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Cherry Hill Seminary

Cherry Hill Seminary

As the leading provider of education and practical training in leadership, ministry, and personal growth in Pagan and nature-based spiritualities, Cherry Hill Seminary supports Pagans and their communities by providing an extensive education in diverse aspects of Pagan philosophy, practice, and skilled ministry; supplementing existing ritual and magical skills with training for professional ministry and pastoral counseling; serving as an ongoing resource for individual continuing education; and providing a forum for scholarship and community  

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b2ap3_thumbnail_fallow-deer-dama-dama-wikimedia-commons.jpg"You are taught to believe that faith can move mountains, yet many of you will find it extremely difficult to accept your own relationship with the environment." (8)

I.    Ecopsychology

Development of themes of polarized forces and separation of the physical and the spiritual laid a foundation for western civilization which developed into religions featuring absolute values, contests of good and evil, and disdain for the human body and natural world.  Thinkers and teachers from Newton to Enlightenment philosophers reinforced these ideas in the name of science and rational thought.  The Industrial Revolution in the 19th century, and the rise of capitalism and consumerism, further resolved our attenuation from wholeness.  In our time, the scientific model has taught us that if there was ever a divine being, he or she was a clockmaker who set the time and walked away.

Today the emerging field of ecopsychology is teaching us a new way of viewing the self as an inseparable part of the larger natural environment in which we live.  The first gathering of ecopsychologists at the conference, “Psychology as if the Whole Earth Mattered,” agreed that “if the self is expanded to include the natural world, behavior leading to destruction of this world will be experienced as self-destruction.”  Ecopsychology seeks to evolve a practice of psychology that will reunite the human psyche with that of the world.

II.    Seth/Jane Roberts

b2ap3_thumbnail_Daylily-May-30-2017.jpgA collection of writings by the late Jane Roberts introduce several themes which strongly support the premises of ecopsychology.  The so-called “Seth” books have now influenced more than one generation of influential thinkers and writers.  Seth has been cited as a formative influence by such luminaries of contemporary consciousness studies as Deepak Chopra, Sanaya Roman, Shakti Gawain and Marianne Williamson. 

The Seth view of the world, read thirty and more years after publication, now bears a striking resemblance to the new quantum physics.  Field theory and the behavior of particles are clearly described in Seth’s landscape of probabilities, alternate realities and consciousness units.  Because of its widespread influence and logical exploration of ideas normally coopted by religion and mysticism, the Seth body of work now stands as a valuable bridge between the old model of a mechanical universe and an ecopsychological paradigm. 

While this short paper is far from an exhaustive survey of the Seth literature (Roberts’ collection is the second-most requested and read collection at the Yale University library), it will acquaint the reader with parallels between contemporary ecopsychology and the ideas of Seth.

III.    Seth Themes Which Support Ecopsychology

    a.    An Earth Gestalt

b2ap3_thumbnail_Khasi_Hills_Mawphlang-credit-Prida-Ariani.jpgThe Gaia hypothesis first articulated in the mid-1970s by James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis has become common parlance here in the beginning of the 21st century.  Not only pagans espouse a unity of all life on earth, but Earth Day services and miscellaneous homages to God revealed in nature now abound throughout mainstream Christianity. 

In The Unknown Reality, Seth expounds at length on the continuum of consciousness out of which the human psyche rises.  Human entities in the Seth cosmos are no more separate from the world than a cloud is from the sky.

"Physically speaking, earth itself has its own kind of gestalt consciousness.  If you must, then think of that earth consciousness as grading upward in great slopes of awareness, from relatively ‘inert’ particles of dust and stone, through the mineral, vegetable, and animal kingdoms.  Even then, remember that those kingdoms are not so separate after all.  Each one is highly related to each of the others.  Nothing happens in one such kingdom that does not affect the others." (10, p. 287)

Although life forms become individuated, there is not the separation which characterizes western thinking.  In fact, consciousness prefigures the natural world, dreamed into being by the creative power of thought.  In such a universe, irruptions of physical form could be thought of as a standing wave on the stream of energy, though one with every detail and subtlety of a human personality forever remembered at some not-yet-understood subatomic level.

