Dr. Lewis Keizer


Required Core Course for Home Temple School of Sacred Studies

M.Div. and D.D. Divinity Degrees



Each of the twelve Modules requires about 30 pages of reading for objective information in the text, Religions of the World. The Modules are arranged into four SECTIONS. The information from each Module will be interpreted and entered by the student into a COURSE TEMPLATE that identifies each world religion by geographical and cultural origin, historical development, founder or founders, doctrines, calendar or festivals, and other common criteria. The completed COURSE TEMPLATE is e-mailed to the instructor at the end of the course to verify the credit toward a Divinity Degree. This fulfills requirements for acquisition and interpretation of objective information in each Module.


Issues in Contemporary Spirituality

Additionally, the student reads short, high interest sections from Embarking on the Way. Although this book is an introduction to Western Taoism, it is pan-denominational and engages the reader with issues in contemporary spirituality, especially the problem of adapting ancient religious philosophy to the issues of modern spirituality.  These readings are supplemented with the excellent classic selections of two to five pages at the end of each topic in Religions of the World, and augmented by suggested web sites representing contemporary schools of the religion studied.  The student is required to comment on issues of interest from these readings at the end of each SECTION in the Course Template. 



Course Description


Religious beliefs differ from person to person and culture to culture: yet there is often a commonality among both formal and informal religions that speaks to humankind's deepest character. This course explores and compares the modern world's major religions, analyzing how they are intertwined with cultural and personal diversity, and engaging the student in the process of interpreting traditional religion to meet modern human spiritual needs.


Course Goals and Module Objectives:



1.     To develop a general knowledge of major world religions.

2.     To gain an overview of the teachings and principles of each religion

3.     To become familiar with the founders of major religions.

4.     To develop analytic skills in historical, comparative, and phenomenological approaches to the study of religions of religions.

5.     To identify common elements and themes in human religious culture.

6.     To track the evolution of human spirituality from ancient to modern times.



7.     To better understand contemporary spirituality through an overview of the history and development of major religious traditions.

8.     To understand the historical evolution of human spirituality and find those streams which are relevant for us.

9.     To confront the issues that separate modern spirituality from its medieval and ancient roots, such as sexuality, asceticism, male-female relations, other-worldly orientation, and  patriarchy.

10.  To better integrate an approach to personal spirituality and the religious cultures of the world.





Required Textbooks (two):


Hopfe, Lewis M. and Mark R. Woodward, Religions of the World, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1998

Used at



Towler, Solala, Embarking on the Way: A Guide to Western Taoism,

Oregon: Abode of the Eternal Tao, 1991 Garfield Street, Eugene, OR  97405, , 1997

Or used at



Suggested Topical Reading Resources:


Historical Development of World Religions:

Noss, David S., A History of the World’s Religion, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1999


Psychological-Sociological Interpretation of Myth:

Campbell, Joseph, The Masks of God:  Primitive Mythology, New York: Viking, 1970


Shamanic Roots of Religious Experience:

Eliade, Mircea, Trans. W. R. Trask, Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1972


Suggested Videotaped Resources Available from Online Sources:

The Long Search series, available at most public libraries.  This has 52-minute presentations on each major world religion.

Gandhi, a three-hour presentation available at most video rental stores.

The Voice of Zarathushtra, a 42-minute presentation.

The Prisoner of Akka, a Baha’i videotape.

Radiant Life:  Meditations and Visions of Hildegard of Bingen, a medieval woman Christian mystic who was greatly revered by suppressed European schools.

The Sage of Arunachala, Shri Ramana Maharishi, whom C.G. Jung called “the purest of India.”

Yakoana: The Voice of Indigenous Peoples, a documentary of the world conference held in Brazil attended by over a thousand tribal leaders worldwide.  It includes stories, dances, and ceremonies.  Available through Parabola (see below).


