Religious Development in Morocco and Indonesia
C. Geertz. 
1. Two Countries, Two Cultures
Of all the dimensions of the uncertain revolution now underway in the new states of Asia and Africa,
surely the most difficult to grasp is the religious. It is not measurable as, however inexactly, economic change is. It is
not, for the most part, illuminated by the instructive explosions that mark political development: purges, assassinations,
coups d'etat, border wars, riots and here and there an election. Such proven indices of mutation in the forms of social life
as urbanization, the solidification of class loyalties, or the growth of a more complex occupational system are, if not wholly
lacking, certainly rarer and a great deal more equivocal in the religious sphere, where old wine goes as easily into new bottles
as old bottles contain new wine. It is not only very difficult to discover the ways in wich the shapes of religious experience
are changing, or if they are changing at all; it is not even clear what sorts of things one ought to look at in order to find
The comparitive study of religion has always been plagued by this peculiar embarrassment: the elusiveness
of its subject matter. The problem is not one of constructing definitions of religion. We have had quite enough of those;
their number is a syptom of our malaise. It is a matter of discovering just what sorts of beliefs and practices support what
sorts of faith under what sorts of conditions. Our problem, and it grows worse by the day, is not to define religion but to
This may seem an odd thing to say. What is in those thick volumes on totemic myths, initiation rites,
witchcraft beliefs, shamanistic performances, and so on, wich etnographers have been compiling with such ashtonishing industry
for over a century? or in the equally thick and not much more readable works by historians on the development of Judaic law,
Confucian philosophy or Christian theology? Or in the countless sociological studies of such institutions as Indian caste
or Islamic sectarianism, Japanese emperor worship or African cattle sacrifice? Do they not contain our subject matter? The
answer is, quite simply, no: they contain the record of our search for our subject matter. The search has not been without
its successes, and our appointed task is to keep it going and enlarge its successes. But the aim of the systematic study of
religion is, or anyway ought to be, not just to describe ideas, acts and institutions, but to determine just how and in what
way particular ideas, acts and institutions sustain, fail to sustain, or even inhibit religious faith - that is to say, steadfast
attachment to some transtemporal conception of reality.
There is nothing mysterious in this, nor anything doctrinal. It merely means that we must distinguish
between a religious attitude toward experience and the sorts of social apparatus wich have, over time ad space, customarily
been associated with supporting such an attitude. When this is done, the comparitive study of religion shifts from a kind
of advanced curio collecting to a kind of not very advanced science; from a discipline in wich one merely records, classifies,
and perhaps even generalizes about data deemed, plausibly enough in most cases, to have something to do with religion to one
in wich one asks close questions of such data, not the least important of wich is just what does it have to do with religion.
We can scarcely hope to get far with the analysis of religious change - that is to say, what happens to faith when its vehicles
alter - if we are unclear as to what in any particular case its vehicles are and how (or even if) in fact they foster it.
Whatever the ultimate sources of the faith of a man or group of men may or may not be, it is indisputable
that it is sustained in this world by symbolic forms and social arrangements. What a given religion is - its specific content
- is embodied in the images and metaphors its adherents use to characterize reality; it makes, as Kenneth Burke once pointed
out, a great deal of difference wether you call life a dream, a pilgrimage, a labyrinth, or a carnival. But such a religion's
career - its historical course - rests in turn upon the institutions wich render these images and metaphors available to those
who thus employ them. It is really not much easier to conceive of Cristianity without Gregory than without Jesus. Or if that
remark seems tendentious (wich it is not), then Islam without the Ulema than without Muhammad; Hinduism without caste than
without Vedas; Confucianism without the mandarinate than without the Analects; Navaho religion without Beauty Way than without
Spider Woman. Religion may be a stone thrown into the world; but it must be a palpable stone and someone must throw it.
If this accepted(and if it is not accepted the result is to remove religion not merely from scholarly
examination and rational discourse, but from life altogether), then even a cursory glance at the religious situation in the
new states collectively or in any one of them seperately will reveal the major direction of change: established connections
between particular varieties of faith and the cluster of images and institutions wich have classically nourished them are
for certain people in certain circumstances coming unstuck. In the new states as in the old, the intriguing question for the
anthropologist is, "How do men of religious sensibility react when the machinery of faith begins to wear out? What do they
do when traditions falter?"
