Monastic History

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Monastic History Class

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#set-monastic-history, Syrian monasticism.


I don't know if I can finish Syrian monasticism, but we'll get pretty close to the end. So that next time, on Saturday afternoon, we'll either start with Augustine or finish Syrian monasticism and then begin Augustinian monasticism. So you'll need your reader on Saturday if you come to class on Saturday, because we'll open that up for discussion too, that reading from Augustine's work on the work of monks. Okay, a few words about stylites. What you get with the stylite is sort of a combination of the static, who just stands stationary, and the recluse, who's off living a hermit life.


So the combination took form in people who removed themselves from the midst of society, living symbolically, of course, on the top of a platform closer to heaven, but also as a reclusive life, and yet at the same time, still close enough usually, close enough to city centers, so that people came to them for spiritual direction, they ministered to people from the top of their platforms, what not. It's kind of an odd amalgamation. The most famous one was St. Simeon Stylites, who was born in the year 389. A group of us were having coffee in my cell with Emanuele after lunch, and I mentioned


I got to go get ready for class, because that would cut off our discussion and whatnot. And he said, what are you teaching? And I said, I'm talking about stylites. He said, did you see the relic of St. Simeon Stylites that came out of his mother's house? And I said, no! He said, people come from all over the world to see that. It's the skull of St. Simeon Stylites. And the reason we have it, did you see it? It's locked up in the Sacristia. And so he said, just ask Ugo when you're there, and he'll get the key out and show you the skull. If you remember the Council of Florence, our general, Ambrogio Traversari, is very, very important. We have five books on Traversari in our library. The gift from Bessarion, from the east, at that council, was to the Camaldolese, to Ambrogio and the Camaldolese, the holiest relic of St. Simeon Stylites. And here we have it. I had no idea it was there. Little side story.


Simeon just didn't climb up on a platform and begin his monastic life. He was in a monastery first, near the city of Aleppo, A-L-E-P-P-O. Does anyone know where that is? Does anyone have a map with them? I always have mine with me, but I didn't look. Isn't that famous plain between Aleppo and Edessa, or Antioch, where a lot of the Stylites were? It seems to me. Okay. There's Antioch. Did you find Aleppo? It says Aleppo, A-L-E-P. That's probably it. That's probably the French word. Which one are you looking at? I've got all kinds I didn't give you. Figure four. What does it say?


The map. The size of the Syrian Stylite. It's up towards the top. Right there. Oh, yes, yes, yes, I see. It's below the Q in Turkey. Just so we know where we are. We're sort of like northern Syria, huh? Between Turkey and... Between Cappadocia and Syria. And he joined a monastery up there, and he was asked to leave. He was kicked out of the monastery because he was too austere. Well, as we go through the monastic history, we're going to run into a number of saints, some of whom had started their own orders and everything, because they were too austere. Even our own Romuald, huh, was... There's a story about that. Benedict, St. Benedict. Remember, first he was asked to be abbot over a group of Cenobites who tried to poison him


in the end because he was too stripped. We're going to see that over and over and over again throughout monastic history. And Simeon Stylite fits into that too. He was just too much to take for his fellow monks. He just looked very, very austerely. And either they felt guilty, or he was saying, you should be like me. I don't know. I don't know. Maybe both. But anyway, they got rid of him. And so he built a wall, and he chained himself to it. Now, this sort of behavior makes you wonder if they weren't doing the right thing and kicking him out of the monastery. I mean, it's a bit... Past austerity, what would you call it? A bit radical? Severe. Severe. That's a kind word. Severe. A bit bizarre also. But his reputation grew, and evidently, as well as being patso, being half crazy, he was a very, very holy man,


