What is Asceticism?

Meaning of Asceticism

Asceticism is a philosophical doctrine that advocates abstaining from physical and psychological pleasures , believing that it is the way to achieve perfection and moral and spiritual balance.

For ascetics, practitioners of asceticism , the physical body is a source of great evil, it is useless in spiritual terms, and it negates all worldly or carnal desires.


For this reason, it is common for asceticism to practice physical penances , such as flogging, strict diets, and frequent fasting.

Disregard and denial of natural carnal impulses would be the only way to achieve true wisdom. This is achieved by exercising self-control in the face of countless human temptations.

It was agreed to associate asceticism with spirituality , however not all examples of ascetics seeking to attain a high divine level or spiritual conquests.

The ancient Spartans, for example, were exposed to situations of extreme physical and psychological suffering , in order to be prepared to fight in wars, becoming more resistant fighters.

Types of Asceticism


This is a classic and more widespread model of asceticism, quite common in the first Christian doctrines or in Eastern religions, such as Buddhism.

Religious ascetics must live a life with austerity from worldly pleasures, with the intention of achieving the highest spiritual mastery.

Carnal pleasures , that is, that are natural to human beings, are considered sinful and should be selfless.


Secular asceticism is a set of religious representatives proposed by the intellectual and ” father of sociology ” Max Weber.

Calvinism, Pietism, Methodism, and sects of the Baptist movement are some of the Protestant religious doctrines that make up so-called secular asceticism .

In his studies of the ” spirit ” of capitalism, Weber also explained the concept of worldly asceticism , a conception of social behavior in which followers of Protestant religious doctrines devoted themselves to professional application, regardless of the pleasures that the accumulation of wealth could bring.

Weber also presented in his studies the definitions of intraworld and extraworld asceticism . It consists in the acceptance of a more rational religiosity, with some secular practices, and the idea that the “ things of God ” are parallel and opposite to the “ things of the world ”.

Asceticism and Hedonism

Asceticism and hedonism are opposite concepts . While asceticism preaches the denial of worldly and carnal pleasures.

Hedonism is a philosophy that asserts that the pursuit of pleasure is the sole purpose of life.

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