By Robert N. Bellah
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Extra info for Beyond Belief: Essays on Religion in a Post-Traditionalist World
The precise boundary, or, perhaps better, the area of overlap, between what is genetically and what is symbolically controlled is by no means dear, and important research on the problem is continuing. For present purposes it is only necessary to note the relatively broad plasticity for symbolic learning that is usually recognized, at least in the human species. Information in such a system consists largely of symbolic messages that indicate something about either the internal state or the external situation of the action system.
Particular lines of religious development cannot simply be forced into the terms of the scheme. In reality there may be compromise formations involving elements from two stages that I have for theoretical reasons discriminated; earlier stages may, as I have already suggested, strikingly foreshadow later developments; and more developed may regress to less developed stages. And of course no stage is ever completely abandoned; all earlier stages continue to coexist with and often within later ones.
Analysis of historical figures. The first is the application of detailed psychological analysis to significant figures in religious history. Erik H. Erikson, in Young Man Luther,™ has overcome a tendency toward psychological reductionism that was evident in some earlier work of 12 BEYOND BELIEF this sort. He is careful to place Luther's life history in its proper social, historical, and religious context. In doing so, he shows how Luther was able to solve his own problem of identity, which had its roots deep in his unconscious conflicts, through constructive innovation with respect to religious symbolism.
Categories: Comparative Religion