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Webster's Dictionary [1]

(n.) The monastic life, system, or condition.

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [2]

(Gr. Μονάζειν , To Dwell Apart in solitude; whence Μοναχός , a monk), a state of religious retirement, more or less complete, accompanied by contemplation and by various devotional, ascetical, and penitential practices, is in truth Asceticism (q.v.), with the elements of religious solitude superadded. Monasticism, until the beginning of the study of comparative religion, was regarded as a strictly Christian institution, but recent researches reveal it as having entered into various religious systems. both ancient and modern. Indeed, it is now clearly apparent that the Western theory of the ascetic life travelled from the East to the West, but the question of the. time when it originated in the East is still clouded in mystery. "The origin of monasticism," writes Mr. Johnson in his little work on the: Monks before Christ, "will always be enveloped in mystery. Its history is shrouded in the same obscurity as the source of the mighty stream upon the banks of which the first ascetics commenced the practice of their austerities'" (pages 51, 52).

The probability is that monachism is a strictly Asiatic institution, and originated among heathen nations. We certainly do not think that monasticism can prove a Christian or even Jewish origin; it is not heavenly, but earthly. Yet do we not desire to have our development theorists infer that we agree with them that it is one of the early religious forms of man. Says one, "The older the religion, the older its ascetic practices; for they were among the first forms assumed by the religious impulse, and not among the later and better ones. They belong to the religion of the passions and emotions, and not to the religion of reason;" and then he logically infers that therefore "monasticism is as old as religion itself; for it does not gain favor with the progress of new ideas, but is gradually falling in the estimation of all." We are far from believing that monasticism is a primitive institution, and is forsaken by modern civilization.

Quite the contrary, we hold that ascetic practices prevail largely among semi-civilized or civilized nations, and only after a clear conception has been formed of man's dependence on a higher Being, and a desire is manifest for future existence. The inspired religion prepares the way for these, and from religious excesses or alienation spring the ascetic practices. In the far East the very notion of the supreme Lord faded for ages from the grasp of philosophy, and became too subtle and refined a conception for any to retain it in their knowledge; but the inherent evil of matter, of flesh, of sense, and of human life has remained to stimulate the curiosity, to exhaust the efforts of the melancholy victims of the grim delusion, and to shape in various forms the fact that man's incumbent duty .has ever been to escape from the contamination, and rise above the conditions of the flesh. Indeed, we believe that ascetic tendencies in general, and monasticism in particular, are the outgrowth of a religious enthusiasm, seriousness, and ambition likely to be pursued only by those who have once believed in revealed religion and have retrograded, having. gone from the presence of their God to the idol they reared to represent him. But, whatever may be the differences of opinion as to the relation of the heathen religions to the revealed, it is generally conceded that monasticism cannot prove its heavenly origin, nor honestly identify itself with the Christian religion, as it is known to be much older than Christianity. In times far anterior to the Gospel, prophets and martyrs, "in sheepskins and goatskins," wandered in the Oriental world over mountains and deserts; and dwelt in caves and dens of the earth, as have likewise evangelical monks.

I. Pagan Monachism .

1. Its Monumental History. In examining the inscriptions which have been discovered in South-western Asia and Egypt, we find an abundance of representations of priests and religious ceremonies. We learn from these that many of the priests shaved the head, and always wore a peculiar habit, which in historic times, we are told, was white. We learn furthermore that these priests taught that the body must be kept pure by fasting and other ascetic observances. No doubt, as our knowledge in hieroglyphics shall progress, our information on this subject will be greatly enriched. In Arabia and India thei modern traveller comes across numberless "rock-cut temples." We now know that nearly 600 years B.C. the artificial caves of India were occupied by Buddhistical monks, and there is conclusive evidence that they had served the Brahmins for a like purpose long before that. (Comp. the occasional notices of the Indian gymnosophists in Strabo [lib. 15, c. 1, after accounts from the time of Alexander the Great], Arrian [Exped. Alex. lib. 7, c. 1-3; and Hist. Ind. c. 11.], Pliny [Hist. Nat. 7:2], Diodorus Siculus [lib. 2], Plutarch [Alex. c. 64, Porphyry [De abstinent. lib. 4], Lucian [Fugit. c. 7], Clemens Alex. [Strom. lib. 1 and 2], and Augustine [De civit. Dei, lib. 14, c. 17: "Per opacas Indiae solitudines, quum quidam nudi philosophentur, unde gymnosophistae nominantur; adhibent tamen genitalibus tegmina, quibus per eetera membrorum carent;" and lib. 15, c. 20, where he denies all merit to their celibacy, because it is not " secundum fidem summi boni, qui est Deus"]. With these ancient representations agree the narratives of Fon Koueki [about A.D. 400, transl. by M.A. Remusat, Paris, 1836], Marco Polo [1280], Bernier [1670], Hamilton [1700], Papi, Niebuhr, Qrlichn Sonnerat, and others.) The manner of the construction of these caves of India and Arabia leads to the Supposition that they were originally intended for monkish abodes, and, if so, the exceeding great antiquity of monasticism can no longer be doubted. These temples and caves are the oldest monuments of the countries in which they are found.

