DUALISM AND MONASTIC THOUGHT

DUALISM’S INFLUENCE ON MONASTICISM

As we have previously seen, Mani was a religious teacher of the third Century A., whose religious ideas and teachings became known as Manicheanism, that sought to synthesize Christianity, Gnosticism, and Buddhism. Augustine of Hippo was one of Mani’s early and most colorful converts. Augustine’s subsequent conversion to Christianity and his renunciation of Manichean heresy led the way for Augustine’s eventual Bishopric. Catholic Faith’s website identifies; “Manicheanism as a part of the Gnostic current of the time, yet unlike some esoteric Gnostic sect’s, it also was a universal religion spread by proselytizing.”[1]

The strangest and more bizarre expressions about the early church seem to be found in its more ascetic practices, however. The churches adherence to the code of conduct associated with the monastic lifestyle and its severe rules of life, that gave rise to the ascetic way of existence and monasticism, were unusually harsh and cruel, even becoming somewhat sadistic at times. Within these Rules of Order came a treasure trove of legalisms and a rigid form of reality that forced the neophyte or acolyte into a life of submission and wanton depravation and denial. These rules were designed to exemplify and exalt the life of simplicity, glorifying ideals that emphasized the renunciation of property, repudiation of all worldly interests and directing the initiate into the philosophic ways of life that were patterned after the stoic expression and perspective of discipline.[2]

Additionally, there is an allusion to the practice of separation in the confines of the personal dwelling places or abodes. This private space was exclusively devoted to the creation of a personal sanctuary or monastery with the express intent of being utilized as a place of solitude and quiet contemplation as Scripture, or other Holy Writings were examined in seclusion. Those who withdrew into the sanctuary space did without food or drink, during the time of celebration, instead of using it to focus on the subject matter at hand solely.[3]


[1] Woods, Constance, Augustine Against the Manicheans, Catholic faith web site, N.D. (accessed 12-31-01)

http://www.catholic.net

[2] Eusebius, op. cit. pp. 92-3

[3] Eusebius, op. cit. p. 91

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