Encyclopedia of Religion
and Society

William H. Swatos, Jr. Editor

Table of Contents | Cover Page  |  Editors  |  Contributors  |  Introduction  |  Web Version


(1859-1941) Held the prestigious chair of modern philosophy at the College de France from 1900 to 1921; awarded the Nobel Prize in 1927.

Around the turn of the century, Bergson wrote a number of influential philosophical works on the role of time (Time and Free Will , Harper 1910 [1889]), memory (Matter and Memory , Swan Sonnenschein 1919 [1896]), and evolutionary creativity (Creative Evolution , Holt 1911 [1907]) in human experience. His philosophy generally emphasized the opposition between human creativity, rooted in life and the inner stream of consciousness, and the spatial objectifications of experience in stable cultural forms and institutions. He later supplemented these ideas with a philosophy of religion (The Two Sources of Morality and Religion , Holt 1935 [1932]), which, among its other features, offered an alternative to the sociological, especially the Durkheimian, view of religion's origins and historical role.

Bergson's theory of two types of religion also reflects his distinction between a measurable, spatially based time, and real duration, the inner flow of the individual's temporal experience. Static religion, through myth and ritual, promotes closed societies and automatism in thought and action, yet defends humanity against the corrosive powers of reason and paralyzing thoughts about death. Dynamic religion involves God's love and desire with multiply creative beings, who advance an open society, and appears in mystical visions.

Donald A. Nielsen

return to Encyclopedia Table of Contents

Hartford Institute for Religion Research   hirr@hartsem.edu
Hartford Seminary, 77 Sherman Street, Hartford, CT 06105  860-509-9500