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Centre for the Study of Polemics and Religion

invites you to a lecture and workshop by


Prof. Sita Steckel   

Westfälische Wilhems-Universität Münster


Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies
Sint-Michielsstraat 4
B-3000 Leuven


Lecture on 10 October 2019

Behold, a Pale Horse: Pluralization and the Rise of Intra-Christian Polemics in the Twelfth and the Thirteenth Century

17.00-19.00 pm
Room MTC1 00.03


Workshop on 11 October 2019

Debating the Plurality of Religious Orders:
John of Salisbury versus Anselm of Havelberg

10.00-12.00 am
Room COVE 02.10 (Romerozaal)



Participation is free but registration is mandatory for practical reasons.
Please register with

Coordinators Polemikos: Joseph Verheyden (KU Leuven) and Daniela Müller (RU Nijmegen)

Kosmoi Conference 21-23 October 2019
Good – Better – Best: Asceticism and the Ways to Perfection

Programme (draft)
See also

21 October

13.15-13.30    Welcome
13.30-14.30    N. Balbir (Paris), Jainism
15.30-16.00    Break
16.00-17.00    Offered papers (2)
17.00-18.00    B. Wernicke Olesen (Oxford), Hinduism
18.00-19.00     X. Zeiler (Helsinki), Re-negotiating Asceticism as a Means for Perfecting the Female Self: Hindu Widows’ Asceticism in Classical Texts and Contemporary Media
19.30               Dinner

22 October

09.00-10.00     D. O’Meara (Fribourg), Ascetic Practices in Greco-Roman Philosophical Tradition
10.00-11.00     B. Bitton Ashkelony (HU Jerusalem), Early Christian Monastic Tradition
11.00-11.30     Break
11.30-13.00     Offered papers (3)
13.00               Lunch
14.30-16.30     Offered papers (4)
16.30-17.00     Break
17.00-18.00     I. Rosen Zvi (Tel Aviv), Rabbinic Asceticism. The Case of the Struggle with Yetzer Hara (Evil Inclination)
18.00-19.00     M. Bjerregaard Mortensen (Copenhagen), Ascetic Traditions and Practices according to the Qu’ran
19.30               Dinner

23 October

09.00-10.00     R. Faesen (Leuven), Medieval Christian Mysticism
10.00-11.00     P.B. Koch (Hamburg), Asceticism and perfection in Sixteenth-Century Jewish Mysticism
11.00-11.30     Break
11.30-13.00     Offered papers (3)
13.00               Lunch
14.30-16.00     Offered papers (3)
16.00-16.30     Break
16.30-17.30     D.-O. Hurel (Paris), Ascétisme et perfection dans les commentaires de la Règle de Saint Benoit aux xvie et xviie siècle (Vannistes, Mauristes, réforme de Rancé et Clunisiens)
17.30-18.30     H. Schwall (Leuven), Fighting the other to find the Other? V. Woolf’s To the Lighthouse and A. Burn’s Milkman
18.30-18.45     Conclusion
19.30               Dinner

Good – Better – Best

Asceticism and the Ways to Perfection


Organising Committee: Joseph Verheyden, Johan Leemans, Geert Roskam (all three KU Leuven), An Heirman (UGent)

Venue: Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies, KU  Leuven, Belgium

Kosmoi is the name of the association of scholars working in the field of religious studies at the KU Leuven. The association was founded in 2015. It organises every year an number of lectures and every two years an international colloquium. In 2017 members of Kosmoi co-hosted the general meeting of the European Association for the Study of Religion (EASR).

The international conference of this year will deal with the question of how ascetic practices and lifestyles as lived and practiced in various religious traditions are thought to help realise aspirations to transcend oneself and maybe even to reach “perfection”. The desire to improve oneself – in whatever respect – is a key feature in human life. Religion has played on this, claiming to be able to fulfil such aspirations in a unique way and to offer the tools to realise them. Perhaps before anything else, religion is about reaching out for nothing less than becoming “perfect”, however this may be understood and formulated: to become a better person, maybe even a saint; to be transformed or saved; to meet or unite with the divine … One of the major tools to reach such goals, so it seems, is to practice a form of ascetic lifestyle – to give up on things, to start living differently, to change oneself. Asceticism is about struggle and reward, about hoping for success and coping with failure, about persistence and transformation, about guidance and guiding. The way may be long or short, but always in one sense or another “adventurous”. All of these and many other aspects related to ascetic lifestyles have been studied at length in various religious cultures and traditions and from various perspectives and approaches. The additional value of the Kosmoi colloquium will primarily be in the comparative perspective across religious traditions. This should bring to the fore major differences and similarities in various religious systems.

In addition to a dozen invited speakers, the programme allows for a selected number of offered papers related to one of the following key aspects: (1) the goal and purpose of living an ascetic life (obtaining “salvation”, being transformed or purified, meeting with the divine, …); (2) the means, both material and immaterial, available for reaching this goal (physical and mental exercises, prayer, diets, practising virtue, …); (3) the place of asceticism within the whole of religious practices in a particular religious tradition (an occasional or a recurrent event, a mass event or a more elitist one, “professional” ascetics, …); (4) and the challenges and dangers of adopting such a lifestyle (disillusion, failure, pride, …). These topics will be addressed in various religious traditions – primarily Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism –, and through various approaches – historical, philosophical, psychological, anthropological, empirical…

The organisers are inviting students and colleagues to submit a proposal for a paper of 20 minutes on a specific topic related to the overall theme of the conference. Those who are interested should send their proposal (title and summary of max. 300 words) by May 15th to Prof. Joseph Verheyden at

A scientific committee will decide which proposals are accepted. You will be informed of its decision by May 30th.

A selection of the papers presented at the conference will be published in a peer-reviewed and internationally circulated series.

Kosmoi warmly welcomes you to the Kosmoi Lecture and the Kosmoi Master Class on the 27th of March 2019.

Dr. Loren Toussaint (professor in psychology – Iowa) will introduce us in the research field of forgiveness and the importance of forgiveness for our individual and societal health and well-being.

More information on Kosmoi, the association of KU Leuven researchers studying religion and worldview, and the annual Kosmoi lecture: