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Way of Life and/as Religious Knowledge: Premodern Constellations

A175
Panel Chairs: Alexandra Stellmacher, Alessandro Stavru | Friday, August 28, 3:30-5:30 p.m. | Venue

With special focus on the agents of religious innovation the panel aims at exploring the dynamic relationship between way of life and religious knowledge up to Pre-Modern times. Religious knowledge is strongly linked to individual and collective practices and discourses. We are especially interested in the dynamic mechanisms of innovation processes which involve both agents (founding/ charismatic figures) and their lifestyles as well as the making of canons and institutions. Therefore, our panel explores the developments of religious knowledge (e.g. ascetical, anthropological, eschatological, cosmological) against the background of the agents' way of life, and their biographical, social, historic, and intellectual environments (and vice versa). Our leading question is: On the basis of which practices and discourses is the way of life performed and how are such practices and discourses generated, and transformed, by taking up (innovative) lifestyles? To what extent are institutions involved? Do they repel or foster the innovation process?

Marion Steinicke

Companions in Spirituality. The Influence of the “Spiritual Exercises” on the Life Practice of Early Jesuit Missionaries

Founded in 1540 by the charismatic agent Ignatius of Loyola, the Jesuit Order played a decisive role in Counter Reformation as well as in global Catholic mission. The most striking innovation of the new order was the special meditative practice reflecting the founders own religious experiences: The "spiritual exercises” have been central for Jesuits' daily life in completely different social environments during pre-modern period. They served to tie together the members of the order also far from Europe. Fusing elements of traditional Christian epistemology, medieval mysticism, and rigorous self-investigation the spiritual exercises form the basis of the Jesuits' intellectual disposition orientated towards mental formation processes and interests of cultural accommodation. My paper will investigate the discursive role of “exercising the spiritual exercises” within the (auto)biographical writings of the early Jesuit missionaries in China during the 16th and 17th century.

Philipp Winterhager

Migration and Hagiographic Knowledge. Two Examples from Early Medieval Rome

Rome, in the Early Middle Ages, was a world city in transformation. It began to develop an identity as a religious centre in the post-classical Mediterranean world, attracting both pilgrims, who came to visit the tombs of the apostles and other saints, as well as an increasing number of Greek-speaking immigrants to Rome who settled there. Migration from the Byzantine East was therefore highly influential on Roman culture from the 6th to the 9th century. Among others, monks from the Greek-speaking parts of the Mediterranean founded their own monasteries in Rome. My paper investigates the cases of two of these, asking for the specific relationship between migration background and knowledge about saints. Analysing two hagiographic corpora from the monasteries of saints Lucia and Bonifatius, it will be shown by which narrative means migrants dealt with the task of how to accommodate themselves, through ‘their’ patron saints, in a new environment. 

Alessandro Stavru

Pythagorean way of life as religious knowledge: akousmatic tradition from Pythagoras to Apollonius of Tyana

The first mention of a “Pythagorean way of life” (Plat. R. 600a8-e2) credits Pythagoras with an astonishing knowledge, superior even to that of Homer. Evidence of this lifestyle has been preserved in the corpus of the so-called akousmata, a set of rules which prescribe individual and collective behaviours and practices. Tradition attributes these ‘things heard’ to Pythagoras himself. In Classical age akousmata became canonical to the point that a whole branch of Pythagoreanism (the akousmatikoi) derived its name from them. This paper will explore the religious background of the akousmatic tradition of Pythagoreanism and dwell on its ritual, social, historic, and intellectual environments. The focus will be on those aspects of this tradition which are likely to be derived from, or to have generated and transformed, the way of life reportedly performed by charismatic leaders (such as Pythagoras himself and Empedocles, up to Apollonius of Tyana in Imperial age) within Pythagorean communities.

Tudor Sala

The Many Deaths of Mani: Biographical Mimesis and Corporeal Poetics of Persecution among Manichaeans and Christians in Late Antiquity

Ever since the execution of Mani in a Sasanian prison in 274/7 CE, violence and death followed closely the Manichaean communities in their spread from third-century Mesopotamia to the Mediterranean and Asia. Dangerous enemies in the eyes of the political and religious establishment in both the Roman and the Sasanian Empire, the followers of Mani embodied a lifestyle of suffering which found its poetic expression in exceptional hymns and homilies, both woeful and triumphant. We know about these unique examples of late antique literature thanks to the major discoveries of Manichaean manuscripts in Central Asia and Egypt a century or so ago. While the arduous process of editing and translation is still going on, recent breakthroughs in the deciphering of difficult manuscripts (such as the Chester Beatty Kephalaia) allow for startling new insights into the early institutionalization of Manichaean ideologies of martyrdom. In my paper I intend to explore the types of religious knowledge and the categories of social memory that shaped how the dramatic events of death, suffering, and persecution that punctuated the early history of Manichaeism were remembered and ritually reenacted by the later community, how they influenced the Manichaean way of life, and how they framed the institutionalization process of the Manichaean church in its interaction with pre- and post-Nicene Christianity.

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