You are here

Mysticism Unit

Call for Proposals

  1. Mysticism, Consciousness, and the Paranormal
    The past decade of scholarship in the academic study of mysticism has seen an explosion of interest in the paranormal, near-death experience (NDE), and anomalous phenomena (e.g. UFO contactee experience), as well as a variety of "non-traditional" and "non-religious" religious experiences. What do these types of historically marginalized experiences reveal about shifting currents in what "counts" as "mysticism"? How do investigations into paranormal and anomalous phenomena shed light on difficult questions regarding consciousness and the nature of mind itself? This panel examines perennial "religious" questions regarding the phenomenology of mind, soul, spirit, and body through the lens of an expanded "mystical" horizon.

  2. Decolonizing the Study of Mysticism
    The study of mysticism has historically been dominated by Western, and especially Christian, concepts and assumptions. This session seeks submissions that subvert, challenge, and reconfigure that influence by asking how we might reconceptualize the study of mysticism. Submissions might draw insights from indigenous, non-Western, and marginalized/underrepresented religious and mystical traditions, and/or propose alternative methodological orientations that counterbalance the historical dominance of Western and Christian language, concepts, and theories in scholarship and pedagogy on mysticism.

  3. Relational Cosmologies and Mystical Practices for Ecological Repair
    This panel will consider mystical cosmologies of relation as grounds for resistance to impending climate catastrophe. Cosmologies of separation deem God, humanity, and creation to be discrete, and have been used to justify centuries of extractive colonialism and environmental degradation, leading to today's climate catastrophes, as well as cutting humans off from the spiritual riches resident within nature. What might sacred cosmologies of connection yield instead? How can alternative relational cosmologies serve to open humankind to the mystical abundance resident within nature and more fruitfully ground an ecological ethics of repair? What sorts of mystical practices might embody or channel relational cosmologies and attune practitioners to the interconnections between the divine, the human, and the creaturely? (for possible co-sponsorship with the Open and Relational Theologies Unit)

  4. Mystic, Magic, Queer, and Weird
    What is queer about mysticism? What is mystical about queerness? Engaging this question requires acknowledging the complexity of both these categories. Queer theory is a capacious category that is becoming ever more so. For example, how does mysticism exceed and defy the categories articulated by its early scholars such as James, Stace, Zaehner, and Katz? Do these early definitions accommodate its many forms? And how does queerness help us to understand mysticism as practiced in the past and present? Does it refer to action, affect, social taxonomy, or on the most basic level, can it be used to understand and describe modes of experience? Does it include the “weird,” as that which refuses rigid categorization and reductive explanation? In short, how do these two types of theoretical models inform each other? And what can they tell us about how mysticism happens? (for possible co-sponsorship with the Western Esotericism Unit)

Statement of Purpose

This Unit began as a Consultation within the AAR in 1987 and achieved formal Unit status in 1989. While its early focus was primarily Christianity and Western religions — and the study of experience and textual interpretation within those areas — the Unit 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. Members of our Unit use different methodologies and work across a variety of disciplines, among which are the 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, postmodern 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. We post our current call, past sessions, a selection of past papers, as well as links in the field of mysticism to our Facebook page at


  • Jason N. Blum, Davidson College
    1/1/2017 - 12/31/2022
  • Margarita Simon Guillory, Boston University
    1/1/2017 - 12/31/2022

Steering Committee Members




We do not accept proposals by email.

Review Process

Proposals are anonymous to chairs and steering committee members during review, but visible to chairs prior to final acceptance or rejection

Review Process Comments

We actually insist on anonymity and we do not accept email submissions for that reason.