The 'Treatment of Religton in Evolution and Consciousness: a Conspectus

This paper reports, in the briefest possible compass, the principal views On religion developed in EvotuUon and Consciousness.


its o~ect

Is not

to defend the opinions expressed. in this book. but

merely to acquaint those who have not read it with what it in fact proposes, no effort Will be made to allege evidence in support of such views or to try to meet objections to them. The reasoning that led to them cannot very well be omitted altogether, but Will be reproduced here only minimally and in


The stated purpose of E &. C is to develop a philosophic quent evolution of the specifically human characteristics, theory of the origin and the subseAccording to the book. this refers in the

first place to the human abiUqr to experience consciously, since oonsctousaess is the source of all that is typically human in human beings. It would therefore seem. at first glance that E &. C is likely to be concerned with religion. if at all. only incidentally, cultural institutions (both in the individual or insofar as religion is but one among the many however. would that follow upon the nature of consciousness. This supposition,

be incorrect, For on the basis of an analysis of the human nature and the way it comes into being and in the species), one of the conclusions of E &. C is indeed that religton Is that manifest the properties of conscious life: it ts the not simply one among the many institutions tinctive need and peculiar motivation ness. Understanding

one that uaderltes. orients, and sets limits to all the others. because it the one that responds to the disthat are essential part of life once life has risen to consciousof religlon cannot therefore be divorced from understand&.

the nature and ori~

mg the nature and evolution of consetousness, and vice versa. This synopsls must therefore begin by mentioning how E counts for its emergence. The argument's C envisages consciousness observation and acfirst premise is the empirical that experience

can be either conscious or lacking in consciousness, Experience, whether it be conscious or not, makes objects present to the expertenoer; when it is conscious, however, it makes present to the experteneer, simulta:nrousty. both the objects of expert enoe and the actiV! ty of expert enetng such o~ eets. Conscious experience is therefore definable as the kind of expertential function that is

present to itself. Thus,

whereas animal life is the level of life at which organisms 'a~ust'

(Le, fulfill their purposes. including

the inherent purpose of keeping themselves alive) through actively relating themselves experientially to others, human life is the level of life at which consctous organisms fulfill such purposes through actively relating themselves experientially The distinction

to themselves as well as to others. between expetence and conscious experience contains an implication
funcnon, but a quality


must be stressed. Consciousness is not a distinct expertential

that may accrue evidently. it is

to certain experiential functions, We are equipped with the experiential

abHities to see. to hear, to The difference is not in leads in us to certain

touch, to imagine, and so on, which we typically exercise in a conscl.ous twy-though also possible for us to exercise them without the benefit of consciousness.
uItat is experienced. but in how

it is experienced, Animals, however. should be deemed able to have

only non-conscious

experience; for as we shall see in a moment. consciousness

consequences that we do not observe in animals. Thus, although uIwt we humans experience is the same reality that the higher animals experience, our

expenence of the same world is altogether differthe animal into the hu-

ent from animal experience, The quality of consciousness is what transforms

man mode of life.
This is perhaps best appreciated when we consider that a sense of reality and a sense of selfhood are the direct and immediate consequences of consciousness. We have noted that the self-presence of human experience (when it is conscious) means that. through the same act of experience by which human beings experience an object they also experience the fact that they experience such object. But because they experience both. they can discrtm!nate experiencing of it. But to experience an object simultaneously between them. In

every act of consetous-

ness. therefore, the experience includes. besides the object. the fact that the object is othe- than the as (a) whatever it is, and [b) as some-

thing other than our experiencing of it, is to experience it as 'real.' Conversely, if human beings are able not merely to experience realities. but also to experience that realities are real. the reason is that their experience Is conscious. The abtlity to experience the real as such, moreover, has a further consequence. If one experiences an object as other than one's experiencing of the object. one Is thereby placed in a position to experience that one's own activity of expenencmg is real; in other words. a conscious experteacer Is one that experiences himself as an expertencer. But to experience oneself as an expeneneer Is to experience oneself as a self. And the peculiarly human sense of reality and selfhood is the foundation of all the other peeeliartties There are many indications eral direction in which the answer that natural of human life and behaviour. selection cannot account for the emergence of the because it also points towards the gen-

conscious form of experience. But one is especially important

to the ongln of consciousness may lie. I refer again to the observexactly the same ol::!l eets that the expectand in the human in-

able fact that consciousness does not consist in expenencmg a peculiar ol:!1edwhich other espenential functions cannot attain to, but in experiencing in a peculiar manner same organic experiential functions (of both humans and animals) attain to in non-eonsctous

enoe. This suggests that consciousness is acqutrai The appearance of consciousness dividual cannot be the result of the mere maturation whether in the individual

of genetically inherited organic functions,

the consciousness of the human species cannot have been brought about by mere genetic selection. But or the species. how is consciousness acquired? tested in E &. C-name1y. by its asserttveness that attends the socto-eultural process of learnmg to
in relation

I will but mention here the clue that hints at the hypothesis consciousness is acquired as a result that necessarily speak. The clue is the fact that conscious experience is distinguishable ences a real ol:!1ectas 'real' may be alternatively

to its ol:!led. For what I have described above as the fact that conscious experience necessarily experidescribed as the fact that conscious experience af-

firms the obj eet, That ts, when we not merely perceive an obj eet, but perceive it as real. the experience does not merely receive the obJ eet, but also gives credi.t to the object, as it were. for being whatever it
Is and for being real. In other words, the experience says that the ol!tect is itself and that it is other than our experience of

it. Thus. conscious perception may be described also as assertive expertence.
Is, to be sure, an assertion of the object directly that is achieved through the mediation of words or other signs.

