Experimental Mysticism:

The History and Science of Psychedelic Research

This special Civic Liberal Arts (CLA) course explores the uncommon history and science of psychedelic research.  Students examine the work of pioneering scientists, intellectuals, and religious scholars who have explored the claim that psychedelics can facilitate a bonafide mystical or spiritual experience that transforms an individual's personality. With assistance from Drs. Katherine MacLean (former research psychologist at Johns Hopkins University and current director of the Psychedelic Education & Continuing Care Program at the Center for Optimal Living) and Christopher Kelley (associate adjunct professor in religious studies at Lang College), students craft their own experiential projects of self-transformation. Each student’s unique “vision quest” draws on course readings, lectures, and class conversations. Students also have the opportunity to develop their projects in the context of monthly group psychedelic education meetings at the Center for Optimal Living. At the end of the semester students share their projects in a “TED style” presentation to the class. 

Buddhism and Cognitive Science

This course is designed to explore and critically evaluate the central concepts and theories that are at the intersection between Buddhism and cognitive science. Students will examine seminal books and articles from the fields of social and clinical psychology, moral philosophy, phenomenology, neuroscience, and Buddhist studies. This course will touch on themes within those disciplines such as: intersubjectivity, the empathy-altruism hypothesis, the nature of self and other, meditation, and the application of experimental methods to study of human emotions and behavior. In addition to the traditional course requirements (i.e. exams and papers), students will have the opportunity to experiment with various meditation techniques in class. This course is recommended for students with at least one LREL or LPSY course. 

Masterpieces of Western Literature and Philosophy

Masterpieces of Western Literature and Philosophy, popularly known as “Lit Hum,” offers students the opportunity to engage in intensive study and discussion of some of the most significant texts of Western culture. An interdepartmental staff of professorial and preceptorial faculty meets with groups of approximately twenty-two students four hours a week to discuss texts by, among others, Homer, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Herodotus, Thucydides, Plato, Vergil, Augustine, Dante, Boccaccio, Montaigne, Shakespeare, Austen, Dostoyevsky, and Woolf, as well as Hebrew scripture and New Testament writings. The objective of the course is to consider particular conceptions of what it means to be human and to consider the place of such conceptions in the development of critical thought.