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DOI 10.12887/28-2015-2-110-05

Bartłomiej Brążkiewicz – Ceasing to Be in order to Be: Holy Fools in the Apophatic Anthropology Perspective

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The Eastern Orthodox Church tends to cautiously formulate positive doctrinal statements. Its preferred method is the apophatic one, emphasizing what is not the nature of being (especially in terms of true understanding of God) or what is not the case rather than speaking of it with absolute conviction. However, exceptions to this rule do appear, particularly considering the justification of human nature in reference to theological anthropology. All cataphatic statements regarding human existence are being derived from both the Old and New Testament. Still, limited in understanding the divine, describing the creation of human beings in the image and likeness of God indicates the way of theosis. Fulfilling the potential to become more like God means in practice acting harmoniously with divine purposes while providing no absolute normative solution. It is clear that this approach is highly esteemed in Eastern Orthodox ethics, appearing to be contradiction between moral legalism and truly Christian way of living. Within Orthodox Christianity a distinctive form of asceticism called holy foolishness had been developed, especially in Russia, where the yurodivy adopting a specific form of behavior intentionally denies world’s respectability and paradoxically rejects any rule for moral purposes. As described in the present paper, the most prominent examples of Russian holy fools, among them Isaac the Recluse, Procopius of Ustyug, Michael of Klopsk, Basil the Blessed, Simon of Yuryevets, Xenia of Saint Petersburg and Ivan Koreysha, applied the idea of holy foolishness in order to shame and depreciate the wise and the wealthy. Pointing out their illusive splendor, revealed in sanity, was consistent with the negative method of achieving unity with God.

Keywords: holy fool, Russian culture, orthodox Christian culture, orthodox Christian anthropology

Contact: Department of Anthropology of Russian Culture, Institute of Russian and East European Studies, Faculty of International and Political Studies,
Jagiellonian University, al. Mickiewicza 3, 31-120 Cracow, Poland

E-mail: bartlomiej.brazkiewicz@uj.edu.pl

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  1. ISSN 0860-8024
  2. e-ISSN 2720-5355
  3. The Republic of Poland Ministry of Science and Higher Education Value: 100.00
  4. Quarterly “Ethos” is indexed by the following databases: EBSCO, CEEOL, Index Copernicus (ICV 2017: 55.26), Philosopher’s Index, ERIH Plus.
  5. DOI Prefix 10.12887