Pandemic Mysticism

New School for Social Research: Philosophy

Liberal Arts

Graduate Course

Degree Students (with Restrictions)

Pandemic Mysticism

Spring 2021

Taught By: Simon Critchley

Section: A

CRN: 9183

Credits: 3

In the wake of COVID-19, many of us have grown used to being hermits, socially distanced and advancing masked against a contaminated and untrustworthy reality defined by pestilence, suffering and death. In a world of contagion – possibly being contagious ourselves - we have followed a practice that the ancients called anachoreisis, a withdrawal into solitude, a retreat from the world. Whether we liked it or not, we all became anchorites or anchoresses. There is a strange asceticism to the world of lockdown and disease which opened us up to extreme experiences of doubt, dereliction, dreams, hypochondria, hallucination, and a desperate desire for love or a connection with something or someone outside or larger than the self. These experiences and emotion have profound historical and religious echoes with the logic, poetics and practices of mysticism. It is as if something elemental and primeval has been revived in the pandemic. Perhaps it is worth looking into. It seems to me, then, that this might be an opportune moment to study some mystical texts together and think about the nature of mystical experience. Such is the simple purpose of this seminar. In its attempts to articulate religious experience in thought, mysticism both borrows heavily from philosophy and undermines its standard procedures. What often results is a strange philosophy of contradictions, confessions, and enigmas. While not being blind to the many mystical traditions, we will focus on Christian mysticism, especially medieval texts, and especially those written by women. Authors that may be included are: Dionysius the Areopagite, Hadewych of Antwerp, Meister Eckhart, Marguerite Porete, Julian of Norwich, Margery Kempe, Angela of Foligno, and others. The seminar will also include selections from more recent authors inspired this tradition, for example William James, Bataille, Lacan, Michel de Certeau, Simone Weil, R.D. Laing, Caroline Bynum and Amy Hollywood. We will pay attention to the political dimension of these traditions that are focused around the odd phenomenon of mystical anarchism. And we will also pay attention to the relation of mystical experience to popular music in various forms.

College: New School for Social Research (GF)

Department: Philosophy (GPHI)

Campus: Online (DL)

Course Format: Lecture (L)

Max Enrollment: 18

Add/Drop Deadline: February 8, 2021 (Monday)

Online Withdrawal Deadline: April 13, 2021 (Tuesday)

Seats Available: No

Status: Closed*

* Status information is updated every five minutes. The status of this course may have changed since the last update. Open seats may have restrictions that will prevent some students from registering. Updated: 12:56am 7/1/2021 EDT

Meeting Info:

Days: Tuesday

Times: 8:00pm - 9:50pm

Building: Online Course

Date Range: 1/19/2021 - 5/4/2021