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The Morality of Monasticism

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posted on Jul, 31 2013 @ 01:30 PM
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Hey all!

I've had this question hanging around my head for a while, and I figured that with all these serious and grave topics going on around here, I might post something slightly less vital or inflammatory depending on your point of view. I mean, people might come down on either side of the issue on this, but that wouldn't really cause any huge amount of indignation or anger.

So my question was about the morality of monasticism, as it is practised by certain religious groups or individuals - i.e. deciding, on your own or with a group of like-minded people, to separate yourself permanently (I'm not talking about taking some time off to find yourself, or going off once a week or something to some isolated area to bask in the silence and whatever) from society and spend your days in prayer/meditation/contemplation/whatever.

To give my opinion of it, I'm not sure I can support the idea as being a moral one. The very idea of separating yourself from society means that you are not contributing anything to helping society, helping your neighbour, and any skills, qualities or strengths you have or had gained from your time with society are going unused, or are only being used for yourself or a small group of people.

I can only think really of two possible advantages (morally) of such a situation:
One is that you'd be praying/meditating/whatever for the people around you. If someone follows the same belief-set as you, they may find comfort in the idea that you are there doing your prayer/meditation or whatever. I accept that such a comfort maybe be useful in society, but is monasticism necessary for that?

The other would be the act of giving to those who are participating in these monastic activities as a form of charity. Again, I do not discount the importance of this, but surely, such charity would be better served being given to those who didn't make a conscious choice to live like that, and are like that because of circumstance (the poor and destitute and so forth).

So as far as my understanding goes, the best case scenario is that monasticism is a morally neutral activity (since, at least superficially, it neither harms nor helps anyone else). Perhaps someone following the religious ideas of some group that advocates monasticism for some (certain sects of Christianity and some of the eastern religions, I guess?) could shed some more light on the matter?
Or anyone else have some thoughts?




posted on Jul, 31 2013 @ 02:06 PM
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reply to post by babloyi
 


Well there are all different types of people in this world.

For example there may be priests, monks, levites, workers(colorful collars lol), mothers, fathers, philanthropist, poor people, etc.

All people have a destiny and it is important to each of them and each of us because all of us are part of the One.

"To give my opinion of it, I'm not sure I can support the idea as being a moral one. The very idea of separating yourself from society means that you are not contributing anything to helping society, helping your neighbour, and any skills, qualities or strengths you have or had gained from your time with society are going unused, or are only being used for yourself or a small group of people. "

Well in doing so the become righteous pillars of faith and wisdom. Many of them write books, many of them do charity, and many of them live a prayerful life.

I read a book once which said that if in the world there were only one righteous person, the whole world is sustained by him.

The righteous person sweetens God's presence in this world, just as a monk does.

A monk seeks to refine himself and his soul and likewise gives to others because he is a part of us. We are all connected.



posted on Jul, 31 2013 @ 11:18 PM
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reply to post by babloyi
 

Hi! Good to see you again. This has the potential to be a really solid thread. I'm glad you did it, and that you put such thought and honesty into it.

May I offer a couple of additional possibilities?

Many believe that the highest calling or goal is to achieve a life of holiness and nearness to God. Nobody else can do it for you, you must "Work out your salvation with fear and trembling." It doesn't surprise me that a very small number of Christians believe that they can best do this by being isolated from a crazy society, left alone with God and their life of prayer. I don't see anything immoral about this. The monk is giving up an outside, temporary world in exchange for an eternal life of joy. That's reasonable, not immoral.

Second, I'm not sure that a life of prayer is not a powerful help to society. If you believe, as monks do, that prayer has power, then you could logically conclude that the greatest gift to society would be a life of prayer. Not the "Get me out of this mess, God" kind of prayer, but a life living with Him, having conversations with Him through the Spirit, and asking for His assistance for the community.

I would like that kind of life, but I don't think I'm strong enough for it. It's not for everyone, certainly. He's "Looking for a few, good men."

If it's of any help, I'd be glad to talk more about it with you.

With respect,
Charles1952



posted on Aug, 1 2013 @ 05:51 AM
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Originally posted by babloyi
The very idea of separating yourself from society means that you are not contributing anything to helping society, helping your neighbour, and any skills, qualities or strengths you have or had gained from your time with society are going unused, or are only being used for yourself or a small group of people.


I think monasticism is a wonderful practice.

