March 1st, 1983, Serial No. 00869

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Monastic Spirituality Set 10 of 12

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I want to get some idea of what monasticism is, as related to Christianity, if that's possible. It sounds like one of those abstract questions that goes round in circles, but it turns out to be rather important, in fact, in the way we think of ourselves. Because, according to the way we think of ourselves and who we are, we justify what we do, we decide what we do. And we have a whole program of that, a whole pattern of that, that goes contrary to the basic way of thinking of ourselves. And most people don't make that basic self image explicit. But if you don't make it explicit, then there are a lot of things you're unconscious of when you're diving into things. You've got a whole organization of your life, it's justified. You can say that the basic monastic vocation, the faction, is not a word or a matter of words, but is an impulse of the human being, an impulse of the spirit. But unless that impulse of the spirit is in fact a dialectic of words, the expression, the exposition, the language,


is something quite clear that can really get us there. It's not going to get us there unless we know how to do it. So we have to talk about it. The other reason for talking about it is because when we do, we find that we focus again and again and again on it. That is, there's a way of eliciting this vocation. There's a way of connecting once again with that inner flow, that inner structure, or whatever it is, by talking about it. That's largely the way it's in the world. We've gotten into that side question of the relationship between the monastic life and the religious life, which is very confusing if you look at it from, if you just kind of come out of today, all these different forms of religion, but especially some of them seem to be so, or some of them seem to be a bit falling apart. And most of them, of course, are going to end up in a different line. How does monasticism relate to that?


The key, it seems to me, are two things. The first key is the historical view, in which we go back and make the evolution of the whole thing. And when you do, you find that monasticism is the trunk, and that the others are branches, which very often have lost their connection to the trunk. The trouble with the trunk is that the trunk also can go dead, or it can fail to branch out, it can fail to blossom. The trunk can fail, or the branches lose their connection to the root. So both are excluded. So if we give the ten questions, the Western Church, I mean, it's highly developed forms of religious life. One key is in that historical perspective. But the other key is something else. The first key is available to anybody. The second key might be that it's available only to people who feel the monastic location itself. And that would be kind of a definition of what monasticism is really about. But you've talked about it already historically. But you don't really sort of cross the threshold until you have that feeling in the heart of what it's about.


That thing is academia. Then, beneath the historical thing, which may be confusing to you, but all the forms of monasticism, there are about 150 forms of monasticism. And you don't really feel that common element in them, unless it's a library. It can seem like a random statistical picture, unless that location is anywhere, unless it's kind of a resonance of how much reality that location is. And if it is, then the historical part crystallizes, and you can travel the kind of assurance between those first monastic centuries and the present. So, let's go back to Pfeiffer. Now, Pfeiffer would use it as a background, because he's got so much in there. And then, we'll digress for a while. He's asking that question in part of his chapter. And immediately he asks, what is a monastic idea with a secular origin? We heard that Monk would contend that everything about monasticism, everything essential about monasticism, is already set in the fourth century.


Which is true, and yet, it's kind of dangerously true. It's true, but it would seem to close the door in a way that makes your heart stop. So, there must be something else. There must be a reason for doing that. Because the real is simply coming out of there. But monasticism is not a thing that holds still in the third century. That's the risk. Because monasticism is a matter of holding on to a root. So, while everybody else goes in the other direction, there is one amongst the people who simply hold on to one place, their dear life, while everybody else goes in another place. It's not simply monasticism. It's something much more dynamic than that. It must also relate to every century. In a way, it has to do with monasticism. There's something different about it, of course, and there's nothing different about it by the end of the century. Which, in a way, is essential to it.


That's the essential part of it, to do with monasticism. The church community, in fact. It's like the church is the same as monasticism. It has to be this eternal opportunity. Even though, in the case of Baptists, there's even a kind of core of monasticism. In a similar way, it's analogous to the fact that the core of Christian monasticism is their inner monasticism. In a sense, nothing ever gets added to monasticism. And there are plenty of examples of monasticism, but it doesn't itself get the same. You can't say that the first century, the early period of monasticism, has something to do with monasticism. There are other revelations, too, of Christian monasticism. OK, let's go back to Piper.


