I was very pleased that the first lesson recognized that there is a re-emergence of Spirituality, even now, within the current extreme materiality that has been with us over the last century. I was additionally pleased that the author has recognized that many individuals have gone beyond "traditional religion" in their Spiritual Lives.
I put quotes around the phrase "traditional religion" because anthropology and history have revealed that over the thousands of years of human history people have held so many different religions and religious practices that it is impossible to call any one of them "traditional". Among all cultures there are records of those who have gone beyond their traditions. It is these individuals who are held as the shining lights of their cultures.
Never the less, Spirituality or the spiritual impulse has moved within humanity even longer and more universally throughout all cultures than religion, per se. This becomes clear when we look at the most ancient of the Shamanistic traditions. It is clear that Spirituality moved within the human heart from the beginning and that initially, religions formed naturally as a way for people to try and make sense of the spiritual experiences they were having.
Unfortunately, some denominations devolved to become only concerned with bureaucracy and cash flow. As a method of revitalizing the Spiritual core of the human experience, Philosophy became a study. The author has given us an excellent review of some of the key 'moments" in the history of philosophy. But, these ideas are presented as if they had up sprung in a vacuum. There has been no discussion of the religious ideas and historical events that were occurring at the same time and in many cases were the impetus for the philosophical explorations (such events as war, the Spanish Inquisition, the exploitation of the poor, etc.). Never the less, the presentation has been extremely impressive and parallels my own studies. I addition to the author's observation that "…mysticism was recognized by science as being the ultimate truth of all things" (Lesson #3) a quote was discovered by a prominent physicist who, after studying the nature of matter for a lifetime, concluded that the Universe is a thought in the Mind of God.
What is Philosophy? For simplicity's sake, let us say that a philosophy is a set of guiding principles. In this regard then, we can say that all religions have a philosophy, but, not all philosophies are religions. Also, in this regard, Philosophy is not necessarily antithetical to either Religion or Spirituality and in many instances has illuminated many aspects of both. As a mental exercise, philosophy has illuminated the minds of many who have then gone on to achieve profound levels of Spirituality.
Many groups have recognized Spirituality as the core of their culture and have indicated this realization in their symbolism. In the West, the rose and in Egypt and the East, the lotus is used to illuminate this idea.
In this symbol each flower is a life and each unfolding pedal is an experience, a lesson learned, knowledge acquired or a skill mastered. As our life unfolds the golden Spiritual core is gradually revealed. What is also revealed is that, whether we were aware of it or not, the Spiritual was always there in the center of things.
Whomever we are counseling or teaching or ministering, whether they consider themselves religious or not, still have within them that Golden Heart of Spirituality. Knowing this can enhance our effectiveness if we seek to speak to that core. Each group has a vocabulary with which they are most comfortable and the first rule of communication is 'know your audience'.
With that in mind I would like to add to the discussion of the definition of the word 'sin' on the last page of lesson #18. Originally the word was an archery term that means 'missing the bull' (bull's eye). Far too many use the word to mean 'shooting arrows up into the grand stand', when it fact we are hitting the target but we just need more training.
Adding the above meaning to our understanding may allow us to use more kindness and thoughtfulness into our ministries, it has in mine.
Thank you for the opportunity to study this course with everyone. I am always grateful for the opportunity to achieve greater understanding.
Again, thank you and Blessings upon all.
Rev Dr Kenneth A Thompson DD PhD
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