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Pilgrimage and the alchemy of transformation - Finding a way from entitlement to gratitude

Ridsdale, Lucy (2011) Pilgrimage and the alchemy of transformation - Finding a way from entitlement to gratitude. Honours thesis, Murdoch University.

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Joanna Macy proposes a ‘shift in consciousness’ as the third element of the Great Turning, an all-encompassing transition from the industrial growth society to a life-sustaining civilisation. While this line of thinking is echoed in some of the literature in sustainability, there is lack of research that addresses: what exactly is ‘shift in consciousness’ or ‘transformation;’ and how it might be achieved. The literature also demonstrates a strong bias towards objective methodologies which distance the researcher from the enquiry.

This thesis seeks to address these gaps by conducting an exploratory investigation of pilgrimage as a transformative practice using a first-person introspective methodology. It has two broad aims: firstly, to explore pilgrimage as a practice that facilitates an ontological shift from entitlement to gratitude; and secondly to elucidate the complex web of factors that comprise a transformative process - here referred to as ‘the alchemy of transformation.’

Having designed an heuristic phenomenological research protocol, the author walked a 1100km pilgrimage through the south-west of Western Australia as a reflective, embodied practice. Four themes - ‘simplicity,’ ‘hardship,’ ‘divine communion,’ and ‘connection to country’ - were chosen to structure the reflection and a bricolage of methods was used to explore and depict the author’s experience. The results of the study were that this particular pilgrimage was found to facilitate a shift from entitlement to gratitude, and the four previously mentioned themes were found to represent elements of transformative process. These findings are illustrated in a graphic artwork.

The results of this research are intended to contribute a clearer and more nuanced understanding of transformation to the field of sustainability.

Item Type: Thesis (Honours)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Social Sciences and Humanities
Supervisor(s): Barns, Ian
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