When he starts talking about the history, that's on page 35. It's really odd that the history gets lost so much that we only find out about it in the 19th century. At least, that's what we've been told. OK, Christian monasticism, it's a religious practice, not on the spiritual level, but on the historical level, until as distant a point in history as Christian monasticism. It's an archaeology, it's a literary, it's a historical concept, it's a history of religion, it's a religious history. In fact, they call that monasticism. Monastic monasticism, Christian monasticism, I guess that's what they call it. Why is our origin dug up here, in the middle of the continent? Nowhere is it. The earth is basically a mirror. Neptune. That's what it is. OK, we say it's monasticism.


So, it's monasticism. Monasticism is monasticism. This is monasticism. And similarly with the history of Christian monasticism. What they've been trying to do is trace that missing link between the 4th century and the 1st century. How do you get from Lucis and St. Paul to Christian monasticism? Well, this is just their response, it doesn't come back. One thing they've been trying to do, the Virgin and the Sadducees. It's not like the Virgin is related to the Sadducees. The Virgin is like the Sadducees, the same thing. They're pretty much the same thing. The Sadducees. So, they existed pretty quickly. In fact, they're even, I think they're even. St. Paul doesn't have that good of a history. He doesn't have that good of a history. I'm certain he still has that good of a history. Anyhow, later on it becomes much more,


much more relevant. Now, there's an important discovery, which has come up not too long ago, about asceticism in Syria. Remember Gabriel Winckler, who contends that that's the first time that asceticism, that it's in direct continuity with monasticism, especially with the Gospel of Luke. If it's in continuity with the Gospel of Luke, then it's possible that it would be actually the Gospel of Luke. That it is identified, connected with baptism, that it is basically based on celibacy. Baptism and celibacy, as soon as they're in continuity, are even, I think, considered in the early days of the Republic in the United States. Because that was to do with that legendary old age. It was to do with that age which has been classified as the age of death. The age of death. Instead of going to the aeon of life. That's an exaggeration. But monasticism, however, is connected with celibacy.


So it's connected with baptism, focuses on celibacy, and is around the fringes of the Holy Land itself. Not in Egypt, but in Syria. And it retains a kind of biblical origin of that personality. So it doesn't have this Greek element that enters into the Greek philosophy that enters into the monastic movement. That's pretty quick. Even in Egypt, they evaluate a little bit. So this makes a kind of link between our virgin genocides that we've seen so often with celibacy, and that later seems to be as common as that. There are other very interesting things about the Syriac cynicism. The kind of gnosis that they had was a kind of punitive conception. As if, in their very baptism, they derived a kind of


total experience, a total experience of a new person, which then thrusts them into this celibacy. And there was a kind of life-performing quality to it, which is somewhat different than the Egyptian baptism. If you read the Desert Prodigy, it's very exhilarating, and sometimes very disturbing, because in a way, they're so severe. It's just like everything they do is intended to prove the human reality. Simplify, and map out things, and so on. So they can make an obvious high ground for it, but when you try to live it, you have to approach it in a way you can't do. It's very disturbing. It's very disturbing to be relating to an idea that you can't really do anything about. There's a connection there. Anyway, sorry. Okay.


Assyrian asceticism, first of all. I want to say monasticism, after it moves into it. Assyrian asceticism seems to be earlier than the asceticism that develops in Egypt. That's the thesis of this talk, that she teaches in Thailand. And the Egyptian seems to be kind of, you could epitomize it in words. Whereas the fundamental motif of the Syrian asceticism is the affirmation of life, the new life that man has received in baptism. And it's as if carried by the impulse of this new life, he moves into this asceticism. That's not so evident in the Egyptian association. If you read the same to the desert park, you don't find that emphasis on Thailand. You don't find that there's been a further removal from the basic experience of that place. It's a further removal of that association.


Effectively, it's identified a little bit earlier, but moving back. It's the same almost sometimes. The Egyptians move back out of the grip into a kind of association of every possible expression of life in their absoluteness. So they move back into a kind of Egyptian relationship. That's a kind of, it's almost a metaphor of their asceticism. If you realize that, that's the question. They've got to be active as a group. Now, the life is there, but the expression is a negative expression. The expression is completely negative. Even in the expression, the life is very negative. But the expression, the verbalization keeps the positivity in this group. So that's a


