The History and Vision of the Center for Swedenborgian Studies
James F. Lawrence
Dean of CSS, Faculty Associate in Spirituality and Director of the Doctor of Ministry Program at Pacific School of Religion
Devin Phillip Zuber
Associate Professor of American Studies, Religion, and Literature
the George F. Dole Professor of Swedenborgian Studies
Rebecca K Esterson
Rebecca Esterson is Assistant Professor in Sacred Texts and Traditions and Dorothea Harvey Professor of Swedenborgian Studies.
Fall 2021 Courses
CITY MAGIC: SAN FRAN & ESOTERICISM (RAHR-5503)
This seminar surveys the religious and artistic counter-cultures that flourished in the Bay Area in the late 1950’s and throughout the 1960’s, attempting to bring together historiographies of new religious movements (Goddess-worship, neo paganism) and esotericism (Esalen) with an investigation into the field of cultural production. This entails (re)reading the Beats (Snyder, Kerouac, Ginsberg) as continuing an American project of religious and spiritual experimentalism, and diagramming the explicitly esoteric dimensions of avant-garde poetics (Jack Spicer’s “radio” poems, Robert Duncan’s HD book), painting (Jess Collins’s use of alchemy and the occult), and music (Harry Smith). Course Audience: PhD / MA, Auditors with permission. Oral presentations; final research paper. Due to COVID-19, this course will be held in a hybrid format online. [Auditors with faculty permission]
CONVERSION AND LITERATURE (HRRA-6100)
Could there be something powerful like the “Force” from the Star Wars films within Swedenborgian theology? Early-on in his scientific career, Swedenborg was enchanted by the power of wave-forms and the flows of matter that lay at the heart of how nature seemed to be put together. His later theology is filled with ideas as to how all of reality constantly flows under the invisible currents of divine love and wisdom, emanating out of the all-powerful Divine. This class undertakes a slow reading of Swedenborg’s late theological reflection on this topic, the short work The Interaction of the Soul and the Body (1769), which was sometimes translated as “Influx”. We will also explore how later writers (such as the poet Walt Whitman, and the writer Ralph Waldo Emerson), deeply responded to Swedenborgian theories of influx, and came to amplify the idea in their own work.
DEATH, GRIEF, AND IM/MORTALITY (IRRS-1501)
This course will sample various medical, religious, artistic, and pastoral perspectives on the end of life. In addition to studying different beliefs and practices around the world and throughout history related to death, grieving and the afterlife, students will be encouraged to engage these topics experientially, by encountering people who work with the dying and the grieving, and by visiting places where funerals and burials take place. We will also survey contemporary “death positive” movements, such as “Reimagine End of Life” festivals and Death Cafes. Through course assignments, students will have the opportunity to reflect on their belief systems and desires concerning their own death.
GENESIS: A JOURNEY INWARD (BSST-2000)
This course will explore the book of Genesis from a Swedenborgian exegetical perspective. The book of Genesis holds a particular fascination for those in the Swedenborgian interpretive lineage, as a text in which myth and history meet. The story telling of the ancients speaks across time, filling our present world with dramas of family and fertility and of connection to and estrangement from the Divine. We will engage a close reading of some of Swedenborg’s earliest biblical commentaries, including his fictional account of the Adam and Even story, De Cultu et Amore Dei, The Worship and Love of God. We will also survey Swedenborg’s many theological volumes dedicated to interpreting Genesis, such as Arcana Coelestia and The Word Explained, and explore our own intuitive connections to and interpretations of this collection of ancient and sublime texts that we call Genesis.