence and seeking at every turn to eradicate religion from its midst; to get rid of the very faith that gave it birth and which still underpins its laws and institutions. In Britain TV output is also increasingly atheistic in content decided, I'm sure, by people who think they know better and therefore seek to control what people think. No wonder people are increasingly resorting to anti-depressants, and other talking therapies, to ease their spiritual pain. People were created to be in community with one another each contributing of him/herself to its life, vitality and cohesion. But much of that is now lost. Today, governments emphasise individualism i.e. standing on one's own two feet regardless of others. The result is selfishness and a catastrophic fragmentation of society where people no longer talk to each other, no longer know their neighbours and have to lock themselves behind their own front door to keep away strangers. How far we have declined. It wasn't that long ago you could go out and leave the key in the lock of your door. But not anymore.
As a Christian minister I increasingly encounter people living on the edge who harbour underlying fears and desperation. On the surface they seem fine but underneath they are scared of a world perceived as hostile, alien and set against them. But often the immediate cause of distress is loneliness i.e. no-one to talk to, to share their concerns with. So they consult the doctor who dutifully writes out a prescription for tranquillisers or anti-depressants even though there is no evidence this form of mediation works but plenty of evidence to the contrary that it makes matters worse. But what is taking place here between doctor and patient is a kind of unspoken contract. The patient consults the doctor expecting him/her to give him/her something to solve their distress; and the doctor responds by writing out a prescription for the patient thus keeping everyone happy. Happy until the pills don't work and the patient returns for more. And so it goes on. Yet many people suffering from depression (which after all is caused by the "disconnection" from self and one's environment) would benefit from an honest conversation with a friend or family member. But in an increasingly fragmented and individualistic society we've forgotten how to do this and so shunt our loved ones off to the "psychiatrist" or else shut the door on them having no answer to their malady. But there is no pill in existence able to solve our spiritual and emotional demise. What people need to do is "reconnect" with one-another and become a joined-up society again; one that talks to each-another; cares for each-other, listens to each-other, values each-other and supports each-other. In his ground-breaking work Freud traced most personality disorders back to childhood particularly the formative years from birth to around 8. He believed that during this period traumatic experiences are repressed and accessible only through psycho-analysis - a talking therapy also known as "free association." Freud also placed great stock on dream therapy for similar reasons. Today psycho-dynamic therapy, behaviour therapy and CBT etc. are heralded as therapies most likely to help the "depressed" get well again. Yet modern psychology knows very little about the human brain and for the most part does rejects the concept of an immaterial "mind." So we need to look elsewhere for an answer for the popularity of science. And we don't have to look far. People have become accustomed to believing that science has an answer for every question – which is untrue of course. The real answer to psychological distress is paying attention to people; hearing their stories and reconnecting them to their spiritual selves as the only way of restoring hope, meaning and purpose to their lives. That is exactly what I try to do in my ministry and that's so important because as a Christian I do not have the same materialistic-outlook as others do. As a minister I am in the business of "people." Ministry by definition is submitting to God and the "service of others" in his name. People are not a collection of chemicals or a machine devoid of meaning and purpose. People were created in the image of God i.e. a combination of body, soul and Spirit despite what psychology and psychiatry teaches. Just mentioning "God" to a psychiatrist is a sign of delusion! I have psychology books in my library which state confidently as "fact" that the human brain contains ancient and modern bits i.e. new bits added over time yet retaining the most primitive bits but to our emotional detriment. According to this theory the so called "fight or flight" response is left over from the time we were hunter gatherers seeking food whilst dodging wild beasts eager to make us their latest meal. But now that we buy our food in supermarkets and so don't have to evade wild beasts to obtain it the "fight or flight response" affects us in new ways i.e. through phobias and other emotional triggers. However, these "experts" who write this stuff have no more idea than anyone else whether this is fact or fiction; true or false. And this is the problem with science in my view. And because it is we would do well to heed Descartes' words who said that: when developing an argument keep it simple and build it up methodically otherwise you may end up talking nonsense. How true that is. Scientist's today talk confidently of evolution as if it is an established fact. But they would do well to heed Hume's caution; just because an effect is observed doesn't mean we can determine a cause of that effect even where a pattern appears to confirm it. We humans have vivid imaginations and tend to link ideas together to draw incorrect conclusions. Plants, animals and people change but it would be foolish to pronounce as fact why these changes occur. Several years ago I attended a lecture given by a university lecturer who spoke against evolution citing various organs, joints and so on in the human (and animal) body which couldn't have evolved but must have been irreducibly-formed for survival to occur: e.g. the irreducible complexity of the flagellum, the wings of various birds etc. There are many more example of course which show that evolution cannot be as simple as Darwin thought. Besides, Darwin was a religious man whose Christian wife constantly prayed for him. Darwin believed that God created the world and then set it free to obey laws he set for it. Yet, today there are people teaching in British universities who no longer believe in evolution yet continue to teach it. One wonders why. Is this what science has become? Some scientists would rather cling doggedly to belief in a material universe rather than admit to there being a creator. It seems it's more palatable to stick with something they don't believe rather than admit to a "mind" (outside space and time) that is greater than that of humanity. Yet scientists are given the greater voice in today's confused and spiritually barren world. But maybe things are changing. Today, spirituality is increasingly being acknowledged as vital for human health and well-being even where it lacks any religious content. Today, people are encouraged to be "mindful" of themselves, their surroundings, their gifts, activities, connectedness to themselves, the environment and one-another i.e. to pause; be aware of their thoughts; their breathing and their surroundings using various modalities. And this is good for reconnecting with one's spirituals nature and with God. For neither: psychiatry, anti-depressants, evolution, materialism nor science in general can solve the emptiness of humanity starved of spiritual nourishment and living in denial of its God-given roots. It is only through belief, hope, creativity, intuition, prayer, faith and spiritual reawakening that the spiritual wilderness in which the western-world is currently languishing will be healed and set free. And for this a sincere, faithful and educated minister is required.

