All the major world religions have recommended, at some point in their history, various practices of self-sacrifice in order to deepen and advance spiritual development. Asceticism is particularly pronounced in monastic orders. Ascetic practices vary from the passive (e.g., fasting, renouncement of desires) to the active (e.g., self-flagellation or, at the extreme, martyrdom). Most asceticism calls for moral choices and an austerity of lifestyle (the latter being quite counterculture in the USA today). In general, asceticism is intended to fulfill one or more of the following functions: control of appetites and sense pleasures, detachment from materialism and even from relationships, awareness of mortality and impermanence, gratitude for divine blessings, expiation for sins, and identification with the suffering of others (e.g., with the Passion and crucifixion of Christ).
In psychotherapy and spiritual direction today, the question to be addressed is the healthfulness of ascetic...
- Hinnells, J. R. (1995). Dictionary of religions. New York: Penguin Books.Google Scholar