2. Earliest Written History Of Monachism . If from these monuments we descend to an examination of the written books of the ancients, and search in "The Nabatean Agriculture," which is believed to have been written about the time of Nebuchadnezzar (or B.C. 600) we find in this history of Chaldsea, reaching back several thousands of years before .the beginning of the Christian Vera, that in the very earliest history of which this work gives any account there flourished Azada, an apostle of Saturn, who "founded the religion of renunciation or asceticism," and that "his partisans and followers were the subjects of persecution by the higher and cultivated classes; but that to the mass of the people, on the contrary, they were the objects of the highest veneration." Another ascetic whom it mentions flourished about B.C. 2000. He is said to have inveighed against the godliness of those who believed it possible to preserve the human body from decay, after death, by the employment of certain natural agents. "Not by natural means," warmly replies Dhagrit, "can man preserve his body from corruption and dissolution after death, but only through good deeds, religious exercises, and offering of sacrifices by invoking the gods by their great and beautiful names by prayers during the night, and fasts during the day." Then Dhagrit goes on, in his monkish zeal, to give the names of various saints of Babylonian antiquity whose bodies had long been preserved, after death, from corruption and change, and says: "These men had distinguished themselves by piety, by abstemiousness, and by their manner of life, which resembled that of angels; and the gods, therefore, by their grace, had preserved the bodies of these men from corruption; whereby those of later times, in view of the same, were encouraged in piety, and in the imitation of those holy modes of life." See Chwolson, Ueber die Ueberreste der altbabylonischen Literatur (St. Petersburg, 1859); M. le Baron de St. Croix, Recherches Historiques et Critiques sur les Mysteres du Paganisme (Paris, 1817). Turning from these written sources, still the subjects of much discussion as to their authenticity, to the well established records of India, Persia, and China, the oldest written records in existence aside from the sacred Scriptures (viz. the Veda [q.v.] and the Laws of Manu [q.v.] the sacred books of the Brahmins; the Zend Avesta [q.v.] the sacred book of the Persians or Zoroastrians; and the Shu-King, (See Confucius) the sacred book of China), we find the hoary parent of monastic rule dwelling in the far East, and gathering obedient millions, under her ample folds, long before the introduction of Christianity, even if we should trace Christian monasticism back to St. Bartholomew and St. Thomas.

Among the Hindus (q.v.), we learn from the Brahminical writings especially the Rig-Veda, portions of which are assigned to a period as far back as B.C. 2400, the Laws of Manu, which were certainly completed before the rise of Buddhism (that is, six or seven centuries before our sera), and the numerous other sacred books of the Indian religion that there was enjoined by example and precept entire abstraction of thought, seclusion from the world, and a variety of penitential and meritorious acts of self-mortification, by which the devotee assumes a proud superiority over the vulgar herd of mortals, and is absorbed at last into the divine fountain of all being. Says Spence Hardy, "The practice of asceticism is so interwoven with Brahminism, under all the phases it has assumed, that we cannot realize its existence apart from the principles of the ascetic." (Compare Wilson, Asiatic Researches, 16:38; Pavie, in Revue des deux Mondes, 1854; Hardwick, Christ and other Masters, 1:315.)

3. Probable Origin Of Eastern Monachism. "At an early period of the present era of Brahminic manifestation," the legend goes, in the Rig-Veda, "Dhruva, the son of Uttanapada, the son of Manu Swayambhuva, who was born of and one with Brahma,' began to perform penance, as enjoined by the sages, on the banks of the Yamuna. While his mind was wholly absorbed in meditation, the mighty Hari, identical with all natures, took possession of his heart. Vishnu being thus present in his mind, the earth, the supporter of elemental life, could not sustain the weight of the ascetic. The celestials called Yamas, being excessively alarmed, then took counsel with Indra how they should interrupt the devout exercises of Dhruva; and the divine beings termed Kushmandas, in company with their king, commenced anxious efforts to distract his meditations. One, assuming the semblance of his mother, Suniti, stood weeping before him, and calling in tender accents, My son, my son, desist from destroying thy strength by this fearful penance!

What hast thou, a child but five years old, to do with rigorous penance? Desist from such fearful practices, that yield no beneficial fruit. First comes the season of youthful pastime, and when that is over it is the time for study; then succeeds the period of worldly enjoyments; and, lastly, that of austere devotion. This is thy season of pastime, my child. Hast thou engaged in these practices to put an end to existence? Thy chief duty is love for me; duties are according to time of life. Lose not thyself in bewildering error desist from such unrighteous actions. If not, if thou wilt not desist from these austerities, I will terminate my life before thee.' But Dhruva, being wholly intent on seeing Vishnu, beheld not his mother weeping in his presence, and calling upon him; and the illusion, crying out, Fly, fly, my child; the hideous spirits of ill are crowding into this terrible forest with uplifted weapons,' quickly disappeared. Then advanced frightful rakshasas, wielding terrible arms, and with countenances emitting fiery flame; and nocturnal fiends thronged around the prince, uttering fearful noises, and whirling and tossing their threatening weapons. Hundreds of jackals, from whose mouths gushed flame as they devoured their prey, were howling around to appall the boy, wholly engrossed by meditation.'

The goblins called out, Kill him! kill him! cut him to pieces! eat him! eat him!' and monsters, with the faces of camels and crocodiles and lions, roared and yelled with horrible cries to terrify the prince. But all these uncouth speeches, appalling cries, and threatening weapons made no impression upon his senses, whose mind was completely intent on Govinda. The son of the monarch of the earth, engrossed by one idea, beheld uninterruptedly Vishnu seated in his soul, and saw no other object." How like the legends of Christian monachism are these pagan descriptions! The desert has always been the abode of asceticism, whose devotees, in their struggle against the flesh, peopled its sands with horrible monsters of every kind with devils, hobgoblins, and giants, who (in the minds of the people) have held possession ever since. The Vedas also command that the tonsure be performed, but, so far as known, they prescribed no rules with regard to the monastic life. Their teachings seem to be confined solely to asceticism.

On the other hand, in the Laws of Manu rules are given for the conduct of monastics; and, as these rules were in the possession of the people of India long before they were committed to writing, it is no wonder that monasticism is believed to have been practiced for thousands of years before the time of Christ. Hardwick, by no means a superficial student, is led even, in the face of these conditions, to say that "India was the real birthplace of monasticism" (Christ And Other Masters, 1:351). A large portion of the Laws of Manu are taken up by regulations to be observed by those who wish to attain to the ultimate good by the practice of monastic observances. The rule of St. Benedict itself does not afford a more decided proof of the existence of the ascetic life. The work is divided into twelve books. The sixth book is entitled "Duties" of the Anchorite and of the Ascetic Devotee." The subject of the eleventh book is "Penitences and Expiations." The Dwijas, for whom these rules are principally laid down, are described as a sort of monks, who practiced tonsure, wore girdle, carried staff, asked alms, fasted, lacerated the body, and dwelt for the most part in the deserts and forests. We have space but for a few illustrations, which will suffice, however, to show the character of this work. From the sixth book, "Duties of the Anchorite and of the Ascetic Devotee," we quote as follows:

" 24. The' Dwija, who dwells. alone, should deliver himself to austerities, increasing constantly in their severity, that he may wither up his mortal substance.

