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But let us not anticipate. Thousands had gone out, and the reputation of sanctity, dissatisfaction with the world, or dislike of work, enticed thousands after them. Of inducements to a monastic life there were many, especially since the establishment of a State Church, when a real or affected enthusiasm no longer led to martyrdom. Even about the middle of the fourth century there was a motley crew of anchorites in the desert. Some had gone out in order really to make atonement and to become saints; others to pose as such. Some fled society and its vices; others their calling and its toils. Some were simple-hearted and of indomitable will; others were sick of the whirl of life. In the one case the hermit desired to be rich in knowledge and true joy, and to devote his life to ‘philosophy’ in peaceful mental enjoyment; in the other he desired to become poor both in mind and in body, despising reason and learning. We 49have touching confessions of both kinds; but the complaints of the temptations of the world and of the inroads of sense resound louder than those of the selfishness of the heart. And alongside of the silent penitent we soon find the lawless enthusiast. The latter required a fetter; the other two required an organisation. And organisation was soon to appear; a life in common emerges into our view. We find it in two forms: colonies of eremites on the one hand and actual monasteries on the other. Rules were laid down, often very severe. They exhibit not only the sternness of asceticism, but also, even thus early, gross excesses which were to be punished, and simultaneously, here and there in the monastic colonies, an awakening fanaticism which passed all bounds. Thus early do we come across men who remind us of the Mad Dervishes of whom Oriental travellers still tell us. But even among genuine monks we observe, even in the fourth century, the most important differences. True, the fundamental rules of exclusive life with 50God, of poverty and chastity, and, in the monasteries, of obedience, are in all cases the same. But how differently did they work out in practice! To name only one point: some, full of thankfulness to have escaped from a false and artificial culture, discover in solitude what they had never seen—Nature. Into her they gradually grow; her beauty they search out and extol. From hermits of the fourth century we have pictures of nature such as antiquity seldom produced. Like happy children they tried to live to their God in His garden. In that garden they see the tree of knowledge—no longer forbidden—and thus solitude becomes to them a Paradise; no curse lies upon their toil, for to know is to be blessed. But the others—they understood asceticism otherwise. Not only culture, but nature, is to be shunned; not only social ordinances, but humanity itself. Everything that can be an occasion of sin—and what is there that cannot?—must be cast aside; all joy, all knowledge, all that is lofty in man. And 51what was the result? One man starved himself to death; a second ranged to and fro like a beast of the desert; a third plunged into the mud of the Nile and let himself be tortured by insects; a fourth, half-naked, the sport of wind and weather, spent years in silence on a pillar. Thus was the flesh to be subjected and crucified; thus was man to gain peace of soul in the contemplation of God: he was to be pure and to keep silence. But these men themselves were fain to confess that the sense of peace came upon them but rarely and for a moment. In its place came terrible phantasies, which took shape as concrete realities. And contemporaries eagerly listened to accounts of such experiences. The ageing world was enraptured with this refinement of renunciation, and with the wild dreams of monks dwelling miserably in the desert. Men to whom courage and will to perform were wanting, sought to enjoy these emotions at least in fancy. Story-tellers in monks’ dress made novels and tales out of 52the actual or visionary experiences of silent penitents. Now appeared a new species of literature of the strangest kind, that of monasticism, and in its pages whole centuries found edification. This is one of the ways in which the secular Church repaid the deeds of that stern heroism which her own neglect was constantly calling into exercise.