and a very, very wise person. Maybe not with his own lifestyle or his own austerities or whatever, but with other people's lives, and helping them go through crises and get direction and whatnot. And so people started coming to him from all over that area for guidance. And that's why he built his tower. So he built what they call a pillar. You know, they call them the pillars things. Well, he really wasn't on a pillar as such. It was a tower, 40 feet by 40... 40 feet squared. And I don't know how high up. Yes, he started with the pillar 16 feet high. And he did this in order to get away from all of his visitors, or at least to get some distance. There were so many screaming to him. And they even started pilgrimage, like parties of people coming. Like the refiners of Syria would bring a tour of the old ladies


to see the guy from a love home. And so his reputation grew and grew, and he built it 16 feet. He got up there. It grew and grew. They had lots and lots of people coming, so he built it higher. He went up to 20 feet. And then that wasn't high enough, because they were yelling at him. And he couldn't get any peace, so he built one 36 feet high. And finally, the fourth time, he built it 80 feet high. 40 by 40, 80 feet high. So what it in effect is, it's more like a tower. And he lives on the roof of the tower. I mean, that's 40 feet by 40. That's not bad. You must have had rooms inside. Well, you see drawings in different ways. You usually see them sitting on top, or standing on top. But sometimes you see little windows and stuff in the work. So maybe there were rooms, because some of them had helpers, like Igor.


And maybe Igor lived in the windowed area. Because they had to get regular sustenance. They had to get rid of their waste materials. Some of the more colorful ones found very ingenious ways to get rid of their waste materials, when the pilgrims came to see them. Did any of you see Monty Python's The Holy Grail? Do you remember the French? Well, some of the stylites did that to the pilgrims. But they built these towers not in the middle of the city. No, they were out in the country, but usually near enough cities. Close by. I was imagining some guy sitting on a pole in the middle of the city. No, they weren't urban. Well, there were Camaldolese stylites. We'd have the three-fold presence. We'd have the urban stylites. And then stylites living two or more together on a platform. And then the reclusive stylites. So anyway, he would go up there on that, or he would stay on that platform


and remain motionless on his tower all through the day. And when the night came, he would sleep sitting in a sitting position. And he had a hard go of it health-wise. And people were always trying to get him to come down. Because people loved him. He gave wonderful homilies from on top of his tower, lots of good advice. But he was constantly getting infections, like bed sores, only tower sores, or pillar sores. And they'd get infected, and then he'd get maggots in them. And that's what the lives, the tradition holds, that you get maggots. Although they say maggots in a sore is a good sign. It cleans up the infection. It's a rather drastic way of cleaning your infections. And just that wasn't enough for him. And that wasn't penitential enough.


And so he would add a series of prostrations for penance on top of that, as if that wasn't enough. But he was a real, very austere person. And stylitism, as a movement, stylitism spread all through Syria. And people emulated St. Simeon's stylites. And not just in Syria, but also throughout the Near East. So you did have some stylites in Palestine. You had some stylites in Cappadocia. And eastward, towards Persia. Two other famous, I'm just going to give you three names. Simeon was the first one. The second one is just as easy to remember. It's Simeon the Younger. And he was another very famous stylite. And Olypius, and I gave you these names last time around.


So if you had written down the names that were on the board, Olypius was there. And Simeon the Younger was from the 7th century. So with Simeon's stylites, we're talking 5th century. So early 5th century when he's up in this town. At this point, only 4th. And two centuries later, we have Simeon the Younger. And Olypius, I don't have a date for. I'm not quite sure when Olypius was. So I don't have it down right here. So it begins, the phenomenon of stylitism begins in the 5th century. And it sounds very weird. It's certainly unique. It sounds very weird, and you wouldn't believe it would last as long as it did, and have so many people doing it. But it was a way for recluses to live an aesthetical life. And since some of the people were very holy people, and remarkable men,


it took off. And you have it as late as the 16th century. You have stylites living on towers as late as that, on Mount Athos. That's where the last ones were, on Mount Athos. So Greece. And that was the furthest point west that it got, was Mount Athos in Greece. And eastward it went as far as Edessa. Does anyone know where Edessa is? Russia. Yeah, right. So it made some trouble. There's steps, right? The steps of Edessa. Sort of like North Dakota. The North Dakota of Asia, or Euro-Asia. I have a quote here. A quote which quotes Gregory of Tours.


