The Ascetic Knowledge: The Importance of Sense-Perception in Ancient Christian Asceticism
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Looking at Christian asceticism, the general assumption is that the ascetic struggle (praktike) represents the first phase in an ascending triad of development that progresses through contemplation (gnostike) to mystical knowledge of the Trinity (theologia). This ascension (askesis) is made possible by a specific kind of knowledge, which guides the ascetic to the last stage. The aim of this paper is to show how this knowledge is constantly focused onto the body, also when the bodily dimension seems to be criticised. The texts of Cassian and Evagrius Ponticus show how asceticism could be better defined as a specific kind of knowledge, or better self-knowledge, because it involves the entire perceptual apparatus, which is an operational complex and a form of self-knowledge.