I think I’ve finally figured out my research workflow for my Unschooled Master’s of Theology in Biblical Studies and thought I would share it with everyone. This article will cover my motivations, the tools used, the implementation of those tools, and where there are still deficiencies in the overall process.

You can read all of my uThM assignments here.

Let’s get started….


What am I Really Trying to Accomplish?

My goals in designing and pursuing the Unschooled Master of Theology in Biblical Studies is one of personal import. It is not necessarily a goal to acquire specific employment or any vocational aptitude. It is not an attempt to increase my own personal wealth, status, or place in the informal, westernized caste system so prevalent in America.

These issues are all beyond me now. I think it would be fair to say I was born to poor parents, in a poor economy, with poor prospects, and the advice I received and acted upon as a child and young adult only served to solidify my inability to cross from poverty into wealth.

But, this is America, they say. This is the land of the free, and home of the brave! In this country, you can make anything of yourself! You’ve just got to want it. You just have to work hard for it and never give up! Follow your dreams!

Well, this is actually not entirely accurate. Yes, there are examples of this. Many of the greats in our culture came from rather humble beginnings. But, many more came from wealth, privilege, and had a birthright toward influence and success. In fact, I would argue, the majority.

I will never forget when I learned, just a few days ago, that Governor Newsom is the nephew of Nancy Pelosi and the whole backstory of the four San Francisco families that are entwined by blood, marriage, money and power.

There are entire bureaucracies in western societies built purposefully to keep the masses in-check.

But, thankfully, since an early age, I’ve had little desire to breach this upper caste. Rather, my interests have largely revolved around the spiritual, the metaphysical, the philosophical and theological.

I’ve always wanted to know about God. Mind you, not the claptrap so typically offered up to the masses by organized institutions. These are just as corrupt and debased as our political systems.

Rather, I’ve wanted to peel back the curtain that hangs between myself and my maker. No pomp. No presupposition. No limitations. Religion, science, mathematics, philosophy, these are but simplistic tools used to describe that which is fundamental, which is definitive, explicit, and denotative.

This undergirds my motivations for this uThM program.

It is a mechanism, a system by which I can learn about, gain a fundamental understanding of the ubiquitous reality I exist in. It is a means by which I can explore the concepts of death and afterlife and consciousness and theology and philosophy and metaphysics.

In the end, I hope to arrive at the primal answers to the major questions. To develop a sure confidence in those answers and be able to extrapolate, with some precision, what it means to die, to live, to be, and what it is that is said to be “God.”

The uThM program is interdisciplinary in approach, in that it focuses on several distinct but related aspects of the phenomenal world and synthesizes and categorizes them appropriately, to access a fundamental theory of death, life, living, afterlife and reality. My goal is to ascertain the “real.” To take possession of the evidentiary natures of all that “is.”

Since I was a teenager, I’ve maintained the hypothesis that there is but one and only one fundamental reality that persists. Religion is man’s attempt to explain and define that fundamental reality. It may or may not be an accurate representation of that reality. It is implausible to conclude there is more than one actual reality. May it be the Buddhist representation, the Christian representation, the Agnostic representation, or the Atheistic representation; one is accurate (or, the most accurate in relation to the others) and all others are thusly false.

The goal of my uThM program is to develop a comprehensive understanding of the metaphysical and philosophical scene with enough sufficiency that I can then extrapolate with greater accuracy what this fundamental reality might be.

Through my studies, I am devoting much of my time to a comprehensive examination of the biblical text. To do this adequately, I intend to develop a reading fluency in the Greek language, and cross-investigate issues and topics in death, metaphysics, philosophy, theology, creativity, scientific inquiry, mathematics, origins and cosmologies, space studies, quantum physics, consciousness, world history, afterlife, and the hermitic vocation.

What Tools Do I Use?

When I say tools here, I am referring to digital tools, as my workspace is primarily on my laptop and on the internet.

My uThM program is holistically independent and self-directed. It is “at a distance” only because many of the resources used are found online and delivered in an asynchronous format.