The History of the Franks. Very famous. Gregory of Tours is famous for three main works. And we have one work in the Cistercian Society. No, it wasn't the Cistercian Society. It was done by the St. Herman's Fellowship in Alaska, the monastic group. And that is the Lives of the Fathers. But it's the lives of these eastern saints who lived in the west. So it's a unique collection done by Gregory of Tours. Well, his most famous work was the History of the Franks. And I think that was done in ten tomes. And there is something very special about the seventh or eighth tome regarding Syrian monasticism. So here's another source you can go to close to the time, but from a western point of view.


Gregory of Tours. Anyway, let me read this to you. Elsewhere, except in Asia Minor, the form had less success. We're talking Stylitism. And in the Catholic world, it had none at all. Gregory of Tours, in his Historia Francorum, tells how in the middle of the 6th century, a monk from Lombardy tried to introduce Stylitism to Carignan in the Ardennes. So we're talking about in the Ardennes Forest. So between Germany and France. Right on that, basically that area. The local bishops were soon up in arms. They thought it was a very crazy thing to do. Against a practice which they claimed was unsuitable for a northern climate. The would-be Stylite had the sense to come down from his column. This is, what's his name? Ah, you don't give a damn.


Anyway, he had the sense to come down from his column. And he said, quote, In the winter, I was so frozen by the freezing wind that my toenails fell out. And icicles hung from my beard, unquote. Editorial comment. It is not hard to believe him. The Stylites didn't make it in France. Anyway, it's much easier to be a Stylite in the desert of Syria than the woods of France in the wintertime. Anybody want to say anything about Stylitism before we move on? There are some marvelous pictures in these three, four French volumes on Syriac, Cenobite, Syriac, Anchorite, Syriac Stylites. I think I put at least three of them in your bibliography. For those of you who took the bibliography.


I have a question. What did they do for supporting themselves, for eating? Only, they lived like... Like people gave. Yeah. What work do I want? Like beggars. They lived off alms. Yeah, they lived off alms. So, you know, those that probably didn't get much food. The dendrites, the dendrites, I really have nothing to say about dendrites. They're the weirdest of all, of course. They don't know anything, but they just know that they existed and they lived in trees, so we're called dendrites. This word comes from the Greek for tree. So, tree people, tree dwellers. And they usually lived in hollow trees, so it was like a wooden cave.


And other than that, there's really nothing to say. There are some classic woodcut pictures of some dendrites in these three volumes that I just mentioned. And they're kind of a hoop. They show these people in a shaky, like an animal, shaky animal, and nothing else on, just that arm peeking out of a tree trunk. One doesn't really know how prevalent this was. There were bands of them, but they didn't live all that long. I mean, the phenomenon didn't live all that long, whereas stylitism did. Does anyone know anything about dendrites more than I do? Because I don't know anything. I just know the fact that they existed and everybody, even the books all chuckle about it, and then continue on with the discussion. Stylitism. They know more about statics than they do about dendrites.


Okay, Syrian Cenobitism. So we've been looking at the anchorites of the Syrian experience in Nazism. Syrian Cenobitism. There is not a lot of information on Cenobitism during the very earliest period. I mean, they know that there were Cenobites in Syria in those early times, but they don't have any record of it. They just have the tradition. Cenobitism in Syria did exist during the time that St. Ephraim was working. Did I give you dates on Ephraim last time? Yes. Okay. Do you remember what that was? 306 to 373. Okay, so let's say mid-300s, mid-4th century. Thanks to St. Ephraim, because he was a writer


and a chronicler, we have some record. Is anyone else cold? Should I put the heat on? No? Okay. We do have some records of the Cenobites, but they were already before that. So look, we're talking about the beginnings in Egypt also. Remember that. This isn't like after that. This is like during it, or even maybe before it happened to Egypt. So this could be the very beginning. It could be, you know, it could be before Cicomius. It could go back that far. The monastic climate at this time, which hated the world, so that fuga mundi mentality, flee the world mentality, was not all that hip in Syria on Cenobitism.