"You grant soulhood only to your own species, as if souls had sizes that fit your own natures only.  You preserve these ideas by thinking of animals as beneath you . . . But all things have consciousness, and in those terms possess a soul-nature.  There are no gradations as to soul.  Soul is the life within everything that is." (10, p. 287)

b2ap3_thumbnail_astronomy-5.jpgA number of contemporary scientists have proposed the hologram as a model for understanding existence, the story told in Michael Talbot’s landmark 1991 book, The Holographic Universe.  A hologram is produced through a specific process using reflected and split laser light which records a wave interference pattern on film.  Bouncing laser light off the film produces a three-dimensional image, a famous example being Princess Leia’s plea for help in the movie Star Wars.  But when one cuts up a piece of hologram film, the image is not destroyed, but rather each fragment of the film still possesses and can project the original image.  This astonishing phenomena would seem to illustrate the way that all of life, including human, are a seamless, unified whole.

Stanford University neurophysiologist Karl Pribram first published his theories of the holographic nature of the brain in 1966, three years after Jane Roberts began speaking in trance as Seth, about the intricacies of consciousness.  Ironically, Roberts and her students were exploring the same ideas about existence as scientists like Pribram, during the same time period.  This common phenomenon is itself an illustration of the holistic nature of existence.

In “the unknown reality,” one meets Paul Shepard’s “self with the permeable boundaries.”  Human thought and action reveal themselves as both cause and effect when linked inextricably with the rest of this field of life.  While each detail of life manifests its own characteristics, it cannot be understood, nor can it function, in isolation from the greater gestalt of the universe.

    b.    Cooperation and Interconnection

b2ap3_thumbnail_sk-2017_04_article_main_mobilejpeg_quality20.jpgEcopsychology teaches us a healthy relationship with the natural world can only result from recognition of our interconnection, and active mutual cooperation among all species and parts of the planet.  Seth’s assertion that even the smallest parts of creation have at least an iota of consciousness supports this need.

"A great, gracious cooperation exists between those seemingly separate systems, however.  If you will remember that even atoms and molecules have consciousness, then it will be easier for you to understand that there is indeed a certain kind of awareness that unites these kingdoms." (10, p. 287)

Complete freedom of choice is asserted throughout the Seth writings as the only way to truly learn, grow and create.  By advocating the principle of free will Seth also acknowledges an acceptance of outcomes which may at times appear destructive.  Shepard says, “An ecologically harmonious sense of self and world is not the outcome of rational choices . . . it is latent in the organism. . .”

Seth continually returns to the earth to illustrate his ideas, always referring to the inherently mutual nature of existence.

"Even the trees at the highest tip of the hillside send sturdy roots into the ground, and receive from it nourishment and vitality – and there is a great give-and-take between the smallest sapling in the foothills and the most ancient pine.  No single blade of grass dies but that it affects the entire mountain.  The energy within the grass sinks into the earth, and in your terms is again reborn.  Trees, rocks, and grass constantly exchange places as energy changes form.  Water rushes down the hillside into the valley, and there is a constant give-and-take between the village below, say, or the meadows, and the mountain.  So there is the same kind of transformation, change, and cooperation between all identities." (10, 481)

Statements like this are self-evident to many in the fields of ecology and ecopsychology, but presented by Seth could as well be perceived as science or spirituality.  This kind of transitional discussion can provide the underpinning for the effort by ecopsychologists to lead individuals  to view and treat the earth as their own body and soul.

    c.    Land As Memory

b2ap3_thumbnail_serpentmound.jpgAnthropology in the 20th century helped to create a widespread awareness by the public of indigenous peoples’ attitudes towards the land on which they live.  Native American, Amazonian and Australian aboriginal spiritualities are often cited or appropriated by environmentalists to advance their cause.

