Embracing complexity: the post-secular pilgrimage of Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt


  • Ruth Illman The Donner Institute


Pilgrims and pilgrimages, Postsecularism, Mysticism, Dialogue (Theology), Pluralism, Religious, Schmitt, Éric-Emmanuel, Holism, Mind and body, Spirituality, Sacred space, Christianity and other religions, Religions -- Relations, Humanism


This article deals with the phenomenon of pilgrimage as a personal transformative process; an exploration of spiritual space rather than a journey undertaken to a physical place. The analysis focuses on the life story and authorship of the novelist and playwright Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt (b. 1960). Schmitt began his career as an academic philosopher specialised in enlightenment rationality. A mystical experience in the deserts of Sahara, however, opened his eyes to the spiritual dimensions of reality and encouraged him to redirect his professional strivings from academic writing to fiction. Today, Schmitt has reached a world-wide audience with his plays and novels on interreligious dialogue, especially the series of five short novellas called Le cycle d’Invisible. These narratives all deal with inter-religious encounters in a complex and compassionate way as Schmitt is particularly concerned with preserving the mystery of the situations he describes. The atheist conviction of his previous life has thus given way to an agnostic and mystically inspired world view focusing on diversity, divinity and inexplicability: “I am obsessed with complexity”, as he puts it himself. The presentation is based on ethnographic material, and key themes to be addressed include pilgrimage as a spiritual journey, interreligious encounters and mystical experiences.



How to Cite

Illman, R. (2010). Embracing complexity: the post-secular pilgrimage of Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt. Scripta Instituti Donneriani Aboensis, 22, 228–243. https://doi.org/10.30674/scripta.67369