J-Term 2014: The Spiritual Life: Visions, Contemplations, and Mystical Experiences - RELC 2559
Instructor: Kevin Hart
This course introduces students to spirituality, primarily as expressed in the Christian tradition yet with reference to other religious traditions. In particular, it concerns itself with three modes of the spiritual life: visions, contemplations, and mystical experiences. Students are invited to consider the spiritual or inner life in two ways: (a) texts, and (b) problems that arise from those texts. The main texts to be read and discussed are works by Julian of Norwich, Teresa of Avila, Meister Eckhart, and the Cloud-Author: two English authors, one Spaniard, and one German; two women and two men. Among the questions to be considered are these: What differences are there between visionary, contemplative, and mystical writings? Do all these refer to experience in the same ways? Do male and female writers speak of the same things? What sense may we give to "transcendence"? Is spiritual life at the center or at the margin of institutional religious life? Does the spiritual life in Christianity resemble in important ways the spiritual life in other world religions? Attention will also be given to historical changes in the understanding of the spiritual life, especially the formation of the modern notion of "mystical experience."
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