Walking back to Earth: the enduring appeal of ancient pilgrimage as portal to the sacred for the contemporary seeker
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This thesis offers a perspective on pilgrimage, from the vantage point of the pilgrim’s reflection on their embodied experience and an analysis of that experience from theological and psychological hermeneutics, in particular. In the experience of performing the pilgrimage, in the givenness of its intense physical requirements, the pilgrim is drawn into a deeply holistic sense of their own embodiment-in-the-world. This experience of embodiment, the thesis argues, is both inherently satisfying and satiates a deep incarnational longing in the pilgrim. The particularity, vulnerability and delight and earthiness of being human is made whole and holy in the teaching of Incarnation and when the pilgrim drops into their own earthy embodiment at the behest of their pilgrimage journey, I argue that many re-connect with this fundamental truth of being human. Pilgrims re-discover that there is something holy and wholesome about their very being and in turn they see their fellow pilgrims with the reverence that living such truth begets. Along ancient pathways and encircling ancient stones and prayer-beds, pilgrims walk, eat, fast, rest, pray, reflect, and exchange life-stories. They do so in places and patterns that were held sacred by their foremothers and forefathers and, in that movement, they both honour a religious tradition and make it new. It is a sacred witness in a time of contesting truths and a veritable eschewal of the sacred, in much of the signature cultural discourse and the social and political decision-making of our times. Contemporary pilgrimage, in an era of postmodernity, reveals a hunger for congregating differently -as pilgrim church- if you will, and hence the thesis argues thepilgrim journey is being re-found in our time as an essentially religious quest.
KeywordsBody and embodiment on pilgrimage
Camino de Santiago
Ritual performativity of pilgrimage