a grammatical calculus


Civilization is the fruit borne by religion.  Religion, organically defined, is the domination, suppression and sublimation -- the transformation and metamorphosis -- the, finally, conversion of instinctual urges, drives and needs into abstract beliefs, concepts and ideas.  Religion is the primary constitutive element of human nature, from which it is indivisible: that which distinguishes a human being from an animal existence. 

Any organized human behavior that promotes, enhances, enables or encourages the conversion of instincts into abstractions may, at least for the purposes of this calculus, be considered religious or as constituting a religious institution.  Many of these behaviors are not commonly considered as containing a religious component, but this lack of common consideration does not alter the fact that they nonetheless do in fact contain one.  Some are more efficient, effective and successful at their task than others; some are powerful within human society, some are weak; some are large, some are small; some are obvious, some are obscure; all are functionally identical:  to provide the experience necessary to convert instincts into abstractions.


A result of its religious component, the human organism possesses the capacity to invest its sense of genetic continuity in an abstract form, in addition to, or even in place of, its corporeal form.  The drive towards physical reproduction may be augmented, superimposed, amended or replaced by a drive towards idealical reproduction.  This latter drive we shall call the proselytizing impulse.  It displaces and captures the propulsive energy of the drive towards physical reproduction in any given individual to a degree directly proportional to the degree to which that individual in generating a self conception substitutes an ideal self for his or her physical self. 

The proselytizing impulse in its turn generates the proselytization process.  This process we shall divide into three phases, the first of which, that which initiates the process, is the narrativization phase.  This phase consists of the individual creation or adoption of a conversion narrative.  This is the end product of the narrativization -- the forging of a communicable representation -- of the conversion experience; that experience by means of which the individual converts his or her instinctual urges, drives and needs into abstract beliefs, concepts and ideas which form the basis for the ideal self which he or she now desires to propagate through proselytization.  The narrativization may occur immediately after, or even simultaneously with, the conversion experience, or it may occur at some temporal remove.

The conversion narrative may take whatever form is necessary to convey its contents.  All human behaviors may constitute conversion narratives, fulfilling their roles as such in direct proportion to the degree to which they are organized.  The question of whether one creates an original conversion narrative out of their unique personal experience or adopts one from an established religious institution and makes it their own, while being a question worthy of some consideration, is, for our purposes here, irrelevant.  In a manner analogous to the reality that in practice the individual's domination of his or her animal instincts involves the submission of at least some degree of their personal will to that of one or more religious institutions, the choice between creation and adoption, as in the choice between domination and submission, is between elements that do not so much oppose as complement one another, and are, in any event, inextricable and ultimately indistinguishable from each other, as each exists in a constant state of becoming the other.

The narrativization phase is an interior phase, taking place in the private realm of an individual consciousness.  It concludes at the point when the conversion narrative has achieved the communicable form necessary to enter the public domain and so initiate the second phase, that of replication.  The replication phase consists of the propagation of the conversion narrative throughout its target population until reaching its critical mass.  No conversion narrative emerges from the replication phase with the same form in which it began.  During the course of the replication phase a conversion narrative comes into conflict with the idiosyncrasies of its converts while simultaneously colliding with those competing conversion narratives the target populations of which overlap with its own.  A result of these conflicts and collisions is that the conversion narrative is subjected to any number of displacements, in order to adapt to which it must mutate or regenerate its structure, as well as, in most cases, combine with or be absorbed by that of a competing conversion narrative.  A failure to so adapt results in a failure to complete the replication phase.  A brief profile of such a failure is a conversion narrative in which the propulsive energy of the proselytizing impulse is trapped by a self-reflexivity in an endless cycle of repetition that results in the conversion narrative being rendered immutable, unregenerate and inert. 

Upon achieving critical mass (the calculation of which it is not within the purview of this calculus to attempt, and which is in any case most certainly different for each and every conversion narrative, being a function of its particular nature)  the conversion narrative exits the replication phase and enters the third and final phase, that of institutionalization.  The initiation of this phase is marked by a conservation and consolidation of the mutations, regenerations, combinations and absorptions accomplished during the replication phase.  This process results in the distillation of what will become the orthodox form of the conversion narrative.  It is the formal recognition of this distilled form by the majority of its converts  as orthodox that both signals and allows the establishment of the religious institution:  the final concretization of the initial proselytizing impulse.  Once established the institution immediately proceeds to encode the orthodox form of its conversion narrative into its rituals, practices and texts; and so draws to a close the institutionalization phase. 

It is certainly possible for even the orthodox form of a conversion narrative to change as a result of being subjected to forces outside its control.  The  rate of change possible after institutionalization is, however, severely constrained.  The present rate of change possible is a function of the critical mass that was necessary for the particular conversion narrative to initiate institutionalization and is inversely proportional to the present mass of the institution.  Any change in excess of this so determined rate results in a catastrophic collapse of the institution, at which point the fragmented pieces -- individuals and groups -- all must reenter the proselytzation process at either the narrativization phase or the replication phase, depending on the degree of damage done to their respective conversion narratives.


The ultimate aim of the religious institution is to create a homogenous order:  an order in which a specific group of instincts -- the same for all adherents -- are channeled through the identical conversion narrative;  the nature of this channel determining the character of the order it produces as it fixes the identity of its adherents.  Many different orders of this sort do, quite obviously, exist simultaneously, and not necessarily in geographically distinct areas.  Indeed, under normal circumstances, any number may coexist within a single individual. 

Finally, several of these institutions -- those of economical and political natures being primary among them -- function as meta-, or, more precisely, anabolic religions, serving to discern and, if need be, to create common denominators between the host of orders, with which to bind them systematically in common society with each other and with the material world.  This system generates and maintains civilization.