Rog

April 2016

Monday, April 11, 2016

Master of Spirituality - Lesson #16

Nietzsche was first and foremost a classics-scholar who became a professor in his mid-twenties influencing such notable writers as: Lawrence, Shaw and Yeats (some achievement). It was only later that he turned from literature to philosophy but even so his literary bent shone through his writings which in parts were a combination of myth and abstract thought. And I think this is the way to approach probably his greatest work: "Thus Spoke Zarathustra."
And it's interesting that a man who came to reject religion particularly all things Christian e.g. loving one's neighbour, turning the other cheek and showing compassion to those who suffer etc. that he created a new "prophet" (Zarathustra) who descends the mountain (a bit like Moses generations before) to pronounce a new gospel that: "God is dead." But I'm not sure it was God whom Nietzsche rejected or the servility of people who cling to inherited values without thinking about them. For Nietzsche man is capable of so much more but is held back by deferring to a set of values (and a defunct morality) which prevent him from reaching his full potential. Nietzsche writes urging people to reject all this and live authentic lives (to be yourself) even if that means disregarding the feelings and needs of the "herd." Nietzsche also rejected Plato's ideal world just as he rejected the heaven preached by Christians which, he believed, looked for jam tomorrow while rejecting the here and now. To him this was simply turning away from life. This is a man in a hurry, a philosophical "hot-head" who tears up the philosophical rule-book and starts again. Nietzsche wants us to question everything we've come to accept without thinking about ethics and the meaning of life. According to him many of the things we believe are good and wholesome are in fact limiting to us. Nietzsche wants us to see life in a different way and through a different lens having rejected Kant's theory that we're unable to know "things in themselves" For Nietzsche this was a useless doctrine and so held to one world only – this one. But something doesn't add about all this especially when seen alongside his theory of "eternal recurrence" where every living experience comes around again and again as if to give us a second crack at it – sounds a bit like religion to me! Nevertheless, having brought down like a pack of cards all previous ideas of a perfect and imperfect world the stage was set for a re-evaluation of values, ethics and morality. So enters "Superman" the master of the world for it follows that if this world is all there is and if man has dispensed with any authority from above man is free to choose his own values and stand on his own two feet. But there is a problem here and it's one we've encountered several times before i.e. "human nature." Human nature being self-centred and power hungry forever seeks its own ends despite the lofty ideas of people like Nietzsche. Someone somewhere will be looking for ways to lord it over others, and with the green light from Nietzsche to live life as we please without regard for others (although he didn't actually intend that for there is some compassion in his philosophy) the result will be anarchy, social breakdown and ultimately total confusion. This is one reason, in my view, multi-culturalism has failed. For society to cohere it is vital that people share common values; a shared heritage and so on. But where this is rejected, or lacking, society will eventually fall apart. There is another aspect to the materialistic way of thinking i.e. Determinism. Determinism holds that no-one can he held responsible for their actions which, in a closed material world, couldn't be other than they are. But the law doesn't see it that way! The law demands that each person is responsible for their actions. Self-determination is much closer to our actual experience in life. It's people who make decisions, who feel compassion, who love, value and respect others. The brain may be a material organ, able to be studied, measured and investigated, as is the physical body, but the immaterial mind, soul, emotions and intuitions are every bit as real. These things are what it means to be human (with emotions) living together in community. I can understand where Nietzsche is coming from in advocating the inauthentic life. And it's true that some people do strive to be something they're not wearing all kinds of masks to impress others; to fool themselves; to get ahead and to get even. Most people want to impress someone or be better than others even at the cost of their own, personal well-being (it's aby-product of culture). But it's a shaky house of cards we create that will come crashing down one day leaving us in a devastated heap. We may be able to fool others but we cannot sustain fooling ourselves for very long. And I have met many people who have been crushed by the fall-out from this kind of self-deception who then find themselves struggling to build a new life having faced the terrible truth about themselves. It's an unpleasant experience but a learning curve too from which many blessing can flow if lessons are learned so bringing forth the sweet, fragrant blossom of new personal growth. Maybe Nietzsche was plagued by self-doubt which ultimately led to the "death" of an old way of life which he was unable to bring himself to face: madness is next to genius after all.

Rog

11th April 2016