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Spiritual Activism Training Course

 

Since the closure of the Department of Geography & Sociology this course is no longer available at the University of Strathclyde. However, I have left it here as it might be helpful to others as a template for their courses - please do borrow from it and no acknowledgement is necessary - Alastair.

 

Centre for Human Ecology (CHE)

MSc Option Module

 

Spiritual Activism: 

Leadership as Service

 

Module Descriptor as accredited by the

University of Strathclyde, Glasgow

 

 

Running at CHE in partnership with the Department of Geography & Sociology, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, by distance learning and over 2 workshops, both Tuesday and Wednesdays: 19-20 January and 16-17 March 2010. This course is open to external students as "continued professional development" (CPD) at a fee of £495.

 

Satisfactory completion as a matriculated student contributes towards awards at certificate, diploma or master's level. Completion on a CPD basis leads to the award of a Certificate in Professional Practice from the University of Strathclyde. Application information is at the Departmental website.

Tobar nam Ban Naomh - The Well of the Holy Women - Isle of Eigg

   

 

Title

 

Spiritual Activism: Leadership as Service, comprising 20 Masters level credits in 200 notional study hours.

 

Module Organiser

 

The module will be offered by Alastair McIntosh BSc MBA PhD, a Fellow and former director of the CHE, Visiting Fellow of the Academy for Irish Cultural Heritages at the University of Ulster, Visiting Professor of Human Ecology at the University of Strathclyde, and a Quaker, activist, writer and broadcaster.

 

Module Entry Requirements

 

Acceptance as a CHE MSc, Diploma or Certificate student and on making specific application to attend the module. This is an advanced module, designed to address the needs of students who have already started psychological and/or spiritual work on themselves, typically because they have found themselves “exercised” by challenges faced in their past engagement as activists for social, ecological or spiritual change. It is not suitable for those who are in the very early stages of their unfolding, or who do not have a conviction that their vocation requires a deepening of their psychospiritual grounding.

 

Intending students will be asked to write an A4 page stating why they want to do the module, what their hopes for it are and where they feel it may be challenging for them. This may then be discussed with the student to help them discern if the module is really right for them. With the student's agreement, and possibly with editing, this may subsequently be shared with other members of the class as a way of helping everyone to get to know each other. 

 

Module Rationale

 

An activist is one who actively “engages the Powers” in the world, often in explicit or implicit leadership or inspirational roles. By “spiritual activism”, we mean activism in social, environmental or religious realms where the activist has concluded both that there exists, and that they have a need to draw upon, spiritual bodies of knowledge to guide and ground their vocation in human ecology as an applied discipline.

 

Module Aims and Objectives

 

The aim of this module is to offer students:

 

  1. Insight into spirituality as an epistemological approach to analyse, understand and relate more deeply to today’s world in which we engage as activists.

  2. Insight into the ontology of activism, that is to say, the relationship between engaging with the world and the process of becoming human beings in an ever more complete way.

  3. Insight into the inner dynamics or “spirituality” of power as it manifests in typical activist causes.

  4. Practical tools and transferable skills of spiritual activism, such as discernment processes.

 

Learning Outcomes

 

By the end of this module the student (henceforth, “you”) will have:

 

  1. Demonstrated competence in critically discussing and representing spirituality, including familiarity with common terminology, awareness of the literature, and a sound grasp of the philosophical and scientific debate in Western culture over whether or not “the spiritual” is “for real”.

  2. Understood the relationship between spirituality and religion including, where appropriate, other faiths, and having explored more deeply what your own religious traditions (if any) may imply for human ecology.

  3. Developed a cohesive philosophical framework linking spirituality, activism, ecology and the psychology of the Self in a manner amenable to qualitative research based on Grounded Theory.

  4. Discerned more deeply your vocation in life as it affects your activism.

  5. Become theoretically informed about the practical tools of both leadership and discipleship for serving it. Such tools may include managing psychological depth, deepening psychological honesty, building confessional community, using contemplative prayer, engaging Eros and Mythos as well as Logos, mentoring and spiritual direction, Bibliodrama and role play, creative listening, strategic questioning, activist support groups, meetings for clearness and other discernment methodologies.

  6. Gained practical experience both through observing and leading small groups using at least one recognised methodological approach to discernment.

  7. Acquired the tools to evaluate, critically but with empathy, the claims for epistemological validity and practical effectiveness that might be made for a spiritually based approach to activism.

 

 

Outline Content

 

The curriculum will be taught partly from structured background reading, and partly by group work at 2-day workshops based on the experience that students share. Timings shown here are an approximate guide only as if primary study is spread over a ten week period.

 

1.      Epistemology of “spirituality” and “activism”. Activism as an aspect of human ecology - the study of human community in relationship with the Earth, in relationship with one another, and, arguably, in relationship with the divine (weeks 1–2).

2.      Structure and dynamics of the psyche. Explored mainly through Jungian and post-Jungian perspectives, addressing shamanic and prophetic dimensions of social change and viewing colonisation and globalisation as a battle for the soul as well as for resources (weeks 3-4).