refreshing discovery for astronomers. Because so often in astrobiology, Western asceticism, especially, it is a place of positivity. And we take that to an accent so much on whether the monastic or the ascetic or whether the monastic or the ascetic are right. We over-emphasize the monastic or the ascetic to such an extent that we can't spell out. We've forgotten to keep saying it. Because astrobiology is a totally universal by and large history of astronomy. To focus on the professional things from which they were projected is fundamentally Christian positivity, Christian content, which is also Jewish. I mean, the Jewish think very conservative. And sometimes I think that where we get off is to lose our Jewish roots, is to lose a place of vitality without the term of trust before those things. No matter what we think about the law of perfectionism,


the fundamental trust is a matter of creation instead of a body. When we get into a Hellenic image with the body, say, in American scripture, the professional answer is that it's not. Casually, Pfeiffer points out that the early monastics or the early ascetics would identify the Jerusalem community as the beginning of the citizenry. Let us say that the monastic are the beginning of the monasticism. We run into that later in our discussion. It's almost like you've got two models, at least two models. The Hellenic monasticism, put it that way. One of them is Jerusalem. And this would lead back to the apostasy of Jerusalem. The two clearly different models. The desert prophets don't look back to Jerusalem


as the beginning of the apostasy. At least they don't exist in the Hellenic monasticism. The other monastic community is the early monasticism. But the early monasticism, the Roman monasticism and some of the other monasticism, I think the monasticism is kind of near. Kind of near is the Christian community. And that is what you focus on. And they go back to the Old Testament. If you look at the historical revision of the Old Testament, what do you find? You find, first of all, this emerging region of Jerusalem. And then, if you run out into the desert, you come back to the promised land. And then how do you get out of there? There's this kind of parallel of somewhere to Jerusalem, somewhere to Jerusalem. So there's a promise at the second point. But the ultimate thing is the city of Jerusalem, the city of Jerusalem. And the city, the promised land, of course, is where Israel came into its first identity


but at the same time it has become a place of great injustice and brutality. It has become a place of great injustice So God tries to correct and justifies it by sending a man to Jerusalem. The fundamental point is that there are two situations. The basic situation is the Jerusalem city of Jerusalem. This is the ultimate situation. Okay, he says that the essential feature which makes monasticism is the physical separation from the Christian community. What are we talking about here? When we talk about a monastic location, we have to agree that we have to identify with it. But one thing is that


when we begin to recognize something because it moves away from something else and forms a separate entity by itself, then what happens? A sort of descriptive observation that has potential meaning, puts inside what's the motivation of monasticism. See, monks can identify themselves with the physical separation from the world. So if I'm a monk, therefore I'm separated from the world. I'm very, very intensive in the quality of my monasticism. If you identify your monastic life and its quality with the absolute physical separation from the world, now that's a monastic life. If you try to please yourself with the physical separation from the world, you can please yourself with the physical separation from the world. That's another one of the notions of monastic life. Because if you identify


a monastic life with the physical separation from the world, then that physical separation from the world is a monastic life. At the same time, as it does, if you actually try to do equating a lot of people to the world, people argue so much, in a sense, so that's a monastic life. What it is, is a form of monasticism. You can do it with a wall. You can do it with anything. You can hold a stick. If there's anything I hold still, that's a wall. If I could hold your stick, that's a wall. I'm talking about monastic life.


The danger is always there. The danger is always there of absolutizing a monastical separation from the world. And it's more dangerous now than ever before. I don't know exactly why, except something's happened to the world. The world now is becoming a place where you cannot separate yourself from the rest of the world. You simply can't do it. You need to do it a lot, but life doesn't put you in a place where you can't do it. There is no such thing as a place. I don't know. But the world is a different place than it was. There's something happening in the whole world at once, all at the same time. If you're not part of it, if you're sort of knocked out of it, then you likely have to do it. And every action, every action, is supposed to push you away. And that's the story. This is something that


it's very hard to build to see the difference. So, what does that mean? But, you see, there's separation from the world. There's something different. Something different than that building and the wall, I'm sure, that's what they're talking about. The other thing I do realize is if they didn't know what they were doing, in the sense that when you make an object and you draw it by hand, they didn't know, they were pushed by the spirit. They were pushed by the spirit to separate themselves from the world. But that push by the spirit is not always there on its own. The spirit can sometimes push people in the wrong direction. Sometimes it can push people in the direction they want to, which causes them to create a push. Yes? ...


Is that a little later, by any chance? Is that from the West? ... Yes. ... Okay, so we're in the Middle Ages. What are the Middle Ages like? Six to eight centuries. Six to eight centuries. ... [...]


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