Western AsceticismThe Early Modern Period
In Catholic lands the medieval ascetic forms were continued in principle, especially in the Latinate countries, aided by the development of a thorough theoretical collection of texts on asceticism and mysticism systematizing the abovementioned theological foundations. St. Veronica Giuliani (1660–1727), who, among other things, used her tongue to lick half of her cloister clean of dust and spiders, may be taken as a practical example; the most widespread theoretical example of a direttio ascetico (ascetic instruction) was the Direttorio ascetico by the Jesuit Giovanni Scaramelli (1687–1752).
Sects like the Jansenists had strands who practiced extreme forms of asceticism: in Paris, after 1730, there appeared the female Convultionists, who swallowed burning coals or pebbles, suffered under the body weight of other members, and voluntarily underwent crucifixion for hours at a time. This was a mass movement that spread through the energy of group dynamics and evolved during communal religious services.
The Protestant reformers, more emphatically even than the humanists, rejected the asceticism that had previously been quite well known because they counted it as an act of "good works" and a mark of monasticism. With the exception of Methodists and Anglicans, Protestant piety recognized retreat from the world but no active asceticism. Max Weber and Ernst Troeltsch have seen this attitude as a strict work ethic and a denial of the earned pleasures of an upwardly mobile life of production and consumption; in other words, Calvinism is an "internal asceticism," or a secularized equivalent of monastic asceticism (implying, naturally, a considerable expansion of the term's meaning). To the Enlightenment philosophers, asceticism was no longer comprehensible and became merely a cause to mock Catholicism.
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