" 27. Let him receive from the Brahminical anchorites, who live in houses, such alms as may be necessary to support his existence." (The case was similar in early Christian times: Simon the Stylite, and a host of others, were thus provided for.)

" 49. Meditating with delight on the supreme soul, seated, wanting nothing, inaccessible to all. sensual desire, without other society than his own soul, let him live here below in the constant expectancy of the eternal beatitude.

" 75. In subduing his organs, in accomplishing the pious duties prescribed by the Vedas, and in submitting one's self to the most austere practices, one is able to attain here below to the supreme end, which is to become identified with Brahma." ("Their whole doctrine of spirit, of the supreme-Being, and the relation of man to God, must have made the Brahmins ascetics from the very first. So that, when the origin of this religion can be ascertained, we may say, without further examination, monasticism was there, and gave birth to it?' [Johnson Monks before Christ. page 70].)

" 87. The novice, the marled man, the anchorite, and the ascetic devotee form four distinct orders, which derive the origin from the superior of the house. " 91. The Dwijas, who belong to these four orders, ought always to practice with. the greatest care the ten virtues which compose their dutiy.

" 92. Resignation, the act of rendering good for evil, temperance, probity, purity, the subjugation of the senses, the knowledge of the Shastras, that of the supreme soul, veracity, and abstinence from choler such are the ten virtues in which their duty consists."

From the eleventh book, "Penitences and Expiations," we make the following extracts:

" 211. The Dwija, who undergoes the ordinary penitence called Prajapatya, ought to eat during three days only in the morning; during the next three days, only at night; during the following three days, he should partake only of such food as persons may give him voluntarily, without his begging for it; and, finally, let him fast three days entirely.

" ' 214. A Brahmin, accomplishing the severe penitence (Taptakrichra), ought to swallow nothing but warm water, warm milk, cold clarified butter, and warm vapor employing each of them three days in succession.

" 215. He who, master of his senses and perfectly attentive, supports a fast of twelve days, makes the penitence called Paroka, which expiates all of his faults.

" 216. Let the penitent who desires to make the Chandrayana, having eaten fifteen mouthfulls on the day of the full moon, diminish his nourishment by one mouthful each day during the fifteen days of obscuration which follow, in such a manner that on the fourteenth day he shall eat but one mouthful, and then let him fast on the fifteenth, which is the day of the new moon; let him augment, on the contrary, his nourishment by one mouthful each day during the next fifteen days, commencing the first day with one mouthful.

" 239. Great criminals, and all other men guilty of divers faults, are released from the consequences of their sins by austerities practiced with exactitude. " 251. By reciting the Hovichyantiya or the Natamanha sixteen times a day for a month, or by repeating inaudibly the hymn Porucha, he who has defiled the bed of his spiritual master is absolved from all fault."

"The ascetic system," says Schaff, "is essential alike to Brahminism, (See Hinduism), and Buddhism (q.v.); the two opposite and yet cognate branches of the Indian religion, which in many respects are similarly related to each other as Judaism is to Christianity, or as Romanism to Protestantism. Buddhism is a later reformation of Brahminism... But the two religions start from opposite principles. Brahminic asceticism proceeds from a pantheistic view of the world the Buddhistic from an atheistic and nihilistic, yet very earnest view; the one is controlled by the idea of the absolute but abstract unity, and a feeling of contempt of the world the other by the idea of the absolute but unreal variety, and a feeling of deep grief over the emptiness and nothingness of all existence; the one is predominantly objective, positive, and idealistic the other more subjective, negative, and realistic; the one aims at absorption into the universal spirit of Brahma the other constantly at an absorption into nonentity." "Brahminism,' says Wuttke, "looks back to the beginning, Buddhism to the end; the former loves cosmogony, the latter eschatology. Both reject the existing world; the Brahmin despises it because he contrasts it with the higher being of Brahma; the Buddhist bewails it because of its unrealness; the former sees God in all, the other emptiness in all" (Des Geistesleben der Chinesen, Japaner, und Indier, 1853, page 593, constituting part 2 of his History of Heathenism). "Yet," adds Schaff, "as all extremes meet, the abstract all entity of Brahminism and the equally abstract non-entity or vacuity of Buddhism come to the same thing in the end, and may lead to the same ascetic practices. The asceticism of Brahminism takes more the direction of anchoretism, while that of Buddhism exists generally in the social form of regular convent life."

The Hindu monks, the Vanaprastha, or Gymnosophists (q.v.), as the Greeks called them, are Brahminical anchorites (q.v.), who live in woods or caves, on mountains or rocks, in. poverty, celibacy, abstinence, contemplation: sleeping on straw or the bare ground, crawling on the belly, macerating the body, standing all day on tiptoe, exposed to the, pouring rain or scorching sun with four fires kindled around them, presenting a savage and frightful appearance, yet greatly revered by the multitude, especially the women. As procreation of at least one child is strictly enjoined by Brahminism, some take their wives along, but never have intercourse with them except at such times as they are most likely to conceive. They are reputed to perform miracles, and not unfrequently complete their austerities by suicide on the stake or in the waves of the Ganges. Thus they are described by the ancients and by modern travellers (see Dubois, Description of the Character, Manners, and Customs of the People of India [Philadelphia, 1818]).

The Buddhist monks are less fanatical and extravagant than the Hindu Yogis (q.v.) and Fakirs (q.v.). They depend mainly on fasting, prayer, psalmody, intense contemplation, and the use of the whip, to keep their rebellious flesh in subjection. (See Buddhism); (See Gotama).

