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In 1962, ten Harvard Divinity School students received a capsule of white powder before Good Friday services. The powder was psilocybin, a psychedelic. One of them soon ran out of chapel to announce that the Messiah had arrived. Seven others reported profound mystical experiences, which they reported even years later as exerting continued influence on their life and work. Is psilocybin a technology for producing religious experience? Should religions find and employ technologies that engender religious feeling? Are such experiences any less true or authentic than ones that aren’t technologically mediated? More humbly, how is a religious service experienced differently when it’s viewed online or through a TV? How can an amulet, icon, or statue be used as a technology of religion? Drawing from a broad range of sources, this course will introduce students to the critical study of religion through its consideration of religious experience as both central to religious life and as (almost always) technologically mediated. The course thus aims to expose students to a wide variety of religions and technologies of religion, while simultaneously offering a them a chance to explore Technology Studies as one critical lens for studying religion and religious experience.
Grading: yes pass/fail option,
yes fifth course option
short response papers, one longer non-research paper