If you're going to flee the world, well, flee everybody, including the rest of the people who are doing what you're doing. Be a recluse, you know. So in Syria, the early times of Syria, reclusion was really the big thing, not community life. But there were pockets of Cenobitism alive in Syria during these early centuries. One reason, according to tradition, that the early Syrian monastics looked upon Cenobites with an arched eyebrow was because anything that smacked of society and Cenobium was a small city. It had its own bakery. You built large buildings to put everybody up. You have a kitchen, a bakery, a smith, or whatever you need, you know, during those times to take care of all the needs. That smacked again of what?


Society, towns, the whole thing. This is what we're trying to get away from. We're trying to just be absolutely, purely intent upon God and live ascetically. Why do you want to go into a community? That was the general feeling. And so there were more anchorites in Syria than there were Cenobites, for the most part, in these early years. However, by the second half of the 4th century, so by the end of Ephraim's lifespan, Cenobitism was starting to take off. Now, we could look for the same reasons Cenobitism took off elsewhere as contributing factors. Primarily what? Why would people start building monasteries rather than living on a pillar? Sure, sure. I remember the Aryans are coming through, too.


There's all kinds of heretics to battle with, too, from time to time. But certainly for security, certainly for pooling together resources, and also for the spiritual support that a community brings. So by the end of the 4th century, they're ready for that. So that Cenobitism really takes off at the end of the 4th century in Syria. So it's just as important as what else is going on, monastically speaking. Some factors which contributed to the rise of Cenobitism in Syria then at this time are the simple forms of community life or common life, as even groups of stylites formed. You have platforms grouping together and whatnot. As those simple forms began to evolve,


soon enough it just evolved into a much more complex Cenobitic forms, which was happening elsewhere in the empire at that time, the Christian monastic empire. Also, there was an influence coming from the east. So we're talking about east of Syria. They were getting an influence there, which made them think, if others can live monastic life together, maybe we should be doing the same thing. The Manichaeans. Where were the Manichaeans from? No, that would be west. That would be Egypt. South. Who was the founder of Manichaeism? Mani.


And where was Mani from? Persia? Exactly. The Iran, the ancient Iran. And more troublemakers have come out of Iran over the centuries. And mysterious religious figures have come from that little area. It's amazing. But the Manichaeans in Persia had Cenobitic monasteries. Can somebody give me a little precis about Manichaeism? What's the big thing with Manichaeism? Dualistic. Okay, what do we mean by anti-flesh, anti-matter? Matter is evil. Spirit has fallen down into matter and has become trapped there, so you have to free the spirit and chastise the body and all. So anthropologically speaking, you're going to say the human body is evil. Is evil. It's disgusting. Yeah. He began, and then he became the greatest foe, the most famous foe against Manichaeism.


Okay, so these Manichaeans, these are the Manichaeans back in their home, this home territory, back in Persia. So they're back in the stronghold of Manichaeism. And they had monasteries, which evidently influenced many Syrians to say, hey, that's a good idea. We should be living community life together in monasteries. So that was another factor. A third factor was influence from the West. Now, now Cyprian, you can go to Egypt. Alexandria. Yeah. And who precisely, not in Alexandria, but in Egypt? The Finns. No. No. We think. Cenotes. Oh, Pachomius. Pachomius. The line, remember, the lines of Pachomius have been done in Latin. We already have them in Coptic. There was, remember another version? The Syriac version. So this tradition,


this is known among these monastics. And Hilarion, who we discussed regarding Palestinian monasticism. Hilarion of Gaza. Hilarion was responsible for spreading monasticism right on the edge of Syria. So they were also getting that influence much closer at home. They could see Palestinian monastics building monasteries right in southern Syria. So in the Golan Heights and areas adjacent to that. Building Sinobia. And the fourth contributor, it would appear that the monasteries in southern Syria are older. Now, I'm not talking about Hilarion's monasteries. I'm talking about the Syrian monasteries