The assertion involved in perceptual consciousness and in itself; it is not an assertion

More fully defined. then, perceptual consciousness is immediately assertive experience. of

Observe, however, that conscious sense experience of objects is not the only manifestation

assertiveness. There is another, namely, speech, By 'speech: however, I do not mean simply the mak-

tng of the vocal sotmdstyptcally

used in human communication.

but the human activity of communi-

cating one's experience ~ means of signs which. as it happens, are vocal sounds. But before we consider the nature of speech we should take note of certain facts that are common to all communtcatton,

whether human or Infrahuman, nicate, To communicate is

and regardless of the kind or complexity of the Bigns used to eornmuto have a special kind
be no

to behave in certain ways that lead cemmuarcands of experience that. if left to their own devices. they would lack, There would
since in a superlidal sense it is: true-that

harm in sayingtransmission of

the process consists in the communicator's

a Signal or message and in the communicand's reception of it. But in the present context this Is not to the POint. because it envisages communication in almost complete abstraction from its being an aetrvity of the communicating agents, and as if the communication were an entity in itself, What we
should most particularly communicative speakmgnetther tors' signification note instead is that. whenever animal or human communicators make signs, uhat. they communicate is their experience. We may gladly acknowledge that is properly reality nor a message about reality. but their el::pert.ence of reality. The communicaof their experience correspondingly enables their eommtmicands

their experience is derived from reality. Let us say. then. that what they communicate

to have that form
I experience. And I

of vicarious experlenoe we call reeetvtng a message. Thus. when you receive my message. what you do
18 to expertence what I experience. Or more exactly: you experience what I

say that

so say for the very reason that! want you so The eommunicatton cate expertence--es pertendng

to experience.

of expertenee is hardly peculiar to human beings: indeed. eommuntcation from the animal level of communication behaviour.

is achieved even at fairly low levels of animal life. But speech=the typically human way to communidistinguishable it is assertive. and exthat For human beings do not simply communteate. They communicate intending to comnnmleate, the eommuarcatrve nature of their commtmicative their experience, they ma:m what they communicate. asserts

'When they communicate

In other words. they assert the experience

they communicate. Now. we noted earlier that conscious sense perception is the sort of experience that

its object tmme:1i.ately. whereas we have now seen that speech is the sort of communication of its object medi.ately. through the instrumentality of certain signs. Well, the possibility leaps to the eye: perhaps human beings acquire the ability to experience assertlvd.y (Le. consetousnessl as a collateral but necessary consequence of their acquiring the ability to assert their ~t.ence (i.e to speak). The same should be true of the aequtsrtton of oonsdousness l:.:5' the
one's experience that asserts

species. The mere COmmunication of experience does not affect the nature of experience; it rematns mere experience. But when the ability to communicate evolved into the ability to communicate
assertively (that is, to speak). the ability
to experience

thereby became the ability to experience and human life had appeared. in

assertively (that is, conscl.ously). Antmallife

had been transcended

It would not be germane to present purposes to discuss here the reconstruclion-suggested

E&C in some detail--of the process whereby natural selection may have transformed the animal mode


of communication

into human speech, and of the concomitant

process, not reducible to natural into consciousness.

selecIf this,

tion, whereby the animal mode of experience may have been transformed

however, was how human nature ortgmated, certain consequences follow that should be of interest to fhe student of religion. The first is that the selfhood of human beings has a much more aery. fragile. and derivative reality than most of us ordinarily imagine. What is most precious to each one of us-the one of us is-has no substantiality 'I' that each whatever, because it is a creature of conscious experience and beacquired ability to experience consciously. is understand-

cause its reality is of the order of experience. For if what we have seen above is true, selfhood is not
the antecedent but the consequent of the human organism's We tend, of course, to assume the opposite=namely, that the human ego comes into existence first, whence it proceeds later to posit acts of conscious experience, This misinterpretation able: far ajr.e1' a self has come into being it does indeed experience itself {and correctly so) as being Irreducible to its organism .. But this hardly implies that the self either anteeedes, or could exist Independently from, the conscious experiential Note that denying all substantiality value=though functions of the organism (let alone

its other functionsl.

to the human self deprives our selfhood of neither reality nor about ourselves that some of us

it entails, to be sure, the rejection of several illusions

may cherish (for instance. the illusion that the self can outlast the death of the human organism). What follows from a study of the nature and origin of consciousness 1S rather (a) that once a human organism acquires the ability to communicate present to itself. or conscious, and (b) that the natural assertively.

its experiential

activity becomes

consequence of its developing consciousness

that such organism's experience of every reality whatsoever Will be accompanied by the Simultaneous experience that such expenenclng is 'being done: Thus. by becoming conscious, the human organism personalizes itself; for the experience of being the doer of one's conscious experience Is, by another name. the experience of being oneself. Or more exactly. the self is bUilt-up through the accumulation of a human organism's self-present experiential activities. We come into being as selves only gradually. as we identify ourselves to ourselves as the agents who have had a peculiar set of conscious experiences in the past, who typically experience reality as we now do. who expect to experience it in certain ways in the future. and who experience our own behaviour in reaction to the world as we have in fact done in the past. as we now do, and as we expect to do in the future. In other words. we construct

identity as a self through the same means that our organism uses to develop its consciousness, for we become what we actually are through our saying to what we are. Or which is the same. we acquire our identi ty through our consciously expertin

namely, through assertive communication;

enetng and thinking of ourselves as we do, This means that human beings differ from all other beings, both animate and inanimate, or. as it were, rom, their identity. All things have of course, a certain identity-a continuous, and integrated set of characteristics that defines their self-sameness. With such identity by whatever physical or physico-biologtcal that their spedftc and individual identity is not given to them but Is self-given; they have to work out certain coherent, They are endowed

process brings them into being; even the

human organism comes into being With a certain {organic) identity that it receives genetically from its progenitors, But a human organism is not biologically born as a conscious expertencer, let alone with

