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Learned borrowing from Late Latin ascesis, or directly from its etymon, Ancient Greek ἄσκησις (áskēsis, exercise, training), from ἀσκέω (askéō, to exercise, practise, train)[1] + -σῐς (-sis, suffix forming abstract nouns or nouns of action, result or process).



ascesis (countable and uncountable, plural asceses)

  1. (Rigorous) self-discipline, particularly as a religious observance; asceticism.
    • 1867, Albert Schwegler, “Christianity and Scholasticism”, in James Hutchison Stirling, transl., Handbook of the History of Philosophy [], Edinburgh: Edmonston & Douglas, OCLC 897483774, pages 142–143:
      The Neo Platonic philosophy, it will now be seen, is monism, and the completion, consequently, of ancient philosophy, so far as it would reduce the totality of being to a single ultimate ground. As able, however, to find its highest principle, from which all the rest are derived, not through self-consciousness and natural rational explanation, but only through ecstasy, mystic annihilation of self, ascesis, theurgy, it is a desperate overleaping of all—and, consequently, the self-destruction of ancient—philosophy.
    • 1945 April, A[rthur] H[ilary] Armstrong, “Platonic Mysticism”, in T. S. Gregory, editor, The Dublin Review, volume 216, number 433, Birmingham; Dublin: Burns Oates & Washbourne [], OCLC 320505649, page 133:
      This intellectual discipline, this progressive unification and concentration of the mind is an important part of the preparatory ascesis, the work of purification which must be carried through before any approach towards the mystical union can be expected.
    • 1956, Joost A[braham] M[aurits] Meerloo, “Totalitaria and Its Dictatorship”, in The Rape of the Mind: The Psychology of Thought Control, Menticide, and Brainwashing, Cleveland, Oh.; New York, N.Y.: The World Publishing Company, OCLC 781951098, page 109:
      The happiness of the Oriental psyche lies in the ecstasy of feeling united with the universal cosmos. Ascesis, self-redemption, and poverty are better realized ideals in Oriental culture than in our Western society.
    • 2001, Susan R. Holman, “Preface”, in The Hungry are Dying: Beggars and Bishops in Roman Cappadocia (Oxford Studies in Historical Theology), New York, N.Y.: Oxford University Press, →ISBN, page vii:
      The involuntary poor lived, day in and day out, with circumstnaces that might make a zealous monk green with envy: ready-made rags, stench, starvation, fiscal penury, and unbounded physical and social suffering. Yet this population has received less attention in religious history and scholarship than those who chose their asceses, and ancient sermons about the poor have often been neglected in favor of more "theological" themes.
    • 2001, Luce Irigaray, “A Mystery which Illuminates”, in Monique M. Rhodes and Marco F. Cocito-Monoc, transl., To be Two, New York, N.Y.: Routledge, →ISBN, page 103:
      How do I speak to you at the same time, my female and male readers? [...] I long for these exchanges because of what they reveal to me, their discoveries, but also their opacities or nights. I want them for their resources and the affective asceses which they bring with them.
    • 2007, Cressida J. Heyes, “Introduction: The Somatic Individual”, in Self-transformations: Foucault, Ethics, and Normalized Bodies (Studies in Feminist Philosophy), New York, N.Y.; Oxford: Oxford University Press, →ISBN, page 10:
      The body of this book consists of three related case studies, which take up particular problematics surrounding the hermeneutics of the transgendered agent, the askeses of organized weight-loss dieting, and attempts to represent the subjectivity of of cosmetic surgery recipients.
    • 2012, Gananath Obeyesekere, “Book 2. Mahāyāna: Salvific Emptiness, Fullness of Vision”, in The Awakened Ones: Phenomenology of Visionary Experience, New York, N.Y.; Chichester, West Sussex: Columbia University Press, →ISBN, page 99:
      Unlike dreams, visions tend to remain in one's memory, especially those experienced in meditative and related forms of asceses.
  2. (Christianity, chiefly Eastern Orthodoxy and Catholicism, specifically) The praxis or "exercise" of asceticism and self-denial of impulses or passions for the sake of piety, theosis, and connection with God.
    • 1845 March, “On the Nomenclature of Christian Architecture”, in The Ecclesiologist, volume I (New Series; volume IV overall), number II, Cambridge: John Thomas Walters []; London: F[rancis] & J[ohn] Rivington [], OCLC 150195993, page 50:
      And this we do find in the Basilican, the Byzantine, and the Romanesque architectures, each more perfect than another, and each lacking in an ever diminishing degree much of the perfect holiness of the Saint of "the most high,"—they came and passed away like different periods in the askesis of a holy soul aiming after the perfection of the spiritual life, and truly therefore they are Christian.
    • 1995, Robin Amis, “The Eye of the Soul”, in A Different Christianity: Early Christian Esotericism and Modern Thought (SUNY Series in Western Esoteric Traditions), Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, →ISBN; republished Chicago, Ill.; South Brent, Devon: Praxis Institute Press, 2003, →ISBN, page 184:
      Saint Anthony the Great described a process of purifying the nous by eliminating the disturbances aroused in it by thoughts, feelings, images, imitative movements—all the things that have been unconsciously taken in and remembered by the personality. [...] To achieve this illumination and separation requires a special kind of effort, and this is the real nature of ascesis, noetic ascesis for the enlightening of the nous.
    • 2006, John D. Zizioulas, “On Being Other: Towards an Ontology of Otherness”, in Paul McPartlan, editor, Communion and Otherness: Further Studies in Personhood and the Church, London; New York, N.Y.: T&T Clark, published 2009, →ISBN, section V.3.e (Otherness and the Ascetic Ethos), page 84:
      The virtues to be attained through ascesis are Christ’s virtues, not our own, and theosis is always granted, never achieved by the individual. This connects the ascetic life essentially with the eucharistic ethos: we offer to God only what we receive from him; [...]

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