Domostroi ch. 1-11

During the reign of Ivan IV, the Domostroi was written. The book is a guide on the rituals of mundane life of the time period followed by those in the upper strata of society. It details the proper way of living as a Christian, as a good citizen, and as a human being. Throughout the first few chapters, we noticed reoccurring themes.

Being a household manual, it would make sense that the Domostroi would mention God, as the influence of the Russian Orthodox Church was ubiquitous in this time period. These chapters show that religion is not just a part of society but the guiding force in the lives of 16th century Muscovites. The first chapters discuss everything from family relationships to entertaining guests and the importance of religion in all of these acts. The importance of God also appears regularly in the preparation and importance of food in the family home. According to the Domostroi, God can make bad or rotten food taste sweet again. It also explores ideas such as the love each person should have for God, the Tsar, other important figures in society, the less fortunate, and loved ones.  It is very clear in the text that, specifically for God and the Tsar, this love should be accompanied by the acknowledgement that reverence is essential and the fear of these figures is just as important as the love. The prevalence of God in Muscovy is clear through these first few chapters.

The Domostroi mentions food many times throughout the first eleven chapters. Food plays an important role that relates to God. Communion bread must be chewed with the lips and not the teeth: biting sharply and harshly into the flesh of Jesus was wrong. With the bread, a Christian may only drink certain liquids, and must do so carefully, sipping the divine water or consecrated wine. When feasting with neighbors, friends, and family, the highest ranking person in attendance is to start eating first; to eat out of place is disrespectful. When someone dies in a man’s family, food is set out so that the neighbors and friends can feast in celebration in the memory of the person and in God. Food is God’s gift to the people and so the Domostroi demands that Christians “eat, then, and drink in praise of God” (ch.11 p.77) One cannot praise God while eating slovenly, sloppily, or rudely. Food is meant to be shared among all in attendance. The more honor a person has does not entitle him to eat more food than the rest. Sharing and compassion for all of God’s creations — whether elder, equal, or poor — is what the Domostroi promotes.

The Domostroi also placed a lot of emphasis on reverence for all—reverence for God, reverence for superiors, and even reverence for inferiors. Reverence for all of these beings, natural or supernatural, is supposed to be accomplished through both love and fear. By showing reverence through both love and fear, the reader hears quotes from the Bible about love for the Lord (Chapter 4), and at the same time he also hears the quote that one should “fear the tsar and serve him faithfully” (Chapter 7). All of this demonstrates that, while there were different ways of showing reverence to others, one of the central themes of the Domostroi was in showing reverence.


Leah, Leah, and Brendan.

Pouncy, Carolyn Johnston. The Domostroi. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1994.

Haeckel and the Importance of Monism

Author: Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919) was born in Prussia and was educated in several different fields including philosophy, biology, natural history, and medicine. He is credited with the discovery of thousands of new species and promoted the works of Charles Darwin in Germany.
Context: The Confession of Faith of a Man of Science was written in 1892, a period in which many biologists were rethinking their understanding of the relationship between God and nature.
Language: The language used in Haeckel’s Confession was forceful and persuasive. Haeckel seemed to be urging his audience to recognize the beauty in a monistic view toward God and nature.
Audience: Haeckel writes that he “crave[s] the permission of this assembly” to confess his faith, indicating that he was orating his Confession to a congregation of other scientists in his field.
Intent: Haeckel’s intent was to persuade his audience of the existence of a unity between God and nature.
Message: Haeckel implored his fellow scientists to embrace the monistic unity of all things. He emphasized the compatibility of God and the scientific knowledge of the time, as well as the presence of a divine spirit in nature. He also quoted the Italian philosopher Giordano Bruno, who opined that “no body is so small that it does not contain a part of the divine substance whereby it is animated.” Haeckel concluded his speech with a representation of monism as “truly beatific union of religion and science”, stressing the influence monism will have on the ideas of the coming century.

The Mongols

This reading focused on a more particular aspect of the Mongol horde and their invasions in Rus. Rather it focused on the belief, by the chroniclers of Rus, of the Mongols being a punishment. As a result of the continuos lack in proper leadership by the princes of Rus, such as fighting amongst each other to control more power as opposed to honoring what they, as well as each other, had, the sight of the Mongol invaders quickly became to be believed as a punishment from God. I found this to be the most interesting aspect of the reading particularly due to the impact in which religion, primarily God, plays on society during this time.

This reading also focused on the affect of the Mongol invasions after having occurred. Particularly the affect the invasions had on the Orthodox Church. With the continuous Mongol invasions the Mongol forces, although having destroyed many of the churches, gained control over religion. As a result of this the Orthodox Church was able to successfully establish themselves as “an independent institution” which ultimately allowed the church to become less restricted and more powerful.

God: 1, Humanity: 0

Smart people succumb to the comfort of dimwitted platitudes like the rest of us. Perhaps it reassures them. In his essay “Science and Religion”, Einstein disappoints by choosing what Freud referred to as “a dull Christian ending” in reference to Dostoevsky’s limp of an epilogue at the end of Crime and Punishment. What a shame that Einstein did not use that beautiful mind of his to come up with an original cosmology! Instead he chooses the safe path, the idea that, in the words of Dostoevsky in the Brothers Karamazov, “without God everything is permitted”. How convenient for our governments and churches, among other self- proclaimed purveyors of the good news. A quick review of human atrocities across the centuries will reveal the opposite. Humanity uses God, or the religious impulse inhabiting humanity like a restless tapeworm, to justify every sort of ignominy, like a premium members card for all manner of atrocities and institutionalized buffoonery. We entered the platinum club about a hundred years ago.

Of course, Einstein tells us “religion is concerned with man’s attitude toward nature at large, with the establishing of ideals for the individual and communal life, and with mutual human relationship.” We also learn that religion uses tradition to inculcate values and brotherly love through tradition and simple narratives. How comforting to know that Einstein paid attention in Sunday school for the rest of us. Rather than use his unique stature as an internationally renowned man of science to criticize human societies for their lack of reason, generosity, and imagination, Einstein chooses to remain firmly ensconced in the mainstream delusions of his time. The dangers of the religious impulse extend far beyond religion itself. It conditions our unquestioning acceptance of hierarchy, our infatuation with meaningless iconography, our prurience, and our unreasonable hatred of our neighbors. It’s no wonder the best Christians abandon the Church. And yet, Einstein persists in repeating this nonsense in the aftermath of two wars made possible by humanity’s willingness to kneel before abstractions and prophets. Nice job, Einstein.