Suggested Online Journals on Contemporary Spirituality:

Parabola: Myth, Tradition and the Search for Meaning can be previewed and ordered at

Sacred Web: A Journal of Tradition and Modernity is available at 1750-1111 West Georgia Street, Vancouver, B.C., Canada, V6E 4M3

Science and Spirit, a contemporary journal linking modern science, medicine, and spirituality.  Http://

The Empty Vessel: A Journal of Contemporary Taoism can be previewed at






Online Strunk’s Elements of Style Guide to Style and Grammar:






Photos and Graphics for the Study of World Religions:


Rites of Passage in World Religions (Birth, Marriage, etc.):


Gateway Academic Link and Library Sites for World Religions:



University of Alberta, Canada

The Basic Topical Page is


From this you can reach excellent link pages for all world religions, such as:









Private Sites with Excellent Links:

Links to World Scriptures:


Links to World Religion Sites:






SECTION ONE, Modules 1-3


Module 1:

Introduction to the History, Comparison, and Phenomenology of Religions



Specific Internet Research Links for Module 1:


I.              Theories of the Origin of Religions

A.            Animism

B.            Nature Worship

C.            Original Monotheism

D.            Magic

E.            Psychological Projection

II.             Cultural-Geographical Origination of Religions

A.            Basic Religions

B.            Religions Originating in India

C.            Religions Originating in China and Japan

D.            Religions Originating in the Middle East

III.            Basic Religions

A.            Neanderthal Religion

B.            Cro-Magnon Religion

C.            Neolithic Religion and Homo Sapiens

IV.           Common Features of Basic Religions

A.            Animism

B.            Magic

C.            Divination

D.            Taboo

E.            Totems

F.            Sacrifice

G.            Myth

H.            Rituals

I.              Rites of Passage

J.             Ancestor Veneration






RW (Religions of the World) pp. 1-30





WAY (Embarking on the Way) Introduction through p.15  (Adapting the Best of Eastern Taoism to the Spiritual Needs of Modern Westerners)






Module 2:

Shamanism and Tribal Religions



Specific Internet Research Links for Module 2:



I.              The Spirit World

II.             Animism

III.            Spirit Contacts

A.            Sacrifice

B.            Taboos

C.            Ceremonies and Rituals

D.            Vision Quest

E.            Religious Leadership

F.            Other Means of Spirit Contact

IV.           Death and Afterlife

V.            Modern Native American Religions

VI.           Native African Religions

A.            The High God

B.            The Lesser Spirits

C.            Ancestors

D.            Sacrifice

E.            Rites of Passage

F.            Religious Leaders

VII.          Non-Native African Religions

A.            Judaism

B.            Christianity

C.            Islam

VIII.         Modern African Religions






            RW pp. 31-72



RW pp. 49-53



WAY pp. 16-18  (How and Why Lao-tzu Wrote the Tao Te Ching)





Module 3: 

Religions originating in India: Hinduism and Jainism



Specific Internet Research Links for Module 3:



I.              Origins of Hinduism

A.            Pre-Aryan

B.            Aryan 

(See and for opposing arguments about whether the Aryans ever existed.)

C.            Muslim

II.             Hindu Scriptures and Their Major Themes

A.            The Four Vedas

B.            The Brahmanas

C.            The Upanishads

D.            The Law (Code) of Manu

E.            The Ramayana and the Mahabharata Epics

III.            Hindu Sects and Their Sacred Literature

A.            Puranas: Scripture of the Common People

B.            Shaktism

IV.           Devotional Life

A.            Pilgrimage

B.            Holy men

V.            Major Hindu Movements

A.            Brahmo Samaj

B.            Arya Samaj

C.            Ramakrishna

VI.           The Life and Legends of Mahavira

VII.          The Teachings of Jainism

VIII.         Practices of Jainism

A.            Ahimsa:  Non-Injury

B.            Truth-Speaking

C.            Honesty

D.            Sexual Asceticism

E.            Renunciation of all Attachments

IX.           Jain Sects

A.            White-Clad Svetambara

B.            Sky-Clad Digambara

C.            Sthanakavasi : Opposed to Temples, Idols, Later Teachings

X.            Jain Festivals

A.            Paijusana

B.            Divali

XI.           Modern Jainism








RW (Religions of the World) pp. 76-133


RW pp. 116-123



WAY pp. 29-44  (Parables on the Wisdom of Foolishness; The Slippery Art of Wu Wei)




RW pp. 133-135


SECTION TWO:  Modules 4-6


Module 4:



Specific Internet Research Links for Module 4:

Tibetan Buddhism:

Zen Buddhism:




I.              The Life and Legends of Buddha

A.            The Four Passing Sights

B.            The Six Years of Quest

C.            Temptations of Buddha

D.            The Great Enlightenment

E.            The Deer Park Discourse: A Middle Path

F.            Buddha's Death

II.             Buddhist Teachings

A.            Buddha's Answer to Metaphysical Questions

B.            The Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eight-Fold Path

C.            The Arahatship and Nirvana

D.            Anicca, Dukkha & Bhavana

E.            Rebirth Without a Soul - Substance

III.            Major Schools of Buddhism

A.            Theravada (Hinayana) Buddhism

B.            Mahayana Buddhism

1.             The Rock Edicts of Asoka: Buddhist Missionaries

2.             Pure Land Buddhism

3.             Zen Buddhism

4.             Padmasambhava and Tibetan Vajrayana

IV.           Festivals and Holy Days

A.            New Year

B.            Wesak

C.            Ullambana

D.            Robe Offering

V.            Buddhist Scriptures

A.            MajjhimaNikaya, XII

B.            The Eightfold Path

C.            Compassion of the Bodhisattva

D.            Zen Meditation






RW (Religions of the World) pp. 136-160



RW pp.  160-166



WAY pp. 45-50  (Natural Spirituality: Being Simple, and Simply Being)



Module 5:


Specific Internet Research Links for Module 5:

A CD ROM Containing Parts of the Guru Granth Sahib Scripture Held Inviolate at the Golden Temple has now been Made Available through the Following Site:




I.              The Life and Legends of Nanak

II.             The Teachings of Nanak

III.            Historical Development of Sikhism

A.            Angad and the Ten Gurus

B.            Arjan Dev and the Adi Granth

C.            Gobind Singh, Durga, and Self-Defense

D.            Divisions Within Sikhism

1.             Udasis:  The Holy Men

2.             Sahajdharis

3.             Singhs

IV.           Sikh Religious Life

V.            Holy Days

Modern Sikhism






RW (Religions of the World) pp. 167-176



RW pp. 176-180



WAY pp.  50-54  (Water as an Ancient Symbol of Psychic and Spiritual Energy)



Module 6:

Religions Originating in China and Japan: Taoism and Confucianism


Specific Internet Research Links for Module 6:


Analects of Confucius:


Text of Tao Te Ching:


Virtual I Ching Reading:



I.              Basic Chinese Religious Concepts

A.            Multiple Gods and Spirits

B.            Yin and Yang

C.            Filial Piety and Ancestor Worship

D.            Divination

E.            Development of Belief in the Shang Ti

F.            Decline of the Feudal System

II.             Taoism

A.            The Life and Legends of Lao-tzu

B.            The Tao Te Ching

C.            Teachings of Early Taoist Philosophers

D.            Schools That Rivaled Taoism

E.            Later Development

III.            Confucianism

A.            The Life and Legends of Confucius

B.            The Teachings of Confucius

1.             Middle Way Between Taoism and Ancient Chinese Religion

2.             Concept of Li and the Five Relationships

3.             Concept of Jen and Inward Spirituality

C.            Development of Confucianism

IV.           Traditional Chinese Holidays

A.            Chinese New Year

B.            Pure and Bright Festival

C.            Dragon Boat Festival

D.            All Soul’s Day

E.            Autumn Harvest Festival

F.            Winter Holidays

V.            Modern Taoism and Confucianism







RW (Religions of the World) pp. 181-210



RW pp. 210-217



WAY pp. 55-76  (Yin-Yang and Modern Sexuality)





SECTION THREE, Modules 7-9:



Module 7:



Specific Internet Research Links for Module 7:


Photos of Shinto Shrines:





A.            History of Traditional Japanese Religion

1.             Shinto Prior to 300 C.E.

2.             Chinese Influence on Shinto

3.             The Revival of Shinto

4.             The Modern Era

B.            Three Forms of Shinto

1.             State Shinto

2.             Sectarian Shinto

3.             Domestic Shinto

C.            Japanese Festivals

1.             Shogatsu:  New Year

2.             Buddha’s Birthday

3.             Ullambana:  All Soul’s Day

4.             Niiname sai:  The Autumn Festival

D.            Modern Shinto






RW (Religions of the World) pp. 218-233



RW pp. 233-236



WAY pp. 77-87  (The Great Mother:  The Divine Immanence)




Module 8:

Religions Originating in the Middle East: Zoroastrianism


Specific Internet Research Links for Module 8:


Zend Avesta, Other Sacred Scripture, and More Links:





I.              Religion of Ancient Persia Prior to the Advent of Zoroaster

II.             The Life and Legends of Zoroaster (Zarathustra)

A.            Revelation

B.            Temptation

C.            Mission

III.            Historical Development of Zoroastrianism

A.            Achaemenid Period (550-330 B.C.E.)

B.            Seleucid Period (330-247 B.C.E.)

C.            Sassanid Period (227-651 C.E.)

D.            Exile and Survival (651 C.E. to the Present)

IV.           Teachings of Zoroaster

A.            Zoroastrian Scripture

1.             The Gathas

2.             The Avesta

3.             Later Avesta

B.            Nature of God

C.            Problem of Evil

D.            Human Nature and Destiny

E.            Ethics

F.            Worship and Fire Priesthood

1.             Prayer

2.             Naojote

3.             Death 

V.            Zoroastrians of the Present Day

A.            Gabars or Iranis

B.            Parsis (Parsees) of India







RW (Religions of the World) pp. 237-256



RW pp. 255-259



WAY pp. 88-110  (Introduction to Chinese Medicine)




Module 9:



Specific Internet Research Links for Module 9:


Contemporary Jewish Links:


Ancient Hebrew History Related to the Old Testament (Christian Source, but Good Information):


Babylonian Captivity:


Dead Sea Scrolls:


Teachings of Chasidim:


Jewish Communities in China:


Jewish Calendar:







I.              The Patriarchs

II.             The Life and Legends of Moses

A.            Moses Receives Revelation

B.            The Exodus and the Ten Commandments

C.            The Tabernacle or Moveable Temple

III.            Canaanites & the Conquest of Canaan under Joshua

A.            Baalism: the Religion of the Canaanites

IV.           Philistines & the Early Jewish Kings

A.            The Two Kingdoms

1.             Israel, the Northern Kingdom of the Omri

2.             Judah, the Southern Kingdom of Davidic Jerusalem

V.            Religion in the Time of the Hebrew Monarchy

A.            The Influence of Other Religious Practices on the Jewish Priesthood

B.            The Anti-Monarchical Prophetic Movement

C.            The Isaiah School Synthesizes Priesthood and Prophecy

VI.           Exile and Return

A.            Exile

B.            The Return of the Jews to Jerusalem

C.            Development of the Synagogue

VII.          Hellenistic Judaism

A.            The Maccabaean Revolt and Hanukkah (Festival of Lights)

B.            The Sadducees, Pharisees, and Other Sects

VIII.         The Roman Period

A.            The Zealots

B.            The Essenes

C.            The Noble Rebellion : Bar Kokhba

IX.           Jewish Scriptures

A.            Ben Zakkai, Akiba, and the Hebrew Bible

B.            Mishnah, Talmud,  and Midrash

X.             Medieval Judaism

A.            The Kabbalah (Cabala)

B.            Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jews

C.            The Ghetto, Stetle, Pogrom

XI.            Modern Judaism

A.            Zionism and Israel

B.            Reform Judaism

C.            The Holocaust

XII.          Jewish Observances

A.            Wedding

B.            Circumcision

C.            Death

XIII.         Jewish Festivals and Holy Days

A.            Sabbath

B.            Passover

C.            Rosh Hashanah

D.            Yom Kippur

E.            Bar-Mitzvah






RW (Religions of the World) pp. 260-296



RW pp. 295-300



WAY pp. 11-113  (A Taoist Meditation for Balancing the Qi of Bodily Organs)



SECTION FOUR, Modules 10-12



Module 10:



Specific Internet Research Links for Module 10:


The Jesus Seminar:


Christian Scripture and Classic Texts Online:


Early Christian Scripture and Literature:


Gospel of Thomas and Gnostic Links:


Biblical Studies; Textual Criticism:


Biblical Studies;  The Problem of the Synoptic Gospels:


Church History and Traditions:


Contemporary Issues:




