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Novus Spiritus: An Aramaic Prayer?

What exactly does this prayer mean?

The prayer

The prayer.

Preface (A Note to Those in Novus Spiritus)

I have been assured that Browne and her board will do their best to "spin" this article as an attack upon their religion, and upon Gnostic Christianity in general.

It is not. It is an attack on Sylvia Browne's credibility. It exposes what I believe to be yet another lie which Sylvia Browne has fed to those who look to her for truth.

I would ask that you read the article with an open mind. If it leaves you with some questions, you might want to ask your Study Group Coordinator, your Minister, someone on the Board - even Sylvia Browne herself - for answers.

If Browne or anyone else in a position of authority at NS cares to email me with their side of this story, I will place it on this site, and link to it from within this article, so that everyone can see both sides and, as always, decide for themselves.

Background

If you attend a service at a Society of Novus Spiritus church (founded by Sylvia Browne), chances are that at a couple of points, you will hear a short prayer, in what sounds like a foreign language:

"Arem, Shem, Beth, Sedal, Sacravalian, Ahad."

What does it mean? Exactly what language is it in?

This article looks into these and other questions about that prayer.

The Prayer

Browne's 2002 book 'Prayers'

Browne's 2002 book "Prayers"

The official Novus site seems to indicate, and one ex-Novus minister confirmed to me, that the phrase is used at the end of at least three prayers said during every Novus service - the Opening, Healing and Closing prayers.

So this is not some obscure, seldom-used part of the Novus liturgy. It is used in literally every Novus service, multiple times.

The prayer - and a translation - can be found (among other places) on page 23 of Browne's 2002 book Prayers, at the end of the "healing prayer of Novus Spiritus":

Arem, Shem, Beth, Sedal, Sacravalian, Ahad.

(Translation: "Blessed be this Queen on high who is sacred to all who come to Her. Amen.")

The prayer can also be found...

...on page 167 of her 2001 book The Nature of Good and Evil (Journey of the Soul Series, Book 3), at the end of "Benediction - Gnostic Blessing."

...on the official Novus Spiritus web site, at the end of each of the following:

Novus Spiritus Opening Prayer
Novus Spiritus Healing Prayer
Novus Spiritus Closing Prayer

So, Browne has supplied a translation. But from what language?

What Language is It?

While all of the places where I found the prayer supplied the translation, none of them specified what the original language was.

I do not read nor speak any language but English, but some of the words in the prayer ("beth" for example) looked Hebrew to me.

But "sacravalian" did not seem Hebrew at all.

There also did not seem enough words in the prayer to match the supplied translation. This can be misleading though, since there are single words in some languages which translate to multiple words in English, and vice-versa.

Through this web site I have come in contact with many current and former members of Novus Spiritus, including current and former Novus ministers. I asked many of them what the language of this prayer was, and every single one of them had the same answer:

Aramaic.

Where had they heard that the prayer was in Aramaic? Most could not recall, saying it was pretty much "common knowledge" within Novus.

Two, however, said the following:

"Several years ago I asked Cardinal Darren English about those words and he told me that the words were Aramaic."

"I seem to recall Sheila telling me in response to my asking."

"Sheila" is Prelate Frances "Sheila" Hallmeyer. There are only three Prelates in Novus, and they are second only to Sylvia Browne in the church's hierarchy.

So, both a Prelate and a Cardinal within Novus Spiritus have apparently stated that the prayer is in Aramaic.

But is it?

Is It Really Aramaic?

As little as I know of Hebrew, I know even less about Aramaic.

I know it has much in common with Hebrew, and is said to be the language spoken by Jesus of Nazareth and his contemporaries. It is probably best known to modern Americans as the language used in much of Mel Gibson's Movie "The Passion of the Christ."

But was "Arem, Shem..." Aramaic? I decided to ask an expert.

Robert Hoberman, Ph.D. is a Professor of Linguistics and Judaic and Middle Eastern Studies in the Linguistics department of Stony Brook University in Stony Brook, NY.

According to his page on the Stony Brook University web site:

"Robert Hoberman works on the morphologies and phonologies of Semitic languages, focusing on Arabic, Hebrew, and Aramaic in both their classical and modern, colloquial varieties."

The list of accomplishments on his CV page is quite impressive, and shows him to be more than capable of answering my questions regarding this prayer.

I sent him the following email:

Subject: Aramaic Prayer?
From: [email address]
Date: Fri, Aug 17, 2007 12:50 pm
To: [email address]

Professor Hoberman:

My name is Robert Lancaster. I run a site which is devoted to examining the claims of one Sylvia Browne, a woman who I believe to be a charlatan, and who is running what I believe to be a very lucrative spiritualist/medium con on many, many people.

In investigating her claims, I have come upon the following prayer she has given her followers:

"Arem, Shem, Beth, Sedal, Sacravalian, Ahad."

The translation she provides for this is:

"Blessed be this Queen on high that is sacred to us all who come to Her. AMEN"

(It is unclear whether or not the "amen" is supposed to be part of the purported translation.)

Although I have not found where she states what language she claims this to be, I have been told by several of her followers and ex-followers that they have always understood it to be Aramaic.

Can you please tell me what language or languages this is in, and whether or not the supplied translation is accurate?

Many thanks,

Robert S. Lancaster

Note: The "translation" I provided to the professor is from the Novus site. The one within Browne's books does not contain the "us", nor the "AMEN."

