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Russia in the 18th and 19th Centuries

This course offers a sequence of connected lectures on notable mystics throughout history, including Meister Eckhart, Rabbi Yisrael ben Eliezer (also known as the Ba'al Shem Tov), St. Teresa of Avila, Thomas Traherne, and Thomas Merton.

February 23: Bill Painter presents, Meister Eckhart: Daring, Controversial, Influential Mystic

Richard Rohr calls Meister Eckhart (1260-1327), "One of the most celebrated Christian mystics." This German Dominican was a theologian, philosopher, teacher, preacher, and pastor. He was educated in his order and served in several important roles. He wrote in Latin for his fellow scholastic theologians and preached in German for the laity, men and women alike. His preaching especially upset some of the church hierarchy, and at the end of his life, some of his teachings were condemned. However, he remained influential, not only among his fellow Dominicans but also beyond the bounds of the Christian community. His influence continues today.


March 2: Rabbi Peter Grumbacher presents, The Ba'al Shem Tov: Mysticism through Living

In an era when many factions and perspectives enriched the Jewish communities of Western and Eastern Europe, the Ba'al Shem Tov saw the presence of God in the simple life. We will examine the Ba'al Shem Tov's life and the stories that have expressed his search for meaning in the tumultuous world in which he lived.


March 9: Anna Rose Geary presents, St. Teresa of Avila: Her Life and Spirituality

Saint Teresa of Avila, reformer of the Carmelite Order in the Catholic Church in the 1500s in Spain, was a woman who searched for an encounter with God. Once she did encounter Him, she wanted to put Him at the center of her life and proclaim His greatness. During her lifetime, she was criticized, rejected, reprimanded, and brought before the Inquisition seven times. In the 20th century alone, there have been more than 5,000 studies published about St. Teresa and her writings have been translated into 200 languages (Gonzalez-Casas). This session will take a look at this saint through some of her most famous works, Teresa of Avila: The Book of My Life, The Interior Castle, and The Way of Perfection.


March 16: John Noffsinger presents, Thomas Traherne

This session will provide an introduction to the works of Thomas Traherne, a 17th-century Anglican priest, poet, and mystic. After setting a context in which to understand nature mysticism, we will examine excerpts from Traherne's poetry and then concentrate on his response to the natural world in the "Centuries," his most famous collection of meditations.


March 23: Dave Pruett presents, Thomas Merton

Thomas Merton (1915-1968) was a 20th-Century American mystic. Ordained as "Father Louis" into the Catholic priesthood in 1941, Merton lived at the Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani, a Trappist order, until his untimely death in 1968. A prolific writer, Merton authored some 50 books, mostly on the subjects of spirituality and social justice. His spiritual autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain , has become a perennial bestseller. Merton was also a poet, a social activist and critic of the Vietnam War, and an early proponent of interfaith dialogue. In the latter capacity, Merton maintained vigorous correspondence with several luminaries in other religious traditions, among them Rabbi Abraham Heschel, the Dalai Lama, D.T. Suzuki, and Thich Nhat Hanh. This session will examine Merton's unconventional life and complex personality, his writings and beliefs, and his continuing influence on spiritual seekers.

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