I make a point, though, to utilize only digital tools, simply because I have develop over the years an intrinsic affinity for electronic applications. It is much more efficient, more fluid, and aids in retrieval much more effectively than its manual counterparts.

In summary, the tools I use predominately are:

Firefox for browsing, Scrivener for writing reviews, papers, assignments, and books, theWord for displaying Scripture references while reading, 4K Downloader to download Youtube videos when offline, MS Paint to make screenshots, Anki for vocabulary flashcard learning, Potplayer for watching videos and audio and music, Balabolka for listening to ebooks and academic papers and popular articles (instead of trying to read them), Microsoft To Do for scheduling and To-Do lists, Accordance for biblical study, especially of the original languages, Newsflow for popular RSS feeds, Translator for languages, Wordcount for analysis, DocFetcher for maintaining a knowledge database, Microsoft Mathematics for, well, math work, and WordPress.com for blogging.

Online I frequently visit a few book and article repositories, Microsoft Academic to find academic papers, and an online article fetcher.

I utilize courses from Koinonia Institute, Coursera, Yale, Harvard, Stanford, MIT, and various other institutions that offer MOOCs or the option to audit courses.

What does my Workflow Look Like?

I’ve tried various workflows in the past, few having the internal integrity to last much longer than a few weeks or months. With this program being completely independent and self-directed, I’ve struggled with maintaining motivation long-term, though this struggle has lessened the last year or so.

But, to outline my program workflow, let me go through each major section of material I handle.

Video/Audio Lectures: I complete courses online whenever I am able to, or, a better way to say it is whenever they are offered for free. There will quickly be a point where I will need to start paying for individual courses due to specialization and a lack of any other course material. Typically, depending of course on subject, free coursework is available for entry level classes. More advanced material is often behind one type of paywall or another.

Videos and audios are watched or listened to on Potplayer, usually as a local file. I spend a lot of time without internet access, and hope to spend more time as such in the future, so local copy is paramount. Potplayer has been a great program for this, as it works well, has keyboard shortcut functionality and you can quickly set the playback speed (I typically listen to lectures at 2x speed).

While listening to these lectures, I will often take notes. I will have one document for all lectures in a given course. Once the course is complete, I will add the bibliography information at the top of the page, will organize and structure the notes, and these will reside in my Scrivener Research Notebook indefinitely and can be searched contextually in the future. I will also write a review of the course for my blog, and complete any required assignments.

Ebooks: These are typically acquired through online repositories, local libraries, or Amazon and are processed similarly to lectures. I will listen to the text via Balabolka, and take notes while doing so. Some books do not generate any notes, while others are literary gold-mines (such as Thoreau’s Where I Lived) which resulted in pages and pages of notes.

Due to the subject matter I read, there can be a large volume of Scripture references embedded in the text. Previous to search and display tools, I would have to either look up each reference individually, or just skip the reference altogether. Now I used theWord’s clipboard monitoring feature, with theWord running in the background. Whenever I come across a reference in Balabolka, I pause the reading, copy the reference(s) and theWord displays all references in a popup window. If I move my mouse, the window disappears.

As I progress through the reading, if I find anything in the text to be insightful, important, or something I want to remember in the future, I will copy it, and paste it in the notes section for that book in the Scrivener Research Notebook. Once the book is finished, I will attach the bibliography information at the top of the page, organize the notes, and it will remain in the Research Notebook indefinitely. I will then write a review post on the book.

Any book I deem important, a local copy will be kept in my DocFetcher index for future contextual searching.

Academic Papers: These are a separate beast altogether, though handled somewhat the same. Acquisition is a little different, and quantity is greatly increased, though quality is rather hit or miss.

I typically will find these on either Microsoft Academic (best academic search engine I’ve tried so far) or via reference in another academic paper, popular article, or in an ebook or as a reference in a lecture. These papers are either open access, or I acquire local copies via an online article retrieval system.