There is lots of introspection and understanding being learned in the cloister. Lots of cleaning up of a persons soul and habits. Its good for the person soul. It raises the collective spiritual level of the planet. And people who are cloistered are praying for those who are not. Believers understand that the prayers of those cloistered are pleasant to God and help the people of the world spiritually. Cloistered buddhists believe that their prayers burn bad Karma and thus release others from the reincarnation cycle (If I'm reading their beliefs correctly). Cloistered Catholics believe their prayers bring grace down from heaven and help sinners convert or help those who are suffering etc etc (kinda similar in many ways). So these people do indeed believe that they are helping humanity while at the same time they are helping better their own souls.

Those who are cloistered feel 'called' to that life. It's no different than someone who feels a strong call to medicine to help people or a strong call to teaching or a strong call to the peace corps.

If people want to be cloistered I say 'good for them'. They hurt no one. At best, they are helping themselves, those around them, and they are helping humanity in spiritual ways that we can't see (burning bad karma, bringing graces from God). At worst ... they are doing nothing wrong, hurting no one, and are just living peaceful quiet lives. So I see no problem.



posted on Aug, 1 2013 @ 06:52 AM
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reply to post by backcase
 

Thanks for your reply, backcase!

You say there are many kinds of people. Do you really believe that there are certain kinds of people who's best contribution to society is to separate from it? Surely there are a million better ways to server the greater good? You mentioned writing books, again, surely any topic (even fiction and entertainment) would be better served by interacting with other people and gathering ideas from others AS WELL AS your surrounding environment?

Mendel, who is often considered the father of genetics, even though his form of monasticism was significantly less strict, had his work largely forgotten and sidelined until after it had already been independently rediscovered. Wouldn't it have been so much better if he had been solely dedicated to this work (of course, I'm using this solely as a theoretical example, I realise that situations in Mendel's life forced him into the path he took).

reply to post by charles1952
 

Hey Charles!

Considering your history and your post itself, I suppose, I guess you won't mind me discussing this with you partly through the prism of Christian thought.
Six of the ten commandments deal with interactions with other people (seven if you don't consider talking to yourself while discussing the "Do not take the Lord's name in vain" one). HALF of Jesus's summation of how to achieve eternal life deals with other people. Heck, most religions have it like that- how to deal with the Deity, and how to deal with Society. Undeniably, the deity part is usually considered more important, but the society part is not ignorable!
This gets sort of into a Faith vs Works discussion (which I'm not REALLY interested in here), but if you consider it a good "Work" to live a life of prayer, surely living a life of directly helping others (food, comfort, medical assistance, entertainment even, scientific advancement, perhaps), things that require interaction with other people, coupled with praying for humanity when you get the chance, I guess...would be a better solution?

Your post, however, reminded me of another possible "advantage" of monasticism. Jesus advocated (metaphorically, some say) pulling out your own eyeballs/cutting off your own hand/tongue if they tended you towards sin. Perhaps people who see what they consider an irredeemable flaw in themselves (tendency towards alcoholism or some sort of deviancy) could then cut themselves off from society. Of course, this doesn't speak well for the monks themselves, especially considering some of the controversy involving the Catholic Church in recent years.

You say you are not "strong enough" for that sort of life. I'm not sure, but personally, I consider it the easy way out. As I said, once you remove society, you have 6 out of 10 commandments, and half of Jesus's Golden Rule simply thrown out the window, I mean nothing by the analogy
, but it'd be like two recovering alcoholics, one moving to Saudi Arabia, and the other staying in Ireland. With the temptation still there, surely the Ireland one is stronger?

But that is simply taking the reactive approach. Lets take the Golden Rule, and its more proactive commandment to "Love your neighbour as yourself". Easier to just "I'll pray for them to God, and hopefully see as little as possible of them" or rather "I'll chat with them, try to help out with their problems, provide any assistance to them within the skill-set I have, AS WELL AS pray for them"?

reply to post by FlyersFan
 

Hey FlyersFan!
I see no issue with someone taking some time off (heck, maybe even a month of solitude!) to "find themselves", meditate, pray, be able to align themselves without the background noise of society and all. I'm sure it is very useful and beneficial, and heck, you might want to make a regular thing out of it. What I had issue with was permanently closing off society- at best, taken superficially, the concept is neutral in its morality (neither harmful nor helpful). At worst, it is a net loss...both for society, and for the person.
edit on 1-8-2013 by babloyi because: (no reason given)



posted on Aug, 1 2013 @ 10:58 AM
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reply to post by babloyi
 


"You say there are many kinds of people. Do you really believe that there are certain kinds of people who's best contribution to society is to separate from it?"

I would not say that they are separate from society. Maybe they are separated from what you would call society, but what they have is a very subtle and delicate mission in this world.