They do, of course, all sorts of things. They lose their sensibility. Or they channel it into ideological
fervor. Or they adopt an imported creed. Or they turn worriedly in upon themselves. or they cling even more intensely to the
faltering traditions. Or they try to rework thjose traditions into more effective forms. Or they split themselves in half,
living spiritually in the past and physically in the present. Or they try to express their religiousness in secular activities.
And a few simply fail to notice their world is moving or, noticing, just collapse.
But such general answers are not really very enlightening, not only because they are general but because
they glide past that wich we most want to know: by what means, what social and cultural processes, are these movements toward
skepticism, political enthusiasm, conversion, revivalism, subjectivism, secular piety, reformism, double-mindedness, or whatever,
taking place? What new forms of architecture are housing these accumulating changes of heart?
In attempting to answer grand questions like this, the anthropologist is always inclined to turn toward
the concrete, the particular, the microscopic. We are the miniaturists of the social sciences, painting on liliputian canvases
with what we take to be delicate strokes. We hope to find in the little what eludes us in the large, to stumble upon general
truths while sorting through special cases. At least I hope to, and in that spirit I want to discuss religious change in the
two countries in wich I have worked at some length, Indonesia and Morocco. They make from some points of vieuw an odd pair:
a rarefied, somewhat overcivilized tropical Asian country specled with Dutch culture, and a taut, arid, rather puritanical
Mediterranean one varnished with French. But from some other points of vieuw - including the fact that they are both in some
enlarged sense of the word Islamic - they make an instructive comparison. At once very alike and very different, they form
a kind of commentary on one another's character.
Their most obvious likeness is, as I say, their religious affiliation; but it is also, culturally
speaking at least, their most obvious unlikeness. They stand at the eastern and western extremities of the narrow band of
classical Islamic civilization wich, rising in Arabia, reached out along the midline of the Old World to connect them, and
, so located, they have participated in the history of that civilization in quite different ways, to quite different degrees,
and with quite different results. They both incline toward Mecca, but, the antipodes of the Muslim world, they bow in opposite
As a Muslim country, Morocco is of course the older. The first contact with Islam - a military one,
as the Ummayads made their first brief bid for sovereignty over Alexander's "all the inhabited world" - came in the
seventh century, only fifty years after the death of Muhammad; and byt the middle of the eigth century a solid, if not exactly
indestructible, Muslim foothold had been established. Over the next three centuries it was rendered indestructible, and the
great age of Berber Islam, the one wich Ibn Khaldun looked back upon with such a modern blend of cultural admiration and sociological
despair, began. One after the other, the famous reforming dynasties - Almoravids, Almohads, Merinids - swept out what the
French, with fine colonial candor, used to call "le Maroc inutile", the forts and oases of the pre-Sahara, the walled-in rivers
and pocket plateaus of the High Atlas, and the wastes of the Algerian steppe, into le Maroc inutile, the mild and watered
Cis-Atlas plains. Bulding and rebuolding the great cities of Morocco - Marrakech, Fez, Rabat, Salé, Tetuan - they penetrated
Muslim Spain, absorbed its culture and, reworking it into their own more strenuous ethos, reproduced a simplified version
of it on their side of Gibraltar. The formative period both of Morocco as a nation and of Islam as its creed (roughly 1050
to 1450) consisted of the peculiar process of tribal edges falling in upon an agricultural center and civilizing it. It was
the periphery of the country, the harsh and sterile frontiers, that nourished and in fact created the advanced society wich
devloped at its heart.
