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

By Neil J. Smelser | Go to book overview

SEVEN
Additional Theoretical
Reflections

In this final chapter I will try to place the odyssey experience in a wider theoretical frame than I have done in the preceding chapters. I begin by noting that in pursuing theoretical questions one can discern two strategies that are opposite in some respects. The first is to lay out some general perspectives on human nature and society and then give meaning to, interpret, or explain an identified range of empirical phenomena consistent with those perspectives. The second is to start with empirical facts or regularities and tease out their broader theoretical significance.

I will proceed along the second path. In this volume I have identified a range of experiences, which—while varying in empirical settings, emphasis of ingredients, and degree of formality—appear to be linked to widespread if not universal features of the human condition. The essence of the odyssey experience is the temporary lifting or destructuring of routines, punctuated by a phase of less structured liminality and resulting in a restructuring (or an effort to restructure) and re-entry

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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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