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Mysticism is a spiritual experience that is virtually universal in religious traditions. It is also a problematic category for analysis, though it nonetheless retains heuristic value in the contemporary study of religion, culture, and society. The original Greek term mystikos and its English derivative mystical have a specific history. Historically, the dimensions of what has been deemed mystical include, as Louis Bouyer notes, initiatory and esoteric religiosity, hermeneutics, liturgy, and experience. The term has also been used in an imprecise way in popular culture and nonspecialist discourse, but such uses will not be the focus of this entry.

In the field of religious studies, the term is probably best understood as synonymous with mystical experience; such experiences differ according to particular mystics and religious traditions. Mystical ...

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