It might seem that heresy is not a particularly urgent subject in Poland’s current situation. First, however, even in the worst times, in the worst circumstances, it is permissible or even necessary to think about matters that are not immediately connected with our situation.
Leszek Kołakowski, Herezja
The books of heretics should be read and not burned, for little other than truth is found there.
Jan Hus, De libris hereticorum legendis
We have decided to devote the next issue of State of Affairs (Stan Rzeczy) to the idea of heresy. We want to test its dialectical potential in contemporary debate. We are interested in how the idea of heresy can function not only in the theology of various religious faiths but above all in philosophy, the social sciences, and the humanities. In what manner could the idea of heresy be used by anthropologists, economists, cultural anthropologists, philosophers, religious scholars, or sociologists? We are also interested in theoretical texts on the category of heresy itself, as well as studies of particular instances (historical phenomena).
Heresy is a call to change; it is a questioning of the existing order. It seems to us an interesting reflection of the world in a time of engrossing – and often even disturbing – change. Historically, the idea of heresy (from the Greek “hairesis,” “choice” or “chosen thing”) is one of the source categories of Christian thought.
The term was used to define the internal tension and conflict in the early Christian community (Galatians 5:20; 1 Corinthians 11:18) or simply erroneous teaching, “pernicious ways” (2 Peter 2:1; Titus 3:10). The context in which heresy appears in Acts 24:14, when Paul of Tarsus speaks to the Roman governor of Jerusalem in the presence of those who accuse him of sowing religious discord, is unusually interesting: “But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy (hairesis), so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets.”
In this fragment, it is Christianity that is described as the “choice” and thus as a “heresy” from the viewpoint of the believers in Orthodox Judaism. However, the idea could also be used to describe social and cultural phenomena that are not connected with the Christian tradition. We are curious what categories of heresy might be used by Arabists or Judaic scholars, or by the scholars of the cultures and religions of the Far East, South America, or Africa.
Heresy is dialectically connected with the concept of orthodoxy. Defining the canon of a tradition, or establishing an obligatory cultural or social model, involves recognizing the entire multiplicity of other variants to be mistaken (orthodoxy vs. heterodoxy).
Immense social consequences ensue. A person who has been described as a “heretic” may be excluded from the community and may be subject to a series of legal measures (including the death penalty). We are also interested in analyses of the means that have been used to deal with heretics and heresy (including excommunication, inquisition, and censorship), and in the fates of heresiarchs, who in going beyond the prevailing religious or cultural model, pushed civilisation in an entirely different direction.
We invite authors to submit texts devoted to the question in the following thematic fields:
- The idea of heresy as a tool of the anthropologist, economist, culture studies scholar, philosopher, religious studies scholar, or sociologist.
- Heresy in Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, or other religious traditions.
- Those particularly exposed to accusations of heresy: mystics, prophets, scholars.
- The great heresiarchs –the influence of “heretic” thinkers on the development or decline of culture.
- Writers as heretics; literature as heresy – the literature studies perspective.
- Heresies – case studies. Heresies and heretics in the history of various religious and cultural traditions.
- The return of heresy: the long life of heretic ideas, rehabilitations, and returns.
- Ways of combating heresy: censorship, excommunication, religious penalties, inquisition, and so forth.
- The effects of heresy: social, moral, cultural, and political. Heresy and social change.
/// Please send proposals containing the article’s title, an abstract of around 500 words, and the author’s name, affiliation, and email address, to firstname.lastname@example.org by 11 November 2019.
/// The authors whose abstracts are accepted will be invited to submit articles by 15 February 2020.
/// Questions should be directed to the editor of the issue Dr. Michał Rogalski, redaktora prowadzącego numer (email@example.com).