They have a fully developed system of monasticism in connection with their priesthood, and a large number of convents; also nunneries for female devotees. The laws of Buddha, it is true, are often .purely moral, and they do: not profess to be the transcript of a higher than a human mind. Yet they aimed at reducing the entire company of the faithful to strictly monastic rule, to the mortification of all human passion, to the separation and isolation of the sexes, to mendicancy, and to the cessation and relinquishing of all personal and individual rights. Hence India, though she expelled Buddhistic rule, and princes and professors from her soil, yet shows at a hundred points the deep furrow which Buddhist monasticism has drawn across the more hoary superstitions and more agonizing asceticism of Hindu philosophy; and her monuments and literature bear witness to the brave, self-sacrificing devotion of these sons and daughters of Buddha, and to the fact that they went into all Eastern lands to preach the faith of their sires, to build monasteries, to organize worship, to multiply their sacred books, to perform pilgrimage to holy shrines of their faith, to adore the relics of saints and martyrs, and work miracles by their aid, and to adapt themselves to such varying populations as the cultivated philosophers of Nepaul, the ingenious and susceptible Japanese, the Cingalese, and Burmese, to say nothing of the pontifical empire of Tibet (q.v.), intentions, the young prince said, Let us turn back: I must think how to accomplish deliverance.' A last meeting put an end to his hesitation. He was driving through the northern gate, on the way to his pleasure gardens, when he saw a mendicant, who appeared outwardly calm, subdued, looking downwards, wearing with an air of dignity his religious vestment, and carrying an alms-bowl. Who is this man?' asked the prince. Sir,' replied the coachman, this man is one of those who are called bikshus, or mendicants.

He has renounced all pleasures, all desires, and leads a life of austerity. He tries to conquer himself. He has become a devotee: without passion, without envy, he walks about asking for alms.' This is good and well said,' replied the prince. The life of a devotee has always been praised by the wise. It will be my refuge, and the refuge of other creatures: it will lead us to a real life, to happiness and immortality.' With these words, the young prince turned his chariot, and re-entered the city" (translated in Muller's Essays on the Science of Religion). Buddha then declared to his father and wife his determination to become a recluse, and soon after escaped from his palace in the night while the guards had fallen asleep. The religion which he established is now, after a lapse of 2000 years, professed by one third of the inhabitants of the entire globe. One king is said to have founded 84,000 monasteries for his order, that being the number of discourses which Buddha pronounced during his lifetime. The "Law" which he gave to his order is contained in the first of the three Pitakas, and was orally handed down until about B.C. 100, when it was committed to writing in the island of Ceylon. It is called the Winaya Pitaka. and contains rules for every conceivable monastic observance. It is composed of 42,250 stanzas. To alms-giving Buddha attached an extraordinary importance. He declares that "there is no reward either in this world or in the next that may not be received through almsgiving." Ten centuries later, Chrysostom wrote, "Hast thou a penny? purchase heaven.

Heaven is on sale, and in the market, and yet ye mind it not! Give a crust, and take back paradise; give the least, and receive the greatest; give the perishable, and receive the imperishable; give the corruptible, and receive the incorruptible. Alms are the redemption of the soul... Alms-giving, which is able to break the chain of thy sins... Alms-giving, the queen of virtues, and the readiest of all ways of getting into heaven, and the best advocated there" (comp. Taylor, Anc. Christianity). According to the Winaya Pitaka, "The wise priest never asks for anything; he disdains to beg: it is a proper object for which he carries the alms-bowl; and this is the only mode of solicitation." Celibacy, poverty, the tonsure, a particular garb, confession of sins, etc., are made compulsory.

The vows, however, are not taken for life; and a monk may retire from the order if he finds it impossible to remain continent. A novitiate is provided for; and there are "nuns" or "sisters" who live in houses by themselves. The novice usually begins her connection with the order in the school, where she is sent while yet quite young. Foundlings were often given to the early Christian monasteries, by whom they were reared for the ascetic life. No Buddhist Can Attain To Nirvana Unless He Has Served A Time As An Ascetic. There are five modes of meditation specified by the Pitaka: 1, Maitri; 2, Mudita; 3, Karuna; 4, Upeksha; 5, Asubha. We read of a monk who was so profoundly sunk in contemplation that he did not wash his feet for thirty years; so that at last the divine beings called dervas could smell him a thousand miles off. The monk refrains from severely injuring his body, so that he may practice as long as possible his ascetic rites. Their mode of reasoning on this subject is illustrated by the following quotation from the Milinda-prasna, a work in Pali and Cingalese: "Milinda. Do the priests respect the body? Nagasena. No. Milinda. Then why do they take so much pains to preserve it? Do they not by this means say, This is me, or mine?' Nagasena. Were you ever wounded by an arrow in battle? Milinda. Yes. Nagasena. Was not the wound anointed? Was it not rubbed with oil? And was it not covered with a soft bandage? Milinda. Yes. Nagasena. Was this done because you respected the wound, or took delight in it? Milinda. No; but that it might be healed. Nagasena. In like manner, the priests do not preserve the body because they respect it, but that they may have the power required for the keeping of the precepts."

(2.) Persian Monachism. The Zend-Avesta, written, it is generally agreed, about B.C. 500, contains no allusion to ascetic rites; but this fact would go no further to disprove the existence of monastic life among the Persiais than the absence of such allusion from the N.T. would disprove the existence of Jewish monks. The Avesta is not of a historical character; and what was said about the Vedas is particularly true of it prayers and hymns make up almost its entire contents. Zoroaster originally dwelt with the Brahminical or Sanscrit branch of the Aryan family; and we know that monasticism was rife among them before the separation took place. It is not likely that they ever shook off this institution, which is as universal as religion or intemperance. We are told that there was a class of "solitaries" among them. According to the Desatir, the Dobistan, and the old Iranian histories, "there was a great king of that branch of the Aryan people known as Kai-Khuero, who was a prophet and an ascetic. He had no children; and. after a glorious reign of sixty years,' he abdicated in favor of a subordinate prince, also an ascetic, who, after a long reign, resigned his throne to his son Gushtasp. It was during the reign of Gushtasp that Zoroaster appeared. Gushtasp was succeeded by Bohman, his grandson." These were not kings of Persia, but they reigned at Balkh, and lived many centuries before Persia became an independent kingdom. This would place the origin of asceticism anterior to Zoroaster, who lived, the Greeks said, 5000 years before the Trojan war, or 6000 before Plato an antiquity greater than that assigned to it by the "Nabatmean Agriculture."

