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Zene, Cosimo (2004) 'Travesia en el desierto. Las experiencias de la humanidad en el dialogo con Dios. [Journey into the Desert: The Experience of Humanity in Dialogue with God].' In: Salas Quiltanal, H. and Pérez-Taylor, R., (eds.), Desiertos y fronteras. El norte de México y otros contextos culturales. V Colloquio Paul Kirchhoff. México: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Instituto de Investigaciones Antropológicas, Plaza y Valdés Editores, pp. 45-67.

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This essay explores the relevance given to the desert in religious thought and experience from a variety of perspectives and beliefs. It has been said that ‘every desert has its hidden springs’, but a journey there often entails hardship and suffering. From time immemorial the search for God, almost in its purest form, has compelled people of many cultural and religious backgrounds to ‘take refuge’ in the desert, in an attempt to reach nearness to God, or perhaps to re-discover themselves . Contemporary society, experiencing more than ever the conundrum of ‘being and nothingness’, still finds itself searching for ‘something’ in spaces of ‘liminality’. Myths relating to the idea of ‘desert’ in Ancient Egyptian, Sumero-Accadian and Semitic literature, inform the reflections in the Introduction. The apparent dichotomy between desert/cultivated land is resolved by the journey of the god into the desert and the Netherworld to then return victorious to the city and the temple. This ‘journey’ can be applied as a metaphor to other human-religious experiences of movement into and return from the desert: early Christian monasticism, Sufism and Untouchables in Hindu tradition. While for the first two the desert, both as reality or in a figurative sense, represents a free choice, for the latter the desert/boundaries have been imposed by the rest of society. Either by choice or by imposition, the journey into the desert and the return from it, externalise a ‘religious dimension’ represented by the quest for the divine and for the self. The interest here, however, is to underline the human and socio-political element of the movement community-desert-return to the community, and how the return motivates and demands renewed attitudes and choices towards that very community.

Item Type: Book Chapters
SOAS Departments & Centres: Legacy Departments > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Department of the Study of Religions
ISBN: 9789703215737
Date Deposited: 08 May 2008 10:34

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