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Monasteries and the Care of Souls in Late Antique Christianity

Monasteries and the Care of Souls in Late Antique Christianity
Cognition and Discipline


  • Date Published: April 2021
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781316635322

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About the Authors
  • In Monasteries and the Care of Souls in Late Antique Christianity, Paul C. Dilley explores the personal practices and group rituals through which the thoughts of monastic disciples were monitored and trained to purify the mind and help them achieve salvation. Dilley draws widely on the interdisciplinary field of cognitive studies, especially anthropology, in his analysis of key monastic 'cognitive disciplines', such as meditation on scripture, the fear of God, and prayer. In addition, various rituals distinctive to communal monasticism, including entrance procedures, the commemoration of founders, and collective repentance, are given their first extended analysis. Participants engaged in 'heart-work' on their thoughts and emotions, which were understood to reflect the community's spiritual state. This book will be of interest to scholars of early Christianity and the ancient world more generally for its detailed description of communal monastic culture and its innovative methodology.

    • Demonstrates the central significance of monitoring and regulating thoughts in the early monastic care of souls, exploring institutional procedures and personal practices
    • Makes use of cognitive studies to enlighten our understanding of key monastic activities, including meditation, prayer, and the fear of God
    • Analyses a number of important early Coptic texts, many of which are offered in English for the first time, alongside more familiar works in the Greek and Latin monastic traditions
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    Product details

    • Date Published: April 2021
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781316635322
    • length: 362 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 19 mm
    • weight: 0.488kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Part I. Evaluating Postulants: Introduction to Part I
    1. Discerning motivation I: status and vocation
    2. Discerning motivation II: trials of commitment
    Part II. Cognitive Disciplines: Introduction to Part II
    3. Scriptural exercises and the monastic soundscape: writing on the heart
    4. Learning the fear of God
    5. Prayer and monastic progress: from demonic temptation to divine revelation
    Part III. Collective Heart-Work: Introduction to Part III
    6. The lives (and minds) of others: hagiography, cognition, and commemoration
    7. Shenoute and the heart of darkness: rituals of collective repentance

  • Author

    Paul C. Dilley, University of Iowa
    Paul C. Dilley is Assistant Professor of Ancient Mediterranean Religions at the University of Iowa and has published widely on early Christianity in Late Antiquity, especially in Egypt and Syria. He is co-editor of the Dublin Kephalaia Codex and co-author of Mani at the Court of the Persian Kings (2014).

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