Sheryl A. Kujawa-Holbrook: Pilgrimage — the Sacred Art: Journey to the Center of the Heart. Woodstock: Skylight Paths Publishing, 2013; pp. 240.
Article first published online: 28 MAR 2014
© 2014 The Authors. Journal of Religious History © 2014 Religious History Association
Journal of Religious History
Volume 38, Issue 1, pages 155–156, March 2014
How to Cite
Lee, J. C. (2014), Sheryl A. Kujawa-Holbrook: Pilgrimage — the Sacred Art: Journey to the Center of the Heart. Woodstock: Skylight Paths Publishing, 2013; pp. 240. Journal of Religious History, 38: 155–156. doi: 10.1111/1467-9809.12147
- Issue published online: 28 MAR 2014
- Article first published online: 28 MAR 2014
In this book, Sheryl A. Kujawa-Holbrook focuses on the significance of pilgrimage. For her, pilgrimage is not simply a physical trip to sacred spaces. It is one that entails an inward spiritual journey in which pilgrims move into the centre of their hearts. During this journey, pilgrims encounter previous traumas or negative self-images. However, those who have passion and courage eventually reach their heart and come back with a new self that has a better understanding of its place in the world. This inward journey may occur while pilgrims travel the sacred spaces in the world or simply while walking the labyrinth. The hallmark of pilgrimage is not a journey itself, but a journey home — when pilgrims come back to the place where they were with a changed self. They are in the same place but with different experiences, different perspectives, and different wisdoms.
In the beginning of this book, Kujawa-Holbrook introduces basic studies of the pilgrimage. Through the work of anthropologists Victor and Edith Turner, the author first addresses two concepts of the pilgrimage: “liminality” and “communitas.” Liminality is to come out of one's own ordinary world and experience “being in between” worlds. Communitas means an experience of having pilgrim companions who do not go back to the same world but share in the pilgrimage experience. That is, any journey that involves both of these two experiences can be referred to as a pilgrimage. Based on Victor and Edith Turner's research, the author further argues that pilgrimage “transcends religious, national, cultural, and linguistic boundaries” (p. 7). As a result, she includes secular pilgrimage and virtual pilgrimage along with her extensive illustrations of pilgrimages that are practised in each religion. These two kinds of pilgrimage are also legitimate pilgrimages for the author because they would give pilgrims experiences of a significant inward journey. Kujawa-Holbrook says that it is the “pilgrim's paradox” that in pilgrimage “going forward means moving inward” (p. 57). In Chapter 2, the author describes pilgrimage as a journey to the heart. In this journey to the heart, pilgrims may encounter what Jung calls the “shadow,” or the “negative aspects of our personality,” but they have to overcome it to reach the heart where pilgrims meet the Divine, or experience healing and reorientation.
In Chapters 3 and 4, the author introduces some particular sacred spaces and the historical spiritual practice of “walking the labyrinth,” which could be useful for readers' future pilgrimages. Kujawa-Holbrook's rich list of sacred spaces includes places such as the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, Mount Kilimanjaro, Walden Pond, Apparition Hill in Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Mount Athos in Halkidiki, Greece, Bodhgaya, Taizé, and they are categorised into “memory places,” “quiet places,” and “divine activity places.” Kujawa-Holbrook also introduces walking the labyrinth as a spiritual practice that helps one's inward journey. In regard to this practice, she spends a chapter on the details of the origins, meanings, and kinds of the labyrinths all over the world. She also reminds of the significance of walking as a spiritual practice. In Chapter 5, Kujawa-Holbrook sheds light on a new aspect of pilgrimage: the journey home. The journey home is the time to come back to the place where the pilgrims were in the beginning. The author emphasises: “Parallel to the call to pilgrimage is the call to journey home.” According to the author, pilgrims who return home can finally integrate learning and experiences gained from their pilgrimage into their understanding of the past, their connection to the present, and their aspirations for the future. The book closes with the author's practical guidelines for those who embark on their own pilgrimage now.
This book is certainly readable and recommendable. Those who are seeking knowledge and wisdom about each religion's pilgrimage practices, about sacred places to go, and about the historical and theological meanings of walking the labyrinth, will gain what they have been looking for through this book. Also, the power of this book lies in its practical influence. This book will give readers the passion and courage to begin their pilgrimage. Some people will get relief and encouragement that will enable them to continue their journey. More importantly, the idea of pilgrimage that this book presents provides a bridge that can connect different religions. If pilgrimage is not the unique experience of a particular religious tradition but a shared experience of different religions, it can become a common ground at which interreligious dialogue can occur. I believe that Kujawa-Holbrook's ardent work on pilgrimage is a much-needed contribution to the study and practices of interreligious relations as well as spiritual formation.