(3.) Chinese Monachism . An examination of the Chou-King, the sacred book Par Excellence of China, is without fruit for our purpose. It is a significant fact, however, that the word "priest" is written in Chinese "Cha- men," or "Sang-men," which mean, respectively, one who exerts himself,* or one who restrains himself. The Chou-King was transcribed by Confucius (Life And Teachings Of Confucius, by James Legge, D.D. [Phila. 1867]) about B.C. 480, and to him we owe its preservation. It is only one out of a large number of books upon religious topics which must have existed in his time. Lao-Kiun, who lived several generations before Confucius, was a great ascetic, advocated perfect freedom from passion, and passed much of his time in the mountains. Of Confucius, it is known that he taught no new doctrines, but insisted upon a more faithful observation of the ancient law. He flourished in the 5th century B.C. (551-479). At nineteen years of age he divorced himself from his wife, after she had given birth to a son, to devote himself to study and meditation; and his last days were passed in a quiet valley, where he retired with a few of his followers. He fasted quite frequently, and advocated many other monkish observances: such as retirement, contemplation, and agricultural employment. (See Schott, Werke. des chinzesischen Weisen Kong-Ftu-Dsi [Halle, 1826]. Comp. also Meng Tseu, ed. Stanislaus Julien, lib. 1, c. 5, par. 29; c. 6, page 29; and article CONFUCIUS (See Confucius).) Mencius, an apostle of Confucius, who flourished in the 3d. century B.C., says, "Though a man may be wicked, yet, if he adjust his thoughts, fast, and bathe, he may sacrifice to God." (Compare Johnson, Monks Before Christ, Their Spirit And Their History [Bost. 1870, 18mo], chapter 2).

* There is a remarkable similarity between the derivation of this word and that of ascetic (from Ἀσκεῖν , to Exercise, or practice gymnastics).

(4.) Greek Monachism. The Hellenic heathenism was less serious and contemplative, indeed, than the Oriental. The first monastic society of which we have any knowledge are the Pythagoreans (q.v.), who, no doubt, are an importation from Egyptian or even from Indian soil (see Clement Alexandrinus, Stromat. lib. 3; Ueberweg, list. Philos. 1:42 sq.) "The mysteries of Bacchus and Ceres were copied after those of Osiris and Isis. These latter, in some respects, resembled Freemasonry more than they did monastic orders. They forbade, however, all sensuous enjoyment, enjoined contemplation, long-protracted silence, etc. Moreover, it is probable that Pythagoras found here many of those ascetic observances which he afterwards introduced into his own order" (Johnson, Monks before Christ, page 87). Bunsen says that the rules for the conduct of Egyptian priests, as described by Chaeremon and preserved by Porphyry, remind one of the Laws of Mann and the Vedas; so that if the conjectures of this Egyptologist be accepted, we are forced to conclude that Hellenic monasticism came from the Hindus through the Egyptians. unless the theory be accepted that the Greeks borrowed it directly from the Indians during their intercourse in the 5th and 6th centuries B.C. But whatever our opinion on this point, certain it is that more than 2000 years before Ignatius Loyola assembled the nucleus of his great "society" in a subterranean chapel, in the city of Paris there was founded at Crotona, in Greece, an order of monks whose principles, constitution, aims, method, and final end entitle them to be called the "Pagan Jesuits" (see Zeller, Pythagoras u. die Pythagora-Saga. in his Vortrige u. Abhandlungen [Leips. 1865]; Johnson, Monks before Christ, pages 87, 88). The extinction of Pythagoreanism (soon after B.C. 400) by no means did away with asceticism in Greece. The philosophical mantle of the Pythagoreans fell upon a new school, among whom Epimenides and Plato are usually reckoned; and the Platonic view of matter and of body not only lies at the bottom of the Gnostic and Manichsean asceticism, but had much to do with the ethics of Origen and the Alexandrian school.

(5.) Jewish Monachism . The origin and extent of Jewish monasticism is shrouded in much uncertainty and doubt. Yet it is clearly manifest from the records that have come down to us that Judaism was not altogether alien to asceticism. As far back as the days of Moses, while the Israelites were yet in the wilderness, a special law was made for those who should seek an ascetic life; and the Nazarites (q.v.), though, they did not separate themselves from the other people, yet did set themselves apart for special divine worship ( Numbers 6:1-21;  Judges 13:5;  1 Samuel 1:11;  Luke 1:15). Later, in Palestine, the Jews had their Essenes (q.v.), and in Egypt their Therapeute (q.v.), though it must be confessed that these betray the intrusion of foreign elements into the Mosaic religion, and so receive no mention in the New Test., unless the allusion in  Matthew 19:12 refers to these ascetics, which is believed, however, by only a few Biblical scholars. (See, besides the works quoted in the article ESSENES (See Essenes) , Zeller, Griech-Philos. volume 3, part 2, page 589; and Theol. Jahrb. 1856, 3:358; Keim, Der Geschichtliche Christus [Zurich, 1865], page 15; Langen, Das Judenthum in Palistina zur Zeit Christi [Freib. 1866], page 186.)

(6.) Mohanmmedan Monachism. "The two most successful religious impostures," says Cunningham, "which the world has yet seen are Buddhism and Mohammedanism. Each creed owed its origin to the enthusiasm of a single individual, and each was rapidly propagated by numbers of zealous followers. But here the parallel ends; for the Koran of Mohammed was addressed wholly to the passions' of mankind, by the promised gratification of human desires both in this world and in the next; while the Dharma of Sakya Muni was addressed wholly to the intellect,' and sought to wean mankind from the pleasures and vanities of this life by pointing to the transitoriness of all human enjoyment... The former propagated his religion by the merciless edge of the sword; the latter by the persuasive voice of the missionary. The sanguinary career of the Islamite was lighted by the lurid flames of burning cities; the peaceful progress of the Buddhist was illuminated by the cheerful faces of the sick in monastic hospitals [for the crippled, the deformed, the destitute], and by the happy smiles of travellers reposing in Dharmasalas by the road-side. The one was the personification of bodily activity and material enjoyment; the other was the genius of corporeal abstinence and intellectual contemplation" (Bhilsa Topes, pages 53, 54). These words of Cunningham may apply to the early history of the two religions, but they are hardly in place in their history of more modern times. It is true, indeed, that Mohammedanism was the religion of the sword, but, its conquests over, it has studied the religions of the world, and today Islam embodies much from every creed in the universe. Its founder had been especially careful to rigidly exclude monasticism, and himself declared "no monachism in Islam," yet today the dervishes of the East are to be met almost wherever Islam has its adherents. (See Dervishes). Celibacy is not likely to get a great hold in Mohammedan nations, but ascetic practices, hermitage, and mendicancy prevail to a large extent among them. Mr. Ruffner, in his Fathers Of The Desert (N.Y. 1850, 2 volumes, a work popular in form, and full of valuable and curious information), has furnished an extended description of Mohammedan monasticism, and goes so far as to assert that the Christians derived it largely from them, who in turn, borrowed from the Buddhists (see volume 1, chapter 2-9); but such a view can hardly be reconciled with the great place of the phenomenon in history, and would, moreover, stamp as heretics many of the Christian fathers who were among the greatest and best representatives both East and West. (See below.) The probability is that monachism, so far as it exists in the Mohammedan world, was introduced either direct from the heathen world around it, or came from the Christians of the Post Nicene age, especially the churches of Africa, and Egypt in particular.