But of the two forms of monasticism here sketched in outline, which can claim a direct descent from Græco-Christian ancestry? Which ideal, considered under historical and religious relations, was the genuine one? That of the brethren who joyed in God and Nature, and devoted their lives in quiet seclusion to the knowledge of God and the world; or that of the heroic penitents? It is not merely to judge by results to say the latter alone. For, in considering the former, we must attend to the close relation in which it stands to the classical ideal of the philosopher; nor this alone. Let us for a moment put ourselves into the historic standpoint. 53The highest ideal—in the universal belief of the time—can only be realised outside of the world, outside of any calling; it lies hidden in asceticism. Asceticism is indeed a means to an end; but at the same time it is an end in itself: for it contains in itself the assurance that the penitent shall attain to the vision of God. If these prepositions are correct, then all is mere compromise that hinders the struggle à outrance; then not culture only, but nature, history, in a word, all purposed moral activity must be put aside as imperfect and harmful. Then it becomes essential to dare the glorious attempt, to free oneself from nature, from culture, nay, from the world of social morality, in order to be able in this way to form in oneself a pure type of the religious man. Here we reach the actual secret, but here also we touch the boundary of the old Greek view of Christianity. Even before the secular Church there floated as the highest ideal a vision of the religious life 54which raises man, even here on earth, beyond all the conditions of his existence—including the historical and social conditions. Not as if these were indifferent, or as if their opposite were equally right. But hitherto Christianity had been unable to realise any new moral life in a community, and the moral standards of the old life were outworn, useless, or no longer to be found. It was only a natural consequence that thus the more serious spirits—who yet were no reformers—should have felt the moral ordinances, in their degenerate state, as barriers essentially no better than the elementary conditions of human existence. Thus is a Christian ideal sketched out which is ostensibly purely religious—I should like to say supra-moral. It is not by way of historically founded social ordinances, or of activity with a moral end, that the Christian faith is to come by its own; but by way of the renunciation of everything human; that is, by the extremest asceticism. Thus shall we 55anticipate our coming share in the divine nature. This is, even to-day, the ideal aim of Greek Christendom, so far as it is not fossilised or diverted by Western influences: we cannot deny to it our sympathy if we think of the low level of so-called Christian morality above which, since it knows no better, it strives to rise. But it is a flight as barren as it is magnificent. For what do we now perceive? On the one side, a secular Church, subjected to the State and so knitted with the national life as to be indistinguishable from it; essentially a civilising agent, with but the smallest influence on the moral life of its members, and no longer pursuing definite aims of its own. On the other, a monasticism without historic aims, and therefore without historic development. Today—a few modern and perhaps hopeful phenomena being disregarded—it remains essentially what it was in the days of the first Byzantine Emperors. Even external regulations have scarcely altered. True, the 56type of Simeon Stylites is extinct; such types cannot conquer in the struggle for existence; but the cause of Simeon has been victorious, and so far has Stylites prevailed that even today the extremest asceticism counts for the best, and above all in this point, that Greek monasticism has seldom succeeded in giving itself up to purposed toil in the service of the Church or of humanity. The Greek monks—of course with venerable exceptions—to-day as a thousand years ago, live “in silent contemplation and blissful ignorance.” To work they give only just as much attention as is necessary for a livelihood; but even now the unlearned monk is to the learned necessarily a reproach, the avoider of nature a reproach to the nature worshipper; still must conscience smite the working hermit when he sees the brother who neither toils nor spins nor speaks, but waits in solitary contemplation and mortification for the holy light of God to shine at last on him. As in the fifth century, so now, the rift continues between the regulars and the 57seculars. It is true that the higher dignitaries of the Church are chosen from the regulars—monasticism has even given Emperor and court a temporary or lasting ugly varnish—but the mutual relations have remained the same. The monastery stands alongside the Church, not in it; and it cannot be otherwise. What could it do for the Church which itself renounces every task of its own? The one thing in which it takes a living interest is the worship of the Church: it paints pictures of saints; occasionally it illuminates books. But even from worship it is allowed to emancipate itself. The hermit who for years shuns the communion of the Church is not merely tolerated by her; he is admired. Nay, she cannot help admiring him; for he realises the ideal to which she herself cannot attain—her higher ideal, I mean; for she now has two—that of asceticism and that of worship. He to whom the gift or the power is not given of attaining God by asceticism, may yet reach Him by becoming imbued with the holy 58mysteries of divine service. Salvation may be obtained by the worship of the Church if we join in it with piety, and if Church duties are duly performed. Monasticism has never attacked this theory, but rather supported it; and rightly, for indirectly she was benefited by it.