that grew up down in the south. They're older than the monasteries in northern Syria. Ergo, they make a hypothesis. Where is that influence coming from? Palestine. Palestine, yeah, which contributes to that. So that they're building close to the ones that are already there and then move upwards. Well, they have to do this sort of thing when you're back in the fourth century. You don't have, you know, newspapers. You can't get the microfiche out and see what monastery was dedicated at this time. You have to go by what little ruins or none are left and then hearsay and which historians can be believed and putting all these factors together, trying to figure out. But especially from archaeological evidence, in this case. How did it mainly develop? All these factors came together to help Syria regarding Cenobitism.


But what is the physical evidence for that? That the Palestinian monasticism especially or from Egypt and Palestine moved upwards into Syria? Was there any kind of forum for, since these are all contemporary, Palestine, Egypt, was there any forum for them to compare notes about like some of the church councils? Did they get together to talk about that? We certainly got together in Egypt for church councils. In fact, oftentimes at these early church councils, the monks were one of the reasons they were being held and they were arguing. Well, our origins, for instance, is 499. Various conflicts about this and that carried through into Palestine. But in Palestine, we had church councils, local synods and whatnot that were the archimandrites and the superiors of various monasteries


would gather with the patriarch or patriarchs in meetings. I don't know about Syria. I don't know. I'm not remembering anything specific. But certainly as time moves on, yes. I don't know, you know, like this time if monks, if the monastics are gathering in church synods and whatnot because still at this time, monasticism in Syria is so peculiar compared to the organized stuff that is happening elsewhere. I want to say a little bit about St. Ephraim or St. Ephraim of Assyria. His dates are 306 to, what was it, 373? And 306 is a, it's not a certain date, 373 if I remember correctly. Circa 306 he's born.


He had a very powerful role in monastic history and is an important figure. We used to have an Ephraim here. In fact, when I came, six years ago, we still had an Ephraim. He was in Berkeley. Now, he was studying in Berkeley. He's since left, obviously, since left and he married a Lutheran minister. A woman minister, a woman. She at the time was in her final year of theology. I think he's working as a dock worker now. A very gifted theologian, philosopher and theologian. A very fine patron to have Ephraim of Assyria. His personal reputation and his personal life example influenced very many people


to embrace monasticism in any number of forms in Assyria. He was a very ascetical in his personal life and was renowned for that. But he also wrote a lot of propaganda for monasticism. He wrote a lot about the monastic life and wouldn't it be great and here's some of the wonders of monasticism and da-da-da-da-da and some lies and various treatises and whatnot. And this stuff is, I mean, this got Promogane and he became very famous as a proponent for monastic life. As sort of like the propaganda minister, Gables, the Gables of Syrian monasticism. Where did I just see a photo of Gables? Isn't there a biography of this on the New York Times for you? That's it, New York Times biography.


Yeah, and it shows a famous picture of him sitting behind that big table. Yeah, famous. Yeah, that's where it is. I wonder if we shouldn't get that. We have to think about it. Wait a little while and get it on sale. Isn't that his diary? Gables? The Germans got it from Berlin and they just gave it to somebody. But it's funny because the guy is English. The only guy that can read his handwriting is an English guy. And he was like, they were wondering if he was going to translate it right because he, I can't remember if he used plural or pro or con, so much against him that they weren't sure if he was going to write what was down. And no one else could read it. The only guy left. I don't know, maybe we should get it. We should think about it for the library. Even Ephraim's works


that were particularly on monastic topics were monastic. I mean, this guy is monastic. His spirituality is monastic through and through. So even when he writes on scripture and stuff, there's this monastic lens that he's looking through. Some of his works, specifically on monasticism, are polemical. Which goes to show that not everybody is buying the monastic line. I mean, some people are saying, hey, what's going on here? Obviously in Syria, one has reason to say, what's going on here? There's enough strange stuff that's going on. So he had to write some things against the enemies of monasticism. It's sad, isn't it? But not always. I don't think always.