5 the identity of a self; consciousness the young an immature or elementary
acquired ability to communicate

is generated in the genetically determined seed. of consciousness

organism in conseto

quence of a socio-cultural process. And that socio-cultural its own; it consists merely in transforming assertively. man characteristics. that the reproduction

process does not consist in transmitting ability to communicate

that can thereafter grow and mature on into the huall other specifically

the organically inherited

Consciousness and, ajoruon,

are therefore not inherited of the humanity

in the same sense or in the same way-namely, are inherited. Most of us seem to think

through dl.rect transmtssion=tn

which organic characteristics

of human beings is reducible to the physiology of the sexual apmore complex one. structures and functions), is speech. But speech is their generators: consciousness, and there-

paratus, but in fact the process is an extraordmartly All that is transmitted dowment (which includes of course the experiential not endowed with consctousness+Iet upon selfhood, are rather the natural

directly from one human generation to the next, apart from genetic en-

the human organism's wherewithal to ~ve conscious quality to its experience. Thus. human beings are alone selfbood-by consequences of the human organism's being endowed with

speech. Moreover. the selfhood of human beings begins at nothing. comes into being without any positive content of its own, since it takes self-present

For the self. as we have seen,

its ortgin from the fact that a

experience appears to itself simply as 'that which is other than the object'--which national

hardly to begtn life with a positive identity, but only with a capacity for developing one. (I am reminded of the impoverished being canadian manufactured identity of those among our fellow cttizens who, in effect. define consciousness is as being neither British nor Amertean.l In sum, a human organism's
by the organism itself [albeit only by Virtue of

its cultural endowment rather than out of
is developed comes into the

any of its native organic potentialities):

and the selfhood of the conscious organism

thereafter by such organism through a process of sel.f-d.f!flnttton. Thus. consciousness upon others than mere organic life. It has to manufacture and it has to define Itself in order to be itself. The task of defining ourselves to ourselves possibility and the one that q uahftes+and

world utterly dispossessed. The 'I' is born needier, hungrier and more dependent upon the world and

its identity as a self. before it can be itself;

as to create our identity is therefore not simply a of this need is the spectfroally human motive

but a vital human necessity. The satisfaction

may even supe:rserle--all the other wants and needs that may animate

conscious behaviour. The same need may also be described as the need for ffia::t.ning. Human beings cannot rest content With experiencing reality and thereby adapt biologically so as to survive biologically: they must make sense out of reality

that they can make sense of themselves

and 'survive' as

selves. If they need some sort of explanation

of the world, however, it Is not because they have (as to penetrate its secrets and repeat to they cannot do without devising an they to themselves [and to

Aristotle and many others have thought) a built-in inclination their consciousness. explanation
to explain themselves

themselves its valuable truths: its because they have a need. created by the very process that creates to themselves---which of their situation within the world. Conversely. to feel satisfted with themselves. and to identify themselves

must feel that they have secured their identity: All human socio-cultural institutions

others) they must be able to tell themselves how they fit into the real world which Is their abode. should be understood as institutions of self-definition.

6 er as means whereby human beings formulate, accumulate, develop, maintain, from one generation to the next the asserttons-eabout selves, and about each other-that repair, and transmit

reality, about their place In realt

tv, about


enable them to make sense of the world and themselves. To say that

these assertions 'make sense' means not only that they are taken to represent the world faithfully, respond to the conditions set for us by the real world. These assertions «mvtcttons, opinions, conclusions, esttmates=and even guesses-that

also that they lead to certain forms of behaviour that are deemed effective and adequate because they are, in other words, the beliefs, taken all together make up of a society are

one's 'idea' of the world and of one's situation within it. All the cultural institutions therefore intimately 1hey all embody, perpetuate, and regulate a proposed=sometrmes €Crlbed-complex. interpretation In what the world is like, in how to livewtthin The assertions

related to each other by virtue of their common function: human self-definition. a coercively advised, if not preand the group are instructed of world and self whereby the individual

it, and in how to live with themselves and each other. and collectively define them-

In this sense, it may be said, they teach us 'the meaning of life: by means of which human beings tndtvtdually selves and construct their identity, whereas others are less important: however. fall in a certain logical order: some are far reaching some embody principles while others concern the consequences of while others are only of human self-definition make up a seamless web, it is

such prtnctples, some are directly and vitally relevant to human self-definition, remotely so. Although. the social institutions

possible to break down human culture conceptually and to analyse human life into components. If we decant a culture's Institutions make up the more superficial 'religion: solutely fundamental. and quotidian

its various social of self-definition and pour off the many layers that
about the meaning of life, but about the abvaluable for conscious exone; we have seen the

levels of the culture's life, the residue is what we call

Religton embodies, then, not simply instruction

meaning of life. Nothing can be more fundamentally

pertencers, however, than to experience their own existence as a meanlngful reasons why this is more important

to them than organic life itself. And yet, human beings cannot be-

come aoq uainted with their own reality as such, or their own selfhood, without sooner or later becoming more or less vividly aware of their contingency. The certainty that this 'I' which is myself will eventually lose the consciousness in any way=tmpltes institution death. E &. C proposes, then. not only that religion is the principal man speetftcrty. but also that its characteristics approach implies that religion is definable by itsj'unctlons, cultural manifestation of the hureflect the origin of consciousness institutions and selfhood. This include. or cluded an interpretation on which it depends-and indeed its ability to experience anything unless it inthat no interpretation of the mortality of world and self would be truly fundamental the fundamental

of life. Religion, to put it more fully than previously, is that meaning of life and

of self definition that is concerned with interpreting

not by its contents. Nothtng m the nature of self-definition

(If the human specificity requires that a society's fundamental even 'an indefinite realm. supernatural and generalized feeling of remoteness:

for instance, the experience of 'the holy.' or of the difference between 'the sacred and the profane:

or that they suppose an extramundane

forces. or alien entities of any sort: no religion is a religion because of uitat it

proposes, but because of uil,y

it does so. Every religion will have. to be sure, speetftc contents; and the

7 study of such contents is most important. need for identity through self-definition. For instance, since religion Is a direct manifestation of the nature of the human mind, the is why no distinction instance, between and mediaeval realm of the religtous cannot be opposed to that of the secular-which the two is made in the immense majortty modem Chrtstiantty+deem But even their content would almost certainly be misinter-

preted unless it were envisaged as a particular way in which a society proceeds to satisfy the human

of religions. A few religions-for

otherwise, The social sciences do the same. All that this demonstrates,

however, Is (a) that these religions operate under a faulty impression therefore also in the shaded light of a flawed perception sciences accept uncritically our religious tradition's Inadequate


the nature of reltgion land

of human nature), and [b) that the SOcial conception of religion, But Greek phi-

losophy, say, must be held religious in nature none the less for Modem Western science, likewise, insofar as way life amount to an interpretation-albeit mon sense of contemporary ing one at that-being dose of humanism. an agnostic one-of

its rationality

and its contents.

its underlying 'philosophy' and its practical outlook as a
the 'most probable' meaning of life a particularly stultify-

and death. must be Judged to be a religion in the proper sense of the term. The typical religrous comWestern culture. too, is a syncretistic reltgton=and and thoughtless an inconsistent blend of. inter alta. many elements of the from the scientific outlook, a

older Western religions from which it stems. a trickle of rationalism much hazy and wishful thinking.

and a very large number of primitive presump-

tions whose origin in the early stages of human evolution will be touched upon below, This is not to say that the contents of human religions depend exclusively upon the vagaries of the human imagination and on the of the human reasoning processes. According to E &. upon certain assumed premises or pnnctples unfcld.: and these principles within the limits of of depend strictly upon the nature C every religion is established

which its evolution must ordinarily

the process through which consciousness came into being when it was generated by speech. To understand this, however, we must go beyond what we have considered so far, namely, the fact that rehgton came into being as integral part of the ortgm of consciousness munication in the transformation of antmal cominto speech. We must also study how religion thus emerged. A of the matter. that speech exhibits in us today. we may observe that we can

however, must be prefaced by further study of the nature of speech. If we examine the characteristics communicate our experience assertively in two quite different ways. First, we can assert our experiand I say to my companion, sign-making. 'Look outl Dangert.' my

ence with direct and immediate reference to the reality that constitutes the context of the assertion. For instance, if I meet a dangerous situation communication assert reality directly and immediately. would be true speech. because it was assertive

But my speech would

Its assertiveness would be of a very different nature from what the direct reference of the assertion is

it would have been if I had said instead, in relation to the same outward events. something like 'This situation Is dangerous!' When we speak 'in complete sentences: to a stated t~ and of the assertion. To be sure, the assertion does ultimately

it is the theme as stated. not reality itself, that provides the immediate context
refer to the reality signified by the theme. of the stated theme. and therefore

But the assertion refers to such reali ty only through the maiiation

is made only with indirect reference to the reality signified by the theme. Thus. both levels of human

8 eommuntcatlon are properly called speech. since both assert a thesis; and at both levels the thesis ul1imately refers to reality. But it is only at the second level of speech that the speaker stipulates
Iheme in relation


to which the thesis is directly and immediately

asserted. Accordingly, I call the

former non-thematic, and the latter thematic, speech. We today use both levels of speech, though it is the second that we depend upon for interpreting reality to ourselves and for communicating such interpretations to others. There is no reason, however, why at a certain stage of evolution human beings should not have been able to speak only at the flrst level, We can Imagine a prehtstortc hunter who knew no more complex way to speak than to say the Neanderlal equivalent of, for instance, 'Deer, watering-hole, spear, come. quick!' but whose comhad acquired munication was nonetheless true speech. For if the signs were asserted, then they did not simply convey a meaning, but had been meant speech-and to convey a meaning. If so, such early human therefore a measure of consd.ousness---although the ability to speak in sentences had not ability. The two levels of speech ap(about reality), but (about

yet appeared. •Speech , is thus not a single-layer communicative

feared successively in the course of evolution when the ability to make assertions reality). but in a context and under conditions stipulated by the speakers themselves. The importance of this for understanding Non-thematic

strictly in the context given to speakers by reality, developed into the ability to make assertions the evolution of consctousness=and

of relig1on-fs

that two different levels of assertive communication speech suffices for the transformation

generate two different levels of oonsotousness. of the ability merely to experience objects into and purely experiential, wordless

the ability to experience them consciously through an immediate assertion of them. That is, non-thematic ability to communieate

speech generates conscious sense perception. The conSCiOUSassertively

ness of human beings today, however, is not restricted. to this level of experience, For the primitive assertively, having first evolved into the ability to comnnmteate Understanding

tilth oneself (Le, to think), ultimately led to the emergence of that further level of conscious expertence that we call the abill.ty to understand. of reality, but a medlateconsctous or both--that is not an immedlate conscious perception perceptton of it; for it is the ability to interpret reality to ourselves Thus, human nature as we developed. into the

by telling ourselves a logically composed, uorcied story+be it worded silently to ourselves, or out loud. satisfies the human need to experience reality meaningfully. form of consciousness, and interpretation emerged, and therefore only then that abbe consciously experienced as an unsatrsfted of satisfythrough an interpretation speech Is interpretative. of the world and know it today evolved. in two stages, as immediate self-defining (or interpretative) (or perceptual) eonsctousness

