Due to unforeseen cicumstances, this course has been cancelled. We hope to reschedule and offer it again later this year. We apologize for any inconvenience.
Six Sessions Exploring Windows to the Sacred
This six-session course explores the following questions: How can we gain access to the mystery of the invisible through the gate of the visible? Might we expand our understanding of sacred images and of the role of beauty itself?
“The foundations of the world are to be found, not in the cognitive experience of conscious thought, but in the aesthetic experience of everyday life.”
–Alfred North Whitehead
Modernity and its dominant rationalistic paradigm have disenchanted the world around us. Meanwhile, the growing interest in spirituality and in psychedelic or ecstatic experiences reveal a deep hunger for encounter with the Sacred. What means of access do we have today to the deep mysteries?
While many have rejected organized religion, others have mined various traditions for what is still life-giving, finding new expressions of core truths. For example, the practice of praying with icons – used primarily in Eastern or Orthodox Christianity – offers us an inviting pathway when we turn our eyes to various kinds of images. Icons are considered sacred images that according to Thomas Merton reflect “an interior presence in light.” Henri Nouwen believed that icons “are created for the sole purpose of offering access, through the gate of the visible, to the mystery of the invisible.”
In recent years, other sacred objects and even parts of the natural world have come to be used in the same way.
In this course, we’ll explore several kinds of images to see how they might invite us into contemplation and communion with the Divine. We’ll visit the visionary art of Janet McKenzie whose painting “Jesus of the People” sparked both devotion and controversy. We’ll also hear directly from Mary Jane Miller about her work in contemporary iconography that manifests divine love for creation and gender equality. Robert (Robin) Gottfried will show us how we might approach the natural world as an icon to the Divine, Sushmita Mukherjee will teach us about her practice of “deep seeing” and mandalas, and course instructor Sheri Kling will guide participants through a contemplative practice of working with dream images. Ultimately, we’ll attempt to discover for ourselves our own ways of cultivating sacred vision.
- Session 1: Introduction: Observation & Attention
- Session 2: Divine Love for Creation & Gender Equality in Modern Iconography
- Session 3: Living in an Icon, the Natural World as an Icon to the Divine
- Session 4: Deep Seeing, Mandalas, and the Soul
- Session 5: Dream Divina: Contemplating Dream Images as Sacred Icons
- Session 6: Conclusion: Cultivating Sacred Vision
“The teleology of the Universe is directed toward the production of Beauty.”
–Alfred North Whitehead
About the Instructors
Sheri D. Kling, Ph.D. is a theologian, songwriter, speaker, and spiritual mentor who draws from wisdom and mystical traditions, relational worldviews, depth psychology, and the intersection of spirituality and science to help people find meaning, belonging, and transformation. Sheri is director of Process & Faith and the John Cobb Legacy Fund and a faculty member of the Haden Institute. Author of A Process Spirituality: Christian and Transreligious Resources for Transformation and sees her mission as midwifing wholeness in individuals, organizations, communities, and culture. Her work can be found online at sherikling.com.
Mary Jane Miller lives in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, and has painted icons for more than 25 years. As a woman iconographer, she hopes to create images where people might connect to their spiritual wellbeing, and ultimately closer to that which sustains us. “I have come to see the world as a metaphor, nearly everything which happens to us is screaming to be understood through the eye of spirit, we just need to reflect long enough to hear the message.” Her work may be found at www.millericons.com.
Robert “Robin” Gottfriend, Ph.D. is professor of economics emeritus from the University of the South in Sewanee, TN, where he also served as director of the Center for Religion and Environment. He has authored several books, including Economics, Ecology, and the Roots of Western Faith: Perspectives from the Garden and Living in an Icon: A Program for Growing Closer to Creation and to God. He is now actively involved in the Center for Deep Green Faith. His blog may be found at robertrobingottfried.wordpress.com/bio/the-blog/.
Rev. Dr. Sushmita Mukherjee’s vocation straddles cutting edge biomedical research technology, and a spirituality imbued with magic and wonder. Her spiritual work draws on Eastern and Western myths, Earth-based traditions, Advaita Vedanta (non-dual Hinduism), Taoism, Sufism, and Perennial Philosophy. Sushmita’s work is deeply influenced by the teachings of Carl Jung and James Hillman, and some of her specific interests include myths, dreams, poetry and art (especially fractal, mandala and abstract art), altar building, guided visualizations, chanting and vocalization, and practices of Interspiritual Companioning, Jungian-influenced Dreamwork, SoulCollage® and Chakradance. Sushmita is deeply committed to nurturing Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging in all fields of engagement. She may be found online at www.on-seeing.com.
(Though Janet McKenzie is not able to join us in person for this course, we will be discussing her work.) Contemporary American artist Janet McKenzie was born in New York City, studied at the Art Students League of New York and was one of the youngest recipients of the Edward McDowell Traveling Scholarship which supplied a year in Europe. Orbis Books published Holiness and the Feminine Spirit: The Art of Janet McKenzie in 2010 and The Way of the Cross: The Path to New Life (a collaboration with Sr. Joan Chittister, OSB) in 2013. Her work can be found online at: https://janetmckenzie.com/