As time went on, the contrast between the artisans, notables, scholars, and shopkeepers assembled
within the walls of the great cities and the farmers and pastoralists scattered thinly over the countryside around them naturally
widened. The former developed a sedentary society centered on trade and craft, the latter a mobile one centered on herding
and tillage. Yet the difference between the two was far from absolute; townsman and countryman did not live in different cultural
worlds but, a few withdrawn highland groups perhaps aside, in the same one differently situated. Rural and urban society were
variant states of a single system ( and there were, in fact, a half-dozen versions of each). Far from unaffecting one another,
their interaction, though often antagonistic, was continuous and intense and provided the central dynamic of historical change
in Morocco from the founding of Fez at the beginning of the ninth century to its occupation by the French at the beginning
of the twentieth.
There were several reasons for this. The first is that, as mentioned, the towns were at base tribal
creations and, transient moments of introversion aside, largely remained so. Each major phase of civilization ( and indeed
most minor ones as well) began with a breaching of the gates by some ambitious local chieftain whose religious zeal was the
source of both his mabition and his chieftainship.
Second, the combination of the intrusion into the western plains after the thirteenth century of marauding
Bedouin Arabs, and the fact that Morocco is located not at the core of the grain-growing world but at its furthest frontiers,
prevented the development of amture peasant culture wich would have buffered tribesmen from townsmen and allowed them, milking
the peasantry of tribute or taxes, to go more independently along their seperate ways. As it was, neither urban nor rural
life was ever altogether viable. The cities, under the leadership of their viziers and sultans, tried always to reach out
around them to control the tribes. But the latter remained footloose and refreactory, as well as unrewarding. The uncertainty
of both pastoralism and agricluture in this climatically irrewgular, physically ill-endowed, and somewhat despoiled environment
impelled tribesmen sometimes into the cities, if not as conquerors then as refugees, sometimes out of their reach in mountain
passes or desert wastes, and sometimes toward encircling them and, blocking the trade routes from wich they lived, extorting
from them. The political metabolism of traditional Morocco consisted of two but inetermittently workable economies attempting,
according to season and cicrumstance, to feed off one another.
An third, the cities were not crystal islands set in a shapeless sea. The fluidity of town life was
hardly less than that of rural, just somewhat more confined, while the forms of tribal society were as clearly outlined as
those of metropolitan. In fact, adjusted to different environments, they were the same forms, animated by the same ideals.
What varid in traditional Morocco was less the kind of life different groups of people attempted to live than the ecological
niches in wich they attempted to live it.
Andalusian decorations, Berber folkways, and Arabian statwcraft to the contrary notwithstanding, therefore,
the basic style of life in, to use another term from the pointed rhetoric of the Protectorate, le Maroc disparu, was about
everywhere the same: strenuous, fluid, violent, visionary, devout, and unsentimental, but above all, self-assertive. It was
a society in wich a very great deal turned on force of character and most of the rest on spiritual reputation. In town and
out, its leitmotivs were strong-man politics and holyman piety, and its fulfillments, small and large, tribal and dynastic,
occurred when, in the person of a particular individual, they momentarily fused. The axial figure, wether he was storming
walls or building them, was the warrior saint.
This is particularly apparent at the great transitional points of Moroccan history, the recurring
changes of political direction in wich its social identity was forged. Idris II, the ninth-century builder of Fez and the
country's first substantial king, was at once a descendant of the Prophet, a vigorous military leader, and a dedicated religious
purifier and would not have amounted to much as any one of these had he not concurrently been the other two. Both the Almoravid
and Almohad movements were founded - the first around the middle of the eleventh century, the second toward the middle
of the twelfth - by visionary reformers returning from the Middle East determined not just to inveigh against error but to
dismember its carriers. The exhaustion, in the fifteenth century, of the revolution they began, and the collapse of the political
order that revolution had created, was followed in turn by what was probably the greatest spiritual dislocation the country
ever experienced: the so-called Maraboutic Crisis. Local holy men, or marabouts - descendants of the Prophet, leaders of Sufi
brotherhoods, or simply vivid individuals who had contrived to make something uncanny happen - appeared all over the landscape
to launch private bids for power. The period of theocratic anarchy and sectarian enthusiasm thus inaugurated was arrested
only two centuries later ( and then only very partially) with the rise, under yet one more reform-bent descendant of Muhammad,
of the still reigning Alawite dynasty. And finally, when after 1911 the French and Spanish moved in to take direct control
of the country, it was a series of such martial marabouts, scattered along the edges of the crumbling kingdom, who rallied
the population, or parts of it, for the last brave, desperate attempt to revive the old order, the Morocco that had, in the
course of the previous half-century, begun slowly but inexorably to disappear.