Well, we can 'deduce that religton emerged at the second stage in the evolution of consciousness; for it was only then that understanding sence of tmderstanding-hence, absence of Identity=could

need affecting one's very selfhood, By the same token, it was only then that the possibility tng the self's need for identity through self-definition-t.e. of one's situation Within it-arose, For only thematic matic speech one can point to reality and communicate each other) a meaningful, sense-making ate consciousness Again, the question of precisely how non-thematic into the self-defining consciousness,

By means of non-the-

it assertively: but to tell ourselves (or to tell evolved into thematic speech, and immedi-

story about reality, thematic speech is reqtared,
shall not be dealt with here except in the one


respect that is directly relevant to present purposes. The transformation lion into the simplest level of speeeh=non-thematic=te

of Infrahuman


explicable by natural

selection. And noncontinue to evolve,

thematic speech led to the emergence of conscious sense perception. The emergence of even the simplest level of conscious experience, however, meant that speech could thereafter but by virtue of socio-cultural processes rather than through natural consciousness had emerged, the possibility light of their consciOUS perception But how was the transition selection. For once perceptual speech appeared. And of consciousness.

thereby existed for human beings to learn to speak in the interpretative or self-deflntng=form

of their own speech. This is how thematic made from non-thematic

speech at-a higher level generated a higher-the

to thematic speech? And why was thts

transition the consequence of human beings havtng become not merely able to speak, but able to speak while experiencing consciously that they were speaking? To answer these questions we must first answer another one. What had to be added to the Simpler level of speech, if speech was to be rendered an interpretative tool? What made thematic speech an instrument whereby conscious sense experience of reality could rise

to that higher level of conscious experience that satisfies our need for self-identity

through situating ourselves Within an understood world? According to E & C the answer is clear: it was the ability to organize our conscious sense experiences in a way that we fmd meaningful because it amounts to reducing the strange to the familiar, and the alien to the intimate; or because it relates our of ourselves. And such abili ty to orthe various experiences of the world to our immediate conscious apprehension

ganize our conscious sense experiences is what by another name we call the coieprtee, acquired the ability to have an immediate conscious experience of themseIves-of causality. their porpostveness, and so on+Iearned

ways in which we relate theses to themes. Thematic speech emerged when human beings, having first their reality, their to use these experiences as categories; that is, when and so on. Asserting their experiences meaningfully, or with un-

they learned to organize their experiences of the world by relating them as theses and themes in accordance with the concepts of reali ty, causality. purposiveness, in this way enabled them.In derstanding. In this construction. understand. then, when human beings developed thematic speech and became able to acquired the need to define themselves and the means to satisfy they had simultaneously institution turn, to experience the world interpretatively,

that need, namely. thematic speech. By the same token, religion had come into being as the fundamental socio-cultural the fundamental of self-definition.

But something else had thereby also come into being:
therefore religlon-would thereafter nec-

assUmptions on which self-deftmtion=and

essarily depend. The reason is as follows. To learn to relate a thesis important perteneers

to a theme as, for instance. what the theme
'efficient causality:

ls, or else as what the

theme brings about, or as what the theme unnts categorteal concepts. 'reality: because such assertions

(we shall be concerned here only with the three most and 'finality') is to learn to organize our that satisfy our needs as conscious exBut why do they 'make

perceptions of the world in thematic assertions and narratives and narratives

'make sense:


Because the ideas of 'being real' (or 'existing.' as we also call it). and of 'bnngmg about' 'effecting,' or however we may put it). and of 'wanting' (or 'intending.'

'causing' or

etc.) are part of our immediate

and direct experience of ourselves: they are tmphctt in the fact that our experience [when it is con-

10 scious) is present to itself and therefore has immediate access to its own reality. causal activity. and purposiveness. But by the same token, to learn to speak thematically about 'reality: 'efficient causality: and elementary
Is automatically

to become that

equipped with certain presuppositions Acquiring these presuppositions The position 'causality:

and 'final causality'

derive from the self-presence of our most primitive
it is the same as acquiring thematic speech.

levels of conscious experience.

is simply the other side of learning how to relate theses and themes; is that we do not first learn the meaning of 'reality,' and

of E & C, therefore,

and 'finality'

from our experience of the outer world. but from our most elementary

primeval self-experience. After having thus learned to experience ourselves. we also learn to understand the reality and the causal and purposive processes of the world by reference to what we have already learned about our own. The consequence, however, is that what we learn about our own reality. causality. and finality determines also the limits within which we can proceed to create the elaborate
systems of self-definition

embodied. developed, and perpetuated by the cultural institutions

we call rein

ligion. Conversely. the contents of all religions begin with certain assumptions the way in which the religions' creators and perpetuators sumptions which is the same, the way in which they have learned to speak thematically.

that are implicit

have learned to relate theses to themes----or The principal
such as-

are about reality and efficient and final causality. The interpretations

that religtons


velop thereafter on the basis of these principles may well, of course, vary wIdely-but tions. Religious thought can exist only within the confines of the religious thinker's sophtsticated matically is.

only within the tacit or explicit.

limits of the speakers' idea [implicit in their practice of speech) of how to construct thematic asseror vague. adi2q I.I.a.U!! or inadi2q uate -but in any event effecttve--sdea of what to speak the-

It is for this reason that certain facts that otherwise should be of little interest to the student of religion become. as E & C proposes. of the utmost significance. To judge by the way in which human beings go about making thematic assertions, we must conclude that mankind different impressions is divided into two of what speakers groups whose speech is guided, respectively. by considerably must do in order to assert a thesis in relation

to a theme. And if we analyse the differences between about reality. efficient causality. and fiprinciples of

the two forms of thematic speech, we may discover that the two ways of speaking imply two different

sets of categorical concepts, two different sets of assumptions
nality. But we have just seen that assumptions integral part of their idea of thematic their self-definition. relrgtous orientations.