3.      Engagement with power. The dynamics of power, leadership, charisma in working for change, including the relationship between activism, the deep Self and the ego (weeks 5–6).

4.      Dangers and discernment. Power abuses such as cultic and Messianic syndromes, and tools of discernment in testing, guiding and inspiring leadings and vocation (weeks 7-8).

5.      Sustenance, service and self-realisation. Avoiding burnout and sellout by understanding leadership as service in furtherance of spiritual community (weeks 9–10).

 

 

Teaching and Learning Strategies

 

These will comprise:

  1. Introductory reading of key texts (see below) which, to minimise the need for lecture input and enable us to start off with a presumption of considerable psychological depth, you will be expected to have studied before the first module workshop.

  2. Personal preparation through private spiritual practices of your own choice, in particular, cultivating an awareness or “presence” to all aspects of your life and study, and observing visceral feelings in the course of that study.

  3. A first teaching workshop in which you will be encouraged to share in a circle from your spiritual/activist experience with other members of the group. This needs to be done with a willingness to work on the material in ways that help the Module Organiser as facilitator to bring out and explore key points in spiritual activism such as will benefit others present also. It is hoped that such a process will bring up “generative themes” that equate with the group’s needs, and which can be further explored through mini-lecture input, small group discussion, dream sharing, etc.. In this, some aspects of the curriculum will be emphasised and many others left to be covered only in your own reading. Obviously, the success of such an approach will depend on the extent to which trust and mutual solidarity can be established within the group. This will require both a willingness to be open and a respect for confidentiality as appropriate outwith the group.

  4. Systematic reading during the period of study to develop a solid knowledge base and thereby minimise the extent to which formal lecturing is required. This will be structured by the Course Handbook.

  5. Distance learning in four face-to-face or telephone tutorials to check in, to see where everybody’s at, to explore emerging themes in the group process and in particular, to focus together work on the two assignments.

  6. A second teaching workshop, at this stage to be left completely open so that it can be planned to accommodate group needs as identified during telephone tutorials. There are many things that we can do, many approaches to take, and because a key part of spiritual activism is learning to discern “the movement of the Spirit” and archetypal synchronicities or “timespirits”, we will apply this in our learning experience as befits an advanced course.

  7. Written assignments as indicated under “Assessment”, to consolidate learning and provide a basis for academic assessment. In the context of this module, “academic” will be taken as meaning the ability to show a highly developed consciousness of what constitutes knowledge, alternative and contesting discourses in representing knowledge, how bodies of knowledge have been built up and are situated in respect of other learning, and how to apply bodies of knowledge for practical effect in the world.

 

 

Core Reading List

 

 

Bryman, Alan, 2001, Social Research Methods, (Oxford: Oxford University Press). An excellent text on both quantitative and qualitative methodology. Pay particular attention to Chapter 19 which addresses grounded theory. Students undertaking research with me (eg. theses) should see also the postscript to this list.

 

de Mello, Anthony, 1984 (1978), Sadhana: a way to God, (India or USA; Gujarat Sahitya Prakash or Image Books, £9.99) De Mello was an Indian Jesuit priest who, under Pope John Paul II, lost the imprimatur of the Roman Catholic Church because his writings were considered too interfaith and risqué. This is a step-by-step handbook of mystical practice, but de Mello has been careful to present the exercises in the first half in ways that may be found acceptable to those of many or no particular religious tradition. In the second half the book becomes explicitly Christian.

 

Green, Tova, Woodrow, Peter & Peavey, Fran, 1994, Insight and Action: How to discover and support a life of integrity and commitment to change, (Philadelphia; New Society Publishers, £9.99). This is a great little text that presents several approaches to discernment – it is needed for the second assignment. As it is out of print, order a copy second hand from amazon.com at an early opportunity.

 

Grof, Stanislav & Christina (eds) 1989, Spiritual Emergency: When Personal Transformation Becomes a Crisis, (New York; Tarcher/Putman, £14.50). This wonderful collection of papers that addresses the fact that spiritual emergence often causes psychological emergencies. We need to be aware of this, both for ourselves and for our impact on others. Contributors include Ram Dass, Roberto Assagioli and R. D. Laing.

 

Gottlieb, Roger (ed) 1996, This Sacred Earth: Religion, Nature, Environment, (London; Routledge, £19.99). A fabulous sourcebook of writings, ancient and modern, from many of the world’s spiritual traditions including deep ecology and ecofeminism. A book to be dipped into rather than systematically read.

 

Jacobi, Jolande, 1973 (1942), The Psychology of C. G. Jung, (London or Yale; Routledge & Kegan Paul or Yale University Press, £13.95). Jung’s framework for understanding the structure and dynamics of the psyche is implicit to much transpersonal psychology. This work has some very helpful illustrations, but be warned that it is an advanced introduction, and Jung himself was sometimes tentative, obscure, and possibly missed the mark – so don’t read it thinking you’re stupid if you don’t get everything.