I thought Church Duties took him out. He was a very busy guy. Totally. He's also a hymn writer. Yeah. It is an immense output for somebody who just lives, you know, a little over 60 years. But he definitely wrote treatises that are specifically promotional regarding monastic life. He's trying to promote and spread the word of the monastic vocation in Syria. He also did a lot of good for the church in Syria at that time, in the sense that his writings piqued a lot of interest in things theological and spiritual, and got other people writing and reading. And so he was a real stimulus for intellectual life within Syria, within Syrian church,


Syriac church. He was very pro-study, and a lot of people, because he was such a charismatic individual, started studying and supporting literary activities in Syria because he said to. Now, this is particularly among the monks. The monks began studying because Ephraim was a proponent of that. The monks, for the greater part, accepted what Ephraim had to say, Hukram and Zikr. I don't need to get into that. So what happens to monasticism in Syria after Ephraim? So post-Ephraim monasticism. Generally, there were some gradual changes in monasticism after the specific time


in which Ephraim lived and worked pro-monasticism. And that is that in Syria, as had happened also in Palestine, monasticism, we're talking, remember, we're talking cenobitic. Cenobitic monasticism moved closer and closer toward working with the local church. And so there was a church outreach, a social outreach, as well as the monastic witness. Well, throughout the history of monasticism, cenobitism lends itself to them. When monks live together in a cenobitism, they usually end up starting a school or running a busy guest house or having some parishes or chaplaincies or whatever. There's some kind of outreach going on.


And the local church in Syria, and there is evidence for this in historical evidence, that the priests and bishops of Syria actively set out as a group to tame the monks of Syria and bring them into the local church so that they weren't so weird and so off on their own and not having anything to do with the local development of the Christian church in Syria. And one way that they were able to do this was to interest the monks in polemics, to get them fired up. And what is going to be the source for that? Huh? Well, that would be a good example. Any of these heresies of this time,


during the next few centuries, any of these church, big church tumults are going to be source material or let's say a seedbed for the Syriac monks to get involved in church matters. That is fighting off heretics. And so they study their little lives off, boning up to fight the heretics and writing treatises and going up for debates and all this stuff against heresy. So it was a polemical impulse which really moved the monks more than anything else into the local church arena. Did they ever try parrying the monks against the heretics? Parrying the monks against the stylites and what not? Oh, I don't know.


I don't know. You know, it wouldn't surprise me. It seems there's always been within the church, at least in the West, they're sent out by aramidic attention. I wouldn't be surprised if it was also in Syria. I'd be surprised if it wasn't because there's such different approaches. Just north of here, you've got Basil who's saying, how can there be hermits? Whose feet do you wash? Oh, hermit. You know, there's bound to be some Syrians who feel the same way. But I don't know. You know, I don't know of any famous conflicts in that one. Particularly with the followers of Ephraim, now we're talking monastic followers of Ephraim, those who really became like his disciples and just ate up everything he said and promulgated his cult afterwards


and what not. More than anybody in Syria at this time, these monks, who before Ephraim had been basically no more educated than the fellaheen of the Coptic experience, became the promoters of literary activity in Syria. And I'm not talking just church literary activity. I mean just cultural life in Syria. So, you know, song, hymns, music, poetry, the whole thing. It's these monks who love Ephraim who become the promoters of culture in Syria. And this may speak to your question in a vague way. It's at this time, in a post-Ephraimic experience of monasticism,


and at the same time developing the culture and the polemical atmosphere, that the anchorites begin to coalesce more in Syria. And these anchorites coalesce into sort of a semi-Synobitism throughout Syria. So they have bands of silence and bands of recluses coming together. So this one is similar to what happened in Cetus and in Nitrea, too. You had all these abbas starting banding together for any number of reasons. One of them was, in the Egyptian deserts, was just for security. It wasn't just the Bakomians who got behind walls that were banding together for security. Even some of those old abbas and their disciples banded together into groups of caves and whatnot to help one another and to support one another in the deserts of Egypt. Well, this is happening also this time, then, in Syrian monasticism.


