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For the truth is that the Christian ideal is frankly an ascetic one and monachism is simply the endeavour to effect a material realization of that ideal, or organization in accordance with it, when taken literally as regards its "Counsels" as well as its "Precepts" (see ASCETICISM; COUNSELS, EVANGELICAL).Besides a desire of observing the evangelical counsels, and a horror of the vice and disorder that prevailed in a pagan age, two contributory causes in particular are often indicated as leading to a renunciation of the world among the early Christians.
But the difficulty existed for private individuals also.
There were gods who presided over every moment of a man's life, gods of house and garden, of food and drink, of health and sickness.
Of others we hear that they renounced property and marriage so as to devote their lives to the poor and needy of their particular church.
If these were not strictly speaking monks and nuns, at least the monks and nuns were such as these; and, when the monastic life took definite shape in the fourth century, these forerunners were naturally looked up to as the first exponents of monachismm.
So too, any question of Jewish asceticism as exemplified in the Essenes or Therapeutae of Philo's "De Vita Contemplativa" is excluded.
It has already been pointed out that the monastic ideal is an ascetic one, but it would be wrong to say that the earliest Christian asceticism was monastic.
Any such thing was rendered impossible by the circumstances in which the early Christians were placed, for in the first century or so of the Church's existence the idea of living apart from the congregation of the faithful, or of forming within it associations to practise special renunciations in common was out of the question.
While admitting this, however, it is equally certain that monasticism, when it came, was little more than a precipitation of ideas previously in solution among Christians.
This belief however had ceased to be of any great influence by the fourth century, so that it cannot be regarded as a determining factor in the origin of monasticism which then took visible shape.
A second cause more operative in leading men to renounce the world was the vividness of their belief in evil spirits.
The first of these was the expectation of an immediate Second Advent of Christ (cf.Tags: Adult Dating, affair dating, sex dating