RGST 400

Seminar in the study of religion: dreams and religious experience

2021–2022 Winter, Term 2 | TH 2:00 – 5:00 PM

Course Description

We fall asleep and dream, wake up, and fall asleep and dream again. Today we think that when we’re awake we’re on life’s main road, but when we dream we’re on a temporary, unreal byway. This way of thinking, however, is recent and strange. Most humans throughout history have thought of dreams as journeys and visions, ones that often confound the waking and dreaming worlds, so that we no longer know which is which or whether there really is any difference between them. This course will be devoted to these themes of the dream as journey and vision, and the dream as revelatory of the illusoriness of what we think is real. We will focus particularly on how Asian religious and philosophical writings, such as the Upaniṣads and Yogavāsiṣṭha in South Asia, and Zhuangzi and Kim Man-Jung in East Asia, deal with these themes. More generally, our topic is the significance of dreaming for religion and religious experience. The approach will be interdisciplinary and cross-cultural, combining studies of dreaming from religious studies, psychology, philosophy, anthropology, and neuroscience. We will also examine general issues about the significance of religious experience for understanding religions.


Course Instructor

Dr. Evan Thompson is Professor of Philosophy specialized in the study of Asian philosophies and religions. You may contact him with questions at evan.thompson@ubc.ca