Monasticism, then, continued to grow in Syria. So, you know, we're talking centuries here now. Monasticism made itself more appealing to people in its outreach, so it got the Synobitism, so that it got a lot of vocations to people who wanted to live a monastic life and yet wanted to be involved with the local churches also. Whether it was literary work, study, research, or active church social work, excuse me, or spiritual direction, guidance, that kind of outreach, the numbers of monastics in Syria began to grow during this time.


And a number, something else that helped was a number of bishops, a number of monks became bishops in Syria. And, of course, these bishops were pro-monasticism, and so that helped change the climate vis-a-vis monks versus secular priests, that whole business. That sort of all started to calm down because there was a give and take and they were working together. It was all began to get mixed up in the Syrian church. The official language for Syrian monastics was... Greek. I thought you were going to say Syrian. Yeah, so the influence is strongly Hellenic at this time. And if these monks are going to get into


literary efforts and are going to ground themselves, besides looking to Ephraim and some of the monastic greats in their own midst, they're going to look to Hellenic sources also. Bruno was just saying yesterday that the Syrians kind of stayed, they have their own unique sort of form of theology. Well, yeah. But it's still Hellenic more than Latin. Even if you look at the Syrian riots which developed, some died out, more or less. But even what still exists, you know, you have the whole thing with monophysitism in the 5th and 6th centuries, which is just around the corner, which is strongly going to characterize the Syriac church. Not that it becomes monophysite as such, but just in the conflict of monophysite against anti-monophysite,


it coalesces the Syriac church in its own tradition more solidly. That's true. And spiritually, now, remember that, just as a parenthetical note, that Dionysius the Areopagite, who's going to write the... Pseudo-Dionysius is going to write Divine Names, and three or four other treatises, Mystical Names of God and whatnot, which is going to, more than any other writer, is going to influence Western mysticism. It's actually a 5th or to 6th century Syrian monk taking the name Dionysius the Areopagite, well, they later called him Pseudo-Dionysius, Dionysius the Areopagite, out of, is it Acts? So the connection with Paul and the people he has influence on,


which was a literary device. But one of these guys is the one who writes that. And there's that Hellenic influence again, one of the emanations through this kind of... Oh, and all these layers. It's the Aeneid. Yeah, exactly, exactly. Also, and this is in connection with monasticism growing, there's another reason why monasticism grows. And if you think enough about it, practically speaking, it's going to be the same reason you find anywhere. Why do people join the monks of Egypt? Why do people come to Pachomius' monastery? Why are people ending up joining the Basilian monasteries? Remember what we're talking about. Fourth century, desert life.


It's hard. And monasticism offers a pretty good life. I mean, at least you're going to get some squares a day. Two squares, let's say. No, maybe not three. But two squares a day. You have your own bunk. You get a blanket. Sure, you have to live some asceticism. But, you know, there's this practical reason. Well, among the Syrians, a lot of people in the lower classes, just like in Egypt, the Felehi, one of the desert cops, are joining because it's a good life. That's not the only reason. Not to say that they didn't have spiritual motives, but it was a good option to make. It was a step up, if not three. And so you give, you assume, give and take. You know? And the give is sort of the asceticism. And the take is the three squares, the roof, and the support of living your life together,


that whole business, in a very, very fragile, frightening world at times. And it's going to become more and more so as you get these waves coming through from the east. These waves of marauding tribes and other horrifying people coming through, slaughtering for the next few centuries. At some point, I'll give you a map of the... When we get to, certainly before Merovingian Gaul, I'll give you a map and we'll look at the various tribes and their dates and all of that. Because it profoundly affects monasticism a number of times in a number of areas. There were devastating economic conditions in Syria during these years. And so there was a concurrent influx of monastic vocations, huh? Well, there's lots of reasons to join a monastery. Look at America, 20th century, 1946, 47, 48.


