Viewed in this light, life itself appears as a dynamics of integration that is equipped with auto-therapeutic or 'endo-clinical' competencies and refers to a species-specific space of surprise. It has an equally innate and - in higher organisms - adaptively acquired responsibility for the injuries and invasions it regularly encounters in its permanently allocated environment or conquered surroundings. Such immune systems could equally be described as organismic early forms of a feeling for transcendence: thanks to the efficiency of these devices, which are constantly at the ready, the organism actively confronts the potential bringers of its death, opposing them with its endogenous capacity to overcome the lethal. Such functions have earned immune systems of this type comparisons to a 'body police' or border patrol. But as the concern, already at this level, is to work out a modus vivendi with foreign and invisible powers - and, in so far as these can bring death, 'higher' and 'supernatural' ones - this is a preliminary stage to the behaviour one is accustomed to terming religious or spiritual in human contexts. For every organism, its environment is its transcendence, and the more abstract and unknown the danger from that environment, the more transcendent it appears.
The hero of the following account, Homo immunologicus, who must give his life, with all its dangers and surfeits, a symbolic framework, is the human being that struggles with itself in concern for its form. We will characterize it more closely as the ethical human being, or rather Homo repetitious, Homo artista, the human in training. None of the circulating theories of behaviour or action is capable of grasping the practising human - on the contrary: we will understand why previous theories had to make it vanish systematically, regardless of whether they divided the field of observation into work and interaction, processes and communications, or active and contemplative life. With a concept of practice based on a broad anthropological foundation, we finally have the right instrument to overcome the gap, supposedly unbridgeable by methodological means, between biological and cultural phenomena of immunity - that is, between natural processes on the one hand and actions on the other.
The stakes in this game are not low. Our enterprise is no less than the introduction of an alternative language, and with the language an altered perspective, for a group of phenomena that tradition tended to refer to with such words as 'spirituality', 'piety', 'morality', 'ethics' and 'asceticism'. If the manoeuvre succeeds, the conventional concept of religion, that ill-fated bugbear from the prop studios of modern Europe, will emerge from these investigations as the great loser. Certainly intellectual history has always resembled a refuge for malformed concepts - and after the following journey through the various stations, one will not only see through the concept of 'religion' in its failed design, a concept whose crookedness is second only to the hyper-bugbear that is 'culture'.
In truth, the crossing from nature to culture and vice versa has always stood wide open. It leads across an easily accessible bridge: the practising life. People have committed themselves to its construction since they came into existence - or rather, people only came into existence by applying themselves to the building of said bridge. The human being is the pontifical creature that, from its earliest evolutionary stages, has created tradition-compatible connections between the bridgeheads in the bodily realm and those in cultural programes. From the start, nature and culture are linked by a broad middle ground of embodied practices - containing languages, rituals and technical skills, in so far as these factors constitute the universal forms of automatized artificialities. This intermediate zone forms a morphologically rich, variable and stable region that can, for the time being, be referred to sufficiently clearly with such conventional categories as education, etiquette, custom, habit formation, training and exercise - without needing to wait for the purveyors of the 'human sciences', who, with all their bluster about culture, create the confusion for whose resolution they subsequently offer their services.