The Odyssey Experience: Physical, Social, Psychological, and Spiritual Journeys

By Neil J. Smelser | Go to book overview

PREFACE

In these pages I present the results of my exploration of an idea that germinated—vaguely—in my mind several decades ago and has developed, irregularly, right up to the present time. I have come to call this idea “the odyssey experience.” Its essentials are laid out in detail in chapter I and elaborated in the remainder of the volume. A first approximate definition for that term is a finite period of disengagement from the routines of life and immersion into a simpler, transitory, often collective, and often intense period of involvement that often culminates in some kind of regeneration. All the substantive processes included in this volume—rites of passage, pilgrimages, religious conversion, travel, leaves of absence, absorption into a social movement, and some ordeals—are subsumed under this general definition.

The origins of the idea are in my autobiography, but within that I can distinguish between personal and intellectual origins, if that distinction has any meaning. On the personal side, I have experienced, throughout life, many such episodes, though at the

-xi-

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The Odyssey Experience: Physical, Social, Psychological, and Spiritual Journeys
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Preface xi
  • One- The Essentials of the Experience 1
  • Two- Autobiographical Roots Some Personal Odysseys 28
  • Three- Religious Foundations and Their Derivatives 57
  • Four- Secularized and Commercialized Odysseys 97
  • Five- Some Miscellaneous, More or Less Invented Experiences 155
  • Six- Some Coercive Odyssey Experiences 180
  • Seven- Additional Theoretical Reflections 206
  • References 221
  • Index 249
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