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Monachism

monastic, eremites, mendicant, society and persons

MONACHISM (mon'a-kizm), the sys tem of monastic life: monkery, monkish ness. The ultimate fact on which mona chism rests is that many people are born with a tendency to contemplation and, if pious, consider that they will be more free from temptation to sin by retiring from the ordinary world. Hot climates strengthen these feelings, and mona chism has flourished most luxuriantly in Asia, Africa, and southern Europe.

Ethnic Monachism.—The most gigantic and earliest development of monachism was that of BUDDHISM (q. v.). The Jain system is also monastic. Brahman ism possessed it to a considerable ex tent. Of the Hindu Triad the worship of Brahma scarcely exists; connected with that of Vishnu and Siva there are many monastic orders or sects. Most of them arose about the same dates as the leading religious orders of Christendom were instituted.

Jewish Monachism.—The Nazarites were an ascetic sect temporarily under vows, but not bound to celibacy, which is nowhere enjoined even on priests under the Mosaic law. But genuine Jewish monasticism, with its celibacy as well as its asceticism and seclusion from society, seems to have begun with the ESSENES (q. v.), and to have been continued by the THERAPEUTX (q. v.).

Christian Monachism.—In the 2d cen tury certain persons who aimed at stricter piety than their neighbors often held converse together without quite separating from society. They were called ascetics, and were the successors of the Therapeutw, who prepared the way for the rise of monachism. In the 3d cen tury Paul ranged through the desert of Thebais in Upper Egypt during the Decian persecutions. He and others who

acted similarly were called anchorets or anchorites, or persons who retire from society, also eremites or hermits, that is, persons who live in the desert (see HER MIT) . They frequently resided in caves. In 305 Anthony, an Egyptian monk, col lected many of the eremites into commu nities. These were called coenobites from their living in common. The same disci pline spread through western Asia and Europe. From among the Eremites who lived apart from each other sprung the Sarabaites and Gyrovagi (Vagabond monks), disreputable races, the Stylites, or Pillar Saints, associated forever with the name of Simeon, who died in 451. In the 6th century St. Benedict introduced new regulations, and all the monastic or ders for some centuries were Benedictine. The wealth acquired by monastic commu nities led to corruption and early in the 13th century there arose mendicant orders vowed to poverty (see MENDICANT ORDERs). At first all the monks were laymen; now they consist of three classes: (1) Priests; (2) choir monks, in minor orders; and (3) lay-brothers, who act as servants and laborers. The influence of the mendicant orders was on the wane at the Reformation, and the Jesuits took their place. At that date many monasteries in England and else where were deprived of their endow ments and suppressed. Those of France were swept away in the first Revolution. See MONASTERY: MONK: NUN.