This paper examines how meditation diaries can be analysed as a contribution to understanding the pilgrimage experiences of ten ecophysiologists whose research agenda focuses on tropical forest canopies. Significantly though, this scientific enquiry interacts with the varied spiritual beliefs of these ten individuals. My discussion on this complex and dynamic interaction of pilgrimage and scientific themes will be presented in four parts.
First, I will review the themes within post-structuralist linguistic theory which are pertinent to the religio-scientific pilgrimage experiences of these scientists. In particular, I will show how Richard Rorty's analysis of irony is an important foundational definition.
Second, I will discuss the method which I used in my research with these scientists' meditation diaries. At the heart of this method is a critical discourse analysis of transcripts taken from one-to-one small group interviews recorded between 1985-1996. However, I will also consider the particular ethical implications of this research, given the intimate information and personal reflections contained within these diaries.
The third element of this paper will explore major substantive themes contained within each diary. At the foundation of these substantive themes is a prevailing and dynamic tension between traditions, western, orthodox realism and the scientists' differing insights into personal forms of mystical non-realism and poetic apologetics. This prevailing tension therefore offers an important role for Rorty's discussions on irony within and understanding of these pilgrimage experiences.
Finally, I will present a concluding review of the theoretical, methodological and substantive themes of this paper which locates them alongside the elements of self-organising systems theory which are being examined within the conference as a whole.