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New Book by Seminary Director Bastiaan Baan

Lord of the Elements

Interweaving Christianity and Nature

Lord of the Elements cover

The four classical elements of earth, water, air and fire are present in Genesis and the New Testament. But while traditional Christianity moved away from seeing the spiritual in nature, other streams of thought — such as Celtic Christianity, the School of Chartres, medieval mystics like Hildegard von Bingen and the alchemical search for the philosopher’s stone — continued to emphasize the importance of the elements. In this unique book, Bastiaan Baan, an experienced spiritual thinker, brings these elements together with ideas from Anthroposophy. He considers in particular how elemental beings — nature spirits — relate to the four elements, and explores the role of elemental beings in our world. This is a fascinating and original work on the connections between Christianity and the natural world.

The book is available from Floris Books at www.florisbooks.co.uk  Read more

A Story of Redemption: By Fyodor Dostoevsky

This is a profound excerpt taken from Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov in which Father Zossima reflects on his life from his deathbed:

Beloved fathers and teachers, I was born in a distant province in the north, in the town of V. My father was a gentleman by birth, but of no great consequence or position. He died when I was only two years old, and I don’t remember him at all. He left my mother a small house built of wood, and a fortune, not large, but sufficient to keep her and her children in comfort. There were two of us, my elder brother Markel and I. He was eight years older than I was, of hasty, irritable temperament, but kind-hearted and never ironical. He was remarkably silent, especially at home with me, his mother, and the servants. He did well at school, but did not get on with his school-fellows, though he never quarrelled, at least so my mother has told me. Six months before his death, when he was seventeen, he made friends with a political exile who had been banished from Moscow to our town for freethinking, and led a solitary existence there. He was a good scholar who had gained distinction in philosophy in the university. Something made him take a fancy to Markel, and he used to ask him to see him. The young man would spend whole evenings with him during that winter, till the exile was summoned to Petersburg to take up his post again at his own request, as he had powerful friends. Read more

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The Mission of Failure

Failure seems like such a negation. I did not….

It points to the fact that we are imperfect, incomplete; that our reach exceeds our grasp. Yet hidden in that very fact is a positive. I did try. I learned something. Thomas Edison famously said: I have not failed; I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.

Our failures are great teachers, if we are open to the lessons. As it says in our Sunday Service for Children, we learn so that we may understand and work in the world. We are here to find truth, to expand our understanding of reality, to make a difference in the world. The fact that failure is often humbling is perhaps a lesson in itself – we are not yet all that we want to be. But we may have just found the 9,999th way that doesn’t work – one step closer to a way that does.

As Saul, St. Paul believed that Jesus couldn’t have been the Messiah. Jesus’ life ended as a failure – he was tortured and executed as a common criminal. Therefore Saul knew he couldn’t have been God the All Powerful’s Son. But what looked like a failed life became The Life, as Paul came to know at Damascus.

Christ came to the earth for the express purpose of becoming a human being. He came to experience, in the flesh, how human beings fail. How they learn. How they find truth. He explored the depths of human existence. And since he is an eternal being, what he did, he does eternally. He experiences the depths of humanity so that He, eternally present, can be here with us when we fail. When we learn. When we find truth, which is ultimately, Him.

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Christianity as Growing Wakefulness

Lo! I am coming like a thief! Blessed is he who is awake, keeping his garments that he may not go naked and be seen exposed. -Revelation 16:15

Christ’s coming again, which makes itself felt more and more as a spiritual fact, asks of individual human beings grave decisions. It does not leave us as we were before. If we sleep through the event, we are inwardly poorer – this is the point of comparison in the strange and yet realistic picture of Christ coming “like a thief”. In comparison with this is the blessing of him who is  ‘awake’.