Look, monasticism trebled in size, or tripled in size, within three years, with all these people coming out of the Pacific arena, sick and tired of killing Japanese and seeing bodies blown up and all this stuff, coming out of the service experience and going especially to the Trappists, but also to the Benedictines. And then these big monasteries growing. Well, that's another, you know, and you have a number of occasions during the history of monasticism where you have historical things, historical events, compelling huge groups of people to take on monasticism for religious and economic and cultural and spiritual reasons. Historically, are we going to say something? Oh, it looks like something is bubbling. Please, bubble. I don't need to get into that.


As the years go on in Syria, a number of the anchorites, the famous anchorite disciples, begin to gather around them to keep the tradition of the great anchorites in mind, to gather disciples around them. And so what happened, even with the anchorites, was you had, all of a sudden, synobia forming around the disciple of an anchorite in that tradition, in the followers, and it became a synobitic community. So that was another reason why synovatism at this time began to take off, just from another direction, ironically, in order to preserve the thinking of an anchorite. With these rising numbers of Syrian synobia,


and with these bands of anchorites coming together into loosely knit, semi-synobitic communities, the monastic climate starts to change a little bit. And they began to look at, and you see this through monastic documents, they began to look at various elements of monastic life, of the spiritual life, in different ways. Examples. Poverty began to change from essentially a poverty of destitution, especially among the anchorite experience, of destitution, to a typically Benedictine approach, which is, poverty is the communal,


the common wheel, the common pot. Communism. Economic communism. So that began to become, the way monastics in Syria began to look at poverty. Work. Work began to become very important. If you've got a monastery with lots of monks, you've got to work just so that we can all keep those three squares, or two squares, so that we have enough money to build what we need to build, to keep the largest fold, et cetera, et cetera. So survival became a reason to work. Not just the isolated anchorite who maybe did some writing or some preaching or something, but was always being fed by alms, and there wasn't a lot of heavy work in that sense.


Their asceticism was different. As you get communities forming, work is going to be integral to keeping that community going, to keep the machine well oiled and moving. All the questions that go into how do we, not just build the buildings, but how do we organize a community, and how do we set up discipline to make sure that that organization follows what we've set up, is going to become rapidly more developed in the Syriac experience. Of course, back in Egypt, you have this happening with the Pacomian experience, Shenoudian also, and among the Cenobites, and the congregation of anchorites in the Palestinian experience. Well, this is how it's happening in Syria for very basic reasons. How do we, we've got this animal,


how do we tame it? We've got community, what do we do with it? How do we organize it? Which is a typical Cenobitic question. We've got together now, what do we do? How do we color it? And so, this is going to be very prevalent in Syriac monasticism at this time, questions like that. And it's going to change totally what's going on in monasticism in Syria. And some people don't like the changes. Well, that's nothing new either, but there were some violent reactions in Syrian monasticism to changes like discipline and work, and all these organized things telling you what to do, and all that, the whole thing. Because there's still, consistently through Syrian monasticism, a strong, independent, ascetical flavor.


And it's not always easy to tame something like that, especially when it's fanatical. It's almost impossible to tame it. And so you do have some polemics going on in the monastic world in Syria, pro and con whatever is being argued. It isn't like everybody just gives in, and, no, it's a struggle. And a lot of people saw buildings themselves as superfluous. And these are mainly the anchorites in Syria who are used to living in a cave or on top of a, you know, whatever, a structure of some sort. And so they see these huge monasteries as being decadent, if not sources of sin. Too worldly. Against the gospel. Whatever. And so you have a lot of... And they have some influence.


And some of the larger communities go downhill through the polemics. So it isn't all just up and up and up. It's more like this, of course it always is. But some of the bigger monasteries went downhill because, either because of the polemics or because they did get too big. And people didn't like the big buildings and all the rules and da-da-da-da-da. Okay, we didn't finish. We'll finish on Saturday, and I'll take it up with the actual written rules of Syriac monasticism.