Deutsche Mystik und mystisches Deutschtum

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The German study of mysticism is based on a terminological distinction between Mystik and Mystizismus – a distinction foreign to English and lacking in theoretical rigor. In addition, the postulation of a "mystical experience", which is thought to be the basis of mystical writings, lies outside the framework of a scholarly discussion and renders our understanding of the so-called German mystics much less sharp. On the other hand, if we reject the questionable premise of mystical experience, if we instead investigate the history of the concept and re-define mysticism as an ideal type or conceptual field, our understanding of mystical writings within their historical contexts becomes more precise; and our perspective is broadened to include related figures and phenomena of German culture history – among them Luther and Lutheranism, German Romanticism and Idealism, and even the German language itself – which hold greater significance and fascination for the rest of the world.


This article was originally published as “Deutsche Mystik und mystisches Deutschtum,” pp. 217-232. April, 2016, in a special issue of Mediaevistik, Festschrift for Albrecht Classen.