Orthodoxy is orthodoxy, heresy is heresy, and never the twain shall meet. In that way, paraphrasing Rudyard Kipling’s famous saying, one could describe how most people see orthodoxy and heresy. One is the opposite of the other. Jerzy Nowosielski, whose funeral took place yesterday in Cracow, suggests a different vision in the below text. Orthodoxy remains orthodoxy, heresy remains heresy, but they do meet each other – in a human being. Heresy is the “unarmed”, private, personal side of faith. Orthodoxy is a social phenomenon. And we all are both individuals, and a part of the society. Orthodoxy can’t exist without heresy, only saturated with it, it has a chance to become a living faith.
Ortodoksja jest ortodoksją, a herezja herezją, i te dwie nigdy się nie spotkają. W ten sposób, parafrazując słynne powiedzenie Rudyarda Kiplinga, można opisać jak większość ludzi patrzy na ortodoksję i herezję. Jedna stanowi przeciwieństwo drugiej. Jerzy Nowosielski, którego pogrzeb odbył się wczoraj w Krakowie, proponuje w tekście, który w angielskim przekładzie zamieszamy poniżej. Ortodoksja pozostaje ortodoksją, a herezja herezją, ale obydwie jak najbardziej się spotykają – w człowieku. Herezja to „nieuzbrojona”, prywatna, własna strona wiary. Ortodoksja to zjawisko społeczne. A przecież każdy z nas jest zarówno indywiduum, jak i częścią społeczności. Ortodoksja nie może istnieć bez herezji, dopiero nasycona nią ma szansę stać się żywą wiarą. Oryginalny artykuł prof. Jerzego Nowosielskiego można znaleźć tutaj.
It’s difficult for me to take up the problem of selective perception of the fixed Roman Catholic doctrinal canon, because I belong to a different “orthodoxy”, the Byzantine-Slavonic one. Although these are two different “orthodoxies”, I think that I know the matter of the other well enough to be able to understand the problems of Roman Catholics in a certain degree.
The text that invites me to discussion deals mainly with a certain reduction of the individual conscience, not so much a dogmatic as a doctrinal one. Such attitudes are known in the West. It’s called situational ethics. I would suggest another name – “personal ethics”, individual ethics. Some call it “the living ethics” as opposed to the normative ethics, related to the concept of the so called natural law, which is common in the West.
Where do such attitudes come from? Only from tolerance for our weaknesses and deviations from the “objective” truth of one or another orthodoxy? They don’t always come from that indulgence and tolerance in regard to our individual situations.
Here an explanation is needed. In the Roman Catholic system there is of course a logically consistent theology of “redemption”. It’s final shape, as it usually happens with orthodoxies, was defined by Luther, a heretic. It should be realised that the theology of “redemption” is profoundly anthropocentric. What does it mean? Well, that the traditional Christianity, accepting the Biblical narrative about Paradise, accepted this myth as a description of our species’ historical situation. The time of Renaissance, from the 13th century to the 16th century, was so profoundly humanistic (which means – anthropocentric) that angels, the subtle entities, were thought of as fairy-tales, and the texts concerning the primordial cosmic catastrophe were ignored. And this catastrophe took place in the womb of the Most High God, that is if we may have any idea about God. We are used to saying “Lord God”, and that is still something else than the mysterious “Father” of Christ, about whom we know nothing. Show us the “Father”, asks the apostle, and Jesus answers – it’s enough for you to see the son. There is a peculiar order in the Byzantine liturgy – it consists of three parts, while in the Western liturgy there are only two. The liturgy of the catechumens and the “liturgy of the faithful”. The first part of the Byzantine liturgy developed relatively late, gaining its final shape only in the second millennium. And it is the most mysterious, mystagogical part of the whole Eucharistic liturgy. Even though it is reserved for the priest, by the opening of the curtain in the royal doors a bit of this mystery is revealed to all the faithful. The text of this preparatory liturgy refers to a cosmic situation beyond “our history”. It is as if before the beginning of our empirical world. It is important that only at the end there is a reference to the birth of Christ – a story of a mysterious Sacrifice begins. The Lamb of God is being sacrificed, we don’t know anything about him; “and who shall declare his generation?”. That beginning is not anthropocentric at all. Someone (the Lamb) is being sacrificed for an unknown reason and to an unknown someone.
