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The Mysticism Group of the

American Academy of Religion

 
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The Mysticism Group began as a consultation in 1987 within the AAR and achieved formal study group status in 1989. The Mysticism Group has focused its energies on the philosophical, psychological, theological, and theoretical nature of mystical and religious experiences. Its primary focus has been on the transnational and cross-cultural nature of, and patterns in, religious experiences, the relationship between conceptual systems and religious experiences, and the implications of religious experience for epistemology, method, and ethics. During the last five years, the Mysticism Group has reflected developments in culture and the study of religion as they explicityly relate to the sub-field of mysticism. For instance, attention to gender and embodiment both as themes and as new methodological approaches were explicitly invited in either topics for proposals or in intiating co-sponsored sessions. A recent publication of the work of the Mysticism Group has been Mysticism and Social Transformation, edited by former chair Janet K. Ruffing (2001, Syracuse University Press). This arose from a session that included womanist analysis African American narratives, the effects of the deep ecology movement, and historical figures whose socially transformative actions have been underemphasized. For other publications by steering committee members, please see that page.

While its early focus was primarily Christianity and Western religions, and the study of experience and textual interpretation within those areas, the group has grown and changed over time, paralleling the change and growth in the AAR itself. Today, our conversations cut across boundaries that characterize many of the program units within the AAR—boundaries of discipline, tradition, temporality and region. Because our group is primarily thematic rather than methodological, we can explore the uses of a wide number of methodologies. These include psychology of religion, sociology of religion, history of religions, hermeneutics and textual analysis, biographical analysis, feminist studies, film studies, philosophy of religion, mysticism and science, art criticism, post-modern theory, cultural studies, and anthropology of consciousness, among others. This interdisciplinarity has importance not only to our work as scholars, but also to our work as teachers and public educators.