In any case, the critical feature of that Morocco so far as we are concerned is that its cultural
center of gravity lay not, paradoxical as this may seem, in the great cities, but in the mobile, aggressive, now federated,
now fragmented tribes who not only harassed and exploited them but also shaped their growth. It is out of the tribes that
the forming impulses of Islamic civilization in Morocco came, and the stamp of their mentality remained on it, whatever Arabo-Spanish
sophistications urban religious scholars, locking themselves away from the local current, were avle in a few selected corners
and for a few chromatic moments, to introduce. Islam in Barbary was - and to a fair extent still is - basically the Islam
of saint worship and moral severity, magical power and aggressive piety, and this was for all practical purposes true in the
alleys of Fez and Marrakech as in the expanses of the Atlas or the Sahara.
Indonesia is, as I say, another matter altogether. Rather than tribal it is, and for the whole of
the Christian era has been, basically a peasant society, particularly in its overpowering heartland, Java. Intensive, extremely
productive wet rice cultivation has provided the main economic foundations of its culture for about as long as we have record,
adn rather than the restless, aggressive, extroverted sheikh husbanding his resources, cultivating his reputation, and awaiting
his oppurtunity, the national archetype is the settled, industrious, rather inward plowman of twenty centuries, nursing his
terrace, placating hisneighbours, and feeding his superiors. In Morocco civilization was built on nerve; in Indonesia, on
Further, not only was classical Indonesian civilization founded upon the rock of a spectacularly productive
peasant economy, but it was not in the first instance Islamic at all, but Indic. Unlike the way it moved into Morocco, Islam
- wich arrived with genuine definitiveness only after the fourteenth century - did not, except for a few pockets in Sumatra,
Borneo and the Celebes, move into an essentially virgin area, so far as high culture was concerned, but into one of Asia's
greatest political, aesthetic, religious, and social creations, the Hindu-Buddhist Javanese state, wich though it had by then
begun to weaken, had cast its roots so deeply into Indonesian society (especially on Java, but not only there) that ts impress
remained proof not just to Islamization, but to Dutch imperialism and, so far anyway, to modern nationalism as well. It is
perhaps as true for civilizations as it is for men that, however much they may later change, the fundamental dimensions of
their character, the structure of possibilities within wich they will in some sense always move, are set in the plastic period
when they first are forming. In Morocco, this period was the age of the Berber dynasties, wich, whatever their local peculiarities,
were at least generally driven by Islamic ideals and concepts. In Indonesia, it was the age (roughly contemporaneous, actually)
of the great Indic states - Mataram, Singosari, Kediri, Madjapahit - wich, though also importantly shaped by local traditions,
were generally guided by Indic theories of cosmic truth and metaphysical virtue. In Indonesia Islam did not construct a civilization,
it appropiated one.
These two facts, that the main impulse for the development of a more complex culture - true state
organization, long-distance trade, sophisticated art, and universalistic religion - grew out of a centrally located peasant
society upon wich less developed outlying regions pivoted, rather than the other way around, and that Islam penetrated this
axial culture well after it had been securely established, account for the overall cast Islam has taken in Indonesia. Compared
to North Africa, the Middle East, and even to Muslim India, whose brand of faith it perhaps most closely resembles, Indonesian
Islam has been, at least until recently, remarkably malleable, tentative, syncretisticm, and , most significantly of all,
multivoiced. What for so many parts of the world, and certainly for Morocco, has been a powerful, if not always triumphant,
force for cultural homogenization and moral consensus, for the social standardization of fundamental beliefs and values, has
been for Indonesia a no less powerful one for cultural diversification, for the crystalization of sharply variant, even incompatible,
notions of what the world is really like and how one ought therefore to set about living in it. In Indonesia Islam has taken
many forms, not all of them Koranic, and whatever it brought to the sprawling archipelago, it was not uniformity.
