Some notes from Robert Bellah’s fascinating work  on civilization between ca. 600 BCE and 400 BCE.

Primitive religion: The whole community, or a large part of it, participate in ritual.



Archaic religion: The ritual focuses on one person, the divine or quasi-divine king, and only a few

members of thre top royal or priestly elite participate.

The elevation of ancient kings and ancient gods to previously unknown status went hand in hand.



In the archaic epoch, the cosmos was still viewed as a state, and humanity, nature and supernature were still all connected. But now the elevation of the kingly/priestly class, as well as the gods, began to create social imbalances.

In the archaic age, the first cracks in the immutable divine backing of the king began to appear, but in the axial age, ideas such as “we can replace a wicked king” became possible.

The axial age is roughly 600 BCE — 400 BCE.

“… Included the China of Confucius and Lao-Tse, the India of Buddha, the Iran of Zoroaster, the Palestine of the Prophets and the Greece of the philosophers, the tragedians and the historians.” — Arnaldo Momigliano, Alien Wisdom: The Limits of Hellenization, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1975, pp. 8-9.


The association between king and god remains (from the archaic age), but they get transformed in remarkable new ways during the axial age.

Examples of the way in which the old connection was reaffirmed in strange new ways:

Socrates, Confucius, the Buddha, Cyrus, Jesus and Mohammed were kings but not (normal) kings (Cyrus was “anointed” in the Heilsgeschichte even though he was a pagan king).

Nothing is ever lost!

Karl Theodor Jaspers (February 23, 1883 – February 26, 1969) was a German psychiatrist and philosopher who had a strong influence on modern theology, psychiatry and philosophy.



Eric Voegelin: Don’t immanentize the eschaton!





Shmuel Noah Eisenstadt (Hebrew: שמואל נח אייזנשטדט) (born September 10, 1923 in Warsaw) is an Israeli sociologist. In 1959 he was appointed to a teaching post in the sociology department of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.


Merlin Wilfred Donald (born November 17, 1939) is a Canadian psychologist and cognitive neuroscientist, and a researcher, educator, and author in the corresponding fields.


Jerome Seymour Bruner (born October 1, 1915) is an American psychologist who has contributed to cognitive psychology and cognitive learning theory in educational psychology, as well as to history and to the general philosophy of education. Bruner is currently a senior research fellow at the New York University School of Law.

  1. Narrative diachronicity: The notion that narratives take place over some sense of time.
  2. Particularity: The idea that narratives deal with particular events, although some events may be left vague and general.
  3. Intentional state entailment: The concept that characters within a narrative have "beliefs, desires, theories, values, and so on" (7).
  4. Hermeneutic composability: The theory that narratives are that which can be interpreted in terms of their role as a selected series of events that constitute a "story." See also Hermeneutics
  5. Canonicity and breach: The claim that stories are about something unusual happening that "breaches" the canonical (i.e. normal) state.
  6. Referentiality: The principle that a story in some way references reality, although not in a direct way; narrative truth can offer verisimilitude but not verifiability.
  7. Genericness: The flip side to particularity, this is the characteristic of narrative whereby the story can be classified as a genre.
  8. Normativeness: The observation that narrative in some way supposes a claim about how one ought to act. This follows from canonicity and breach.
  9. Context sensitivity and negotiability: Related to hermeneutic composability, this is the characteristic whereby narrative requires a negotiated role between author or text and reader, including the assigning of a context to the narrative, and ideas like suspension of disbelief.
  10. Narrative accrual: Finally, the idea that stories are cumulative, that is, that new stories follow from older ones.

Having fun discussing Robert Bellah’s ‘Religious Evolution’


(From Beyond Belief)

Prof. Robert N.  Bellah
Department of Sociology
University of California
Berkeley, California



Quote of the Day:
In matters of conscience, the law of the majority has no place.
–“Mahatma” Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

(p.20) What were the preconditions for the systematically scientific study of religion?

By the time of Hegel, religion had been brought back into philosophical speculation.
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (August 27, 1770 – November 14, 1831) was a German philosopher, and along with Johann Gottlieb Fichte and Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling, one of the creators of German idealism.

Hegel developed a comprehensive philosophical framework, or “system”, to account in an integrated and developmental way for the relation of mind and nature, the subject and object of knowledge, and psychology, the state, history, art, religion, and philosophy.

By the time of He