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Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life

"Ways of Knowing:" Re-integrating Spirituality in the Catholic University and Liberal Arts

James Morris, Boston College
Date: Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Time: 12:00 PM - 1:15 PM
Location: Boisi Center, 24 Quincy Road


This talk briefly surveys the ways that the natural centrality of spirituality across the spectrum of the liberal arts and closely related sciences could also be usefully integrated within university curricula that are primarily restricted to a single dominant religious tradition.

Almost all contemporary universities seek to integrate the intellectual traditions of philosophy, theology and the sciences of nature and mathematics from pre-modern Islamic and Hellenistic heritage into their curricula. With the exception of the field of religious studies (a nascent, largely undergraduate and North American phenomenon), however, what is strikingly absent from the modern university is any comparable concern with the far-reaching intellectual and practical dimensions of spirituality that were so central to earlier Islamic and Christian civilizations. Every world religious tradition has witnessed in the past century an extraordinary reversal of the previously predominant “esoteric” social and intellectual locus of specialists in spirituality. Primary spiritual texts and related artistic and contemplative practices of each tradition are now increasingly accessible to interested publics on a truly global scale. Professor Morris will survey these important developments and consider how a wide spectrum of perspectives on spirituality could be integrated into university curricula otherwise focused on a single dominant religious tradition.

headshot of Jim Morris

Prior to joining Boston College, Morris held the Sharjah Chair of Islamic Studies at the University of Exeter, and he has taught previously at Princeton University, Oberlin College, Temple University, and the Institute of Ismaili Studies in Paris and London.  He has served as visiting professor at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes (Paris), University of Malaya, and University of Sarajevo, and he lectures and gives workshops widely throughout Europe and the Muslim world. His most recent books include Knowing the Spirit (State Univeristy of New York Press, 2007); The Reflective Heart: Discovering Spiritual Intelligence in Ibn ‘Arabī’s ‘Meccan Illuminations (Fons Vitae, 2005); Orientations: Islamic Thought in a World Civilisation (Archetype, 2004); Ibn ‘Arabī: The Meccan Revelations (Pir Press, 2002); The Master and the Disciple: An Early Islamic Spiritual Dialogue (Institute for Ismaili Studies, 2002) and several website volumes.