Islam came, in any case, by sea and on the heels not of conquest but of trade. Its initial triumphs
were consequently along the coastal areas rimming the tranquil Java Sea and its approaches - the bustling ports, merchant
princedoms actually, of northern Sumatra, southwest Malaya, south Borneo, south Celebes, and, most important of all, north
Java. In the non-Javanese areas the new faith (new in form anyway; as it had come to the island not out of Arabia but India,
it was not quite so new in substance) remained largely confined to the coastal areas, to the harbor towns and their immediate
environs. But on Java, where the cultural center of gravity was inland in the great volcanic rise basins and where European
presence along the coast soon became the commanding force, it had a rather different career. In the Outer Island enclaves
it remained, or at least developed into, the sort of exclusivistic, undecorated, and emphatic creed we asociate with the main
line of Muslim tradition, though even there the entanglement with Indian pantheism, in both the archipelago and the subcontinent,
gave it a perceptibly theosophical tinge. In Java, however - where, in the end, the overwhelming majority of Indonesian Muslims
were to be found - the tinge became at once a great deal deeper and much less evenly suffused.
As the Dutch closed in upon Java from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries, a rather curious
process of cultural and religios diversification took place under the general cover of overall Islamization. The indigenous
trading classes, among whom Islam had taken its firmest hold, were driven away from international commerce toward domestic
peddling, and thus away from the sea toward the interior; the highly Indicized native ruling classes were reduced to the status
of civily servants, administering Dutch policies at the local level; the peasantry, drawn more and more into the orbit of
a colonial export economy, folded back upon itself in a paroxysm of defensive solidarity. And each of these major groups absorbed
the Islamic impulse in quite different ways.
The gentry, deprived of Indic ritualism but not of Indic pantheism, became increasingly subjectivist,
cultivating an essentially illuminationist approach to the divine, a kind of Far Eastern gnosticism, complete with cabalistic
specualtions and metapsychic exercises. The peasantry absorbed Islamic concepts and practices, so far as it understood them,
into the same general Southeast Asian folk religion into wich it had previously absorbed Indian ones, locking ghosts, gods,
jinns, and prophets together into a strikingly contemplative, even philosophical, animism. And the trading classes, relying
more and more heavily upon the Meccan pilgrimage as their lifeline to the wider Islamic world, developed a compromise between
what flowed into them along this line ( and from their plainer colleagues in the Outer Islands) and what they confronted in
Java to produce a religious system not quite doctrinal enough to be Middle eastern and not quite ethereal enough to be South
Asian. The overall rsult is what can properly be called syncretism, but it was a syncretism the order of whose elements, the
weight and meaning given to its various ingredients, differed markedly, and what is more important, increasingly, from one
sector of the society to another.
In short, to say that Morocco and Indonesia are both Islamic societies, in the sense that most everyone
in them (well over nine-tenths of the population in either case) professes to be a Muslim, is as much to point up their
differences as it is to locate their similarities. Religious faith, even when it is fed from a common source, is as much a
particularizing force as a generalizing one, and indeed whatever universality a given reliious tradition manages to attain
arises from its ability to engage a widening set of individual, even idiosyncratic, conceptions of life and yet somehow sustain
and elaborate them all. When it succeeds in this, the result may indeed as often be the distortion of these personal visions
as their enrichment, but in any case, wether deforming private faiths or perfecting them, the tradition usually prospers.
When it fails, however, to come genuinely to grips with them at all, it either hardens into scholasticism, evaporates into
idealism, or fades into eclecticism; that is to say, it ceases, except as a fossil, a shadow, or a shell, really to exist.
The central paradox of religious development is that, because of the progressively wider range of spiritual experience with
wich it is forced to deal, the further it proceeds, the more precarious it gets. Its successes generate its frustrations.
