I had come across passing references to this spiritual classic at least a few times before I decided to see if I could get it from the library. I assumed the book was primarily didactic in nature, and that the title was metaphorical. So I was surprised, when I started reading it, to discover that it is – apparently – an autobiographical account by a Russian pilgrim of the 19th century.
I say “apparently” because the author is unknown, and some people think that it was written as though it were a pilgrim telling his story, but not by an actual pilgrim. I suppose that is possible, although I would think that a made-up story would be told in a much less disjointed manner, with fewer extraneous details and going off on “rabbit trails.”
But regardless of how the story came to be written down, it is a striking example of applying spiritual teaching to everyday life – in a time and place very different from our own. The pilgrim is a peasant who travels from village to village, occasionally requesting husks of dry bread for his pack, but for the most part seeking nothing but quiet and solitude to pursue communion with God through constant prayer.