Tag Archives: religious studies

Zealot by Reza Aslan

Zealot

This book has been around for a while and got a lot of attention because the author was a Muslim writing about Jesus. The furor took off when Lauren Green of Fox News hosted Aslan in what has been called the “most embarrassing interview Fox News has ever done” (and that’s saying something). Reza Aslan defended himself citing his four degrees as a scholar of religions having studied Christianity for twenty years.

I didn’t have a lot of interest in reading a book about Jesus then. It seemed ridiculous that the Christian right was so incensed with a religious studies professor writing a book about a subject in his career field. A few years went by and my son suggested that I read this because my view of Jesus the peacemaker was all wrong. He had just finished Aslan’s book.

Nazareno

Zealot is a fascinating read searching for the historical truth of a man called Jesus. It’s an in-depth examination of the political and social times in which he lived. Jesus lived in a time ripe with Messianic hope and the God Jesus knew was bloody. He had a Jewish mission, telling his disciples to avoid gentiles as much as possible. In its time, “Love thy neighbor” was restricted in meaning to include only Jews. The historical Jesus is not the one of the Gospels. He was a zealot but not a member of the Zealot Party which emerges later. And Aslan talks about the Gospels being a theological argument and not a biography of Jesus of Nazareth.

Jesus brings the promise of a new world order challenging Roman authority. Aslan believes he probably gave himself the title, Son of Man. This title tied him to the Book of Daniel and restoration of Israel, but he fell short of calling himself a messiah and its ensuing obvious danger.

The book often discusses Gospel accounts and how they differ from each other, as well as from historical sources. I won’t go through the vast amount of information presented but will say, it makes very interesting reading especially when you start to get a feel for what’s behind the intention of certain parts of the Gospels.

Penitent

The resurrection is central to Christianity but a difficult topic for a historian to cover. The author admits that something must have happened to push Jesus’s followers to continue the movement. Indeed, the resurrection narrative was part of early Christian teaching predating the virgin birth or passion narratives. Evangelicals wrote those narratives later to flesh out the story.

Jesus as a zealot and crucified Jew left behind a movement headed by his brother James (the Just). James was a follower of the law in Jerusalem. But Aslan makes the case that a crucified Messiah was not possible for the Jews and the new message that emerges under Paul finds ground only with more open-minded Diaspora Jews who are Greek speaking and urban. It’s Paul who triumphs bringing in a Jesus who is the end of the Torah. He takes this message to gentiles and succeeds. It is through Paul that the Jesus of the Gospel becomes the Christ- a divine being, the literal son of God.

Christus_Ravenna

The is a well written, easy to read book on a fascinating subject for many of us. It is perfect for the curious and open-minded. It’s one of those books, I’d say will stay with you long after you’ve put it down because of its thought-provoking nature. If you haven’t read it yet, add it to your list!

 

 

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INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR: SHAMAN ELIZABETH HERRERA

Shaman Elizabeth Herrera

Shaman Elizabeth Herrera

Shaman Elizabeth is a healer whose life has been filled with miracles. She is dedicated to helping others believe that miracles are possible and encouraging them to accept these wondrous gifts for themselves. She offers healing and spiritual advising to promote physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. With deep connections to the Divine and help from enlightened guides and teachers, Shaman Elizabeth accesses your spiritual Self through the visionary process of shamanic journeying (Native American spirituality) to heal and offer guidance.

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For those unfamiliar with shamanism, a shaman is a person who accesses the spirit world for the purpose of divination or healing. Shamanism is ancient drawing from multi-cultural roots throughout Asia, Africa, Australasia, and the Americas.

Elizabeth is another author I had the good fortune to connect with through blogging and I’m so glad I did! She has several books published and today we will concern ourselves mainly with a discussion of Shaman Stone Soup. This book is an account of her spiritual life and healing experiences over the course of her spiritual development. It is a delightful, engaging read for both those on a spiritual path, and those interested in the shared human experience.

Welcome Elizabeth and thanks for joining me to talk about Shaman Stone Soup!

Hello! It’s an honor to be featured on your website.

In Shaman Stone Soup, you talk about being an unlikely, and perhaps, reluctant candidate for shamanism. Can you talk a bit about how this path emerged for you?

It was totally unexpected! Although I knew I was searching for something, I never expected it to be Native American spirituality (shamanism). I went from being a Christian to an atheist to discovering shamanism.

