The historical consciousness of modern Western man, a trait of the cultured mind of the last half-dozen generations, seems to be the legacy to a secular civilization from the historians of the Christian church.
Since the creation of man, to be sure, rudimentary types of historical thought have doubtless existed nearly everywhere. With memory and moral freedom of choice was given to Adam the ethical situation in which historical thought appears, for history is the interpretation of social memory in relation to present decisions and hopes for the future. This absolute beginning of historical thought is forever shrouded in mystery, however, and the earliest records of such thought, ages and centuries later, bear little similarity to our patterns of history. These earliest histories are precisely what the modern historian pursues with puritan hatred, myth and legend. The first histories recount relatively little of what men have done; they tell of natural disasters, wars, and migrations primarily as the deeds of the gods. Modern secular history has sought to escape this religious aspect of its archetype, but if the thesis of this paper is correct, the attempt has been vain, the gods have been exorcised from history only by the power of other gods, and the ancient myths displaced only for a more extravagant mythology. And the vagaries of secular Western history are the recognizable corruptions of Christian church history.