For as long as the religious thought of our species lasts, it has been linked with the concept of sacrifice. Those were sacrifices of people, but also of animals. The sense of the sacrifice was rationalized, but in essence it has always remained mysterious. What is that sacrifice for, who demands it and who truly desires it? There is a certain branch of Hinduism, Dijanism, which teaches that the deities (the deity) are immoral in their nature, indifferent to good and evil. Only the human being created by these deities is moral. His task is ascetics, suffering, a horrifying sacrifice – horrifying enough to weaken the “conscience of gods” and force these gods to do good. Such a vision seems distant to us Christians – but it only seems so, because the “Son of Man” also has to suffer a lot before the face of “the Heavenly Father”, who is so very distant, so very unknowable, and in the moment of the ultimate sacrifice of the “Son of Man” there is actually no Father. He is silent. In this perspective, the Christian anthropomorphism is somehow justified. Yet the way towards sacrificing a human being (son of human) is preceded by suffering, the sacrifice of innumerable living creatures. This suffering prepares the sacrifice of the “Son of Human”, in which the culmination of the consciousness of sacrifice is fulfilled. The aim of sacrifice remains still an inscrutable mystery. Everything links us, though, to the sacrifice of other living creatures. Their sacrifice has so much preceded our sacrifice, the sacrifice of the son of human.
We, in our Christian religion, don’t understand that. Why? Perhaps we have an “evil religion”, a religion that creates image of an angry God (Lord God), a demiurge, whom we owe something (but we don’t know what) and only the sacrifice of his Son is able to appease his wrath. Such is the perspective of the consciousness of many Christian orthodoxies, mainly the Western ones.
They rationalize the concept of guilt (sin), atonement for sin, and the whole burden of sacrifice is put onto the “Son of Man”, who became the “Lamb” sacrificed before the face of “Lord God”, the demiurge, while his Heavenly Father is silent, absent. And perhaps it’s so that “orthodoxy”, no matter which, either Roman or Byzantine, not so much rises above the individual religious consciousness of contemporary people, as doesn’t match it? Perhaps the man of our generation is not so much “worse” than the religion he professes, as simply “better” than this religion. Well, this is already a completely unbearable situation. If a religion I profess is “worse” than I am myself, it simply becomes untrustworthy.
Such “unbearable” states make the whole history of the development of religious thought since time immemorial. The individual conscience has always exceeded the framework the collective consciousness defined in regard to experiencing the sacrum. For what was Abraham’s exodus from his environment, what was the enlightenment, Buddha’s state in relation to the religious tradition of Hinduism which was so rich? Analysing more carefully the process of our species’ religious maturation, we come to the conclusion that it is always a problem of the Old and the New Testament. In the Judeo-Christian tradition the Old and the New Testaments are two different eras of the development of religious thought in historical time. But are they really? Don’t we find in the Old Testament traces, and perhaps even strong manifestations, of the consciousness of “the New” being born? And how many relict of the old consciousness, that very Old Testament, are there in the New Testament? So in fact the “Old” and the “New” are not only two historical eras, but two states of our religious consciousness, always actual, so much in the time of Abraham, the Prophets, Paul of Tars, the Alexandrian writers, John Chrystostom, Gregory Palamas, Luther, as, finally, in our consciousness. Every man of a vital religious intuition has to be an orthodox and a heretic at the same time.
How to reconcile it? Perhaps a good, though a little bit cynical advice was given by the Russian Khlysts. As long as possible, pretend to be a zealous “orthodox”, until the moment you will have to admit what is your own truth. Then be ready for martyrdom. There is nothing strange about it. Orthodoxy is always social, based on some objective norm. Heresy is always “private”, mine, personal, I have to love and profess it, but I don’t have the right to impose it on anyone. Imposed heresy immediately becomes a “mini-orthodoxy”, often a very aggressive one. Orthodoxies may engage in discussion with one another, and even fight one another. It’s impossible to fight with a personal heresy. In order to undress, you have to dress yourself first. One gets dressed in the armour of orthodoxy. And with such a dressed knight another knight can fight. But how to fight with an undressed, “private” heretic? His “heretical” knowledge is impossible to be communicated, isn’t it?. If he wanted to communicate, objectify it, he would inevitably destroy it. These are true arcana fidei, this mystery, completely ours, which we will carry through the threshold of death. What is the conclusion, then? Long live orthodoxies! They are necessary, and apart from that also saturated with the esoteric knowledge of private heresy.