Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Stoicism, Christianity, and the Pain of the World

Peter Brown, writing about the influence of ancient pagan ethics on Christian asceticism:
The ancient codes of living had never been easy. They had always called for courage in the face of bullies, for respect for the integrity of the soul in a violent and stratified society, and, above all, for the need to maintain a high-pitched hierarchy that placed the soul firmly above the body. "Dualism" is not a popular notion nowadays. The ancient insistence on the absolute superiority and separateness of the soul from the body has lost its edge. But the sharp division between mind and body served for millennia to help the desperate -- the victims of torture, of illness, and of bereavement -- to raise themselves, if only a little, above the huge pain of the world.

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