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Teaching Mysticism$
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William B. Parsons

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199751198

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199751198.001.0001

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Mysticism Before Mysticism

Mysticism Before Mysticism

Teaching Christian Mysticism as a Historian of Religion

(p.26) { 2 } Mysticism Before Mysticism
Teaching Mysticism

April DeConick

Oxford University Press

This chapter addresses the fundamentals of teaching about mysticism in the context of Christianity, favoring a comparative-contextualist approach. It focuses on teaching a seminar for upper-class undergraduates and graduate students called “Mysticism Before Mysticism.” This seminar explores mysticism in Second Temple Judaism and early Christianity, a period prior to the Kabbalah and Dionysius the Areopagite. Materials covered include Jewish and Christian scriptures, pseudepigrapha, Dead Sea Scrolls, and Gnostic, Hermetic, Patristic, neo-Platonic, and Hekhalot literature. Ancient astrological and magical traditions are also discussed. The course curriculum is developed to address four big questions, which underlie the seminal primary and secondary readings: (1) What is Mysticism? (2) What is Christian? (3) Perennial or Cultural? (4) Exegesis or Experience? Tough questions are raised. To what extent does the study of these passages influence the mystics’ experiences or his or her framing of those experiences? Do texts that relate stories of mystical practices assume genuine mystical experiences? Or are the stories exegetical exercises? The chapter includes a sample syllabus.

Keywords:   Christian Mysticism, Dead Sea Scrolls, Hekhalot, Gnostic, Exegesis, Hermetic, Patristic

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