Seth’s concept of mutually-cooperative and interconnected forces could explain the indigenous attachment to and reverence for the earth.  Speaking of the atoms and cells which form an organism or ocean or mountain, then break down and disperse to form other life forms, Seth reminds the reader that, “Reminiscent within each form is the consciousness of all the other combinations, all of the other alliances, and identity continually forms new creative endeavors and gestalts of relatedness.” (10, p. 483)

Because of this constant exchange of energy in the physical world, we carry chromosomally some form of the knowledge of our ancestors, according to Seth, noting that very old cultures were aware of this trait, accepting that the ancestors were an integral part of present-day life, contributing to the experience of the living.

"The animals were also accepted in this natural philosophy of selfhood as the individual plainly saw the living quality of consciousness.  The characteristics of the animals were understood to continue ‘life,’ adding their qualities to the experience of the self in a new way . . . The human body would be used in earth’s great husbandry as, from it, dying and decaying new forms would arise.  This was a give-and-take in which, for instance, a jungle neighborhood was truly home, and all was a portion of the self psychically, spiritually, and physically." (10, p. 536)

The word for body in activist Jeannette Armstrong’s native (American) Okanagan language translates “land-dreaming capacity,” In our class reading, Armstrong says, “Okanagans teach that the body is the Earth itself.  They say that our flesh, blood, and bones are Earth-body; in all cycles in which the Earth moves, so does our body.  We are everything that surrounds us, including the vast forces we only glimpse.”

The view of the Okanaga and that of Seth may go far beyond Shepard’s “permeable self” because not only are the physical elements recombined, establishing interconnection, but the cumulative experience of each life form also becomes an integral part of each new form.  This dynamic intermingling suggests that creation has never stopped, but that the world recreates itself anew in every moment.

    e.    Creation As Manifestation of Consciousness

b2ap3_thumbnail_astronomy-7.jpgSir Isaac Newton’s famous clockmaker analogy embedded in the western psyche an attitude that the earth is no more than a complex object, a vessel for the passion play between deity and humanity.  DiZerega discusses how the concept of a transcendent god, removed and separate from creation, desacralizes the world, devaluing it and setting the stage for environmental abuse.

Conversely, Seth constantly iterates the world, indeed the universe, as the ever-evolving creation of divine thought, a creation which is indivisible from its creator, and therefore panentheistically divine, itself. 

"The rhythms of your body and of your consciousness follow the patterns of your planet.  The planet itself is composed of atoms and molecules, each with their own kind of consciousness, however; and in the gestalt and cumulative cooperative organization of their nature the physical structure is formed – out of consciousness." (10, p. 348)

Stephen Aizenstat also asserts that, “ . . . all the phenomena in the world possess intrinsic unconscious characteristics – subjective inner natures,” and notes that the rhythms of nature lie beneath civilization’s religion, economies, culture and politics.  He posits that the work of depth psychology should extend Jung’s collective unconscious to the more inclusive “world unconscious.”

Ecopsychologists strive for recognition and embrace of our oneness with and impact on the environment.  Seth does not stop with recognition, but goes on to describe a fluid and dynamic relationship.

"There is little difference between the currents of blood that flow through your veins, and the wind current, except that the one seems to be within you and the other without.  Both are manifestations of the same interrelationship and motion, however.  Your planet has a body as much as you have.  Your blood follows certain prescribed patterns and so does the wind. . . As cells within your body influence it, so does your body affect the larger body of the earth.  The weather faithfully reflects the feelings of the individuals in any given local territory.  Overall weather patterns follow deeper inner rhythms of emotions." (10, p. 349)

IV.    Summary

b2ap3_thumbnail_wikicover.jpgFor many, the Seth writings have provided a rationale for intelligent and logical discussion of subjects most often viewed as irrational mysticism.  Seth’s splendid panorama of the universe as sentient and whole rejects the mechanistic thinking of our dominant culture in favor of a joyously alive and interactive existence.

