Library News and Events

Online Exhibit Launched: The Spirit of the Tarot: The Search for God's Picturebook

Today, the library launches an online exhibition,  The Spirit of the Tarot: The Search for God’s Picturebook.

The launch corresponds with today's Reading of the Sacred Text by Rev. Dr. Justin Sabia-Tanis on  "Divining Freedom: Queer Reconceptions of the Tarot Deck."

The exhibition explores the religious and spiritual aspects of the Tarot over the past 500 years.  From a game, the cards became a way to perceive the future and a tool for meditation and personal development. A reading of the cards can suggest alternative views or approaches to a situation. Meditation on a card provides insights, both in thoughts and for action. Study enhances insight into oneself and the world.

Victoria Christian writes: “The Tarot and art go hand in hand.  Simply, the Tarot cannot exist without some type of visual image. Furthermore, art, like Tarot, may be employed to represent, and has a way of stimulating, the  human mind and imagination in a way nothing else can.  It is known among mystics that if one meditates on a symbol long enough, the meaning of that symbol will become clear even if it has never been explained.” ("Melanie Gendron:  The Imaginative Delphic Oracle,” Feminine Mysticism in Art: Artists Envisioning the Divine, 2018,  p 212.)

This is the second online exhibition created by the Library's Art Exhibition Committee.  The first one launched in March 2021:  The Sacred World Art Collection.

The exhibition is made possible by the Jane Dillenberger Fine Arts Endowment Fund.

Caption: 0 The Vagabond  -  Ship of Fools Tarot by Brian Williams ©2002 Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd. 2143 Wooddale Drive, Woodbury, MN 55125. All rights reserved, used by permission.


Virtual Exhibition: GTU Sacred World Art Collection

Guro MaskA virtual exhibition event was held on Thursday, March 4, to announce the unveiling of the GTU Sacred World Art Collection. President Uriah Kim and former President Riess Potterveld, who was instrumental in securing the donation, kicked off the celebration.

In 2014, the Institute for Aesthetic Development (IAD) and F. Lanier Graham donated an extensive teaching collection of sacred and spiritual objects from many different religions and cultures to the Graduate Theological Union.

The virtual exhibition shows a portion of the over 500 artifacts in the collection. During the past year, PhD students Pamela Stevens and Charissa Jaeger-Sanders, who helped during the intital period,  were instrumental in providing the description and inventorying of the objects, especially difficult during the pandemic.  Stevens help was critical on numerous occasions, including the staging of objects for Benjamin Heller to photograph, which he did in an extraordinary fashion. The elegant site was designed by T324.

Later this year, the library will host a similar event to announce the Spirit-Matter virtual exhibit. Featuring two exhibition catalogs, which will be available online and in print, these provide a closer look at the story of the GTU Sacred World Art Collection.

We invite everyone to explore the site. For additional resources on sacred or spiritual art on Holy Hill,  see the summary of art resources at the bottom of the page.

This virtual exhibition was made possible by the Jane Dillenberger Fine Arts Endowment Fund.

David Stiver
Special Collections Librarian


Alfred Büchler, From Vienna to Shanghai in World War II

ticket to ShanghaiThe oral history of Alfred Büchler, has been uploaded to our content management site.  He was born in Vienna, Austria, January 17, 1927, the only child of Josef and Fryma Sara (Sali) Büchler. Finding it impossible to obtain visas for the United States or Chile, the Jewish family succeeded in escaping to Shanghai on the Trans Siberian Railway, arriving in May1941. He continued his education there, joining the Scouts and playing various musical instruments.

After the war, he joined the Tikvah (meaning hope) Club for boys, formed by the American senior Jewish chaplain. In 1946, Sali Büchler had a stroke, and died in January 1948. Alfred had left Shanghai, entering the University of Colorado, Boulder in 1947. At the end of 1948, with the Communists closing on Shanghai, Josef Büchler left, crossing to San Francisco, to New York, and finally to Israel.

Büchler ultimately received a Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry from Harvard University in 1960. He worked in government and private labs for the next 25 years. In the late 1970s, he moved to Berkeley and began the study of common objects in medieval times, including the development of drums and trumpets. He died in Berkeley on January 4, 2002.

GTU archives was contacted in the mid-1990s by Büchler.  This oral history was arranged by the GTU archivist, Lucinda Glenn.  He has also donated materials to the Holocaust Oral History Project,  Leo Baeck Institute and the University of San Francisco. Besides the oral history, there are a number of other materials, mostly on his life in Shanghai and early life in America, in the archives.