Surely this has been the case for Islam in Morocco and Indonesia. And this is true wether one talks
about that largely spontaneous, for the most part slower moving, spiritual evolution wich took place from the implantation
of the creed to somehwere around the beginning of this century or the end of the last, or about the painfully self-conscious
questionings wich, with accelerating speed and rising insistency, have been accumulating since that time. In both societies,
despite the radical differences in the actual historical course and ultimate (that is, contemporary) outcome of their religious
development, Islamization has been a two-sided process. On the one hand, it has consisted of an effort to adapt a universal,
in theory standardized and essentially unchangeable, and unsually well-integrated system of ritual and belief to the realities
of local, even individual, moral and metaphysical perception. On the other, it has consisted of a struggle to maintain, in
the face of this adaptive flexibility, the identity of Islam not just as religion in general but as the particular directives
communicated by God to mankind through the preemtory prophecies of Muhammad.
It is the tension between these two necessities, growing progressivley greater as, first gradually
and then explosively, the way men and groups of men saw life and assessed it became more and more various and incommensurable
under the impress of dissimilar historical experiences, growing social complexity, and heightened self-awareness, that
has been the dynamic behind the expansion of Islam in both countries. But is is this tension, too, that has brought Islam
in both countries to what may, without any concession to the apocalyptic temper of our time, legitimately be called a crisis.
In Indonesia as in Morocco, the collision between what the Koran reveals, or what Sunni(that is, orthodox) tradition has come
to regard it as revealing, and what men who call themselves Muslims actually believe is becoming more and more inescapable.
This is not so much because the gap between the two is greater. It has always been very great, and I should not like to have
to argue that the Javanese peasant or Berber sheperd of 1700 was any closer to the Islam of Ash-Shafi'i or Al-Ghazali than
are the Westernized youth of today's Djakarta or Rabat. It is because, giving the increasing diversification of individual
experience, the dazzling multiformity wich is the hallmark of modern consciousness, the task of Islam (and indeed of any religious
tradition) to inform the faith of particular men and to be informed by it is becoming ever more difficult. A religion wich
would be catholic these days has an extraordinary variety of mentalities to be catholic about; and the question, can it do
this and still remain a specific and persuasive force with a shape and identity of its own, has a steadily more problematic
The overall strategies evolved in Morocco and in Indonesia during the premodern period for coping
with this central dilemma - how to bring exotic minds into the Islamic community without betraying the vision that created
it - were, as I have indicated, strikingly different, indeed almost diametrical opposites, with the result that the shapes
of the religious crises wich their populations now face are to a certain extent mirror images of one another.
In Morocco the approach developed was one of uncompromising rogorism. Aggressive fundamentalism, an
active attempt to impress a seamless orthodoxy on the entire population, became, not without struggle, the central theme.
This is not to say that the effort has been uniformly succesful, or that the concept of orthodoxy that emerged was one that
the rest of the Islamic world would necessarily recognize as such. But, distinctive and perhaps even errant as it was, Moroccan
Islamism came over the centuries to embody a marked strain of religious and moral perfectionism, a persisting determination
to establish a purified, canonical, and completely uniform creed in this, on the face of it, unpromising setting.
The Indonesian ( and especially Javanese) mode of attack was, as I say, quite the contrary: adaptive,
absorbent, pragmatic and gradualistic, a matter of partial compromises, half-way covenants. and outright evasions. The Islamism
wich resulted did not even pretend to purity, it pretended to comprehensiveness; not to an intensity but to a largeness of
spirit. here, too, one ought not to take the aim for the achievement, nor to deny the presence of unconformable cases. But
that over its general course Islam in Indonesia has been as Fabian in spirit as in Moroccan it has been Utopian is beyond
much doubt. It is also beyond much doubt that, whatever they may origanlly have had to recommend them, neither of these strategies,
the prudential of the headlong, is any longer working very well, and the Islamization of both countries is consequently in
some danger not only of ceasing to advance but in fact of beginning to recede.
As far as religion is concerned, therefore, the tale of these two people is essentially the story
of how they have arrived, or more accurately are in the process of arriving, at obverse forms of the same predicament. But,
in some contrast to the way in wich spiritual confusion is usually conceived in the West, this predicament is less a matter
of what to believe as of how to believe it. Vieuwed as a social, cultural, and psychological ( that is to say, a human) phenomenon,
religiousness is not merely knowing the truth, or what is taken to be the truth, but embodying it, living it, giving oneself
unconditionally to it.