of this nature. carried and perpetuated in all cultures as speakers means.

speech, provide cultures with the fundamental

The division of the human species into two kinds of thematic

therefore. that human beings have developed two quite different types of culture based on two different Moreover. E &. C argues that the two forms of speech. and the two sets of assumptions prised in the two forms of speech. are not equally adequate-any mediate self-experience that lead to the different assumptions. gious orientations light of different assumptions
It follows that the two different

comreliin the

more than are the two kinds of im-

that human beings have taken, as they have developed their self-definitions

about reality. causality and finality, also differ in adequacy. Their ade-

quacy can be measured. by their respective effectiveness in helping human betngs procure a healthy

11 identity-the environment measure of such health being in turn the degree to which. any proposed self-definition in which they live. If some religions-and therefore some cultures as a whole---man.tfest forms of the immediate experience

contributes to the adjustment of human beings to themselves, to each other, and even to the physical neurotic forms of human experience and behaviour, whereas others do not. the reason is to be found in their having originated in respectively more or less inadequate that conscious expertencers had of themselves as the thematic g1.nwith unevenly adequate assumptions explained in a little more detail. Consider the way in which we English speakers, and indeed all Indo-European also characteristic of speakers of at least one language, Sumerian. of this exception should be clear aprtori. in the formation speakers. make thematic assertions, This way of speaking is almost. though not altogether. peculiar to the IRs; for it is which is generally deemed to be if we keep in mind the deetstve role non-IE. rrhe importance level of speech and the self-defining But all this should be

level of consciousness emerged in the course of evolution. The reason. in other words, Is that they beabout reality. causality. and finality.

played by the Sumerian tradition

of the religion of the ad Testament), Our practice what reality itself is, For we make thematic in our speech between the thesis and the theme relationship that obtains in reality between be-

of thematic speech implies that speech merely r~s assertions under the supposttton that the relationship represents-that is, in some valid sense dupltcates -the

the reality signified by the thesis and the reality signified by the theme. Thus, the relationship tween the 'terms' or extremes of the sentence-or th em=reproduces cate terms. If

the subject and the predicate, as we usually call

the rel ati on between the realtti es sigtlifi ed respectively by the subj ect and the predi-

every IE predicate is a verb. then. the reason is that. as we IE speakers suppose. the

essence of a thesis Is to reproduce 'what the subj ect


is or does: whereas that of a theme is to rein any other way, because our idea in terms. This is why the one of even when the reality

produce 'that which. ltself is or does what the thesis signifies,' Ooserve, moreover, that we must make assertions in this way: it is impossi ble for us to speak thematically (If thematic speech implies that a sentence without a verb is a contradiction which is 'to

languages used by those who speak this way include one or more special verbs. the principal

be: that

serve to preserve the speech pattern of verbal predication to an action,

signified by the predicate is not an action or readily assimilable nience, the apodictic form of speech,


call this, for conve-

Apodictic speech is grounded on a defective self-perception those who speak apodtctieally asserts, but under the guise of correspondingly,

on the part of the speaker. For

do not assert the thesis under the guise of

its being una:

the sproker

its being a reproduction of uno: rrolity usaf is or does. The theme.

is not asserted as that uiHch I am making an assertton about, but rather


uil1ch points to uItat. in reality is or does uno: the pm'iloote Sign/fles. Speakers like us have difficulty realtzing that the reason why thematic speech is useful is not that it depicts (Le. repro1s) reality, but that it organizes meaningfully our experiences of it. Apodict:l.c speakers speak. therefore. as if speech were not (as it truly is) an original assertion of the speaker's experience. but as if it were (which in fact it is not) a subjective repetttlon Of objective real tty. Apodictic speakers do not necessarily deny, if they are pressed. that when they speak they are in fact asserting what they experience. or that they are asserting it in relation to what they want to


speak about. But they do not assert the thesis or propose the theme mindful that such is the nature of thematic speeeh.Iet alone because it is: they are not altogether unaware of the assertiveness of speech, but they do not grasp that assertiveness Is what defines the difference between speech and mere communication. Theirs Is, therefore, a distorted perception of what in fact one does when one speaks. as well as a dysftmctional way to speak; theirs is the kind of speech that must inevitably tend to promote misinterpretations of world and self. Apodictic speech betokens, then, a certain cloudiness in the conis characterized scious quality of the speaker's experience. And since consciousness Vails in cultures such as our own-an matic speech-as form of thematic absent-mindain.ess. inadequacy that is culturally An absent-minded

by the self-presthat pre-

ence of the activity of experiencing. I refer to this defect in the quality of the consciousness consciousness

perpetuated by the form of thedevelops an absent-minded is

speech: the apodictic. It therefore develops religions whose human inadequacy on which they depend. I will come back to this.

guaranteed by the inadequacy of the assumptions In the immense majority

Utile need be said about the other form of thematic speech--dE;posttional that their experience refers to reality, and that therefore the assertion refers to, and is validated by. the experienced reality. But depositional asserting originally

speech, as I call it.

of cultures. speakers are undoubtedly quite as aware as apodictic speakers of their experience ultimately speakers take responsibility for of apodictic speakers speakers would say.

their experience of a reality that Is altogether mute-whereas

presume to speak as if they were merely allowing reality to 'speak' through the speaker's repetltlon what reality itself asserts. Where we would say 'The flower is red: depositional for instance, 'The flower. red.' The apposition tion tol the flower ihey would use construclions that the relationship

of the thesis to the theme is meant to convey '(In relalack any indication between of milk:

,II afftrml red: And instead of 'The dog barks' 'The child drinks milk,' and the like,
which. though otherwise variable, would uniformly between the thesis and the theme paralleled an analogous relationship 'The child, a drinking

correspondtng aspects of reality. They would say 'The dog. a barking.' and so on, meaning '[ln relation to] the dog. firm] a drinking of milk,' and so on. Depositional pertence--whereas