Local copies are saved in my eBooks folder under Articles to be Read. These are organized by subject. Additions to this folder are automatically (at least in theory) added to the DocFetcher index for immediate use in contextual keyword searching. This allows all academic papers I download to be available and accessible by context keyword, rather than the information be dependent on my reading the article and taking notes on the article.

There are so many articles written in a given year and the glut is only increasing. There are said to be approximately 8000 papers from employed philosophy academics with an additional 2000 papers from PhD candidates (or accumulatively grad students), making a total of 10,000 philosophy papers written each year.

This is just philosophy.

If I included all sub-set subjects like death, metaphysics, consciousness (which I’m not certain they’re included in the above numbers), it certainly doesn’t include academic papers in the sciences, in mathematics, in history, or in theology.

There are approximately 1.5 million scientific journal articles written each year.

It is simply an impossibility to sort through all of this information in a traditional, manual way. Colleges are shifting the emphasis away from dissertations and toward academic publishing to move the critique mechanism from their employees to the peer review committee at the respective journal.

This is insanity.

But, the advent of technology provides a solution.

Data mining.

I still read academic articles to stay abreast of advancements and new information. But, with this there is such a bottleneck, a person cannot keep up. So, there is an additional step to be added. By focusing on information collection rather than information acquisition, I can create a searchable database of all seemingly important and relevant material (ebook, article, notes, etc) that can be contextually searched.

Whatever subject I’m working on at the moment, I not only refer to a search of my notes in my Research Notebook, but I also conduct keyword searches in my knowledge database (collection of all downloaded articles and ebooks I have).

Even if I have not read 95% of this information, I can still mine it by keyword and that context can be adequately mined. When I find something that is useful, I can then open that document natively and explore more specifically.

This takes away the demand for constant reading of an ever increasing body of work.

Eventually we will not need to review at all, but repositories will serve as our collective memories.

Popular Articles: These are news reports, editorials, popular topical articles, website articles; basically, anything that is not published in an academic journal. Not only do these keep me up-to-date on the happenings in the world, but they often lead me to academic articles their research is based on.

These articles are collected automatically via RSS feeds and are dumped into Newsflow. This is an offline RSS reader that I can go through daily and I delete 99% of all articles just when reading the headline. If an article looks important, it’sF saved until I have internet access. At that point, they are read or saved as a local file and read. If the article is important for future use, it is added to the knowledge database to be included in contextual searching in the future.

Math Books: These are definitely different and post unique challenges. Before I needed physical books, notebooks of blank paper, pens/pencils, calculators, etc. Now, though, I’m on the verge of needing only my laptop and (hopefully) a stylus to do all math work going forward.

Typically, I would acquire a math book the same way I would any ebook or article, through an online repository, my local library, or through Amazon. Once I have a local copy, I then will schedule sessions, typically assigning a number of problems or pages each day.

All problems would be worked out in my mathematics notebook (Onenote). I chose this program because of its integration of the stylus (it’s on order and not yet tested for usability). My laptop is a 2-in-1 and I hope to use it as a 14 inch tablet when doing math problems. Problems will most likely be copied from the pdf as a screen shot and pasted into Onenote. Once problems are worked and I’m able to reach the correct answer, I move on, working through the book each day until it is finished.

Once a particular math book is finished, I will write a review on it, highlight its strengths and weaknesses and likewise highlighting the interesting aspects and discoveries I’ve made.

When high school mathematics has been completed (Basic, Algebra, Geometry, Trigonometry, Statistics, Calculus), I will then move on to more advanced mathematical topics, specifically focusing on issues pertaining to my research questions about origins, reality, consciousness, afterlife, theology, philosophy, and metaphysics.

Writing Reviews/Articles/Assignments: As already stated, I will be writing course reviews, book reviews, and narrative literature reviews for all the above listed material types. I will also be completing specific course related assignments as they are assigned.

Capstone Projects: I will also be completing multiple capstone projects that will culminate is some form of published artifact, either a blog post, academic paper (attempting publishing in a journal), an ebook (published on Kindle), or an online course open to the public for purchase.

