Week by Week Course Preview

Week One: Introductions. Discussion of several different traditions’ conceptions of God or divinity: 1) “Hinduism’s” four approaches to the divine (love, knowledge, work, physical mastery); 2) The concept of Fate as seen in Homer and the 5th century (BCE) tragedians; 3) The God of History (progressing from the creator of Genesis 1-2, to the personal God of Abraham, to the national God of Israel, to the universal God of the prophets and mainstream Christianity); and 4) the God of the mystics, exemplified by Meister Eckhart and his famous prayer to be able to “leave god for God.”

Week One/Two: Aeschylus, Prometheus BoundThe discussion will revolve around issues of the (in)justice of "divine" authority (in this case, that of Zeus) and the role of the rebel, the recusant, or nay-sayer in the face of such authority.

Week Three/Four: Homer, The OdysseyOdysseus and his plight are set against the background of a struggle between the gods of Olympus. Zeus specifically denies that the bad things that happen to humans are in any way the result of the will or actions of the gods. The discussion will explore what the justice and truth of Zeus’ claim may be, as well as what responsibility for Odysseus’ struggles may lie with Odysseus himself.

Week Five/Six: Hebrew Traditional Texts: 

1) JobWhat is the nature of God? Is God really a personality in the human sense? Can God be held to moral expectations, expectations that are formed in human terms? Is a God that cannot be relied upon in those human terms worth struggling with at all? This discussion will explore the various ways of relating to God outlined by the primary speakers in the book of Job, and grapple with Job’s enigmatic final words. What conclusion does Job come to regarding his God?

2) HoseaMost of the same questions as above, with the addition of the following: What is the nature of the human relationship to the divine?

Week Seven: Hindu Traditional Text, The Chandogya UpanishadThis combination of literature, philosophy, and theology presents a different conception of God than does Job or the Greeks. The divine of the Upanishads is not a person. When the divine is conceived of without reference to personality, without identity in the normal sense, how does the human relation to the divine change? Is there something lost, or something gained?

Week Eight: Hindu Traditional Text, The Bhagavad-Gita (Chapters 1-5, 9, 11, 18)—This session will consider questions of activity and/or passivity in heroism.  What justification, if any, is there for taking part in war (including a civil war fought against members of one’s own family)? 

Week Nine/Ten: John Milton, Paradise LostThis work returns the course to the realm of personal divinity. The contrast between Satan (of one of world literature's most famous rebels) and the Son of God (a figure who challenges his Father to be truly divine) will allow for a fruitful consideration of the contrasting natures of military conquest and moral choice as modes of relation to the divine.

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