Pro Vita Monastica

Pro Vita Monastica

An Essay in Defence of the Contemplative Virtues

Book - 1923
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Publisher: Boston, The Atlantic monthly press, 1923.
Branch Call Number: 242
Characteristics: xvii, 164 p. 22 cm.

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dennismmiller
May 07, 2018

Even before Christianity, there were those who rejected the world and sought to live outside of its boundaries, for ends it could not comprehend. The hallmark of medieval civilization, monasticism was rejected - and murderously suppressed - by the Enlightenment as useless and antisocial, a criticism internalized even by many in the Church. Henry Sedgwick argues that, apart from any religious value, the ascetic's withdrawal from the world is something the world needs to counteract its own tendency to materialism. Indeed, in his account, every contemplative act is a taste of the monastic life.

For Sedgwick, the true monk is a Platonic figure who escapes from the universe of appearances and calculations into higher realms of pure Idea. Unfortunately, this emphasis on the universal tends to blind him to the extent to which the monk is also immersed in the particular. This culminates in a definition the virtue of "holiness" which is synonymous with "other-worldliness". If his vision of monasticism, and particularly Christian monasticism, is somewhat skewed, he admittedly writes convincingly and movingly from that perspective.

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