In ancient times, the Lord gave to His own in sleep, but humanity has stepped out of the divine dream of the early childhood of humanity; mankind has to wake up – primarily at first to the earthly world. If the wakefulness is limited to the material world, however, there gradually arises the feeling: unfortunate are the wakeful. Then, we bear this adult wakefulness like a burden, and seek narcotics and opiates in order to escape the desolate reality. Rightly understood, Christianity is not opium. It means raising the power of wakefulness beyond the material world into the spiritual. Whoever shrinks back from the full adult responsibility of sober awakening in order not to lose his or her childhood faith does not yet know that all waking and knowing that could be dangerous to Christianity is always only a half-waking and half-knowing. It is precisely within the meaning of Christianity to penetrate to the full awareness and a full knowledge that includes the Super-sensible. Therefore “blessed is he who is awake”.

-Rudolf Frieling

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Gravity, Warmth and Light: Three Gifts of the Trinity

sunlight in treesThe Earth has sometimes been compared to a spaceship, a machine hurling through the black void of outer space. In this scientific vision space is stunningly cold and inimical to all life. But this simplified picture is wrong; it leaves out the Sun.

The Earth is not alone. The Sun’s gravity, warmth, and light, a trinity of forces, constantly bless the Earth. Read more

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God the Rebel

…Faith begins at the point where atheists suppose it must be at an end. Our faith begins with the bleakness and power which is the night of the Cross, abandonment, temptation and doubt about everything that exists! Our faith must be born where it is abandoned by all tangible reality; it must be born of nothingness, it must taste this nothing and be given it to taste in a way that no philosophy of nihilism can imagine. -H. J. Iwand

Christianity is the only religion on earth that has felt that omnipotence made God incomplete. Christianity alone has felt that God, to be wholly God, must have been a rebel as well as a king. Alone of all creeds, Christianity has added courage to the virtues of the Creator. For only courage worth calling courage must necessarily mean that the soul passes a breaking point – and does not break. Read more

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Impossible?!? The Winter Youth Conference 2013

During the festival of Epiphawash mon from linc monny, we speak of the star that guided the kings as it was entering into the earthly sphere to take on a sunlike presence on earth, to guide humanity to renewal and healing. We can also call that star the incarnation of the Christ into humanity.

Spending a few days twice a year with a small group of teenagers at one of our youth conferences, it is possible to perceive the drama of this incarnation, the utter necessity and longing which the human being perceives in the soul to find that star—and a longing to summon the courage to align oneself with this true guiding star of one’s life—a great challenge, particularly amidst all the bright twinkling lights which shine along our way… We can be left asking: but which one is the right one?

Our theme each year at the Winter Conference, now fairly well anchored on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday weekend, always has to do with looking at how Dr. King followed the star that he perceived…and how it led him to great sacrifices for the healing of a broken humanity.

We also asked a question this year in our title for the conference: Impossible?!? What is it that makes something impossible possible? How do we overcome the obstacles of our lives to be able to do that which we are called to do, to become that which we are called to become? Read more

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The Seminary Fall Newsletter 2012

Click on the below link to access the newsletter of The Seminary in Chestnut Ridge, NY. seminary_ImageTrakker

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The Star of Grace

dark-woodsFrom time immemorial the stars have been, literally, a guiding light for mankind. In the dark nights of ancient times people lifted their gaze to the starry heavens: to navigate their way through the world, to know when to sow their crops, to receive guidance in making critical decisions. The world of the stars and the world of humanity were united in a symbiosis of which our times can only dream. The starry heavens, once the focal point of mankind’s relationship to the spiritual world, has been degraded to an object of pure science, functioning at best as a subject for sentimental art or religious metaphor. Read more

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Words for Epiphany from Evelyn Francis Capel

Man’s history since the coming of Christ appears as the long road of salvation stretching away into the distant future and ourselves as pilgrims upon it. Our present life is part of a long pilgrimage which we make in company with every other human soul in whom shines the true purpose of being human. Every day in each lifetime is a step forward, a standing still, or a step astray from the straight path. The way is long and full of effort. The end is in the distance and at times hard to see distinctly. The temptation is always near to sit down and pause by the roadside, to become an onlooker at the march of life. The road of salvation is trod with courage and a clear sense of purpose. Over it shines the star of Christ, pointing the way, sending the grace of warmth and enlightenment into human hearts. Strength and courage flow into us when we look up to see the star, calling us, as it once called the three wise men, to follow its guiding light… Read more