David Stiver
Special Collections Librarian

Standing on Holy Ground: Metropolitan Community Churches and LGBTQ-Affirming Religion: A CLGS Exhibition

The opening reception for the "Standing on Holy Ground: Metropolitan Community Churches and LGBTQ-Affirming Religion: A CLGS Exhibition" featured a brief talk by Jim Mitulski on Tuesday, November 5, 2019.  Introduced by Bernard Schlager, Executive Director, Center for LGBTQ and Gender Studies in Religion, the Rev. Elder Jim Mitulski has served MCC and LGBTQ congregations across the country.

Founded in 1968, the MCC was one of the first denominations to embrace and affirm lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people. This exhibition displays an assortment of historical records including posters, correspondence, photographs, denominational publications, news reports, and t-shirts. Justin Tanis and Schlager curated the exhibition.

Also on display are 13 portraits from the Mark Thompson exhibit, "Fellow Travelers." Thompson (1952-2016) featured these photographs of visionaries and spiritual leaders in his book, Gay Soul.

The exhibition in the library runs through February 28, 2020. Made possible by the Jane Dillenberger Fine Arts Endowment Fund, the display is free and open to the public during libary hours.

David Stiver
Special Collections Librarian

New Religions @ the GTU: Theories, Practices, Peoples

The first New Religious Movement (NRM) conference in many years at GTU was held in the Dinner Boardroom Wednesday, October 30, 2019.

Students in the New Religious Movements concentration organized the conference “New Religions @ the GTU: Theories, Practices, Peoples.”

Jacob Needleman was recognized for his substantial contributions in new religious studies and other areas. Andrea Jain, professor and author of Selling Yoga: From Counter Culture to Pop Culture, delivered the keynote address. Students presented papers on a wide range of topics.

Jacob Needleman honoredNeedleman, Director of the Center for the Study of New Religions at GTU from 1977 to 1983 and longtime Professor at San Francisco State University, was honored for his lifelong contribution to the field. He has been an influential author and teacher to many students, readers and listerners. Author of over 30 books, he consistently provides thoughtful and challenging responses to the great questions of life. His book The New Religions (1970) remains a classic in the field. His 2016 work I Am Not I presents a dialogue between an elder and his younger self.

From left, Kyprianos Koutsokoumnis, Jacob Needleman, Gail Needleman, Johnny Truant. Standing, Jim Lawrence, Dean of the Center for Swedenborgian Studies. (Photo courtesy Jeffrey Adams)

Kyprianos Koutsokoumnis, a fourth year doctoral student at GTU and assistant to Needleman, addressed “Jacob Needleman: The Man Behind the Scholar.” He observed:

He offers a kind of hope. Because he speaks to students not only to the minds that needs information but for the heart that wishes for meaning. So in a certain sense he is an example for getting into academia, to remember that we are also to teach students who wish not just to know but to live.

Andrea Jain, Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Indiana University-Purdue University, provided the keynote address on yoga and the politics of global spirituality. She concluded,

For all of the peace and love it offers through yoga—health foods, mindfulness and countless other forms of self-governance—neoliberal spirituality plays a divisive and conservative game, one that thrives on nostalgia about lost cultural norms, demarcating outsiders as well as narratives about transformation and liberation, but only for those who can afford it.

Her forthcoming work is Peace, Love, Yoga: The Politics of Global Spirituality from Oxford Press.

Graduates and students—from GTU unless otherwise noted—offered a wide range of topics exploring religious studies outside of mainline religions. These included:

  • Thomas Calobrisi, “The Buddhification of Science: Jon-Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program in Light of New Religious Movements in the American 20th Century”
  • Colette Walker, “Towards the Transparent Race: Eugenics Practices in the International Mazdaznan Movement”
  • Matata Mukengeshayi, “Religion in Japanese Society after the Meiji Restoration”
  • Phillip Deslippe (UC Santa Barbera), “The Use of the Term ‘Cult’ in Popular Media during the Nineties and Beyond”
  • Jeffrey Adams, “The Permeation of Emmanuel Swedenborg’s ‘New Christianity’ in Maurice Nicoll’s Esoteric Christianity”
  • Patrick Harry, “From Monkey to Machine and Everything in Between”
  • Nathan Bjorge, “Semiotics and Magick”
  • Carrie Sealine, “Not a Woman, Not a Man: Reading the Queer Tense Multiplicities of Aleister Crowley”
  • Johnny Truant (Starr King School for the Ministry), “The Abject Eighties: Kristeva and the Satanic Panic”
  • Emily Pothast, “The Visionary Practice of Hilma of Klint”

The conference was supported by the Center for Swedenborgian Studies, Glenn Turner, producer of PantheaCon; and Don Frew, Adocentyn Library.

