American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
- n. The principles and practices of an ascetic; extreme self-denial and austerity.
- n. The doctrine that the ascetic life releases the soul from bondage to the body and permits union with the divine.
Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
- n. The life or practice of an ascetic; the principles and historic course of the ascetics. In ancient Greece asceticism (
ἄσκησ, σ1ις) meant the discipline undergone by athletes while training. In the schools of the Stoics the same word was applied to the controlling of the appetites and passions and the practice of virtue. Among Christians, through contact with the Alexandrian school of philosophy, the word early came into use with a similar meaning, namely, the habitual use of self-discipline, such as had been practised by individuals and even by communities among the Jews. The object of this discipline was to control and subdue the bodily nature with its passions and desires as the stronghold of evil inherent in man since the fall of Adam, the means used being fasting, celibacy, poverty, penance, and solitude, a mode of life which developed in the course of a few centuries into monasticism. Similar and even greater austerities have been practised from very early times by many among various pagan nations and in connection with various religious systems, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, etc., under the influence of the idea that matter is essentially evil, and that an approach to ideal good or an escape from the evils of existence can be effected only by subduing or torturing the body.
- n. In theology, the theory or systematic exposition of the means, whether negative, as self-denial and abstinence, or positive, as the exercise of natural and Christian virtues, by which a complete conformity with the divine will may be attained. See ascetical theology, under ascetical. Synonyms Self-sacrifice, Austerity, etc. See
GNU Webster's 1913
- n. The condition, practice, or mode of life, of ascetics.
- n. the trait of great self-denial (especially refraining from worldly pleasures)
- n. the doctrine that through renunciation of worldly pleasures it is possible to achieve a high spiritual or intellectual state
- n. rigorous self-denial and active self-restraint
“The word asceticism comes from the Greek askesis which means practice, bodily exercise, and more especially, atheletic training.”
“But it stifles desire only for a greater ultimate good; it rejects that needless repression of a part of the self which we call asceticism, and an undue subordination of self to others.”
“Mrs Browning complained to her husband of what she terms the asceticism of Easter Day, the second part of his volume of 1850; his reply was that it stated “one side of the question.””
“The word "asceticism" goes back to the Greek for "athletic training," and the longing to be free from the prison of selfishness, has sent many people either literally or figuratively into the "desert" looking for that back against the wall urgency that is so critical to creativity.”
“The day for asceticism is gone, or shall we say the night?”
“Though she had no clear idea what was meant by the word asceticism, she too was of opinion that it would be no harm for dear Yasha to take a little recreation, to see people, and to show himself.”
“The records of those rough, warm, full-blooded times come with a heady flavour and an old-world tang to the thin asceticism of to-day.”
“Yet it seems strange to hear Savanarola praised in a poem in which asceticism is condemned.”
“I know that to use the word asceticism of one's daily practice is to incur the judgment of all those whom the world calls good fellows, whose motto is live and let live, or any other aphorism of convenient and universal remission.”
“Though she had no clear idea what was meant by the word asceticism, she too was of opinion that it would be no harm for dear”
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