In the course of their seperate social histories, the Moroccans and the Indonesians created, partly
out of Islamic traditions, partly out of others, images of ultimate reality in terms of wich they both saw life and sought
to live it. Like all religious conceptions, these images carried within them their own justification; the symbols (rites,
legends, doctrines, objects, events) through wich they were expressed were, for those responsive to them, intrinsically coercive,
immediately persuasive - they glowed with their own authority. It is this quality that they seem gradually to be losing, at
least for a small but growing minority. What is believed to be true has not changed for these people, or not changed very
much. What has changed is the way in wich it is believed. Where there once was faith, there now are reasons, and not
very convincing ones; what once were deliverances are now hypotheses, and rather strained ones. There is not much outright
skepticism around, or even much conscious hypocrisy, but there is a good deal of solemn self-deception. [Note: Site owner
does not agree with this statement]
In Morocco this most frequently appears as a simple disjunction between the forms of religious life,
particularly the more properly Islamic ones, and the substance of everyday life. Devoutness takes the form of an almost deliberate
segregation of what one learns from experience and what one receives from tradition, so that perplexity is kept at bay and
doctrine kept intact by not confronting the map with the landscape it is supposed to iiluminate - Utopia is preserved by rendering
it even more utopian. In Indonesia it most frequently appears as a proliferation of abstractions so generalized, symbols so
allusive, and doctrines so programmatic that they can be made to fit any form of experience at all. The eloquence of felt
particulars is smothered in a blanket of vacant theories wich, touching everything, grasp nothing - Fabianism ends in elevated
vagueness. But, formalism or intellectualism, it really comes down to about the same thing: holding religious vieuws rather
than being held by them.
All this is, however, still but a crumbling at the edges; the cores of both populations still cling
to the classical symbols and find them compelling. Or anyway largely so; the mere awareness on the part of those for whom
the inherited machinery of faith still works passably well ( wich is probably the most it has ever done) that it does not
work nearly so well for a growing number of others casts a certain shadow over the finality of their own perceptions. Even
more important, those for whom the grasping power of the classical symbols has weakened have, with only scattered exceptions,
not become impervious to that power altogether, so that rather than opting for an internal or an external approach to believing
they fluctuate uncertainly and irregularly between them, seeing the symbols now as emanations of the sacred, now as representations
of it. A few untroubled traditonalists at onepole and even fewer radical secularists at the other aside, most Moroccans and
Indonesians alternate between religiousness and what we might call religious-mindedness with such a variety of speeds and
in such a variety of ways that it is very difficult in any particular case to tell where the one leaves off and the other
begins. In this, as in so many things, they are, like most of the people of the Third World, like indeed most of those of
the First and Second, rather thoroughly mixed up. As time goes on, the number of people who desire to believe, or anyway feel
they somehow ought to, decreases much less rapidly than the number who are, in a properly religious sense, able to. And in
this rather demographic-looking fact lies the interest of religion for those of us who would like to uncover the dynamics
and determine the directions of social change in the new states of Asia and Africa.
Alterations in the general complexion of spiritual life, in the character of religious sensibility,
are more than just intellectual reorientations or shifts in emotioanl climate, bodiless changes of the mind. They are also,
and more fundamentally, social processes, transformations in the quality of collective life. Neither thought nor feeling is,
at least among humans, autonomous, a self-contained stream of subjectivity, but each is inescapably dependent upon the utilization
by individuals of socially available "systems of significance" , cultural constructs embodied in language, custom, art and
technology - that is to say, symbols. This is a strue for religiousness as it s for any other human capacity. Without collectively
evolved, socially transmitted, and culturally objectified patterns of meaning - myths, rites, doctrines, fetishes, or whatever
- it would not exists. And when these patterns alter, as, given the impermanence of terrestrial things, they inevitably and
indeed continuously do, it alters with them. As life moves, persuasion moves with it and indeed helps to move it.