My ultimate goal would be to write and publish novels on the subjects of my uThM program, as well as opening an online school with courses focusing on these same subjects. But, more importantly, the main aspiration is to retire to Eden as a religious hermit, and devote myself full-time to my academic and spiritual studies until my death, living out my remaining days in self imposed and blissful solitude.

What Deficiencies Remain in the System?

Despite a rather useful and efficient system, this process still has some challenges that need to be worked on. First, video and audio lectures are not fully inducted into the knowledge database for future searches, only the notes are included in the Research Notebook. This can be solved by 1. Actively capturing transcripts whenever available (such as the Death Course from Yale). 2. Implement a audio/video to text transcription option.

I do believe most podcasts, audio, and video lectures in more structured courses provide transcripts or will provide transcripts in the future. These can be captured as localized articles in html or pdf format and quickly added to the database.

The major issue with this is the question of necessity. Despite online courses and their audio/video lecture format, many lectures are not really useful as a whole. There appears to be a lot of filler. The same could be said for books and academic articles, which is why there is still the filtering and qualifying process of watching and reading and taking notes. If any resource does not pass this qualification it is discarded. This keeps the database curated specifically for the subject matter at hand and will keep it’s size (hopefully) portable in the future.

There are also limitation issues with audio to speech technology. It is not quite as advanced as text to speech at this moment and any advancement comes at a cost barrier, so the actual ROI is still unclear.

Maintaining motivation has also been an issue. Though this iteration of my graduate studies have been less of a challenge overall, and this I am convinced is at least partially due to its more formal design and execution, it still can pose a challenge with no external motivator (such as paying tuition, future job prospects, etc). Life is difficult enough as it is, but adding academic demands on top of that (in or out of a formal institutions) can exacerbate life.

It is really difficult at times not to succumb to feelings of illegitimacy since this program is “unschooled” and not officially sanctioned by any academic institution, and no formal degree will be conferred, and there is little to no job prospects once I’m finished. Then again, these negative aspects of the program (no oversight, etc) are the primary reasons why an unschooled degree is (at least in my unique circumstance) superior to a traditional graduate program.

For one, there are no politics to maneuver within my program or institution. There is no academic hierarchy, no ruling class in which I must cow-tow. I can truly follow the research wherever it might lead. Similarly, I have no “approved” course of study. There are no “off topic” or “out of bounds” subject matter that has been deemed taboo. The best example of this is the study of origins, which would most certainly bring about ridicule at best in traditional academia if not outright banishment and expulsion from my program.

Lastly, unless I’m willing to drop $100,000 or more on a Master’s degree at an elite school (never mind the near impossible bar to entry to begin with), the employment prospects for my unschooled degree are virtually or near virtually the same as it would be if I had a degree from an online institution. As I’ve previously stated, the jobs I wanted back in the 90’s that required a Master’s degree now require a PhD.

But, you might protest. You might argue I’m pursuing a Master’s in Theology, which is an ecclesiastical degree and would limit my job prospects to the clergy anyway. Well, the reality of this is even more bleak than that of secular employment.

I could possibly get a teaching job at a Christian college somewhere if I had a traditional seminary degree. Maybe even online. But, these jobs are lots of hours for low pay, and carry with them no security. It is quite possible I am paid much more today at my menial office job where I work just a few days a week with virtually no stress. This stipend affords me 5 days a week free to devote to my studies. How many seminarians (especially in evangelical circles) must work a full time job on top of their studies?

But, what about the pastorship? What an enormous can of worms in and of itself. First off, the concept of pastor is not biblically accurate. There is no paid clergy in the bible. It is a betrayal of the biblical model for the church of Christ (universal) and has brought about numerous doctrines and norms that have no resonance with the body of Christ, and are, effectually, either doctrines of men or, worse, doctrines of demons. In addition, any church group that I might even consider applying for a job, I would automatically be disqualified because my wife and I divorced several years ago (thanks be to God for the small miracles).

