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Love’s Ecstasies and Obligations: Jewish Mystical PerspectivesThe Jewish tradition understands love as an act of caring, connecting and knowing. Some forms of love are religiously obligatory: it is a religious duty (mitzvah) to love God, our neighbors, and the stranger and to give generously to the less fortunate. Other forms of love are not obligatory but are strongly encouraged: e.g., visiting the sick, tending to the needs of the elderly, protecting animals. We will examine how compassion and justice are wedded in most forms of sacred love as well as experience some practices for opening the caring heart and hand.

The Challenge of the Desert: Passions and Emotions in Early Christian Spirituality In the fourth century of our era, the tradition of Christian spirituality that developed in the Egyptian desert envisaged the practice of the virtues as the first stage in a process of spiritual ascent that would culminate in the contemplation of the divine reality beyond the realm of shape and form. In this perspective, the body was largely a hindrance to be left behind as the individual ascended towards a higher and higher intellectual insight. After the fifth century, however, the greater emphasis on the mystery of the incarnation within Christian theology ensured that Christian spiritual practice would come to view the embodied condition of humanity, as well as its attendant passions and emotions, as a fundamental resource for individual growth. As the individual transcends the border between the human and the divine realm, the ensuing intellectual and affective transformation accomplishes a dramatic reconfiguration of the inner life where the body is not shed, but is utterly transfigured.

This presentation will focus primarily on the works of Evagrius Pontikos (345-398 ca.) and Maximos the Confessor (580-662).


Charles Burack, Ph.D., is a professor, poet, spiritual counselor, and creativity coach. As a core faculty member at John F. Kennedy University, he specializes in integrative approaches to psychology, spirituality, and literature and has pioneered contemplative, creative, and integral approaches to education. A former rabbinical student, he was trained as an interfaith spiritual director and lay chaplain and is active in interfaith education, counseling, and the arts. An award-winning scholar and widely published writer-poet, he has published two books (D. H. Lawrence’s Language of Sacred Experience and Songs to My Beloved) and dozens of essays, stories, poems, and meditations. In 2001, he received the New Scholar Award from the D.H. Lawrence Society of North America for his articles about Lawrence’s creative process and spiritual artistry. Chuck recently completed a spiritual memoir on his multi-faith journey and is finishing a book on creativity and spirituality.

Thomas Cattoi is Assistant Professor of Christology and Cultures at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, where he also holds the Dwan Family Chair in Interreligious Dialogue. He specializes in early Christian theology and spirituality, Christology, and interreligious dialogue, with a special attention to the interface between the spiritual practices of Eastern Christianity and Tibetan Buddhism. He authored Divine Contingency: Theologies of Divine Embodiment in Maximos the Confessor and Tsong kha pa (Gorgias Press, 2009), as well as number of articles on Christology and Buddhist-Christian dialogue; he recently edited the volume Mystical Sensuality: Perceiving the Divine Through the Human Body (Palgrave McMillan, 2011), and he is currently working on a volume exploring the use of images in the context of Christian and Tibetan spirituality. He has been visiting professor at different Chinese universities and is co-chair of the Mysticism Group of the American Academy of Religion. In August 2011, he enrolled in the ICPW program at CIIS.