Studies 353 W2022 Dark Self East & West: Comparative Conceptions
This course on comparative religious and
philosophical thought examines selected Asian and Western thinkers and
conceptions of the self, with a special focus on the dark side of the
self. Although comparisons are often made between ultimates - God, Buddha,
Dao, and the like - it is often overlooked that they are responses to what
religions define as the fundamental problems or dark sides of the inner
life. Through comparing views of the dark side including sin in
Christianity, karmic evil and delusion in Buddhism, disharmony in Taoism,
and psychic suffering in psychology, it will become evident that that
there are both significant similarities and deep differences among diverse
religious and philosophical views.
In the latter part of the course, films together with readings will be
used to explore the dark side through various cultural themes including
racism, gender discrimination, and war. In turn, possible responses to
these issues from various thinkers in the first half of the course will be
considered. This is an intermediate-level course with a lecture/discussion
format. Some meetings will be entirely in lecture format. Others will
involve a combination of lecture and discussion.
- Attendance: This is a lecture/discussion format course with required
attendance. You can have one unexcused absence. Any absence without a
prior excuse will result in a half-grade deduction from the course
- Short exams: There will be two short, exams administed through Canvas,
based on materials from the readings, lectures, and course web site. The
first exam will also contain questions on writing papers.
- Short papers: Students will write three short papers based on topics
that will be provided by the instructor.
- Final paper: Each student will hand in a medium length final paper of
5-7 pages double-spaced. Suggested topics will be provided. Students may
choose to create their own topics with the consent of their section
leader. In the case of the latter, a one-paragraph description of the
topic must be submitted by email to the instructor one week prior to the
- Late policy on written assignments: Three grace days total will be
allotted excluding the medium-length final paper for which no extensions
will be given. For all other assignments, a cumulative total of three
late days will be allowed without penalty. Thereafter, each late day
will result in a two-point deduction from the course grade. Weekends are
not counted against the grace days.
Learning Outcomes In
this course students will:
- Develop their paper
writing skills through regular feedback on papers and an exam
containing questions regarding the process and elements of writing
- Develop a sophisticated
understanding of how diverse religions and philosophies define the
dark or problematic dimensions of human existence.
- Acquire tools for the
study of comparative religion through the examination of the
philosophical anthropology (views of human nature) as characterized by
diverse strands of religious and philosophical thinking, using primary
sources and secondary scholarly literature.
- Learn to identify and
analyze thematic presentations of the dark or problematic dimensions
of human existence concerning diverse factors of human culture such as
gender, sexual orientation, race and ethnicity, and class.
- Have their work assessed
through exams, papers, and class discussion.
- Short Paper I - 10%; Short
Paper II - 15%; Short Paper III -
- Short Exam A - 10%; Short Exam
B - 10%; Final Paper - 30%
Attendance and Participation - 10%
- *Note: You must complete all assignments in order to receive course
- Shinmon Aoki, Coffinman: The Journal of a Buddhist Mortician (Anaheim,
CA: Buddhist Education Ctr, 2002).
- Viktor Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning (NY: Beacon Press,
- Cheryl Strayed, Wild (NY: Penguin, 2013).
- Alice Walker, The Color Purple (NY: Mariner Books, 2003).
- Burton Watson, trans., Zhuangzi (New York: Columbia University
- Mark Unno, ed., REL 353 Course Packet (online: Canvas course
Weekly Schedule REL353 Dark
Self East & West
(Reading assignments are to be
completed by the date under which they are listed.)
CP = Course Packet; RT = Required Text; Optional Readings are marked
Week 1 INTRODUCTION; KIERKEGAARD AND SIN
1/03 Introduction: The Dark Side of Human Existence: Contrasts and
Reading: Suzy Hansen, "Ordinary People, Extraordinary Evil" (CP1); Hilde
L. Nelson, Damaged Identities, Narrative Repair, 1-35, 176-188
(CP2); Chris Hedges, "American Psychosis," UNM https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ythOLteROK0.