"Surely there are a million better ways to server the greater good?"

Who's to judge what is better? How do you know of the good it does? They could be the support beam of the world but you would not know because you have judged them as unimportant without understanding them and their way of understanding.

"You mentioned writing books, again, surely any topic (even fiction and entertainment) would be better served by interacting with other people and gathering ideas from others AS WELL AS your surrounding environment? "

once again, who is to judge what is good and what is better but God Himself?

"Mendel, who is often considered the father of genetics, even though his form of monasticism was significantly less strict, had his work largely forgotten and sidelined until after it had already been independently rediscovered. Wouldn't it have been so much better if he had been solely dedicated to this work (of course, I'm using this solely as a theoretical example, I realise that situations in Mendel's life forced him into the path he took). "

Well there are all different monks in all different positions. They all do different things. And once again, how do you know what would be better?



posted on Aug, 1 2013 @ 05:11 PM
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reply to post by backcase
 

God gave us intelligence and a sense of morality. Are you suggesting we shouldn't use it to figure out what action is good and what is bad?

If you smile at a panhandler or beggar who has been having a bad day, that's a good thing, yes?
If you have a couple of spare coins in your pocket when you do it, surely you could've done better.

edit on 1-8-2013 by babloyi because: (no reason given)



posted on Aug, 1 2013 @ 06:14 PM
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reply to post by babloyi
 


Yes, you are correct in this.

But we are talking about man's destiny.

And I think that FlyersFan pretty much hit the nail on the head here.



posted on Aug, 1 2013 @ 10:21 PM
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reply to post by babloyi
 

Dear babloyi,

Others have covered the ground more thouroughly than I could, but how could I pass up answering your response?

I'd enjoy discussing this with you through any prism. (Can we use the word "Prism" any more, or does NSA have a copyright on it?)

The original monks may well have been the Desert Fathers and Mothers. They are revered by the Orthodox, the Catholics, and many other Christians. Their goal was the salvation of their souls. Their reported stories and sayings burn for us in a way no social program ever will. Many of those sayings have been collected in books, I find them invaluable, but I repeat that without God's help I would be too weak to lead that life.

Alow me to give you one saying from hundreds that have been collected:

"However much you may toil in scattering seed on the path that you walk on, not a green leaf will grow. As well, as much as you labor to cultivate a heart weighed-down with worldly cares, you toil in vain; it is impossible to foster virtues there. For this reason the Fathers chose to leave the world," a certain Abba says.

"When the Hebrews ceased being occupied with labors for the Egyptians, and lived in tents, they learned to worship God," said a wise Father. "And ships do business and make profits in the harbor, not on the open seas. It is the same with the soul; if it does not cease being occupied with worldly things and does not stay in a quiet place, it neither finds God nor acquires virtues."

www.goarch.org...

Oh, please allow me to offer another:

Then there was a woman who was suffering from cancer and, having heard of the reputation of Abba Longinos, decided to find him that he might restore her health. While she was looking for him here and there in the desert, she encountered an elderly monk cutting wood. She approached him and asked him where Abba Longinos stayed.

"What do you want with him?" the monk asked. "I advise you not to go to him because he is not a good man ... But maybe something is troubling you?"

The unfortunate woman then showed him an open sore which gave off an unbearable odor. The monk made the sign of the cross over her and told her: "Return to your home and God will heal you. Longinos cannot help you in anything."

She left, receiving the words of the unknown monk with faith. By the time she reached her home, not a trace of her fearful illness remained. She later learned from the other brothers that the one who made her well in this strange way was Abba Longinos himself.

www.goarch.org...


Jesus advocated (metaphorically, some say) pulling out your own eyeballs/cutting off your own hand/tongue if they tended you towards sin. Perhaps people who see what they consider an irredeemable flaw in themselves (tendency towards alcoholism or some sort of deviancy) could then cut themselves off from society.
I can't speak for you, but I have irredeemable flaws. Greed, Anger, Lust, Gluttony, Pride, Hatred, Sloth, all are part of me, and I suspect in a few others as well. If cutting off my tongue, or retreating to solitude, would save me, wouldn't I be foolish not to?


Of course, this doesn't speak well for the monks themselves, especially considering some of the controversy involving the Catholic Church in recent years.
Monks wouldn't speak well of themselves, controversy or not. At least they shouldn't. And I know enough evil is in me not to want to speak well of myself either. Who would dare to stand and say of himself, "I am good. I am holy. I please God?"

With respect,
Charles1952




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