TThe Mysticism Group of the

American Academy of Religion

  HOME ::

For the AAR Annual Meeting

in Chicago, IL, USA

November 17-20:

Room assignments available online at the AAR website.

Saturday - 9:00 AM - 11:30 AM

The Ecstasy of the End: Mystical Death across Traditions

Presider: Ann Gleig, Millsaps College,

The goal of this session is to explore the experience of mystical death across traditions. The presenters will offer their perspectives on the way death has been confronted/challenged/embraced in different cultural and religious contexts, from the dialectic of mysticism and authority surrounding the deathbed of evangelical women in 19th century America to the contemporary Lacanian discourse on subjectivity, from the "flight from death" in Patanjali's Yogasutra to the deconstruction of the self in the face of death in authors as diverse as Porete, Molinos, and Parfit.

1. “Jouissance, Beyond the Symbolic to the Real: Mystical Deconstruction of the Subject in the Structure of Jacques Lacan” by  Jimsook Kim, GTU,

2. “Samaadhi as True Death in the Yogasuutra” by Lloyd W. Pflueger, Truman State University

3. “The Ecstasy of the Deathbed: Evangelical Women, Mysticism, and Authority in Antebellum America” by Sonia Hazard at Duke University

4. “This Bundle of Elements is Void of Self”: Porete, Molinos, and Parfit on Surviving Death, by Joanne Maguire Robinson, University of North Carolina, Charlotte,

Respondent, Thomas Cattoi, Graduate Theological Union,

Business Meeting Presider: June Mc Daniel, College of Charleston,


Sunday - 1:00 PM - 2:30 PM

Erasing Discourse: Mystical Silence across East and West

(Sunday, 90 min. Session)

Presider, Laura Weed, The College of Saint Rose,

The purpose of this session is to explore how the radical silencing of speech about the divine or ultimate reality across different traditions becomes the locus for radically transformative mystical experiences that challenge and explode conventional notions of subjectivity, alterity and discourse. The presenters will touch on topics as diverse as Nagarjuna's radical apophaticism and deconstruction of subjectivity, the embodied performativity of silence in the Daoist tradition, and the interplay of silence and visualization in the context of Tibetan Buddhism and the Christian Renaissance.

1. “Dialoguing with Silence, Beholding the Invisible -- The Meaning of Silence in Nicholas of Cusa and Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche,” by Kevin Johnson, Boston College,

2. “Mystic Body/Mystic Mind: Silence as Stillness in Early Daoism” by Misha Tadd, Boston University,

3. “The Fourfold Emptiness of the Fourfold Self: Nagarjuna’s Tetralemma as the Middle Way,” by Rafal Stepien, Columbia University,


Monday - 9:00 AM - 11:30 AM

Mysticism and Silence: Toward a Non-linguistic Epistemology of Embodied Presence

Co-Sponsored with Buddhist Critical-Constructive Reflection

Presider: Dale Cannon, Western Oregon University,

This session explores methodologies for analyzing the limits of language as a tool for discussing religious experience, while stressing the epistemological value of silence for mystical knowledge. While all of the papers will agree that language is a cognitive thinking tool of great power, the authors will use a variety of analytical approaches to show that there are additional inarticulate and prelinguistic resources for knowledge formation. The authors will argue for important distinctions among ways that knowledge may function, such as spatiotemporally, or otherwise, explicitly or implicitly, by logical propositions or without them, through prearticulate and embodied meanings rather than cognitive formulations, through emotional meaningfulness rather than cognitive discourse, through culturally or aesthetically emergent frameworks that surpass current vernaculars, and through primordial states of subjectivity encountered in meditation and mystical experience. In revealing these nonlinguistic sources of knowledge, these papers lay the groundwork for articulating an epistemology of silence.

1. “A Polanyian Interpretation of Buddhism,”  by Walter Gulick, University of Montana, Billings, MT,

2. “A Scientific Discovery and a Zen Discovery,” by Aimin Shen, Hanover College,

3. “Multiple Drafts or Anatman?” by Laura Weed, The College of Saint Rose,

4. “Three Ways of Understanding Mystical Experience: From Speech to Utter Silence” by Charles Lowney, Washington and Lee University,