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Guest Thinkers

Is American Mysticism Inescapable?

Mysticism has no past, no genealogy, and yet it walks and knows why. How do we account for the religious imagination in the U.S. while Europe grows more and more skeptical?

What has made the American capacity to elude history so pronounced, or, put more positively, what has made the American religious imagination so expansive in its invention of mythical pasts and in its denial of contiguous traditions? Is there a deeper “anti-nostalgic premise” at work—one in which Americans have repeatedly imagined themselves as free of the aristocratic, cultural, and religious weight of Europe? As the pamphleteer Tom Paine famously put that revolutionary premise, “We have it in our power to begin the world over again.”


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