Chapter 1 Substantive, Non-substantive and Ontogenetic Perspectives on Pilgrimages

In: Pilgrimage as Transformative Process
Shirley du Plooy
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After a review of the pilgrimage literature, I was struck by the wide-ranging forms pilgrimages assume. These include traditional, formal, domestic, heritage, grief-centred, earth energy-inspired, and touristic journeys, to name but a few. From this assortment of pilgrimages two overarching categories are sometimes distinguished: sacred and secular pilgrimages. But, what I’m interested in, irrespective of these, are the main streams of pilgrimage studies that emerge. The substantivist perspectives, non-substantivist studies of pilgrimages, and perspectives that view pilgrimages as open. In this chapter, I explore the former two approaches, and conclude by proposing a third alternative. I borrow the substantivist idea from religion studies and extrapolate it to pilgrimage. Substantivists assume that there is an essence behind religion, the sacred, and therefore pilgrimages, in contrast with reducing it to society or the mind. If our world, and culture is disjointed, fluid and not exact, but rather a complex of interconnections across permeable boundaries, then pilgrimage—a representation of this cultural complexity—must reflect this. It will reflect the heterogeneity and multiplicity of meanings, people, beliefs, traditions, intentions, and outcomes of this 21st century world. Pilgrimages must be all of the ranges of possibility—not dichotomous or homogenous. Pilgrimages must be open and ontogenetic.

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