by Rev. Dr. Susan Hamilton, Dean of Sancta Sophia Seminary
What are these forms of Christianity and do they have anything in common? Those of us who have studied at Sancta Sophia Seminary know that Esoteric Christianity (sometimes called Mystical Christianity) focuses on our deep inward connection with the Divine, the Holy, or God by any other name. We see the life of Jesus the Christ as the initiatory template for our own spiritual growth. We study, use disciplines, and practice rituals which help us mature the Christ Within, attune to our higher consciousness (the Christ Consciousness), and progress our Soul on its evolutionary journey. We absorb the Ancient Wisdom teachings which transcend and yet value all world religions helping us to work in interfaith capacities. We often have mystical or psychic experiences through our meditation practices and learn to develop the spiritual gifts of healing, intuitive insight, teaching, and wise counsel. We seek to live ethical lives as World Servers bringing God’s Plan of Love and Light to restore earth and all its kingdoms. Our roots go back to the very life of Christ Jesus and the early Church ‘Fathers and Mothers’. The 20th century writings of Rudolf Steiner, Alice Bailey, Vera Stanley Alder, and Carol Parrish teach us much about the esoteric (and are available through the seminary bookstore: Sophia’s Nest).
Progressive Christianity also has deep roots. It is based in the recurrent theme in the Hebrew prophetic tradition (Old Testament) of the priority of justice and care for the down-trodden. This contemporary movement within Christianity is characterized by a spiritual vitality and expressiveness, including participatory, arts-infused, and lively worship as well as a variety of spiritual rituals and practices such as meditation; intellectual integrity including a willingness to question tradition; an affirmation of human diversity; an affirmation of the Christian faith with a simultaneous sincere respect for other faiths; and a strong emphasis on social justice or care for the poor and the oppressed and environmental stewardship of the Earth. Given the similarities, one could say that Progressive Christianity is a pragmatic platform in which Esoteric Christians can express their Christ Consciousness in the outer world. Progressive Christianity stresses fairness, justice, responsibility, and compassion, and condemns the forms of governance that wage unjust war, rely on corruption for continued power, deprive the poor of facilities, or exclude particular racial or sexual groups from fair participation in national liberties. These are often the same perspectives which Esoteric Christians come to uphold as their Christ Consciousness develops. Because this movement is gaining strength in the churches of mainline Christian denominations, those of us who are Esoteric Christians now have a bridge to our ecumenical brothers and sisters. Traversing this bridge, we can share with them ways to deepen their spiritual practices and we can grow through our work communally. It is noteworthy that a Progressive Theology movement is also growing in Judaism and Islam. Contemporary writers such as Marcus Borg, John Spong, and, Eric Elnes interface the mystical and expand the progressive. More resources can be found at The Center for Progressive Christianity.
Evolutionary Christianity is the new kid on the block, but has been long awaited. Coined by author Michael Dowd, Evolutionary Christianity points to those who value scientific evidence as new divine revelation; who say “yes” to both science and religion, to the convergence of science and spirituality. It is the meeting ground of scientists (e.g. Quantum, Cosmic, Evolution) and liberal Christian leaders who accept the recent discoveries of science as complimentary to religious teachings. Both Esoteric and Progressive Christians are compatible with Evolutionary Christianity as we share a commitment to a just and healthy future for humanity and the larger body of life. All three expressions of Christianity can join in the dialogue and explore how a sacred “deep-time” view of grace and guidance can expand one’s faith. Several writers are prominent in this field including: Michael Dowd, Joan Chittister, Matthew Fox and Philip Clayton.
Expansion and Dissolving Barriers are the keynotes of Jupiter and Uranus as they move through our galaxy in this Aquarian Age. Appreciating and interweaving all three of these Christian expressions is a way we can respond to their incoming influences.
Rev. Dr. Susan Hamilton is the Dean of Sancta Sophia Seminary an esoteric and interfaith seminary nestled in the Ozark Mountains of Oklahoma. The seminary specializes in preparing ministers for interfaith spirituality and chaplaincy, and offers advanced degrees in spiritual studies. As a United Church of Christ minister, Rev. Hamilton served the Parkside Community Church in Sacramento, CA for 15 years prior to her appointment as Dean. She is the author of a soon-to-be-released book entitled Seeking Sophia: 30 Days of Attuning to the Holy Feminine.
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