II assert! a barking,' and 'Iln relation to] the child, (I afof their speech or their exaccurate awareness of

speakers do not project onto reality the assertiveness

apodiettc speakers do. The former speak with a reasonably

the nature of thematic speech, and their speech reveals such awareness; the latter are somewhat msenSible to. and mystified by. the properties of speech. and their confusion is shown by the way in which they proceed to

speak. The

linguistic symptoms of the depositional

form of speech are: [a) the acyectiabsence of the grammatical verbal These lan-

val rather than verbal nature of the thesis, [b) the consequent

function in general. and (e) the absence of copulative verbs such as 'to be' in particular.

guages include. to be sure, names for all the activities that their speakers experience, and indeed for many other objects of experience that can be usefully likened to actions: but they do not include verbally predtcative words, since verbal predication
experience. Is foreign to them. For depositional

speakers never

imagine that their speech repetitively mlmLcs uitat is, but realize that it asserts orlglnaUy unai they The respective assumptions about reality, efficient causality, and finality that condition each

of the two forms of speech are, of course, directly relevant to the study of religions. since they explain

13 the origm of the most fundamental &ton-and indeed. of culture-s! constraints under which cultures have always proceeded to develop Apodictic speakers develop the type of relispeakers create phenomenal

their religtons and therefore all their other institutions. denominate

on.tlc, whereas depositional

meso Suffice it to state here baldly about the ontic and the phenomenal C is derived at greater length from an analysis forms of thematic speech. The key to understanding why apodictic and depositional absen.t-mtnde:i

types of reltgion what in E &.

of the nature of the apodictic and the depoSitional speakers construct their self-defintdepositional

itons on the basis of unevenly adequate assumptions sub-normal form of consciousness=an

is that apodictic speech ortgmated in a defective, one, as I called it above-whereas

speech ortgtnated in a normal one. Let us recall that the human experiences of reality and selfhood are awakened when experteneers, having developed the ability to make their experiential to itself. discriminate activity present between objects and their experience of objects: a little vagueness in the matter,

however, or else a normally clear perception of it, are reflected in the speakers' experience of speaking, and therefore affect the emergence of thematic speech. All we have noted above concerning apodictic and depositional speech could be summed up in the proposition kind of speech that is confused about depositional that the former is an absent-minded form of speech-the maware of it-whereas

its own nature. though not altogether

speech is reasonably normal. It is the kind of speech that is pred-

icated on an adequate perception of the nature of thematic speech. Well. the idea of reality embodied in apodtctic speech is a direct consequence of the absentmindedness of the consciousness that developed apodictic speech. An absent-minded consciousness percetves that it Itself Is real (Le. is other than its objects), but does not perceive it so clearly as to realize that it is real in exactly the same sense as objects are real. It will therefore. by that very fact, operate under the impression that there are degrees of reality in the world: the objective and the ~ectlve.

IE 'tme, it will further take for granted that objective reality itself is not univoeally real: there are deilIees of objective reality. Why? Because whatever can appear to human experience must be deemed
imperfect in the order of reality: the fact that the empirically given world can lend itself to becoming a subjective appearance implies as much. Thus, in comparison It follows that an 'ultimate' awesome-must aboriginally with the subjectivity of experience, the or relative reality. the empiriand objective world we experience is real. but not 'really' real; it has only an apparent
cal world. and which is radically unknowable.

level of reality. a reality which is absolute, which transcends ineffable. unimagmable--end

therefore mysterious

be supposed. It is. I think. not a mere coincidence that all

the religions developed

by the IE peoples, together with Sumerian

religion. have been dominated by the concept of religions developed by depositional for us to

of the transcendent.

whereas no other religion [at least, so far as I have been able to conclude) has To be sure, a small number acculturation. Their history

developed it autochthonously. transcendent understand reality through

speakers [among which I count the religions of the ad Testament and Islam) have acquired the idea of is suffiCiently well known that they adopted from other cultures what their own predispositions would never have al-

lowed them to invent for themselves. I need hardly explain that the transcendent, absolute. or 'really real' reality need not be conceived as a personal one, or indeed even as a concrete entity; it may be, and in fact

it Is usually taken


to be, a vague and abstract 'something' not at all inaccurately described as 'the other side' of the here
below. In any event, however. the ultimate reality must be conceived as omnipotent. ception of absent-minded the concept of fate, necessitation. Transcendent scholars to the contrary-has nate For the self-peror power. Hence speakers also inclines them to think of efficient causality as eompulston reality cannot but be therefore identical with transcendent found in the ontic religions,

another key idea invariably

and one whtch+some

yet to be detected elsewhere. (But such scholars, I think. are hindered by requires; for instance, if one fails to dlsortmiConfucius' 'mandates of

a rather lax idea of what the concept of 'transcendence'

between man's

inability to escape every possible compulsion, and subjection to an all-embracing by a transcendent \Vill, one may well Interpret

and absolute necessrtation concerning finality,

Heaven' as the oriental version of the biblical idea of fate.) As for the apodictic speakers' assumptions

r will

only mention that they lead to an idea of morality with which we are all to do. Whether the commandment source,

familiar: to do what is right is to do what man is commande1

comes from certain necessities inscribed in human nature, from a personal God who legislates morality for human benefit. from a cosmic order or 'law' of Nature, or from any other transcendent what ts in any event a necessary consequence of the onttc mind is that morality contrary, are created for them. The corresponding presuppositions brought by depositional speakers to the construction of phenomenal religions will be yet more selectively dealt with here. I will only mention that in the phenomenal cultures there is one and only one level of reality, and that the reality of the real does not consist in its objectivity or in-Itselfness pear to depositional the phenomenal life-particularly but, on the is a matter of obe1t-

ence, or of abiding by norms of behaviour which are not created by human beings but which, on the

its relatiVity

to other real things: if such reality would ap-

(argmngper impossibilej a certain reality should be absolutely self-sufficient. speakers as indistinguishable

from nothlngness. As for the nature of causality.