When I first began shamanic journeying (communicating with spirit guides in the spirit realm), I didn’t believe the visions were real. All I knew was that every few weeks I would hear a persistent call asking me to journey, which I couldn’t ignore. It was like someone kept knocking on the door of my consciousness and the only way I could get them to stop was to journey.

Two years went by before I asked for a healing for a friend. When the healing came true by morning, it caused me to reconsider the “reality” of what I was seeing in the spirit realm. To see if it was a fluke, I asked for healings for friends, neighbors, people on TV or whomever I thought needed a healing, and the healings would occur just as the spirit guides described. Still filled with doubt, I wondered if I was psychic and simply being shown the future. An opportunity to prove these were miracles came very quickly. My husband was diagnosed with Crone’s disease during this time. It’s a treatable, but not curable, disease with Western medicine. He was in tremendous pain, weighed about 115 lbs., and couldn’t work or do much of anything. I finally asked him if I could request a healing for him. He agreed, probably because he was desperate, since he didn’t (and still doesn’t) believe in a higher power. During the healing, the spirit guide said my husband would be well within two weeks. The spirit guide also said the illness wouldn’t bother him again, but that my husband would always carry a “sign” of it with him. And, just as the spirit guide promised, my husband was fine within two weeks and never had an episode again. Two doctors felt he must have been misdiagnosed and performed additional tests, but both tests proved he did indeed have the signs of Crone’s, but was non-symptomatic.

My book, Shaman Stone Soup, details 20 stories of miracles, including this one.

A Chakapa used by a Peruvian Shaman

A Chakapa used by a Peruvian Shaman

Shaman Stone Soup makes shamanism easily accessible to both those who know about shamanism and those who don’t. Readers have also pointed out that the book really explores universal themes, which unite us all in the human experience. How can an exploration of those human experiences (the search for self, growing love & understanding, practicing forgiveness) bring about a wider audience for understanding the shamanic path?

Not sure if this answers your question, but I believe shamanism, ACIM, Reiki, religion, yoga, meditation, etc. are all tools that help open our consciousness to the Love that surrounds us. My only goal is to fully know Love. Shamanism provided a portal to Love. It’s not the only modality that offers this, but it is the oldest-known spiritual practice.

A spiritual path doesn’t have to follow any specific practice. It could be as simple as loving everyone who comes your way. Everyone we meet is an opportunity to see the divine within them. When we see the divine in others, we remember it in ourselves.

Do you have to believe in miracles to have one happen to you? Does it help? How can openness to spirituality help us in our daily lives?

Considering I performed healings for five years as an atheist, I guess you could say faith isn’t required. The only requirement is to ask for a miracle, then step out-of-the-way. The higher power will do the work.

I meditate daily (or almost daily) to connect to the loving energy. When I do, I am peaceful, centered and have direction throughout my day. It’s a moment-by-moment thing. You don’t reach a state of bliss and stay there without focus and devotion.

How did A Course in Miracles (ACIM) add to your spiritual journey?

A Course in Miracles (ACIM) answered a lot of questions for me, such as: Why are we here?”, “How did we get here?” and “Where are we going?” which I’m sure would have been answered eventually through shamanic journeying. The Course saved me a considerable amount of time, which is what the Course is about…reaching enlightenment sooner. Oddly enough, ACIM is perfectly compatible with shamanism. The two spiritual paths seem very different on the surface, yet their truths are the same.

Saami Turist Rune Drum Photo by: Petr Broz (2007)

Saami Turist Rune Drum
Photo by: Petr Broz (2007)

How do your power animals facilitate your healings?

My power animals guide me through the spirit realm, taking me to the spirit guide who is best suited to perform the healing. Power animals can be helpful for providing archetype power that instills a person with the energy/confidence they are lacking.

In my book, one of the stories talks about a deer totem animal that appeared in a healing for a client. The next evening, I believe this archetype power saved my life or at least prevented serious injury. Below is an excerpt that explains:

During a shamanic healing session for a client, her power animal appeared as a herd of deer, which was surprising because a power animal usually appears as a singular animal/bird/fish that represents the species as a whole. At the time, it seemed interesting, but not overly important.

The next morning, the client sent me a message that her sister had emailed her an inspirational video of a deer. It was a wonderful “coincidence” that helped to confirm the healing for her.

That night, after returning home late from a friend’s home, I called my sister to stay awake while driving on the desolate highway. She lived out West, so while it was close to midnight in North Carolina, it was only 9:00 p.m. in Nevada. We had talked for 10 minutes when she suddenly became extremely nauseous. She said that it was odd, since she had been fine all day. She needed to end the call and we said good-bye.