"God knows itself through the flesh.  God may know itself through a million or a thousand million other worlds, as so may I – but because this world is, and because I am alive in it, it is more than appearance, more than a shackle to be thrown aside.  It is a privilege to be here, to look out with this unique focus, with these individual eyes . . . to see this corner of reality which I form through the miraculous connections of soul and flesh." (10, p. 696)

Those miraculous connections of soul and flesh are the stuff of which our collective healing will  come, as ecopsychology continues its vital work, saving Gaia by leading us to a loving reunion with our source.

by Holli S. Emore, 2005

Bibliography

1. Aizenstate, Stephen, “Jungian Psychology and the World Unconscious,” Ecopsychology, Sierra Club Books, 1995.
2. Armstrong, Jeannette, “Keepers of the Earth,” Ecopsychology, Sierra Club Books, 1995.
3. DiZerega, Gus, Pagans & Christians: The Personal Spiritual Experience, Llewellyn Publications, 2005.
4. Lazslo, Ervin, Science and the Akashic Field, Inner Traditions, 2004.
5. Popescu, Petru, Amazon Beaming, Viking, 1991.
6. Pribram, K.H. (1966). Some dimensions of remembering: Steps toward a neuropsychological model of memory. In Gaito, J. (Ed.), Macromolecules and Behaviour. Academic Press. [Excerpt in Pribram, K.H. (Ed.) (1969), Brain and Behaviour 2 - Perception and Action. Harmondsworth: Penguin.]
7. Roberts, Jane, Seth Speaks, Amber-Allen Publishing, 1972, 1994.
8. Roberts, Jane, The Nature of Personal Reality, Amber-Allen Publishing, 1974, 1994.
9. Roberts, Jane, The Unknown Reality, Volume One, Amber-Allen Publishing, 1977, 1996.
10. Roberts, Jane, The Unknown Reality, Volume Two, Amber-Allen Publishing, 1979, 1996.
11. Roszak, Theodore, “Where Psyche Meets Gaia,” Ecopsychology, eds., Roszak, Gomes, and Kanner.  Sierra Club Books: 1995.
12. Shepard, Paul, “Nature and Madness,”  Ecopsychology, Sierra Club Books, 1995.
13. Talbot, Michael, The Holographic Universe, Harper Perennial, 1991.

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Two of our students from the current Per Ankh II course share rituals they created as classwork.

Gratitude Ritual by Selina White

b2ap3_thumbnail_Hathor.jpgThis aim of this ritual is to offer up and give thanks to Hathor for five things you are grateful for on foot of a success/triumph. The number five is used to reflect the myth of the five gifts of Hathor, where a person initiated in the cult of Hathor would be asked to name give things that they were grateful for while looking at the five fingers of their left hand, the left hand being the hand that typically grasped the plentiful crop while the right hand cut and harvested it.

The altar is dressed with lighted candles and any number of items which represent Hathor to the participant, including:
Fresh flowers;
A necklace or piece of turquoise;
Sweet cake;
A horn;
Sycamore leaves;
A mirror;
etc.

Opening invocation:
“Hrt-Hrw, of the domain of Horus, Heset, wet-nurse to the gods
Nurturing mother, mistress of song and dance, of celebration and gratitude, bringer of life and comforter in death, I offer to you in gratitude all that you have lovingly bestowed unto me”

Raise the item of gratitude above your head, imagining your arms to be the horns of plenty of Hathor, the item being embraced within them.

For non-physical items you are grateful for, use a symbolic object or visualise the item over your head being embraced by the your arms, being the horns of Hathor.

With the item raised above your head, say:
I offer to you, Hrt-Hrw, Goddess of Love and Abundance, [name the item], may it serve and benefit me in accordance with your will and in ultimate service to humanity.