II. Christian Monachism.

1. Origin Of Monasticism In The Church . The advocates of Christian monasticism claim for it an evangelical origin. They think they find at once its justification and primitive form in the Gospel exhortation to voluntary. poverty (the instance in which Christ charged the rich young man to sell all he had, that; as a follower of his, he should receive a hundred-fold more, "with persecution,"  Matthew 19:21). "But this monastic interpretation of primitive Christianity," as Dr. Schaff has well said, "mistakes a few incidental points of outward resemblance for essential identity, measures the spirit of Christianity by some isolated passages, instead of explaining the latter from the former, and is upon the whole a miserable emaciation and caricature. The Gospel makes upon all men virtually the same moral demand, and knows no distinction of a religion for the masses and another for the few." Monachism, in this light, is at variance with the pure spirit of Christianity, inasmuch as it impels men, instead of remaining as a salt to the corrupt world in which they live, outwardly to withdraw from it, and to bury the talent which otherwise they might use for the benefit of the many. "Jesus, the model for all believers, was neither a cenobite nor an anchoret, nor an ascetic of any kind, but the perfect pattern man for universal imitation. There is not a trace of monkish austerity and ascetic rigor in his life or precepts, but in all his acts and words a wonderful harmony of freedom and purity, of the most comprehensive charity and spotless holiness. He retired to the mountains and into solitude, but only temporarily and for the purpose of renewing his strength for active work. Amid the society of his disciples, of both sexes, with kindred and friends, in Cana and Bethany, at the table of publicans and sinners, and in intercourse with all classes of the people, he kept himself unspotted from the world, and transfigured the world into the kingdom of God. His poverty and celibacy have nothing to do with asceticism, but represent, the one the condescension of his redeeming love, the other his ideal uniqueness and his absolutely peculiar relation to the whole Church, which alone is fit or worthy to be his bride... The life of the apostles and primitive Christians in general was anything but a hermit life; else had not the Gospel spread so quickly to all the cities of the Roman world. Peter was married, and travelled with his wife as a missionary. Paul assumes one marriage of the clergy as a rule, and notwithstanding his personal and relative preference for celibacy in the then oppressed condition of the Church, he is the most zealous advocate of evangelical freedom, in opposition to all legal bondage and anxious asceticism."

As little as we find in the life of Christ or his apostles any authority for the. monastic life, so little do we find it represented in the life of primitive Christians generally. It is true in the infant Church, for a time, all things were in common, but even in this community of life, certainly the oldest or, rather, earliest phase of Christianity, monasticism finds no authority; for if it had been intended to serve as such, it would have been perpetuated. It failed because it was a social impossibility. "It gives a beautiful picture of what Christianity might be, when all are of one mind and one spirit;" but it was incompatible with the general course of human affairs, and it ceased to be. While, therefore, not even the Christian primitive communism can have been the germ from which monachism in the Church started, the theory of the monastic institution may possibly have been thereby suggested. Not even the asceticism of the infant Church can be made to account for this institution. Severe asceticism, it is true, was the religion of thousands throughout the Christian world, but those who practiced it neither separated themselves from the world nor from its social and political duties. They were simply a standing memorial of the solemn nature of the Christian baptismal vow in the heart of the families of the people. The most rigid. monastic rule could have added neither severity to their self- discipline nor higher temper to their chastened spirit (see Neander, Ch. Hist. 2:223 sq.).

But though monasticism was not a form of life that sprang originally and purely out of Christianity, yet there can be no doubt that by Christianity a new spirit was infused into this foreign mode of life, whereby with many it became ennobled and converted into an instrument of effecting much which could not otherwise have been effected by any such mode of living. Unless this view is taken, it would, as Dr. Schaff has well said, "involve the entire ancient Church, with its greatest and best representatives both East and West its Athanasius, its Chrysostom, its Jerome, its Augustine in apostasy from the faith." And, as he aptly adds, "no one will now hold that these men, who all admired and commended the monastic life, were antichristian errorists, and that the few and almost exclusively negative opponents of that asceticism, as Jovinian. Helvidius, and Vigilantius, were the sole representatives of pure Christianity in the Nicene and next following age" (comp. Kingsley, Hermits, pages 14, 15). We shall come to consider the good and evil influences in another part of this article. Here we have to deal simply with its origin and relation to primitive Christianity. In the article ASCETICISM (See Asceticism) it has been shown that a distinction must be made between it and the monastic life, which was not known until the 4th century. That class of ascetics known as Hermits flourished probably as early as the age succeeding Christ's stay on earth; indeed, it is barely possible that its origin may be traced to John the Baptist and his surroundings. There were, no doubt, many in the early Church who, with a view to more complete freedom from the cares, temptations, and business of the world, withdrew from the ordinary intercourse of life, and took up their abode in natural caverns or rudely formed huts in deserts, forests, mountains, and other solitary places.

