Graduate Theological Union

Trailing Clouds of Glory: A History of the Life Before

Monday, October 15, 2012 - 12:30pm

Easton Hall, Church Divinity School of the Pacific, 2401 Ridge Road, Berkeley

Sponsored by the GTU Dean's Office

This lecture will trace a history of "pre-heaven," the idea that the human soul had an existence in heaven prior to its mortal birth. The lecture will survey some of the forms the belief has taken from Mesopotamia through the Church Fathers to Robert Frost; discuss the reasons for its prevalence in Western art, philosophy, and religion; examine the literary, cultural, ideological, and theological functions that is has served; and present some of the reasons for its demise in the Christian theological tradition.

Terryl Givens did graduate work at Cornell University in Intellectual History and at UNC Chapel Hill where he received his PhD in Comparative Literature. He holds the James A. Bostwick chair of English, and is Professor of Literature and Religion at the University of Richmond, where he teaches courses in 19th century studies and the Bible's influence on Western literature. As a commentator on Mormon religion and culture, he has appeared on PBS, NPR, and CNN. Author of several books, his writing has been praised by the New York Times as "provocative reading," and includes, most recently, When Souls had Wings, a History of the Idea of Premortal Life in Western Thought, and a biography (with Matthew Grow) of Parley Pratt: The Apostle Paul of Mormonism. The God Who Weeps (with Fiona Givens) will be released this fall. He is currently writing a two volume history of Mormon thought for Oxford University Press.