Of course, I could strike out on my own, follow the non-denominational route and start my own church, build a pastor up congregation in a shopping center (I’m sure the rent is cheap). But, ignoring the arguments already stated, I don’t need a degree to do this kind of work.

More importantly, though, I have no call to be an elder or an evangelist or an apostolic church planter. Despite this lack of call basically then disqualifying me for church service altogether, I still contend my calling is strongly based in the vocation of the solitude, the contemplative direction. So, why not a monk? A monastery?

Well, I’ve looked.

But, most if not all monastic institutions are either fully cenobitic (community based) or are loosely eremitic (solitudinarian based), and all are structured to limit free investigation of academic pursuits.

Yes, it could be argued effectively to say I missed my calling in life. I should have gone through college right out of high school, gotten my foot in the door at a nice community college, settled in and established myself there so I could teach and also pursue my own research.

Unfortunately, I think this is a little over-simplistic.

But, there is an interesting aspect to an “unschooled program” and my current situation. Because of the choices I did make (military + inexpensive college + secret weapon) I’m now positioned at 45 years old to be nearly retired. I own my house outright and live in near paradise on earth. I live in a local economy that has a very low cost of living, and I have a relatively secure part time job that not only affords me all my monthly expenses, but pays double what I need (so the second check basically goes into the bank each month). My secret weapon was a book I was given at the age of 20 by a family member. That book was Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez. At the time I received this book, I was in terrible financial shape. After reading and studying it from cover to cover, corresponding with the author several times over the next year, I dug my way out of debt and solidified a minimalist lifestyle that would carry me into the circumstances in which I find myself now. Not only do I have no debt, but I can literally live in paradise on less than $200 a month. This would not only allow me to bank 80% of my monthly income, but it would afford me the kind of jet-set lifestyle compared only to the richest of the elites of our ruling class (how did I back into that one).

Let’s face it. There is little actual ROI from a degree these days. What I learn from my uThM (and my uPhD after it) I can apply to a self-employed career in writing and teaching online (with literally no up front costs associated with it). I already can spend my five days a week – weekends anywhere I want. If I want to travel overseas (something I already did in my 20’s), I have vacation time I can use as well. But, when you already live in paradise, even Hawaii seems, well, a little overrated (and not a little expensive).

Conclusions

So, this is my basic workflow for my uThM program. It has been working well so far, needing few if any tweaks. Summer is now coming (it will be near 80 degrees this Friday) so I will hopefully be spending much more time on my Eden property, if nothing else, just relaxing and enjoying the warm breezes and the mid-morning hikes through the forests I call home. There is a lot of work to do there to make the space livable and comfortable and safe, and there’s even more research and reading and watching to do for my uThM program. I guess there’s no time like right now to get started.

Until my next assignment…..


Please consider supporting my writing, my unschooled studies, and my hermitic lifestyle by purchasing one or more of my books. I’m not supported by academia or have a lucrative corporate job – I’m just a mystical modern-day hermit trying to live out the life I believe God has called me to. So, any support you choose to provide is GREATLY appreciated.


Excerpt from Ashen Monk Mountain:



There was an old elm tree near the end of the lawn, with a circular picnic table and several short benches.

“This looks like a lovely spot,” Mr. Eckey said, taking a seat.

He set his briefcase on the picnic table and flipped the latches, opening the lid.

Christopher took a seat opposite him and removed his hood, folding his arms in front of him.

“I have a tablet and a pen here somewhere,” Mr. Eckey said. “I had it when I left, that is. Not sure if I can find it in this disorganized briefcase of mine…”

He chuckled at himself.

“So – ”

Christopher ran a hand over his short cropped scalp.

“I’m confused about all this. I’m not sure I understand why exactly you wanted to meet with me.”

Mr. Eckey nodded.

“How long have you been a novitiate here?”

“Going on seven months now.”

“Hmm…and…”

He glanced up at Christopher as he fetched his notebook and ink pen.

“How are you liking it at Saint Joseph’s?”

“It has been – ”

Christopher thought about the question for a moment.

