Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 1.djvu/850

This page needs to be proofread.



.•eligious observ-ances with those of the Egyptians, and who lived a life of voluntary poverty, chastity, labour, solitude, and prayer. They were called Therapeutne, which, like Essenes. means Healers. Rappoport, in his "History of Egjypt " (XI, 29), .says that a certain class of the Egj'ptian priesthood led a similar kind of Hfe. We know of the Therapeutse only from Philo. How true his descriptions are cannot be determined.

Heretical — In the second century of the Church appear the Encratites. or The .\uKtere. They were a section of the heretical Gnostics, chiefly Syrians, who, because of their erroneous views about matter, withdrew from all contact with the world, and denounced marriage as impure. About the same period came the Montanists, who forbade second marriage, enjoined rigorous fasts, insisted on the

Cerpetual exclusion from the Church of those who ad ever committed grievous sin, stigmatized flight in time of persecution as reprehensible, protested that virgins should be always veiled, reprobated paintings, statuary, militaiy service, theatres, and all worldly sciences. In the third century the Manichaeans held marriage to be unlawful and re- frained from wine, meat, milk, and eggs; all of which did not deter them from the grossest im- morality. The Flagellants were a sect that began about 1260. They journeyed from place to place in Italy, Austria, Bohemia, Bavaria, and Poland, scourging themselves to blood, ostensibly to excite the populace to contrition for their sins, but they were soon prohibited by the ecclesiastical authorities. They appeared again in the fourteenth centurj', in Hungarj% Germany, and England. Pope Clement VI issued a Bull against them in 1349, and the Inquisition pursued them with such vigour that they disappeared altogether. They were bitter enemies of the Church. The Cathari of "the twelfth century were, as their name impUes, Puritans. Though teaching the doc- trines of the Manichaeans, they affected to live a purer life than the rest of the Church. Chief among them were the Waldenses, or "Poor Men of Lyons", who accepted evangelical poverty and then defied the Pope, who suppressed them. Although Protestant- ism has been incessant in its denunciations of asceti- cism, it is amazing to note how many extreme in- stances of it the liistory of Protestantism furnishes. The Puritans of England and New England, with their despotic and cruel laws, which imposed all sorts of restrictions not only upon themselves, but upon others, are examples of misgiuded ascetics. The early Methodists, with their denunciations of all amusements, dancing, theatres, card-playing, Sim- day enjoyments, etc., were ascetics. The number- less Sociahstic colonies and settlements which have sprung up in all countries are illustrations of the same spirit.

P.\OAN Asceticism. — Among the Greeks, we have the school, or quasi-community, of Pythagoras, whose object was to extirpate the passions, but it was philo- sophic rather than religious in its character and may be placed in the category of Natural Asceticism.

UuAiiMiNiCAL AscETiCLSM. — It is frequently con- tended that an asceticism exists among the Brahmins of India which in some respects is equal, if not superior, to that of Christianity. It inculcates the virtues of truthfulness, honesty, self-control, obedi- ence, temperance, alms-giving, care of the sick, meekness, forgiveness of injuries, returning good for evil, etc. It forbids suicide, abortion, perjury, slan- der, drunkenness, gluttony, usury, hypocrisy, sloth- fulness, and cruelty to animals. Ten vows bind the Brahmin to the practice of .some of these virtues. Its practice of penance is extraordinary. Besides what is left to personal initiative, the Laws of M.anu decree that: "the Bralunin .sliouUl roll himself on the KTound, or stand during the day on ti|>-toe, or

alternately stand and sit. In summer let him ex- pose himself to the heat of five fires; during the rainy season, let liim Hve under the open sky; and in winter be dressed in wet clothes, thus greatly increasing the rigour of his austerities. " Protracted fasts of the most fantastic character are also en- joined. In all this, there is no asceticism. These suicidal penances, apart from their wickedness and absurdity, are based on a misconception of the purpose of mortification. They are not supposed to atone for sin or to acquire merit, but arc prompted by the iilea that the greater the austerity the greater the holiness, and that besides hastening abisorption in the divinity they will help the penitent to obtain such a mastery over his body as to make it invisible at will, to float in the air, or pass with lightning speed from place to place. Being believers in metem- psychosis, they regard these sufferings as a means of avoiding the punishment oi new births under the form of other creatures.

Their pantheism destroys the very essential idea of virtue, for there can be no virtue, as there can be no vice, where one is a part of the deity. Again, the belief that there is no reality outside of Brahma prevents the use or abuse of creatures from having any influence on the righteous or unrighteous con- dition of the soul. Finally, as the end of existence is absorption into Brahma, with its attendant loss of personality and its adoption of an unconscious ex- istence for all future time, it holds out no inducement to the practice of virtue. The whole system is based on pride. The Brahmin is superior to all mankind, and contact with another caste than liis own, es- pecially the poor and humble, is pollution. It makes marriage obligatory, but compels the wife to adore the husband no matter how cruel he is, permitting him to reject her at w-ill; it encourages polygamy, approves of the harem, and authorizes the burning of widows in the suttees which the British Govern- ment has not yet succeeded in preventing. It abhors manual labour and compels the practice of mendicancy and idleness, antl it has done nothing for the physical betterment of the human race, as the condition of India for many centuries clearly shows. Its spiritual results are no better. Its liturgy is made up of the most disgusting, childish, and cruel superstitions, and its contradictory combinations of pantheism, mate- rialism, and idealism have developed a system of cruel divinities worse than those of pagan antiquity. It is consequently not real asceticism.

Buddhist Asceticism. — The ascetical practices of the Buddliists are monastic in their cliaracter, the devotees hving in communities, whereas the Brah- mins are mostly solitaries, though admitting pupils. The moral codes of both sects resemble eacli other in some respects. For the Buddhists, there are five great duties: not to kill any living creature; not to steal; not to act unchastely; not to lie; not to drink intoxicating liquors. Their ciglit-fold path of virtues is: right beliefs, right aspinilion, right speech, right conduct, right means of livelihood, riglit en- deavour, right memory, riglit nunlitation. The cultivation of meekness, both internal and external, is expressly inculcated. In the monasteries, con- fession of faults, but only of external ones, is prac- tised, and great importance is attached to meilita- tion. Their penances are comparatively moder- ate. Nevertheless, in spite of its glorification of virtue, this manner of life cannot be regarded as asceticism. While holding itself inditTerent to the pantlii'ism and other errors of Brahminism, it ignores God entirely, and is atheistic or agnostic, admitting no dependence on the I>iviiiitv and acknowledging no obligation of worsliip, obedience, love, gratitude, belief; con.sec|uently. eliiiiiiiatiiig all virtue. lU avoidance of sin is purely utilitarian, viz., to escape its con.seciuences. Its iiltiiiiale ciul is cxtinctioD