1/05 Reading: Soren Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling, 5-23; 34-53
(CP3); The Sickness Unto Death, 13-21, 29-47 (CP4);
Emily VanDerWerff, “A Trans Christian Minister Came Out in a Sermon.”
Vox.com, June 26, 2020 (CP4a).
Paper I: submit to Canvas by 12:00 noon.
Week 2 JUNG’S PSYCHOLOGY & THE SHADOW; INDIAN PHILOSOPHY: KARMA AND
1/10 Reading: Robert Aziz, Jung's Psychology of Religion and
Synchronicity, 9-49 (CP5); Henry Shukman, "Light and Dark: Koans
and Dreams," 15-23 (CP6).
1/12 Reading: "Hymn on Creation from the Rig Vedas," 206 (CP7); The
Bhagavad Gita, vii-xxiv, 3-29, 61-75, 145-149 (focus pages:
vii-xii, xiv-xvi, xx-xxi, 16-29, 70-73, 147). (CP8).
Week 3 EXISTENCE : MEANING & MEANINGLESSNESS
1/17 (No class: MLK Jr Day)
1/19 Reading: Viktor Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning, (focus
pages: 3-96, 101-102, 110-116) (RT).
Reading: Peter Schneider, "Saving Konrad Latte," 52-57, 72-73, 90,
Week 4 LOSS, RECOVERY, DISCOVERY OF SELF: NATURE, BODY, AND THE SACRED
1/24 Reading: Chery Strayed, Wild, 1-173 (RT). Carolyn
Lumsden, “Cheryl Strayed’s ‘Wild’” (CP11); "Writng,
Hiking, and Liberation with Cheryl Strayed" (web link - recommended)
1/26 Reading: Chery Strayed, Wild, 174-311 (RT).
Special Guest Lecture: Steve Wehmeier
Reading: "The Bill Wilson - Carl Jung Letters," 1-5 (CP10-optional)
Reading: Roger Ebert, "My Name is Roger ..." (online-optional).
Week 5 DAOISM: ZHUANGZI WANDERING THE DAO
1/31 Reading: Zhuangzi, 1-30, 31- 88 (focus pages: 31-49,
62-63, 78-81) (RT). Paper II: submit
to Canvas by 12:00 noon.
(For your convenience, Zhuangzi excerpts are in
the Course Packet [CP12]).
Reading: P.J. Ivanhoe, "Zhuangzi on Skepticism," 639-654
2/02 Reading: Zhuangzi, 89-140 (focus pages: 94-95, 126-140)
(RT). Exam A on Canvas by 12:00 noon.
Week 6 PURE LAND BUDDHISM: SHINRAN & COFFINMAN
2/07 Reading: Mark Unno, “The Original Buddhist Rebel -
Shinran,” 1-16 (CP14)
Reading: Tannisho: A Shin Buddhist Classic, 4-9,
14, 32-33 (CP15);
Reading: ”The Borderline between Buddhism and Psychotherapy,"
2/09 Reading: Coffinman, xiii-xvi, 3-111 (RT).
Week 7 MYSTICISM & THE QUESTIONING OF REALITY
2/14 Film: Jacob's Ladder. Sandy Gunther, " An Alternate View of
Reality … in Jacob's Ladder," 1-10 (CP17)
2/16 Reading: Michael Morton, Getting Life: An Innocent Man’s 25-year
Journey, 142-170 (CP18); "Ten
Years after the New Jim Crow," New Yorker ;
"Jim Crow Still Exists
in America," NPR: Fresh Air, January 16, 2012.
Week 8 SEXUALITY, EROS & SPIRIT: A WOMANIST ACCOUNT
2/21 Film: Antonia's Line.
Reading: Alice Walker, The Color Purple (RT).
2/23 Reading: Audre Lorde, "The Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power,"
Exam B on Canvas by 12:00 noon.
Week 9 BUDDHIST KARMA, EXISTENTIAL ABSURDITY
2/28 Film: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter, . . . and Spring
to Canvas by 12:00 noon.