Place the item on or near the altar and place your left hand over it for a few moments, while ringing the sistrum.

Repeat this for the remaining four items.

Closing invocation:
May these offerings of gratitude please you, Hrt-Hrw, Lady of the Stars and Lady of the West. I ask you to bestow upon me abundant life, happiness and prosperity. May each day find me grateful to you for your five gifts and help me realise that if I should lose one, that there will always come another in time, flowing from your infinite divine nourishment.

Ring sistrum a number of times. End the ritual with a celebratory meal of bread/milk/wine/honey with song and dance.

Morning Devotion to Ra - by John Scruggs

b2ap3_thumbnail_Tutankhamun_Falcon1_retouched.jpgOn the altar is a scarab, a votive candle, a stand to hold the clothing made for Ra.
The ritual takes place just before sunrise - or upon rising.
The ritual begins with making an origami kimono which will be used as a dressing for the altar.

Embodying Ra speak:
Ra, mighty one who on his barque sails with the sun across they sky, we welcome you home from your night’s journey. We beseech thee to rise so that light may shine on the land and bless crops and villagers alike. That all may grow and prosper in the light of your day.

Water is sprinked on the altar and on ourselves. Embodying Ra speak:
We bath thee Ra in the water of life as the Nile that by thy grace floods and creates ground for food.

The kimono is placed on the stand.  Embodying Ra speak:
Ra, we dress the for day’s journey ahead to sit upon thy thrown on the barque of life. We adorn thee in regal vestments befitting the one who brings light and life to the land.

An offering of food is placed in front of the “dressed” Ra.  Embodying Ra speak:
We offer thee food, oh most blessed Ra, to nourish thee on thy journey across the sky even as you nourish the land with thy light.

Embodying Ra speak:
Ra, arise and shine, carry our hearts with you even as your carry our lives with you into the day.

The votive candle is lit as the sun rises.  Embodying Ra speak:
Mighty Ra, even as you rise the scarab curls up before you. We welcome you and travel with you on your journey across the sky and partake of the life it brings to our land. Let the light be nourishing, but not burning. Illuminating but not blinding. Gui ding but not forcing. With you, we recreate. So be it. It is done.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_Beyer-MLK_jail.jpgProfessor Ali Beyer has been featured in two recent exhibitions in Madison, Wisconsin. The Social Justice Center-Jackie Macaulay Gallery presented "America: Who Are We?" in January-February 2017. The show included Beyer's aquatint etching entitled,"Martin Luther King, Jr. in the Birmingham Jail (1963)."

A second show, "The First 100 Days," opened April 29th at Gallery 1308 at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Beyer's 2017 mixed media collage is entitled, "The Bird's the Word."