 

McIntosh, Alastair, 2001/2004, Soil and Soul: People versus Corporate Power, (London; Aurum Press, £12.99), and Rekindling Community: Connecting People, Environment and Spirituality (Totnes: Green Books, 2008). Yes, these are my own books, but they pull together much diverse theoretical material and focus it onto effective case studies of spiritual activism. In teaching this module I will presume you have a good knowledge of what’s in these books, and I therefore recommend that you read them first on this list. Note that the theoretical material in Rekindling Community can be downloaded in greater depth in PhD thesis-by-published-works form at http://www.alastairmcintosh.com/rekindlingcommunity.htm#research . Those who wish to relate spiritual activism to climate change may also wish to read my Hell and High Water: Climate Change, Hope and the Human Condition (Edinburgh: Birlinn, 2008, £8.99).

   

Wink, Walter, 1992, Engaging the Powers: Discernment and Resistance in a World of Domination, (Minneapolis, Fortress Press, £16.99). I think this is emerging as the most significant book of spiritual activist theology of the 20th century. Wink understands “spirituality” as the “interiority” of people, institutions, nations, etc.. In this world that spirituality is inevitably “fallen” or corrupted, and the task of the activist is to name, unmask and engage these “Powers that Be” and call them back to a higher, God-given vocation. This is a deeply important advanced work. It took me 2 years to read it, so don’t rush at it, but do read at least part 1 and then see how it goes.

 

 

Reading List Postscript:

 

Students who undertake applied research with me will often be expected to work with some variation of "grounded theory" as a lens through which mainstream academia will be able to get to grips with our work. For these, I add to this list the following works:

 

Charmaz, Kathy (2006) Constructing Grounded Theory: A Practical Guide Through Qualitative Analysis (London: Sage, £23.99). Grounded theory is an approach to qualitative data analysis by which theory emerges primarily from what is found on the ground, rather than being applied to it. Those who are strong on ideology dislike it as the outcomes may not fit their theories. Those strong on quantifiable empiricism consider it too subjective. Those who think that reality emerges from inbetween these places vibe with it, and that's where I stand most but not all of the time. As such, I like my students to be well grounded in he principles of grounded theory.

 

Gouding, Christina (2002) Grounded Theory: A Pratical Guide for Management, Business and Market Researchers (London: Sage, £22.99). I like this book because much of my own research background was influenced by my MBA, where managers tend to employ a "do what works cost effectively" approach. Many of the techniques of applied market research could otherwise be described as grounded theory. As such, this book offers a useful nuts and bolts approach and is a good companion to Charmaz.

 

The following book is optional. Its suitability as a guide to undertaking participative spiritual research depends very much on where you're coming from. I have posted a review of it to Amazon which expresses why I consider it an important but conflicted work.

 

Heron, John, 1998, Sacred Science: Person-centred Inquiry into the Spiritual and the Subtle (Ross-on-Wye: PCCS Books, £20).

 

 

 

Assessment

 

This will be in two equal parts:

 

  1. A concise essay assignment, not exceeding 3,000 words (including notes but excluding references), exploring an aspect of spiritual activism of your choice and as agreed with the course organiser. This will account for 50% of assessment.

 

  1. A practical, skills-based assignment, comprising a 2,000 word critical review of a real-life practical process that you will set up to apply a group discernment methodology. This will account for the other 50% of assessment.

 

 

The Relationship Between Assessment and Learning Outcomes

(Each assignment is equally weighted at 50%)

  1. Essay

Assignment

  1. Skills

Assignment

 

 

 

1. Demonstrated competence in critically discussing and representing spirituality, including familiarity with common terminology, awareness of the literature, and a sound grasp of the philosophical and scientific debate in Western culture over whether or not “the spiritual” is “for real”.

 

 

 

 

ü

 

 

2. Understood the relationship between spirituality and religion including, where appropriate, other faiths, and having explored more deeply what your own religious traditions (if any) may imply for human ecology.

 

 

 

ü

 

 

3. Developed a cohesive philosophical framework linking spirituality, activism, ecology and the psychology of the Self in a manner amenable to qualitative research based on Grounded Theory.

 

 

ü

 

 

ü

4. Discerned more deeply your vocation in life as it affects your activism.

 

 

ü

5. Become theoretically informed about the practical tools of both leadership and discipleship for serving it. Such tools may include managing psychological depth, deepening psychological honesty, building confessional community, using contemplative prayer, engaging Eros and Mythos as well as Logos, mentoring and spiritual direction, Bibliodrama and role play, creative listening, strategic questioning, activist support groups, meetings for clearness and other discernment methodologies.

 

 

 

 

ü

 

 

 

 

ü

6. Gained practical experience both through observing and leading small groups using at least one recognised methodological approach to discernment.

 

 

ü

7. Acquired the tools to evaluate, critically but with empathy, the claims for epistemological validity and practical effectiveness that might be made for a spiritually based approach to activism.

 

 

ü

 

 

ü

 

 

Requirements for a Pass

 

A mark of 50% or above overall - which is an aggregate of the marks given equal weighting from each part of the assessment. A mark of 70% or more constitutes Distinction. 

 

 

 

Disclaimer: No information on this personal website should be considered as superseding information given out from official University sources.

 

 

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Last Updated: 17 August 2015

www.AlastairMcIntosh.com

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