A ""book of speculative vision"" whose author argues that the ""myths, monuments and metaphors"" of religious pilgrimages are patterned on man's perceptions of the stars. Munro, an art historian, here takes on the additional roles of religious historian, anthropologist, pilgrim and tourist to convey a very personal and powerful religious vision. Her central thesis is that men in all cultures have been disturbed by the gradual shift of the constellations around the supposedly fixed North Star (Polaris), and have desired to control the movements of the Heavens through pilgrimages and the construction of shrines. Despite the many differences among the pilgrimages of different religions, there are universal components. Benares for Hindus, Jerusalem for Christians and Jews, for example, are both perceived as the axis of the cosmos. The book is organized around Munro's own pilgrimage at the time of her atheist father's death, and represents a personal religious exploration as well as a history of pilgrimage, Her observations of Benares and the other pilgrimage centers reveal her to be a first-rate travel walter capable of using precise images to convey the look, feel and meaning of a place. The book is not an easy read. Munro is keen on association, and though her observations are occasionally sparkling and poetic, they are also often cryptic. The book is not likely to convince sceptics, materialists and others suspicious of metaphysical speculation, but for those who like to be reminded of the mysteriousness of things, it does provide an intriguing vision.