Resurgence Magazine’s last issue was dedicated to sacred places and pilgrimage – a subject of interest to many readers of this blog. I contributed an article which is mentioned here in another excellent magazine – but this time with a weird title: Utne. I used to buy copies of Utne when I visited the States. Does anyone know what it means? It sounds like chutney without the chutzpah.
Tourism is this day and age’s dirty word, with rightful concern for the environmental impact of travel looming over alluring vacation plans. In this line of thinking, spiritual journeys pose a special quandary, writes Philip Carr-Gomm for Resurgence.
“Our desire to visit sacred places has resulted in the creation of yet another industry that is pushing us to the brink of environmental collapse,” Carr-Gomm writes. “And yet doesn’t visiting sacred sites help us to appreciate our world? . . . Isn’t pilgrimage often a key component in many religions and an important spiritual practice in itself? . . . How can we honor these concepts and respect the Earth at the same time?”
Carr-Gomm has done serious thinking about the matter. He is the author of Sacred Places, a book detailing 50 spiritual and religious sites around the world. In the book, he endeavors to include both the ups and downs of any particular location. “Like any relationship, our interaction with sacred sites can either be harmful or beneficial, depending on the awareness brought to the relationship,” he writes.
To foster awareness, Carr-Gomm proposes building our relationships with sacred sites at the “soul level.” Visit them when one must, but focus on “building the bond primarily in the soul world and in consciousness.” Make use of Google Earth, virtual museums, and other rich writing and photography on the Internet—the wealth of information that, in part, is responsible for spurring this unprecedented interest in traveling to spiritual sites in the first place.
And if reinterpreting armchair travel isn’t satisfying spiritual hunger, well, Carr-Gomm has another idea: “We can turn our attention to our own landscapes—take care of a local sacred site, clearing it of rubbish and visiting it often.”