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The Bhagavad Gita

Anonymous


Through the Looking Glass

Lewis Carroll


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A. P. Sinnett


The Worm Ouroboros

E. R. Eddison


Monasticism: its ideals and history, and The confessions of St. Augustine

by Adolf von Harnack

Excerpt:

TRANSLATORS' PREFACE.

The larger works of Professor Harnack have long been known in England, and have established his fame as one of the foremost leaders of contemporary religious thought. His minor works display on a smaller scale the same historic sense, the same wide and profound learning, and the same sympathy with varying points of view, which characterise his more ambitious productions; and at the same time are perhaps capable of appealing to a wider circle of readers. Two of the most popular and interesting of these, Das Monchthum and Augustiris Confessionen, are here offered to the English public. The version of the former is made from the fifth German edition.

The translators desire to express their best thanks to the Rev. Dr Taylor, Rector of Winchcombe, for several valuable suggestions.

Monasticism

The Christian creeds, different as they may be from one another, unite in demanding that faith must exhibit itself in a Christ-like life: that, in fact, Christianity only comes by its own where it issues in a characteristic life. A genuinely Christian life is the common ideal of Christendom. But what is the nature of that life to be ? Here the ways part. The diversity of creeds among us is, in the last analysis, as much due to the difference of beliefs as to that of the ideals of life engendered by the belief. All other distinctions, in a religious sense, are unessential, or derive from hence their importance and their meaning. It is not only theolo

gical wrangling, nor priestly lust of power,
nor national diversities, to which schism in
the Church is due—they have had their share,
it is true, in originating it, and still help
to maintain it; but what has really divided
the Church, and given permanence to that
division, is the variety of answers to the
question,—What is the ideal of life ? It is
with the relations of groups not otherwise
than with those of individuals. Not theoretic
opinions, but feelings and aims, sunder and
unite.

If we ask either the Roman or the Greek
Church wherein the most perfect Christian
life consists, both alike reply: in the service
of God, to the abnegation of all the good
things of this life — property, marriage,
personal will, and honour; in a word, in the
religious renunciation of the world, that is, in
Monasticism. The true monk is the true and
most perfect Christian. Monasticism, then, is
not in the Catholic Churches a more or less
accidental phenomenon alongside of others;

but, as the Churches are to-day, and as they have for centuries understood the Gospel, it is an institution based on their essential nature; it is the Christian life. We may therefore be allowed to expect that in the ideals of monasticism the ideals of the Church will be expressed, and in the history of monasticism the history of the Church.

But is it possible for monasticism to have varying ideals ? Is a history of monasticism possible ? Is it not condemned to pass through history in the everlasting repetition of a grand monotony? Of what variety are the ideals of poverty, chastity, and resolute flight from the world capable ? What sort of development can they experience or introduce who have turned their back not on the world only, but on its changing forms—that is, on its history ? Is not the renunciation of the world essentially the abnegation of all development and of all history ? Or, if it has not been so in fact, is not a history of monkish ideals from the very first a protest against the very conception of monasticism ? It appears so—and it perhaps not merely appears so. But the history of the West shows even the most careless observer that monasticism has had its history, not only external but internal, full of the mightiest changes and the mightiest results. What a chasm divides the mlent anchorite of the desert, who for a lifetime has looked no man in the face, from the monk who imposed his commands upon a world 1 And between these extremes are the hundreds of figures, peculiar and distinct, and yet monks, all inspired and dominated b^_th^idea_pX_a--^penttseiartionH And yet more, all stirrings of" the heart, the most passionate and the most delicate, meet us in that world of renunciation. Art, poetry, science, have found in it a fostermother ; nay, the beginnings of our civilisation are a chapter from the history of monasticism. Was all this only possible to a monasticism that abandoned its ideals, or do its most special ideals admit of such effects? Does renunciation constitute a second world and a second history, like the • usual world and the usual history, but purer and greater, or must it transform the world into a wilderness ? Is the true monasticism that which sees in the world the temple of God, and which perceives with rapture in silent nature the breath of the divine spirit; or is that rae


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