Encyclopedia of Psychology and Religion

2020 Edition
| Editors: David A. Leeming


  • Paul LarsonEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-24348-7_387


Liminality is a term used to describe the psychological process of transitioning across boundaries and borders. The term “limen” comes from the Latin for threshold; it is literally the threshold separating one space from another. It is the place in the wall where people move from one room to another. Often a door is placed across the threshold to close up and restrict access between rooms. The concept was first applied to psychology as the technical name for the perceptual threshold, the degree of stimulus intensity that would just be noticed as audible or visible or detectable in any sensory mode. But its contemporary usage comes from the anthropologist Arnold van Gennep (1873–1957). In his study of religion as a cultural artifact, he saw that many, if not all, of the rituals across cultures have the function of moving a person from one status or social circumstance to another. His major work, Rites of Passage or Les Rites du Passagein the original French (1909/1960), sets...

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Chicago School of Professional PsychologyChicagoUSA