World, Mystery and Curriculum


 Guest/Issue Editors

Dr. Sharon R. Harvey, Arizona State University at Lake Havasu, Arizona, United States

Dr. Douglas D. Karrow, Brock University, Saint Catharines, Ontario, Canada

Dr. Holly Tsun Haggarty, Lakehead University, Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada


          “Wonder is the desire of knowledge.”  – Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae

           “All we know of the truth is that the absolute truth, such as it is, is beyond our reach.”  – Nicholas of Cusa, On Learned Ignorance

            “That which shows itself and at the same time withdraws is the essential trait of what we call the mystery.”   – Martin Heidegger, Discourse on Thinking


In Western culture, curriculum has traditionally been understood as a course of study, the aim of which is to bestow or prompt knowledge (Oxford English Dictionary, 2019; Flinders & Thorton, 2017; Glatthorn et al., 2019), and knowledge has traditionally implied a surety of understanding or a warranted conviction—a  justified true belief (Plato, 369BCE/1997, section 201 c-d/p. 223; Russell, 1926). However, paradigm shifts in what constitutes truth or knowledge (Kuhn, 1970), as well as shifting concepts of being and reality (e.g., Whitehead, 1929; Heidegger, 1953/2000; Gadamer, 1960/1989) have prompted changing paradigms of research (Eisner, 1991; Gage, 1989; Smith, 1983) and of curriculum (Eisner, 1994a, 1994b; Pinar, 1975).

What does a curriculum do about that which is unknown, and furthermore seemingly unknowable? Ignore? Dismiss? Dogmatize? Or acknowledge mystery and incorporate it into the curriculum? Explicating mystery and the mysteries of life has as long a history as history is long.

Originally taken up by the anonymous authors of sacred cosmologies, for example the Anishinaabe story of Turtle Island (see Johnston, 1976 or King, 2008) or the Christian stories of Genesis or Job, the exegesis of mystery has continued in both traditional and modern thought. Mystery has been interpreted by Western philosophers such as Plato (ca.380BCE/1997), Plotinus (ca. 250), Heidegger (1927/1962, 1959/1966, 1957/1969) and Deleuze (1968/1994), who have bequeathed notions such as the Good, the One, aporia, aletheia, presence and difference. Also, the mystic has been interpreted by theologians such as Augustine (400/2008), Aquinas (1254/1968), Eckhart (ca.1300/2009) and Gautama Buddha (n.d.; see Carrithers, 2001; Wallis, 2007), whose notions of ultimate oneness, fullness and emptiness have been culturally informative and have inspired writers such as Dostoevsky (in The Brothers Karamazov), Hesse (in Siddhartha) and Maugham (in The Razor’s Edge) to synthesize such meanings through their literature. More recently, the written presentations of Indigenous oral traditions and teachings by cultural envoys such as Blondin (1996), Kawbawbam et al. (1890/1994) and Morriseau (1965) have brought forward mystic notions such as animacy and memory in the natural world and the inter-dependent kinship of all who dwell therein, notions carried in First Nation writers such as Silko (in Ceremony), Highway (in The Rez Sisters) and Wagamese (in Medicine Walk). This inexhaustible fount of existential mystery continues to draw and perplex, as can be seen in the continuing work of contemporary thinkers such as Caputo (1974, 1975, 1977), Cajete (2020), Cooper (2007), deNicola (2017), Fox (1992), Jones (2009), Kearney (2001, 2010), Kimmerer (2013), Murdoch (1997), Nicholson (2019), Underhill (1911/2001) and Verkamp (1997).

Existential mysteries continue to call the attention of curriculum theorists, particularly as changing social climates, issues, concerns and questions prompt reconsiderations of fundamental notions of reality. In this special issue of JCACS, we, the editors, would like to offer an opportunity for a symposium on the topic of world, mystery and curriculum. We anticipate the sharing of a plurality of viewpoints as scholars respond to the following questions, proffered as prompts.

Questions for Respondents:

  • What is mystery? How do you define it?
  • How do you theorize mystery? How do you connect mystery to your understanding of knowledge, of being, of reality and ethics? What are the tenets and sources of these understandings?
  • What connections do you see among mystery, knowledge and curriculum?
  • How can we know about that which we do not know? How might/could/should educators acknowledge and deal with the unknown, the unknowable, the not-yet known, with not knowing? How does your understanding of mystery affect your perspective on what ought to be taught, or how teaching and learning ought to occur, or the context(s) in which teaching and learning occur?
  • What ways of knowing, teaching and/or learning does mystery suggest (e.g., meditation as a way of gaining insights into metaphysical mysteries)?
  • How might mystery be a valuable or productive element of a curricular or pedagogical approach; for example, how might mystery connect to Schwab’s (1969) commonplaces, Pinar’s (1975) currere, Doll’s four R’s (1993), or to an Indigenous pedagogy focusing on mino bimaadiziwin and gizhay ottiziwin (“the pathway to the good life . . . in the spirit of the Creator”; Kelly, 2021), or wâhkôhtowin(“kinship relationality”; Donald, 2021)?
  • If a mystery is known, is it still mystery? How might mystery, an unknown, be accessed (perceived, intuited, cognized, kenned), yet remain mystery? (If mystery is considered just the not-yet known, is knowing just a matter of discovery or disclosure?)


  1. Please submit your proposal by January 1, 2023, on the JCACS’ website at under the “Mystery” section.
  2. Proposals should consist of a précis or abstract of 350-500 words, outlining the query, the research methods or approaches engaged, and the context, content and import of the study.
  3. Texts may be written in English or French, and the inclusion of terms particular to the author’s language tradition are welcome.
  4. Although JCACS has its own publication standards, please submit your proposal following APA 7 conventions for citations and references, engaging a 12-point sans serif font and double-spacing.
  5. Acceptance of proposals does not presume acceptance of the full manuscript, which will be subject to the journal's standard peer review and editing processes.
  6. The journal accepts only original and unpublished papers that are not under review by another journal.


  • proposal submission deadline: January 1, 2023
  • responses regarding proposals: mid-January, 2023
  • deadline for full article submission: March 1, 2023
  • anticipated responses from full article peer review: June, 2023
  • anticipated article revision submission deadline: mid-September, 2023
  • anticipated publication date: December 2023


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