“ – wonderful.”

“I would assume it much different than – ”

Mr. Eckey flipped the first page over, scanned handwritten notes he had on the second page.

“I received some background from the Precept’s office, as well as from Abbot Greenly. You grew up in – North Platte, Nebraska? Is that correct?”

Christopher nodded.

“I’m native of the Boston area myself,” Mr. Eckey said. “Tell me a little about how you came to the decision.”

“The decision?”

Mr. Eckey smiled.

“To become a monk. It must have been quite a journey from Nebraska.”

Christopher shrugged.

“Not really. I guess. I just – ”

Unwanted images flashed through his mind.

Mr. Eckey took a deep breath before speaking again.

“Mr. Ward, I don’t actually know a whole lot about this request, to be perfectly honest. As you know, the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Apostolic Life – that’s quite a mouthful, isn’t it – we are entrusted with monitoring abnormal behavior among those called to the consecrated vocation.”

He tapped his pen on the tablet.

“Tell me, what do you like about Saint Joseph’s exactly?”

“It’s the – well – I feel at home here. Like I belong. I very much enjoy the silence.”

“Yes, I know the Trappists to be quite ardent in their devotion.”

Christopher nodded in agreement as Mr. Eckey took a few notes.

“I enjoy the early mornings, the worship, the offices. The undivided devotion.”

“To God?” Mr. Eckey asked.

“Yes,” Christopher said. “Exactly.”

The stranger focused on his notes for several seconds, silently mouthing the words he wrote.

“Tell me, how does your life now differ from your previous one?”

“Previous?”

Mr. Eckey stopped writing.

“Your military career.”

“Oh,” Christopher said, looking down. “I guess – I – I don’t know. There are lots of differences. I’m not – sure I – what is this inquiry about exactly?”

Mr. Eckey put his pen down.

“Mr. Ward,” he said. “The Vatican apparently has interest in your particular gifts and abilities for a – call it – a special appointment. I guess that’s the best way to put it.”

He shifted his weight on the hard bench.

“Normally, the Congregation does not get involved in appointments or a particular monk’s vocational choices. But, sometimes, when the need arises, special arrangements can be made.”

“Are you talking about another monastery?”

“Actually – ”

Mr. Eckey picked his pen back up.

“It’s an entirely different Order.”

Christopher leaned forward as a gust of wind billowed the long sleeves of his tunic.

“I don’t really understand,” he said. “Are you saying the Vatican wants me to move to a different monastery – to a different Order? But…I…”

Mr. Eckey waited a moment.

“Tell me, Mr. Ward, about your military training.”

“What about it?”

“Your experiences. You were a special operator, is that correct?”

Christopher shot him a quizzical look.

“How do you know that?”

“You were part of the 7th SFG? Assigned to operations in Afghanistan for the majority of your enlistment, surrendering your commission as a Captain. Is that correct? What did you like or dislike about your military career? Why was it you left?”

Christopher looked out over the cornfields in the distance.

“Sir,” he said, wringing his hands together. “I don’t really understand why you’re asking these kinds of questions. To be honest, they’re making me a little uncomfortable. I think I – ”

“Please, Brother Christopher,” Mr. Eckey said, putting up a hand. “I don’t mean to pry. As I said, this is a peculiar and rather sensitive situation, not at all normal procedure. So, I do apologize for my rather tactless approach. Let me explain a little, if I can – ”

Christopher tried to relax.

He struggled to repress the memories rising in the back of his mind, the bloody and gruesome images of dead bodies, a horrible, yet all too familiar wave of fear and dread washing over him.

A wave of putrid death enveloped and permeated everything.

He took a deep breath, tried to ignore it.

Mr. Eckey put down his pen again.

“There is a remote monastery in British Colombia. It is of a separate Order, not Cistercian, but similar. It’s rather distinctive, as I am led to believe.”

“What is the Order?” Christopher asked.

Mr. Eckey shook his head.