The pagan depravation of manners must have in no small degree contributed to it. Then there must naturally have been multitudes of outwardly professing Christians, especially in large cities, who sickened the heart of those earnest souls whose spirit and disposition led to a nearness with Christ. Hence we find that hermits are generally spoken of as emanating from large cities, which were seats of corruption, thereby indicating clearly that in the primitive Church the ascetic desire was prompted by man's noblest impulses. In the writings of the Church fathers we can trace these germs of Christian monachism back to the middle of the 2d century. Thus writes Ricaut, when speaking of Mount Athos (Present State of the Greek and Armenian Churches [A.D. 1678], page 218): "Though St. Basil was the first author and founder of the order of Greek monks, so that before his time there could be none who professed the strict way of living in convents and religious societies I mean in Greece yet certainly, before his time, the convenience of the place, and the situation thereof, might invite Hermites, and persons delighting in solitary devotions, of which the world, in the first and second century, did abound" (comp. Origen, Ep. ad Rom. c. 3; Mohler, Gesch. d. Monchthums in sersten Entstehung, etc., in Vermzischte Schriften, 2:165 sq.). Yet it is as late as the middle of the. 3d century, in which falls the Decian persecution (A.D. 249-251), that there are first brought to light numerous instances of a retirement of devoted Christians to the desert (comp. Sozomen, Hist. Ecclesiastes lib. 6 cap. 43). But even these hermits were not monastics in the modern sense of the word. They were accustomed to live singly, each according to his own inclination, without any specific form of union, and that within the precincts of the Church to which they severally belonged, unless personal safety required removal to more distant parts. It was reserved for the 4th century the very age which gave state aid and perpetuity to Christianity to develop that branch of asceticism which has ever since continued to flourish in a part of the Church, and to this day figures in the history of Christian civilization, sometimes to advantage, and oftentimes to great disadvantage.

2. Development Of Monachism . In what has preceded it is clearly foreshadowed that the historical development of the monastic institution was neither sudden nor rapid, but that it passed through several stages before it finally took the shape under which it is now known to us. Dr. Schaff distinguishes Four stages the first three complete in the 4th century; the remaining one reaches maturity in the Latin Church of the Middle Ages.

(a) The first stage covers the ascetic life, neither organized nor separated from the Church. It comes down from the ante-Nicene age, and is noticed in the article ASCETICISM (See Asceticism) (q.v.). In the 4th century it took the form, for the most part, of either hermit or cenobite life, and continued in the Church itself, especially among the clergy, who might be called halfmonks.

(b) The second stage, which is hermit-life or anchoretism, (See Anacholrets), arose in the beginning of the 4th century, gave asceticism a fixed and permanent shape, and pushed it even to external separation from the world. It took the prophets Elijah and John the Baptist for its models, and went beyond them (comp. Lond. Qu. Rev. April 1855, page 164). Not content with partial and temporary retirement from common life, which may be united with social intercourse and useful labors, the consistent anchoret secluded himself from all society, even from kindred ascetics, and came only exceptionally into contact with human affairs, either to receive the visits of admirers of every class, especially of the sick and the needy (which were very frequent in the case of the more celebrated monks), or to appear in the cities on some extraordinary occasion, as a spirit from another world. His clothing was a hair shirt and a wild-beast's skin; his food bread and salt; his dwelling a cave; his employment prayer, affliction of the body, and conflict with satanic powers and wild images of fancy. They were, as Montalembert says, "nais comme des enfants, et Torts comme des greants;" though Villemain, forming a more unimpassioned estimate of monasticism and its results, says, "De cette rude ecole du desert ilsortait des grands hommes et des fous;" heroes and madmen (Melanges Elog. Chrat. page 356). The anchorets maintained from choice, after the cessation of the persecutions, the seclusion to which they had originally resorted as an expedient of security; and a later development of the same principle is found in the still more remarkable psychological phenomenon of the celebrated Pillar Saints (q.v.).

The founder of the anchoretic mode of life is supposed to have been one certain Paul of Thebes, but St. Anthony is generally looked upon as "the father of monasticism" (Neander, 2:229); and though this is perhaps going a little too far, he must certainly be regarded as the principal influence in the anchoretic movement. Says Neander (Ch. Hist. 2:228, 229), "In the 4th century men were not agreed on the question as to who was to be considered the founder of monasticism, whether Paul or Anthony. If by this was to be understood the individual from whom the spread of this mode of life proceeded, the name was unquestionably due to the latter; for if Paul was the first Christian hermit, yet he must have remained unknown to the rest of the Christian world, and without the influence of Anthony would have found no followers. (Before Anthony, there may have been many who, by inclination or by peculiar outward circumstances, were led to adopt this mode of life; but they remained, at least, unknown.) The' first whom tradition which in this case, it must be confessed, is entitled to little confidence, and much distorted by fable cites by name is the above- mentioned Paul. He is said to have been moved by the Decian persecution, which no doubt raged with peculiar violence in his native land, the Thebaid, in Upper Egypt, to withdraw. himself, when a young man, to a grotto in a remote mountain. By degrees he became attached to the mode of life he had adopted at first out of necessity. Nourishment and clothing were supplied him by a palm-tree that had sprung up near the grotto. Whether everything in this legend, or, if not everything, what part of it, is historically true, it is impossible to determine. According to the tradition, Anthony (q.v.) having heard of Paul, visited him, and made him known to others. But as Athanasius, in his life of Anthony is wholly silent as to this matter, which he certainly would have deemed an important circumstance though he states that Anthony visited all ascetics who were experienced in the spiritual life the story must be dismissed as unworthy of credit."

