Rachel Fulton

Department of History

The University of Chicago


Spring 2006




This course considers spiritual exercises from both Christian and non-Christian traditions as tools for the cultivation of mental, physical and emotional states associated in many traditions with the experience of ecstasy, enlightenment or “flow.”  Readings will be taken from both East and West; practices to be considered will include, among others, the recitation of the psalms for the Benedictine office, meditations on the life of Christ, yogic asanas and martial kata.  The purpose of the course will be to situate such exercises both historically and practically, with particular emphasis on understanding the processes by which such exercises may contribute to the experience of prayer.


Books available for purchase from the Seminary Co-Op Bookstore and on Reserve in Regenstein Library

Michael Raposa, Meditation and the Martial Arts, University Press of Virginia [ISBN 0813922380]

RB1980: The Rule of St. Benedict in English, ed. Timothy Fry, Liturgical Press [ISBN 0814612725]

Yoga: Discipline of Freedom: The Yoga Sutra Attributed to Patanjali, trans. Barbara Stoler Miller, Bantam Books [ISBN 0553374281]

The Philokalia, Volume 4: The Complete Text, Compiled by St. Nikodimos of the Holy Mountain and St. Markarios of Corinth, trans. G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Kallistos Ware, Faber & Faber [ISBN 057119382X]

Gertrud the Great of Helfta, Spiritual Exercises, trans. Jack Lewis, Cistercian Publications [ISBN 0879074493]

Thomas ą Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, trans. Leo Shirley-Price, Penguin [ISBN 0140440275]

Ignatius Loyola, The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius: Based on Studies in the Language of the Autograph, trans. Louis J. Puhl, Loyola Press [ISBN 0829400656]

John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress, Dover Press [ISBN 0486426750]

The Bhagavad-Gita: Krishna’s Counsel in Time of War, trans. Barbara Stoler Miller, Bantam Books [ISBN 0553213652]

Yuasa Yasuo, The Body, Self-Cultivation, and Ki-Energy, trans. Shingenori Nagatomo and Monte S. Hull, State University of New York Press [ISBN 0791416240]

Your Word is Fire: The Hasidic Masters on Contemplative Prayer, trans. Arthur Green and Barry Holtz, Jewish Lights Publishing [ISBN 1879045257]


Course Requirements

1.  Morning pages.  This is an exercise described by Julia Cameron in The  Artist’s Way: A Course in Discovering and Recovering Your Creative Self (1993).  Every morning, first thing in the morning  (before showering, before breakfast, above all, before leaving home), write three pages, 8 1/2" x 11", longhand, stream-of-consciousness, as fast as possible, about anything.  This should take you about 30 minutes, depending on how fast you write.  You will not turn these pages in.  You will not get a grade for them as such.  But you will do them because they are an extraordinarily effective tool for promoting creative, spiritual growth.  You will, on Sunday of each week in the course, post a brief note on the course Chalk discussion board “checking in” with answers to the following questions: how many days this week did you do your morning pages?  How was the experience for you?  Take about twenty minutes to respond. (10 check-ins total, 10% of your grade)

2.  Practice.  Every week, in conjunction with the reading assigned for discussion on Tuesdays, you will be given a practice to prepare for Thursday.  Some of these practices will require you to bring additional materials to class; others will require you to take on a particular practice highlighted in the reading for the week.  All are intended to challenge you to explore the practices we will be reading about as experiences rather than simply as objects of academic inquiry.  After each practice, you will write 2-3 pages (typed, double-spaced), reflecting on what the practice has taught you in relation to the reading that we have done for the week.  You will hand these reflections in to my office (HM-E 686) by noon on Friday each week. (9 comments total, 40% of your grade)

3.  Project.  This project will be due Friday, June 2, by 5pm to my office.  It may be a paper or…something else.  It may be an historical investigation of a particular spiritual practice that we have touched upon or a handbook of spiritual exercises modeled on one or another of those that we have read.  It may be an image for use in meditation or a series of prayers.  If it is a paper, it should be 12-15 pages long (typed, double-spaced), properly researched and footnoted.  If it is something else, i.e. not an academic-style essay, it should be accompanied by a description of 8-10 pages (typed, double-spaced), explaining how it is intended to work as a stimulus for spiritual experience or “flow”.  You will be asked mid-quarter (May 2) for short descriptions of what you plan to do for your project. (50% of your grade)


Reading and Practice Schedule


Week 1

March 28 Introduction: Work, Play, Expertise and Flow

March 30  NO CLASS

Raposa, Meditation and the Martial Arts


Week 2

April 4  Lectio divina


Rule of St. Benedict

April 6  Practice: Psalms


Week 3

April 11  Yoga

Patanjali, Sutra

April 13  Practice: Posture


Week 4

April 18 Stillness

St. Symeon the New Theologian, Philokalia, vol. 4, pp. 11-15, (25-63), 64-75
Theoliptos, Metropolitan of Philadelphia, Philokalia, vol. 4, pp. 175-87
St. Gregory of Sinai, Philokalia, vol. 4, pp. 207-11, (212-52), 259-61, 263-86
St. Gregory Palamas, Philokalia, vol. 4, pp. 287-92, 331-45, 418-25
(Recommended reading in parentheses)

April 20  Practice: Attention


Week 5

April 25 Liturgy

Gertrud the Great, Spiritual Exercises

April 27  Practice: Chant

(Meet in Bond Chapel with Eric Budzynski)


Week 6

May 2 Imitation

Thomas ą Kempis, The Imitation of Christ

May 4  Practice: Image


Week 7

May 9  Discernment

Ignatius Loyola, Spiritual Exercises

May 11 Practice: Artist’s Date


Week 8

May 16  Allegory

John Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress

May 18  Practice: Masks


Week 9

May 23 Battle

Bhagavad Gita

May 25  Practice: Body

Yuaso Yasuo, The Body, Self-Cultivation and Ki-Energy


Week 10

May 30 Fire

Hasidic masters on contemplative prayer

June 1  Practice: God

(No practice comment due this week)


Final Projects Due Friday, June 2, by 5 pm in Harper East 686


Return to homepage