GTU is one of the few graduate schools that provides a concentration in New Religions. Due to the influence of Jacob Needleman and others, Special Collections and Archives at the GTU has a large collection on New Religious Movements.

David Stiver
Special Collections Librarian

Koci: Unforgotten

Audrey Darby, curator and collector,  discussed the life and art of Frank Koci for the offical opening of the Koci: Unforgotten exhibition in the library on June 27, 2019. Koci (1904-1983) came to the United States from Czechoslovakia in 1921 and became a remarkable outsider artist in San Francisco.  While his paintings have been displayed at SFMOMA and various galleries throughout the Bay Area and California, during his lifetime he sold them in local San Francisco venues, such as the Vesuvio Cafe in North Beach. During Darby's brief introduction,  others in the audience shared their memories of Koci, whose presence, along with his paintings, left a lasting impact.

Koci had strong opinions about his art and life.  He had a low opinion of religion. Koci's mother was very religious and his uncle was a preacher.  Darby quotes the artist from his journals, "Religion is not only an opium, it's insanity" and "Capitalist - Religious tyranny", "And nothing is more materialistic than the church and the fear of death that makes for plenty of jobs for the priesthood." She provided another quote: "Art is not a question of infinite harmony with the universe but rather the infinite joy and sadness rising from one's experience."

Following the introduction,  Margaux Joffe's 2007 documentary Unforgotten: The Story of Frank Koci was shown:

Unforgotten: The story of Frank Koci from Margaux Joffe on Vimeo.

After the documentary, Darby gave a walking tour of the paintings on exhibit. For additional information about the artist, please see The Koci Project.

The exhibition is made possible by the Jane Dillenberger Fine Arts Endowment Fund.

Free and open to the public, please call 510-649-2500 or visit to confirm the library's hours.

David Stiver
Special Collections Librarian


Digitization Project: Pacific Coast Theological Society 

As part of an ongoing project, many of the Pacific Coast Theological Society (PCTS) papers from 1939 through 1976 have been posted online by Special Collections and Archives at the Graduate Theological Union.

The Pacific Coast Theological Society (then Group) was established by John Bennett and supported by the Hazen Foundation in 1939. Inspired by a similar organization on the East coast,  the group continues to meet twice a year, in the Spring and Fall for two days (Friday and Saturday) to discuss critical theological and societal issues. Members and speakers have always been among the best regarded theologians on the West coast. The organization is based in Berkeley, California, and associated with the Graduate Theological Union.

This project documents the ongoing tradition of religious dialoque in the Bay Area. The plan is to continue posting PCTS papers through the 2000's. Hardcopies of the papers are available at the Flora Lamsom Hewlett Library in rare, call number BT10 .P32, organized by year (see this list for more recent papers). For current information on PCTS, please visit their website .

