Learn English – Asceticism vs. Monasticism


What is the difference between asceticism and monasticism? It seems that in practice they are effectively synonymous; if this is the case, do they have differing origins?

I've included the first lines of each wikipedia entry below, which virtually identical. For another example, in the wiki article for Saint Anthony,

"He is often erroneously considered the first monk, but as his biography and other sources make clear, there were many ascetics before him."

This again suggests the terms are effectively synonymous.

From Asceticism wikipedia:

Asceticism (/əˈsɛtɪsɪz(ə)m/; from the Greek: ἄσκησις áskēsis, "exercise" or "training") is a lifestyle characterized by abstinence from various worldly pleasures, often with the aim of pursuing religious and spiritual goals.

From Monasticism wikipedia:

Monasticism (from Greek μοναχός, monachos, derived from μόνος, monos, "alone") or monkhood is a religious way of life that involves renouncing worldly pursuits to fully devote one's self to spiritual work

Best Answer

Just reading Wikipedia's definitions are fairly clear.

  • Asceticism is abstaining from worldly pleasures, often (though not always) with a religious aim.
  • Monasticism is a religious renunciation of worldly pursuits, to devote oneself to purely religious pursuits.

You can be a non-religious ascetic (such an atheist with a minimalist lifestyle), or a non-ascetic monk (such as the immediate past Pope).