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Transformations and transformers: Spirituality and the academic study of mysticism

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Abstract:

[opening paragraph]: A colleague of mine at Southern Methodist University recently shared a story with me. Several years ago my colleague was hired as the chairman of a new department of religious studies at a major research university. It was his job to interview candidates to fill several positions in the department. The Dean was adamant that, in order to ensure scholarly objectivity, anyone hired to teach religious studies should not have deeply held religious beliefs; however my colleague went to the Dean in hopes of convincing him otherwise. ‘You can certainly say whatever you want to’, the Dean responded, ‘but you should know in advance that my mind is already made up.’ My colleague did not share with me his whole argument, but he did mention what must have given even that hard-nosed Dean a moment's pause: ‘It seems that, in this department’, my colleague pointedly remarked, ‘it would be fine to hire an historian who is an expert on Thomas Aquinas; but, according to your rules, we couldn't hire Thomas Aquinas himself.’

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 1994-02-01

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