Course Name : Religion, Culture and Spiritual Life: Challenges of Spiritual Learning, Communication, and Creativity
Course Code : SPSAGXXXI
Units : 3

Over the past century, the global transformations of economic, social and cultural life have everywhere involved a sudden separation of longstanding religious traditions from many of the most central cultural areas and forms of our everyday life. The result of these recent historical processes, all over the world, has too often been either the alienation of many (especially in younger generations) from those inherited religious forms, or the even more dangerous reduction of “religion” (among those still holding to a particular socio-communal identity) to hollow ideologies and shallow political slogans.
Against that historical backgroundand the inescapable challenges it poses, for the “religious” and the uncommitted alike, the perspectives of the spiritual traditions of both Islam and Christianity—and the creative artistic and social forms that conveyed their illuminating insights to earlier generations—continue to provide valuable resources and inspiration for the following essential purposes:

  1. They direct people from all religious (and “un-religious”) backgrounds toward our common human identity and ourshared spiritual and ethical realms of experience and responsibility.
  2. They point to those essential areas of our human experience, practice, seeking, and devotion that are common to Islam and Christianity in particular.
  3. And they help us to recognize the ongoing challenges of spiritual communication, guidance, and creativity now shared by everyone (not just religious “specialists”) in every domain of our everyday life, at every age and stage of life, and in constantly evolving new cultural and social settings.

This course uses extraordinary feature-length films from around the world (seven countries)—paired with a few short selections from classical spiritual authors and scriptures—to highlight the ways that contemporary creative artists are finding to communicate the universal dimensions of spiritual life, and to build wider, more inclusive communities of understanding and compassion. The topic and sources for each class session are as follows:

  • Spirituality, nature (creation) and culture. (Qur’an/Baraka)
  • Metaphysical and Theological frameworks (Plato/The Mission)
  • Spiritual psychology and the multiple dimensions of eschatology (Plato/After Life)
  • The Goal of the Spiritual Path: “Seeing God” (hadith/The Color of Paradise)
  • Learning From Everyday Experience: “Rules” and Spiritual Practice (Ibn‘Arabi/Groundhog Day)
  • The Path Viewed from “Outside”: From Listening to Right Action.(Sira, IbnArabi/Field of Dreams)
  • The Mysteries of Transformation: From Suffering to Compassion and Forgiveness. (Joseph in the Qur’an and Bible/The Shawshank Redemption)
  • Love, Grace, and the Instruments of divine Lovingkindness/rahma. (Song of Songs/Baran)
  • Providence and the Inward Journey of Seeking, Finding/Being Found, and Spiritual Communion. (Augustine, Confessions/Central Station)
  • Recognition and Renewal: The “Servants of the All-Merciful” and the “Friends of God.” (Luke-Acts, Ibn ‘Arabi/Babette’s Feast)
  • Reason and Discernment, in Soul and Community. (Farabi, Ibn ‘Arabi/Secret Ballot)