3/02 Reading: Albert Camus, "The Myth of
Sisyphus," 88-91 (CP20).
Week 10 MANY SELVES, ONE SELF, NO SELF; CONCLUDING BEGINNINGS
3/07 Reading: Robert Akeret, Tales from a
Travelling Couch, 19-57 (CP21); Beatrice Wood, “An Artist Seeking
Her Own Way,” (CP22-optional); ”The Ten Oxherding Pictures," 26-45
3/09 Concluding lecture and Discussion. Final Paper: submit
to Canvas by 12 noon. Extension to 3/11 if you come to class.
Course Packet, REL 353 Dark
Self East & West
1. Suzy Hansen, "Ordinary People, Extraordinary
Evil," Salon.com 08/21/2002.
2. Hilde L. Nelson, Damaged Identities, Narrative Repair (Ithaca, NY:
Cornell University Press, 2001), 1-35, 176-188.
3. Soren Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling (Princeton: Princeton University
Press, 1983) 5-23, 34-53.
4. Soren Kierkegaard, The Sickness Unto Death (Princeton: Princeton
University Press, 1980) 13-21, 29-47.
4a. Emily VanDerWerff, “A Trans Christian Minister Came Out in a Sermon.”
Vox.com, June 26, 2020. Accessed 12-29-2021.
5. Robert Aziz, C. G. Jung's Psychology of Religion and Synchronicity
(Albany: SUNY Press, 1990) 9-49.
6. Henry Shukman, "Light and Dark: Koans and Dreams," Spring: A Journal of
Archetype and Culture, vol. 89, 15-23.
7. Ralph Griffith, trans., "Hymn on Creation from the Rig Vedas" (Delhi:
Motilal Banarsidass, 1973) 206.
8. Laurie Patton, trans, The Bhagavad Gita (NY: Penguin Books, 2014)
vii-xxiv, 3-29, 61-75, 145-149.
9. Peter Schneider, "Saving Konrad Latte," The New York Times Magazine
(February 13, 2000) 52-57, 72-73, 90, 95.
10. "The Bill Wilson - Carl Jung Letters," 1-5.
11. Carolyn Lumsden, “Cheryl Strayed’s ‘Wild’: A Journey of Truth, Healing,
Change,” Hartford Courant, 03/06/2015.
12. Burton Watson, trans., Zhuangzi: Basic Writings (NY: Columbia
University, 1993), 1-7, 31-41, 44, 61-62, 114-117, 128-129.
13. P. J. Ivanhoe, "Zhuangzi on Skepticism, Skill, and the Ineffable Dao,"
Journal of the AAR, LX:4 639-654.
14. Mark Unno, “The Original Buddhist Rebel - Shinran,” Tricycle (Winter
15. Taitetsu Unno, trans., Tannisho-A Shin Buddhist Classic (Honolulu:
Buddhist Study Center, 1996), 4-9, 14, 32-33.
16. Mark Unno, "The Borderline between Buddhism and Psychotherapy," in
Buddhism and Psychotherapy Across Cultures, ed. Mark Unno (Boston: Wisdom
Publications, 2006), 139-158.
17. Sandy Gunther, "An Alternate View of Reality: Understanding Mystical
Experience in Jacob's Ladder," Unpublished Paper 1-10.
18. Michael Morton, Getting Life: An Innocent Man’s 25-year Journey from
Prison to Peace (NY: Simon and Schuster, 2015), 142-170.
19. Audre Lorde, "Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power," Sister Outsider
(Freedom, CA: Crossing Press, 1984) 53-59.
20. Albert Camus, "The Myth of Sisyphus," in The Myth of Sisyphus (NY:
Random House, 1955), 88-91.
21. Robert Akeret, Tales from a Travelling Couch (NY: Norton, 1996) 19-57.
22. "The Ten Oxherding Pictures," in How to Practice Zazen, Institute for
Zen Studies, 26-45.
23. Beatrice Wood, “An Artist Seeking Her Own Way,” U.S. News & World
Report, Special Issue, 8/26-9/1/1995, 94-95.