Robert Wuthnow, Professor of Sociology at Princeton and the Director of the Center for the Study of Religion, has been observing and analyzing American approaches to religion for some decades now. His distinction of “dwelling” and “seeking” is probably the most helpful way of thinking about attitudes to religion and spirituality today.
Wuthnow explains by saying that there are two mentalities, one interested in stability and security and the other which moves towards exploration and transition. Many individuals now are looking for the sacred and the meaningful elsewhere than in traditional churches or religious institutions, and finding it in places not usually regarded as sacred. As Wuthnow comments: “Rather than being in a place that is by definition spiritual, the sacred is found momentarily in experiences as different as mowing the lawn or viewing a full moon.” (1998, 3-5) The purpose of this article is to build on Wurthnow’s idea and map the movement of spiritual seekers as they travel from their familiar locale in different directions by unknown paths to spiritual “fresh woods and pastures new.”
This article employs an extended metaphor of journey or passage, that is, someone goes from one place to another, chooses a route, makes discoveries on the way and arrives at a destination. The journey is the inner journey of a person seeking, looking and finding a new spiritual home. The paper provides a framework or map, to enable one to observe where the journey may be headed. After all, when travellers have a general sense of the countryside, then they are less likely to feel lost.