 Topics and papers from 1939-1976

Date Topic
October 20-22, 1939 What is essential in the Christian religion?
April 12-13, 1940 The Christian ethic - its basis and relevance
November 8-9, 1940 The Church
May 2-3, 1941 The Doctrine of God
November 7-8, 1941 The Doctrine of man
April 17-18, 1942 Religious epistemology
October 30-31, 1942 The Incarnation
April 30-May 1, 1943 Christianity and reconstruction
November 5-6, 1943 New problems for Christian apologetics
April 28-29, 1944 Theological evaluation of education
November 10-11, 1944 Doctrine of grace
April 20-21, 1945 Perfectionism
1945-1946 The church and organized movements, Papers used for the second book in the Interseminary Series.: BV600.M52 1946
November 1946 Authority and religion
May 1947 Discipline and culture of spiritual life
November 7-8, 1947 Psychology of religion
April 1948 Christian union
November 1948 Neo-orthodoxy. its nature and relevance (no papers survive)
May 1949 Church and state
November 4-5, 1949 The authority of scripture
April 21-22, 1950 Philosophies of history
November 3-4, 1950 Mysticism and ethics
April 1951 Toward a Christian understanding of modern man
November 1951 The relevance of eschatology to the modern scene
May 1952 Jesus Christ: the hope of the world and of the church (no papers survived)
November 7-8, 1952 The theological significance of biblical criticism
April 17-18, 1953 The Holy Spirit
November 6-7, 1953 The Christian-theological synthesis of freedom and security
April 23-24, 1954 Unity in Christ. division in the church
November 12-13, 1954 The freedom of the Christian man – 1954
April 1955 The Christian church confronts the religions
November 4-5, 1955 Religion and higher education
April 13-14, 1956 Unity in faith and order: The Sacraments
October 26-27, 1956 The promise and peril for the church in the current revival religion
April 26-27, 1957 Paul Tillich
November 1-2, 1957 Theological perspectives in contemporary literature
April 11-12, 1958 Augustine
October 23-24, 1958 Revelation and communication
May 1-2, 1959 What has become of the Christian ethic?
October 23-24, 1959 Immortality
April 29-30, 1960 Sex and population
November 4-5, 1960 Creation and eschatology
April 21-22, 1961 The Bible as norm
November 3-4, 1961 A re-evaluation of medieval theology
April 13-14, 1962 A new quest of the historical Jesus
November 2-3, 1962 A personal Christology
March 15-16, 1963 Religious and theological language
November 22-23, 1963 The new hermeneutic paper (believe cancelled due to Kennedy assassination)
April 1964 New directions in American theology
October 23-24, 1964 A theology of the laity
March 26-27, 1965 The problem of transcendence
November 5-6, 1965 Homosexuality
April 29-30, 1966 Teilhard de Chardin
November 4-5, 1966 Christianity as a religion
March 31-April 1, 1967 New directions for interpreting the sacraments
November 17-18, 1967 Current ferment in communication
April 19-20,1968 Hope
November 15-16, 1968 Christian theology and world religions: new perspectives
April 25-26, 1969 Dimensions of contemporary dialogue
November 21-22,1969 Theology and violence, non-violence, social change
May 1-2, 1970 The religious dimensions of revolutio
November 20-21, 1970 The resurrection of Jesus Christ as the center of Christian thought and experience
May 7-8, 1971 Death
November 5-6, 1971 Homo faber, Homo agens, Homo loquens
April 21-22, 1972 meeting From Theology to Ethics
November 10-11, 1972 Issues in Contemporary Dialogue of Christianity with other Religions
April 13-14, 1973 Reinhold Niebuhr
May 10-11, 1974 A Theology of Liberation
November 22-23, 1974 Religious Language
May 21-22, 1975 The Heritage of H. Richard Niebuhr
November 21-22, 1975 American Theology
March 19-20, 1976 American Bicentenniel: A Theological Perspective


David Stiver
Special Collections Librarian


Resistance: Theological Responses to Discrimination

The fourth forum in The Transforming Spiritual Landscape of Peripheral Faith Communities series, discussing “Resistance: Theological Responses to Discrimination,” was held  in the Community Room, Japan Center, East Building, San Francisco Japantown, on March 2, 2019,

Ben Kobashigawa, retired  professor of Asian American Studies at San Francisco State University, welcomed the attendees. The speakers were Fumitaka Masuoka, Robert Gordon Sproul Professor of Theology Emeritus at Pacific School of Religion; Archie Smith, retired James and Clarice Foster Professor of Pastoral Psychology and Counseling, Pacific School of Religion; and Edmund Yee, former director of Theological Education for Emerging Ministries program at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary. Ron Y. Nakasone, member of the GTU Core Doctoral Faculty,  served as moderator.

This forum is part of an ongoing exploration in theological education and responses within peripheral communities as experienced by Asian-American and multiple-cultural professors of religion. The recordings are part of the effort by the Graduate Theological Union Special Collections to capture and preserve the memories of significant educators in a collegial format. This event was supported by the Japanese American National Library and the Japanese American Religious Federation. 


Salma Arastu: Seeking Oneness

Salma Arastu discussed her art and influences for her Seeking Oneness exhibition at Graduate Theological Union  on October 11, 2018.

She has close to 40 solo shows to her credit, and sees her work as inspired by the spirit of the divine. Over the past thirty years she has created images with continuous, lyrical line and a variety of re-purposed materials in an effort to express joy in the universal spirit that unites humanity. For more information about her, visit her website

The Seeking Oneness exhibition in the GTU library runs through January 11, 2019.