A few minutes later, while driving down the highway, I came over a hill and was confronted with a herd of deer crossing the highway. I looked in every direction for a path to avoid them, but there was no visible escape route.

I remembered thinking, “There is no way I won’t hit those deer!” I expected to hit not just one, but several deer, and I surrendered to the inevitable.

Suddenly, my body had a mind of its own! A presence took control of me and slammed my foot on the brakes, the screeching sound filling the night air. Time began to move in slow motion, and as I passed a deer on my left, I looked into his wide eyes that were staring back at me. He was so close that I watched the side-view mirror miss his antlers by inches. When he was safely out-of-the-way, my hand cranked the wheel sharply to the left to dodge the deer on my right, who kindly took several steps in the opposite direction to avoid being hit.

Now, I was driving in the bumpy, grassy median and was about to plow into another deer in front of me, when my hand swerved the wheel back to the right, narrowly missing the doe. I was back on the highway and looked in the rearview mirror to see the deer still standing there stunned. The two cars in front of me had their brakes on, no doubt wondering if they would need to stop and call 911. But, when they saw me putter along the highway unharmed, their brake lights went off and everyone resumed driving.

Time returned to normal and I began to take assessment of what had just occurred. Unscathed, I first thanked God for saving the deer’s lives. Then, another mile down the road, I realized that I could have been killed and thanked him for saving mine!

When speaking with my sister the next day, I told her it was a blessing in disguise that she had gotten nauseous, or I would have had a cell phone in my hand when I encountered the deer. It would have been nearly impossible to avoid hitting them with only one hand on the wheel. She replied that it was the weirdest thing, but shortly after getting off the phone, the nausea went away. Divine intervention is a wonderful thing!

White-tailed_deer

The Meaning of the Deer Power Animal
The archetype power of the deer power animal offers many attributes, among them are the following: Manifesting for a higher good, surrendering to the Divine will, and the ability to move with intention, complete awareness and speed while remaining centered. It also represents abundance, the advent of new adventures, and the power of family or group dynamics.

If someone were interested in learning to shamanic journey, how would you advise him or her to proceed?

Find a teacher. I offer lessons in the Raleigh, North Carolina area, but Sandra Ingerman is a well-known teacher and healer who has a great website that lists teachers throughout the world. My teacher happened to be taught by her as well. If time or money is an issue, Sandra has a book, Learn to Shamanic Journey that takes you through the process.

Can you tell us a little about your latest book?

My latest book, Dreams of Dying, released this January. It features a mother who vacillates between two lives…before and after a tragic car accident that kills her family. As she struggles between realities, Jesus Christ suddenly appears and offers her unorthodox guidance. He accompanies her to the grocery store and for walks on the beach, while answering life’s toughest questions. His answers challenge her traditional beliefs and repeatedly emphasize there is no death, only dreams of dying.

Dreams of Dying is found in the visionary fiction genre, but it’s a difficult book to categorize because, although it features Jesus, it’s not Christian (much like my life!). If someone is exploring the concept of Oneness or ACIM, they’ll love Dreams of Dying.

dreams-of-dying-front-cover

I’m working on my third book, Earth Sentinels, which is also visionary fiction and will release this spring. It offers compelling insights into current environmental concerns woven into a fictional story. Its filled with characters, such as the fallen angel Bechard, Master of the Elements, shamans, spiritual beings and earth’s creatures, who collaborate using supernatural powers to fight against greed and corruption, demanding that mankind changes its way…or else.

The idea for the Earth Sentinels started while eating breakfast with my family at Burger King. Nobody was talking, so I thought I’d liven things up with an impromptu story. In a scary voice, like one might use over a campfire, I described animals attacking mankind in retaliation for all the damage to earth. When I finished, my gentle 14-year-old daughter exclaimed, “Yes!” and clenched her fists. It then occurred to me that I might be onto something. I wrote it for adults, but I am considering a second version for young adults.

earth-sentinels-cover

Thanks Elizabeth for sharing your experiences and introducing us to the fascinating world of shamanism. For more information about Elizabeth’s work please visit her social media sites. 

www.shamanelizabeth.com (healing site)

www.shamanelizabethherrera.com (author site)

www.blog.shamanelizabeth.com

https://twitter.com/ShamanElizabeth

https://www.facebook.com/ShamanElizabethHerrera

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Filed under Blog Interview, Book Review, Books, Spiritual/Mysticism