REL 301

Consciousness and the Bourgeoisie

"Know thyself" is a maxim central to the religious quest, but individuals who are intensely and urgently driven to know themselves often occupy the outskirts of ordinary society. Although these "outsiders" are a part of their culture and contribute to their culture, they no longer share the common values of their society. The course seeks to explore the role of outsiders (those who desire inner freedom and transformation) in the context of bourgeois society. The first half of the course draws on ancient materials ("Epic of Gilgamesh," "The Oresteia," and Plato's "Republic") in discussing ideas of ontology, psychology, consciousness, and transformation. The second half of the course relies on novels and novellas by Ouspensky, Hesse, and Mann for a discussion of bourgeois attitudes toward the outsider and toward the outsider's struggle to become an individual who confronts the habitual, unconscious, and mechanical patterns of existence.