David Stiver
Special Collections Librarian

Artists Round Table: A View from the Bench: Social Justice in Art, Law, and Religion of the Chicano Community

An Artists Round Table concluded an exhibit featuring drawings made by Cruz Reynoso on his case notes while serving on the California State Supreme Court, as well as works by other Chicano artists in the Bay Area on September 20, 2018. The exhibition was curated by Rondall Reynoso in the Graduate Theological Union library and ran from June 19 through September 21.

The artists at the round table, going right to left, in order of speaking, are Robert Chavarrin Guerrero, Xoxhitl Nevel Guerrero, Yadira Cazares, Gustavo Reynoso, Malaquías Montoya, Rondall Reynoso, Liliana Navarro, Cruz Reynoso, Abby Ginzberg, and Andres Cisneros-Galindo.

Prior to the discussion, the documentary "Cruz Reynoso: Sowing the Seeds of Justice" (2010) produced by Abbie Ginzberg, who was present, was shown.

David Stiver
Special Collections Librarian

The Transforming Spiritual Landscape of Peripheral Faith Communities Series

The Japanese American National Library, the Japanese American Religious Federation, and the Asia Project at the Graduate Theological Union presented three forums on The Transforming Spiritual Landscape of Peripheral Faith Communities beginning in October 2017.

The forums were History and Origins of Racial-Ethnic Faith Communities, October 28, 2917; Remembering the Future: Reflections on Theological Education: November 28, 2017; Remembering the Future: Reflections on Theological Education: Model Programs, Initiatives & Curricula, February 24, 2018.

These events were an ongoing exploration in theological education and responses within peripheral communities as experienced by Asian-American and multiple-cultural professors of religion. The recordings are part of the effort by the Graduate Theological Union Special Collections to capture and preserve the memories of significant educators in a collegial format. 

Ron Nakasone observes after the first forum: "it was an opportunity for members of the various faith congregations to give voice to their intense existential and institutional concerns. Indeed, a review of the video recording of the event indicates a profound anxiety among the attendees for a need to understand their transforming spiritual landscape, the future viability of their faith tradition and congregations, individually and collectively, and seminary education efforts in preparing leaders for the local congregation. In contrast, to the theoretical and academic questions raised at an earlier GTU event, the inquiries from the non-academics revolved around identity, hybrid (multi-faith) spiritual experiences, and a yearning for theological and congregational direction."

Some additional information can be found here

David Stiver
Special Collections Librarian

Digitization Project: E.T. Earl Lectures – The Fifties

Many of the E.T. Earl Lectures from the 1950s have been posted online by Special Collections and Archives at the Graduate Theological Union.

The Earl Lectures have been sponsored by Pacific School of Religion almost every year since 1902. In 1950, the lectures were first recorded on audio tape, when the event was also broadcast on the radio. Very few have heard any of these lectures since then.

These lecturers include some of the best known religious scholars and advocates of the day: Stephen Neil, Walter W. Van Kirk, Harry Emerson Fosdick, Roland Bainton, George Buttrick, James Muilenburg, Nels F.S. Ferre, Emil Brunner, Roger Shinn, Robert J. McCracken, Rajah B. Manikam, Daniel Day Williams and Norman Cousins.

The project documents Christian and religious thinking and activities in the Fifties and is a predecessor to our oral history collections on religious education in the Sixties, which is also on the GTU Digital Library site.

David Stiver
Special Collections Librarian



GTU Celebrates Publication of Encyclopedia on Spirituality and Asian American Cultures

GTU faculty members and other contributors celebrated the publication of their encyclopedia Asian American Religious Cultures on October 1, 2015.


Six years in the making, the project was spearheaded by Fumitaka Matsuoka (retired), Edmond Yee (retired), Ronald Y Nakasone, and graduate Jonathan Lee. Matsuoka, is Robert Gordon Sproul Professor of Theology Emeritus and the former Executive Director of the Institute for Leadership Development and the Study of Pacific and Asian American Religion (PANA) at Pacific School of Religion (PSR). Yee is an author, editor, translator, and professor emeritus of Asian Studies, Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary. Nakasone is a member of the core doctoral faculty at the Graduate Theological Union (GTU) and an artist. Lee is an associate professor of Asian American studies who specializes in Southeast Asian and Sino-Southeast Asian American studies at San Francisco State University.

“The project highlights GTU's role and scholarship in advancing the religious/spiritual traditions and experiences of Asian American and other peripheral communities. GTU served as an incubator and venue for early academic articulations on the Asian American and Pacific Islander aspirations." says Nakasone.

The event kicked off Theological Libraries Month, established by the American Theological Library Association for the month of October, to highlight the vital role libraries play in theological education.