I.              Messianic Judaism in the First Century C.E.

II.             The Life and Legends of Jesus

A.            Early Life

B.            Baptism and Temptation

C.            Ministry

D.            Last Supper

E.            Hearing Before the Sanhedrin

F.            Crucifixion

G.            Resurrection

III.            The Teachings of Jesus

A.            Parables

B.            Eschatology:  Apocalyptic or Realized?

C.            The Fatherhood of God

D.            The Kingdom of God

E.            God’s Love for Humanity

IV.           The Early Churches

A.            The Jerusalem Church

B.            Pentecost

C.            Paul

D.            Christian Literature to the Year 150 C.E.

E.            The Four Gospels

F.            Early Christianity

G.            Persecution and Triumph

V.            Theological Sects and Controversies

A.            The Arian Controversy

B.            The Nicene Creed

C.            The Constantinopolitan Creed

VI.           Byzantine Christianity

A.            Monasticism

VII.          Roman Christianity

A.            Augustine of Hippo

VIII.         The Division of the Church into East and West

A.            Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy

B.            Roman Evangelism of Europe and the Carolingian Renaissance

C.            The Crusades

D.            The Inquisition

IX.           The Protestant Reformation

A.            The Ninety-Five Theses

B.            Authority of Scripture Rather Than Apostolic Tradition

C.            Protestant Worship

D.            Calvin and Zwingli

E.            Political Revolution

F.            Church of England, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Anabaptists, Calvinists, Puritans, Congregationalists

G.            The Enlightenment

X.            The Emergence of Modern Christianity

A.            Modern Catholicism

1.             Counter-Reformation and Council of Trent

2.             Later Catholic Dogmas

3.             Vatican II

B.            Modern Protestant Movements

1.             Baptists, Quakers, Methodists

2.             Missionary Movements

3.             Ecumenical Movement

C.            Theosophical, New-Age, and New American Christian Forms






RW (Religions of the World) pp. 301-345



RW pp. 344-353



WAY pp. 114-125  (Introduction to Qigong Practice)




Module 11: 



Specific Internet Research Links for Module 11:




I.              Pre-Islamic Arab Religion

II.             The Life and Legends of Muhammad

A.            Prophetic Calls

B.            The Hijrah (Migration)

C.            Establishment of Theocracy in Medina

D.            Warfare with Mecca

E.            Mir’aj (Night journey of the Prophet to paradise)

III.            The Qur'an

A.            “There is no God but Allah, and Mohammad is His Messenger”

B.            Predestination

C.            Eschatology and Final Judgment

IV.           Religious Institutions

A.            The Mosque

B.            The Five Pillars

1.             Shahadah : The Creed

2.             Salaht: Prayers Five Times Daily

3.             Zakaht:  Charity

4.             Sawm:  The Fast of Ramadan

5.             Hajj:  Pilgrimage to Mecca

C.            Islam and Women

D.            Islamic Taboos

E.            Jihad

V.            Muhammad’s Successors: The Caliphate

A.            Abu Bakr

B.            Umar (634-644) and Jihad

C.            Uthman

D.            `Ali

E.            Abolishment of the Caliphate

VI.           Islamic Hadith and Sects

A.            Sunnis

B.            Shi'ites

C.            Sufis 

VII.          Muslim Calendar and Holy Days

A.            The Id-al-Fitir (Festival of Fast Breaking)

B.            The Id-al-Azha (Festival of Sacrifices)

C.            The Id-al-ghadir (Festival of the Lake of Humm)

D.            Festivals

1.             New Year

2.             The Mawlid an-Nabi (Birthday of the Prophet Mohammad)

VIII.         Modern Islam






RW (Religions of the World) pp. 356-387



RW pp. 388-395



WAY pp. 126-137  (Taoist Meditation)



Module 12:

Bahai and Other Forms of New Spirituality


Specific Internet Research Links for Module 12:




Other Forms of New Spirituality:




Other Forms:





I.              Islamic Background in Nineteenth-Century Islam

II.             The Founders and Leaders

A.            The Báb (1819-1850)

B.            Bahá’u’lláh (1817-1892)

C.            `Abdu’l-Bahá (1844-1921)

D.            Shoghi Effendi

III.            Some Bahá’í Teachings and Principles

A.            The Nature of God

B.            Oneness of Mankind

C.            Oneness of Religion

D.            Oneness of Prophets

E.            The Two Parts of Religion

F.            Elimination of All Kinds of Prejudice

G.            Universal Auxiliary Language

H.            Equality of Women and Men

I.              Universal Compulsory Education

J.             Harmony of Science and Religion

K.            Elimination of Extremes of Wealth and Poverty 

IV.           Bahá’í Laws & observances

A.            The Nineteen-Day Feast

B.            Prayer & Meditation

C.            Fasting

D.            Marriage

E.            Provisions for Divorce

V.            Bahai Calendar and Holy Days

VI.           Modern Bahai

A.            The Persecution of Bahá’ís in Iran






RW (Religions of the World) pp. 396-405



RW pp. 405-407



WAY pp. 138-151  (A Simple Taoist Meditation and Qigong Practice)



Explore at least three separate new forms of religion or spirituality using: