This course explores the stages of spiritual development, beginning with awakening and initiation, through the deepening of direct experience and the formulation of a coherent spiritual path, including the notion of an ultimate attainment. It explores the function of spiritual groups and teachers in facilitating this development. Of particular interest are:
- the spiritual seeker's experience of 'little death,' the mode of apparent discontinuity when the 'old life' is supplanted by a new identity and mode of living;
- times of crisis, adaptation, and 'the dark night'; and
- the experience of 'physical death,' as seen from the perspective of a lifetime of encountering both relative and absolute reality.
By means of personal narratives and fictional accounts, this course explores how diverse traditions create and value these moments of surrender and transformation. Lectures and readings by Thich Nhat Hanh, The Dalai Lama, Ken Wilber, Kahlil Gibran and others will form the basis of two papers. There will be no final exam.