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

By Neil J. Smelser | Go to book overview

ONE
The Essentials of the Experience

This is a book both theoretical and empirical. It is about experiences that are widespread if not universal. These experiences are rooted in the necessities of the human condition—including movement in space and through time—and are found everywhere in mythology, religion, literary expression, the play of human imagination and experience, and cultural consciousness. They also make more informal appearances in private individual experiences, such as episodes of using drugs and alcohol, pursuing hobbies, watching movies and television, engaging in reverie, daydreaming and night dreaming. They pervade life from its most serious to its most frivolous aspects. I call them odyssey experiences.

In this chapter I introduce these phenomena by steps: first, I give an inkling of their omnipresence; second, I identify the names they go by; third, I remark the perils in naming them; fourth, I generate an ideal type of odyssey’s essential characteristics; fifth, I record some intellectual debts; sixth, I identify the

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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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