Christian culture 基督教文化学刊

To Kill and Survive or To Die and Become: The Active Life and the Contemplative Life as Ways of Being Adult

Author:Robert Nelly Bellah, Professor of Sociology, University of California, Berkeley



This article describes the rise and the evolution of the classical antithesis: the active life and the contemplative life, in both Eastern and Western culture. With the life-cycle typology of Erik Erikson, it studies the double problem of using the religious/secular contrast for the differentiation of adult roles and for categorizing stages of the life cycle. Platonic and Aristotelian assumptions about man’s essential motivation and the superiority of the life devoted to love of wisdom are presented, along with later modifications, as incorporation of utilitarian factors. Counterparts in Eastern philosophies are identified. The lives of Jefferson and Lincoln are used as illustrations of the modern contemplative in action. Unanswered questions concern the disparity between America’s current materialistic orientation and the transcendent principles on which the nation was founded.



Active life, Contemplative life, Eirk Erikson, religious and secular, Eastern and Western culture


Full Text (International Version):

Robert Nelly BellahSCN JSCC.pdf


Full Text (Simplified Chinese Version): 

Robert Nelly BellahSCN JSCC.pdf