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b2ap3_thumbnail_Wes-paket.jpgBy Rev. Wes Isley -- Dressed in my Vodou ceremonial whites and surrounded by Christian colleagues, I sat on the floor of a hospital conference room. I was sharing with them a story I had written about the Vodou lwa Papa Legba and Maman Brigitte, using it to illustrate my own theology of healing as a chaplaincy intern. They listened and they laughed and they didn’t run in fear. Afterward, two of those Christian chaplains asked for a copy of my story. And none of this would have happened without Cherry Hill Seminary.
That’s right, a Pagan seminary bringing together Christians and Vodou! As a Masters of Divinity candidate at Cherry Hill, I was able to sign up for the chaplaincy internship, and this is just one example of the spiritually enriching—and fun—things I’ve done as a student.
Sure, Cherry Hill students have to turn in research papers and exams, but we also have the freedom to explore spiritual experiences and topics that we might otherwise miss. We Pagans love to attend workshops and festivals in order to expand our spiritual skills and meet kindred souls; well, taking a class at Cherry Hill offers the same opportunity. The only difference is that students can luxuriate in the experience over weeks or months rather than in just one whirlwind weekend.
Here are a few of the projects, experiences and topics I’ve enjoyed most through Cherry Hill:
·    Meeting a favorite Pagan blogger and joining discussions with him as a classmate
·    Creating rituals for Beltane and for greeting local land spirits
·    Attending an interfaith symposium on spiritual responses to climate change and meeting Cherry Hill students, professors, staff and board members
·    Creating an emotionally powerful ritual for invoking a concept of deity that I call the Divine Androgyne
·    Discussing BDSM, polyamory, pornography and other sexual topics within a safe space
·    Exploring further my spiritual path of Vodou, including making a magickal object known as a paket for my home altar and a 3-D representation of Vodou cosmology
·    Representing Pagans on an interfaith panel as part of my chaplaincy internship
·    Dispelling stereotypes among local chaplains about what it means to be Pagan and a Vodouisant
There’s much more I could share, and I look forward to what happens next as I prepare for future classes. Cherry Hill offers more than a one-dimensional experience, and I have been enriched intellectually, spiritually, socially and professionally. Naturally, your experience would be unique and personal, and I hope you’ll seize the opportunity to find out what lies in store for you as a Cherry Hill student.

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My First Course

by M. Macha NightMare - Back in an earlier incarnation of Cherry Hill Seminary, the late Judy Harrow and I were recruited to a new course offering called “Boundaries & Ethics in Pagan Pastoral Counseling” – yes, I dislike using the word ‘pastoral’ in a Pagan context because it’s a specifically Christian term relating to sheep and shepherds (“shepherds of men”; however, Judy convinced me that it was the term used for what she did as a member of professional counseling organizations).  Now Judy actually was a pastoral counselor by training, I, on the other hand, have never been one, nor do I have such aspirations.  This course is appropriate for anyone, Pagan or not, pastoral counselor or not.

I think this may have been CHS’s first online class, taught by the inestimable Cat Chapin-Bishop, Chair of the then-Pastoral Counseling Department.  This was during her previous career in counseling.  Our class had its own Yahoogroup for discussion, plus our weekly live online meeting held in a Yahoogroups chat.  This was prior to Moodle teaching programs.  As you can imagine, the chats were clunky and unreliable, with people getting bumped off and having to re-enter.

In any case, I found it to be really useful, addressing a topic that one doesn’t learn in the typical process of a Pagan training.  We discussed such issues as:

«    How much counsel coven or group leaders can reasonably provide (i.e., has adequate professional training);

«    Avoiding burnout;

«    Evaluating the counselee’s situation to determine if you (leader, HPs, whatever) can help or if and when to refer someone to professional therapists;

«    Researching local therapists, and even interviewing them, to see if they’d be sensitive to Pagan spiritualities (i.e., would they think it strange that anyone would consult the Tarot for guidance or do they think it’s is the work of the devil);

«    Researching and reviewing the ethics statements of various helping professions (i.e., American Counseling Association and the like);

«    Ultimately, writing our own personal statement of ethics, which may or may not be like others’ statements of ethics.

This last had the most value to me.  These things are not usually taught as part of Pagan religious training.  And it’s not essential for you to articulate a formal statement of ethics if you’re not the person whom troubled members consult.  However, it is important to review one’s own ethical principles once in a while.

In fact, one significant product engendered by that course is “Spiritual Counseling and Wiccan Clergy: not psychotherapy in disguise,” which remains available to the public among the archival treasures on the Proteus Coven website, founded by Judy Harrow and colleagues and thankfully still available to anyone online.

Cat’s solicitation to take this course recruited both Judy and me in the development of Cherry Hill [Pagan] Seminary.  Sadly, Judy is gone now, but I’m still kickin’.  Drop by to see how you can help and to see what’s being offered.

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  • Wes Isley
    Wes Isley says #
    I'll be taking an ethics course this summer at Cherry Hill and looking forward to it. I just completed a chaplaincy internship at

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