For short periods the monastery approached the secular Church; and the latter, again, sought to take it into her service. For short periods, also, the attempt succeeded. The great Synods of the fifth to the seventh centuries provide examples. The dogmas which these Synods established arose in part from monkish fancy, and were defended by monkish arguments and monkish blows. But as the Bishops grew more cautious they shrank from calling the fanaticism of the monks to their aid; for whenever the latter took part in the strife there arose in due consequence revolution, war, and bloodshed. Accordingly after they had compromised certain Emperors of sham monastic piety, and soon after overturned 59the ideals of certain despotic reforming Emperors, they were left out in the cold. And why not, since their work was done? After the ninth century they seldom played a part in history. Precisely in consequence of their victory, they became, in their dealings with the world and the secular Church, a conservative force. Strange to say, these haters of the world are now the passive defenders of public worship and morality. When these are attacked, their fanaticism awakes, and it is here that monasticism knows itself to be at one with the spirit of the masses. In other respects the regulars and the seculars march side by side—or rather, when the former hold out a hand to the other, they place themselves unconditionally at the disposal of the State. The monk-bishop, as in the Byzantine Empire, so in the Turkish, has in many cases not yet ceased to be a policeman or perhaps a tax-gatherer—though a gradual improvement is unmistakable. Along with the State he exploits the Christian people; he 60enjoys the honours of a high official, but takes his share also in the official’s corruption and incalculable changes of fortune. Thus the exaltation of the ideal found its punishment. Men tried by faith to remove all natural restrictions; in their presumption they thought also they could dispense with the benefits of moral achievement; and, with broken wing, they fell to the ground. A Church that had become political and secular, a monasticism of barren asceticism without a history, stubbornly maintaining national and ecclesiastical failings, was the result. The Greek Church contrived to unite in herself the opposite poles of asceticism and of the performance of ecclesiastical worship. Her proper domain, that of regulating the morals of daily life by faith, falls outside her direct cognisance. It is given over to the State and to the people—for it is essentially worldly. Nor did they find it hard gradually to annex the whole Church and to fashion it into an instrument for the attainment of their aims. 61Just because the ideal of monasticism and of the secular Church remained victorious in the contest with the Empire during the eighth and ninth centuries-just because of this did monk and priest become effectively and definitively the slaves of the State. In their flight from the sensuous the State overtook them; it imposed on them its own view of morality, but it appropriated their worship. Thus the Byzantine State still shows itself the genuine though degenerate descendant of the ancient one. But this one end was attained that, where the State set up expressly Christian ideas as the standard in public law and life, it took them in monkish form. The Byzantine code of laws—our own social and moral views, too, have not yet emancipated themselves from its bonds—is in part a strange congeries of pitiless Roman craft and of the monastic view of the world.

Such is the history of monasticism in the East. We must again and again remind ourselves 62that to-day as of old it is the complement of the secular Church; that even to-day it rescues individuals from the trammels of common life; that there are many saints within its borders; that it is a protest against barren ecclesiasticism. But this review shows us that among the various human ideals as based on the Gospel, the ideal of contemplation and renunciation as a means of saving the soul can not be the last and highest; it shows that a merely passive courage must at length succumb; and that the world will intrude its ideals into the Church if the Christian strives to realise his own outside of the world. True enough is it that there are times when the weight of injustice pressing on the active man becomes unendurable, and that there will ever be individuals so highly strung that they must carry their best into solitude in order to preserve it; but where a pis aller is proclaimed as the highest virtue, there high virtues will lose their value, and finally men lose the reward for which those possessions 63were sacrificed. Have we not in our own times seen a personality like that of Tolstoï arise from the bosom of the Russian Church-a layman, it is true, but in his writings a genuine Greek monk, to whom the only chance of Church reform lies in a radical breach with culture and history, and to whom the whole moral code—even marriage—seems defiled so far as it stands in dependence upon sense? What a terrible foe of the Greek Church Manichæism must have been of old, we can learn to calculate from the writings of this extraordinary man. The more serious the Christianity of the Greek monk, the more helpless is he before the gloomy view that the whole world lieth in the Evil One. In the long run the monk must again flee to Church authority, lest he fall a slave to Manichæism.

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