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RELS 491: Spirituality & Liberation

In this course we will explore in depth the themes of meaning, purpose, evil, goodness, freedom, violence, spirit, service, hope, humanity, and peace as they manifest in the writings of several authors who were incarcerated. We will also engage in a variety of spiritual exercises (e.g., listening, silence, service, etc.) and write and reflect on the meaning of those as they also relate to our themes. Our goal throughout is to search for the common ground connecting our diverse experiences—incarcerated or free, black or white—and belief systems—monotheistic, atheistic—so that together we might come to understand the many ways spirituality can be liberating.

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Photo by J. Lucas Baldwin

Professor Waybright leads an OPEN MINDS class through a "Chi Kung Breath," a martial art style designed to increase one's vital life force.

This class is much more than just a class about religions; it’s a class about life. I’ve never had to evaluate my life as much as I take I do in this class, with the residents every day pushing me to discover more about myself, and to make sure that I live life hard, but not do hard time.

-Mercer May, VCU student

RELS 491: Eastern Classics

This course seeks to expose students to the philosophy, beliefs and important figures among the Eastern traditions. Focusing on several key classics of Eastern literature, students from the RCJ and VCU will work together to explore and understand the impact of Eastern thought on the human spiritual condition. The approach will be integrative and will encourage learning from each other by listening, speaking, reading, writing and reflecting critically and creatively on the materials, issues and questions presented and assigned for each week. Thus by encouraging empathy, compassion, communication, introspection, along with critical evaluation of course themes, it will also offer class members an opportunity to put into practice much of what can be seen in eastern spirituality and as such is potentially transformative.

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