It was really Anthony who gave to his age a pattern, which was seized with love and enthusiasm by many hearts that longed after Christian perfection, and which excited many to emulate it. Like Paul, Anthony was a native of Egypt, and being himself of a noble family, his influence was considerable, and he persuaded many members of the old Egyptian families to join him, and' spread his ascetic views and practices throughout all Egypt; even the deserts of this country, to the borders of Lybia, were sprinkled with numerous anachoretic societies. Hence the institution spread to Palestine and Syria, and Anthony, indeed, was visited not only by Egyptian ascetics, but also by those coming from Jerusalem (see Palladii Lausiaca, c. 26, Biblioth patrum Parisiensis, t. 13, fol. 939). Thus it was that Anthony, "without any conscious design of his own" (Neander), became the founder of this new mode of Christian living; for it in truth happened of its own accord, without any special efforts of his, that persons of similar disposition attached themselves to him, and, building their cells around his, made him their spiritual guide and governor, and thus constituted the first societies of Anachorets, who lived scattered, in single cells or huts, united together under one superior demonstrating, moreover, that in monasticism prevailed the same law as in every other intellectual movement. An idea exists long in a state of free solution, till the mastermind is revealed, destined to give it fixity and permanence; and from that time it becomes a nucleus around which system gathers and crystallizes. Thus the recluses of the desert continued to gain in strength and number until gathered by Anthony; the connecting tie being a triple vow of chastity, poverty, and manual labor for the common good. Thenceforth the attention of Christendom was attracted to the Thebaid; all who needed it found there an asylum. But it was. after all, only for the East, and not for the world. Christianity had proved itself adapted to the wants of all; this form of asceticism could prevail only where the climate favored a hermit's life. It was too eccentric and unpractical for the West, and hence less frequent there, especially in the rougher climates. To the female sex it was entirely unsuited. An order of widows, employed in charitable works, and supported from the offerings of the faithful, was apparently one of the primitive institutions of the apostles (Lea, Celibacy, page 100); yet they were not separated from the world, but moved in it. (See Deaconesses). There was, to be sure, a class of hermits, the Sarabaites (q.v.) in Egypt, and the Rhemoboths (q.v.) in Syria; but their quarrelsomeness, occasional intemperance, and opposition to the clergy brought them into ill-repute.

(c) The third step in the progress of the monastic life brings us to Cenobitism or Cloister life monasticism in the ordinary sense of the word. The necessities of the religious life itself as the attendance at public worship, the participation of the sacraments, the desire for mutual instruction and edification naturally enough led gradually to modifications of the degree and of the nature of the solitude. First came the simplest form of common life, which sought to combine the personal seclusion of individuals with the common exercise of all the public duties; an aggregation of separate cells into the same district, called by the name Laura, with a common church, in which all assembled for prayer and public worship. From the union of the common life with personal solitude is derived the name conobite, i.e., common life, by which this class of monks is distinguished from the strict solitaries, as the anchorets or eremites. In this, too, is involved, in addition to the obligations of poverty and chastity, which were vowed by the anchorets, a third obligation of obedience to a superior, which, in conjunction with the two former, has ever been held to constitute the essence of the religious or monastic life. (See Monastery).

Like all the other ascetic institutions, the monastic life also found its home in Egypt. The country was certainly favorable to the production and expansion of just such an institution. "The land where Oriental and Grecian literature, philosophy, and religion, Christian orthodoxy and Gnostic heresy, met both in friendship and in hostility," was in every way adapted to be "the native land" of the monastic life. We may add also that "monasticism was favored and promoted here by climate and geographic features, by the oasislike seclusion of the country, by the bold contrast of barren deserts with the fertile valley of the Nile, by the superstition, the contemplative turn, and the passive endurance of the national character, by the example of the Therapeutae, and by the moral principles of the Alexandrian fathers; especially by Origen's theory of a higher and lower morality, and of the merit of voluntary poverty and celibacy." Even back in the days of Elian we are told by him that the Egyptians bear the most exquisite torture without a murmur, and would rather be tormented to death than compromise truth. Such natures, once seized with religious enthusiasm, were certainly very eminently qualified for saints of the desert. No wonder, then, that the monastic life soon gained general favor. Pachomius (292-348), a disciple of Anthony, is recognized as the founder of this peculiar, ascetic life. Palladius, himself a convert in these early days to this institution, furnishes an account of its progress in connection with an account of its author, which Neander thus presents: "Pachomius, at the beginning of the 4th century, when a young man, after having obtained his release from the military service, into which he had been forced, attached himself to an aged hermit, with whom he passed twelve years of his life. Here he felt the impulse of Christian love, which taught him that he ought not to live merely so as to promote his own growth to perfection, but .to seek also the salvation of his brethren.

He supposed unless this is a decoration of the legend that in a vision he heard the voice of an angel giving utterance to the call in his own breast it was the divine will that he should be an instrument for the good of his brethren, by reconciling them to God (Vita Pachom., § 15). On Tabennae, an island of the Nile, in Upper Egypt, betwixt the Nomes of Tenthyra and Thebes, he founded a society of monks, which during the lifetime of Pachonlius himself numbered three thousand, and afterwards seven thousand members; and thus went on increasing until, in the first half of the 5th century, it could reckon within its rules fifty thousand monks (Lauriaca, 6:1, c. 909; also c. 38, fol. 957; Hieronymi Profat. in regulan. Pachomii, § 7)." We are told that when Athanasius visited Pachomius three thousand monks passed before him in procession, chanting hymns, and exhibiting practical proofs of direct piety under the monastic rule. Nor was the new movement confined to the Tabenus region. The development in the Nitrian and Thebaid deserts was equally rapid; so that Rufinus (V. Patr. 2:7) affirms that the monastic population of Egypt equalled the inhabitants of the towns. In the single district of Nitria, we are told, there were no fewer than fifty monasteries (Sozomen, Ecclesiastes Hist. 6:31) and the civil authorities even found it expedient to place restrictions on their excessive multiplication. Neither was the movement confined to Egypt. Arabia, Syria, Palestine, and more especially the region of Mount Sinai, soon swarmed with recluses, and were thickly studded with monasteries. "We daily receive monks," says Jerome (346-420), writing at Bethlehem, "from India, and Persia, and Ethiopia." The entire Eastern Church gave this practice confidence, and the greatest teachers of the Church as Gregory Nazianzen (329-389). Basil the Great (328-379), and the golden-tongued Chrysostom (342-407) became its enthusiastic admirers and promoters.

Nor did the desert remain the home of the new life. Monastic institutions were soon transplanted to the towns, and in agitated times these places became safe houses of refuge from the troubles of the world. Indeed, it must be conceded by all honest students of early ecclesiastical history that the example of the monasticism of the early Eastern Church had a powerful influence in forwarding the progress of Christianity; although it is also certain that the admiration which it excited occasionally led to its natural consequence among the members, by eliciting a spirit of pride and ostentation, and by provoking, sometimes to fanatical excesses of austerity, sometimes to hypocriti