Pilgrimages to the Self: Exploring the Topography of Western Consumer Spirituality through ‘the Journey’


  • Renee D. Lockwood


Metaphors of spiritual pilgrimage are often revealing to the scholar of religion. Representations of a journey towards the ultimate destination of unity with the divine are capable of illuminating both the nature of the sacred, and the modes of salvation of an epoch. In the West, the immense cultural shifts of late modernity have seen an internalising of the sacred, and a soteriological relocation from a salvation based in eternity and proffered by external grace to one that is imminent, worldly, and obtained through internal experience. In this context, the sacred or ‘authentic’ Self has become a novel form of the divine, and acts of internal pilgrimage in order to locate it through layers of ‘stories’ or ‘inauthenticities’ are becoming increasingly common. The new Western spiritual landscape, characterised by consumerism and choice abundance, is scattered with novel religious manifestations based in psychology and the Human Potential Movement, each offering participants a pathway to the Self. ‘The Journey’ is one such spiritual product, delivered in the form of seminars, books, audio, and private practitioners, and is here examined as a ‘corporate religion.’ This article will demonstrate the manner in which the nature of both the internalised sacred and the novel soteriologies of Western spirituality are reflected in the philosophy and praxes of the Journey, and specifically through the act of travelling to the Self. Through this prism, corporate religions like the Journey are shown to be genuine representations of Western spirituality, and should not be rejected as merely inauthentic, cynical manipulations of market capitalism. Indeed, the allegorical pilgrimages facilitated by ‘Journeywork’ reveal it to be paradigmatic of the age, upholding both an internalised sacred and a remodelling of salvation that are becoming ever more ubiquitous within Western spirituality.