Spirit Matters: A Series Exploring Identity, Religion, and Human Rights

"The Path Beyond the Path: Mysticism and the Spiritual Quest for Universal Singularity"
Elliot R. Wolfson, Ph.D.

Chapel co-founder Dominique de Menil built her life according to the belief that spiritual forces are of consequence in real world affairs.  She insisted that a capacity for reverence was essential to successfully advancing justice.  And yet, contemporary religious forces often seem to be at odds with human rights concerns. Though the passion for human rights involves a deep commitment to equality of all people and their right to flourish, the underlying legal framework of human rights discourse, with its foundation in enlightenment philosophy, often ignores humankind’s spiritual aspirations and constitution.   Human rights are, in this sense, built upon a discourse of “universality.”  Religion, especially as it intersects with nationalism and culture, is often (though clearly not always) a domain of particularity that highlights difference– the saved and unsaved, believers and unbelievers, us and them.  Speakers in this series will explore the tension between a universal discourse on human rights and the particular claims religion makes on its adherents: in what ways does religion further the promotion of human rights?  In what ways does religion inhibit the promotion of human rights? And how can the conversation transcend a legal framework and remain open to the deepest longings of the human spirit?

Well-known scholars and intellectuals conversant in the world’s philosophical and religious traditions will deliver a series of lectures.  They will represent various faith perspectives in the promotion of human rights and will address a range of human rights concerns.

Elliot R. Wolfson is the Abraham Lieberman Professor of Hebrew and Judaic Studies at New York University. His main area of scholarly research is the history of Jewish mysticism, but he has brought to bear on that field training in philosophy, literary criticism, feminist theory, postmodern hermeneutics, and the phenomenology of religion. His numerous publications include Through the Speculum That Shines: Vision and Imagination in Medieval Jewish Mysticism (1994), which won the American Academy of Religion's Award for Excellence in the Study of Religion in the Category of Historical Studies, 1995, and the National Jewish Book Award for Excellence in Scholarship, 1995; and the forthcoming A Dream Interpreted Within a Dream: Oneiropoiesis and the Prism of Imagination (2011).

Thursday, April 7, 2011
7:00 PM

Engage with various faith perspectives in the promotion of human rights.