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Mystical texts and the visual arts have contributed immeasurably to shaping individual and collective conceptions of the spiritual in modern and postmodern culture. By integrating rigorous textual analysis with direct experiential practices, we will bring a multifaceted approach to bear on the relationship between aesthetic, intellectual and mystical creativity—that is, between the often conflicting domains of spiritual experience, intellectual analysis, and beauty—in order to gain insight into the ways in which these distinctive yet overlapping modalities of knowledge have integrally shaped developments in high culture, sacred practice and visual representation. Drawing on the combined methodological perspectives of Art History and Religious Studies, we will examine the ways in which the contemplative and experiential practices of museum viewing, ritual performances, trans-cultural encounter and focused reading and writing activities can all serve as powerful acts of human self-creation.

Contents: Introduction | Stories and sources | The second urbanisation of South Asia | Two worlds and their interactions | Religion in the early states | The origins of the Buddhist and Jain orders | The Brahmanical alternative | Interlude: asceticism and celibacy in Indic religions | The classical synthesis | Tantra and the wild goddesses | Subtle bodies, longevity, and internal alchemy | Tantra and the state | The later history of yoga and tantra | Postlude
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