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Religion lecture series presents on controversy of mysticism

Sally Kershner
Features Editor

The annual Fall Academy of Religion lecture series has returned to The College of Wooster, having begun Sept. 13 and continuing through Oct. 18. These lectures are hosted on campus thanks to an endowed fund, the Department of Religious Studies and Interfaith Campus Ministry. They contain a specific theme that addresses issues of theology, literature and society through the lens of religion and faith.

This year’s theme is addressing the controversy of mysticism. Mysticism is a controversial topic because different religions provide contradiciting definitions and examples of mystical experiences.

According to the pamphlet distributed by the Academy of Religion, “For most persons in European Protestant cultures, mysticism is a vague concept reflecting centuries of Protestant theological suspicion. In Protestant criticism, mysticism blurred the distinction between God, the transcendent creator and humans, dependent, created beings.”

The lectures in this series aim to tackle these controversies and seek a path that defines the elusive term through dissection of Islamic studies, religious studies, Judaic studies and American poetry.

According to the pamphlet, “As all this implies, mystical experience requires prolonged disciplined engagement, still each of us, at various moments in our lives, may catch a glimpse of the vision that mystics have and, if we are open to such moments, we may find our lives transformed.”

Two professors from the College have already presented in the series so far. Charles L. Kammer, James F. Lincoln Professor of religious studies, presented his lecture, “Morality and Mysticism” and Dr. Dheepa Sundaram, assistant professor of religious studies, presented her lecture, “Language of the Sacred: Poets. Saints, and Mystics in Indian Religious Traditions.”

Rabbi Dr. Haim O. Rechnitzer, associate professor of Jewish Thought from Hebrew Union College, also presented his lecture, “The Mystical-Magical Facet of Sacred Text and Holy Language in Kabbalah.”

On Oct. 4, Daniel Bourne, a professor in Wooster’s English department, will present his lecture, “Inside the Red Wheelbarrow: A Reverie on Image and Mysticism in American Poetic Tradition.”

During fall break, Zeki Saritoprak, professor and Director of the Bediuzzaman Said Nursi Chair in Islamic Studies from John Carroll University, will present his lecture “Body, Soul and Spirit in the Islamic Mystical Tradition” on Oct.11.

The last lecture is on Oct. 18 and will be presented by Mary Suydam, professor emerita of religious studies from Kenyon College, who will present “From Joyful Exuberance to Disciplined Meditation and Back: Christian Mysticism Then and Now.”

The point of these lectures is to provide insights and unique resources to the College that will enrich the understandings of religion and faith while also encouraging students to delve deeper into the intricate issues of religious studies.

All lectures will be held in Lean Lecture Room in Wishart Hall from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. and admission is free and open to the public.

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