Here is Professor Hoberman's response (emphasis mine):

Subject: Re: Aramaic Prayer?
From: [email address]
Date: Fri, Aug 17, 2007 1:41 pm
To: [email address]

Mr. Lancaster,

"Arem, Shem, Beth, Sedal, Sacravalian, Ahad" is not Aramaic. "Arem" could be a distorted form of an Aramaic word meaning "he raised", "shem" is "name" in Hebrew and Aramaic, "beth" is the name of the second letter of the alphabet, I can't make any sense of "sedal", "sacra-" would be "holy" in Latin, not Aramaic or Hebrew, and "Ahad" is "one" in Hebrew or "he took" in Aramaic. It certainly doesn't add up to the alleged translation you quoted. And "Amen" in Aramaic and Hebrew is, of course, Amen.

In Aramaic, "blessed" is brikha, "queen" is malktha, and these obviously don't appear in the line you quoted, nor do the Aramaic equivalents of the other words in the alleged English translation.

Robert Hoberman, Ph.D.
Professor of Linguistics and Judaic and Middle Eastern Studies
Linguistics Department
Stony Brook University
Stony Brook, NY 11794-4376

A Translation

Given what Professor Hoberman has supplied, let's translate the prayer.

Using Only the Aramaic Words

If we only use those words which are truly Aramaic, we come up with the following:

Prayer:AremShemBethSedalSacravalianAhad
Translation 1:???Shem (name)Beth (letter)??????he took

Using the non-Aramaic Words

If we allow for the non-Aramaic and distorted Aramaic translations, we get the following:

(Note: only the bolded words are actually translated from Aramaic.)

Prayer:AremShemBethSedalSacravalianAhad
Translation 2:He raisedShem (name)Beth (letter)???sacred-???he took
Translation 3:He raisedShem (name)Beth (letter)???sacred-???one

Another Variation

In Hebrew, "beth" can also mean "house" (for example, "Beth Israel" means "house (of) Israel"). Given that, here is another set of translations:

Prayer:AremShemBethSedalSacravalianAhad
Translation 4:He raisedShem (name)house???sacred-???he took
Translation 5:He raisedShem (name)house???sacred-???one

In Sentence Form

Here then are the various translations, in sentence form. Since Beth is the second letter of the Aramaic alphabet, I have replaced "beth (letter)" with "B" to more closely approximate an English sentence:

Translation 1:?? Shem B ??? ??? he took.
Translation 2:He raised Shem B ??? sacred-??? he took.
Translation 3:He raised Shem B ??? sacred-??? one.
Translation 4:He raised Shem house ??? sacred-??? he took.
Translation 5:He raised Shem house ??? sacred-??? one.

Analysis

Even if we generously allow the "distorted Aramaic" translation of "Arem," the Hebrew translation of "Ahad" and "Beth," and a quasi-Latin translation of "sacravalian," it still makes little if any sense.

Of course, the above translations are literal (word-for-word). But even rearranging the words, it is impossible to come up with anything even remotely resembling the official Novus translation of "Blessed be this Queen on high that is sacred to us all who come to Her."

In fact, none of the words from the "official translation" are even in the prayer, unless we (again, generously) assume that the quasi-Latin translation of "sacravalian" (sacred-???) is "blessed." And, as Professor Hoberman pointed out, the Aramaic words for the words in Browne's translation (such as the words for "queen" and "blessed") are nowhere in the prayer.

It would appear that this prayer, which I am told is repeated several times during each Novus Spiritus service, is a totally meaningless mish-mash of Hebrew, Aramaic, quasi-Latin and gibberish.

I am unable to find anywhere that Browne states where she came up with this prayer. I would imagine that she claims, as she does with most of the theology she promotes, that it came from "Francine", her "spirit guide."

Since Browne has repeatedly stated that Aramaic is what everyone speaks "on The Other Side" (in heaven), I would think that Francine would have a better command of the language.

While I was researching this, one or two ex-Novus followers expressed the opinion that it did not matter if the words were nonsense, since Om and Azna ("Father God" and "Mother God" in Novus) knew what the person meant in their heart when they said the words, and that was all that mattered.

I am agnostic, and so am not the person to judge the accuracy of that statement. But even assuming it is true, that still would not explain why Browne would promote the speaking of such nonsense, nor why she would give an inaccurate translation of it.

Conclusion

My conclusion is that Browne simply made up what she thought was an Aramaic-sounding series of words, and then made up a translation for them.

Why would she do this, given how easy it is to prove that the words are nonsense? I think there are two reasons.

First, back when she started Novus Spiritus, the public did not have easy access to information like we do today via the Internet. And few people know Aramaic, or have access to someone who does. So Browne had little fear of someone finding this out.

Second, and I think more importantly, Browne knows that many - if not most - of the people who follow her would never even dream of questioning her, and so would never bother to investigate these words.

Browne has relied on "blind acceptance" of her pronouncements for some time now. But both through word-of-mouth and through the Internet (including this web site), more and more of her followers are starting to question what they have accepted as fact for far too long.

My thanks to Professor Hoberman for his invaluable help, to current and ex NS followers for their input, and to AS for the tip on this, as well as for putting me in contact with the Professor.

Epilogue

I sent a draft of the above article to some ex NS ministers, asking for their input.

Along with catching some typographical errors, one of them said the following (and gave me permission to add it to the article):

I suspect this article will trigger some thoughts/cries of "He's attacking the philosophy!", but hopefully most will realize that you are further illuminating the arrogance/irreverence of Sylvia.

I am sure that many will appreciate it because when we surveyed our congregation about what they liked and disliked about Sunday service this "prayer" was mentioned by nearly half of the respondents. The gist of their comments was that this phrase was something that they questioned and/or felt uncomfortable saying. By the way, one of the Prelates often told us not to solicit feedback from the congregation. We were told that this was direct from Sylvia, in fact we were specifically told "no suggestion boxes", which we ignored in keeping with what we felt was best for our congregation.

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