“You would not be familiar with it,” he said. “There is actually only one monastery in the Order. But it has had a long, and quite fascinating history, to say the least. And, somewhat of a fantastic service.”

“So, why me, then?” Christopher asked. “I’m a novitiate. I don’t have much to offer. I’m not sure what you are asking of me.”

“The Vatican is asking a favor of you, Brother Ward. They are requesting that you take a leave of absence from Saint Joseph’s and visit this other monastery for a time.”

“I’m – I don’t – ”

Christopher stammered.

“I’m honored that the Vatican has called on me,” he said. “I really do feel settled here, though. I would not wish to – ”

Mr. Eckey interrupted.

“Consider it simply a sabbatical of sorts. Without strings attached. We are interested solely in God’s working here in this matter.”

“Are you wanting me to relocate?” Christopher asked.

Mr. Eckey smiled.

“How about we say the Vatican is open and interested in the Father’s call on your life. We simply wish to – test the waters – see if this would or would not be a good fit.”

“So, if I go, and it is not a good fit?”

“Your place here at Saint Joseph’s would be available to you at any time you see fit. Like I said, no strings attached.”

“I would not feel comfortable going without Abbot Greenly’s blessing,” Christopher said.

“You have it,” Mr. Eckey said, his smile widening.

Christopher said nothing.

“Think of it as a vacation. Though, if I’m hearing you correctly, you really are in no need of one. But, then again…. ”

The man shrugged.

“May I – ”

Christopher pondered his words.

“Is it possible to consider this awhile before I decide?”

“Certainly,” Mr. Eckey said. “Because of the situation, though, we would need you to go sooner than later. Is there anything upcoming that you are thinking about in particular?”

Christopher shook his head.

“No,” he said. “I would just like to sit with this for a day or two. Pray about it. How long would the visit be?”

“As long as you need to decide,” Mr. Eckey said. “Preferably a month to start. Longer is encouraged. Like I said, it is a unique situation, so tradition does not really lend itself easily. But, I would ask – ”

He put his notepad and pen back in his briefcase and closed the lid.

“Because of the sensitive nature, the Vatican has requested that you do not discuss this with anyone except me. Not the other monks here, your family, not even Abbot Greenly.”

“But, how – ”

Mr. Eckey put up a hand.

“I’m heading back to discuss the situation with Abbot Greenly before I leave the grounds. He will certainly not have an objection. Not that I can imagine, anyway.”

He fished out a business card from the inside pocket of his blazer.

“Here is my contact information,” he said, handing him the card. “You can reach me on my cell phone any time. Whenever you decide, one way or the other. There is a great need, though, so I do hope you will consider at least visiting.”

Christopher took the card, looked at it, then looked up at Mr. Eckey.

“What kind of need, exactly?”

The man just smiled.

“All in due time,” he said. “Just let us know as soon as you are able.”

Christopher looked back at the card.

“I will.”

“Thank you, Brother Ward, for your time. I do think I can find my way back to the abbot’s office from here.”

He briefly looked around the grounds.

“I do envy you a little,” he said. “What a majestic space you monks have created here. It’s like a slice of Eden. Really.”

He got up, shook Christopher’s hand, then left him there alone, as the stranger retraced his steps to the abbot’s office.

Christopher took a deep breath, then sighed.

The wave of putrid death still lingered as another wind gust blew across the fields, dredging up memories he would have altogether wished could have remained buried, soaking him again in the blood of the past.

He stayed there for a long time, just watching as the endless sea of cornfields waved in the winds.


Buy my book Ashen Monk Mountain to find out what this cryptic and mysterious appointment is the Vatican is asking Christopher to take on. An unheard of monastery, hidden deep in the Canadian Rockies? A secret mission and call? What in the world could be going on?

Click here and grab your copy today! Whatever you do, don’t let this fantastically epic story get away!

But, trust me when I say, you’re not going to believe the truth even when you discover it for yourself. Find out what secrets lay hidden underfoot at Ashen Monk Mountain!


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Ashen Monk Chronicles, basic research combo course, Blog, unschooled-masters-degree