For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move. ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON

Wednesday, 26 December 2007

The Point Of Pilgrimage

The particular reasons which drive an individual towards an act of pilgrimage are inevitably deeply personal, and in many cases beyond the exercise of logic alone. Even though the physical dangers are not as great as they once were, the psychological and spiritual ferment remains. Those who are close to the pilgrim may well ask why they have undertaken such an action. The act of pilgrimage disturbs the lives of those who surround the pilgrim.

Despite the diversity of motivation, certain themes clearly emerge. The very historicity of the sites seems to exert its own natural attraction. Pilgrims travel in search of forgiveness for sins committed and so search for cleansing. A few travel as a form of punishment inflicting hardship on themselves as they go. Others journey in the hope of physical healing and inner spiritual healing. But above all, pilgrims travel in search of God and so hope to find themselves.

How strange it is that so many are drawn to leave home to find themselves. Yet the familiar sometimes obscures the eternal, not because it is not present but because it simply cannot be recognized without the experience of a broader canvas. Those who travel have understood the essential paradox that we cannot truly find the "I" within until we have found the "Thou" without.

From Sacred Places, Pilgrim Paths: An Anthology Of Pilgrimage (1997) by MARTIN ROBINSON

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