cultures take for granted that compulsion and the exertion of force are peculiar to human and animall1fe. There are causal processes in the world. to be sure. but they that the properties of things bear to therefore, it is not only The universe of the phe-

take place in a purely factual way, by Virtue of the relationship

each other. rrhe Tao Te Ching expresses this view more eloquently, perhaps. than many another phenomenal religion. but hardly uniquely.) In these systems of self-definition. man who is not subject to fate; the whole of nature escapes every form. of determinism.

reality is open-ended and, at bottom. unforeseeable. For neither human nor cosmic history have their end in their begtnnmg; in time, all things are possible. Consistently with these assumptions, nomenal cultures cannot but suppose that morality is above all a matter of initiative and creativity.

To do what is right one must first decide utw.t might be right: or more precisely, one must create the opportWlity for doing right. Moral values are not appropriated; they areinvenUd.
E &. C, it will be remembered, proposes a theory of human evolution that tries to account not

only for the origtn of human nature but also for its contlnum sent. In what pertains to the presuppositions of the matter that E

development thereafter

up to the preinstitutions of

on which the ontic and the phenomenal

self -defmttion were founded. however, I have referred here only to their ortgtn, since this is the aspect C is predominantly concerned with. But E C also makes clear that the subseat least in part. by the quent evolution of the self-defining consciousness continued to be condttioned.

l5 same assumptions with which it began. For the presuppositions vtous: the presupposttions instilled in the human mind when it unchanged even

acquired thematic speech have naturally tended to perpetuate themselves culturally, The reason is obare carried by the idea of speech that every culture transmits from one generation to the next, A culture's self-definition spectacular and truly important, of this. Modern Western Civilization has created secular institutions of self-definition to replace origwe inally Christian ones that are no longer generally deemed serviceable. Therefore, it could be truthfully said that. apart from those members of our culture who retain the earlier Western Weltanschauung.

could therefore change in striking.

respects yet perpetuate the same adeq uaci eS-{)T inadeq uactes=-of the among others, the following example

fundamental principles on which it is erected. E & C mentions,

longer believe in fate. (Indeed. even most Christian

believers have diluted considerably

in practice,

though not always in theory. the traditional VIedo not believe in fate in its Cnristum. ways unshakably cal determinism. deternnnism

doctrine of fate.) But it would be more accurate to say that context and form, For we do continue to suspect, if not al(whether in capitalist or Marxist versions). in psych.ologt-

believe, that we are at the mercy of overwhelming forces over which we have little or in genetic determmism, in the determinism of our animal ancestry. and even in the

no control: belief in economic determinism

of the second law of thermodynamics.

continue to depress us and sap our ahl.lity to put to

wise and efficl.ent use what freedom we do have. severely limited and certainly finite though it in fact
But let me add another. more practical instance of the persistence of the assumptions


ated by the characteristics of thematic speech. We in our culture are aware that we suffer from some of the most serious social problems a etvtlizatron has ever had, for instance, widespread mmd-numbtng as a solution for distress and meaninglessness, and the almost institutionalized resort to Violence in
order to redress perceived injustices respecting personal privileges and the distribution
is the solution?

of the commuIn other

nity's weal th=In short. what we usually call. respectively. 'drug abuse' and 'the crime wave: But what The spontaneous response of our culture is: law enacting and enforcing. words, the application of force. Our inveterate tendency to resort to force-:including for the purpose of aehtevmg our individual lated to our supposition finanCial power-

and collective ends, however. cannot be altogether unre-

that causality consists in the exercise of compulsion. That is why many of us

also reason that. if our own power to compel desired effects should not suffice, we can always try to enlist higher ones; for power only tends to prevail. whereas absolute power prevails absolutely. But consider: is it true that social and other human problems can be really force. if only such force be sufficiently powerful and intelligently solved through the application of applied? Indeed. is the real reality of answer would seem self-evi-

the universe correctly conceived as energy? To most of us an affirmative vation of reality so indicates. but that an absent-minded

dent. E & C suggests, however. that the reason why it so seems to most of us is not that careful obserperception of ourselves inclines us so to as-

swne. Unfortunately. in the face of contrary fundamental assumptions even the clearest lesson of past experience cannot be credited. Maybe next time. we endlessly hope. a little more force, or a different form of It-a new God.!f all else failB--'UiU work. E & C recognizes that the history of religions and the evolution of cultures cannot be reduced


to the simple unfolding of the assumptions the development of human self-definition.

with which human self-definition


in various

human groups: I have already mentioned that acculturation

too has obviously played a crucial role in

As cultures come in contact with each other, the opportu-

nity arises for them. to acquire from their neighbours, among other cultural artefacts, convictions about the world and about man's situation within it which they are unlikely to develop on the basis of
their native assumptions nologtcal-humarustic alone. To demonstrate the point I need but point to the mediaeval spread of of the Western scientrftc-techand -perpetuated assumptions But it is Islam to black Africa. or to the more recent world-wide dissemination orientation to peoples whose speech-conditioned

would not have inclined them to develop it ~ themselves. The study of these developments as integral

part of human evolution during historical

times is therefore undoubtedly restricted

most important.

outside the scope to which E &. C has arbitrarily which its author hopes to direct his efforts next.

itself. It is rather

the enquiry towards

Leslie Dewart,

Department of Reltgious Stud!.es, Unrverst ty of Toronto,
Toronto, Oat,