Mysticism Reloaded: Innovative Approaches, Methods, and Theories to Study Mysticism

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 31 October 2024 | Viewed by 1321

Special Issue Editor

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Guest Editor
Faculty of Social Sciences, Tampere University, 33100 Tampere, Finland
Interests: sociology of religion; mysticism; Islam; critical realism; comparative religion; interreligious relations
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Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Studies of mysticism have been in a state of turmoil. As Leigh Schmidt noted, “There is hardly a more beleaguered category than ‘mysticism’ in the current academic study of religion. Its fall from theoretical grace has been precipitous.” Critical scholarship on religion has pointed out the dangers in generalizing mysticism (and constituent terms like “experience” or “union”) as a cover-all term that may in fact speak to different aspects of spiritual and lived realities in different contexts. Yet, many researchers are finding that this added sensitivity does not require abandoning the term altogether if we are to consider empirical realities. Indeed, a post-critical, more nuanced recovery of mysticisms appears to be underway. This Special Issue moves past uncritical accounts, on one hand, and pure criticism of the category, on the other hand, to probe new approaches, methods, and theories to study mysticisms.

This Special Issue welcomes theoretical, methodological, and empirical research papers that shed new light on how to study mysticism in any religion and non-religious contexts. Potential topics include the following questions.

Is there analytical value in re-defining “mysticism”, and, if so, what should that look like? In what way does mysticism overlap with “spirituality,” “esotericism,” and the like? Are there better categories for mystical “experiences” or “consciousness?” On what grounds can we compare mysticisms? Can mysticisms be recovered from colonially imposed terms? Should mysticism as a contemporary phenomenon be studied in the same way as mysticism of the past? Are there rigorous methods and theories to probe the widespread yet elusive claim of many mystics about divine love and its human reflections? What kinds of theories can describe socially engaged and practical “this-worldly” mystics? Can the material turn help us to study mystics’ relationships with place and objects? Can we study the commodification of mysticism, for instance via tourism? How should we approach the discursive relations between mystics and institutions over time and across faiths? Should mystics, especially recent mystics, be better considered as inter-religious than bound to a religious tradition? How do mystics contribute to interfaith relations or conflicts? How do mystics relate to gender? What do mystics think about the boundary between science and religion? Are there any patterns of similarities in the symbolic languages used by mystics around the world? Are methods and theories in the arts useful to probe mysticisms and, if so, are there differences from other kinds of art research? How can we study and compare music of the mystics? Have traditional mystical paths and schools changed in our age of global media? Is there a digital mysticism, and how does AI affect mysticisms? Can and should mysticism be taught in university, where should it be taught, and what should that teaching look like now? What kinds of new interdisciplinary methods can be applied to the study of mysticisms between social, historical, philosophical, and biological spheres?

We request that prior to submitting a manuscript, interested authors initially submit a proposed title and an abstract of 400–600 words summarizing their intended contribution. Please send this file to the Guest Editor ([email protected]) or the Religions Editorial Office ([email protected]). Abstracts will be reviewed by Guest Editor for the purpose of ensuring their proper fit within the scope of this Special Issue. Full manuscripts will undergo a double-blind peer-review process before being accepted for publication.

Prof. Dr. Ali Qadir
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Religions is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

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  • mysticism
  • methods in religion
  • comparative research
  • interdisciplinary theories of religion

Published Papers (1 paper)

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14 pages, 270 KiB  
Mysticism and Practical Rationality Exploring Evelyn Underhill through the Lens of Phronesis
by Diego Pérez Lasserre
Religions 2024, 15(2), 197; - 5 Feb 2024
Viewed by 855
This paper aims to justify that mysticism can be considered rational from the perspective of practical reason. Particularly, we will argue that mysticism embodies the oxymoron inherent in practical wisdom (phronesis), namely, an ordered openness. Our roadmap for substantiating this hypothesis is as [...] Read more.
This paper aims to justify that mysticism can be considered rational from the perspective of practical reason. Particularly, we will argue that mysticism embodies the oxymoron inherent in practical wisdom (phronesis), namely, an ordered openness. Our roadmap for substantiating this hypothesis is as follows: we will start by explaining that if the concept of rationality is approached in a scientistic manner, then mysticism cannot be deemed rational. We will employ Kant’s approach to rationality to support this assertion (2). Next, we will demonstrate that while the modern scientific approach to rationality is effective for fields of study where the subject matter typically unfolds in a regular or predictable manner, it proves insufficient in dimensions of existence that resist normative descriptions. In this section, following Aristotle and Gadamer, we will contend that theoretical reason should be complemented by practical reason, which is characterized by normative openness (3). Finally, we will argue that mysticism, although not rational from a theoretical viewpoint, is indeed rational from a practical standpoint (4). To avoid inappropriate generalizations when discussing mysticism, the third section will be centered on the work of Evelyn Underhill. Full article
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